Linky Friday: Trapped In History And Vice Versa Edition
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them”- James Baldwin
[LF1] Americans Have A Long History Of Opposing Refugees. But Most Support Afghan Asylum Seekers By Michael Tesler at 538
The public’s opposition to resettling refugees in the U.S. persisted throughout the 20th century. Polling from the late 1970s, for example, consistently showed that most Americans opposed admitting thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War’s aftermath. While support can vary by question-wording, majorities also opposed accepting Hungarian refugees in the 1950s, Cuban refugees in the 1980s and Haitian refugees in the 1990s. The same pattern once again emerged in 2015, when polls showed that few Americans wanted to take in refugees escaping the civil war in Syria.
But public opinion on immigration issues has changed a lot since then. Americans generally became more supportive of immigration in response to the Trump administration’s restrictive policies — a well-documented dynamic in U.S. politics where public opinion tends to move against the president’s positions. As part of that overall shift, Americans’ views of refugees shifted in the same direction. Support for accepting Muslim refugees from Syria increased in The Economist/YouGovsurveys from 38 percent in November 2015 to 52 percent in April 2017. Quinnipiac University Poll showed a similar 12-point increase in support for admitting Syrian refugees over the same 16-month time period (43 percent to 55 percent respectively); and the share of Americans saying the “U.S. has a responsibility to accept Syrian refugees” in Pew Research Center polling rose from 40 percent in October 2016 to 47 in February 2017.
The growing public support for refugees in the Trump era extended beyond the Syrian civil war. Indeed, the percentage of Americans who said that taking in civilian refugees who are trying to escape violence should be a very or somewhat important goal of U.S. immigration policy increased by double digits in Pew polls fielded in December 2016 and September 2019 (61 percent to 72 percent, respectively). Meanwhile, the share of HuffPost/YouGov respondents who said “the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in refugees fleeing from other countries” decreased from 54 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2019. And 2019 polls conducted by Gallup, CNN and Fox News all showed majority support for accepting Central American refugees into the U.S.
The more welcoming context is one important reason why we’re now seeing stronger support for Afghan refugees than previous asylum seekers. Despite that high-profile fear-mongering, early polling on the issue shows relatively weak opposition to resettling Afghans in the U.S. The majority of voters in an AugustMorning Consult poll supported relocating Afghan refugees in the U.S., while just one-third were opposed. Support was even stronger in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, where 68 percent strongly or somewhat favored the U.S. taking in Afghan refugees after security screenings. And Americans are especially supportive of Afghans who helped U.S. forces during the 20-year war, with a whopping 81-percent of those surveyed by YouGov/CBS News saying we should help Afghans who worked with American troops come to the U.S.
That strong sense of obligation toward Afghans who’ve helped us has also sharply divided Republican politicians. While some of the loudest conservative voices in the country are now stoking fears of Afghan refugees, many Republican politicians have argued that we have a moral obligation to accept them into the U.S. — especially Afghans who directly helped American efforts over the past two decades. This includes several Republican governors who’ve already agreed to accept Afghan refugees into their states.
[LF2] Andrew Yang to launch a third party by Alex Thompson for Politico
Former presidential and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang is set to launch a third party next month, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Yang is expected to start the party in conjunction with the Oct. 5 release of his new book, “Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy.”
It’s not clear what the name of Yang’s third party will be or how he plans to deploy it in 2022 or 2024. Yang and his team did not respond to requests for comment.
But the book’s publisher, Crown, did give some clues about the type of platform Yang may pursue. It writes that the book is an indictment of America’s “era of institutional failure” and will introduce “us to the various ‘priests of the decline’ of America, including politicians whose incentives have become divorced from the people they supposedly serve.”
The book is blurbed by businessperson Mark Cuban (“a vitally important book”) and The New York Times’ Kara Swisher (“Can there be another political party in the U.S.?…In Forward, Yang does not just give us a laundry list of intractable problems, but shows how we can find solutions if we think in new ways and summon the courage to do so.”).
