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#172- Among the Deplorables A Conversation with Andrew Marantz

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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21 October 2019 16:25
 

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Andrew Marantz about his book Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation. They discuss the effect of social media on politics, the distinction between publishers and platforms, the problem of guilt by association, getting too close to interview subjects, the confusing nature of troll culture, the notion of “dog whistles,” how to respond to the current reality of racism, and other topics.

#172- Among the Deplorables A Conversation with Andrew Marantz


This thread is for listeners’ comments.

 
 
Twissel
 
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22 October 2019 02:59
 

I think Harris’ refusal to accept Carlson’s “they replace you” as a clear racist dogwhistle as highly motivated by his wish to appear “fair” - not by any objective consideration of the issue.
Replacement Theory is nothing new, and it is clearly xenophobic. Carlson was clearly identifying US citizens as his audience and non-naturalized as the “Other”.

 

 
 
DEGENERATEON
 
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24 October 2019 10:48
 

I always enjoy the episodes where there’s disagreement.  Jordan Peterson, Ezra Klien, etc.  This one was great - mostly because Andrew asked Sam pretty much the exact question I would ask him on this topic.  We discussed this on another thread, that if the “go back to your country” statement was not racist, then what has Trump said that would make Sam consider him an “Archie Bunker” racist?  It comes at about 59:15 of the youtube version:  “what has Trump said that makes you think he’s a racist?”  I didn’t like Sam’s answer / non-answer, but at least the question was asked.

Some interesting quotes (just after 1:08)
“It seems to me that attacking half the country for their white privilege and unacknowledged racism is a losing strategy.  It seems to me that the left, certainly the far left is totally committed to doing that and they’re in the process perhaps of convincing the democratic party to more or less do that, or at least pander enough to the far left so as to have their message be indistinguishable from that for the rest of the country.”
(1:43)
“What many of us are concerned about you know more in the center politically here is that it seems odd that when so much progress has been made on many of these issues, the problem of racism is among them, we seem to have convinced ourselves that the emergency is somehow gotten worse”....“on some level it feels like it has given us Trump, and may yet give him to us again.”

and in his afterthoughts segment when discussing the high school security guard who was fired for using the n-word (1:52)
“if you think this is just one of those little stories that means nothing - no, this IS the face of the left right now.”...“this is so toxic, it could not be improved if every Russian troll factory went to work on it full time, this is the perfect export politically to get Trump reelected.” ...“Imagine what any of the democratic candidates for president might say about an issue of this kind….what about this Senator Warren or Mayor Pete?...what are they likely to say?  It seems to me virtually every democratic candidate at this point is poised to pander to the wokeness so much that they’re capable of not making sense on an issue even this clear cut.”  “The far left is as concerned about race as the KKK.  And yet the problem is - the far left is not the fringe.  The far left is everywhere now, in academia, in tech, in journalism.”

So if we were to take Sam’s line of reasoning and just make a point - a statement or two about the problems with a political ideology - what would we say?  Could we just say “the left”?  Or would it be “far left” or “woke”?  Any other term to describe this ideology?  What would we say are the general issues with that ideology?

 

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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29 October 2019 08:49
 

I don’t recall how, but I’d heard this episode got contentious, and I was eager to see what that meant.  Having listened to it, I am disappointed in how Sam handled that contention, not on decency grounds, like with his last guest, but on substantive ones.  Simply put, I think he missed the low hanging fruit that makes for the easiest—and most effective—rebuttal of Marantz’s ridiculous racism-is-everywhere wokeness.

