Linky Friday #63


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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117 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    SAT test prep may or may not have an effect, but the fact the comments on that Marginal Revolution post quickly got taken over by Steve Sailer and his “human biodiversity” acolytes is sort of scary. You’d think somebody like Cowen wouldn’t want his comment section to be a bunch of people all but saying that we don’t need to help black and Hispanic children cause they’re just less intelligent as a race, anyway.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I like Cowen, but I sometimes wonder if he doesn’t purposefully sprinkle his posts with Sailer-bait.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Early on in Hit Coffee I had some overlap with the HBD-sphere in terms of audience. It was one of the reasons I had a prohibition of discussing racial issues at all (with some, but rare, exceptions, and those always included limitations). Without that prohibition, nearly everything I wrote about had the potential to be racial.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Golly! Who would have guessed that a post referring to an unfounded left-wing conspiracy theory of the racial achievement gap would result in someone promoting an alternative explanation? Is there nothing that won’t set those people off?Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I personally found the negligible impact part of it less interesting than the “Who takes prep?” part.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    En1- This isn’t a new thesis. Many people have long argued that a certain amount of censorship forces more intelligent writing because you have to tell rather than show but in a way that most people can get. Three is an argument that many of the best films in Hollywood history are a result of the Hayes Code rather than despite the Hayes Code. When you have no restraints, there is no need to be subtle. Since writing indirectly and with subtleness is difficult, writers prefer to be direct. He’s hot, she’s hot and they have sex and all that. A restraint, the inability to show to much physical love, compels writers to find indirect ways of suggesting things. The metaphors and imagery could some times be heavy-fisted though.

    En2- I still think that the dearth of conservative comedy comes from an inability to make their own side seem foolish. Liberal comedy shows are more than willing to make fun of their own side if its necessary to tell a joke. Conservatives less so.Report

    • Avatar trumwill says:

      Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy, Beverly Hillbillies…Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        That is making fun of your own tribe like Jews telling jokes about Jewishness.

        Conservatives need someone willing to take down Sarah Palin. John Stewart has shown he is very willing and able to go against various tribes and politicians on the left. He went against an atheist group because they protested the inclusion of some kind of religious monument and basically said “What’s wrong with you people? It gives the majority comfort…” or something like that.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        That is making fun of your own tribe like Jews telling jokes about Jewishness.

        It’s people laughing at themselves, which is the point. It’s always easier to take jokes at your own expense when you know that the person telling the joke is simpatico. (That includes Stewart.)

        I do agree that there is the Sarah Palin issue. But I don’t think that’s an issue of an unwillingness to laugh at themselves. I do think it’s a desire for the comedy to explicitly carry an ideological agenda (the comedy following the ideology, rather than tending to be a biproduct of it). That is a big part of the problem, though not the whole problem. It’s a problem that interacts with other problems.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Jeff Foxworthy is conservative and I actually find him decently funny or at least did once but he never struck me as overtly political or even remotely political. Political comedy requires giving a sucker punch to your own side to make the joke when necessary. A lot of what I’ve seen of conservative political humor seems very reluctant to do this and comes across more mean-spirited like a bully making fun of somebody on th playground. Jeff Foxworthy doesn’t come across this way.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The examples I provide are people whose bread and butter is making fun of people who at least tend heavily towards conservatives, and who market primarily to conservative audiences. I just don’t think it’s an accurate description of the problem that conservatives can’t laugh at themselves. I do think that statement touches into what is more of an issue, which is what I was talking about in my comment to Saul.

        I do think that a comedy routine or show that had the inverse focus of Stewart (humor against both sides, but not proportionately) could actually have some success. I think, though, that they haven’t managed to piece it together yet. The general perception remains that there should be a segregation between “conservative audiences” and “general audiences” when it comes to political programming (comedy or otherwise). Which is detrimental to the movement as a whole, though probably right more often than not in terms of programming (just not comedy).Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Lee, you say that liberals are more likely to make fun of themselves than conservatives. Perhaps it’s that liberals are more likely to make fun of the things about themselves that you find funny than conservatives are? I watched a lot of late-night tv during the Clinton and Bush II years. Generally the jokes were that Clinton can’t keep it in his pants and Bush was a stupid person with terrible policies that caused deaths.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        bush was a singularly unthoughtful president. However, if they missed out on opportunities to make fun of his public drunkenness in the course of duty, shame on them!

        (I am actually much more sympathetic to Bush’s drinking than it may appear. we can’t expect a president to be talented at everything.)Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      No, it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what humor is about.
      Folks like Christie and Limbaugh think humor is about coercion — getting people
      to do what you want. It’s a fundamental principle of an Authoritarian personality type.

      As the right has lost members, and increasingly coalesced around the segment of the American populace that is Authoritarian, its possibilities for humor have gotten increasingly grim.

      The left (which is most of us) thinks of humor as a way to expose hypocrisy, see things differently, provide unusual insights. The Right has ceased to like new thoughts, and would rather their “guys in charge” keep mouthing the party line.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        This strikes me as along the same lines as a lot of the self-serving explanations that I’ve read. There is truth to a lot of them, but I find them unsatisfying as a complete explanation.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Of course it’s not a complete explanation! Even at best, giving 50% of Americans as Republicans, your authoritarian personality types are half of the Republicans. at worst? they’re probably about 2/3rds.

        But what they want in humor really, really pisses off everyone else. So you can’t do both styles of humor and get ahead. Christie and Limbaugh are rightly seen as bullies — “can’t you take a joke?”

        I expect the pendulum to shift at some point, and the country will be better for it (betting you’ll get some good black conservative comedians. folks may see them voting democratic, but they’re more conservative than most dems. of course, a good deal of republicans won’t want to admit that they are conservative).Report

    • Avatar Herb says:

      “Many people have long argued that a certain amount of censorship forces more intelligent writing because you have to tell rather than show but in a way that most people can get. ”

      I would disagree immediately with those people. Censorship just sucks. Limitations, on the other hand, can be very creatively conducive. Compare Star Wars: A New Hope with The Phantom Menace. George Lucas bristled so much at studio meddling and technical limitations that he……um, over-indulged.

