Friday, March 22, 2024

Jewish Protests at Berkeley, a Follow Up and Victory Lap

UC-Berkeley Political Science professor Ron Hassner has ended his sleep-in protest, stating that the university administration has agreed to all of his requests. In particular he flagged the following:

(1) First, he asked that "all students, even the ones wearing Stars of David, should be free to pass through [Sather Gate] unobstructed. The right of protestors to express their views must be defended. It does not extend to blocking or threatening fellow students." The university has since "posted observers from the Division of Student Affairs to monitor bullying at the gate. These are not the passive yellow-vested security personnel who have stood around Sproul in prior weeks. The Student Affairs representatives are there to actively document bullying, abuse, blocking, or intrusion on personal space."

(2) The second request was for the Chancellor to "'uphold this university’s venerable free speech tradition' by inviting back any speaker whose talk has been interrupted or canceled. The chancellor did so gladly and confidently. The speaker who was attacked by a violent mob three weeks ago spoke to an even larger crowd this Monday."

(3) The third request was to fund and implement "mandatory Islamophobia and anti-Semitism training on campus". This has also apparently been arranged.

I give Ron a lot of credit. First, he's not dunking on the administration here, in fact, he gives them a lot of credit: "It is my belief that campus leaders would have fulfilled all these requests of their own accord even in the absence of my sleep-in.... At best, our sleep-in reinforced the university’s determination to act and accelerated the process somewhat."

Second, it's important to emphasize that Ron's protest did not ask or come close to asking that Berkeley silence anyone else's speech, including that of the protesters at Sather Gate. While they should not be able to obstruct Jewish students seeking to travel to campus, they have the right to present their views as well as anyone. It is not a concession but an acknowledgment of the proper role of the university administration that he did not press for them to end the protests outright.

Third, one might notice that Hassner's last demand was for antisemitism and Islamophobia training to be implemented on campus. In recent years, it has become almost cliched to hear certain putative anti-antisemitism warriors express fury whenever the fight against antisemitism is paired with the fight against Islamophobia, racism, or other forms of bigotry. They call it "All Lives Mattering" (although, when these coalitions against hate form and antisemitism isn't included in the collective, they call it "Jews Don't Count"). I've long thought that this was an abuse of the "All Lives Matter" concept, and it is notable that Hassner -- who not only has a ground-level perspective but who is actually putting his money where his mouth is in terms of combatting antisemitism -- doesn't see the pairing as a distraction or diminishment of what he's been fighting for but as an asset. More people could stand to take note.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Art Maven Roundup

All of the sudden, I've been on an art kick. The below image is a silkscreen I recently purchased from DC-based artist Halim Flowers. Flowers was convicted of felony murder as a juvenile and sentenced to two life terms. He was released after serving 22 years following statutory reforms aimed a juvenile offenders who had received life sentences, and now is showing in galleries around the world.

Pictured: "Audacity to Love (IP) (Blue)" by Halim Flowers. The colors are meant to be reminiscent of the Israeli and Palestinian flags (blue and white, and red, white, and green).

* * *

Trump continues to show his contempt for American Jews, saying any Jew who doesn't support him "hates their religion" (and Israel).

An in-depth story about a White supremacist who was elected to city council in Enid, Oklahoma, and the recall campaign to try and remove him.

Given the well-covered softness in Biden's support in the Muslim community, it seems suicidal to me for Democrats to give into the repulsive Islamophobic attacks holding up the confirmation of Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Adeel Mangi (the story indicates that Biden has remained rock-solid in backing his confirmation, but there may be some misgivings in the Senate Democratic caucus).

Writing on the sudden "heterodox" support for revisionist accounts justifying George Floyd's murder, Radley Balko flags what has been obvious for a long time: as much as this cadre likes to bleat about respecting truth, free-thinking, and rationality, it is as if not more beholden to ideologically-convenient narratives at the expense of reality. Pretty much everyone on the internet has been sharing this with their own story of the alt-center blowing past truth in order to push conservative grievance politics; mine was watching them stand in unblinking support of a hit piece on California's Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum even after it was revealed the author completely fabricated the inclusion of a seemingly-damning antisemitic quote.

