Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue--Debunkery Edition

Every now and then I get overwhelmingly irritated by tendencies of the modern mind, particularly the ones that preclude rational thought. Like Ford Prefect, I start to feel that people are trying to keep their brains from working:

At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior [stating the obvious]. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried about the terrible number of things they didn’t know about.

Debunkery is one such tendency.

I know that "debunkery" is not actually a word. I've invented it to mean:

Debunkery (n) 1) the practice of debunking ideas or beliefs, or discrediting people, 2) a habitual predilection for debunking things, 3)the belief that debunking a belief automatically confers moral or factual correctness on the debunker, 4)the use of debunking specifically for the purpose of establishing oneself as a hub around which accuracy and virtue revolve

Debunkery is closely related to another tendency, that I haven't yet named. (I could, in fact, use some help naming it). It's the need to decry one thing in order to like another. (Perhaps we could call it "decryitude.") This tendency is well described in Arnold Lobel's wonderful story "The Club:"

grasshopper2.jpg

“This is a meeting of the We Love Morning Club,” said the beetle. “Every day we get together to celebrate another bright, fresh morning. Grasshopper, do you love morning?” asked the beetle.
“Oh yes,” said Grasshopper.
“Hooray!” shouted all the beetles.
“Grasshopper loves morning!”
“I knew it,” said the beetle. “I could tell by your kind face. You are a morning lover.”

“I love afternoon too,” said Grasshopper.
The beetles stopped singing and dancing.
“What did you say?” they asked.
“I said that I loved afternoon,” said Grasshopper.
All the beetles were quiet.
“And night is very nice,” said Grasshopper.

“Stupid,” said a beetle.
He grabbed the wreath of flowers.
“Dummy,” said another beetle.
He snatched the sign from Grasshopper.
“Anyone who loves afternoon and night can never, never be in our club!” said a third beetle.

“UP WITH MORNING!” shouted all the beetles.

grasshopper.jpg

You can see this played out in ways great and small. For instance, go to YouTube and look for videos about Benedict Cumberbatch's masterful performance of a 21st-century Sherlock Holmes

and you will inevitably find comments about how Jeremy Brett's extraordinary, and more traditional, performance of a Victorian Holmes is garbage upon the bottom of the commenter's shoe. Brett can't be a good Holmes, you see...because Cumberbatch is.

Dash 1Dash 1Dash 1

My Something Old and Something New today demonstrate both these tendencies, so often found hand in hand.

Something/Someone Old
222old.jpg

My Something Old is the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird

to-kill-a-mockingbird.jpg

For those of you who don't know it, this novel, published in 1960, was a semi-autobiographical fictional account of white children growing up in the Deep South, without a mother, but with a highly ethical father who was also a well-regarded local lawyer. The father, Atticus Finch,gets appointed to take the case of a Black man accused of raping and beating a white woman and, rather than doing what was socially expected--going through the motions--he actually defends him the same way he would defend a white man. Lee shows the reactions of the town to the stand taken by Atticus, and to the trial itself, through the eyes of a little girl, Scout. Scout narrates the story as an adult, telling her memories. Yet Lee preserves the child Scout's perspective intact while still allowing the adult's judgement and greater understanding to hover in the wings, watching. This technique is not easy, and is one of the reasons Harper Lee deserved the Pulitzer she got for this novel.

In the novel, Atticus is a hero. In fact, his daughter idealizes him. So does most of America, since if they didn't read the book in school, they watched the movie with Gregory Peck:

to_kill_mockingbird_1962_11_-_h_2016.jpg

tokillamockingbird-06072017.jpg

A few years ago, a great stir happened, as Harper Lee's sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird was published. There was some controversy around the publication, as Miss Lee had always said she would never publish again, and had in fact led a very retired life, and only in advanced age and with some serious health conditions, including some that affected her mind, did publication of the sequel happen. Some thought she had been influenced to do something which she, in her healthier days, had not wanted to do.

Be that as it may, Go Set a Watchman emerged into the public mind.