      Same thing with Peter Jackson and nearly everything post Lord of the Rings. King Kong was a cool movie, but it would have been sooooo much better if he had someone standing over his shoulder saying, “Look, your pre-viz looks great, but, Peter, you can’t stop the movie mid-climax so they can go ice-skating in Central Park.”

      Censorship? No. Limits. Yes.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        … so you didn’t like arrested development?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        Have you ever seen any of the great screwball comedies from the 1930s and 40s? Those comedies had brilliant dialogue because they were masters of euphemism. There is a real wit there that is lacking in most modern romantic comedies or comedies period. I think The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib, Bringing Up Baby are much funnier and clever than any modern romantic comedy or any Adam Sandler movie. The Marx Brothers were also funnier and more subversive than Adam Sandler.

        The Zucker Brothers still rule though. So does Mel Brooks.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        “Better than Adam Sandler” is faint praise indeed. The masters of transgressive comedy were the Farrelly brothers. Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary are falling-down funny precisely because they take complete advantage of having no limits. There are diminishing returns on that, of course, which is why they never reached those heights again,Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The Marx Brothers were basically living cartoons. Its like watching a Warner Brothers cartoon but with real people instead of animation. There funniness had nothing to do with the Hayes Code, which they seem to happily ignore as much as they could.

        Its more or less better that we don’t have the Hayes Code and similar guidlines anymore. A combination of restrictions and writing ability does produce some spectacular results. A lot of Hayes era films were terrible and most of the metaphors and symbols used to get around the guidelines blunt hammers.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        One of their best jokes (Groucho said it was the single longest laugh he’d ever heard in a movie theater) was when a female character dropped a key Groucho needed down the front of her blouse and he turned to the camera and said “If only there was a way to get that without getting in trouble with the Hays Office”.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I agree on limits. More than once I’ve listened to DVDs commentaries where the director says “we were going to to do [x], but we had to cut it because we didn’t have the time or money” and I think “[x] would have made the film worse”.Report

      • Avatar Herb says:

        “… so you didn’t like arrested development?”

        I didn’t make it very far into the first season, so that would be a no. Of course, I came to it late, after it was already canceled and I had already developed an aversion to Michael Cera.
        Yes, I’ve seen a few of those. But if you want an even better examples than Hayes era Marx Bros for how limitations spur creativity, just look at the silent films. The best ones figured out a way to tell a whole story visually without sound.

        I was also thinking about the shower scene in Psycho and Spielberg’s Jaws. The blood and nudity forced Hitchcock to innovate his quick-cutting technique, which made that scene work.

        And of course, everyone knows Bruce the shark barely worked for Jaws. He was rarely seen, which made the shark even more terrifying.

        Censorship forces people to be clever. Natural limitations like a non-working shark or a prudish audience force you to come up with something that works.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    B1 Well played…well played.

    B3 Well, duh. If there be profits to squeeze out, they’d been done already. TANSTAAFL.

    T2 OFC, cops have been ignoring laws for a long time now. Not new news.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    En4: An overall great list. I don’t know all of the books, but many are truly fantastic.

    I do struggle with Babar’s inclusion. I know there have been different versions and I’m not sure which specific one they are referring to, but some are potentially racist and basically promote/defend colonialism.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    En6: a narrative about a Christian college student who must defend his faith in front of an aggressive philosophy professor who makes each of his students sign a pledge affirming that God does not exist

    Is that really the way Evangelicals see universities? Because if so, I’d love to take them on a tour of campus to see all of the religious groups very openly selling their faith.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      That’s how I run my classes, don’t you?Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Pledges are a bit dogmatic and passé. I just got them to attest to it during the midterm Satanic rituals.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m just picturing a syllabus with a course description, a class schedule, readings, grading policies, the required spiels about cheating, and then several pages of pledges that must be signed, including: God does not exist; Communism is the only true political philosophy; George really was the best Beatle; My favorite color is green; Less Filling!; Fox should bring Firefly back; and Ain’t no party like a west coast party
        cuz a west coast party don’t stop.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        It’s all much simpler than that. I just put it in the grade scheme.

        A = Libertarian Atheist who hates the Yankees.
        B = Liberal Atheist who hates the Yankees.
        C = Libertarian Theist who hates the Yankees.
        D = Conservative Theist who hates the Yankees.
        F = Conservative or Liberal Theist or likes the Yankees.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not even sure I’d let someone register for a course if they liked the Yankees.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Yes, I got a B in James course.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        You got a B+, Lee. You’re liberal without being too left (where “too” is authoritatively defined authoritatively by the instructor).Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Fail: Wants to run Eich out of town for supporting Prop 8.
        Pass: Wants to run Eich out of town for inventing JavaScript.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        WooHoo! I got an A!Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        I assume you’re talking about both my class and Schillings?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:



        Pure Java is so much nicer to code in…Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        As a leftist who dislikes the Yankees (and finds baseball unbearably tedious), I suspect I get an automatic fail.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Christian leftist, moreover.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @mike-schilling — +1!Report

  6. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I2: I worry about overfitting. It sounds like the people involved are pretty qualified, so I would trust they know to check for that. If you start off with a large number of guessers to begin with, some of them will guess just by chance. So, you need another mechanism to check whether they are actually good or were among the lucky.

    I found amusing the part of the article that stressed that the guessers didn’t have access to special intelligence. It’s very easy to get distracted by minutia and lose track of the larger facts. The cognitive science literature is filled with examples. People overweight obscure information and information they believe to be privileged. Not all additional information is necessarily helpful, even if it is accurate.

