Free Speech, Literature, Top Stories

The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy

In 2015, President Obama described the Nation as “more than a magazine—it’s a crucible of ideas.” If it was ever entitled to this descriptor, it isn’t anymore. Academic identity politics may be importing an obsession with phantom victimhood into the business world and the media, but The Nation’s editors are now taking aim at language itself, reducing the complexity of human communication to a primitive understanding of words.

In late July, the magazine’s poetry editors issued a groveling apology for a poem they had published earlier that month. “How-To,” by Anders Carlson-Wee, was an ironic critique of social hierarchies, couched as a manual for successful panhandling: “If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl,/say you’re pregnant,” the poem opened. It went on to suggest begging gambits for other presumed outsider groups, including the handicapped: “If you’re crippled don’t/flaunt it. Let em think they’re good enough/Christians to notice.” The poem, in its entirety, reads as follows:

If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl,
say you’re pregnant—nobody gonna lower
themselves to listen for the kick. People
passing fast. Splay your legs, cock a knee
funny. It’s the littlest shames they’re likely
to comprehend. Don’t say homeless, they know
you is. What they don’t know is what opens
a wallet, what stops em from counting
what they drop. If you’re young say younger.
Old say older. If you’re crippled don’t
flaunt it. Let em think they’re good enough
Christians to notice. Don’t say you pray,
say you sin. It’s about who they believe
they is. You hardly even there.

The word ‘crippled’ and Carlson-Wee’s use of black street dialect set off reader hysteria. Editors Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith penitently announced that the poem contained “disparaging and ableist language that has given offense and caused harm to members of several communities.” (This maudlin invocation of ‘harm’ in response to speech is the fastest growing academic export into the non-academic world.) “We made a serious mistake [and] are sorry for the pain we have caused to the many communities affected by this poem,” Burt and Giménez Smith continued. They had originally read the poem, they said, as a “profane, over-the-top attack on the ways in which members of many groups are asked, or required, to perform the work of marginalization.” No more, however: “We can no longer read the poem that way.”

Anders Carlson-Wee (Pic: Twitter)

Leaving aside their mannered High Theory rhetoric, Burt and Giménez Smith’s original reading was accurate. How do they read “How-To” now and what textual or extra textual evidence persuaded them to change their minds? They do not say. (They did not respond to a request for clarification.) There is zero chance, however, that Carlson-Wee intended “How-To” as an attack on the handicapped or any other official victim group. Its point of view, target audience, and Carlson-Wee’s own background as an outlaw skater who used to hang out with the homeless all refute such a possibility. Yet these poetry editors, who of all people should understand irony, now reject the role of authorial intention in creating meaning in favor of a naive view of language, whereby a word itself, regardless of how it is being used, has the magical power to inflict harm.

Their new reading is both literarily and linguistically illiterate. The meaning of language arises in a particular context and with reference to authorial intention, implicit or explicit. In the victim universe, however, dare to use a forbidden word, no matter how bracketed by irony, and the mob now has the power to declare you a witch or heretic, with shunning to follow. Nuance and ambiguity are prohibited. Authors are reduced to choosing from the official list of approved words and avoiding taboo items. Only the victims and the gatekeepers of victim culture, whose ideological purity is beyond reproach, are allowed irony. ‘Crip studies’ is a recent sprout in the fertile fields of victim studies, referring not to the sociology of gangs, but rather to the allegedly artificial construction of disability. Its practitioners may use ‘cripple;’ uncertified white male poets may not.

Abandoned by his editors, Carlson-Wee issued his own fawning mea culpa on Twitter, announcing that he was “reevaluating what it means to make art . . . from a place of privilege.”

With blood now in the water, the mob was not about to be placated. The anti-ableism group, Disabled & Deaf Uprising, tweeted in response that the poem was also “problematic in regards to HIV+ status” and lambasted Carlson-Wee’s use of “eye-opening” in his apology tweet. The list of forbidden phrases grows by the minute.

The elaborate rituals around the ‘n-word’ evince the same double standard regarding authorial intention. According to existing conventions, whites may never use the full word without elision, even if they are doing so not to refer to anyone but as reported speech. Its mere presence in the mouth of a white person launches a nuclear bomb against blacks; the transgressor will be punished accordingly, as the founder of Papa John’s pizza discovered after using the full word as an embedded quote from chicken impresario Colonel Sanders. Blacks, however, can use the word in toto to refer to actual people, because their intentions matter and it is assumed that blacks are incapable of racist intent. Black Twitter users used the n-word 6.2 million times in one month, according to a 2015 study; it is ubiquitous in urban vernacular and in rap music, with black entertainers like Jay Z, Beyoncé, and Kanye West tossing it off with impunity.

It was a breakthrough in philosophy, starting with Plato, to recognize the conventional nature of language—that a linguistic sign is not the same thing as the signified. That understanding opened the way for the sophisticated study of language and interpretation, known as hermeneutics. A return to a belief in word magic, however, whereby words directly impinge on their referents, radically limits human expression and imagination.

As for the ignorant conceit of ‘cultural appropriation,’ it is equally limiting and equally primitive. Roxane Gay, a frequent contributor to the New York Times’s editorial pages, tweeted: “Don’t use AAVE [African-American Vernacular English]. Don’t even try it. … Know your lane.” The anti-cultural appropriation crusade views racial and sexual identity as something that can be stolen, if a writer from an allegedly privileged group has not been granted ‘permission’ (from whom is never clear) to imagine the life of someone from an official victim group. Publishers are at present rejecting manuscripts of novels and stories because their authors entered into the forbidden territory of victim identity.

Anyone who believes, however, that human beings are incapable of grasping the experience of an allegedly oppressed Other has never read literature, with its stunning insights into, say, female psychology (see, inter alia, The Slaves of Solitude, by Patrick Hamilton) and the lash of stigma (see Esther Waters, by George Moore). Harriet Beecher Stowe, Twain, Thackeray, and countless other authors who have expanded the radius of human sympathy could not be published today. Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner, among others, used dialects in their novels; who is to say whose languages are off limits? Here, again, the rules are asymmetrical. Members of official victim groups are encouraged to expound on and portray the lived experience of ‘white privilege’ and ‘toxic masculinity.’

Fittingly, the “How-To” saga circled back at the end to its academic origins. Burt and Giménez Smith concluded their retraction in a paroxysm of self-abasement modelled on the fulsome utterances of contrition that college presidents and deans have perfected when confronted with a phony race crisis: “we are grateful for the insightful critiques we have heard, but we know that the onus of change is on us, and we take that responsibility seriously. In the end, this decision means that we need to step back and look at not only our editing process, but at ourselves as editors.” The Cultural Revolution was hardly more efficient in its shaming rituals.

This confession of guilt was insufficient, however. An English professor at California State University, Fresno, demanded that all white editors everywhere resign. It’s time for white editors to “STEP DOWN and hand over the positions of power,” wrote Randa Jarrar on Twitter. “We don’t have to wait for them to fuck up. The fact that they hold these positions is fuck up enough.” Never mind that one of the Nation editors was Hispanic; apparently she had no agency. (Jarrar had previously garnered negative publicity in April for gloating over the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush.)

White editors will demur from Jarra’s demand that they step down, of course. Instead, they will keep their positions of authority and compensate for their whiteness with ever more exacting tests of who gets to say what. Such barriers around the human imagination spell the end of literature and the end of empathy.

 

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The Diversity Delusion, forthcoming in September. You can follow her on Twitter @HMDatMI

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154 Comments

  1. Ad Francis says

    Well, that’s truly demoralizing. If irony, contextualization, and imagined POVs are condemned, we can all bid a bittersweet “farewell to literature.

    Speaking of irony: “Don’t say you pray,/ say you sin. It’s about who they believe/ they is. You hardly even there.” Burt, Gimenez Smith, and Carlson-Wee have confessed their transgressions to the Twitterverse, but it hardly matters. If their accusers weren’t interested in hearing what the poem had to say in the first place, they certainly aren’t going to be interested in displays of penitence. The grievance, in this situation, is clearly about the aggrieved.

    Anders, that was a beautiful poem – clearly coming from a place of respect, humility, and honest skepticism. Please keep writing like that.

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  3. puddleg58 says

    The Confessions of Nate Turner, then, must still blow some people’s minds. Quite rightly, as it was intended to.

    Only people of good character, who are vanishingly rare, would really want to be judged by the content of their character if they thought they could leverage some advantage from the colour of the skin. That’s why we had white racism in the past, and it’s why we still have identity politics today.

    • peanut gallery says

      Hah! I’ve often had the thought that we should all be very glad that people don’t actually get what they deserve.

  4. He should merely have said that he identified as being black and homeless and that should have given him the agency he was denied. It worked for Rachel Dolezal, and Shaun King. Wonder what they would have said then?

    • Indie Wifey says

      stop the streaming
      still the waves
      strip bare all walls and shelves
      re-write, erase, delete, destroy
      oh, what a good human am i

  5. Jason P. says

    You can know a lot about a person from what they create – whether a book, a house, a business, a family that endures and loves – over the person that critiques and destroys others.