At about 48:30 Marantz seemed incredulous that people like Sam can bend over backwards to overlook the obvious and not see statements like Ingraham’s as a dog whistle, when in fact hearing the dog whistle in the first place requires overlooking the obvious and bending over backwards to do so.  Almost by definition a dog whistle is a non-evident message in a text or speech.  Like the metaphor suggests, it’s meant to be inaudible to all but to the audience to which it is tailored, therefore hearing it as such requires an inference beyond the manifest message that carries it.  In the case of Laura Ingraham, Marantz illustrates perfectly how making this inference often requires not an uncharitable interpretation (as Harris indicates) but a manifestly contorted one that replaces the obvious message with a self-reinforcing, non-falsifiable interpretative scheme brought to the remarks as a template for “discovery.”  In her case, Laura Ingraham accurately states the political agenda of the Justice Democrats—they advertise it; they want to replace old conservative white men with their own political operatives—and simply by virtue of the word “replacement” occurring in association with “white” Marantz infers a dog whistle to racist white supremacy and its replacement theory.  But the inference in asinine: it requires bending over backwards to nullify the obvious—and accurate—message in order to find a hidden, racist one.  All Harris needed to do at this point was point out that Marantz is the one bending over backwards to create his “obvious” message, not find it; that what is obvious to him is nothing beyond his own political imputations in service of his agenda—and problem solved.  But instead of turning the tables in this way Harris gave too much ground and said one needs to be “charitable” to Ingraham.  No, one simply needs not to be a dickhead.  In any case, Harris missed this low hanging fruit and gave Marantz far too much credit, in effect letting Marantz come across as the sensible one in touch with the obvious, with Harris making excuses around it.  Yet the opposite is the case.

Also, the irony seemed lost on Harris that when he imputed to Marantz a “dog whistle” about Putnam and diversity, Marantz resented the imputation, complained, and got defensive.  Yep, now he knows how it feels when people look beyond what you say and impute something nefarious using a non-refutable, self-reinforcing scheme (to be fair to Harris, his imputation lacked the facile word associations Marantz used with Ingraham).  If only Harris would have pointed out to Marantz “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” then progress might have been made toward calling out the political toxicity that is looking for racist dog whistles in white people you disagree with.  But again, Harris missed the obvious—an understandable error, I guess, when the obvious is simply reversing something so dumb as to be nearly beyond belief.  In his place, I might have missed it too. 

Welcome to the desert of the Woke, Sam.

 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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29 October 2019 10:26
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 October 2019 08:49 AM

Almost by definition a dog whistle is a non-evident message in a text or speech.  Like the metaphor suggests, it’s meant to be inaudible to all but to the audience to which it is tailored, therefore hearing it as such requires an inference beyond the manifest message that carries it.

We should probably thank our lucky stars that Marantz, with his superior hearing, can hear racist dog whistles even when we of the unwashed masses can’t.

 
 
EN
 
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29 October 2019 10:49
 

We had a heated discussion at work today over Lumpy - a colleague, who cannot be called deplorable (well-educated Legal Nurse Consultant), is a Trump fan. I and another Lumpy critic would point out a fault, and she would respond with a similar criticism about Obama, Biden or Pelosi.  It ended in a Mexican standoff.  No one was convinced by anything the other one said.  While we don’t hate each other, I’m pretty sure she hates our people as much as we hate hers, and she hates our news sources as much as we hate hers.  So, changing minds at this point seems basically impossible. We will cast our votes and see what the outcome is.

 
DEGENERATEON
 
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30 October 2019 07:26
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 October 2019 08:49 AM

I don’t recall how, but I’d heard this episode got contentious, and I was eager to see what that meant.  Having listened to it, I am disappointed in how Sam handled that contention, not on decency grounds, like with his last guest, but on substantive ones.  Simply put, I think he missed the low hanging fruit that makes for the easiest—and most effective—rebuttal of Marantz’s ridiculous racism-is-everywhere wokeness.

