Patterico's Pontifications


Returning to Auschwitz: 70 Years After The Liberation

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:39 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I could not let the day close without posting about the memorial ceremony at Auschwitz today. I was overwhelmed as I read survivors’ stories as well as reading their reactions to today’s events as they journeyed back to the place where everything precious and good had been torn from them. I pray that these amazing people be blessed in these, their last years. May they be overwhelmed by the loving-kindness of family and may their hearts and minds know a restful peace.

Around 300 survivors of Auschwitz gathered in Poland to mark the 70th year since its liberation. Approximately 1.1 million Jews met their deaths at Auschwitz, while some 200,000 survived. Many of the survivors determined to never let anyone forget what happened – lest it happen again.

And of course, being back at Auschwitz for the memorial was a very emotional experience for the survivors:

Sitting in the front row were four British survivors, including a sprightly 84-year-old Hampstead grandmother who, until yesterday, had been unable to face coming back. Widowed earlier this month, she is profoundly glad she came.

‘I felt such turmoil, such anger seeing this place again,’ Susan Pollack told me last night.

‘But this ceremony was so uplifting that it will be one of the defining memories of my life.’

Pollack’s story:

In the summer of 1944, aged 13, she emerged, gasping for air, from a fetid cattle truck (in which several people had died) just yards from here only to be dragged away from the mother she would never see again. Stripped, shaved and housed ten to a bunk, Susan withdrew inside herself, spoke to no one and barely noticed when a random wave of an SS finger eventually sent her not to the gas chambers but a slave labour camp.

In early 1945, with the Allies approaching, her captors sent her on a ‘death march’, a merciless retreat through the snow, to a place which evokes memories every bit as terrifying as Auschwitz – the human abattoir of Bergen-Belsen.

By the time it was liberated by the British in April 1945, Susan was lying among the dead when a British medic spotted signs of life. He carefully carried the skeletal 14-year-old to his ambulance. ‘The very fact that this soldier was picking me up and holding me was an act of human kindness I have never got over. I still can’t,’ she says brightly.

‘Someone actually caring for me again – it still brings out tears.’

From survivors:

David Wisnia, 89, a cantor from Philadelphia, held up a photograph of his family of four children, five grandchildren and his wife of 64 years, and said: “This is my proof that Hitler didn’t win in the end.” Wisna, originally from Poland, who spent two-and-a-half years in Auschwitz, will sing the Jewish funeral prayer at the former death camp in front of thousands.

“I’m overwhelmed that I could live long enough to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation,” he said. “I’m amazed that I survived my time in the camps. I still find it unbelievable what happened.”


‘We do not want our past to be our children’s future,’ declared Roman Kent. ‘That is the key to my existence.’

‘It has been routine to use the word “lost” when referring to loved ones,’ he said.

‘Six million Jews? They were not “lost”. They were murdered. Those that died did not “perish” but were murdered. By using sanitised words, we are helping the deniers.’

He concluded that he would like to add an eleventh commandment to the Old Testament list: ‘You should never, never be a bystander!’


The Problem Of Whiteness

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:56 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Arizona State University is offering a new class titled U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness , the goal of which appears to be to to illustrate how white people are the root cause of all social injustices in our country. Like we didn’t already know that.

The required reading materials for the class are also no surprise: “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” by Richard Delgado, “Everyday Language of White Racism” by Jane Hill, “Alchemy of Race & Rights” by Patricia Williams, and “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness” by George Lipsitz.

ASU released a statement explaining the class:

This course uses literature and rhetoric to look at how stories shape people’s understandings and experiences of race. It encourages students to examine how people talk about – or avoid talking about – race in the contemporary United States. This is an interdisciplinary course, so students will draw on history, literature, speeches and cultural changes – from scholarly texts to humor. The class is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions. A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.”

So, for $10,000 a year, you, too, can discover how bad white people are.