    3 types of souls exist: the ones that fight to make a living, build a business, seek to make their circle better off, and rarely grumble. They have the internal locus of control, their destiny is in their hands. They aren’t deluded into thinking it’s easy, or they’ll win anything. Many fail. Moreover, they generally get the scoffing and snarking of anyone they knew along the way. But they persistent – and are flawed beings. Just they know it – but don’t show it..

    A second group seeks excuses and fritters away talent or lacks motivation to develop it. They expect outside factors to seal their fate. They seek victimhood as a prize at a county fair of like-minded mediocrity where winning means finding faux oppression in the bottom of the apple barrel. Everything that is external to them, must be either wrong, or padding their egos. They brag about one upping the 1st group or their failures.

    Worst of all is the 3rd group. They peddle victimhood. They put the -ISMS on all the various flavors at the Oppression Store. They point out the flaws of the 1st group as their successes are all due to some manner of ill-gotten gains or historical and hierarchical advantage. They pander over and over and over to the 2nd group – play on the bogeyman in every corner of life, the lack of agency one has when the 1st group succeeds, and resentment in a myriad of forms.

    They are smart and able enough to be in the 1st group, but happiest making the 2nd group their personal pawns and playthings to utilize against the 1st group. They are pathological about it – levels to be sure – but the end result: destruction of anything creative or worthy of humanity.

    Poets be damn in their minds.

    • Your three groups are interesting. Where would you place those with stunted self-awareness – those now finding inspiration in Jordan Peterson’s message? Are they in a group or are they floating around because they didn’t yet make a choice?

      • Jason S says

        I’ll take a stab at it, PBW. They are in Group 2 with possible aspirations to join Group 1. They are beginning to realize that, while more difficult and tiring, the sense of meaning and purpose that accompanies being in Group 1 may well be worth it because, well, what has anyone in Groups 2 or 3 done for them lately? Even if Group 3 is right, which they are not, Group 2 still finds itself in the same boat, only now they are depressed and angry about it too. This is why Group 3 should always be ignored. They are the enablers in a relationship of codependency, one side of the coin addicted to victimhood and the other side addicted to that person’s addiction. On the other hand, those “curious” members of Group 2 that have listened to Peterson sense that he won’t lie to them, unlike their “friends” in Group 3.

        • The Iconoclast says

          This is a great explanation. Super concise. Great thread.

      • Jason P. says

        In life, it is rarity that we ALWAYS belong to something other than humanity or particles in the universe. So to be apart of those 3 groups, is by some substantial matter of effort and choice.

        I’ve been in Group 2… In my opinion now, I am in Group 1. I have never treaded in Group 3 – even when I was looking for excuses to be in Group 2.

        A little story: I got out of prison after 27 months in summer 2003. I spent the next 6 weeks (as I had before release) trying to get work as an ex-con. I had a industrial engineering degree from Purdue, but that’s didn’t land me a job. So finally, I obtained 2 jobs as a grill cook at Bob Evan’s and waiter at Steak n Shake. I wore a GPS monitor that costed $12/day. I was broke and I was forced (by court order) to live 120 miles from my closest family and friend: My mother. She contracted renal cell cancer in 2004 – and luckily – I was allowed to go home…(the victim still lived in the same city for more irony.)

        Late in 2003, I was called by the LA Times about the various topics of the day, Iraq war, economy, my feelings on where I was…

        The question was: “Is George Bush responsible for improving your station in life?” Now, do you think I would respond entitled since I just got out of the joint? No…GWB wasn’t the reason my life took the course it did. He wasn’t accountable for my choices.

        I was responsible, though still bitter about the lies told about me and (my crime was stalking – via email/protection order violation.) The fact was – I chose to respond to someone that oscillated between Group 2 and 3, and I played into her hands. I chose to be drunk while writing, knowing my past experiences with alcohol nearly killed me. I wanted pity/false love from her – though she knew exactly how to ruin me, because I gave her those insights into who I was.

        To what Peterson is, he’s but a small conduit. Many others have messaged the same to men, and women alike: improve yourself. Learn how to navigate your blind spots. Seek out ways to grow a talent – as he also talks about the distribution of talent in society, statistically speaking.

        He’s not Group 3 because he doesn’t like/advocate victimology. He wants people to take control and responsibility for themselves – from what I have seen and heard from him. That said, I can see where one could call him an ‘opportunist’. But Peterson may also see, first hand, the degrading standards of logic, reason, and hope when ideology in his milieu (colleges/universities) is poisoned.

        Lastly, I had a glaring blind spot. Maybe honesty is still one-here….but hopefully, you’ll decide and devise a way to do more to be a Group 1 person. I had a long trek out of my pit of pity, but that’s another story…

  6. Tony says

    Some people need to find something productive to vent their rage. Maybe Trump could start a war that they could go fight in.

  7. Justin says

    So I guess Leda and the Swan is out of the question?

  8. Jom says

    One thing I don’t understand is why can’t the outrage mobs just be ignored? Don’t respond.

    • Matt K says

      Exactly, they only have what power we give them. Don’t give them anything. Ignore them or laugh in their faces.

      • Actually, they can take a lesson from Trump. Fight back! Tell them to shove their fake rage where the sun don’t shine. But wimpy liberals don’t do that, so they grovel and the fake rage mob feeds on it and grows in its self-regard.

    • derek says

      The problem is when you are dependent on people or organizations that pay attention to the mob. That could be anything from magazines that would publish your work to academia, granting agencies, etc. Very likely every person or organization that would be interested in that poetry isn’t anymore; the author is tainted as a bother, a problem best not used.

      The only solution is alternate publishing sites with funding by those who refuse to permit artistic endeavors to be policed by ridiculous idiots.

  9. Peter from Oz says

    It’s no wonder the birthrate in the West is declining. So many people are spending most of the time narcissistic trolls and being offended that they have forgotten to love.
    For that is the problem my dears. The ”progressives” do not love. They ”accept”, they ”tolerate” but, as they cannot see individuals, only groups, they cannot love. They are the end result of evolution, which knowingly is leading them pied-piper like to oblivion.They will be replaced by a more practical, less intense humanity. They worship the sterile, because they are really themselves children who have never grown up. We adults keep indulging them.
    The proper response when some wanker cries out ”ism” or ”phobia” is to tell them to go and fornicate themselves, good and hard.
    SUch arguments are never actually the core of anything, just a sideline, a distraction to keep us away from grown-up things.
    SInistra delnda est

    • @ Peter from Oz

      “So many people are spending most of the time narcissistic trolls and being offended that they have forgotten to love.”

      Fine words, Pete. Maybe think about applying them too.

    • Stef M. says

      I’m pretty sure what’s meant in the context of the essay is putting oneself in someone else’s position, like good writers do, when they try to portray someone whose experiences they don’t share first hand…

  10. Itzik Basman says

    There is nothing in Heather Mac Donald’s remarks I disagree with. I agree with everything she says. She’s a voice of clarion sanity amidst the insanity here shown by the poetry editors of the Nation and the self abasement by the poet himself, not to omit the triggered and the outraged. I hope her wisdom prevails. I hope what she so ably eviscerates is but a minority slice of the cultural pie. I have my doubts.

  11. Rando Hornswaggle says

    I sincerely cannot wait until the day on of the “offending” authors tells he outrage mob to kiss their assets and their balls.

    • Rob says

      Lionel Shriver did just that. At a literary festival, no less.

    • Tony Lauria says

      Yes. Outlaw writers such as Hunter Thompson, Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller to name just three would have done just that.

  12. Susan says

    Maybe the author should commit hara-kiri?
    Seriously, I would like to see his rewrite of this poem to address all the complaints.

    • Susan says

      (Of course, hara-kiri would be cultural appropriation.)

      • Steven C Watson says

        Seppuku, if you wish to be properly culturally appropriative. 🙂

  13. The young author had the opportunity to stand up for his personal muse, but he choked and threw her under the bus. From reading the poem she wasn’t much of a muse to begin with, but I am sure she won’t be whispering in his ear anymore if that is the way she gets treated when the road gets rough.

  14. James H. Steiger says

    Anders, I was, many years ago, an English Honors Major at Cornell. I took classes from Robert Penn Warren, among others. I eventually changed my career path, but I know a little bit about poetry.

    Your poem was wonderful. Every line showed how deeply you perceive, and that your perceptions include ironies that taught me and opened my eyes. Your critics are pathetic. I understand that they terrorized you, but they are wrong. Keep writing!

  15. JamesRH says

    What I want to know is … how do we combat this? It should be obvious by now that the Language Police are not going to confine their beat to Evergreen or Reed College. They keep coming and their sphere of influence will only continue to expand. I care deeply about literature and the language, and I don’t want to go down without a fight …

    … but fight how?

    • Mark says

      Take a leaf of out Jordan Peterson’s book.

      Do not apologise. Do not back down. Call the leftie mob out on their bullshit. Let the mob embarrass themselves. Keep asking for evidence, cite studies.

