Dworkin on CBC’s Weekend Morning Show

Begin forwarded message:
> From: Robert Labossiere <robert13055@gmail.com>>
>Date: April 25, 2021 at 10:03:03 AM CDT >
>To: weekend@cbc.ca >
>Cc: q@cbc.ca >

>Subject: Dworkin on CBC’s Weekend Morning Show >

Sunday April 25:  Dear CBC,

It’s very nice of you to have an author in to talk about their new book but this morning’s interview with Professor  Jeffrey Dworkin fell flat, in part because there was no critical pushback, the very thing that plagues journalism today. Prof. Dworkin’s idea of concentrism, mentioned but barely discussed, is interesting but does it really account for the appalling superficiality and doom scrolling of the media today? Typically, for a journalist, he focussed on the audience and the wider context rather than the industry itself.

There seem to be only two “issues” being covered by CBC these days, racism and Covid. Fine. They are important. But it is sickening to hear statistics repeated over and over, the thinnest possible slice, without any real background, research or critical appraisal. I am sure I am not alone in feeling depressed, demoralized and terribly distressed by this relentless stream of not just bad but terrible, catastrophic news.

By all means bring Prof. Dworkin back, or others on this vital topic, but please, do some homework, a la Tom Powers or Eleanor Wachtel, and ask some pointed questions. Those who hold forth as experts need to be held to account, now more than ever. Journalism needs a shake if it’s ever going to shape up. If you have producers for the Weekend Morning Show, put them to work!

Under Disaster Capitalism, the media is a disaster. The least of the problems with it have to do with source authentication. News seems “fake” and can be too easily dismissed as biased when it lacks even basic substantiation and internal critical evaluation.

– 30 –

Sick of American tantrums? Blame Jimmy Connors.

Civil society in the U.S. started down the slippery slope towards today’s crazy town politics when the sporting world started tolerating outbursts that even a few years before no self-respecting athlete would have contemplated.

Had referees, supported by sports associations, drawn a line in the sand from the get go by rejecting such childish chicanery, we’d all be so much better off today. Instead, not just bad sportsmanship but the polar opposite of sportsmanship – lying, cheating, whatever-you-can-get-away-with – has become the norm.

We cannot be surprised by the assault on Congress last week or the fact that it was instigated and fuelled by Mr. Trump. He not only grew up amid deteriorating standards of decorum and civility, he learned to imitate petulant grandstanders like Connors and John McEnroe. Today, Americans believe that acting entitled is essential to winning; the smug will inherit the earth.

(Too stupid to be President? Perhaps, but if you convinced a nation of “losers and suckers” to elect you, wouldn’t you feel just a little bit smug too? Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images in https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/16/donald-trump-is-proving-too-stupid-to-be-president/)

I suppose the question might be asked whether the media and then ultimately we, the audience, aren’t to blame. Like fighting in hockey and happy dances in football, isn’t it all just about entertainment, and now an indispensible part of the game?

Let’s not let soul searching divert our attention from the ego-driven culprets. Pointing to causes and lowest common denominators does not help when it comes to morality and ethics. We need to expect more from public figures, not less. How about a little dignity? Or even some old fashioned class?

You are embarrassing your mom.

America will never stop paying for Donald Trump

As if it is not insulting enough to the American people to have been duped, lied to and then threatened by Donald Trump, they (all of them) will be paying for the one grievous error (some of them) made by voting for him in 2016. Not only will he receive a salary of over $200,000/yr. and top of the line military style health care but also Secret Service protection for him and his family for the rest of his life.

Paul Noth cartoon, wolf and sheep, from the New Yorker
Cartoonist Paul Noth tells it like it is in the New Yorker

One imagines that Barack Obama is ruing the day he restored the lifetime pension by passing the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012.[3]Previously, pensions under the Presidents Protection Act were limited (in 1994) to cover only 10 years after a President serves office.

Actually, it doesn’t matter anyway. According to this source: “No president has ever been denied these benefits, and a government legal opinion in 1974 found that even Richard Nixon, who resigned but was not removed, was eligible.”

According to that article in Mother Jones (citing the Washington Post): “While in office, Trump has billed taxpayers more than $1.1. million for Secret Service personnel to stay at his properties, including renting the agency a cottage at his Bedminster golf course for $21,000 per month.

Perhaps some smart young politician in Washington could take it upon themselves to draft a bill stopping this outrageous practice.

If capitalism is the model for the U.S., and the state is some kind of side  project thereof, people who serve in highest office in the land should have made their money already, or inherited it, so they can devote their “free” time to the philanthropic work of making things work better for the rest of us. Perhaps they should even pay for the privilege.

Watch for these fun future stories from this author:

Melania Dumps Trump: “Who wants to be seen with that loser?”

On Inauguration Day, police will be at the Whitehouse with handcuffs.



Reconciliation is the word, consideration for the viewpoints of others is the way forward for America

America needs to reconcile its ideological differences. The balance sheet is completely out of wack, a view that has been systematically made worse by Donald Trump.