Jonathan Chait on Political Correctness, Then and Now

Filed under: Education,General,Political Correctness — JVW @ 11:51 am

[guest post by JVW]

In the continuing effort to acknowledge those moments when our ideological opponents have a moment of sanity and allow themselves to see things from our perspective, let me bring to your attention Jonathan Chait’s interesting exploration in New York Magazine of the politically correct mania currently sweeping not just our country but by and large all of Western thought.

Chait begins the article by rehashing the familiar story of Omar Mahmood, the University of Michigan student who was kicked off of the daily campus newspaper after writing a satirical column mocking political correctness and microaggressions for a conservative campus publication. Chait, a Michigan alumnus, ties that story in to a 1992 incident at that very campus in which radical feminists influenced by law professor Catharine MacKinnon attempted to shut down an exhibition by a feminist videographer which aimed to explore the lives of workers in the sex industry. The arguments of the radical feminists 22 years ago will sound familiar to those of us up to date with the current movement to censor ideas that exist outside the narrow canon of tolerance: that being exposed to this material poses “a threat to the safety” of those students which justifies their claiming the mantle of victimhood and the corresponding right to act as censor. As Chait notes in comparing the 1992 and 2014 incidents at UM, “In both cases, the threat was deemed not the angry mobs out to crush opposing ideas, but the ideas themselves. The theory animating both attacks turns out to be a durable one, with deep roots in the political left.”

It’s a long piece and Chait weaves in several different pieces of evidence, from protests against campus speakers to the Obama-Clinton primary battle of 2008 to Charlie Hebdo. He traces the journey of politically correct totalitarianism from the rarefied and dopey mores of academia to the hive-like communities that have developed on social media. Those who are judged to be insufficiently deferential to the oppression suffered by the victim group du jour are routinely hassled, bullied, and threatened on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms popular with a young audience that is susceptible to mindless conformity in the name of social popularity.

But Chait also makes a very keen observation regarding another reason for why we are now hearing of so many instances of the left enforcing PC orthodoxy. As Chait writes, “Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.” At the same time success breeds imitators, so every interest group that manages to browbeat its critics into submission is an enticement for another interest group to attempt the same. This leads to an unacceptable situation that Chait neatly summarizes:

Political correctness is a term whose meaning has been gradually diluted since it became a flashpoint 25 years ago. People use the phrase to describe politeness (perhaps to excess), or evasion of hard truths, or (as a term of abuse by conservatives) liberalism in general. The confusion has made it more attractive to liberals, who share the goal of combating race and gender bias.

But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.

Of course, Chait being Chait, he later has to let loose with a paragraph of nonsense designed to remind everyone that hey, he’s a good lefty too, not one of those awful reactionary rightwingers:

Political correctness appeals to liberals because it claims to represent a more authentic and strident opposition to their shared enemy of race and gender bias. And of course liberals are correct not only to oppose racism and sexism but to grasp (in a way conservatives generally do not) that these biases cast a nefarious and continuing shadow over nearly every facet of American life. Since race and gender biases are embedded in our social and familial habits, our economic patterns, and even our subconscious minds, they need to be fought with some level of consciousness. The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.

Get that? “The mere absence of overt discrimination will not do.” Why shouldn’t we read that to mean that Chait is suggesting that it’s not enough if I am cordial to Al Sharpton and treat him in a way that is honest and fair; unless I eventually come to see things his way I cannot truly be considered to be a “good person.” What else could Chait possibly mean with his blandishments about a nefarious and continuing shadow and biases embedded in our subconscious minds other than the tired claim that unless you vote Democrat you are a racist.

That aside, this is by and large an honest and worthy exploration of a rather illiberal phenomenon that has been cultivated, protected, and advanced for far too long. One can only hope that more thinkers on the left – especially members of those cherished victimized groups – will join him in opposing the mindlessness of enforcing cultural orthodoxy. Again, it’s a long read, but the full article is worth the while. Read the comments too, if only to get your daily allotment of self-regarding leftists who make the “our opinions are the only moral ones, so it is perfectly fine for us to censor your amoral deviations from proper thought” argument that we have all come to know.


