Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Hannity and Carlson Admit Lying to Audience (Then Try to Fire Fact-Checker), DeSantis Hires Sexist Educator, NYT Writers Protest, Roald Dahl Gets Sanitized, Roberto Clemente Bio Banned, and More
My thoughts on the top--and top-ish--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
The Game Show The Traitors Is the Most Frightening Post-Apocalyptic Series on TV
The most frightening apocalyptic show on television right now isn’t The Last of Us—it’s The Traitors, a reality game show that is a variation of the popular parlor game Mafia. Three of the group are designated traitors while the rest are called the faithful. Every night the traitors secretly eliminate one of the faithful, and the surviving faithful vote out who they think are traitors.
None of that is the least bit frightening.
What is absolutely terrifying is listening to the faithful spew their “reasoning” for whom they vote out of the game and whom they trust. They are all almost always wrong in both. Granted, there is little hard evidence to go on, yet they charge ahead with absolute confidence that they are right. And much indignation and malice at anyone who suggests they aren’t.
Mostly, the faithful target people with whom they have personality clashes, then try to justify their petty grudges using some very lame, middle-school reasoning. Despite repeatedly being wrong (I mean, REPEATEDLY), the faithful proudly brag about using their heart and guts. To them, making decisions based on heart and guts rather than reason is a good thing, despite its ineffectiveness, and they endlessly boast about it.
Whenever one of them actually uses logic to cast suspicion on an undercover traitor, the traitors manipulate everyone else to vote that person out. To see how easily people are led around by their “hearts and guts” is pretty disturbing. It brings me back to the famous line from Nick Hornby’s wonderful novel, High Fidelity: “I've been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old, and frankly speaking, between you and me, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.”
This microcosm of human reasoning reflects the typical way most of us think, forming opinions based on little information but lots of personal biases, then stubbornly and righteously defending those positions— even when new information contradicts it. Worse, it reveals the mob mentality of ganging up on those who disagree with us, even when they offer solid reasoning.
But the show’s illumination of flawed human decision-making doesn’t stop there. The ending of the show strips bare the mantra of all villains of reality shows with cash prizes: “I’m doing it for my family. Sniff. Sniff.” This virtue-signaling is meant to excuse every greedy backstabbing move. I’d prefer it if they just played the game to win without having to elevate themselves as noble saints in disguise. In fact, the winner of The Traitors made the same teary claim even as they unnecessarily betrayed another player in order to take their money.
Yes, it’s just a reality game show, but it is also a frightening demonstration of how people form ill-informed opinions, rationalize those opinions, and become hostile mobs to defend those dumb opinions—all the while being manipulated and betrayed by those they trust. Worst of all, no one learned from their mistakes, which made them easy to take down. Just mention “heart” and “family” and you can persuade most people of anything.
Media: To No One’s Surprise
Fox Stars Privately Expressed Disbelief About Election Fraud Claims. ‘Crazy Stuff.’ (The New York Times)
SUMMARY: “Newly disclosed messages and testimony from some of the biggest stars and most senior executives at Fox News revealed that they privately expressed disbelief about President Donald J. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even though the network continued to promote many of those lies on the air.
“The hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as others at the company, repeatedly insulted and mocked Trump advisers, including Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in text messages with each other in the weeks after the election, according to a legal filing on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion is suing Fox for defamation in a case that poses considerable financial and reputational risk for the country’s most-watched cable news network.
“‘Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,’ Mr. Carlson wrote to Ms. Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2020.
“Ms. Ingraham responded: ‘Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.’
“…Fox News stunned the Trump campaign on election night by becoming the first news outlet to declare Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of Arizona — effectively projecting that he would become the next president. Then, as Fox’s ratings fell sharply after the election and the president refused to concede, many of the network’s most popular hosts and shows began promoting outlandish claims of a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy involving Dominion machines to deny Mr. Trump a second term.”
MY TAKE: The scariest part of this story isn’t that Fox consistently lied. Their twisting of the news into a soggy spit-wad of misinformation has been proven over and over again. What’s scary is the last paragraph of the above summary: when Fox actually reported something accurately, viewers didn’t like the truth and left, forcing a ratings crisis. Their core viewers made their wishes known: whisper sweet nothings in my ear or we’ll find another news gigolo.
The numerous quotes from Fox’s most popular personalities reveals an all-out panic and desperation at damage control. They were so frightened that when their colleague, White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich, tweeted a fact check of Trump’s election lies, they wanted her gone. “Please get her fired,” Carlson told Hannity. “Seriously What the f**k? I’m actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It’s measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down. Not a joke.”
Fair and balanced—depending on stock prices.
