Wednesday, May 30, 2018

ANS -- Roseanne Barr and conspiracy theorists.

Here's a short piece on conspiracy theorists, by Brad Hicks.  Love his conclusion.  

I was just listening to Today Explained on the train, and they brought up the little-known fact that what drove Roseanne Barr to the point where she was tweeting racist insults at a former Obama aide was that she's a strong believer in the latest iteration of the Satanic Panic conspiracy theory -- in this case, the belief that there really is a global conspiracy at the highest level of all the world's governments to cover up the fact that large numbers of the world's wealthiest and most powerful people collect child pornography and/or hire child prostitutes, and to protect their panderers, and that the reason that so much of the press spends all day looking for ways to smear Donald Trump is that he's leading a secretive counter-conspiracy that will expose the entire Clinton administration and all of their friends as child predators.

The evidence for this is slight, and believing in it is deranged. As it happens, I spent decades studying conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorists, and I have a strong opinion about how people get this way. It's based on a metaphor that the dean of all conspiracy theory fiction writers, the late Robert Anton Wilson, used in two of his books: Chapel Perilous and the Four Magical Weapons you need to escape it.

Because, you see, as James Loewen documented in his best seller /Lies My Teacher Told Me,/ there comes a point in almost every adult's life where they realize that their parents and their teachers lied to them. So once you can no longer trust what the schoolbooks told you, how do you decide what to believe? In Wilson's metaphor, you've walked through the doors of Chapel Perilous, the hall of illusions, where you can't tell friend from foe, where you can't tell the exits from the paths that lead deeper into the darkness. How do you get out?

After studying all of the ways that people who fall into conspiracy theory go insane, Wilson concluded that the poets got it right when the said that you'll never escape Chapel Perilous unless you carry four weapons in with you: the Sword of Intellect, the Wand of Intuition, the Cup of Compassion, and the Shield of Courage.

INTELLECT: A few of our high school students take classes in Plane Geometry. An even tinier percentage take Advanced Placement classes in logic or law or advanced history. So there are tons of madmen out there who dived into conspiracy theory to "prove" what's true, who have no idea what it means to "prove" anything. Without the formal education to recognize logical fallacies and the rigorous exercise of having your arguments analyzed for them until you reflexively do it to yourself, you'll join those madmen who ignore glaring evidence that their theories are wrong and cling desperately to evidence that doesn't even come close to proving what they want to believe.

INTUITION: I don't just mean common sense, here. The world is filling up with madmen who sincerely worry about what risk expert Bruce Schneier calls "movie-plot theories." If you dive into conspiracy theory without some ability to tell the difference between "the way people act in fiction" and "the way actual people act," you'll make up enemies with abilities that are completely unrealistic, like the ability to organize a multi-thousand person conspiracy that nobody has heard of, but, somehow, you have heard of it. It doesn't take a whole lot of mathematical or psychological intuition to realize that if you think that's plausible, you're a madman.

COMPASSION: Even before they decided to try to find out which of the myths they were told in grade school and high school were true and which were lies, even when they believed them all, the world is full of madmen who truly believe in Enemies. Not opponents, Enemies, with a capital-E: mustache-twirling sadists who hate you and everybody like you so much that they spend their every waking moment plotting and scheming and working hard to find ways to hurt you. How many such people do you know, personally? Is that kind of thing actually common in your family, in your social circle? Do such people go far in life, if you've ever met many of them, or (be honest) don't they usually end up homeless or living in somebody's basement, never having achieved anything in life. Then what makes you think that other people are nothing like the people you know? Sure, sometimes there really is an Us and a Them, but if you try to research conspiracy theories and you think that They aren't even the same species as Us, that their motivations are entirely different from our motivations? You will go mad.

COURAGE: See those madmen over there who lash out in all directions, who attack any thing they don't understand? They didn't know who to believe or what to believe, but, being cowards or adrenaline junkies, they decided to believe whatever they hear that scares them the most. They're easy marks for any monster who wants to use them as a weapon against the innocent; all that monster has to do is scare them.

ANS -- Numbers of Lyme Disease-Carrying Ticks Plummet in Absence of Western Lizards

This is a short article about ticks and Lyme Disease, but the real reason I am passing it on is that it illustrates how "common sense" can be incorrect -- they reasoned logically from the facts that Lyme Disease would go up when they removed the lizards, but the opposite happened, against common sense. There are other factors, obviously, that they hadn't known.  