    Incidentally, I think it is this rather than SEC monitoring that does the most to deter insider trading.Report

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    yeah, entrepreneurs, like other bullshit artists, are prone to levels of manic-depression (some subclinical, of course). It’s kinda a feature, honestly when you want to be good at selling people on your stuff.Report

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    Well, walmart is a functional monopsony in a significant portion of America. If demand drives business, then paying people more will get you more business (note: this does assume they aren’t already getting paid foodstamps/etc that you’d simply Cancel Out).

    Walmart can’t be walmart? Oh, god, then walmart is doomed!
    Seriously, this guy is taking evidence of the collapse of our rural infrastructure as
    evidence that Walmart can’t pay people more??

    Walmart will have a completely different retail profile in ten years — it can’t help it — otherwise it will be out of business.

    It remains to be seen if “new Walmart” will actually pay people more (I’d give at least 20% odds that they will, even if you adjust for the cost of living).Report

  9. Avatar Kim says:

    7 year itch… the real question is what comes after Parks and Recreation, and will it build like Arrested Development did? [Futurama came after the Simpsons, capiche?]Report

  10. Avatar Roger says:

    On I2, I was one of the Good Judgment forecasters for the first two years. It started taking too much of my time and going into increasingly arcane questions in distant foreign places, so I dropped out.Report

  11. Avatar Pinky says:

    En3 – Drama elevates and comedy debases. That’s as old as the Greeks. The comic can never be a scold, can never take a morally-superior stand. Right-wing scolding and left-wing scolding are equally unfunny.

    Comedians typically aren’t liberals; they’re libertarians. (No offense to libertarians but) libertarians tend to focus on the silliness and irresponsibility in human nature. Libertarians aren’t judgmental. They’re not going to alienate anyone in a comedy club. The top comedian on the left is Jon Stewart; on the right, it’s Rush Limbaugh. They’re both funny guys who tease their opponents, and they both represent more libertarian wings of their movements.Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:



  13. Avatar Kim says:

    Part of the problem with the right’s talent gap is that liberals don’t want to work for them.
    the other part is that they want people willing and able to mouth the party line.

    Data doesn’t work? well, mold it a bit, make it work…Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I think this is a very comforting explanation for some.

      I don’t think there is an explicit demand that people are willing and able to mouth the party line (except insofar as they are not allowed to actively undermine the party, which shouldn’t be allowed in any case). I do think there is a cultural problem that promotes certain things when they need to be working on more of a “it takes all kinds” model. (This is a comforting explanation for me, though I think it true.)

      Yes, 2012 was a disaster of epic proportions as far as this goes, but the notion that Republicans can’t do – or won’t respect – data simply isn’t true. Karl Rove’s ascent was due in large part to efforts in precisely that arena. The problem was that they were too focused on the 51% and didn’t really appreciate how fragile that was.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        51% burnt them badly in 2006. If they show signs of fixing the gerrymandering, I’ll retract my statement.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        If by ‘how fragile that was,’ you mean that the basic positions of the Republican party would get co-opted and twisted by a minority organized via Sunday church service, I agree.

        But I don’t think that’s what you meant. And I do think those church-goers deserve proportional representation; but the result Rove got was that they’re something like 30% with more then 50% say, and traditional fiscal-conservatives are seemingly without representation (except the representation that money can buy in political contribution.)

        /I’m being quite cynical, Will.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Zic, what I meant was that it was a majority extremely vulnerable to changes in circumstance and mild shifts in views and voter composition. It’s too forgiving to say that they simply didn’t see the economic crisis coming or that the wars would go badly. You play it that close to the line and you’re likely to get burned.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        I’m definitely willing to believe that the campaign professionals who kept telling their candidates and donors that they had the election in the bag knew better. Who gives money (money that can be spent on expensive consultants!) to a losing candidate? Why put yourself out of a lucrative job while the money is still flowing in? Both presidential candidates raised over $1B in 2012. That’s a lot of money to con out of donors who aren’t going to get anything for it, but the payoff is certainly big enough to give it a shot.

        At least, that’s much easier to believe than the notion that a bunch of seasoned election professionals suddenly took leave of their senses and decided to ignore data this one time around.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I’ve seen at least a couple of stories with quotes from Republican National Party types complaining, basically, “We can’t find top-notch software people who volunteer to work long hours for minimum money the way the Democrats seem to be able to do.” Certainly some of the stories about the Obama effort make it sound like Red Bull-crazed programmers living on take-out pizza, sleeping in cots in the back, and building systems out of whatever they could get their hands on cheap. Assuming that situation, I have no trouble believing in a talent gap.

        I get requests for assistance from Democratic candidates here in Colorado. All of them have a set of check-boxes: (a) I can give money, (b) I will make phone calls, and (c) I will do data entry. The software systems aren’t any better than the data they operate on; are Republican candidates asking for data-entry volunteers?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @troublesome-frog That was what I had assumed was going on up until election night. I was positively horrified to read that many in Romney’s inner circle truly were confident about victory. While the Republicans can and have used data, something really seemed to go seriously off the rails in 2012. By most accounts, the Pennsylvania detour was not because they had given up on Ohio but because they were pretty confident that they had won it. I would feel a lot more comfortable if I learned that was not actually the case. In 2008, I know that McCain’s camp knew the score and were, if anything, overly pessimistic.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @michael-cain Hey, there’s a former Mozilla CEO that might be sympathetic and might be looking for work!