Interesting retrospective on the Israeli Black Panthers in JTA.

The Supreme Court's frosty reception to the contention that government officials privately lobbying social media companies to take down misinformation is a First Amendment violation is the latest suggestion that the Court is finally losing patience with the regular drumbeat of insane legal theories emanating out of hyper-conservative Fifth Circuit.

Conversations with Normies

I enjoy talking to my brother about politics because he is, for lack of a better way of putting it, far more normal than I am. He is not passionate about politics, but he's not ignorant about it either. He pays some measure of attention because he's a good citizen who cares about the world around him, but it's not something he's independently especially interested in. There are, of course, a lot more people like him than there are people like me, even though there are a lot more people like me talking about politics online. So chatting with my brother feels like getting a sense of the pulse of normie America (even though of course he's not necessarily representative).

In terms of ideology, my brother is probably best described as a moderate Democrat. His line for the past several years has been pretty consistent in saying that there is a universe where he could imagine voting Republican, but it is not our universe because he fully recognizes that the Republican Party in America today is fully captured by insane people. 

So there was never any question that he'll be voting blue come November. But we happened to have a chat about his current political outlook on things. I present these not as endorsement or non-endorsement, but simply because what he said may be of interest to a readership who I suspect is (like me, unlike him) very much not of the normie bent.

1. He loves Joe Biden. One of the first things he said was that he's annoyed and frustrated by the notion that Biden is "the lesser of two evils" or a sort of shit sandwich you have to swallow given the alternative. My brother thinks Biden is great! He thinks he's had a tremendously successful presidency! In particular, my brother gave Biden a bunch of credit for lowering political temperatures and trying to pursue actual solutions to problems rather than demagoguing and grandstanding. 

Admittedly, my brother started off as a Biden supporter -- he was his favorite candidate at the outset of the 2020 primary (back when David was deciding between Booker and Warren). But now he wonders if he's really alone in that assessment, because so much of the prevailing narrative is centered around how nobody actually likes Joe Biden, they at best tolerate him. My brother is a loud and proud "I like Biden" guy.

2. He's lost patience with Israel's Gaza campaign. We're both Jewish, and while neither of us is super religious, we've both stayed involved in Jewish life as adults (and unlike me, he's visited Israel). He was obviously repelled by what happened on October 7 and thinks Hamas is a despicable terrorist outfit. Nonetheless, his take on the current status of the conflict in Gaza is that at this stage it feels to him as if it is no longer (if it ever was) about Israel's security, and now is just unconstrained vengeance being taken out upon the Palestinian population. He has no trust in or love for Bibi, and thinks he needs to go.

3. He's interested in Freddie DeBoer. That was, of all the names, the person he said he'd been reading recently whose work had been resonating with him -- didn't agree with all of it, but found him thought-provoking particularly on matters of mental health and "wokeness". I confessed that I hadn't thought about Freddie DeBoer in ages, so I couldn't really react to it. I suggested reading Matt Yglesias' "Slow Boring"; he laughed because Yglesias and DeBoer apparently despise each other even as they (in his mind) didn't seem too far apart when it came to tangible policy beliefs.

4. He's skeptical about the impact of "woke" trends. He doesn't identify with the efforts to destroy trans health care or anything like that (again -- he recognizes the GOP is crazy). But he did express concern about what he described as "wokeness", even though he also said he thought that term was clearly imprecise for what he was speaking of since it also captures plenty of activity he fully approves of. 

At first, I assumed he was talking about certain cringy performative activities that I could imagine being grating to someone of his views. But he emphasized that it wasn't just a matter of performance -- in his space (the non-profit world), he felt as if impactful programs that were doing a lot of good in marginalized communities were getting short-changed as donor priorities redirected towards initiatives that could more easily packaged as messaging DEI values (even if they didn't tangibly improve as many lives in the communities they purported to be uplifting). So his grief was partially an objection to performance, but with a tangible kick. I recommended he read Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò; he said he had heard of it but hadn't had the chance to read it.