A former businessperson, Yang surprised many in the political world with creative, outsider campaigns for both president and mayor. His presidential campaign outlasted and raised more money than those of much more seasoned politicians. But, ultimately, that did not translate to votes as he dropped out shortly after the New Hampshire primary and faded in the polls as the mayoral race came to a close.
He ran predominantly on the idea of a universal basic income, which would see the government give citizens a monthly $1,000 check.
[LF3] The Non-Education of Ross Douthat: The New York Times columnist insists on defending a version of the Republican party that doesn’t exist by Nicholas Grossman
Douthat exhibits the same wishful thinking by latching on to any news that the Republican Partyis less Trumpist than it seems. On July 31, he published a column titled “How Strong Is Trump’s Grip on the G.O.P.?,” claiming it’s less than many think. As evidence, he cites two recent setbacks for the former president: A candidate Trump endorsed lost a special election in Texas to a Republican rival, and 19 Republican senators voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill he opposed.
For Douthat, this confirms that Trump’s “power over the G.O.P. has always been limited: As president he often found himself balked on policy by congressional Republicans, and his impressive endorsement record reflects a lot of cautious winner-picking, not aggressive movement-building.”
But Trump and Team MAGA never cared much about policy in the way Douthat means. Trump’s top priority, by far, was (and is) very obviously more attention, money, and power for Donald Trump. For the MAGA movement, it’s grievance, culture war, and owning the libs, which sometimes involves government policy — e.g. reducing immigration, especially of Latinos and Muslims — but often sought and celebrated symbolic victories; “wins” that made the base feel America belongs to “us” rather than “them.”
Nevertheless, Douthat moves directly from Trump’s lack of success on policy to downplaying his effort to overthrow constitutional democracy: “Trump could encourage a widespread belief that he was the victim of massive voter fraud, inspiring his most ardent fans to storm the Capitol — but he couldn’t get Republican state legislatures or Republican-appointed judges or his own Justice Department to begin to go along with his election-overturning efforts.”
Less than a week later, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue testified under oath that Jeffrey Clark, another senior Justice Department official, in coordination with the White House, worked to get his department on board with Trump’s election-overturning plot. At the time Douthat wrote of Trump’s inability to make or execute a plan, it was already widely reported that Trump pressured Georgia election officials to “find” enough votes to flip the state from Biden; that Michigan Republicans planned to submit an alternative, pro-Trump slate to the Electoral College; that Chair of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley was worried enough that Trump might attempt a coup that he and other national security leaders planned how to oppose it.
While it’s true that Clark and the White House didn’t succeed in overturning the election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused to submit to Trump’s bullying, the proper slates were (eventually) counted on January 6, and Gen. Milley et al. never had to act on their plans, it should be alarming—not reassuring—how close the coup that Ross Douthat said would never be attempted actually came to success. Narrowly avoiding being shot doesn’t make one impervious to bullets. Most people in such a situation dive for cover.
Douthat’s interpretation of these is blasé: It worked out in 2020, so don’t worry about 2024. Trump couldn’t repeal Obamacare, he couldn’t get Republican legislatures in states Biden won to overrule their voters, and his preferred candidate in Texas just lost a special election, so American democracy is fine.
[LF4] One Woman’s Mission to Rewrite Nazi History on Wikipedia by Noem Cohen for Wired
“G’day,” she reads in a note in the summer of 2016. It’s Peacemaker67 again, back with one last warning. “I’ve noticed that you have been nominating articles on Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross recipients for deletion, after you have deleted significant amounts of text and possible sources from them,” he writes. “That type of behaviour is deplorable, and not appropriate on en WP.” (Coffman’s detractors often imply that she doesn’t fit in on “en WP,” or English Wikipedia. They often assume that she is a visitor from German Wikipedia, “de WP,” because of her insistence on holding the Wehrmacht to account.) “I suggest you stop,” Peacemaker67 concludes. “Cheers.”