Something New
icon_new.png

goseta.jpg

Now, I have not read Go Set a Watchman. Initially, I felt a bit squeamish about the fact that it looked like Harper Lee had been manipulated into doing something she never wanted to do, and that made me reluctant to read it. Then, when it became apparent that discussion of Go Set a Watchman revolved around its Big Reveal--namely, that Atticus Finch was a racist--I realized I didn't want to participate in that discussion--not because I refused to believe that Atticus was a racist, but because I always knew that he was. It was somewhat reminiscent of when I went with another LGBTQ friend to see The Crying Game, and we were waiting for the Big Twist. After a long while, I leaned over and whispered to her: "The big twist wasn't that his love interest is a drag queen, and not biologically female, is it?" "I think it was," she whispered back, both of us a bit disconsolate at having wasted our anticipation on something so obvious.

I always knew Atticus was racist. But Atticus is a racist who is willing to put his body between an accused Black man and a lynch mob. He is a racist who is willing to risk his children's lives by defending that Black man when most of the town would rather he didn't. He is, in fact, a character who is both right and wrong.

This does not mean that Atticus Finch is a resident of the "well everything's so morally gray and all us adults know the world can't be fit easily into categories of good and evil so never mind all that morality stuff" intellectual abyss; Harper Lee is much too fine a writer, and much too honest an artist, to spread such garbage, which uses complexity as an excuse for amoral behavior while ignoring how any particular complex situation actually works. Atticus is able to be both a racist and a moral man--both right and wrong--because the moral center he is defending is not actually about race, but about what the law, and the courts, are supposed to be. Defending that moral center leads him inexorably into a struggle with entrenched, structual racism in his town, even though he himself has racist beliefs.

I sensed there would be an upsurge of debunkery and Morning Is Tops style thinking in the wake of this publication, and so I stayed out of it. Now I'm sorry I did, because not having read the novel makes it more difficult for me to critique debunkery like the following video by Lindsay Ellis.

When I clicked on this, I didn't think it was about Atticus Finch or Harper Lee at all. It looked like a critique of Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies. I never got to that part because I got so annoyed at the clumsy debunkery:

Atticus doesn't care about Black people or their plight in the Jim Crow South? He's just a good lawyer who was appointed to do a job?

"If you shouldn't be defendin' him, then why are you doin' it?"

"For a number of reasons," said Atticus. "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town, I couldn't represent this county in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again."

And then there's the scene where Atticus puts himself outside Tom Robinson's jail cell. "Just doing a job" would hardly be enough motivation for me to risk myself at the hands of a lynch mob:

In ones and twos, men got out of the cars. Shadows became substance as lights revealed solid shapes moving toward the jail door. Atticus remained where he was. The men hid him from view.

“He in there, Mr. Finch?” a man said.

“He is,” we heard Atticus answer, “and he’s asleep. Don’t wake him up.”

In obedience to my father, there followed what I later realized was a sickeningly comic aspect of an unfunny situation: the men talked in near-whispers.

“You know what we want,” another man said. “Get aside from the door, Mr. Finch.”

“You can turn around and go home again, Walter,” Atticus said pleasantly. “Heck Tate’s around somewhere.” “The hell he is,” said another man. “Heck’s bunch’s so deep in the woods they won’t get out till mornin’.”

“Indeed? Why so?”


“Called ’em off on a snipe hunt,” was the succinct answer. “Didn’t you think a’that, Mr. Finch?”

“Thought about it, but didn’t believe it. Well then,” my father’s voice was still the same, “that changes things, doesn’t it?”

“It do,” another deep voice said. Its owner was a shadow.

“Do you really think so?”

This was the second time I heard Atticus ask that question in two days, and it meant somebody’s man would get jumped. This was too good to miss. I broke away from Jem and ran as fast as I could to Atticus.

Jem shrieked and tried to catch me, but I had a lead on him and Dill. I pushed my way through dark smelly bodies and burst into the circle of light.

“H-ey, Atticus!”

I thought he would have a fine surprise, but his face killed my joy. A flash of plain fear was going out of his eyes, but returned when Dill and Jem wriggled into the light.

There was a smell of stale whiskey and pigpen about, and when I glanced around I discovered that these men were strangers. They were not the people I saw last night. Hot embarrassment shot through me: I had leaped triumphantly into a ring of people I had never seen before.

