Good Friday Morning! I didn’t think this newsletter was going out today — but here we are this week. MailChimp decided that going down the night before I write these things was a perfect moment to crash. And by a crash, I mean I couldn’t even log in to their site to set up anything for today. But they finally gave the all clear and here I am drawing from my days as a college student making a mad dash for the proverbial pencils down moment. Panic is a pretty exciting way to write; let me tell you.
This week I’m writing up some analysis that seemingly engulfed all cable news shows and the Twitter-sphere: everyone’s favorite Democratic Socialist: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Yes. I know. Get your groans out now — links to follow.
One quick hit before jumping in this week. Joe Biden continues to get a raw deal in the media, as I wrote in my CI column this past week, and it keeps getting worse. Now “journalists” are trying to make old Uncle Joe out to be a racist — yes, you read that right. The leading players in the media want either Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg to win out, so they’re trying to do everything in their power to break black voters away from Biden.
Here’s the thing: Barack Obama gave Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom and called him one of the best Vice Presidents the country had ever had. I don’t care what you think about Obama, Biden, or the accuracy of any of those things. I do want to point out that if anyone on earth thought or knew if Biden was a racist — Barack Obama would be at the top of that list. And it’s extremely telling that these journalists dropping these hits on Biden aren’t calling up Obama for his thoughts on any of these stories. Media bias — hitting Biden who they don’t like and helping candidates that they do.
Also telling or interesting: these charges are mostly coming from white progressive elites who are trying to say to blacks who they should or shouldn’t vote for in the election.
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
Some thoughts I’ve had while reading the fantastic new book by David Epstein, Range.
We often write about media bias against conservatives. That is a real thing with a real effect. It’s interesting to watch it work against Democrats, specifically Joe Biden.
The AOC-splainers run to the rescue
As a long time Twitter user and overall consumer of political news, I’ve seen some dumb pundit fights. The number of stupid arguments has escalated with the emergence and domination of social media, and put on steroids in the Trump era. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is proving that the Trump news cycle phenomenon isn’t a passing fling that will pass once Trump is gone. It’s the new normal.
AOC went on Instagram and gave one of her patented stupid statements:
In a live broadcast on social media, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised the rhetorical stakes around the [border] crisis by likening the Trump administration’s treatment of migrants to the Holocaust. This “authoritarian and fascist presidency,” she said, was running a network of concentration camps. “’Never Again’ means something,” Ocasio-Cortez closed.
If comparing the border, immigration system, detention facilities of the United States to the concentration camps of the Nazis seems extreme and insane — you’d be right. These are detention facilities where people are awaiting processing through the woefully inadequate immigration system (which, as an aside, if this situation is as bad as AOC claims, she’s saying Trump was right to declare an emergency).
But if you thought what AOC was insane — you wouldn’t be a member of the media. Her journalist defenders rushed to her aid to defend her use of concentration camps. Noah Rothman had this roundup:
“If you spend a few minutes learning some actual history, you will find out that concentration camps are different from death camps and have a history that both predates and extends far past the Nazis,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes wrote when Rep. Liz Cheney objected to Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison.
“We need a word for the chutzpah of gentile supporters of a fascist president bent on ethnic cleansing giving the rest of us sanctimonious lectures on anti-Semitism,” New York Times opinion writer Michelle Goldberg vouchsafed.
“When we find ourselves rules-lawyering over the exact definition of ‘concentration camps,’” the author Laurie Penny opined, “that’s about when the dance of plausible deniability starts looking like a goose-step.”
Dismissing AOC’s invocation of the Holocaust, some in the press and academia even tried to convince observers that the congresswoman was really likening America’s treatment of migrants to the British internment of civilians in the Boer War.
Call me crazy — but AOC doesn’t strike me as the type of person with an overabundance of knowledge regarding the Boer War.
Words have meaning, both in literalness and in culture. Concentration camps have a specific Holocaust purpose because the Nazis imbued those camps with more moral evil than the world had ever known.
Hanging, lynching, burning crosses, and swastikas all had meanings too. But events shifted the meaning of those symbols. If someone uses lynching or burning crosses as a symbol, you know instinctively that it’s a profoundly racist meaning. There’s no doubt about it. Likewise, when Brooklyn starts seeing multiple reports of swastikas in Jewish neighborhoods (in AOC’s progressive backyard), there’s a specific meaning.