They go back and forth again. Eventually, Coffman appeals to the broader Wikipedia community to decide who is right about the notability of these medal winners. “The issue appears to be complex, so I would appreciate further input,” she writes. The debate hinges on certain policy wordings, along with the question of how to compare military awards from France, the US, Great Britain, and Germany. The WikiProject Military History members are well represented, but Coffman picks up crucial support. A user called MaxRavenclaw objects to the claim that purging Iron Cross winners is a form of “victor’s justice”: “You should know that history is written by the literate, not the victors. You can’t expect anyone to take you seriously when you make such statements.”
The fight rages across pages for months. In the fall, Peacemaker67 writes that he is “frankly sick to death” of K.e.coffman’s “ongoing campaign.” It is “detracting from the enjoyment of the volunteer editors who actually contribute to this encyclopaedia,” he writes. A careful reader of his cri de coeur will note that he assumes Coffman to be a man (“Community norms rule on WP, not his personal views”). This is a common misimpression among the Military History gang. Coffman never tries to correct it.
After six months of debate, on January 22, 2017, Coffman is vindicated. An administrator leaves a note steeped in Wikipedia reasoning. “In the case of the Knight’s Cross the community has established a consensus,” it concludes. “Sufficient reliable sources are lacking for many recipients.” In other words, there should be no presumption that winning a Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross makes you notable enough for a Wikipedia article. The only thing you’re guaranteed is a one-line spot on a long list of winners.
Coffman keeps track of the accusations against her—“campaigning,” “forum-shopping,” “not dropping the stick.”
After the case is settled, Coffman and her more vocal opponents retreat to separate corners. But one bitter-ender, LargelyRecyclable, appears to create a troll account and continues objecting to her changes. She finally takes the user to the Arbitration Committee, English Wikipedia’s version of the Supreme Court.
The panel doesn’t wade into the specifics, writing explicitly that “it is not the role of the Arbitration Committee to settle good-faith content disputes among editors.” But what it does rule gives Coffman a feeling of support, she says. LargelyRecyclable is banned indefinitely from editing English Wikipedia. The ArbCom also notes that groups like WikiProject Military History “do not have any authority over article content or editor conduct, or any other special powers.” They can accuse Coffman of whatever they like—vandalism, McCarthyism, “deletionist zeal.” She has just as much right to edit history as they do.
And few can match her output: 97,000 edits, 3,200 pages created, countless debates argued and won. Today, K.e.coffman is a solid member of English Wikipedia’s editorial elite—No. 734 out of 121,000, as of this writing. She keeps a watch list with about 2,000 articles on it. A notification pops up next to the listing whenever someone tries to make a change. That’s the thing about edit wars: They never end.
But Coffman, of course, avoids martial language. Wikipedia isn’t a battlefield; it’s real estate. “You have to maintain your house,” she says. “You have to have a security system.”
[LF5]Ancient Greek ‘pop culture’ discovery rewrites history of poetry and song by Tom Almeroth-Williams for PHYS.Org
Until now, “stressed poetry” of this kind has been unknown before the fifth century, when it began to be used in Byzantine Christian hymns.
Professor Whitmarsh says: “You didn’t need specialist poets to create this kind of musicalized language, and the diction is very simple, so this was a clearly a democratizing form of literature. We’re getting an exciting glimpse of a form of oral pop culture that lay under the surface of classical culture.”
The new study, published in The Cambridge Classical Journal, also suggests that this poem could represent a “missing link” between the lost world of ancient Mediterranean oral poetry and song, and the more modern forms that we know today.
The poem, unparalleled so far in the classical world, consists of lines of 4 syllables, with a strong accent on the first and a weaker on the third. This allows it to slot into the rhythms of numerous pop and rock songs, such as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
Whitmarsh says: “We’ve known for a long time that there was popular poetry in ancient Greek, but a lot of what survives takes a similar form to traditional high poetics. This poem, on the other hand, points to a distinct and thriving culture, primarily oral, which fortunately for us in this case also found its way onto a number of gemstones.”
Asked why the discovery hasn’t been made before, Whitmarsh says: “These artifacts have been studied in isolation. Gemstones are studied by one set of scholars, the inscriptions on them by another. They haven’t been seriously studied before as literature. People looking at these pieces are not usually looking for changes in metrical patterns.”