At about 48:30 Marantz seemed incredulous that people like Sam can bend over backwards to overlook the obvious and not see statements like Ingraham’s as a dog whistle, when in fact hearing the dog whistle in the first place requires overlooking the obvious and bending over backwards to do so.  Almost by definition a dog whistle is a non-evident message in a text or speech.  Like the metaphor suggests, it’s meant to be inaudible to all but to the audience to which it is tailored, therefore hearing it as such requires an inference beyond the manifest message that carries it.  In the case of Laura Ingraham, Marantz illustrates perfectly how making this inference often requires not an uncharitable interpretation (as Harris indicates) but a manifestly contorted one that replaces the obvious message with a self-reinforcing, non-falsifiable interpretative scheme brought to the remarks as a template for “discovery.”  In her case, Laura Ingraham accurately states the political agenda of the Justice Democrats—they advertise it; they want to replace old conservative white men with their own political operatives—and simply by virtue of the word “replacement” occurring in association with “white” Marantz infers a dog whistle to racist white supremacy and its replacement theory.  But the inference in asinine: it requires bending over backwards to nullify the obvious—and accurate—message in order to find a hidden, racist one.  All Harris needed to do at this point was point out that Marantz is the one bending over backwards to create his “obvious” message, not find it; that what is obvious to him is nothing beyond his own political imputations in service of his agenda—and problem solved.  But instead of turning the tables in this way Harris gave too much ground and said one needs to be “charitable” to Ingraham.  No, one simply needs not to be a dickhead.  In any case, Harris missed this low hanging fruit and gave Marantz far too much credit, in effect letting Marantz come across as the sensible one in touch with the obvious, with Harris making excuses around it.  Yet the opposite is the case.

Also, the irony seemed lost on Harris that when he imputed to Marantz a “dog whistle” about Putnam and diversity, Marantz resented the imputation, complained, and got defensive.  Yep, now he knows how it feels when people look beyond what you say and impute something nefarious using a non-refutable, self-reinforcing scheme (to be fair to Harris, his imputation lacked the facile word associations Marantz used with Ingraham).  If only Harris would have pointed out to Marantz “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” then progress might have been made toward calling out the political toxicity that is looking for racist dog whistles in white people you disagree with.  But again, Harris missed the obvious—an understandable error, I guess, when the obvious is simply reversing something so dumb as to be nearly beyond belief.  In his place, I might have missed it too. 

Welcome to the desert of the Woke, Sam.

Something else I noticed in the conversation:
At around 49:00 of the conversation Marantz states “I don’t see why we should ignore what’s right in front of us and not take the obvious inference from it.”  He talked about the great replacement theory and his belief that Carlson/Ingraham knew about it before Charlottesville (although he can’t prove it) and “to then traffic in those words ‘replacement’ and give it an explicitly race related valence, and then turn around and deny that you’re trafficking in race baiting, it just beggars belief”.

Then at 1:12:00
Marantz:  “I didn’t claim that these were conscious dog whistles, I quoted Nazis who read them as dog whistles”  “I didn’t claim anything about how they meant the utterance, I claimed what effect it had.”

So in essence he says “how can you look at all of the evidence and think they are not consciously dog whistling?  It beggars belief!” and then says “oh I didn’t claim anything about how they meant it, it just had the effect of a dog whistle”. 

So who’s not saying what they mean? 

At 1:26:00
Marantz: “We’re not talking about indigenous Virginians, they were killed when the white people got to Virginia”

Jesus, what a bizarre woke virtue signal dog whistle.

 
Brick Bungalow
 
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30 October 2019 12:13
 

I really wish Sam would relax his constant reference to ‘the left’. I sympathize with many of his specific concerns but this kind of abstract generalization doesn’t help. It simply cements polarity. I think its a variation of poisoning the well. It moves us further from the kind of topical long form conversation he claims to want.

 
LadyJane
 
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30 October 2019 16:00
 

I guess it’s easy to fixate on “others” when you never actually encounter them in real life.  And if the only place the “others” are found is on the Internet then it seems like a pretty solvable “problem” to me.  Just stay away from things that offend you.  Like Twitter or the Sam Harris Forum or The Apollo Theatre.  It’s hard to imagine how much of a complication this presents in daily life.  When we go looking for outrage in the ghost stories we follow are the hostile phantoms getting in our faces or are we getting in theirs?

 
 
DEGENERATEON
 
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31 October 2019 07:10
 
LadyJane - 30 October 2019 04:00 PM

I guess it’s easy to fixate on “others” when you never actually encounter them in real life.  And if the only place the “others” are found is on the Internet then it seems like a pretty solvable “problem” to me.  Just stay away from things that offend you.  Like Twitter or the Sam Harris Forum or The Apollo Theatre.  It’s hard to imagine how much of a complication this presents in daily life.  When we go looking for outrage in the ghost stories we follow are the hostile phantoms getting in our faces or are we getting in theirs?

