Monday, June 17, 2019

L'Étoile du Nord Roundup

Greetings from Owatonna, Minnesota. I'm here at my in-laws house in the interregnum between a family wedding on the north shore last weekend and a Carleton Reunion next weekend. The former represented my first trek to the far north of Minnesota, and it was truly gorgeous -- really embodying my favorite type of nature (to wit: very green and very forested).

* * *

Everybody seems to hate the "electability" argument for Joe Biden, but Kevin Drum asks whether anyone is actually making it. My hypothesis is that Biden's stance atop the polls baffles a lot of political observers -- how is he so seemingly popular with Democratic primary electorate, given his many weaknesses -- and so they infer that many of his supporters back him reluctantly as the safe, "electable" choice (for my part, I think it's still name-recognition, and he'll fade as the primary season moves forward).

Corey Robin has interesting-looking book coming out on Clarence Thomas as an Afro-Pessimist -- an outlook which very much coheres with my own.

Fascinating dialogue between Yossi Klein Halevi, author of "‘Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor," and Mohammed Dajani, who decided to respond. It's long but very much worth your time.

Jonathan Adler tracks some non-standard splits in the recent SCOTUS decisions and wonders if a new "pragmatist" axis is emerging.

Lest we were worried that the DC Dyke March's ban on Jewish Pride flags was the start of a trend -- looks like that isn't happening. Most Dyke Marches around the nation are not following their lead.

There's No Wrong Way To Terrorize a Black Guy in the Eighth Circuit

Last week, the Eighth Circuit released an opinion in Clark v. Clark, a case involving a law-abiding Black gun owner in Missouri. Police responded to claims of gunshots in the vicinity of a Missouri rest stop. On arrival, they encountered Gregory Clark, a Black man sitting a table outside the building. Seeing they were officers, Clark immediately handed over his driver's license, retired military ID, and concealed carry permit, and also informed them he was armed. He was questioned if he had heard any gunfire (he hadn't) and where he was going (Chicago).

Then the police ran his identification (which came back clean). Clark was apparently not wild that the police ran his ID, which he thought was potentially a case of racial profile, and asked a question gesturing in that direction ("[would you] have done that to anyone else?"). The officer responded poorly, angrily replying "don’t play the race card with me", and returned the identification cards back to Clark.

The police then left Clark, and Clark in turn returned to his vehicle and drove away in the direction of Chicago. The police trailed him, and Clark began to fear for his life. He made a U-turn, and officers continued to follow. After more cop cars began to arrive on the scene, he pulled over to the side of the road and placed both hands outside of the window to show he wasn't holding his gun. Officers nonetheless approached the car with weapons drawn, one pointing his gun at Clark while ordering him out of the car. After a bit more confusion and discussion, it was eventually determined that Clark had committed no crime and done nothing wrong, and he was allowed to leave once more.

The Eighth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Erickson joined by Judge Colloton, concluded that the entirety of the police conduct -- which culminated, let's recall, in the police pointing their weapon at a Black man who had done absolutely nothing wrong and had seemingly taken every conceivable step to scream out "I am not a threat" -- was wholly lawful.

And that's why I flag this case. In an alarming number of circumstances, there is nothing a Black man can realistically do to avoid having a gun pulled on him by police. He can be entirely law-abiding, forthright about his (legal) gun ownership), compliant with police demands, going out of his way to and keep his hands clear -- doesn't matter. And likewise, he cannot seek to avoid police interactions -- even knowing (apparently accurately) that they put him at risk of having a gun pulled on him for no reason whatsoever. Judge Erickson, for example, argued that both Clark's highway U-turn to avoid the police, and his affirmative decision to put his hands out the window to show that he wasn't holding his gun, were "unusual and may be indicative of guilty conduct."