Whitmarsh hopes that scholars of the medieval period will be pleased: “It confirms what some medievalists had suspected, that the dominant form of Byzantine verse developed organically out of changes that came about in classical antiquity.”
[LF6] Why Resist Blank Slate Thinking? For One, Look to No Child Left Behind by Freddie deBoer
I really must underline this point. A little back-of-the-envelope math suggests that more than 100,000 public school teachers in this country operate under merit pay systems. Those teachers are seeing their wages fluctuate based on the outcomes of their students. Thousands of teachers in this country have been fired (or had their contracts not renewed) on the basis of poor academic performance in their classrooms, and hundreds of schools nationwide have been closed based on test scores and other quantitative educational metrics. But this whole edifice depends on the notion that student outcomes are more or less under the control of schools and teachers. If, on the other hand, we pay attention to decades of research, the experience of many teachers, and common sense, we would rather assume that different people have different levels of intrinsic underlying academic ability, and that this inequality prompts the remarkable stability of relative academic performance over time. And if we thought that way, we would have never passed NCLB in the first place. A truly ruinous law, passed with great fanfare by liberals and conservatives working together, would have been avoided had we taken genetic influence on cognition seriously. How could you say that this scenario doesn’t have policy relevance, Dr. Quiggin?
“No excuses” thinking was always based on blank slatism. The entire school reform movement was predicated on the assumption that talk of inherent ability was just excuse making, lazy teachers and corrupt unions trying to shirk their professional responsibilities. That movement, though wounded in the present moment, has had immense political and policy consequences. Meanwhile, speaking as someone who reads a lot of education research, the topic of student ability sort of flits around the field, not expressly forbidden but rigorously avoided. In study after study, including ones that expressly seek to understand parental influence, the question of any given student’s inherent tendency to struggle or excel is studiously avoided. Similarly, wonks of all types who work at nonprofits and in media conspicuously avoid discussing whether everyone has the same academic potential. When inherent ability is referenced at all in the literature it tends to be a vague handwave that does not factor into the final analysis. But if what we’re interested in is how people learn and why some succeed and some fail, this is totally nuts!
Of course the bigger picture is also discussed in my book: a robust understanding of the influence of the genome could lead to the abandonment of the ideal of just deserts and with it the destruction of meritocracy and capitalism. Seems… relevant.
[LF7] A Century Ago, Miners Fought in a Bloody Uprising. Few Know About It Today.A Century Ago, Miners Fought in a Bloody Uprising. Few Know About It Today By Campbell Robertson for The New York Times
On the shoulder of a lonely stretch of highway miles into the hills, a sign stands in the weeds. “Battle of Blair Mt.,” it says, informing the tumbledown cinder block building across the road that here, 100 years ago, was the largest armed labor uprising in U.S. history.
In late August 1921, thousands of rifle-bearing coal miners marched to this thickly wooded ridge in southern West Virginia, a campaign that was ignited by the daylight assassinations of union sympathizers but had been building for years in the oppressive despair of the coal fields. The miners’ army was met at Blair Mountain by thousands of men who volunteered to fight with the Logan County sheriff, who was in the pay of the coal companies. Over 12 miles and five days, the sheriff’s men fought the miners, strafing the hillsides with machine-gun fire and dropping homemade bombs from planes. There were at least 16 confirmed deaths in the battle, though no one knows exactly how many were killed before the US Army marched in to put a stop to the fighting.
The roadside marker and the spent shell casings found in the hillsides are the only reminders at Blair Mountain that this took place.
The country has begun wrestling in recent years with its buried trauma, memorializing vile and suppressed histories like the Tulsa Race Massacre. The Battle of Blair Mountain, the culmination of a series of violent conflicts known as the Mine Wars, would also seem to be a candidate for such exhumation.
The army of miners that came to Blair Mountain was made up of Black and white people, new immigrants and people with deep roots in Appalachia. They did perilous work under conditions close to indentured servitude: They were kept in line by armed guards and paid only in company scrip, with their pay docked for the costs of housing, medical care and the tools they used in the mines. These conditions eventually erupted in the largest insurrection since the Civil War.