        Data collection may have fallen by the wayside since 2004. I wouldn’t know. My guess is that either their models were messed up, they needed an update on the data, or both. Probably both. According to the article, though, it’s not just a matter of IT. They need more talent across the board. They need {shudder} community activists.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Maybe I’m too cynical, but I wouldn’t expect those consultants to admit to having known better after the fact. As long as there’s a chance to run the con again, the correct response is, “We were totally blindsided last time, but now we know what went wrong. If you give us a few hundred million that we can skim from, we can get your guy in this time around.”Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        The Senate candidate from WY was financing himself by selling (publically recordable) data to corporations [how many cars, satellite dish, etc.]Report

  14. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    I1: Legal ethicists have been wondering about attorney-client privilege in the age of the internet and dropbox long before the NSA scandal. Lots of attorneys like to include attorney-client disclaimers at the bottom of every e-mail and I remember we discussed whether these were valid or not in my legal ethics class. The answer was inconclusive. There are also arguments to be made both ways about whether an attorney should put everything into the ether of drop box and servers and cloud computing or keep all client information in files. My guess is that most of the time an attorney will be okay with cloud computing but if they get hacked and the information gets stolen, they are going to be in big trouble and hopefully have good malpractice.

    Ed3: I know we have been through this a million times and I think it just comes down to very different philosophies and backgrounds and cultural norms. I think there is something openly and proudly anti-Intellectual in the dirty jobs route. There is nothing wrong or bad about not going to college and making good money from a “dirty job” or starting your own business. But it seems odd to me that this has become a left v. right talking point, another way conservatives like to jab liberals for being
    eggheads/nerds. There is a certain amount of anti-Intellectual pride I hear when people talk about their economic success without book smarts. So I get defensive there. I love book smarts and think they are very important. I am also concerned about who the dirty jobs would get pushed to. As I said before, if someone tells the child of business people that he or she is not very smart and should consider a trade, I am all for it. Trades need to be pushed upon the “stupid children of the rich” to borrow a phrase from a 19th century President of Harvard.

    P1: The entire Virginia thing was absolutely fascinating from a geo-political standpoint. Japan was pissed.

    En6: As far as I can tell, there is whole market that is exclusively dedicated to serving the Evangelical community and it kind of acts as a shadow of the mainstream market. A friend posted this to fb a few weeks ago and I found it fascinating because my secular-Jewish upbringing was very very different:

    I know nothing about any of this stuff except from anthropological types of journalism targeted at secular liberals like me. I grew up in NYC-Metro, most Christians I knew were Roman Catholic. Protestants tended to be African-American or Korean.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      What’s so bad about getting felons to do the dirty work? at least it’s a damn job!
      (Local paper had an article that mentioned a guy crying at his first paycheck — apparently it was the first his family had received in 3 generations. I’d rather he become a taxpayer,
      than go back to working in the underground economy).Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Ed3: There is nothing wrong or bad about not going to college and making good money from a “dirty job” or starting your own business. … in my view, the whole thing is pushing back against a society that is telling people just the opposite of that.

      The partisan aspect of it is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the GOP pulls a disproportionate share of those with college degrees. It was the only education level Romney won. It actually goes a bit towards the dissonance between who individuals vote for and who locales (cities, counties, states) vote for.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        IIRC more and more college-educated professionals including men are pulling for the Democratic column. This is especially true among single women though.

        There was a time when the GOP was largely the party of professionals but this was also the time when social liberalism was allowable in the GOP. I.e. they were Rockefeller Republicans.

        Wall Street types still tend to go GOP. Doctors and Lawyers and Scientists tend to go left.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        The gap is closing among “come college” and “bachelor’s” though Romney still performed at +3 and +8 respectively, winning the latter group and losing the former by a point. The Democrats have opened up a significant advantage among post-grads. Romney performed better among those with college degrees (including postgrads) than among those without, and did better among those who went to college than those who did not, though the difference is negligible and Obama won both categories. Broadly speaking, Obama did very well among the extremely educated and well among the comparatively uneducated. Romney did best among the middle-educated (which includes those who went to college and graduated).

        It’s hard to look at these numbers and argue that one is the party of the educated and one is the party of the less educated. Unless we’re going to define “less educated” as including those without postgrad. (Which I know you’re not saying, but people often converse as though that is the case.)

        You’re certainly right about lawyers. I think doctors still veer Republican on the whole, though that gap has closed. Primary care physicians probably lean left (at least in my experience, and Obama has been courting them) and obstetricians almost certainly do.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I think there is something openly and proudly anti-Intellectual in the dirty jobs route.

      You do know that many of those jobs require a lot of intelligence and knowledge, right? They’re often called ‘skilled’ labor for a reason?

      Truth is that I loved living in Brookline, MA a lot. For a long time. And then it grew very tiring; because the doctors and lawyers and professors around me really did seem to look down on the plumbers and builders and mechanics who kept their lives and households running smoothly. It varies by state, but in most, it takes longer to get a journeyman-electrician license then it does to get a bachelors degree. And that journeyman’s license probably has more earning potential then most bachelors degrees, too.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Two of the wealthiest guys I know owned their own plumbing businesses. And that stuff is never getting outsourced, a guy in India can’t fix your pipes. I wouldn’t be unhappy if my kids went that route, if that’s what they wanted to do.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        My example on anti-intellectualism is below.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      En6: Years ago Salentin wrote an article on Slate about the Scopes Trial, this was at a time when creationism was in the news, and said that it was schocked to learn about the Fundamentalist sub-culture because he assumed sub-cultures only existed on the Left.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        My experience is that the fundamentalist subculture is sometimes overrated. Partially because it’s the sort of thing that people assume doesn’t exist and when they find out it does assume importance on it.

        When I lived in Deseret, I met Mormon subculture. They’ve got their own movies and so on. By and large, though, it was received in addition to more popular entertainment. Exceptions, of course, and it’s the exceptions that often grab our attention.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        IIRC, HL Mencken so throughly skewered the evagelicals and fundamentalists that they largely went into a shadow culture until the 1960s.Report

      • I think that Mencken’s reach and the quality of his skewering are easy to exaggerate. To hear some describe it, evangelicals were so distraught that Mr. Mencken (who later became an American First sympathizer by the way) made fun of them, they canceled their subscription to the New Yorker and used the savings to buy a pulp copy of the Fundamentals. After that, they cowered in their huts, polished their guns and went to church, until Goldwater, Roe v. Wade, Richard Viguerie, and Jerry Falwell brought them out of hibernation.