Concentration camps existed before the Holocaust, sure. You can say that. You’re also egregiously whitewashing history to remove the intense moral depravity of that term to defend a first-term politician.
But that wasn’t all. As those defenses fell apart, the media fell back to old scapegoats:
As is often the case when a story reflects negatively on Democrats, political media’s focus quickly shifted from the subject of the story to the Republican response to the story. According to the Washington Post, Ocasio-Cortez doggedly “presses the case” for using the term “concentration camps” even amid “Republican outcry.” Highlighting the Republican reaction here serves no greater purpose than to provide the congresswoman with antagonists and the Post’s readers a foil.
The New York Times followed suit, reached for an old standby when reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg noted that the GOP had “pounced” on the comments—suggesting that Republicans are animated by opportunism rather than genuine revulsion. Buried in the Times dispatch was a revelation of at least if not more news value than the GOP’s response to Ocasio-Cortez: the Democratic Party’s non-reaction. Stolberg could find only one Democrat—a descendant of Holocaust survivors—who objected to this callous moral equivalency.
Here’s the deal. When it comes to stupid comments made on Instagram or Twitter, you have to treat AOC as a progressive Trump clone. She says dumb things, whether knowingly or not-knowingly to drive up antagonism and get more hate from her opponents. That almost reflexively forces her side to defend her. It’s the politics of tribalism and reverse-polarization.
What’s somewhat new here is the media: they’re running in to reflexively defend her as Trump surrogates did for him early on in his candidacy.
Early on, Trump would tweet something mind-bogglingly stupid. The next day, someone like Newt Gingrich or Corey Lewandowski would happily go on cable television to defend that tweet and “explain” it to rope it into political discourse. It didn’t matter what Trump said. His explainers could make it a “conservative” talking point.
AOC has the same kind of defenders now. They’re happily explaining away anything she says trying to mainstream her thoughts. And because it’s a reflex now like coughing, kicking your knee when tapped, throwing objects at your TV when Alabama gets another first down, the media is conditioned to support her the way Trump gets support: unconditionally and without question.
The Trump era is only the beginning. Media pundits reading our current moment as unique to his personality alone are missing the broader cultural shifts happening. The left is getting their own versions of Trump, and they’ll defend her to the death, no matter what she says.
Links of the week
Harvard’s False Path to Wisdom – David Brooks, The New York Times
Harvard Demonstrates Once Again That Post-Christian America Is Post-Forgiveness America – David French, National Review
Josh Hawley’s Internet Censorship Bill Is an Unwise, Unconstitutional Mess – David French, National Review
Word of the Week: ‘Concentration camp’ – Nicholas Clairmont, The Washington Examiner
Jewish groups slam Ocasio-Cortez for comparing US border control to ‘concentration camps’: “There is a long tradition of members of Congress saying dumb things; nevertheless, this comment belongs in the Hall of Fame. It’s not anti-Semitic. It’s too sloppy for that,” historian Gil Troy told JNS. – Jackson Richman, JNS
Iran’s Liberal Conspiracy Theorists: A conclusion in search of evidence. – Noah Rothman, Commentary Magazine
What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane: Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say. – William Langewiesche, The Atlantic
Why They Went: The Forgotten Story of the St. Augustine 17: 55 years ago today, 16 American rabbis and one lay leader were arrested in a civil rights protest organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – Mitzi Steiner, Tablet Magazine
I did everything I was supposed to do – Joshua Brown, The Reformed Broker
Technology, Not Alarmism, Will Help Tackle Climate Change – Chelsea Follett, Human Progress
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez somehow got her head stuck inside a bucket. She was heard yelling, “Who turned out the lights?” while repeatedly running full speed into walls. Republicans immediately pounced, using this as proof that Ocasio-Cortez is “kind of a dummy.” Many journalists, on the other hand, leaped to Ocasio-Cortez’s defense, saying her getting her head firmly wedged inside of a plastic bucket was further proof of her being an intelligent and dynamic politician.
“Most people don’t have her scientific curiosity and intelligence,” said MSNBC pundit Chris Hayes. “Someone incurious like Trump would never look at a bucket and ask ‘Could my head fit inside that?’ But Ocasio-Cortez dives into such questions head first.”
“She is making a bold statement,” said CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The bucket on her head is from Walmart, and she is saying loud and clear that corporations have blinded us all.”
Thanks for reading!