Atticus got up from his chair, but he was moving slowly, like an old man. He put the newspaper down very carefully, adjusting its creases with lingering fingers. They were trembling a little.

“Go home, Jem,” he said. “Take Scout and Dill home.”

Yeah. That sounds like somebody who doesn't care.

Debunkery and decryitude are inherently reductionist modes of thought. As such, they tend towards the abstract and the authoritarian. Imagine the conversation we could have if we actually discussed how Atticus' morality was constituted, on what it was based, and how he both lived up to it and failed it.

You can acknowledge the moments he rises to moral greatness-and understand how that morality was constituted--and also feel with the grown-up Scout when she says:

goseta2.png

Something Borrowed
cuprobots_striatic.jpg

My Something Borrowed today is the song "Oye, Como Va?"

For a long time I didn't know Carlos Santana's version of this song was a cover:

It was actually written by Puerto Rican jazz great Tito Puente. Here's a live performance of it by Mr. Puente. I really loved the video I found of him doing this song at the Newport Jazz Festival, but now can't find it! Darn.

Something Blue
hours-cookie29rv.JPG

This is a picture of the Bahamas and the ocean around it, from space:

bluebahamas.jpg

up
21 users have voted.

Comments

mhagle's picture

enjoyed reading your essay this morning.

Thank you sincerely!

up
14 users have voted.

Marilyn

Let's save the planet for our kids. Tree Hugger to the end.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@mhagle Good morning, Marilyn! Thanks for stopping by.

up
5 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

Lookout's picture

I didn't know Harper Lee, but I know a few folks that were her friends. She lived as a recluse in Monroeville in SW AL. She wrote Go Set a Watchman before she wrote mockingbird. The former from the view of a young adult, the latter from the view of a child. Mockingbird is definitely the better (more hopeful) book.

Perhaps tribalism is at play with your concept of "decryitude". The grasshopper story reminds me of the Lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels. Their war was over breaking open an egg from the little end or big end. Trivial argument by "little people".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilliput_and_Blefuscu

E. O. Wilson, famed AL naturalist, views human behavior through a lens of tribalism.

In experiments where psychologists divided people into groups of arbitrarily assigned traits—labeling one set the Blue team and another the Green, for example—the groups started sniping at each other and expressing strong prejudices toward their “opponents,” with the Greens insisting the Blues were untrustworthy and unfair. The “drive to form and take deep pleasure from in-group membership easily translates at a higher level into tribalism,” Wilson says, and can spark religious, ethnic and political conflicts of breathtaking brutality.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/edward-o-wilsons-new-take-...

Tribalism can explain many behaviors.

Well here's hoping you all are members of a peaceful tribe. Peace out.

up
17 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Lookout Tribalism is a similar kind of thinking that operates off the same kind of binary (this is good so that must be bad; this is right so that must be wrong) but in the case of these books the group or tribe doesn't pre-exist the judgement. Unlike partisan politics, for example, where Democrats and Republicans exist and people choose which they are and then binary judgments follow on which team you play for, here the judgement comes first and then, possibly, teams of people arise (Cumberbatch fans vs Brett fans, for instance).

up
12 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

The Aspie Corner's picture

up
9 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@The Aspie Corner That seems to be de rigeur for the U.S. military. The CIA, assorted private security firms, and some fifth-branch military always seem to stick around. Although, technically, the CIA is a civilian institution and not part of our military (what a load of crap).

up
8 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

The Aspie Corner's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal will make the average moron howl even more about refugees, terrorists, immigration, and not once will they even try to connect any of it to what we and other western powers are doing to the planet for the preservation of capitalism. After all, since when have the bourgeoisie ever been loyal to lines on a map? Or the people they exploit?

up
11 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

up
6 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

QMS's picture

Enjoy your OT. Under the something old category... eliminating pre-conceived notions and prejudices is the challenge of making a reasoned judgement. The symbol of 'blind justice' has become just another worn out old cliche'. Expected outcomes are written into the threads of current issues. The notion of either / or is just another form of dumbing down responses. Separating facts from opinions and truth from fiction is a dying mental exercise. Hence the spawning of fake news and views. Rational thought is the enemy of propaganda. Clear thinking is no longer a virtue. It is threat to the thought police, IMHO.

up
9 users have voted.