New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman gives an apt description of Fox News: “We all sort of knew the truth about Fox, but now there can be no doubt: Fox News is to journalism what the Mafia is to capitalism — same basic genre, but a morally corrupt perversion of the real thing.”
So, with the lack of journalistic integrity they so often have demonstrated, Fox pimped itself out again by supporting kooks and liars that undermined democracy, all so they could woo back the coveted audience that demands to be assured the unvarnished truthiness that the kids today have no respect for traditional conservative values like racism, misogyny, and insurrection. Don’t worry, Fox will service your needs—for a price.
ALSO READ: “Why Fox News Lied to Its Viewers” (The Atlantic); “How Dominion Voting Systems filing proves Fox News was ‘deliberately lying’” (The Guardian); “Fox News texts reveal the truth: The Big Lie was a con — that the viewers were in on” (Salon); “Analysis: Fox News has been exposed as a dishonest organization terrified of its own audience” (CNN)
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Politics: Florida, Where Leadership Goes to Die
DeSantis Rolls Out Red Carpet for Sexist Boob From Idaho (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “An Idaho professor who is a contender for delivering the greatest number of sexist statements in a single speech just got a big job working with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“In a 2021 talk, Scott Yenor of Boise State University said women who have careers are ‘medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome.’
He said society should stop thinking of a girl ‘as a future worker or a future achiever, and start thinking of them as future wives and mothers.’
And, he advised, ‘if we want a great nation, we should be preparing young women to become mothers. Not finding every reason for young women to delay motherhood until they are established in a career or sufficiently independent.’
MY TAKE: It gets worse. Yenor also warns that feminism is a threat to the American way of life because “it teaches young boys and girls that they are motivated by much the same things and want much the same things.” The least we should expect from those put in high positions of education is that their guiding principles are based on opinions formed by research, studies, facts, and logic—you know, Education. But this kind of incel nonsense is just personal religious conviction being force-fed down the gullets of our children to produce a pasty pâté of bitter conservatism.
Unable to build his time machine to transport the U.S. to Kansas in 1950, DeSantis contents himself being a museum curator, painstakingly recreating the nostalgic era in Florida like Archie Bunker singing “Those Were the Days”: “And you knew where you were then/Girls were girls and men were men.”
Except real men wouldn’t be afraid of women having the freedom to choose their path, they’d help make sure those choices were their own.
IN RELATED NEWS:
“Florida’s New College Appoints DeSantis Ally as Prez With Whopper $699K Salary” (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: The New College of Florida’s DeSantis-induced overhaul includes tapping former Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as the college’s interim president—with a whopping $699,000 salary. Corcoran, the former Republican speaker of the Florida House and a close DeSantis ally, will serve in the role until Sept. 1, 2024 or when a permanent president is chosen, whichever comes first. He enters the role less than a month after DeSantis fired former President Patricia Okker in an effort to transform the school—which has just 700 students—with a focus on conservative ideology. Okker made less than half of Corcoran’s salary, at $305,000, prompting concern from trustees and community members.
MY TAKE: You read that right. DeSantis fired the college president for being too woke, then brings in his political crony for double the salary. That’s $1,000 per student, just for his salary. I guess being anti-woke is an expensive business. And, once again, the Florida taxpayers subsidize DeSantis’ presidential run, happily clueless that he’s picking their pockets while they cheer him on. If ignorance is bliss, Florida is that happiest place on Earth.
IN RELATED NEWS:
“Sharpton to DeSantis: Stop censoring Black history” (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network (NAN) founder and MSNBC host, led a march to the Florida Capitol on Wednesday to protest Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rejection of a high school African American history course, accusing the Republican of censoring a fundamental chapter of the nation’s past.
“The civil rights leader walked through Tallahassee to the Statehouse with dozens of supporters who criticized the state’s blocking of the Advanced Placement pilot course.”
MY TAKE: It’s inspiring that Rev. Sharpton is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. Unfortunately, only a few dozen people marched with him against the biggest most dangerous assault on American education in a century. It may seem like it’s just about Black history—but that’s only the canary in the mine shaft. If they are successful there then they can goosestep to the next topic—and the next: There was no Holocaust. Women are better off with men making decisions for them. Immigrants offer nothing to this country.
Sadly, DeSantis and other conservatives think that attacking Black history was the safest first step because they would meet only nominal resistance. So far, they’ve been proven correct as state after state has enacted similar laws restricting the teaching of Black accomplishments and silencing Black voices. Who will stop them?
Media: Read the Room, NYT
SUMMARY: “Nearly 1,000 New York Times contributors, in addition to tens of thousands of subscribers and readers of the Times, signed an open letter on Wednesday to the paper’s standards editor condemning the publication’s coverage of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.
“A second letter organized by the non-profit Glaad (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) on Wednesday spoke against what it called “irresponsible, biased coverage of transgender people” in the Times.