Chief Judge Smith disagreed -- and it is perhaps not coincidental that Judge Smith is the only African-American Judge on the Eighth Circuit. In his view, while the initial encounter at the rest stop was lawful (and I agree -- while I understand why Clark might have felt aggrieved, he was the only person in the vicinity where gunshots had been reported and he admitted he was carrying a gun), the police response to Clark on the highway was not (Judge Smith ultimately would have found that the officer nonetheless enjoyed qualified immunity).

Put simply, Clark is allowed to not want to interact with the police. African-American men have excellent reason to try to avoid police encounters for fully innocent reasons like "wanting to avoid an elevated chance of having a gun pulled on you" -- as this case well demonstrates. But there's really nothing they can do to avoid it -- including "literally trying to avoid it".

Meanwhile, today the Eighth Circuit en banc dismissed, by 5-4 vote, Dorian Johnson's claims against Ferguson, Missouri and Office Michael Brown for conduct stemming from the infamous shooting of Michael Brown (Johnson was walking beside Brown during the incident). Johnson alleged that Wilson ordered the pair to "get on the fucking sidewalk", then abruptly parked his car in front of the duo, blocking their path, struck Brown with the car door, got into a scuffle with Brown, and ended up firing his weapon at the pair (missing Johnson but striking and killing Brown). Nonetheless, the Court concluded that the pair had not been seized because (a) Johnson did not need to "remain by Brown's side" while Wilson and Brown fought and (b) the position of Wilson's police car did not literally block them entirely from fleeing the area.

The dissenters (Judge Melloy writing for Chief Judge Smith and Judges Erickson and Kelly) simply make mince-meat of this argument. The touchstone question for a seizure is whether the officer's actions would "have communicated to a reasonable person that he was not at liberty to ignore the police presence and go about his business". There might not be a single area of constitutional law with more ludicrous precedents than this -- the sorts of scenarios where courts say, with apparent straight faces, that people would feel free "to ignore the police presence" are beyond absurd (to take one example, cited in the dissent: in United States v. Hayden, we were told that any reasonable person would feel free to ignore the police when the officer pulled up alongside the defendant, shined a flashlight on him, and screamed “Police!”). Yet even here, the facts clearly "communicated an intent to use a roadblock to stop Johnson’s movement," and therefore a seizure.

The argument that the roadblock did not literally prevent all modes of escape from the area should be too ludicrous to reply to if the majority did not rely on it. Not only is that unrealistic in practice -- just how tight must the dragnet be, then, before it is conceded to be impossible to escape? Must the officers all lock arms in a circle? -- it has nothing to do with the legal inquiry, which is whether a reasonable person would understand the officers as trying to communicate an order to stop. Abruptly driving your police car to place it directly in front of your quarry's path does that, and it's not close. There's virtually no question that had Johnson attempted to "simply ignore" Wilson's directives the officer would not have thought "well, that's perfectly innocent conduct reflecting his right to ignore me under the Constitution" (look what happened to Clark!).

Of course, it's possible that in this case the extremely high-profile and heavily-reported nature of the controversy might have influenced the court's decision -- in particular, they might believe that the facts might not have been as Johnson alleged. But it is hornbook law that at this stage in the proceeding judges must accept Johnson's factual allegations as true -- disputes of fact are addressed at a later stage. And that matters because this case sets a precedent, which in turn applies to other cases down the line where the facts haven't been as thoroughly hashed out in the media as here. It is not just Dorian Johnson but any person who finds a police car screeching to halt inches in front of them after being screamed at by the officer who now will find that -- contrary to any actual "reasonable person's" perspective -- it would wholly unreasonable for them to believe that the police were communicating that they needed to submit.

I'd say that the majority might have allowed itself to be swayed by the public nature of the controversy, except that gives them far too much credit. The fact is, the Eighth Circuit has near-infinite tolerance for police excesses directed against the citizens in its jurisdiction, in cases of any degree of public prominence. Clark is a low-profile case and Johnson is a very high-profile one, but they're tied together by the unifying cord of all the Eighth Circuit's jurisprudence in this area: extreme, complete, and unshakable deference to the police over and against ordinary citizens.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On the Oberlin Verdict

You might have seen the news that a bakery won a $44 million dollar judgment ($11 million in compensatory damages, plus $33 million in punitive damages) against Oberlin College (under Ohio law, the punitive damages are capped at $22 million, so that will likely be reduced).