      Start talking to your friends, your family. Discuss your concerns. I’m going to the March for Men here in Melbourne on August 25. I’m donating money to people who are talking out against political correctness.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Speak out, whoever is listening. Just be sure tht you only say things you mean.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Speak out, whoever is listening. Just be sure you only say things you mean.

    • Tearfang says

      Maybe you should speak out as other replies suggest or speak under a pseudonym, or donate money/professional skills, but maybe not. Suppressing your voice can sometimes be soul crushing, but speaking out It isn’t exactly risk free either. JP’s result is atypical. Not going to sugarcoat it. The new story more often than not is of ppl ‘speaking up’ and getting crushed/fired/etc. and fading into obscurity. How well researched are you on the topic? Do you have professional experience in the field? When going up against strong enemies you need to make sure you are doing so from a position of strength. Can you afford to lose your job? Are you good/practiced at speaking out? Resume up date? Possibly prepared to move? If married would your family support you? Would it leave you in a good position to still be able to support them; emotionally, finance how you want to? There are a lot of real world considerations. Sometimes the best option is recognizing you are temporarily ill positioned to do what you want and work on repositioning yourself.

  16. Michael Jefferis says

    I have no sympathy whatsoever with the groveling editors of the Nation or the outraged twits with respect to the “language crimes” committed in Anders Carlson-Wee’s poem. To hell with the lot of them. However, Heather Mac Donald statement “Carlson-Wee’s own background as an outlaw skater who used to hang out with the homeless all refute such a possibility” perhaps takes the poet’s bio too much at face value. Outlaw skater? Anybody can hang out with the homeless. Being involuntarily homeless is much more of a challenge, and one for which Mr. Carlson-Wee has happily not been at risk.

  17. Why is it that everything these SJWs do is intended to turn our advanced civilization based on reason and Christian morality into a cesspool of illiterate, dung-slinging tribes?

    • John AD says

      Well done for turning a suberb, razor sharp and targeted piece into an absurd generalisation that incorporates a kind of double, nested oxymoron – “reason and Christian morality”, reasonable Christianity being the outer oxymoron, and Christian morality being the inner.

      • @ John AD

        Reason and faith are not oxymoronic. It is a defining characteristic of the Western tradition that these two ways of disclosing the world coincide, and through their tension seem to be the driving force behind our civilizations accomplishments.

        • Ayub says

          Part of that western tradition is greed and hoarding of wealth which seems to be the opposite of what Jesus and stood for. Something had to give and it did. Reason and faith are not oxymorons but one’s reason needs to be sound or relative (fidelity) to something. Western tradition doesn’t share much to the faith it claims to champion.

          • @Ayub

            Greed and hoarding of wealth is not western, it’s human. Primitive and tribal societies are often racked by violence and cycles of vengeance because they have not yet developed the character or political structure to properly control human nature.

            boom! mic drop…

        • John AD says

          Faith is a way of disclosing the world? The religious mind never fails to astonish me with its grandiose claims. Again, well done for hijacking a superb, razor sharp an targeted piece. You’ve now had two goes, with two replies. Let’s agree to stop polluting this comment thread and let the comments be about the article.

    • Alex Russell says

      Our civilization is based on Reason and Enlightenment values and morality. Christian morality is deeply conflicted at best, and only appears good in these times via cherry picking the good bits.

  18. Enough is enough says

    The N word. It’s a touchy topic, isn’t it? I think though that words ultimately only have the power we choose to give them, and the easiest way to remove than power is simply to speak them. Don’t pretend they don’t exist – that simply makes a martyr of them. So here it is. The N word.

    Nagger.

    There. I said it.

    Just kidding. NIGGER. Nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger. Does this make me a racist? I don’t think so. It’s nothing more than a collection of vowels and consonants.

    • Ayub says

      It doesn’t make you a racist just ignorant and boastful. Traits that would conceal any truth your trying to say. Saying it’s just a ” collection of vowels and consonants” leads to the problem your attempting to combat which is social constructionism on steroids. People won’t take you seriously and will see you as a person who either doesn’t engage other people with curiosity (ignorance) or who thinks he or she has all the answers (boastful). That isn’t progress or intellectual at all. If I say “I’m going to harm you” you can take it as just words or your going to consider the context or experience of our relationship or lack there of.

      • This was part of a Patti Smith song at the end of the seventies. It was provocative, of course, but nobody would dream of thinking Patti Smith was racist.

    • augustine says

      Is this akin to the responder who says “It means whatever you want it to mean”? In verbal terms at least, what could be more destructive to mutual understanding and social ties? I would go beyond what Ayub said and claim that such a position (or non-position) holds the interlocutor in contempt, a much more negative condition than ignorance or boastfulness.

    • @ Enough is enough

      No one knows who you are. You could very well be a racist, although likely not.

      This just makes you look a little childish and quite a bit pathetic.

  19. martti_s says

    It is quite a good poem and it hit the people who are crying foul right in the eye,
    Actually, I like this poem.
    Begging is not about the beggar, it is about those who have extra money handy,
    whose conscience is made of po-ly-eth-y-lene.

  20. I have a feeling that what tweaked the outrage mob was not so much the way the poem used language but how it deftly skewers both the manipulator-victims and virtue-signalling compassion-mongers.

  21. n.i. silver says

    To start with, Ms. McDonald is terrific, all because of her intellectual (and probably other) honesty. Let’s recall here the words of Bill Veeck, the wonderfully colorful late owner of the late St. Louis Browns (they moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954) and, after them, the Chicago White Sox. He lost his foot in a war injury in World War II and later the leg above his knee. Having had more than thirty surgeries, he used a peg leg for the rest of his life. “I’m not handicapped,” he corrected people when they asked him about his handicap, “I’m crippled.”

  22. Today’s cultural ayatollahs have discarded the basis but not the trappings of theistic religion and plugged those trappings into their own secular religion. Not even current trappings, but the trappings of Medieval religion, with its heresy hounds, self-proclaimed victims, trial by mob, accusation-as-conviction. They now even include the auto-da-fé, in which the miscreant publicly grovels in contrition to expiate his—usually his— transgression. A premonition of today’s secular heretic hounding was of course the French Revolution, when deficient virtue was pretext for the guillotine. Stalin’s and Mao’s show trails had the same quasi-religious trappings, except for the walk to the back of the building for a bullet through the head, more civilized than public immolation, though we seem to have returned to that.

    Of course, all these forms of inquisition—ancient, recent, current—amount to monstrous, tribal virtue signaling—an individual or group proclaiming their virtue by proclaiming the vices of non-tribals.

    Anders Carlson-Wee should only be ashamed of his shame.

    • Pat says

      John Mason – nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      • John Mason says

        Sorry to break it to you, but, though not particularly Spanish, the Inquisition is here, except the immolation is figurative. The the heresy hounds are the PC left, and the inquisitors are their academic and media henchmen.

    • Rob says

      Yes, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this dogma has emerged from the part of society that has largely abandoned traditional religion. It seems a lot of people desperately need dogma, piety, conformity, and virtue signalling in their lives. If they don’t get it from conventional religious association, they get it elsewhere.

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  24. Nate says

    People have lost not only their minds, and their love of freedom, but also their hearts and souls and imaginations and good will. The hardest part to take here is the forced apology, straight out of Stalin or Mao eras. It is a strict public genre, a kind of anti-poetry, anti-language, and nothing good ever comes of it. It just reduces people to hypocrisy and utter compelled conformity. It is sickening in a deeply sorrowful way. And it only feeds the Beast.

  25. I want to feel bad for the guy, but I dont. He admits his poem is harmful which can only be explained in two ways:

    1) He really feels the poem is harmful. Which is the complete opposite of reality.

    2) He knows its not harmful, and is only apologizing to appease a mob that doesnt give two shits if he dies right now.

    #2 is certainly the only sane option, but its still terrible.

  26. martti_s says

    So it is ableism to use the expression ‘eye-opening’.
    How are you supposed to make a parody of this?

    • Gary L Anderson says

      Seizing on “eye-opening shows opportunism an expose lack of sincerity.

  27. They should apologize because the poem sucks. It’s like 3rd rate rap.

    I’d bet a hefty sum however that if the author had been “colored”, he would have been nominated for a pulitzer.

  28. “You can’t tell me what to do with my body”
    BUT;
    I can tell you what to do with your;
    Money
    Property
    Words, Thoughts, Mind.
    Oh, and by the way, give me that gun of yours too.
    ———————————————–
    It’s got to where whenever I hear a Democrat speak, in the background there is the steady, rhythmic thump and rattle of the Chain Gang moving in lock step down a dusty road.

  29. Cooper_Monster says

    Perhaps none other than Mike Rowe on Ben Shapiro’s show last Sunday pointed at the best response to this (and all the rest of the blather from our extremist fringes) via a poem nearly 100 years old.

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    – William Butler Yeats
    “The Second Coming”

    • Steven C Watson says

      I wonder if they will be happy with what they have set slouching towards Bethlehem when it is birthed?

  30. What’s going to happen if the thought police acquire political power to match their influence in corporate, educational, and media institutions?