Are you referring to the “dog whistlers” and “trolls” that Marantz discussed?  Should we just ignore them?  Avoid Fox News and don’t visit sites where the “others” may be?  So don’t write a book about it, just keep to yourself and stick to the safe spaces that won’t offend?

 
LadyJane
 
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31 October 2019 10:01
 
DEGENERATEON - 31 October 2019 07:10 AM
LadyJane - 30 October 2019 04:00 PM

I guess it’s easy to fixate on “others” when you never actually encounter them in real life.  And if the only place the “others” are found is on the Internet then it seems like a pretty solvable “problem” to me.  Just stay away from things that offend you.  Like Twitter or the Sam Harris Forum or The Apollo Theatre.  It’s hard to imagine how much of a complication this presents in daily life.  When we go looking for outrage in the ghost stories we follow are the hostile phantoms getting in our faces or are we getting in theirs?

Are you referring to the “dog whistlers” and “trolls” that Marantz discussed?  Should we just ignore them?  Avoid Fox News and don’t visit sites where the “others” may be?  So don’t write a book about it, just keep to yourself and stick to the safe spaces that won’t offend?

Anyone can go anywhere as long as they have the stomach for it and the maturity to appreciate what they find for what it is and not rewrite it to their liking.  It appears that Mr. Marantz is the one who immersed himself in the world he endeavoured to write about and this podcast was an opportunity to explore what he found.  And rather than discussing how these particular people operate the majority of time was spent listening to Mr. Harris tripping over the same baggage he insists on carrying everywhere he goes.  And this overly sensitive persecution complex, the one that compels him to identify with some of the deplorables in question, is something he shares with a growing segment of his audience.  The ones who demonstrate the very characteristics they claim to vehemently resent.  The same folks who manufacture these problems and create the flippant language that says nothing and, to great effect, leaves us all with nothing to say.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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31 October 2019 10:30
 

I wouldn’t sweat it.  These self-serving platitudes about labels, abstract generalizations, and fixations on phantom “others” derailing productive conversation only come up when political actors one sympathizes or identifies with in some way are criticized.  Put a “Trump supporter” or “fascists” on the table and labels, abstract generalizations, and fixation on manufactured problems are the order of the day.  Fail to criticize these things correctly or offer some circumspection about them and all pretenses at rational conversation go out the window.  It happens over and over again.  If only these people were serious about being left with nothing to say.  Then the rest of us having productive conversations wouldn’t be derailed with the same old passive aggressive gas lighting.  Talk about a conversation stopper…

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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03 November 2019 03:11
 

Mr. Marantz is a sharp conversationalist. Curiosity about his book went unsatisfied.

I think Tucky Carlson is given too much credit for conniving. I suspect that is not how faux news works. Orders from the head office are handed down to a show’s production team. Certain hot words and phrases must be spoken some number of times per show. It is edited into the prompter feed. Tuck reads it obliviously but with drama. Like everything he reads. Quotas are met, bonuses are paid. Tuck need never feel any intentions at all. Except to keep his post.

Left-leaning public intellectuals go wrong when they assume that others put as much thought into what they do or say as the PI’s put into their examination. One can step through a pile of facts and make a reasoned conclusion that trump is a racist but others will reach a different conclusion because those steps will never be taken. It is a means of plausible deniability to keep all culpability three steps of reasoning away because the targeted voters never go more than one or two steps.

Invite a trump fan to listen to you shepherd them through steps of reasoning about why trump, for whatever choice of issue, is a bad egg. Try to get past two steps. Wear some face protection. If the fan’s chair has straps or a numbing agent is used, it is possible to have them follow your reasoning and even concede to your logic. After cutting them loose, the concessions are no longer effective because without you shepherding the steps again, they will never do it by themselves. The argument is stuck on a high loft that no ladder can reach.