The short background is this: An Oberlin student tried to buy alcohol at the bakery with a fake ID. The ID was rejected, and he tried to leave with the bottle anyway. A store employee gave chase, a scuffle ensued, and the student and two friends (all who were Black) were arrested. Many on campus believed the incident was one of racial profiling, and protests by Oberlin students against the bakery quickly ensued. The bakery was labeled a "racist" institution, and the college briefly suspended its contracts with the bakery.

Ultimately, the students plead guilty to a crime; and follow-up investigations suggested that there was no pattern of profiling by the bakery.

Under these facts, it seems pretty clear that the bakery was treated poorly by the Oberlin community. That said, a damage reward of this magnitude poses a massive threat to free speech on campus -- a concern that many of those crowing over the verdict seem worryingly unconcerned about.

The evidence that Oberlin, as an institution, was responsible for the allegedly libelous statements by the students (and we should wonder whether claims of racism--an evaluative opinion--can qualify as libelous, though in context it's arguable that here it was an opinion based on undisclosed facts) is quite thin. Not non-existent, but thin. The administration let students use the copiers. They didn't censor the student government (an independent body) which issued a condemnation of the bakery. Administrators were "present" at the protests and didn't try to shut them down. One reportedly helped pass out fliers, and then wrote a remarkably bratty message considering "sic[cing] the students" on a dissenting professor before deciding that the college needed to "put the matter behind us."

Some of this -- like the "sic" message -- is genuinely bad behavior. Some of it is the college not proactively censoring its students. None of it comes close to justifying an eight-figure damage verdict.

But if the idea is that this verdict "sends a message" to colleges, what is the message they're likely to receive? Put differently, what is the compliance takeaway here, if you're a college administrator?

Here's a hint: it isn't "don't libel local businesses". It's "don't do anything -- whether in the form of action or inaction -- which could even hint at tolerating speech that the most hostile possible jury could consider to be libelous towards a sympathetic plaintiff." The latter is quite different from the former.

One thing I've learned from spending some time in "free speech" oriented social movements is that free speech has a lot of fair-weather friends. There are some principled actors. There are many more whose avowed commitment to free speech is in fact wholly one-sided, and in fact are eagerly insistent that colleges and universities in particular act against student or faculty speech that they dislike. They want faculty to be fired and students to be punished, suspended, or expelled; they want their clubs defunded and their newspapers pulled from the shelves; they harbor a deep populist resentment towards the entire modern educational system which yearns for an outlet.

That doesn't describe everyone, but it describes enough potential jurors that -- when tens of millions of dollars are on the line -- colleges are pretty much going to be forced to accommodate them. All the more so in communities where town-gown relations are frayed. I've heard that was already true in Oberlin. Certainly, the decision by a local judge to disallow the students what seemed to be a perfectly normal plea deal because doing so would supposedly validate the student protests -- something that I've mostly seen to underscore the community "standing up" to campus bullies -- to me instead underlines a deep-felt hostility and antipathy towards Oberlin, a desire to show those snooty hippies what's what.

(Likewise, if my alma mater of Carleton College -- which in many ways has a similar profile to Oberlin as a rural, highly-ranked national school with a liberal student body, an elite reputation, and iffy town-gown relations -- got sued by a local business, I imagine any trial attorney they'd hire would try to do anything and everything to keep the case away from a local jury).

And when you're trying to comply with that juror in mind, the need not to just avoid bad actions, but also avoid anything that the most negative possible factfinder could stretch to interpret as bad, ends up encompassing a lot of wholly innocent (or even laudatory) conduct. For example, having administrators observe student protests without interceding might seem to be a responsible, mature decision -- unless a hostile jury views it as a tacit endorsement and wonders why the administrators didn't try to proactively tamp down on the student speech. Which, in many circumstances, would itself be a free speech violation -- a fact which in turn emphasizes the impossible situation colleges will find themselves in.