  31. Fat Bastard says

    “Roxane Gay, a frequent contributor to the New York Times’s editorial pages, tweeted: “Don’t use AAVE [African-American Vernacular English]. Don’t even try it. … Know your lane”

    Bitch be crazy!

    • Mark Landsbaum says

      Ya think she’d see the irony if someone had told her to “Know your place”?

  32. Mark Landsbaum says

    “The list of forbidden phrases grows by the minute,” indeed. The fascism inherent in these absurdities eventually will cause it all to implode. It’s impossible to live by rules that inevitably break their own rules. They will devour their own. But while we wait for the inevitable implosion, we can be assured these fools will do much more and probably even greater harm as their absurdities reach for new depths. (An ‘outlaw’ skater? Sounds like a mockery of outlaws.)The blind leading the blind end up in a ditch. Oops. Did I just say “blind?” Mea culpa (not).

  33. I have to admit I find stories like this gut-bustingly hilarious. Every time some obviously left-wing figure inadvertently strays out of his/her/ze’s lane and rankles some group claiming to occupy a superior position within the amorphous blob of victimhood or “intersectionality,” then immediately sets to obsequious groveling and self-flagellation when called out for it, I feel an intense, almost overpowering mirth well up from my innards.

    One wonders what would happen if once–just once!–one of these fools were to instead respond with something along the lines of, “You know what? F–k all y’all! I obviously didn’t intend to offend any of you whiney, sniveling, uber-entitled jackasses, and if you didn’t grasp the meaning I was attempting to convey, I’m not going to apologize for YOUR idiocy!” My guess is that such a response might cause half of them to have seizures and the other half to instantly lapse into semi-permanent vegetative states, their lives having lost all meaning and purpose once they’re no longer able to bully some innocent offender into submission. They would retreat behind a veil of silence, rendered unable to grapple with the rigors of day-to-day living and requiring round-the-clock care, and the rest of us would be better off for it.

  34. Kirby Olson says

    It’s fun that places like the Nation still exist. Even they can never keep up with the endless move to further and further leftist positions. It’s like a game of musical chairs in which someone is always clueless, and caught in the glare of PC politics. So funny. The only way to win it is to stop playing.

  35. Sarah Jeong is going to get a rude awakening when she realizes the bigotry toward Asians runs miles deep in BLM circles. No matter how much hatred of whitey she virtue signals, she will get eaten, they always eat their own.

    It is paradoxical that the height of virtue signaling for progressives involves and expression of deep seated hatred for people of a given race/gender/sexual orientation.

  36. Like Karen Straughan says: never apologise, never confess guilt. It will only make it easier for people to accuse you even more viciously.

  37. Pingback: The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy - Market Research Foundation

  38. TarsTarkas says

    Something Al Sharpton learned long ago and put to good use. He has never apologized for any his accusations or crimes, in fact people pay his fines when he is found guilty.

    Donald Trump put that lesson to good use during his Presidential campaign (and since). Not saying sorry got him into the White House.

    An apology, no matter how heartfelt, always puts you on the defensive, cedes the high ground and the initiative to your opponent. And when your opponent isn’t really interested in an apology but on silencing you and burying you, the only choice is to either succumb or turn the tables.

  39. Kenneth Keyes says

    This intellectual/classicist analysis would go SWOOSH, right over the poets at The Nation’s heads.
    You realize this of course.

  40. Douglas Nusbaum says

    Not much of a response to the seven niggers mentioned by one person. Perhaps you, or someone should write a review of the book: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, send it off to “the nation” and see how they handle it. 🙂 Personally, I can think of no possible for any subgroup of people to have, as their own, a “sacred word”. I had a discussion about this with a few people, at least one of whom was black (I really do not recall if there was more than 1 black person there) and, as I recall, they agreed with me.

  41. Don John says

    Whenever people are blaming white men for all that’s wrong with the world, I say “Us whiteys, we ain’t tryin’ ta heah dat.”

  42. Mike says

    This poor sap should never have apologized to the lynch-mob of loony leftists. Now he’s nothing more than a weak Beta-male who has lost his dignity and self-respect. Ive never seen such a sad, groveling apology by a grown man. He should put on his vagina hat and go march with other kooky leftists females.

  43. Steve Phillips says

    Never enter into dialogue, it is pointless and frustrating.
    Just tell them to “Feck off”!

  44. Itzik Basman says

    An ultimate irony here is that it’s kind of a lousy poem. If Wee apologized for writing such drivel, then that would be in order and would at least signify some some critical self awareness. That irony aside, though, the rest of Mac Donald’s incisive criticisms of the supine reactions to “How To” stand of course, as do the echoes of those criticisms in this thread.

  45. ga gamba says

    Most of the commentators have written what I would have. My think slightly differs insofar that apologies should be give when you (and by you I don’t mean your great grandfather or people from your tribe) have genuinely wronged someone. Writing a poem doesn’t meet that for me.

    Re empathy, it’s downright dehumanising to assert one cannot understand the feelings and experiences of others. It is an irony that for the past three to four decades there’s been this huge push to usher in an age of empathy, and now it’s being used to bludgeon people into submissive silence. Read this article, The Dark Side of Empathy, by psychology professor Paul Bloom, who writes elsewhere: “Empathy has some unfortunate features—it is parochial, narrow-minded, and innumerate. We’re often at our best when we’re smart enough not to rely on it.”

    Also, before the study was done, Buffone and Poulin gave all of their subjects a test that scans for specific genes that make people more sensitive to vasopressin and oxytocin, hormones that are implicated in compassion, helping, and empathy. As predicted, there was a greater connection between empathy and aggression in those subjects that had those genes—that is, more empathic people were more aggressive when exposed to the suffering of strangers.

    Bloom has written many other articles and several books including his excellent Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.

    The Atlantic reported of Bloom’s talk at the Aspen Institute of his Against Empathy:

    Empathy can also make people do evil. “Atrocities are typically motivated by stories of suffering victims—stories of white women assaulted by blacks, stories of German children attacked by Jewish pedophiles,” Bloom said. It also can lure countries into violent conflicts based on relatively small provocations, and researchers have shown that people who are more empathetic are more likely to want to impose harsh punishments on people. “The more empathy you have, the more violent you are—the more ready and willing you are to cause pain,” Bloom said.

    Empathy doesn’t even necessarily make day-to-day life more pleasant, they [Bloom and neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson] contend, citing research that shows a person’s empathy level has little or no correlation with kindness or giving to charity. And in the professions centered around helping others, empathy can be a burden, leading to burnout and incompetence caused by emotional contagion.

    We see this being manifested by those who hound Mr Carlson-Wee.

  46. Jack B Nimble says

    @ga gamba

    ‘……….Re empathy, it’s downright dehumanising to assert one cannot understand the feelings and experiences of others….’

    In a word……..No.

    Because we have no access to the inner lives of other peoples, our understanding of others’ feelings, etc. is only partial at best, and may be completely wrong. How could we know if we were wrong or right? Humans tend to reason by analogy to what is familiar, but what if human neurobiochemical diversity results in different states of awareness/sensation that are mutually incomprehensible? Also, lots of people, especially religious types but also some health professionals, have rigid, preconceived agendas that affect their abilities to understand others’ life experiences. Maybe we ALL have such agendas–if so, our feelings of empathy are likely a sham.

    Attempts to help people with different abilities and experiences, whether motivated by empathy or altruism, can be patronizing at best and dehumanizing at worst. Think of Jerry Lewis’s MD Telethons, or the group “Autism Speaks,” which regards autism as a kind of death-in-life. In this instance, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has it right. Their motto is “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

    So screw empathy. People who want to champion a cause–any cause–involving others would do well to partner with persons who are already walking the walk.

    • ga gamba says

      In a word……..No.

      In a word… yes.

      Let me walk you through it.
      Re empathy,

      This preface indicates that the remainder of the sentence is about empathy and my thoughts to its definition and assertions about it.

      So, we ought to define empathy: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings. Some definitions go so far to include the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

      There are types of empathy, such as cognitive and emotional, but I won’t delve into that.

      it’s downright dehumanising to assert one cannot understand the feelings and experiences of others.

      The key word here is dehumanising, which is to remove from a person the special human qualities of independent thought, feeling for other people, the ability to imagine, etc. I think one’s capacity to empathise is a feeling for other people.

      It appears to me your objection is that empathy is “only partial at best”. To my knowledge empathy does not require perfect understanding. I could be wrong, and I’ll let you make the case that perfection is required as its condition.

      You bring forth an idea that I hadn’t discussed that I still think is interesting.

      Attempts to help people with different abilities and experiences, whether motivated by empathy or altruism, can be patronizing at best and dehumanizing at worst.

      So, they can only be patronising, at best, or dehumanising? Is this objectively measured? Of course not. I find such sentiment unduly cynical, and I’m a cynic. I think this maligns people’s better nature and works to demotivate people. I think many people who have benefitted from the actions of others who have different abilities and experiences would agree. Personally I don’t hold the expectation of pure altruism on others. I’m completely accepting that both may benefit from their interactions and a person’s reason for aiding others need not be perfectly selfless. Often the person providing the assistance experienced a benefit in ways unsought and unforeseen.