By encouraging and accommodating short reasoning, which many voters already prefer, public discourse will limit everyone to one or two steps. If you’re a public intellectual that does not pay attention to what your speech can turn into if reasonably harvested in one or maybe two steps… duck. The folks they were discussing are talented two-steppers.

I have flipped on one point in my time here at the forum. I quote The Boss at 1:17:17-36.

The kernel of truth that is animating trumpistan, right?… if not worse… needs to be dealt with by right thinking, well educated, well-intention-ed people like ourselves. And it has to be dealt with honestly. Otherwise we are completely ef’ed.

When I first joined the forum it was uplifting and encouraging to know someone was saying stuff like that. Now I see it as terrifying. I completely agree with the mission and The Boss (and Mr. Marantz) show promise in contributing to the task. But this is also a war-cry and why we could be fully ef’ed. If we barge in with arguments that can only be seen while we are showing them, we will be dismissed as conjurers or con men.

The view from other side is easy to conjure. Once again, those intellectual three-steppers want to tell the one-steppers what to do. Three-steppers insist on a world that one-steppers do not want to live in because they cannot see it. All trump has to do is stick to the ones and twos. It won’t matter what we say if it exceeds two steps of reasoning to understand it.

trumpy screwed up because the Perfect Letter is only one step from culpability. If he keeps promising to make the world simple again, some folks will follow him anywhere. Perhaps even somewhere outside of our current national structure.

 
 
no_profundia
 
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03 November 2019 21:46
 

In her case, Laura Ingraham accurately states the political agenda of the Justice Democrats—they advertise it; they want to replace old conservative white men with their own political operatives—and simply by virtue of the word “replacement” occurring in association with “white” Marantz infers a dog whistle to racist white supremacy and its replacement theory.  But the inference in asinine: it requires bending over backwards to nullify the obvious—and accurate—message in order to find a hidden, racist one.

I don’t listen to Sam’s podcast anymore and I don’t intend to listen to this episode. Is this the Laura Ingraham quote they were disccussing?

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/10/17/laura_ingraham_democrats_want_to_replace_american_voters_with_newly_amnestied_citizens.html

Also, can you provide an example of Democrats advertising that they want to replace old white conservative men with their own political operatives? I would like to read these statements in their own words to evaluate them.

I guess the question I would raise is, what does it mean to be right or wrong about whether Laura Ingraham’s statement was a dog-whistle? What conditions would make it true and what conditions would make it false? Is it necessary for Laura Ingraham herself to have intended it as a dog-whistle? What if someone else wrote the statement and she was just reading it? What if the person who wrote it intended it as a dog-whistle but Laura did not or vice versa? What if someone at Fox had done some focus testing and discovered that talk about “replacement” tested well among likely Fox viewers, they had no idea why, but they included the term in their copy and it turns out lots of Fox viewers understood the term as a dog-whistle? If viewer reactions matter, and not just the intentions of the broadcasters, how many viewers have to take it as a dog-whistle for it to be one? What if no viewers consciously take it as a dog-whistle but we do brain scans while people are watching the segment and find that activation of areas that are associated with xenophobia light up and we find when we survey people that they express more xenophobic policy preferences after watching the segment than before?

When does it become true to say that the statement was a dog whistle or racist? Which of the above conditions have to hold? This is one reason I don’t like debating whether a particular statement was racist or not. It is not clear to me what conditions would make the statement true or false because it is not clear where to locate the “meaning” of the statement. In the intentions of the speaker? In the response of the listeners? In social conventions? In the dictionary? In some Platonic heaven hidden behind the visible universe?

I don’t think we can locate the meaning simply in the intentions of the speaker. I had a debate on these forums a while ago about whether it was racist for Tea Party members to hold up signs that pictured Obama as an ape. I argued it was racist whether the people holding the signs intended it to be or not because that symbol has a history with a social meaning that transcends individual intention. If I have no intention of being racist and I hold up a sign of Obama pictured as an ape and someone says “You know that sign has a racist meaning” it is the wrong answer to say “It’s not racist because I don’t intend it to be.” The right answer is “Since I don’t intend to be racist I will change my sign and stop using a racist symbol.”