News Release 11-032 

Numbers of Lyme Disease-Carrying Ticks Plummet in Absence of Western Lizards

California areas without lizards had significant drop in tick populations

Photo of a Western fence lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis.

Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are found with dozens of ticks attached.

February 15, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Areas in California where Western fence lizards were removed had a subsequent drop in numbers of the ticks that transmit Lyme disease, scientists have discovered.

"Our expectation was that removing the lizards would increase the risk of Lyme disease, so we were surprised by this finding," said ecologist Andrea Swei, who conducted the study while she was a Ph.D. student in integrative biology at University of California, Berkeley.

"We found that the result of lizard removal was a decrease in infected ticks, and therefore decreased Lyme disease risk to humans."

Results of the study, published online today in the journal Proceedings of The Royal Society B, illustrate the complex role the Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) plays in the abundance of disease-spreading ticks.

"This study demonstrates the complexity of infectious disease systems, and how the removal of one player--lizards--can affect disease risk," said Sam Scheiner, program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research through a joint Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) Program with the National Institutes of Health.

At NSF, the EID Program is supported by the Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences.

Lyme disease--characterized by fever, headache, fatigue and a bulls'-eye rash--is spread through the bite of ticks infected with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.

In the Western region of the U.S., the Western black legged tick, or Ixodes pacificus, is the primary vector for Lyme disease bacteria.

Up to 90 percent of the juvenile ticks in this species feed on the blood of the Western fence lizard, common in California and nearby states.

A previous study by UC-Berkeley entomologist Robert Lane found that a protein in the Western fence lizard's blood killed Borrelia bacteria, and as a result, Lyme-infected ticks that feed on the lizard's blood are cleansed of the disease-causing pathogen.

The lizard is thus often credited for the relatively low incidence of Lyme disease in the western United States.

The new study put that assumption to the test experimentally.

"When you have an animal like the Western fence lizard that supports a huge population of ticks, you can't assume that all the juvenile ticks will go to another host if the lizard population drops," said Lane, a co-author of the paper.

For their field test, the researchers selected 14 plots, each measuring 10,000 square meters and spread out over two sites in Marin County, Calif.

From March through April 2008, before tick season went into full swing, the researchers captured and removed 447 lizards from six plots--three at each site--and left the remaining plots unaltered as controls.

The lizards that had been captured were marked before being relocated so the researchers could determine whether any wandered back into their old haunts.

After the lizards were removed, the biologists spent the following month trapping other mammals known to harbor ticks--particularly woodrats and deer mice--to determine whether they had an increase in ticks as a result of the lizards' absence.

The scientists also checked for differences between control and experimental plots in the abundance of ticks.

In plots where the lizards had been removed, ticks turned to the female woodrat as their next favorite host for a blood meal.

On average, each female woodrat got an extra five ticks when the lizards disappeared.

However, the researchers found that 95 percent of the ticks that no longer had lizard blood to feast on failed to latch onto another host.

"One of our goals was to tease apart the role these lizards play in Lyme disease ecology," said Swei, now a post-doctoral associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.

"It was assumed that these lizards played an important role in reducing Lyme disease risk," she said.

The tale, it turns out, is even more complicated than that.

Other co-authors of the paper are biologists Cheryl Briggs of University of California, Santa Barbara and Richard Ostfeld at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734,
Sarah Yang, UC-Berkeley, (510) 643-7741,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

ANS -- Why Are CEOs Paid 361 Times More Than Their Average Employees?

This is an economics article, but it's fairly short.  It's from  Wall Street 24/7 so it has a financial bias, but it has some interesting things to say about why wages are going down for most people and up for CEOs.  Note that the worst cases are female CEOs.  ( I have a guess on why that is.) It basically says that mergers and acquisitions are the culprit.  I think that's part of the story.  

Why Are CEOs Paid 361 Times More Than Their Average Employees?

In 1980 the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 42:1. In 2017 the ratio was 361:1. Total CEO compensation averaged $13.94 million last year, compared to just $38,613 for the average production and non-supervisory worker.

We've all seen numbers like this so many times now that we barely even blink at a new set. There is, however, new research that may partly explain why this gap has gotten so wide.

The CEO-to-worker pay data were reported Wednesday morning by the AFL-CIO in an update to the union's Executive Paywatch database and website. The data were compiled from disclosures by companies of the ratio of CEO pay to the median worker's pay required for the first time last year in federal financial filings.