        I’m not sure the evangelical vote really disappeared. I hear mention at these threads occasionally of the Dragons of Reaction like the League League (about 8-10 years after scopes), for example, and I assume that it got some of its support from evangelicals qua evangelicals. (I don’t know….that’s just a hunch…intrusive federal government destroying our traditional values, etc.) My drive-by about Mencken’s sympathies during the leadup to WWII might also ironically indicate a subject along which some evangelicals, along with Joseph Kennedy and Sarge Shriver, might have found points of common ground and voted accordingly. The John Birchers and some of McCarthyism likely appealed to an evangelical qua evangelical constituency.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I didn’t see anything anti-intellectual in the Mike Rowe interview.Report

      • I didn’t, either. I saw some skepticism about credentialism and a wish that college weren’t so unremittently seen as the default option for the good life. But he didn’t say people shouldn’t go to college. In fact, he said otherwise.

        Not that anti-intellectualism doesn’t exist, but I think it can come from different camps as well as from the “college is not for everybody” camp. I do think, to riff on @zic ‘s comment above, that in some cases, the “everyone ought to go to college” mantra might sometimes evince a form of anti-intellectualism.Report

  15. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Ed3: As I’m sure I’ve said before, I was a gas turbine mechanic and on my way to dive school, long before I was an engineer. I actually had no plans to go to college, because I knew how much money I could make as a turbine tech. As a matter of fact, the only reason I bothered with university was because a motorcycle accident left me with 3 of my 4 limbs in bad shape (they are mostly better now) & the VA was willing to pay for 4 years of school.

    I love my work now, and I am happy I finished getting the BS & MS degrees, but I have zero regrets about starting out as a grease monkey.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      One one “US dictator for a day” change would be to require all military officers to spend at least 3 years enlisted before commissioning.Report

  16. Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

    @zic @mad-rocket-scientist

    My brother can probably talk about this more but Judaism as a culture/heritage really emphasizes book learning. We have emphasized book learning for 5000 years, if not longer. I’m a very secular Jew. My background was not super-religious but I suspect that book learning rubs off into my bones and spirit somehow.

    I realize that a lot of “dirty jobs” require lots of training and intelligence but that doesn’t mean that it is not anti-intellectual at the same time because there seems to be a certain pride in being unread.

    I am rather disturbed often about how experts at meant to be ignored and disrespected in American politics and society frequently. Experts are important. Anti-Intellectualism contributes to climate change denialism and anti-Vaxxing and a lot of other conspiracy theories.

    Pierre and I have a long standing debate about whether to trust the master electrician or the electrical engineer more as an example. I worked on a case about a guy who was injured in a work place construction accident. The guy drove a mixer truck that delivered concrete to construction sites. Another company owned a piece of equipment that pumped the concrete into the structures. The pump had an elbow that blew up and concrete blinded the guy.

    The depositions covered lots of people including the mechanics for the pump-owning company and the engineer who designed the elbow. A question of contention was how were you supposed to test whether the elbow needed to be replaced or not. The mechanics said that they would use a sound test. They would hit it with a hammer and if it sounded like it needed replacement, they would replace it. They did not keep too many records on how much concrete got pumped through the elbow. Nor did they keep records on when parts were replaced.

    The engineer who designed the part was absolutely horrified when he heard the mechanics used a hammer to test for weakness. He said that could cause more damage to the part. The engineer said you are supposed to use an ultra-sound device that the company provided with the elbow. The mechanics said they didn’t like the ultra sound because it took too much time and was hard to read.

    So that is ignoring expert advice and caused a guy to be injured and go blind. I have to say I side with the engineer. I’ve heard other tradespeople make similar comments in resentment against engineers, OSHA standards, etc. I side with the engineers and OSHA. If Company B used the ultrasound, the plaintiff probably would not have been injured.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I’d assess a furnace guy by whether he actually did the Manual J (I assessed my electrician by how much he wanted to rewire the house to ground the second floor).

      Around here, the tradesmen also go to college:

      Now, this isn’t to say that a good computer modeler can’t lick 20 years of experience
      (at a cost of thousands of dollars…)… but you probably don’t know a good modeler.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        Actually, I do know a good modeler. Dozens of them, actually…Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        oh, I’m aware (my comment was replying to Saul). How many of them have modeled forced airflow in a house using a furnace and blower?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        This week I did an interview where I asked the candidate to describe how she would do an analysis of a diesel generator in the desert. Her answer convinced me that she didn’t know enough about system analysis to be able to even start asking the right questions.

        Modeling a forced air blower system in a house is childs play. We do such models for jumbo jets, which is a little more challenging, & nuclear power plants, which is a lot more challenging.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I fully realize I’m asking you “anyone doing this for fun on their own time?”.
        But it is an actual question which I am interested in the actual answer to.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        I don’t know if fun is the right word, more like satisfying a persistent curiosity.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


      In the same vein, being in the trades does not mean one is not intelligent, well read, or intellectual. In the Mike Rowe interview, one guy he was working with was cleaning septic systems & had a degree in psychology.

      In many ways, the push to college & the disparaging of the “dirty jobs” has contributed, IMHO heavily, to the anti-intellectualism attitudes. I spent over a decade working in Academia, and a disturbing number of Profs & students looked down on the tradesmen working on campus, acting as if they were stupid & unable to understand the lofty concepts they were exploring.

      Pissed me off, because but for a violent chance meeting on a foggy WI highway, my peers would never recognize me as one of their own.