Why anyone would do that we’ll come to, but the fact is, it isn’t just him. A lot of Americans prefer to see themselves as having a strong, righteous, ideological position compared to which, all others are simply wrong. Narrow-mindedness is being confused with what it means to be American.

This has to stop.

The only way it will stop if both sides start to sound like the other side. They need to start listening to each other. A pro-police social justice advocate? A conservative who supports Antifa? Are these so hard to imagine?

Everybody wants safe streets. Fear is the common enemy. Nobody wants to be afraid of getting mugged when they go out. Nobody wants to be afraid of a routine police check during which, if you’re black, you could end up dead.

Watchers of the right wing are not surprised by the mayhem in the U.S. capitol this week. It has been a long time coming, they say. Authorities did or should have seen it coming. It was all over social media, which fans flames of hate like pure oxygen. CBC’s Matt Galloway talked to Jen Schradie, a digital sociologist at Sciences Po in Paris, and Seyward Darby, opinion writer at the New York Times and the editor in chief of The Atavist Magazine. At some point in the conversation, Schradie described the root of far-right mob action as being in a rift in understanding between “equality” and “freedom.”. – www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-jan-8-2020-1.5865942

Turns out this is well-known debate. The Web is chock-a-block with information about it.

A short but excellent summary of the evolving definitions of “equality” and “freedom” in the US can be found here:

George Will in the run up to the 2004 US election spoke out with concern about this divide:

How interesting. It is possible to soberly appreciate the point of view of both sides, no matter where you, yourself falls in the equality/freedom spectrum.
But today, the debate is not just polarized, it has gone beyond logic, fairness or reasonableness. Differences are cartoon-like, each side painting the other as ‘evil’ and itself as ‘righteous.’ Wars have been fought for less.

The problem today is reactionary liberalism vs. reactionary conservatism, so starkly different, it seems impossible to reconcile differences, when really, liberalism and conservatism are two sides of the same coin, neither could exist without the other.

No champion of freedom wants to live without governing authority that has the power to keep things organized, support businesses and individuals and   have some checks against bullying and rampant exploitation. Restraint of government overreach is one thing, no government at all another: anarchy.

At the same time, no champion of equality wants a State that is so big and so dominant that there is no room for personal differences, opportunity to find and exercise your talents, and have your achievements rewarded.

Neither side wants an oppressive “socialist” State that threatens its people with banishment to the Gulag if they do not conform.

How long will it take before the sides really start to talk to each other? This is a question that brings us to the matter of Mr. Trump, the dejected and now rejected cheeseburger.

Pundits have been saying he  is just a warm up act for the radical or alt-right: a Mussolini or Hitler is waiting in the wings to take centre stage and take over. This is the worst kind of “fake news” Mr. T has rightly taken to task. It is scare mongering and contributes nothing to our understanding of the issues.

Isn’t it just as likely that a God-like advocate for democratic processes and social justice will arise out of ranks of the Democrats, capture the public imagination and be swept into power?

Which maybe is what this is all about: myth making. America’s been telling itself hair raising tales of demented heroes for quite a few decades now. The shocking thing is how surprised everyone is when these characters leap off the page into reality.

What if everything that we consider “social” is actually held together by the spiritual?

…including politics.

Religious folks, ministers, pastors, etc., are suffering a lot these days. The novelty and sense of accomplishment of making Zoom and Youtube work for church services wore off very quickly.

At the same time, I noticed anxiety levels rising among people I know who live alone, especially if they are older. Again, some enthusiasm initially for having people pitch in to do grocery shopping or run errands wore thin quickly. Self-isolation as a preventive standard-of-care turned into just plain old depressing isolation.

What we unexpectedly miss the most in these difficult times is physical contact.

It’s not necessarily the hugs or touching even. It’s just being in the same room as another person that we seem to need more than anything.
It is virtually impossible to quantify or measure this effect. Which leads me to wonder, is this what religion is getting at? Mythical beings with super powers are entertaining for sure, perhaps the best way to justify that inexplicable something we all need, just to be with others.

In his book Being and Nothingness, Sartre explored the idea of the being that causes itself. Perhaps it would be more useful to look at how we cause each other.

A good article on the importance of physical presence: www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/physical-presence-spiritual-gift/

But what means “presence” exactly? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics_of_presence

Exile is the only way to handle a despot

It would be below degrading to Napoleon Bonaparte to be compared to the outgoing U.S. President and beyond flattering to Mr. Trump, however both invoke the gnarly problem of what to do with an irrepressible charismatic megalomaniac.

The solution for those allied against Napoleon in the early 1800s, whose wars resulted in millions of deaths and untold economic losses across Europe, was exile.

Indefatigably confident and ambitious Napoleon spawned conflicts throughout Europe and ignored treaties and conventions alike. He plundered museums, installed his own people to rule other countries and reinstated slavery in France’s overseas colonies. Sound familiar?