Use the Lincoln Law to fight government fraud.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@QMS This is precisely where I'm pushing back. This is a slightly different front of the same war.

up
8 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

enhydra lutris's picture

are closely related. I further suspect that both have multiple wellsprings.This is both in that some might decry because A, while others might do so because B and yet others in part because of A, in part because of B, and in part also because of X and Y.

There is a tendency toward idolatry that could well play a role. Binary thinking, of course is a likely factor. Ideological thinking is a suspect, I suspect, wherein everything not perfectly integrated with one's schema must be debunked and decried (think, for example, how for some everything had to be part of a dialectical process). Insecurity as to the correctness of one's view might play a role. If one has exalted Cumberbatch, then one must denigrate Brett and all other possible contenders so that no other is within striking range of the crown. Only then is one assured that one's selection is correct.

Meanwhile, I need breakfast.

Have a great one.

up
10 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@enhydra lutris Wow, you're right, it is monarchical thinking. Holy shit, enhydra. Thanks for the insight.

up
7 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

zoebear's picture

I was 11 years old the first time I read Harper Lee's iconic work. From my pre-adolescent viewpoint of fictional narrative, Atticus Finch's "goodness" seemed less interesting to me then Boo Radley's "Badness".

Complexity speaks to motivation which ultimately is the adult part of the story. As an adult, I am less interested in pigeon holing a subject for the sake of constructing an argument, then I am in unpacking an issue for the sake of discussion.

Thank you for the thought provoking essay. I only wish we could all gather together, sip some iced tea, munch on some homemade orange cranberry scones, and have one of those ultimate gab fests that leaves everyone enriched.

Time well spent.

up
11 users have voted.

There's no point in following someone who is controlled by my enemies ~~ CStMS

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@zoebear I was fascinated by both Boo and Atticus, and their relationship to each other. I would love to have such a meet-up.

Perhaps a once-a-year Meetup for all that can come? With, perhaps, a travel fund contributed to by those that can, to help those who don't have enough money to travel? Then again, often the money problem is also a time problem (no way to take time off).

Further, I am forced to admit that before we started raising money for such a get-together, we'd need to better fund our electronic home...

up
8 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

EdMass's picture

Hitchhikers?

The World's about to end

Towel?

up
5 users have voted.

" What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Let us count the ways...

H> and Warmongering Corprocrats FTW!

Stop The War!

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@EdMass Don't panic.

up
4 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

A photo from a book my aunt re-gifted me in 1984, when I got SCUBA certified for work.viertelblueplankton.jpg
Blue planet: man's hopes for life in the sea.
It's a kid's book from 1973, full of hope.

That Friendly Word, Ecology

It comes from the Greek word, oikos, that translates as "house". Ecology is the science of good housekeeping, of being good neighbors. And that begins with recognizing that ALL living organisms, including mankind, live in one house. There is no moving day, no convenient suburb to hie to!

It is signed, to my aunt and uncle from Janet Viertel.
SCUBA is short for self contained underwater breathing apparatus, in case anyone was wondering.
---
This is where I was paid to dive, to scrape mussels and barnacles and stuff off the intake screen for the fish farm's ginormous seawater pumps:
goflyakiteestero.jpg
where the Estero Americano meets the Pacific Ocean
just south of Bodega Bay

This is such a huge loss, yesterday was a terrible day. Please honor Susan Williams by learning about her work at the Marine Lab:
Susan Williams
Professor
Department of Evolution and Ecology
Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute
Bodega Marine Lab
thanks
---
Bodega Bay scientist dies in six-vehicle Petaluma crash, three others injured

A distinguished marine biologist from the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory was killed in a Tuesday morning crash that injured three others and closed Lakeville Highway in Petaluma for more than four hours.

Susan Williams, 66, of Bodega Bay died in the chain reaction crash just before 7:15 a.m. during the busy morning commute on Lakeville Highway near South McDowell Boulevard Extension.