      As for engineers vs workers, oh the stories I could tell, both of my time in the Navy, dealing with company reps, and my college classes, pounding it into my classmates that whatever they design has to be fixed by people, and they had best keep that human factor in mind. An ultrasound machine is obviously the best way to determine the condition of a part, but if the device is hard to use in the field, it won’t be. I remember having a similar device for testing turbine parts. It was very fancy, very easy to use, VERY expensive, and very fragile. It was fun to use when we were at base, sitting in the shop. When we deployed on a ship, it never left it’s Pelican case, because nobody wanted to risk damaging the $50K device.

      Reminds me, actually, of the back & forth between enlisted & officers in the military. Officers who fail to spend time in the proverbial trenches with their troops as they move up the ranks, or who give the appearance of being better than their troops, are most often despised by their troops. Some intellectuals need to spend some time in the trenches.Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

        I don’t disagree. I wonder how much of it is a never ending cycle of “you never leave high school.” I’m somewhat to very serious about this. There are also class issues.

        Maybe the professors and students remember being tormented and beat up by the guys who go into trades and that explains part of the resentment.

        I know engineers who have liked to sneer at arts and humanities types because they remember being made fun of by the cool kids/art kids in high school and college and now they have the good jobs, look who is laughing now, etc.

        Perhaps trade types remember the professors and college educated types as being the children of the rich, the ones from the nice side of town.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “Maybe the professors and students remember being tormented and beat up by the guys who go into trades”


        are you serious?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        I spent a summer once working for my hometown’s local parks department. The first job involved grounds work for a few weeks. I liked the full-time staff a lot. They were good people.

        The kid I feared the most was the son of one of the head guy’s in the Parks Department. He did not grow up in my hometown. He went to some community college in upstate New York and was very big into playing Hockey. He wasn’t necessarily very good at school and might have had some anger management issues. A professor gave him a grade that put his Hockey playing in peril because of academic probation issues and would not change the grade. The guy frequently talked about how he wanted to beat the shit out of that professor.

        Whether these were empty threats or not, I was glad I did not go to high school with the guy because he probably would have attacked me for being a bookish, artsy nerdy type.

        This is the kind of dynamic I wonder if we ever can escape.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        my personal experience says that any dude venting about wanting to hurt someone is probably not terribly serious. The folks that do fuck someone up? Particularly someone who is likely to give them some consequences? They’re going to do it soon, and probably without much warning. (They’re also more likely to be boastful than “ooh, I want to!”)Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Were you the type to get thrown against lockers as a kid?Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        In some situations, why not?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        One of the interesting ways in which perception does not match my experiences are athletes and bullies. The worst bullies at my school weren’t athletes. The athletes mostly occupied their own space. The bullies typically weren’t athletes. But in popular media, the bully athlete is a staple. I wonder if my experience is unusual or whether it’s just easy/lazy storytelling.

        (If my experience is unusual, it adds to my argument in favor of very large high schools.)Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        I was far from Mr. Popular but since I went to a largely Jewish and Asian school, there was not much physical violence. There was one kid who threw me into the wall of a bathroom stall when I was 14 but I was just shaken up by the event. The guy remained an offish bully well after high school though.


        In your experience, who were the biggest bullies at school?

        One guy who made fun of me frequently was one of the best player on the football team. That accomplishment wasn’t very hard at my high school.

        Others who frequently gave me a hard time were the small blue-collar contingent. Interestingly these kids might have been more popular than me so they just made their target one up on the social hierarchy.

        That being said compared to other people I was not made fun of too badly in high school. Though there were incidences.

        1. It was clearly considered kind of socially incorrect to attend my bar mitzvah especially by girls. According to my mom, she heard this from the mother’s of daughters who would have said yes but bowed down to peer pressure.

        2. I was only invited to one sweet 16 and this was another seeming issue of whether it was socially acceptable to invite me or not.

        3. Etc.

        4. I was more popular and have life-long friends from college but there are still people who remember me as being uncool, dorky, and weird from there. My girlfriend and I went college together but became a couple over a decade later. Lots of people are enthusiastic about us but she has friends who were among the cool kids who didn’t like me very much and they make disparaging and malicious comments. Fun fun.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:


        first off, it’s a bit too neatly pop-freudian. projection ain’t just a river in egypt.

        but mostly because it is incredibly obvious if you spend some personal time around them that professors as a class – and i will generalize here, though i believe accurately – are status-obsessed. to an alarming degree, honestly one i thought only possible among plastic surgeons on the upper east side.

        one of the more eye-opening narratives i’ve repeatedly heard lately is this belief, particularly among junior faculty, that at one point in a golden past professors were well-respected, high-status individuals, but due to [xyz]* they no longer are, which is why students will rules lawyer them to death whenever possible. and why students generally don’t fear them.

        i spent a lot of time – far too much – around phd candidates in nyc, but heard a lot of the same stories. i spent much of my time studying their griping, as sociolinguistics was a hobby of mine.

        there were also the usual folk (students and professors) telling my wife “why would you marry someone who isn’t in the academy?” or particularly “why marry someone in marketing? don’t you feel bad having to talk down to him?” etc. it was more understandable for her colleagues to be married to art dealers or doctors or a more suitable, less grossly financially-oriented profession. e.g. those positions of cultural status.

        a wholesaler of furniture is virtually zero status; a cheese wholesaler who sold to stinky’s, better status; an upmarket wine wholesaler who had cool contacts, the most status.

        some of this was the wailing and gnashing of teeth of people who will, by and large, never achieve their dreams, because the tenure track market is nothing like they imagined or were told – and possibly never was. as a way of making up for presumed losses and wasted chances, at least they can point to those around them as being beneath them; less smart, less true, less real.

        if you can find it, there’s a book called “this fine place so far from home” about first generation college students who became professors, most of whom came from blue collar or lower backgrounds. the main theme is how you balance living in multiple spheres that don’t communicate too well (working class family, academic pursuits, being an ethnic minority, being queer, etc), but a main subplot in many of these personal essays was the attitude of professors (this is in the 70s and 80s mostly) of “why do we have to educate this rabble? they’re scarcely above animals.” there’s a repetition of “ha ha you work for a living” in there that i don’t think can be wholly explained by MUST SMASH NERDS.

        and while i don’t think that this overtly biased attitude is nearly as common now, especially given demographic trends, it’s certainly far from uncommon as a general gripe theme. not so much “how do i reach these kids?” as “why must i have to reach these kids in particular? there are much better kids out there.”