But while there are commemorations this weekend in West Virginia, including talks, rallies and re-enactments, a century of silence enforced by power and fear has left the battle nearly forgotten elsewhere.
[LF8] HOW CHINA WEAPONIZED THE PRESS: A small Hong Kong newspaper illustrates how Beijing uses the tools of a free society to suppress freedom itself By Timothy McLaughlin for The Atlantic
Early one morning a couple of years ago, at the height of Hong Kong’s prodemocracy protest movement, Ta Kung Pao, a Chinese-government-owned newspaper based in Hong Kong, published what it claimed was a major scoop. An American diplomat had met with a group of high-profile activists, including Joshua Wong. A photo accompanied the piece, a low-angle shot from across the lobby of the hotel where the meeting had ostensibly taken place. For Beijing, which at the time was promoting the baseless theory that foreign forces were behind Hong Kong’s protests, the gotcha moment was a juicy story.
Western media largely ignored the meeting: A diplomat talking with activists is not typically news. Once trumpeted by Ta Kung Pao, however, the story was picked up by other pro-Beijing outlets and twisted as it reverberated across Chinese state media. The meeting eventually made its way to English-language outlets; the far-right website ZeroHedge published a story that was subsequently posted on the website of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, an organization founded by the former Texas congressman.
Basic facts, however, were incorrect from the start. According to a State Department official, who requested anonymity for fear of being targeted by the newspaper, Julie Eadeh, a political counselor at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, was assisting a delegation of congressional staffers who were meeting with Wong and his colleagues. She had simply arrived a few minutes ahead of the delegates and was waiting with the activists.
The facts and details, though, mattered little. The original Ta Kung Pao story had included Eadeh’s professional background and her education credentials but more personal details as well, including the names of her two young children and information about her husband, who is also an American diplomat. Other outlets published Eadeh’s parents’ names and their hometown in the U.S. As the stories mushroomed on Chinese social media and elsewhere, Eadeh morphed from a regular consulate employee to someone highly trained in the dark arts of subversion. Her past postings in the Middle East, articles claimed, showed a sinister track record of assisting the overthrow of foreign governments. (Ta Kung Pao did not respond to requests for comment.)
Eadeh began to notice suspicious activity offline too. A white minivan started to trail her and her family whenever they left their Hong Kong apartment, including when she dropped off her children at school. Sometimes, the people tailing them would hoist cameras with large lenses, conspicuously snapping photographs of her and her family as they went about their day. (It is unclear who the men in the van were.) Later, Eadeh’s likeness was featured in a Chinese video game promoted by state media in which players had to “hunt down traitors who seek to separate Hong Kong from China.” A state-backed documentary on the 2019 protests shown on multiple Hong Kong television channels devoted substantial time to her.
The length and intensity of the focus on a mid-level diplomat “was highly unusual,” Kurt Tong, the former U.S. consul general to Hong Kong, for whom Eadeh once worked, told me. “It’s intimidation. It is intended to intimidate the consulate and intimidate the [political] opposition.”
Sitting at the center of this storm of vitriol was Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper little known outside of Hong Kong, but one with a long history and which is rapidly growing in influence. Its reports and the fallout that typically follows unfold in a familiar, almost routine fashion. A shaky-grasp-of-facts story or editorial is picked up by an array of other outlets, creating an echo chamber in which those targeted are put under enormous pressure and, in many cases walk back criticism, resign from their job, or flee Hong Kong entirely. In other instances, the newspaper will run an exclusive interview with a high-ranking official that will lay out a de facto policy position or telegraph a possible future move, one that generally attacks prodemocracy organizations or figures.
Ta Kung Pao’s influence illustrates the instruments Beijing uses to pursue its opponents, working in close concert with lawmakers, the police, and other Hong Kong authorities to crush dissent. It also showcases a strategy that China may employ more and more in Hong Kong and elsewhere: using the tools of a free society (in this case a once lively and aggressive press) to suppress freedom itself.