In 1984 I was following a dual milk tanker in the morning commute on Lakeville Highway on my way back to work, when the driver fell asleep and took out six cars coming head on the other direction. It was the first fatal accident I ever saw, and I am still having PTSD about it today I guess. Plus, yesterday was my mom's birthday 4/24/24. fuck

up
8 users have voted.

Bother.

zoebear's picture

@eyo

car accident not long ago on the Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles. It was also early in the morning. Traffic was heavy but it was moving at a good pace. I could see the black BMW coming up behind me in my rear view mirror weaving in and out of lanes. It passed by me at 90 mph and then merged into the lane directly in front of me at the same time another car was merging from the other side. They collided and then veered into the other lanes causing a chain reaction of 11 cars crashing into each other like a nightmarish pinball machine. I'm sure it all happened in a few nano seconds but felt like time had stopped still as I pressed on my brakes hoping, but not knowing, if I would stop in time. I did. As did the cars in back of me. Thank God. Have avoided that freeway ever since.

I'm so sorry to hear of your sadness today. Sad

up
5 users have voted.

There's no point in following someone who is controlled by my enemies ~~ CStMS

Japan was suing California for the Immigration Act, a.k.a. the Asian Exclusion Act.

People who supported the 1924 Immigration Act often used eugenics as justification for restriction of certain races or ethnicities of people in order to prevent the spread of feeblemindedness in American society.[17] Most proponents of the law were rather concerned with upholding an ethnic status quo and avoiding competition with foreign workers.[18] Samuel Gompers, a Jewish immigrant and founder of the AFL, supported the Act because he opposed the cheap labor that immigration represented, despite the fact that the Act would sharply reduce Jewish immigration.[19]

The law sharply curtailed immigration from those countries that were previously host to the vast majority of the Jews in America, almost 75 percent of whom immigrated from Russia alone.[20] Because Eastern European[which?] immigration only became substantial in the final decades of the nineteenth century, the law's use of the population of the United States in 1890 as the basis for calculating quotas effectively made mass migration from Eastern Europe[who?], where the vast majority of the Jewish diaspora lived at the time, impossible.[21]

Lobbyists from California,[who?] where a majority of Japanese and other East Asian immigrants had settled, were especially concerned with excluding Asian immigrants.[why?] An 1882 law had already put an end to Chinese immigration, but as Japanese (and, to a lesser degree, Korean and Filipino) laborers began arriving and putting down roots in Western states, an exclusionary movement formed in reaction to the “Yellow Peril.” Valentine S. McClatchy, founder of The McClatchy Company and a leader of the anti-Japanese movement, argued, “They come here specifically and professedly for the purpose of colonizing and establishing here permanently the proud Yamato race,” citing their supposed inability to assimilate to American culture and the economic threat they posed to white businessmen and farmers. Despite some hesitation from President Calvin Coolidge and strong opposition from the Japanese government, with whom the U.S. government had previously maintained a cordial economic and political relationship, the act was signed into law on May 24, 1924.

A lot of which? and who? from the wiki editors there but still... signed in to law.

On the same day my mom was born in San Francisco, California:

Born: Clement Freud, broadcaster, radio personality and politician, in Berlin, Germany

Huh! Four hops from Edward Bernays. That was fun.

Made in Japan - John Entwistle

平和 (heiwa)

up
3 users have voted.

Bother.

I wonder how much of the binary thinking we observe is cultivated by TPTB in order to promote tribalism, making it easier to control the narrative by othering unapproved ideas or people (ie RussiaRussiaRussia), and how much arises naturally because the general population is exhausted by the struggle to survive, let alone make sense of the conflicting realities we are offered on a daily basis. It certainly requires more mental effort to consider the nuances of multiple alternatives, particularly when our schools are discouraged from teaching critical thinking skills.

up
5 users have voted.

There are so many cool observations and links here I'm neglecting my other reading.

In regard to the observation that some people have:

the need to decry one thing in order to like another

There is evidence that our feelings of hate and love is hardwired in our brains and the circuits strongly overlap (and, who knows, maybe some people have their wires "crossed").

The study thus shows that there is a unique pattern of activity in the brain in the context of hate. Though distinct from the pattern of activity that correlates with romantic love, this pattern nevertheless shares two areas with the latter, namely the putamen and the insula.

up
3 users have voted.