New research by Harvard Ph.D. candidate Nathan Wilmers, published Wednesday by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, indicates that increased pressure from large corporate buyers suppresses wages for the workers in the buyer's network of suppliers. Thus, large corporate buyers like Boeing and Walmart exercise outsized influence on the wages of their suppliers' workers. Wilmers writes:

[B]ig corporate buyers are able to demand lower prices for the goods and services they are buying, and suppliers and contractors must sell at lower prices and try to cut costs. Likewise, companies increasingly outsource noncore functions, including food service, janitorial, and security jobs, a phenomenon known as the fissured workplace. The result is that more and more workers are employed by intermediate employers, which in turn rely on sales to outside corporate buyers.

That's not particularly startling, but it is where the story begins to get more interesting. Wilmers proposes three reasons to explain what's happening: larger buyers can pressure suppliers to accept lower profits; outside buyers enjoy a social distance from their suppliers' workers, allowing the buyers "to ignore the fairness norms and social pressure that directly employed workers can use to increase their pay"; and, finally, the benefits of labor cost-cutting are concentrated among one or a small number of buyers.

Wilmers admits it's hard to test these proposed reasons, but using publicly reported data from companies that must name customers responsible for 10% or more of annual revenue and combining that with wages at publicly traded supplier companies he was able to calculate that "a 10 percent increase in revenue reliance on dominant buyers is associated with suppliers' wages declining by 1.2 percent." Wilmers continues:

This pattern holds even conditional on controls for firm-level bargaining, productivity changes, and other market determinants of workers' wages. The longer the buyer-supplier relations last, the more wages fall—consistent with the social distance between outside buyers and suppliers' workers blunting wage norm effects. I also find that mergers among buyers reduce suppliers' wages, suggesting it is not "unobserved supplier selection" (such as changes in business strategies by suppliers) that drives wage effects, but rather power exercised by dominant buyers. Indeed, the negative wage effects of reliance on large buyers have been intensifying over time.

When CEOs rhapsodically proclaim that their latest merger will create synergies that save X billions of dollars and boost shareholder returns by Y billions, it might be well to remember the human cost of those synergies.

It is also worth remembering that CEOs are rewarded for identifying and realizing those synergies. And those rewards are generous indeed. According to the AFL-CIO's Executive Paywatch data, the widest difference between CEO pay and that of the average worker was posted by Weight Watchers International Inc. (NYSE: WTW), where CEO Mindy Grossman was paid 5,908 times the average worker's pay. Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) CEO Margaret Georgiadis was paid 4,987 times what the average Mattel worker was paid. Fran Horowitz, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch Inc. (NYSE: ANF), was paid 3,431 times what the average worker made last year.

Visit the AFL-CIO website for more data and details on CEO pay. The Nathan Wilmers article is available at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Monday, May 28, 2018

ANS -- Outlines of a Reading Project on Class

Here's another article by Doug Muder.  It's about class in America.  He ends with a  very important question.  Anyone want to attempt an answer?

Outlines of a Reading Project on Class

Lately I've been reading a lot about the class divide in America — a topic that has been on my mind for several years, but has acquired a new significance in the Trump Era. Probably all this research will eventually result in a long article where I try to find some deeper insight, but in the meantime I'll just summarize what I've been reading, in case you want to read along with me.

A great place to start is "The 9.9% is the New American Aristocracy" by Matthew Stewart in The Atlantic. Wealth, as many authors have shown, is increasingly accumulating in the top tenth of a percent. But beneath that layer of plutocrats is the rest of the top 10%, which mostly consists of educated professionals with a decent amount of economic security, who have pleasant homes in safe neighborhoods with good schools, read magazines like The Atlantic, and do physical labor only to the extent they want to. (I wasn't born into this class, but that's where I am now. I suspect most — but not all — of my readers are 9.9-percenters also.)

Collectively, we control more than half of American's wealth, a percentage that has held fairly steady for decades. The gains of the top .1% mostly haven't come from us, but at the expense of the bottom 90%. Stewart says:

By any sociological or financial measure, it's good to be us. It's even better to be our kids. In our health, family life, friendship networks, and level of education, not to mention money, we are crushing the competition below. But we do have a blind spot, and it is located right in the center of the mirror: We seem to be the last to notice just how rapidly we've morphed, or what we've morphed into.

What we've morphed into is a hereditary aristocracy; it's increasingly hard for people not born into this class to join. On its surface, the system looks like a meritocracy, but we've gamed it. Winning the race requires the kind of preparation that only aristocratic kids are in a position to get. Like Jane Austen's aristocrats, we have a strong tendency to intermarry, closing off that point of entry. We also feel very little guilt about leaving the classes below us in the dust: In the Game of Life, we tell ourselves, they just didn't measure up. (Chris Hayes made a similar point several years ago in The Twilight of the Elites.)