      What you expressed is what I saw emerge about three decades ago when upper class people of third-world nations disparaged the motivations of aid workers assisting the ignored impoverished. I reckon there are many reasons. “So, you think you’re better than us,” is one of them. Those being aided were not the ones voicing the complaints, though I suppose that can be waved away asserting “power imbalance”.

      Running a field hospital in Bihar is not the same as a high-society charity gala in London where one’s gown is more than what was donated.

      • Jack B Nimble says

        @ga gamba

        “…. Often the person providing the assistance experienced a benefit in ways unsought and unforeseen…… “

        I agree! In fact, the motto “do good to others so you will feel good about yourself” is probably a better motivator for charitable actions, and less problematic, than either empathy or pure altruism.

        “….I find such sentiment unduly cynical, and I’m a cynic…..”

        Remember my earlier comment that we understand other peoples’ thoughts and actions mostly by analogy with what is already familiar. You made an analogy between my comments and your remembrance of an earlier time when “upper class people of third-world nations disparaged the motivations of aid workers assisting the ignored impoverished”

        I don’t have access to your recollection, but rather than claim the role of cynic, I was writing as an agnostic [about other peoples’ motives] and skeptic, with some contrarianism and philosophical parsimony added as heuristics. That viewpoint probably reflects my background as a scientist, as does the over-long thread on the genetics of color vision.

        Finally, I actually found your comment of Aug. 4 fascinating, especially this:

        “…..Also, before the study was done, Buffone and Poulin gave all of their subjects a test that scans for specific genes that make people more sensitive to vasopressin and oxytocin, hormones that are implicated in compassion, helping, and empathy. As predicted, there was a greater connection between empathy and aggression in those subjects that had those genes…..”

        Oxytocin is expressed most strongly in females during and after birth. In my experience with lab animals, lactating females can show extremely high levels of aggression when their nests are disturbed. So yes, the hormonal connection between empathy/care-giving behavior and aggression is very believable.

  47. @ Jack B Nimble

    “Because we have no access to the inner lives of other peoples, our understanding of others’ feelings, etc. is only partial at best, and may be completely wrong. How could we know if we were wrong or right? Humans tend to reason by analogy to what is familiar, but what if human neurobiochemical diversity results in different states of awareness/sensation that are mutually incomprehensible? ”

    Nah! Sounds like poppycock. I agree that humans cannot share the most inner feelings and experiences to the fullest extent and therefore every individual experience to some extent is at least unique [In that this unique person experienced it under certain circumstances and this experiences can neither be recalled or re-created].

    But biologically similar creatures logically would experience virtually everything about the same. And however limiting language is, we are able to communicate our experiences. Unless something is amiss with the eyes or brain, all eyes and brains are configured see the same colour red and etc.

    There is no scientific evidence for this:

    “but what if human neurobiochemical diversity results in different states of awareness/sensation that are mutually incomprehensible”

    None that I am aware of. And, keeping it short, this is strikingly akin to what postmodernism is about – the individualization and particularization of reality.

    • Jack B Nimble says

      ‘…….Unless something is amiss with the eyes or brain, all eyes and brains are configured see the same colour red and etc……’

      Again, in a word…..No!!

      Because color vision in humans has an unusual genetic basis, ‘color blindness’ occurs in about 10% of males but is rarer in females [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_blindness ]. Calling this condition a genetic defect or disorder or ‘something amiss’ assumes that there is an ideal or perfect type of vision in humans, to which most persons closely approximate.

      This fallacy, which is encountered all too often in daily life, is called typological thinking:
      “The concept that organisms of a species conform to a specific norm. In this view variation is considered abnormal.” source:https://www.genscript.com/molecular-biology-glossary/11715/typological-thinking

      Typological thinking is an out-dated hold-over from Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, and biologists have been fighting against this idea since Darwin. In evolutionary terms, phenotypic variation itself is natural and normal, and ideal types or norms don’t exist–except as rather meaningless statistical averages. But why would an average be considered ideal or perfect?

      In short, there is no single ‘human nature’ and no human universals. Variation is real, and statistical norms are abstractions. Anyone who says the opposite is pushing a metaphysical agenda.

      • @ Jack B Nimble

        ‘color blindness’

        Aye. It is a genetic defect. Quite clearly the goal was to achieve what the majority see.

        – –

        “This fallacy, which is encountered all too often in daily life, is called typological thinking”

        In what has been discussed above with seeing colours – that is no fallacy. It might be “typological thinking” – I don’t really care for the burden of additional terminology. It is abundantly clear that the goal is to see a certain spectrum of colours. And colour blindness is a defective by comparison EVEN if it is a natural genetic variation.

        “In evolutionary terms, phenotypic variation itself is natural and normal”

        Natural, yes. Normal – that is conforming to the common type – no.

        If you view biology as having no real end purpose and as a dead inactive force then you would accept anything and everything it throws up as the norm. But if you view biology as something more dynmic and active and striving for a certain state then there is normal.

        – –

        ” But why would an average be considered ideal or perfect?”

        The advantage of seeing the full range of colours is very clear. And as is the loss compared to the the “normal”.

        – –

        “In short, there is no single ‘human nature’ and no human universals. ”

        Disagree completely.

        “Variation is real”

        Yes.

        “and statistical norms are abstractions.”

        How so? It is called reality.

        “Anyone who says the opposite is pushing a metaphysical agenda”

        So?

      • Just Me says

        Variation is real, but there is no metaphysical agenda involved in considering the typical as normal.

        If something is typical, it is because it was the most evolutionarily successful trait in past environments, and most likely will be in the future unless the environment changes significantly.

        In the latter case, which variant is likely to be the most successful in adapting to the new environment will depend on what that new environment is.

        It is difficult to envision an environment where, for example, being colour blind is an evolutionary advantage.

        But if it is, and only 10% of the male population, and very few females, who pass on their genes in the new environment, then the human population will be drastically reduced.

        In the meantime, in our current environment, it is not a terrible disadvantage, and so may be a “normal” variation, but it isn’t the human “norm”, either. And there is a human “norm”, and there is nothing necessarily pejorative about recognizing that.

        Just as having red hair and freckles is a normal variation, but not the human norm.

        • Jack B Nimble says

          @Reading Nomad @Just Me

          Ummmm….. 3-color vision evolved in catarrhine primates [old world monkeys and apes] roughly 40 million years ago [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_color_vision_in_primates for various hypotheses about why 3-color vision is a ‘good thing’ for primates to have]. Needless to say, the environment of modern-day humans is rather different from the environment in which 3-color vision evolved. Is there any evidence that ‘colorblindness’ causes a reduction in male fitness in modern times? I couldn’t find any, although the idea is eminently testable.

          More generally, these comments reflect teleological thinking: “Teleology in the strict sense is a branch of philosophy that studies final purposes or Aristotelian “final causes” of the world and evidence of this purpose in the world’s design.

          It is most often invoked today to refer to a style of thinking that sees natural forces as being directed toward some sort of end goal or purpose. Teleological assumptions provide the logical basis for creationism, as evidenced in the argument from design….Teleological thinking is deeply ingrained in culture, so even people who believe evolution is how we got here can slip into it…….” Source: rationalwiki[dot]org, article titled ‘Teleology’.

          In brief, teleological thinking, typological thinking and the ‘argument from design’ were all overthrown by Darwin in 1859, in an intellectual revolution that has often been compared to the Copernican Revolution. Obviously, not everyone got the memo……..

          Why focus on the average, the norm, the typical? Most of the times, humans are instead fascinated by the atypical: the largest trophy animal, the most extreme weather record, the richest person, the fastest runner, the best ball player or even the oldest human alive. I don’t agree with the fetishizing of the best or most extreme case, but at least the extreme value observed in a population has an objective referent, unlike the statistical average, median, etc.

          Why do some people continue to think of natural selection as goal-driven or purpose-driven? Maybe because there IS an optimality or maximization principle at work in evolution by natural selection, but it is not what most people think it is:

          “….The rate of increase in the mean fitness of any organism [that is, species] at any time ascribable to natural selection acting through changes in gene frequencies is exactly equal to its genetic variance [that is, species-wide additive genetic variance plus covariance] in fitness at that time….” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher's_fundamental_theorem_of_natural_selection
          In other words, in the absence of other factors, evolution acts to increase the mean fitness of the population or species. But notice the presence of the term ‘mean fitness’: this is just another mathematical abstraction that has roughly zero relevance for understanding human evolution!!

          • @ Jack B Nimble

            “Is there any evidence that ‘colorblindness’ causes a reduction in male fitness in modern times?”

            I don’t know, I am not the one doing the measurements – I am not sure if anyone is keeping tabs. But it is certainly an unwanted characteristics. Clearly in modern humans seeing the fuller spectrum is wanted. But I am willing to bet this characteristic will lose out. You are dodging the points…

            In Humans and the self-aware creatures that we are, colour blindness is a clear defect. There isn’t one type of colour blindness and it is at least to some extent limiting. With continuation of evolution, this is the trait that clearly should lose out.