“The Times has asserted that its reporting is nuanced and fair, saying: ‘Glaad’s advocacy mission and the Times’s journalistic mission are different.’
“‘As a news organization, we pursue independent reporting on transgender issues that include profiling groundbreakers in the movement, challenges and prejudice faced by the community, and how society is grappling with debates about care,’ said Charlie Stadtlander, the Times’ director of external communications in a statement that was provided to several media organizations.”
New York Times Blasts Staffers Who Condemned Paper’s Trans Coverage (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: “A day after open letters from both celebrities and New York Times contributors blasted the paper for its coverage of transgender people, executive editor Joe Kahn hit back with a stern newsroom memo defending the coverage and condemning contributors and staffers who railed against it.
“‘Participation in such a campaign is against the letter and spirit of our ethics policy,’ Kahn wrote, later adding: ‘We do not welcome, and will not tolerate, participation by Times journalists in protests organized by advocacy groups or attacks on colleagues on social media and other public forums.’
Kahn argued the open letters ignored the paper’s ‘strong commitment to covering all aspects of transgender issues, including the life experience of transgender people and the prejudice and violence against them in our society.’
The newsroom-wide memo, obtained by The Daily Beast, came hours after staffers began speaking out publicly against the coverage and signing onto the contributors’ open letter. It also came after the Times published an op-ed Thursday titled ‘In Defense of J.K. Rowling,’ by columnist Pamela Paul, who notably wrote a piece questioning the legitimacy of trans women. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has been a leading critic on trans issues.”
MY TAKE: About 1.6 million Americans identify as transgender. So, why all the fuss over such a small segment of society? Because, although the group may be small, the stakes are huge. The first step in marginalizing a group and justifying curbing their rights is to identify them as a small and therefore powerless group outside the mainstream. However, most marginalized groups can be designated as small in relationship to others: Jews, Muslims, Latinx, LGBTQ+, the elderly.
What we need to always be aware of is that how we treat any one marginalized group is how we will treat all of them—given the chance. There is no such thing as ignoring the exploitation of one group hoping they won’t come for you.
I read The New York Times daily, along with many other publications. I trust its integrity based on its history of mostly accurate coverage, despite missteps. However, I don’t have blind faith in any news source. I’m a little shocked that they came out so hard against their own writers. Even if the NYT is technically right in its position (and I’m not saying they are), they look arrogant and childishly stubborn in not even considering the point of view of a lot of very smart and informed people who they pay to be smart and informed.
The letter should have been an opportunity for public self-reflection, meeting with concerned groups, and a presentation of both sides in an atmosphere of co-operation. Instead, we got childish posturing. Would the NYT have acted so adamantly if the letter had been about racist coverage and signed by one thousand civil rights leaders? Their dismissive reaction certainly seems to confirm the letter signatories’ point.
ALSO READ: “NY Times Union Hits Back at Reporters Who Defended Paper’s Trans Coverage” (The Daily Beast)
Kareem’s Video Break
This video is delightful and sure to make you smile. But I choose to think of it as a metaphor for my Substack newsletter being the glasses that suddenly allow readers to see more clearly. Nah. It’s just a really adorable video.
Kareem Short Takes
SUMMARY: “Roald Dahl’s children’s books are being rewritten to remove language deemed offensive by the publisher Puffin.
“Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books ‘can continue to be enjoyed by all today’, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.
“Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word ‘fat’ has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word ‘ugly’ has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.
“Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as ‘enormous’. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer ‘ugly and beastly’ but just ‘beastly’.
“Hundreds of changes were made to the original text – and some passages not written by Dahl have been added. But the Roald Dahl Story Company said ‘it’s not unusual to review the language’ during a new print run and any changes were ‘small and carefully considered’.”
MY TAKE: I’m not a fan of messing with an author’s original text, even when that text might be offensive to modern sensibilities. I would rather that those texts come with some explanation to put it into historical context, as Disney has done with its more problematic older movies. Peter Pan has some very dark moments: Peter proposes murdering a pirate and brags he’s killed “tons.” He also boasts about dismembering others. The Lost Boys get killed and sometimes, if there are too many, Peter “thins them out.” That darkness is part of the power of the story. Though Disney may produce a kinder, gentler movie version, the book remains untouched.
I also take issue with their claim that “any changes were ‘small and carefully considered.’” By small, they mean the number of words changed related to the total number of words in the text. But the examples of changes given in the article are not “small” because they significantly alter the author’s intent. Second, how “carefully considered” the choices were is irrelevant. It’s the act that is being judged, not how long it took you to do it. Casing a business for a long time before burglarizing it doesn’t excuse the crime.