Can the Government Spy on Your License Plate? And . . . Can You Turn the Tables?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:55 am

At first I wasn’t going to write about the Wall Street Journal story titled U.S. Spies on Millions of Drivers. (It “raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance”!! Call the Pulitzer committee!!!!) But then I saw another story that provided an ironic little twist that makes this a fun topic.

The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

I realize it’s more satisfying to be an extremist, always taking a position on the same side, whether it be civil liberties or security. But this really is one of those “on the one hand, on the other hand” type of situations. (Which is why I was lukewarm on writing the post at first. But just wait!)

On the one hand, the central government (I’m going to try to stop using the word “federal” because it’s not really federal) is growing in all sorts of ways that the Founding Fathers never envisioned. It’s hard not to see the truth in the statement of the ACLU spokesguy in the WSJ story when he says: “Any database that collects detailed location information about Americans not suspected of crimes raises very serious privacy questions.” I don’t trust Barack Obama or many of the political hacks working for him not to misuse such information.

On the other hand, the information is collected through plate readers. I know from personal experience that plate readers perform valuable functions. I have used them in a murder trial, to challenge the defendant’s claim that he had sold the car used in the murder before the murder occurred. (Oh yeah? Then why was it seen parked outside your home more than once in the weeks and months after the murder? Oh.) And just this past weekend I spoke to a man whose car was stolen, and was located within 3 days by a plate reader.

I’m not going to go as authoritarian as Jazz Shaw at Hot Air, whose argument is that you abandon all privacy the second you walk out the door. For one thing, Shaw’s premises are not all sound. (Shaw says: “Your movements out of doors are already tracked by numerous security cameras, ATMs and stop light monitors. That information is useful in numerous situations where police are trying to apprehend criminals, though it is somewhat different when the cameras belong to private businesses and citizens. In those cases the government must (and should) obtain a warrant to get hold of the footage.” No. Police almost always get that information through the consent of the camera owner.) Moreover, the “going out in public utterly eliminates your expectation of privacy” argument failed to carry the day in the Supreme Court decision about devices tracking cars (although, to be fair, the argument wasn’t really addressed because the Court said there was an invasion of private property in placing the device on the car).

Shaw also says that this is “precisely what we need given the current climate in the nation.” Well, on the one hand, the “current climate” is always what the government uses to justify further privacy intrusions. But, on the other hand (here goes Patterico again) police need to collect information to protect the public and solve crimes. We already trust the government with a lot of sensitive information (the government knows your license plate number, and look at everything you give to the IRS!) so this hardly seems like a super-scary step.

But here’s another story that puts it all in perspective, at the L.A. Times: Google to police: Waze app can’t ‘track’ officers’ movements:

Real-time traffic app Waze’s police spotting feature is a deterrent for dangerous driving, not a tool that can “track” police officers, Google officials said in response to concerns from the Los Angeles police chief.

In a Dec. 30 letter to Google, which acquired Waze in 2013, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck wrote that by pointing out police locations, the app compromises officer safety, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Times.

. . . .

The police-spotting feature allows users to drop an icon on a map indicating the rough location an officer was spotted, but it cannot “track” them or give an exact location, she said.

I realize that LAPD is not the central government, and I also think that Beck’s concerns are not entirely misplaced given the recent attacks on officers.

And yet, there is a certain irony here, is there not? In one story, the authorities are saying that law enforcement can use technology to compile information on citizens based on public observations — and in another story, the authorities are trying to prevent citizens from using technology to compile information on law enforcement based on public observations.

I could have made this post a lot punchier by simply noting that irony and foregoing all the nuance, I guess. (Apparently I suck at blogging.)

But I think the juxtaposition shows the true way out for civil libertarians. You’re probably not going to prevent the government from using technology to spy on you. But they’re probably going to have a hard time keeping you from doing the same thing to them.

That is, unless you give them control of the Internet through something like “Net Neutrality.” (We need Net Neutrality “given the current climate in the nation” of out-of-control ISPs! Trust us!!) Then government will able to do anything it wants.

The FCC’s Net Neutrality vote happens next month.

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