        * the reasons vary from american culture hates us because we’re smart to fox news to administrators to the overall change in how students approach colleges as applicants rather than supplicants, etc. some of this is venting, but some of it really is a deeply held belief that if only for [xyz] they’d have more status and power in american culture. most (but not all) of these folks look down quite heavily on the need to actually communicate why what they do is important. it’s a daily struggle to work against this attitude that bleeds into both in my personal and professional lives, blurred though they are at this point.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        The worst bullies at my school weren’t athletes…. I wonder if my experience is unusual or whether it’s just easy/lazy storytelling.

        The worst bullies at my school weren’t athletes. However… I wasn’t really a jock but lettered in golf which entitled me to a jacket and membership in the lettermen’s club. I was almost instantly installed as treasurer (the nominating speech for me consisted of “By God, this year the checkbook will balance!”), so I was known and the athletes looked out for their own. Word got around and the bullies left me alone. That doesn’t fit the convenient narrative either.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @saul-degraw Mostly losers, or future losers. Some future frat boys.

        There were some athlete-bullies in middle school. That was a particular circumstance, though. I played football in the 7th grade and basketball in the 8th. That meant that during off-season I was in an “athletes” PE class. It was… brutal. But mostly limited to that class. The ones I remember outside of the class tended not to be athletes. And with one (big, figuratively and literally) exception, never star athletes. By high school, almost none of my problems were with athletes (as far as I knew) and none of them were with star athletes.

        Some of it is self-selection. Which is that the troublemakers often didn’t stay with athletics. I knew a couple athletes that stopped being athletes and then had a bad run. I know some people who were pretty bad before getting involved in sports and then became a lot better. The aforementioned “exception” was flushed out before he got to high school.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        High school does have a way of messing one up. I would hope that as adults we could get past that, but I know we can’t always, or at least not completely. I will admit to enjoying far too much schadenfreude while exploring the sad lives (via their Facebook pages) of HS classmates who made my life hell. Although I truly enjoy finding the occasional gem of a person who grew up & became someone interesting & kind.


        BTW, my experience gels with @will-truman , the bullies were rarely athletes. Losers is a much better term, those whose futures were so bleak that tormenting weaker kids was the only way to makes themselves feel better. Granted, when I was getting pummeled, that knowledge was cold comfort.

        I think breaking out of the cycle involves a lot of introspection, & introspection, in my experience, requires that a person have themselves challenged to break out of ingrained habits of thinking. I.E. spending some time in the metaphorical trenches, or walking in ‘The Others’ moccasins for a while. No one likes doing such, because it’s very uncomfortable, but its value is enormous to most people.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        A sociological point, there were huuuuuge class implications with regard to who were bullies. Race told you next to nothing). Which elementary school they went to told you a lot.Report

      • @dhex

        Thanks for the reference to that book. I’m going to try to check it out at the library.

        I’m not a professor, but I (and in some ways my oldest sister, although she had fewer opportunities to pursue it) have always been the intellectual one of a family that tends not to value intellectualism highly. It was and is hard to communicate with them, and for a long time there was a sense of something like a second-class status. Or perhaps a sense of displacement, a sense that doing intellectual-like things–like trying to teach myself German or Latin, or reading so-called serious literature and then the commentaries on that literature, or studying history books just because I thought history was interesting–was wrong or a waste of time. There was a sense that going to college was also one of those things that I should be doing but that I shouldn’t be doing, both at the same time.

        But it also wasn’t all that, either. It was also good. I strongly suspect that some intellectuals can grow up in pro-intellectual, or at least pro-education and pro-career, families and feel a similar sense of displacement.Report

    • Avatar zic says:


      I think it’s good to recognize that there are many flavors of anti-intellectualism; we all tend to see the world through the tools in our particular toolkit.

      Some of them (and I’m sure I’m missing many):

      Anti-science, the intelligent-design type beliefs, often by parents who opt to home-school their children and indoctrinate instead of educate them;

      Anti blue-collar; not recognizing that dirty jobs are often skilled and require great degree of knowledge and problem solving;

      Anti-education: the whole liberal-elites don’t know anything movement;

      Anti-political: all politics are corrupt, and government only creates problems;

      Anti-business: Business is bad, and it’s just here to screw over the little guy.

      I submit that each and every one of these thought habits is a form of anti-intellectualism.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Businesses exist to make a profit. If “screwing over the little guy” will help them make a profit, then they will do so.

        I don’t think anyone’s arguing that businesses are deliberately losing money on activities that have the sole purpose of screwing over the little guy. (Losing money in the long term, that is. In the short term, they absolutely will do so, e.g. a large superstore selling initially at a loss when they move into a new area, in order to drive smaller competitors out of business.)Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:


        I don’t disagree. I wonder how we can break out of this cycle though. It seems to be as old as humanity itself.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Katherine, a better proof of zic’s hypothesis would not be possible. Thank you.Report

      • @zic

        That’s a very useful list. Thanks.


        I’m not sure how to break the cycle. I do think one step would be to invoke “anti-intellectualism” a bit more rarely. Not that it’s not necessarily accurate, but it sounds a bit (to me at least) like blunt cudgel, on the order of accusing libertarians of FYIGM or accusing liberals of being “statist.”Report

      • @katherinemw

        I used to feel as you do. In fact, I still roll my eyes (figuratively!) whenever I h ear some paean to the virtues of business….usually when it’s couched in the worship of local, small business and what we “owe” them because dog darnit they’re just so cute and salt o’ the earth.