            – –

            “More generally, these comments reflect teleological thinking”

            Yeah. Got this from your last comment. Now you are just repeating yourself. This makes no difference.

            “Why focus on the average, the norm, the typical? Most of the times, humans are instead fascinated by the atypical: the largest trophy animal, the most extreme weather record, the richest person, the fastest runner, the best ball player or even the oldest human alive.”

            Lol! But in this case it is not focus on the average. Average of what? It is focus on the “better”. As in seeing more colours is better. How is that average? Just like faster, stronger, richest are aiming towards the better.

            I am not sure you understand what “typological thinking” is about.

            – –

            “Why do some people continue to think of natural selection as goal-driven or purpose-driven?”

            Because it quite clearly IS goal driven! That much should be obvious. If it wasn’t evolution would not have achieve anything. Else there would be no life at all, never mind rich complex life.

            As to “purpose driven” then that is clearly up for metaphysical debates.

            “In other words, in the absence of other factors, evolution acts to increase the mean fitness of the population or species.”

            Aye… and seeing the fuller spectrum increased the mean and therefore won out. And then one can term colour-blindness as a defect.

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @Reading Nomad, Aug 6th

            “More generally, these comments reflect teleological thinking”

            Yeah. Got this from your last comment. Now you are just repeating yourself.

            If you had actually read the definitions I supplied before hitting the ‘post comment’ button, you would have noticed that teleological thinking and typological thinking refer to two very different aspects of Aristotelian philosophy, although the names sound similar.

            For any interested readers out there, I note that some women have true 4-color vision owing to a genetic mutation. From the JULY-AUGUST 2012 issue of Discover Magazine:

            “The Humans With Super Human Vision by Veronique Greenwood

            An average human, utterly unremarkable in every way, can 
perceive a million different colors………Our powers of color vision derive from cells in our eyes called cones, three types in all, each triggered by different wavelengths of light……..Each cone confers the ability to distinguish around a hundred shades, so the total number of combinations is at least 100x100x100, or a million. Take one cone away—go from being what scientists call a trichromat to a dichromat—and the number of possible combinations drops a factor of 100, to 10,000….Researchers suspect, though, that some people see even more. Living among us are people with four cones, who might experience a range of colors invisible to the rest. It’s possible these so-called tetrachromats see a hundred million colors, with each familiar hue fracturing into a hundred more subtle shades for which there are no names, no paint swatches. AND BECAUSE PERCEIVING COLOR IS A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, THEY WOULD HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING THEY SEE FAR BEYOND WHAT WE CONSIDER THE LIMITS OF HUMAN VISION.”

            If seeing more colors is good, does that mean that 4-color vision is better than 3-color vision? Why hasn’t natural selection increased the frequency of the mutant allele for 4-color vision?

            The real message of 4-color vision is what I put in CAPS in the above quote–human perception is a subjective process that an individual can experience but can only describe to others, if at all, using inadequate language. As a tri-chromat, how can I even imagine what a tetra-chromat sees? What does it mean to say that their world is more colorful?

            I stand by my original comment that human awareness and perception are personal, private experiences, and we should not automatically assume that what we perceive is common to all or even most other people.

          • @ Reading Nomad

            “you would have noticed that teleological thinking and typological thinking refer to two very different aspects of Aristotelian philosophy”

            Yeah, all right, I was careless. However the topic as still effectively dealt with within rest of the comment. And you didn’t add anything by it anyway.

            ““The Humans With Super Human Vision by Veronique Greenwood”

            Yeah. Tetrachromatic like birds. Apparently about 12% of females carry the gene for virtually all the brain isn’t configured to see the extended spectrum.

            “If seeing more colors is good, does that mean that 4-color vision is better than 3-color vision?”

            In this instances to answer the question “is seeing more colours good” is virtually impossible. But for the sake of argument let us the more is better.

            “Why hasn’t natural selection increased the frequency of the mutant allele for 4-color vision?”

            Probably working on it. Might have gotten there. Might still. Doubt it. Human awareness knowledge and technology will get in the way and humans will be eventually be able to alter themselves. TO very limited extent we already can.

            – –

            [[The actual argument]]

            “is a subjective process that an individual can experience but can only describe to others, if at all, using inadequate language. As a tri-chromat, how can I even imagine what a tetra-chromat sees?”

            You can. It is more shades and depth of colour – perhaps newer colours. Colours within colours. And besides language, in this instance a tetrachromatic and visually demonstrate – to whatever extent. But a tri- will never be able to experience what a tetra- can. But one can conceptually grasp the idea of more colours if one knows what some colours are.

            The real quandary is how do you explain what a colour is to those cannot see colours at all – but see in shades of grey.

            “I stand by my original comment that human awareness and perception are personal, private experiences, and we should not automatically assume that what we perceive is common to all or even most other people.”

            Sure. However you rather spectacularly miss the point. Through communication we are at least aware that people see and perceive certain things differently. And yet most of us do experience the same things. And this is WHY we are able to communicate it. And this is WHY we know about the abnormalities or [perhaps] more correctly the variations. And even those who experience differently are are hardly likely to be unique rather they are rare. And we are aware of the biology behind the differences.

            Therefore although our experience is personal and for some of us quite unique in some ways. But it is NOT totally incomprehensible or incommunicable at all.

            Therefore when you said this:

            “but what if human neurobiochemical diversity results in different states of awareness/sensation that are mutually incomprehensible?”

            We already know this is not correct.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Well said, RN.
      The irony of Postmodernism is that it does indulge in the individulaisation and particularisation of reality, whilst at the same time worshipping at the shrine of identity politics. SO maybe rather than individualisation the post modernists only get down to the tribal level. All blacks think the same, as do all lesbians or white men.

      • Katherine says

        I wonder, RN, in regard to evolution, how an absence of intelligence (as in intelligent design) can have “goals”…

  48. Every reasonable person needs to start thinking in terms of the tyranny of the small minority. It is unfortunate that Carlson-Wee didn’t step back, think it through and realize that exactly zero people were hurt by his poem. Instead, he and the editors of the Nation all allowed themselves to be tyrannized by a tiny number of extremists.

    Collectively, we all need to figure out how to filter out the minority extremists and completely ignore them.

  49. What offends me most is how that trash is considered poetry just because the author hit “return” mid-sentence. Not to mention the randomly half ebonics/half proper English gimmick. I can’t even bring myself to be mad at the faux outrage over his wrongspeak.

    • @ hurdledurdle

      Not that I care at all if it offends you or not, but the poem is far from trash.

      “I can’t even bring myself to be mad at the faux outrage over his wrongspeak.”

      Pity it motivated you to comment at all.

      • The “poem” is precisely trash. You would never have even read it, let alone make-believe defend it, if leftist cranks hadn’t thrown a fit and given you some ephemeral purpose in life.

        Pity it motivated you to comment at all. (I see you’re rather busy here. lol)

        • @ hurdledurdle

          ” You would never have even read it”

          I would have. And loved its irony. I read.

          “if leftist cranks hadn’t thrown a fit”

          Got nothing to do with it, other than it got it noticed through twitter.

          – –

          I suspect you don’t know much poetry or care for it. But in case I am wrong and you want to have a further discussion, I am willing to give it a go. Start by explaining why you think the poem is trash and we shall battle it out.

          • Peter from Oz says

            The poem is actually not bad at all. Like a lot of good art it adopts some of the language and the feeling of the inarticulate and gives it meaning.
            It could be argued that the poet put the feelings expressed into the mouths of those whom he was representing, but that is why we have the notion of poetic licence.
            I fear a lot of my fellow right wingers will denigrate the poem because of the notion of entitlement that arises from it and the snark against normal people. But that would be a pity. It is good to undertand the folly of one’s fellow men. The chippiness and resentment of the poem are not disguised but open to view. The homeless aren’t noble, just surviving.

  50. Emma says

    “If you’re crippled don’t/flaunt it. Let em think they’re good enough/Christians to notice.” I’m an English major and this is one of the best lines of recent poetry I ever read. (And the ironic thing is I wouldn’t have heard of this fine poet if the PC police didn’t get to him…) It startles you, shocks you. It makes you think about relationships and empathy. The expression is incredible. The finest poems are based on moments like this.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I agree.
      But I can understand why the PC brigade went for this bloke. How dare are man with wee in his name take the piss so well? He accurately depicts both the unthinking ignorance of the passers by and the smarmy, entitled chippiness of the homeless.

    • @ Emma

      “I’m an English major and this is one of the best lines of recent poetry I ever read.”

      Um, then you have not really read much poetry at all. This is a gross exaggeration to make a point. Exaggeration is a risky strategy to employ at best of times to make a point. Best to use exaggeration to make an ironic point. Depending on age, one really can be an English Major and have not read or even been taught how to read poetry.

      I like the poem – especially nowadays when poetry is almost a dead art – but that much? No chance.

  51. Ocean Creature says

    Dear Anders, I am SO bummed that you apologized. Please NEVER do it again. Please keep doing your art the way YOU sense it. That IS what artists do – synthesize and respond to what THEY sense.