Because it is difficult to locate where the meaning of a statement resides I think it is much easier to talk about the effect a statement has, rather than its meaning, and what I will say about the Laura Ingraham segment is this: I suspect it touched the xenophobic part of at least some viewers’s brains - the part that fears a foreign invasion from the Southern border even though there are indications that Mexican immigration has been net negative recently. I think it was meant to trigger a very strong emotional response - that Democrats are out to destroy “traditional” America and replace it with a multicultural society to promote their own political ends - which I think is not only hyperbolic but a genuinely dangerous view to promote. So whatever Ingraham - or whoever wrote the statement - intended I definitely wish Fox was more responsible in its use of language.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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04 November 2019 03:08
 

Is this the Laura Ingraham quote they were discussing?

No, that’s not the quote.  What Sam either read or paraphrased had nothing to do with illegal immigrants.  It had to do with politicians, not voters or citizenship.

Also, can you provide an example of Democrats advertising that they want to replace old white conservative men with their own political operatives?

Are you serious?  Conservative white men hold the House and Senate seats they want.  They say they want those seats—that’s their political agenda.  Since those men occupy those seats now, they want to replace them with their own political operatives.  They advertise the fact that they want to do this by running and campaigning against them.  What else do you think politics is?

To be honest, this whole racism and dog whistle canard doesn’t interest me beyond what I’ve written here already.  Finding racism has become as intolerable as religious fundamentalists finding Jesus in everything and the Inquisition enforcing what they find.  That the “epistemological” issues you raise—unnecessarily in my opinion—are even coming up is indicative of the problem, not its solution.  Answering them has—to my mind—no bearing on where our focus should be right now.

I agree political actors and their agents in the media should be more careful with their language, and I wish politics were about constructive discussion instead of inflammatory rhetoric.  But that is not the world we live in, and to that point I’d say outlets like MSNBC and FOX News are quite careful in their use of language, tailored and framed as it is to further an agenda.  Alas that triggering strong emotional responses is what politicians and media outlets do because that is what politics is…

I wish it were otherwise, of course, but no one is asking me and I have no say in the matter.

 

[ Edited: 04 November 2019 03:16 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
no_profundia
 
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04 November 2019 09:37
 

Are you serious?  Conservative white men hold the House and Senate seats they want.  They say they want those seats—that’s their political agenda.  Since those men occupy those seats now, they want to replace them with their own political operatives.  They advertise the fact that they want to do this by running and campaigning against them.  What else do you think politics is?

Because I had the wrong quote in mind I thought Laura Ingraham’s statement was about replacing white American voters with immigrants so I was looking for quotes where Democrats claimed they were trying to replace white voters with immigrants. I did not realize “political operatives” meant elected officials.

Of course Democrats are interested in replacing Republicans with Democrats. I suppose they would also like to see more diversity in Congress (and so would I). And I guess it would also be accurate to say that Republicans want to replace people of color with old white men?

That the “epistemological” issues you raise—unnecessarily in my opinion—are even coming up is indicative of the problem, not its solution.

I don’t see how raising epistemological issues is indicative of a problem. I think you are making epistemological claims in your post. You claim that not only is Marantz wrong in his interpretation of the quote but he is obviously wrong. It is not necessarily a moral failing to be wrong but to be wrong when you should know better (when the truth is obvious) I think implies some moral censure. I think the moral censure in this case relies on the fact that the truth seems obvious which I think is an epistemological claim.

The point of raising the epistemological issues was simply to suggest the possibility that reasonable people might disagree about the interpretation of a statement. But I apparently had the wrong quote in mind to begin with and I am not all that interested in debating whether a particular quote is a dog whistle or not. That was another point I was raising with my epistemological issues. Since it is not clear to me what makes Marantz’s statement true or false I don’t think we should spend a lot of time debating it.

There are real racial disparities in the US today that I think require a solution and if we focused on solutions to those problems I think we would find more common ground between the “woke” left and the rest of the left rather as opposed to focusing on our disagreements about particular statements.

 
 
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