When finally defeated, Napoleon was exiled to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean, where he was allowed to keep his title of Emperor and rule the island, supported by a generous stipend. He soon escaped, returned to Europe, amassed an army and regained power for the notorious 100 Days, until two allied armies forced his retreat to Paris where the people had turned against him.

painting of Napoleon staring out to sea on the island of Saint Helena
Napoleon on Saint Helena, watercolor by Franz Josef Sandmann, c. 1820 Ref: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon

He abdicated and the British put him again into exile, this time on the island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, 1,870 km (1,162 mi) from the west coast of Africa. They also took the precaution of sending a garrison of soldiers to uninhabited Ascension Island, which lay between St. Helena and Europe. He died 5 years later.

Two brothers ( cont.)

Or is it that the younger was spoiled, protected and pampered by others (including the elder one), so that he failed to learn to try, to apply himself except in the attention-seeking, ephemeral, undisciplined way artists so often have, often mistaken for Narcissism but usually a symptom of fitful imagination coming and going unpredictably, accounting to no one and impossible to hold to account?
Sent from a phone.

Two brothers

Two brothers. Why would the more talented be less accomplished? Is it because he was bullied by the elder of the two, who was always ahead, stronger and knowing, and also a little jealous of the younger brother’s favour as the baby? Or is it because talent is fickle and difficult to harness, so few with real gifts managing to reign them in and spur them on or make anything of themselves?
November 28, 2020

This Thanksgiving I’m thanking Mr. Trump.

We have a lot to be thankful for this year.

Despite it being the worst year in recorded history for news media scaring everyone to death, ridiculous political shenanigans and economic disaster the scale of which is truly unfathomable, we’re still here, still standing, laughing even.

Donald Trump certainly made a lot of us guffaw and shake our heads, and no doubt will continue to do so now that he has the world’s attention. I’m afraid we’re doomed to be media subjects of Donald the Oneth ‘til his dying day.

Be that as it may, I think Mr. Trump’s reign brought a lot of issues to the surface, issues that need to be addressed.

Mr. Trump certainly taught us something about narcissism. Christpher Lasch called it right how long ago? 1962? (He still has currency.) We’ve learned that the spoiled child with an unchecked ego can, in the media saturated world of today, push his way to the front of every line. It’s the atomic blast of ego that scorches the earth all around leaving nothing but etched shadows.

Good to know. Hard to imagine how to reverse the trend.

Another important contribution Mr. Trump made was to point out the enormous and tragic rift between the educated liberal establishment and the… What shall we call them? Everybody else? Us?

His attacks on truth and those who claim a privileged grasp on it have been outrageous, terribly undermining, but I blame both sides. The professions time and again have shown themselves to be mercenary, serving the highest bidder; scientists and experts of all stripes have become so convinced of their correctness, they have altogether tied up intellectual thought; the liberal arts have dragged truth far into the impenetrable deeps of cultural relativism.

Where “truth” becomes “truths” always only belonging to this party or that party, a gap suddenly opens up though which anyone can slip anything, claiming it to be a truth as good as any other, better even because it is original, entirely made up. No one saw that coming.

It is very complicated how information is legitimated and becomes reliable, but the struggle right now is comic: a medieval  farce in which knowledge knights wielding razor sharp science slash blindly in the general direction of  stumbling, bumbling, mind-numbing ignorance.

Slightly less difficult to unravel, though no less troubling, was Mr. Trump’s attack on the media. Calling news “fake” was disruptive genius but not entirely  without justification;  our 4th estate is in disarray, needlessly pummeling poor readers with crisis after crisis, shamelessly in tow to undeclared interests and impossibly weak in terms of research and analysis. Repeating over and over and over again Mr. Trump’s blatant lies and vitriol served only him.

I have little sympathy for journalists however under-educated, underpaid and overworked. And less for their employers who have failed to capitalize on the easy money to be made in the digital economy.

You cannot cry “bully” yet give the bully the stage and expect anything except more of the same and worse. How can we as a culture not know this by now? Bullies and con artists must be disarmed.

It was absolutely within the media’s power to refuse to spread obviously false news, to boycott sham press conferences and instead just give the public honest information from reliable sources. I think we would have understood.

Mr. Trump helped us to see these problems. Millions of Americans identified with that, were refreshed by it and supported it. They were not wrong.

Mr. Trump did not create these problems and they won’t disappear when he leaves. We have homework to do:

  • We must valorize humility over hubris, acting smartly to put artifice and ego in their place;
  • We must search out and respect truthfulness, challenging truth claims openly but also respectfully and constructively;
  • We must re-ground our institutions of higher learning and the professions; science, in particular, must come to terms with uncertainty and frankly admit the limits to what it can know;
  • And we must rebuild the media from the ground up, reject sensationalism and demand thorough investigative, self-critical  journalism.

So thank you Mr. Trump.

I, for one, had a feeling but never quite knew how bad things had got until you came along. Now we know. We have no excuses.

To all my American friends, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

November 26, 2020