    Dear Heather, thank you for your superb article. Keep calling out the garbage and never let irrationality get the forum for which it hysterically screams like an impulsive three-year old.

    Dear every member who lives out of victimhood and identity – stop appropriating all the culture you didn’t invent – the internet was invented by an intellectually ableist, white man – so no more appropriating this platform to spew your garbage.

  52. Bernard Lesperance says

    It’s about consequence, intent matters not, as any self-righteous social justice warrior will tell you.

  53. Eat Your Words says

    If one reader of the Nation
    was prevented from reading this poem and
    inappropriately identifying with the plight of
    somebody beneath them on
    the social ladder
    it will all have been worth it

    • @ Eat Your Words

      “If one reader of the Nation
      was prevented from reading this poem”

      Yet, thanks to the outrage, many more have read it.

      “inappropriately identifying with the plight of
      somebody beneath them on
      the social ladder”

      Would you like to give out a criteria or some kind of parameters as to know the appropriateness of identifying with others? And, at least, I would find it useful to know from your perspective the crime this man committed.

      • Peter from Oz says

        WHy ask such easy questions? In this case it would be inappropriate to take away the message that homelessness is enobling and that all homeless people are blameless.
        That would be the reaction of the doctrinaire liberal-leftist-progressive.
        But the narrator of the poem is an unreliable narrator. He is teaching people how to cheat, making it clear that beggars themselves are also flawed personalities.
        So identifying with the beggars, as opposed to feeeling some sympathy with them, is identifying with the flawed. It is not really a great response to this poem.
        Youe second question is less clear and doesn’t follow from what Eat Your Words actually said.
        BTW you must have noticed that EYW’s post was also a poem, and quite a good one.

  54. KekZilla says

    ~ poetriarchal misagony ~

    If you got lips, scream. If you a girl, STFU
    — nobuddy gonna listen ur shit. Mehico food
    passing fast as brain farts shat Ezra’s bowl.
    Split ur crack, my cock a jackhammer
    on the attack, sky breaker, mind raper.
    #MeToo mea culpa, takin’ scalps like an Injun,
    potted plants the next victim.
    If ur crippled, get triggered: world ain’t at ur feet.
    Christians, get bent: swine ejaculated pearls,
    sidewalks their vagina, homeless
    as dead books squat streets unread.
    If words be pain then Armageddon be my aim.
    The poet 2 strangle ur cosset in crib death —
    that Magic Mirror what
    smashed ur self-image, battered as th’ Misses.
    It’s my magic to say.
    You hardly even.

  55. Pingback: The Concept Of Logical Fallacy | Chamblee54

  56. I miss the Nation’s golden years.

    When the Soviets shot down a Korean airliner the Nation blamed the CIA.

    Now they best they can manage is to faux-melt a few faux snow flakes.

  57. thegodless says

    While not the least bit offended by the poem, I can see why some people be and that it would have only taken the author knowing one rule to avoid such a debacle; When discussing identity and groups, never
    punch down (even if it’s in the service of a deeper meaning).

  58. Itzik Basman says

    Why does How To count as a poem?

    Is this a poem:

    (Randomly picked)

    …Partisan Review
    obtained the first
    work
    of the up-and-coming
    and often the best
    work
    of the famous,
    though
    it was notoriously
    underfunded
    and
    skeletally staffed.
    It gave readers
    the first glimpse
    of much of
    what
    would form the
    subsequent syllabus
    of midcentury
    American literature…?

  59. “Why does How To count as a poem?”

    “a piece of writing in which the words are arranged in separate lines, often ending in rhyme, and are chosen for their sound and for the images and ideas they suggest”

    As a short answer, it is poetry because it fulfills the definition of what a poem is. And it was intended to be a poem by the author.

    It would simply take too long to explain what poetry is in full. Here is an OK Wikipedia article:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry

    If you got hiv, say aids. If you a girl,
    say you’re pregnant—nobody gonna lower
    themselves to listen for the kick. People
    passing fast. Splay your legs, cock a knee
    funny. It’s the littlest shames they’re likely
    to comprehend. Don’t say homeless, they know
    you is. What they don’t know is what opens
    a wallet, what stops em from counting
    what they drop. If you’re young say younger.
    Old say older. If you’re crippled don’t
    flaunt it. Let em think they’re good enough
    Christians to notice. Don’t say you pray,
    say you sin. It’s about who they believe
    they is. You hardly even there.

    Its diction is interesting, it employs black vernacular pretty effectively. The language choice reflects the language of its subject. And this is credit to the author: although there isn’t the tradition meter and rhyme but the poem’s phrasing is musical. Heck of a lot of free verse poetry has no such musicality at all. I am guessing “rap” might have been at the forefront of the author’s mind.

    Your question was intended as an objection. So let me ask in return, why don’t you think this is a poem?

  60. Itzik Basman says

    It’s not a poem because it’s simply snatches of prose arbitrarily broken up into lines. It’s prose not poetry. There’s plenty of prose that has musical phrasing. Poetry is highly charged compressed language marked by some metric and rhythmic consistency. How To doesn’t have that as well as being thematically flaccid. It’s mimicking of black vernacular is a gratuitous effect and a distraction. It really serves no purpose. Paul Simon rightly says that anyone who thinks what he writes is poetry doesn’t know what poetry is. That applies here too. How To’s notoriety is just that and not from it being good poetry or poetry at all.

    • @ Itzik Basman

      “It’s not a poem because it’s simply snatches of prose arbitrarily broken up into lines.”

      So where do you see the line between poetry and prose? Traditionally it is between metrical and un-metrical writing. However, with free verse that goes out of the window. Or is all your contention that this is free verse therefore not poetry?

      The author intended it as poetry and not prose. And that is significant.

      “prose arbitrarily broken up into lines”

      This is difficult to answer regarding free verse – I will try. With metrical poetry, the metre defines the line break. With free verse it is up to the whims and wishes of the author. So line breaks might be controlled by the author but they have become a feature of free verse. Line breaks aren’t there by sheer randomness or without any thought, but with definite purpose.

      “There’s plenty of prose that has musical phrasing.”

      Really? How plenty? Quote some please.

      “Poetry is highly charged compressed language marked by some metric and rhythmic consistency.”

      Lol! What exactly is ‘highly charged’ language?

      This is a good old traditional poem:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Wandered_Lonely_as_a_Cloud

      I wouldn’t say it is ‘highly charged’ or compressed language. You can have difficult poems like those of Hart Crane’s or fairly straight forward ones like most of Larkin’s work. Complexity or simplicity of language do not define a poem.

      “well as being thematically flaccid.”

      Eh? What does this mean? It is nonsense. The poem has a clear and consistent theme. What are you talking about? Does he jump from subject to subject? Does he stray all over the place? How is the theme “flaccid”? Don’t just claim it, try to back it up.

      “It’s mimicking of black vernacular is a gratuitous effect and a distraction.”

      It isn’t a gratuitous effect. It suits the poem’s theme and subject matter – dare I say it, the simplicity of the BV fits well with the poverty and illiteracy theme. Furthermore it reflects, to a degree, the author’s own language background. Black Vernacular like English is NOT merely used by Blacks. And it isn’t “mimicking” it either. Given his background – I would say he probably speaks it well.

      “Paul Simon rightly says that anyone who thinks what he writes is poetry doesn’t know what poetry is.”

      Good grief! And all that nonsense on the back of a non-poet. With brilliant history of English poetry and literary scholarship and you quote me Paul Simon?

      “How To’s notoriety is just that and not from it being good poetry or poetry at all.”

      You can like a poem or dislike it, that is your choice. However, on back of your dislikes you may not define whether a poem is a poem or not. Not without some challenge anyway…

          • Itzik Basman says

            Flaccid: …soft, loose, unpleasant…

            What “It’s about,”say the last two lines, is the virtual invisibility of the homeless to the non-homeless, anyone with a roof over their head that they pay for. To the non-homeless, says the poem, the homeless function as virtual ciphers, signposts to the self identity of the non-homeless, signposts to who they are simply by contrast. But for that prompt to identity, the homeless are as nothing to the passers-by-quickly who might drop a nickel or two down to them. The distinction’s flaccidity, how anemic it is, lies in the grossness of the generalization that doesn’t even begin to contemplate the possibility of diverse responses amongst “they.” Lack of even the beginning of nuance and, so, complexity, the lumping of everyone else as the castigated “they,” makes this drivel facile. And the generalization is more than that: it includes a shallow rendering of the complexity of emotions aroused by the homeless in those who pay them little human heed and little money for their begging. I can immediately imagine a range of emotions in that heedlessness, even as it might be disgust. Disgust is aroused by what is perceived as violently foul, an assault on the senses. Heedlessness can be a way of that accommodating disgust, forcing into the clothes of uncaring. But that’s the opposite of near invisibility. Regardless, none ofthe massive number of other modes of response are even hinted at in the generalization. Not that Wee owes anyone a textbook of response; but to bury all that potential complexity, not to get to just even a hint of it, in the banality of “Its about who they believe who they is” is thin, lame and soft headed. It’s a platitude. It’s trite and, worse, it likes to think of itself as the key insight the drivel leads up to. So, another ground for flaccidity. And then, there’s sheer incoherence: why all the advice as to exaggeration? By the last two lines, the exaggeration won’t matter. For the passers by, the homeless in all their iterations are mere signposts by contrast to “they’s” identity. And, if you take a minute to think about it, there is the incoherent implication that among the homeless, no one has aids, is pregnant, has legs splayed, is crippled and so on as the litany in the drivel proceeds. If the actuality of all those conditions doesn’t make the homeless more visible than they are in all of their own complex, deeply troubled humanity, how will the exaggerated pretense of those conditions? This thematic incoherence makes the advice, meant as a shock and awe rejoinder to basic heedlessness useless, a mere futile gesture, which is just about what this drivel adds up to. Which is an irony indeed, but an unintended one. So, really, the gratuitous mimicking of black vernacular aside, this drivel is totally politically correct in driving a banal distinction between the homeless and “they,” in deflating all nuance and complexity, in denying that there’s anything more to be said for the passers by-quickly and in wanting to shock them out of their self obsessive indifference. Irony lies in the flaccidity that undermines it all.