Or another: in a bid to reduce tensions, Oberlin tried to cut a deal with the bakery where it wouldn't push to criminally prosecute first-time shoplifters. The bakery refused, saying shoplifting was a major source of lost revenue. They had every right to give this answer, but again, I've seen Oberlin's gesture interpreted in the most hostile possible light -- as granting all of its students a "get out of shoplifting free" card -- as if nobody had ever heard of alternatives to prosecution for first-time, low-level, non-violent offenses (let's not forgot the other side of the coin of bringing the full hammer of criminal law down upon every single shoplifting case).

I actually suspect that at least some, if not all, of the verdict won't survive an appeal. The damages are just so wildly out of sync with the college-qua-college's bad conduct, and the line between what the college did and the alleged libel so attenuated, that it seems very vulnerable. Plus, the conservative lawyers who've been backing the bakers have already got their headline, so I think they'll be more amenable to settlement than they had been before.

All of this is fully recognizing that the bakery was -- again, to reiterate -- treated poorly by the Oberlin community. The sort of conduct that many Oberlin students engaged in isn't just righteous anger or blowing off steam -- it hurts real people and impacts their real livelihood. But this verdict isn't about making a wronged bakery whole. It's a shot across the bow at institutes of higher education which many people simply loathe -- loathe for censoring speech and loathe for tolerating it, loathe for strangling student freedom and loathe for letting students run wild, loathe for their liberal uniformity and loathe for their diverse students bodies, loathe for thinking they're special and loathe for not making their specialness sufficiently accessible. That sort of loathing isn't healthy. And when it can get its hands on massive tort verdicts, it's positively dangerous.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Off To Minnesota

It's double-Minnesota-trouble!

I'm heading off to Minnesota tomorrow. First item on the agenda: a wedding in Lutsen (way in the northeastern corner of the state). That's this weekend. But next weekend is my college reunion, down in Northfield (pretty far south, relatively speaking). We'll be staying with my in-laws in Owatonna (as featured in the New York Times!) for the interim.

So I'll be pretty busy. Looking forward to the trip, but not looking forward to the long flight or equally long car rides. Minnesota is actually pretty big, especially once you stop ignoring the northern two-thirds of it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What Do Holocaust Museums Do?

I thought this was a very powerful line from Dara Horn's criticism of Holocaust museums as a presumed panacea for curing antisemitism:
That the Holocaust drives home the importance of love is an idea, like the idea that Holocaust education prevents anti-Semitism, that seems entirely unobjectionable. It is entirely objectionable. The Holocaust didn’t happen because of a lack of love. It happened because entire societies abdicated responsibility for their own problems, and instead blamed them on the people who represented—have always represented, since they first introduced the idea of commandedness to the world—the thing they were most afraid of: responsibility.
Then as now, Jews were cast in the role of civilization’s nagging mothers, loathed in life and loved only once they are safely dead. In the years since I walked through Auschwitz at 15, I have become a nagging mother. And I find myself furious, being lectured by this exhibition about love—as if the murder of millions of people was actually a morality play, a bumper sticker, a metaphor. I do not want my children to be someone else’s metaphor. (Of course, they already are.) 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Arkansas Anti-BDS Law Exposes Rifts in the First Amendment -- and Anti-Discrimination -- World

Arkansas is one of several states to have passed laws restricting state contractors from engaging in BDS (its law is, I think, unique in that it doesn't prohibit such contracts outright, but instead requires that the contractor give the state government a substantial discount). It is unique in that it is, to my knowledge, the only state that has so far prevailed in litigation -- a decision that now goes up to my old court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Aside from its juicy public salience, the case is interesting for how much it has divided First Amendment scholars -- and not along "typical" lines. The Knight Institute for First Amendment Law at Columbia filed an amicus brief urging that the Arkansas law is unconstitutional, signed by some major First Amendment luminaries. These include Katherine Franke -- a prominent BDS supporter -- but also Geoff Stone, who was keynote speaker at the annual conference of the anti-BDS Academic Engagement Network a few years back, as well as UC-Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, another high-profile boycott opponent.