The middle-working class — let's leave the boundaries of that vague for now — consists of people who didn't make it into the aristocracy, but have what Joan Williams in her book White Working Class calls "settled lives": They aren't college educated, but they are consistently employed and have stable homes with (mostly) solid families. They typically have jobs rather than careers, and they get their identities from family and community (often a church community) rather than from their professions. (Even if you have lucrative lifelong employment as a plumber or electrician, it's what you do, not who you are.)

Members of this class take a lot of pride in the disagreeable things they've had to do to stay out of poverty — the long hours of unrewarding work, the desires they've had to suppress, the dreams they've had to defer, etc. — and they picture poor people as lacking the same moral stamina. (That's why it aggravates them when government programs let the undeserving poor enjoy some of the same rewards they take pride in earning. Liberals, they feel, are trying to erode the significance of their moral achievement.) They have different cultural values than the aristocrats and are annoyed by our belief that they tried to be us, but just failed. They don't actually want to be us, but they envy our generational stability, because (as the kinds of jobs that underwrite settled lives go away) they see no guarantees that their children won't be poor.

They also resent the hell out of us, much more than they resent the .1%. The plutocrats are like distant kings, but working-class folks have to deal with aristocrats every day. We're their bosses and the doctors who talk down to them. We're their hard-to-please clients, the consultants who come in to tell them that they're doing it all wrong, and the experts who observe and interview them in hopes of replacing them with machines. We're the talking heads on TV who use big words and insist that they'd agree with us if only they had read enough books to know what they're talking about.

Trump made it to the White House by playing on that resentment. (Historically, the 9.9% has been split between the parties or even leaned Republican. But many never-Trump conservatives are 9.9 percenters, and congressional seats in professional-class suburbs are viewed by Democrats as pick-up opportunities.) Since taking office he has done virtually nothing to help the working class — not even the white working class. But he remains popular among them because he gives voice to their resentment of the 9.9%.

Williams' point is that we aristocrats should try harder to understand and show respect to the working class, which is true as far as it goes. But The Washington Post's Paul Waldman points out a disagreeable truth: Professional-class liberals — or even just reality-based anti-Trump conservatives — are kidding themselves if they think respect is some kind of "magic key that Democrats can use to unlock the hearts of white people who vote Republican". No matter how respectful a candidate or a set of policies might be, that message will never get through the filter of "an entire industry that's devoted to convincing white people that liberal elitists look down on them."

If you doubt this, I'd encourage you to tune in to Fox News or listen to conservative talk radio for a week. When you do, you'll find that again and again you're told stories of some excess of campus political correctness, some obscure liberal professor who said something offensive, some liberal celebrity who said something crude about rednecks or some Democratic politician who displayed a lack of knowledge of a conservative cultural marker. The message is pounded home over and over: They hate you and everything you stand for.

Essentially, conservative media is like the community gossip who constantly starts conversations with "Did you hear what so-and-so just said about you?" No matter how respectful the bulk of us may eventually learn to be, somebody somewhere is always going to be dissing working-class whites, and Fox News will make sure that they hear about it.

Even when that disrespect is absent, it is easily manufactured. Waldman points out how out-of-context quotes were used to skewer Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Everyone knows that Clinton thinks working-class Trump voters are "deplorable", and Obama believes they are "clinging to guns and religion".

Finally, the consequences of this class divide are discussed in Ganesh Sitaraman's book The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution.Unlike previous republics, the United States didn't write the class struggle into its constitution: Rome, for example, balanced an aristocratic Senate against the veto-wielding Tribunes of the People. Britain separated the House of Commons from the House of Lords. America didn't do anything like that.

Instead, the Founders counted on relative equality of wealth and the presence of a large middle class to maintain a balanced society. Those are the conditions our system of government is designed for, and at various key points in American history (the homestead era, the Progressive Era, the New Deal) the government made deliberate choices that preserved the middle class and prevented either plutocratic domination or a revolution of the dispossessed.

Now we're in an era of increased concentration of wealth and power by the .1%. Now more than ever, if we're going to preserve our system of government, we need the 9.9% and the working class to band together against the domination of the super-rich. But how is that going to happen?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

ANS -- Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This?

This is a good essay, saying things that need to be said, by Rebecca Solnit.  It's about white men no longer being the center of everything.  And about the 20% of Americans who are white and rural who think they are the only "real Americans".  

Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story 
(and Country) Is This?


By  Rebecca Solnit

Watching the film Phantom Thread, I kept wondering why I was supposed to be interested in a control freak who is consistently unpleasant to all the people around him. I kept looking at the other characters—his sister who manages his couture business, his seamstresses, eventually the furniture (as a child, I read a very nice story about the romance between two chairs)—wondering why we couldn't have a story about one of them instead.

Who gets to be the subject of the story is an immensely political question, and feminism has given us a host of books that shift the focus from the original protagonist—from Jane Eyre to Mr. Rochester's Caribbean first wife, from Dorothy to the Wicked Witch, and so forth. But in the news and political life, we're still struggling over whose story it is, who matters, and who our compassion and interest should be directed at.

The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It's white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.

It is this population we are constantly asked to pay more attention to and forgive even when they hate us or seek to harm us. It is toward them we are all supposed to direct our empathy. The exhortations are everywhere. PBS News Hour featured a quiz by Charles Murray in March that asked "Do You Live in a Bubble?" The questions assumed that if you didn't know people who drank cheap beer and drove pick-up trucks and worked in factories you lived in an elitist bubble. Among the questions: "Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Have you ever walked on a factory floor? Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?"

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who's not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

PBS added a little note at the end of the bubble quiz, "The introduction has been edited to clarify Charles Murray's expertise, which focuses on white American culture." They don't mention that he's the author of the notorious Bell Curve or explain why someone widely considered racist was welcomed onto a publicly funded program. Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they're entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.


"More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies."


After all, there was a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year full of white men with tiki torches chanting "You will not replace us." Which translates as get the fuck out of my bubble, a bubble that is a state of mind and a sentimental attachment to a largely fictional former America. It's not everyone in this America; for example, Syed Ahmed Jamal's neighbors in Lawrence, Kansas, rallied to defend him when ICE arrested and tried to deport the chemistry teacher and father who had lived in the area for 30 years. It's not all white men; perpetration of the narrative centered on them is something too many women buy into and some admirable men are trying to break out of.

And the meanest voices aren't necessarily those of the actual rural and small-town. In a story about a Pennsylvania coal town named Hazelton, Fox's Tucker Carlson recently declared that immigration brings "more change than human beings are designed to digest," the human beings in this scenario being the white Hazeltonians who are not immigrants, with perhaps an intimation that immigrants are not human beings, let alone human beings who have already had to digest a lot of change. Once again a small-town white American narrative is being treated as though it's about all of us or all of us who count, as though the gentrification of immigrant neighborhoods is not also a story that matters, as though Los Angeles and New York City, both of which have larger populations than many American states, are not America. In New York City, the immigrant population alone exceeds the total population of Kansas (or Nebraska or Idaho or West Virginia, where all those coal miners are).

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we were told that we needed to be nicer to the white working class, which reaffirmed the message that whiteness and the working class were the same thing and made the vast non-white working class invisible or inconsequential. We were told that Trump voters were the salt of the earth and the authentic sufferers, even though poorer people tended to vote for the other candidate. We were told that we had to be understanding of their choice to vote for a man who threatened to harm almost everyone who was not a white Christian man, because their feelings preempt everyone else's survival. "Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks," Bernie Sanders reprimanded us, though studies showed that many were indeed often racists, sexists, and homophobes.

Part of how we know whose party it is was demonstrated by who gets excused for hatred and attacks, literal or verbal. A couple of weeks ago, the Atlantic tried out hiring a writer, Kevin Williamson, who said women who have abortions should be hanged, and then un-hired him under public pressure from people who don't like the idea that a quarter of American women should be executed. The New York Times has hired a few conservatives akin to Williamson, including climate waffler Bret Stephens. Stephens devoted a column to sympathy on Williamson's behalf and indignation that anyone might oppose him. Sympathy in pro-bubble America often goes reflexively to the white man in the story. The assumption is that the story is about him; he's the protagonist, the person who matters, and when you, say, read Stephens defending Woody Allen and attacking Dylan Farrow for saying Allen molested her, you see how much work he's done imagining being Woody Allen, how little being Dylan Farrow or anyone like her. It reminds me of how young women pressing rape charges are often told they're harming the bright future of the rapist in question, rather than that maybe he did it to himself, and that their bright future should matter too. The Onion nailed it years ago: "College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed."


"There have been too many stories about men feeling less comfortable, too few about how women might be feeling more secure."