I realize the justification is that the books were written for children and the publishers are pretending they are protecting the children. But Dahl, a notorious racist and antisemite, wrote dark books that were sometimes mean-spirited. Those are reasons to stay away from his books if you seriously wanted to protect children. But the real motivation for these changes is nothing more than money: how can they keep pushing Dahl’s work but for today’s sensibilities. The answer is, you don’t. The work is the work and not for us to change just to scrape up a few more bucks off a famous name.
I fully support producing books that cater to kids’ needs and that reflect our commitment to cultural diversity and sensitivity. If that’s our goal, then let’s support books that do that and not ones that need to be altered. I just don’t want to put words in another author’s mouth without their permission.
Mark Twain’s use of the n-word and racial stereotypes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are offensive by today’s standards, but I still don’t want the book changed. Let’s debate whether it is racist or anti-racist based on what Twain wrote, not change the text into what our current sensibilities want it to say. What art works would be safe once we start editing? A sports bra on Venus de Milo? Board shorts on Michelangelo’s David? Let’s do justice to our children by explaining works and their context rather than treating art like toilet seat bands that promise “sanitized for your protection.”
Roberto Clemente book removed from Florida public schools pending review over discrimination references (NBC News)
SUMMARY: “A book about late Afro-Puerto Rican MLB legend Roberto Clemente can't be found in the shelves of public school libraries in Florida's Duval County these days.
“‘Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ by Jonah Winter and Raúl Colón — and other books about Latino figures such as the late Afro-Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz and Justice Sonia Sotomayor — are among the more than 1 million titles that have been ‘covered or stored and paused for student use’ at the Duval County Public Schools District, according to Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro.”
MY TAKE: In Florida, students in public grade schools can not be taught about discrimination (among other things). Who is Florida protecting? Certainly not the public grade school kids of color who probably have already experienced discrimination. Which just leaves the White students—who parents and politicians hope will be brain-washed enough when they graduate to deny systemic racism exists.
If these young kids were taught to recognize racism, they would be a lot less likely to participate in it when they were older—and possibly even condemn it in others. Including the GOP.
I put this item right next to the one about rewriting Roald Dahl because I think they are both smokescreens about protecting children. Both are really about money. If Republicans are so concerned about the welfare of children, they wouldn’t be so eager to cut food security programs (“Iowa wants to ban food-stamp users from buying meat and flour”), let children walk around openly with guns (“Missouri Republicans vote to allow children to carry guns”), and reverse child labor laws (“Republicans Want to Let Children Clean Meatpacking Plants”).
I hate that children are being used to disguise the fact that the GOP has no party platform, no record of accomplishments, and a whole bunch of elected trolls who do nothing but bray and cackle about rights, while voting to take them away from anyone who doesn’t look or think like them.
ALSO READ: “DeSantis Now Says Teachers Are Shelving Books to Make Him Look Bad” (The Daily Beast)
SUMMARY: New Jersey has announced the expansion of Advanced Placement African American studies across its schools.
In a move counter to Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis’s decision last month to ban African American studies from the state’s high schools, New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, announced the expansion of the class subject yesterday while visiting a Newark high school.
The decision, which comes during Black History Month, will allow for African American studies to be taught in 26 New Jersey high schools during the 2023-2024 academic year. The class is currently in its initial stages of a two-year pilot program across the country, being taught in 60 schools nationwide, one of which is in New Jersey.
Units in the course framework include origins of the African diaspora, as well as freedom, enslavement and resistance, the practice of freedom, and movements and debates.
‘The expansion of AP African American studies in New Jersey will grant our students the opportunity to learn about the innumerable ways in which Black Americans have shaped and strengthened our country,’ said Murphy.
MY TAKE: A shout-out to Gov. Murphy for being a leader developing education in his state rather than trying to dumb down kids in order to scrounge votes from parents who fear education.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Billy Eckstine: “What Kind of Fool Am I?”
This was a tough one for me because I struggled to pick the right song out of the many brilliant options. I ended up with “What Kind of Fool Am I?” because, despite the poor quality of the video, his voice floats cloud-like above the grainy black and white. I also wanted you to see him perform: to be amazed at this powerful bass-baritone voice booming from this slender man wearing the skinniest tie in existence.
Eckstine was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 “for performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” Unfortunately, posthumous recognition didn’t help him while he struggled in the face of racism. Quincy Jones said of Billy, “If he'd been white, the sky would have been the limit. As it was, he didn't have his own radio or TV show, much less a movie career. He had to fight the system, so things never quite fell into place.”
Listening to Billy Eckstine’s voice is like arriving in an exotic place for a relaxing vacation. It envelops and lifts. After you’ve listened to the above video, go to YouTube or your music streaming service and treat yourself to an hour of pure Billy delight.