Meanwhile, another smaller group of First Amendment scholars filed their own brief defending the constitutionality of the law. While it's only signed by three people, they're quite serious names in their own right: Eugene Volokh (UCLA), Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), and Michael Dorf (Cornell). Volokh is a libertarian-conservative, but Koppelman and Dorf are high-profile liberals -- and Koppelman in particular is a major figure in anti-discrimination law.

And the threat to anti-discrimination and public accommodations law is the major theme of their brief (in this, it is actually Volokh's sign-on to the brief that is most intriguing, as he has long been concerned that anti-discrimination laws intrude on First Amendment-protected speech). Dorf wrote an explanatory post that he opposes laws like Arkansas as policy, but crafting a doctrine that renders them susceptible to First Amendment challenge but doesn't open a wide door to challenging a raft of anti-discrimination law is hard -- and harder still with a Supreme Court that seems very thirsty in the latter regard. Says Dorf:
I agree that there is no compelling interest justifying the Arkansas law or others like it. Indeed, I think such laws are unwarranted. I oppose them on policy grounds. I also agree that there is a compelling interest in public accommodations laws. However, one must think strategically about such issues. The question is not what some liberal law professors regard as a compelling interest but what a majority of the Supreme Court will ultimately regard as compelling. I have no confidence that the Court would find a compelling interest in forbidding discrimination on the basis of LGBT status.
This dovetails with a more general worry about the Lochnerization of the First Amendment -- something I've written about as well -- which ought give pause about expanding the sorts of expressive-refusals which qualify for First Amendment protection. The more we're willing to code conduct as speech because it's done for expressive purposes -- well, can refuse to care for a trans patient for expressive reasons; one can refuse to enroll in Obamacare for expressive reasons; one can refuse to offer contraceptive coverage to one's employees for expressive reasons; one can refuse to transport a Muslim or Jew or Christian in your taxi for expressive reasons ... it goes on. Some of these we already are seeing, and seeing ratified by the conservative judiciary. If that's a trend that alarms you, one might hesitate about creating new doctrine that appears to accelerate it.

This is a risk I think that the anti-anti-BDS campaign simply has not paid sufficient attention to, in part because it bristles at the suggestion that it is defending a form of "discrimination". But the fact that it's been generally overlooked is precisely why it's so important that it be expressly grappled with as the doctrine starts to settle. There are, after all, elements of BDS campaigns which in my view represent quite straightforward cases of national origin discrimination, and to the extent that people are starting to reflexively cry "First Amendment" because the discrimination is expressively-motivated, that's a big problem.

To be sure, I'm not fully convinced by the Volokh/Koppelman/Dorf argument (and there's a serious problem with the "dueling hypocrisy" issue surrounding Masterpiece Cakeshop). There clearly seems to be something different about applying an "anti-boycott" law to a consumer buyer versus demanding a business be neutral in who it sells to (much less hires). How does one even police a consumer boycott (people don't buy Sodastreams every day!)? Perhaps the issue is that the laws targeting a consumer boycott takes otherwise clearly lawful conduct (not buying a Sodastream) and subjects it to civil sanctions solely based on the surrounding expression (I'm not buying a Sodastream because I'm anti-Israel, versus because I don't like carbonated beverages).

Yet as I've previously observed, this actually isn't that far off what discrimination law does on a daily basis: it's legal fire someone, but not legal to fire someone if one's doing it to "express the message" that "I hate Latinos". The latter, too converts conduct from licit to illicit based on something that very easily could be described as "expressive". This is why I find this issue to be genuinely nettlesome.

