What I’m Reading, September 24, 2015

The new racism embodied in total contempt for Obama, Wendell Berry, Lexington Herald-Leader, September 13, 2015

Nobody can doubt that virtually all of the president’s political enemies would vehemently defend themselves against a charge of racism. Virtually all of them observe the forms and taboos of political correctness. If any very visible one of their own should insult the president by a recognized racial slur, they would all join in the predictable outrage. But the paramount fact of this moment in the history of racism is that you don’t have to denominate the president by a recognized racial slur when his very name can be used as a synonym.

This subtilized racism is not only a perhaps unignorable lure to Republican politicians; it can also be noticeably corrupting to Democrats.

In Kentucky, for example, where Obama is acknowledged carefully to be “unpopular,” candidates of both parties have been, and still are, running “against Obama.” If the president comes into the state to visit, some Democratic candidates, like Republican candidates, become conspicuously busy elsewhere.

Scaring Up the Vote, Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 8, 2015

To a large degree, the move toward deincarceration and less draconian policing is a product of declining crime. Americans are less afraid of being victimized, which makes them either open to policies that might look “soft” in a more dangerous environment, or they are just apathetic about the issue. But even apathy works; when the public is indifferent, it’s easier to pass unpopular policies or make potentially unpopular commitments. It’s one reason why Hillary Clinton—a cautious politician by any measure—has felt confident enough to openly endorse Black Lives Matter; outside of a dedicated few, no one is paying attention, and no one is trying to use it against her.

Christie and other Republicans are trying to change that. By blaming Obama and Black Lives Matter for an increase in crime or new attacks on police officers, they’re working to conjure the fear and uncertainty of the ’80s and ’90s—when violent crime was at an all-time high—and capitalize on them. And it’s worth noting the extent to which these appeals come at the same time that Republicans need to increase their share of the white vote to win a national majority. It’s no accident, perhaps, that Trump has called for giving “power back to the police, because crime is rampant.”

The Rape Victim Who Is Challenging One of the Fundamental Laws of the Internet, Allie Conti, Vice, August 26, 2015

The question of how much responsibility websites have for their users’ behavior has become increasingly complicated. Over the past several months Twitter has revised its policies on abuse and harassment multiple times in an effort to curb the number of violent threats tossed around on the social network that are disproportionately directed at women. This month Reddit took steps to hide its most toxic, hateful communities from the average site visitor; earlier this summer administrators banned five subreddits that were being used “as a platform to harass individuals.”

More serious crimes seem likelier to occur on sites that encourage users to engage in IRL interactions—Uber, for instance, has maintained that it’s not liable for any actions committed by its drivers, which the company considers to be independent contractors, not full employees. “Uber’s first line of defense” against lawsuits over drivers’ bad behavior, according to Forbes, “is that it’s a marketplace and not a transportation provider.”

Sanders Tells Liberty U: Sorry, But The US Was Founded On ‘Racist Principles’, Caitlyn Cruz, Talking Points Memo, September 14, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) quoted from the Bible and told students that America was founded on “racist principles” during a speech on Monday at Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Virginia.

“I would also say that as a nation, the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created, and I’m sorry to have to say this, from way back on racist principles, that’s a fact,” Sanders said during a Q&A following his speech. “We have come a long way as a nation.”

Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, quoted from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible during his speech. The senator acknowledged early on that there were major things students of the school, which was founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, would likely disagree with him on, but that he was there to try to find common ground.


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