            As for the mimicked black vernacular, there is no point to it: it’s a gratuitous effect. And if there is a point, what could it conceivably be? Could it be that in the black street sensibility, whatever that might be, manifest in black street idiom, there is a superior apprehension of these matters, an insight that whites can’t even pretend to? Were the answer to be along those lines, then the outraged would be doubly wrong in protesting this drivel on the basis of cultural appropriation: surely cultural appropriation is acceptable if it mocks the appropriator, specifically privileged and powerful white appropriators. In any event there are countless flaws if the answer lies along this line. If this answer doesn’t lie along this line, then I’m hard put to see it’s reason for being, which is to say, it’s a gratuitous effect.

            As to me noting what Paul Simon just said, don’t be a credentialist jerk.

            So to be clear I’m with Mac Donald in being 100% anti the outrage and in thinking Wee’s apology pathetic. But this flaccid drivel parading as a poem is lousy.

        • @ Itzik Basman

          You should have stopped at the Yawn. You’ve gotten worse.

          From
          [[What “It’s about,”say the last two lines, is the virtual invisibility of the homeless to the non-homeless, anyone with a roof over their head that they pay for. To the non-homeless, says the poem, the homeless function as virtual ciphers, signposts to the self identity of the non-homeless, signposts to who they….

          …. in the banality of “Its about who they believe who they is” is thin, lame and soft headed. It’s a platitude. It’s trite and, worse, it likes to think of itself as the key insight the drivel leads up to. So, another ground for flaccidity.]]

          What truly is drivel is what you have written here. It’s meaningless drivel. I doubt even you know what this drivel means. You don’t seem to know what a Poem is or what it does. Your quotation of Paul Simon as your main authority on Poetry gave you away.

          You have not read any – you don’t understand the subject much. I blame it all on education… time was kids were taught better. Grounding in grammar and reading and comprehension. Then some rhetoric perhaps. And then they were made to learn some classic poetry by heart – commit to memory. And then was learning a classical language and some of its poetry. Then there was Bible learning and its style. This gave kids a solid grounding. Most of that has gone now with nothing to replace it. And then we get this drivel.

          [[And then, there’s sheer incoherence]]

          Where? The poem is NOT incoherent. The diction and language might be unfamiliar to you. So look it up. Otherwise the poem isn’t unclear or complex.

          [[This thematic incoherence makes the advice, meant as a shock and awe rejoinder to basic heedlessness useless]]

          More meaningless drivel. This poem’s theme is clear and pretty straightforward. You are just repeating yourself from last time with more words and bigger words. It doesn’t answer anything. It makes you look silly.

          [[So, really, the gratuitous mimicking of black vernacular aside, this drivel is totally politically correct in driving a banal distinction between the homeless and “they,” in deflating all nuance and complexity, in denying that there’s anything more to be said for the passers by-quickly and in wanting to shock them out of their self obsessive indifference. Irony lies in the flaccidity that undermines it all.]]

          More drivel. Good grief! You actually thought that if you went verbose and tedious that this might come across as “intellectual”. This is just waffling. It is EVEN worse than your last reply.

          [[As for the mimicked black vernacular, there is no point to it: it’s a gratuitous effect.]]

          Repetition of what you claimed in your previous reply. Objections were raised, no answer to them.

          [[As to me noting what Paul Simon just said, don’t be a credentialist jerk.]]

          Lol! You fucking kidding me? Paul Simon isn’t a poet or a literary scholar and never has been. English has wonderful range of poetry literature and scholarship. This just shows you have not read any.

          [[But this flaccid drivel parading as a poem is lousy.]]

          Only flaccid thing is your drivel. See you were far more concise and clear with your last reply. What was the point of expanding on it?

          Look:

          “Yawn….”

          • Itzik Basman says

            Not a single analytical word in all you’ve said, just a lot of ad homs but no arguments. I made specific arguments that you answer only by name calling.

            Pathetic.

          • @ Itzik Basman

            ” I made specific arguments”

            You mean when you posted the “Yawn” at me?

            “Not a single analytical word in all you’ve said”

            Yeah! I answered the exact same things before this. Go look at your previous comment – the one before the yawn – and my reply to that.

            You did not bother to reply to the objections raised but said the same thing with more verbosity.

            No point repeating yourself. For example:

            When I said the author’s use of the Black Vernacular is because of his background and is not just an imitation. So where was your reply? There wasn’t one. You just asserted the same thing again!

            So what else were you expecting but a verbal boot right up your waffling driveling arse.

            All that nonsense on the back of listening to Paul Simon! Let me ask you a few simple questions….

            How much poetry do you read?
            Your favourite poets?
            So what do you consider to be a poem?

            Especially the last one… in your reply in which you apparently made “specific arguments” where is the answer to this question and why isn’t it there?

          • Itzik Basman. says

            I’ve read what I can only think is a screed by you.

            I give you a set of arguments and you reply by name calling and insults, with nary an argument or an analytical word.

            Pathetic!

          • @ Itzik Basman.

            Nope. I gave detailed point by point and cordial reply and then got this in response:

            “Yawn”.

            “I give you a set of arguments”

            Yeah. Exact same thing as before but more verbose. Not interested.

            Now go away. Stop denigrating other people’s work especially when you have not got the foggiest what you are on about.

  61. itzik Basman says

    Sorry for the grammatical miscues.

    Wrote it too quickly.

  62. Pingback: The Death of the Author and the End of Empathy | 3 Quarks Daily

  63. Itzik Basman says

    @reading nomad.

    I have a Masters degree in English literature from U.B.C. and have written and put online a monograph on Hamlet as well as putting my MA thesis on Mordedai Richler online, as buffed up by me, as well as an interpretive essay on Adele Wiseman’s novel, The Sacrifice. And I’ve had a couple of poems and a short story published not by me online.

    I probably have more exegetical power in my little finger for any genre of literature than you have in your entire body.

    Judging by this thread, you’re a wordy obsessive who can’t abide being disagreed with and who sinks into ad hominem and spittle-dribbling outrage when it’s done.

    I judge that you couldn’t make a sustained argument if you tried.

    Your telling me that I need to quote some hallowed aesthetician rather than casually referring to Paul Simon to make a point tells me evething I need to know about what a jerk you are.

    Now slink away please: you’re a waste of my time.

    • Itzik Basman says

      P.S. I’m not afraid to use my name and expose who I am in plainest sight rather than crawl around under the rock of the anonymity of a pseudonym.

  64. MarWes says

    This is precisely why fewer and fewer real people read these artsy-fartsy publications. Nigger, nigger, nigger, Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah…

  65. While I appreciate nuance is often a lost cause in any war even a culture war, I think Death of the Author is a valid form of critique. DotA, is misused by those that seek to afford themselves control of the narrative by denying authorial intent. That doesn’t mean that the primary argument of DotA: that the author, regardless of intent doesn’t have final interpretation rights over what it was that they in fact created. It means that authors don’t have a greater say in what it was that was actually created, but that doesn’t then cede that right to their critics and detractors. The use of the “postmodern” to accumulate power and impose the oppressive will of some on all, is unfortunate and predictable. That said, I think there is value in fighting for nuance in a shrill and hostile environment, despite its seeming futility.

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  67. Ken Dukoff says

    Implied Racism is Bull. Black on Black degredation and demoralization is off the charts disgusting. Over Sensitive is the new norm and is killing creativity and spontaneity. There should not have been any apology for this brilliant poem because it accomplishes what it was meant to in full. >Awareness.

  68. “Don’t use AAVE [African-American Vernacular English]. Don’t even try it. … Know your lane.”
    ‘Stay in your lane.’ A quintessential totalitarian phrase. Culture is all for appropriation. Screw the ‘lanes’ with a chain saw. Did I say chain saw? I meant to say assault weapon. Remember when we were suppose to be “transgressive”? Sheeeet!

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