Of course, Dorf himself notes there might be a valid First Amendment claim against these laws "if the record contained evidence of censorial motivation on the part of the [state] legislature," namely, if the law was passed "for the purpose of suppressing the message sent by boycotts of Israel rather than because of what they regarded as the economic impact of boycotts of Israel." I think the evidence of such an expression-based motive is pretty strong in many of these cases (note how easily it could be avoided if legislators took my advice in crafting these bills!). So perhaps that's our out.

But the crux of the issue, for me, is that however this gets resolved, the resolution better take an eyes-wide-open approach to how the new doctrinal rules interrelate with anti-discrimination law, especially in the context of the ascendant conservative judiciary. So I am very glad that we are seeing someone raise the issue of how the anti-anti-BDS argument might threaten anti-discrimination law.

There are very good reasons why we intuitively think of boycotting as an expressive act that should be protected. There are also very good reasons why "boycott = expressive" runs the risk of taking a torch through important areas of anti-discrimination and public accommodations law. It is hence very important -- especially if we end up taking the boycott-protective position -- that we do so in a way that is careful and conscientious of the discrimination issue.

Botswana Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

The law, a relic of British colonialism which carried a prison sentence of up to seven years, was tossed by the high court as a violation of the dignity, privacy, equality, and liberty to gay and lesbian:
"A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness," Justice Michael Leburu said, according to CNN. Discussing the broad costs of discrimination, he added, "Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity."
Botswana is Africa's oldest continuous democracy.

Is Biden Lying About Bipartisanship?

Kevin Drum makes an interesting point, regarding Joe Biden's oft-mocked paeans to bipartisanship and the supposed willingness of Republicans to "work with him" once the Trump era has passed.
I have no idea what Joe Biden “really” believes about working with Republicans. But I will say this: he’s a politician. There’s zero reason to think he truly believes what he’s saying here. There’s also zero reason to think he doesn’t believe it. The fact that he said it is simply a null input. 
At the same time, Biden isn’t an idiot. Of course he knows what the modern Republican Party is like. But like Obama before him, he also knows that lots of people really like to hear paeans to bipartisanship. We political junkies may hate it, but ordinary people who don’t inhale cable news are suckers for the idea that we can all get along if we just give it a try—and there are way more of them than there are of us. Biden knows this, so that’s what he tells people. Whether he really believes it or not matters not a whit.
It is strange, when one thinks of it, that the possibility that Biden is simply mouthing a platitude that appeals to Joe Average Voter but which he knows full well is probably BS doesn't even occur to us. After all, I myself have talked a bit about the importance of being earnest -- of keeping a straight face and talking about bipartisanship and norms and neutral rules of procedure, even if one really is planning to string the opposition up by its entrails.

I'm not saying Biden is making this play. He's certainly the sort of beltway lifer that could be convinced that the modern GOP can be bargained with. But he also might be the sort of savvy inside player who understands that's now impossible. The whole problem is that either possibility should observationally yield Joe Biden singing the praises of bipartisanship.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Role of Jewish Activists at the DC Dyke March

One thing that's been bandied about in the controversy about the DC Dyke March's decision to ban Jewish Pride flags (for being allegedly too similar to an Israeli flag) is the role that Jewish members of the DCDM played in proposing the policy, defending it public, and later in enforcing it, as part of the group of bouncers seeking to keep Jewish counterprotesters outside of the event.

But "role" is a vague term, and I'm curious about the specifics. Specifically, I can imagine three potential roles the Jewish members could have played in bringing about the Jewish Pride flag.

  1. The policy banning Jewish Pride flags was proposed by other members, and the Jewish members agreed to it, ratified it, or otherwise signaled it was permissible.
  2. Some policy regarding Jewish symbols was proposed by other members, and the Jewish members modified or modulated it -- possibly to make it more limited (i.e., initially it was a ban on all Jewish symbols), or possibly to make it more expansive (i.e. initially it was solely a ban on the Israeli flag, as such).
  3. The Jewish members proposed this policy sua sponte -- it was their idea to have a policy whereby Jewish Pride flags were banned; DCDM wasn't really considering having a policy regarding Jewish Pride flags until the Jewish members brought it up.
In all of these, to one extent or another, the Jewish members might be thought of as having "set up" the DCDM, at least to the extent they presented the policy as a valid compromise that would be viewed as permissible within the Jewish community when anyone could have known it would provoke a furious backlash. But in some they have considerably more agency than others.