        But I feel differently now. In part, that’s linked to the fact that as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned (or relearned or came to the conclusion) that people are complex, that businesses serve a good function, that I in many ways depend on businesses, and that my original (and current eye-rolling) posture bespeaks a certain self-righteous certitude that in other venues I’ve grown to dislike.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      I have several friends & acquaintances that work in the home solar industry. One of them had regular problems with the construction guys who were supposed to be taking measurements of the roofs the solar panels were being installed onto. They’d regularly just guess at where the support beams were instead of taking actual measurements, in ways that would damage the structural integrity of the roofs if those measurements were used (apparently, it was pretty easy for him to catch the various shortcuts–so this one was more of a headache and a waste of time than an actual danger to life and limb, though)Report

    • I confess I had forgotten that example, although I recall it now. For the record, I do think that is an example of anti-intellectualism.Report

    • @saul-degraw

      Judaism as a culture/heritage really emphasizes book learning. We have emphasized book learning for 5000 years, if not longer.

      I sometimes wonder about the implications of this. What if someone grows up in the Jewish tradition or culture and doesn’t particularly have an aptitude to book learning (pace Rose Woodhouse’s point a while back about there being no such thing as inherent aptitudes, if I read her right then)? Is that person then expected to take a subordinate position in that culture and submit to his or her betters? Have you ever, in your observation, witnessed a tension there?

      I’m too much on the outskirts of Jewish culture to comment on this knowledgeably. And the principal anecdatum I have is my wife’s family and upbringing. Her grandparent made a lot of money running a business, and they made sure that she and her sister could go to pretty much any college and paid their tuition.

      Finally, I do get that an emphasis on book-learning correlates very strongly with something we can call “intellectualism,” but I don’t think the correlation is sufficient. I think it’s quite possible to have a fairly robust education in the arts and humanities and sciences and yet not follow a life or habits of thought that can be called “intellectual.” I think that’s especially true if we expand the meaning of “intellectual” to encompass more than just “expertise” and include perhaps something like creativity or rethinking of first principles or engaging in disciplinarian pursuits for their own sake or (and this might raise cackles but I think it’s arguably true) debating the issues of the day on blogs. Also, there’s the idea–from Gramsci, among others, if I’m not mistaken–of the “organic intellectual,” who may not have the book learning or the credentialed positions in society, but who develop a vision of the universe and a just society based on his or her experiences. I think there’s a lot of problems with the idea of an “organic intellectual,” but I won’t discount it altogether.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oh, it was never about Aptitude. It was always about Money. Money bought you enough Time to Study.
        [And, let’s be frank, it is mostly about memorization. This is not difficult if you spend enough time on it.]Report

  17. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    [T2] I’m not a lawyer and don’t have the expertise in statutory interpretation to say if the California Appellate Court got it right. But as a matter of policy, it SHOULD be illegal to use your phone to get directions while the car is moving. Nobody can be a safe highway driver while also typing in a destination or zooming in on a map, for the same reason that you can’t text safely.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      @dan-miller What do you view as the difference between using your phone as a GPS and using a GPS as a GPS? I think that’s why the court ruled as it did. He was using his phone in the same capacity that allowed devices are used.

      The distinction ought to be whether you are looking at it or interacting with it. That itself is problematic because then you get into distinctions between interacting with your phone as an audio device and interacting with your car stereo. It does get complicated, as we’ve always accepted distracted driving of various sorts and are likely to continue to do so.

      My concern, to the extent that it is a concern, is that we will mostly be making distinctions based on our perceptions of the people we think are likely to do them. I remember getting into an argument a while back with someone who thought smoking in a car should be illegal because of the distraction factor. Except that, before you do that, you would need to crack down on eating while driving and drinking coffee while driving. I’ve smoked while driving, eaten while driving, and drank coffee while driving. Smoking isn’t the most distracting of that trio. It’s not even close.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        I think the problem comes when people interact with an electronic system while driving (e.g. looking at the screen, typing in a destination, or zooming on a map). The GPS vs. phone distinction isn’t as important as the distinction between merely glancing at a list of directions (which exit do I take?) vs. actively typing out a destination. That’s what should be frowned upon.

        In practice, of course, this is hard to enforce and define. As a culture, we’re way too accepting of distracted driving of all types. Ultimately, the solution is to make it easier for fewer people to drive (through telecommuting as well as better public transit and bicycle policies).Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I think one is roughly as safe, with normal drivers, when they are drinking their coffee in the car.
      Then again, I’ve driven with some pretty unsafe drivers.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      It should be illegal to drive in an unsafe manner.

      If you’re cruising down a highway with a 5 mile lag between you and the next car, at 55, with no nearby on-ramps, and you’re checking your phone to see if the 387 up ahead is clear all the way to Sheboygan, that’s not terribly unsafe. Even if a deer comes out of nowhere and you plow into it, it’s not likely that taking your eyes off the road for a sec to check a map is going to be the root cause of the accident… because if a deer jumps out in front of you, you’re going to plow into it anyway.

      If you’re stuck in gridlock, and traffic isn’t moving at all, you could read a paper and not be a traffic hazard.

      On the other hand, if you’re tailgating, you’re always a goddamn hazard and they should ticket you even if you’re going 20 under the speed limit and not using your phone. Safe following distance is safe following distance.

      Personally, I think the motor vehicle code is a bit too complex and stupid. This is one case where I’d much rather see an approach of discretion at the officer level (with instrumentation and recording) than our current approach of enforcing set parameters. Because in practice, the set parameters are badly set anyway.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Even if this leads to discrimination against people who aren’t waspy guys?
        I’ve been in cars where if I had been at the wheel, I would have gotten a ticket — and a black guy might have been frisked for drugs… But just waved off with a warning.Report