More smart analysis from Ta-Nehisi Coates

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The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism…. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of. Moreover, to accept that whiteness brought us Donald Trump is to accept whiteness as an existential danger to the country and the world. But if the broad and remarkable white support for Donald Trump can be reduced to the righteous anger of a noble class of smallville firefighters and evangelicals, mocked by Brooklyn hipsters and womanist professors into voting against their interests, then the threat of racism and whiteness, the threat of the heirloom, can be dismissed. Consciences can be eased; no deeper existential reckoning is required.

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More opinion than history lesson, but a good reminder

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For this reason, Jews are the only “white people” obsessively targeted by white supremacists. So are they really white, not at all or something in between? After Charlottesville, it’s clear we no longer have the luxury of debating the finer points of this question. For the time being, the racists have settled it for us.

pub. 08/2017

A better lesson is here.

Lesson plans and suggestions for teachers in this era of overt bigotry and violence

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While such discussions are often seen as politically charged and teachers like to steer clear of politics, these conversations are about fundamental American values, and age-appropriate ways of discussing hatred and tolerance in a diverse and vibrant democracy are as important as anything young people can learn in school. Civics education has taken a back seat to reading and math in recent years in “the era of accountability,” but it is past time for it to take center stage again in America’s schools.

pub. 08/2017

For more tips and resources, see the Resources lists, What to Do and What to Read.

On media bias and attempts at neutrality

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Institutions like journalism draw their authority from trust. With enough of it, journalism can become a true “fourth estate,” an independent power center with an existence separate and distinct from dueling political factions. Without at least some trust that bridges tribal lines, its authority wanes, and it can only passively report as tribalism takes over.

In the end, for building trust, there simply is no substitute for A) guild professionals with special expertise in gathering and assessing information, B) strong norms to govern their behavior, C) institutions to enforce those norms and vouchsafe good work, and D) social norms granting those professionals some transpartisan authority.

The US has lots of A, but not much of B, C, or D.

pub. 05/2017

 

It’s everywhere: Advertising, propaganda, and politics

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Becoming self-aware of these mental patterns, and actively seeking to rewire them, is the foundation of cognitive therapy, i.e. Psychiatry.

Remaining unaware of these mental patterns is the foundation of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations, i.e. Propaganda.

The biggest mistake of those who don’t use Propaganda is that they underestimate its power.

pub. 05/2017

When lying is seen as a strength

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This research—and those stories—highlight a difficult truth about our species: We are intensely social creatures, but we’re prone to divide ourselves into competitive groups, largely for the purpose of allocating resources. People can be prosocial—compassionate, empathic, generous, honest—in their groups, and aggressively antisocial toward out-groups. When we divide people into groups, we open the door to competition, dehumanization, violence—and socially sanctioned deceit.

pub. 03/2017

Conservatives without religion are still intolerant, and without a church’s positive messages

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Why did these religiously unaffiliated Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? … Establishing causation is difficult, but we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.

pub. 04/2017