On that note, though, the third possibility -- or the "more expansive" iteration of the second -- is the most interesting, because it raises the possibility that the DCDM as a whole viewed itself as deferring to its Jewish members and might have even been taken aback by the strength of the broader communal response. That's hard to process because it's so obvious to us the way in which a policy like this is harmful to Jews, polices Jews, and gatekeeps Jews. But I have to remind myself that most non-Jews don't know that much about Jews, and in particular don't know enough to necessarily realize that the Jews in their little circle who are assuring them "this is fine, this is okay, if anyone gets upset it's just the usual right-wing rabble-rousers" aren't actually representative.

And likewise, remembering that Jews generally pay more attention to Jewish issues than non-Jews means the Jewish DCDM members were among the most likely to have vivid memories of Chicago, and most likely to have strong opinions about what the Jewish Pride flag represents. It strikes me as entirely plausible that they leveraged their "insider knowledge" to present a narrative where this flag was the banner of the infiltrators and the pinkwashers -- a threat that they knew of and were doing the service of warning DCDM about in advance. From their vantage, they were dissipating a threat to Palestinian or Arab safety at the march that otherwise might have gone unnoticed -- like someone who knows a subtle "insider" gesture of White supremacy that, precisely because of its superficial banality, can normally be made in public settings without challenge.

Or maybe not. The Jewish members could have been in reactive role, agreeing with a proposal made by others, and had little to do with placing this issue on their agenda. Most obviously, this could have been a position spearheaded by Palestinian members (or people who identify strongly as "pro-Palestinian" -- though the latter group, of course, overlaps significantly with the Jewish members). As I said, the particular role that the Jewish members played in promulgating this policy is opaque -- other than that they stood (literally) on the front lines to defend it.

But I don't think that it's implausible that their role was a relatively active one -- that at least in part this happened because they wanted it to happen. It is an interesting fact about what I call "dissident minorities" that they often have a material interest in not making the spaces they occupy inclusive to the broader membership of their minority group. A DCDM where more Jews feel comfortable marching is a DCDM where these Jews, in particular, are less influential and less powerful. And so, far from being the brake that prevents the space from going to far, often times they're the accelerator pushing it forward and the bouncers standing between their "compatriots" at the entrance (as was quite literally the case here).

So it's reasonable to wonder if that's what was going on here -- anti-Zionist Jews, in a sense, egging the march on, trying to maneuver it into an antagonistic position towards the broader Jewish community while simultaneously using their own identities to ratify the legitimacy of the posture.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

I'm Taking A Break

I just took my Twitter account private (thread here) and announced that I'm taking a break from that site for an indeterminate period of time.

I do not intend for that break to apply to the blog -- though since virtually everyone who reads my blog nowadays gets to it via Twitter, it may be a bit of a moot point (ironically, since the blog auto-posts to Twitter, anything I write here becomes the exception to the general "Twitter break").

In any event, I wrote a long (like, 3,500 words long) essay explaining exactly why I was departing -- but it's sitting in my draft folder for now. Maybe I'll publish it later. Maybe not. Maybe I'll do it with some deep editing. Depends on how I feel.

I am going on vacation later this week -- a wedding in (far) northern Minnesota (like, way-past-Duluth-northern-Minnesota), followed by Carleton reunion. So even absent this formal break, I might have been quieter anyway.

I mentioned in the thread that I was -- in large part due to how I was relating to Twitter -- feeling sad, and that's true, but I do want to stress that I'm not in any serious emotional crisis or anything like that. So, while I would appreciate any nice thoughts that might be sent my way, I don't want any of y'all to worry on that front.