This misdistribution of sympathy is epidemic. The New York Times called the man with a domestic-violence history who in 2015 shot up the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, killing three parents of young children, "a gentle loner." And then when the bomber who had been terrorizing Austin, TX, last month was finally caught, journalists at the newspaper interviewed his family and friends and let their positive descriptions stand as though they were more valid than the fact he was an extremist and a terrorist who set out to kill and terrorize black people in a particularly vicious and cowardly way. He was a "quiet, 'nerdy' young man who came from 'a tight-knit, godly family," the Times let us know in a tweet, while the Washington Post's headline noted he was "frustrated with his life," which is true of millions of young people around the world who don't get this pity party and also don't become terrorists. The Daily Beast got it right with a subhead about the latest right-wing terrorist, the one who blew himself up in his home full of bombmaking materials: "Friends and family say Ben Morrow was a Bible-toting lab worker. Investigators say he was a bomb-building white supremacist."

But this March, when a teenage boy took a gun to his high school in Maryland and used it to murder Jaelynn Willey, the newspapers labeled him lovesick, as though premeditated murder was just a natural reaction to being rejected by someone you dated. In a powerfully eloquent editorialin the New York Times, Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Isabelle Robinson writes about the "disturbing number of comments I've read that go something like this: Maybe if Mr. Cruz's classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas would never have occurred." As she notes, this puts the burden—and then the blame—on peers to meet the needs of boys and men who may be hostile or homicidal.

This framework suggests we owe them something, which feeds a sense of entitlement, which sets up the logic of payback for not delivering what they think we owe them. Elliot Rodgers set out to massacre the members of a sorority at UC Santa Barbara in 2014 because he believed that sex with attractive women was a right of his that women were violating and that another right of his was to punish any or all of them unto death. He killed six people and injured fourteen. Nikolas Cruz said, "Elliot Rodgers will not be forgotten."


"We are as a culture moving on to a future with more people and more voices and more possibilities. Some people are being left behind, not because the future is intolerant of them but because they are intolerant of this future."


Women often internalize that sense of responsibility for men's needs. Stormy Daniels felt so responsible for coming to a stranger's hotel room in 2006 that she felt obliged to provide the sex he wanted and she didn't. She told Anderson Cooper, "I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, 'well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this.'" (It's worth noting that she classified having sex with Donald Trump as "bad things happen" and the sense in that she deserved it was a punitive one.) His desires must be met. Hers didn't count.

Women are not supposed to want things for themselves, as the New York Times reminded us when they castigated Daniels with a headline noting her ambition, a quality that Hillary Clinton and various other high-profile women have also been called out for but that seems invisible when men have it, as men who act and direct movies and pursue political careers generally do. Daniels had, the New York Times told us in a profile of the successful entertainer, "an instinct for self-promotion" and "her competitive streak is not well concealed." She intended to "bend the business to her will." The general implication is that any woman who's not a doormat is a dominatrix.

Recently people have revisited a 2010 political-science study that tested the response to fictitious senatorial candidates, identical except for gender; "regardless of whether male politicians were generally preferred over female politicians, participant voters only reacted negatively to the perceived power aspirations of the female politician." They characterized that reaction as "moral outrage": how dare she seek power. How dare she want things for herself rather than others—even though seeking power may be a means to working on behalf of others. How dare she consider the story to be about her or want to be the one who determines what the story is.

And then there's the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. We've heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women about assaults, threats, harassment, humiliation, coercion, of campaigns that ended careers, pushed them to the brink of suicide. Many men's response to this is sympathy for men. The elderly film director Terry Gilliam said in March, "I feel sorry for someone like Matt Damon who is a decent human being. He came out and said all men are not rapists, and he got beaten to death. Come on, this is crazy!" Matt Damon has not actually been beaten to death. He is one of the most highly-paid actors on earth, which is a significantly different experience than being beaten to death. The actor Chris Evans did much better with this shift, saying recently, "The hardest thing to reconcile is that just because you have good intentions, doesn't mean it's your time to have a voice."

But the follow-up story to the #MeToo upheaval has too often been: how do the consequences of men hideously mistreating women affect men's comfort? Are men okay with what's happening? There have been too many stories about men feeling less comfortable, too few about how women might be feeling more secure in offices where harassing coworkers may have been removed or are at least a bit less sure about their right to grope and harass. Men themselves insist on their comfort as a right; Dr. Larry Nassar, the gymnastics doctor who molested more than a hundred girls, objected to having to hear his victims describe what he did and how it impacted them on the grounds that it interfered with his comfort.

We are as a culture moving on to a future with more people and more voices and more possibilities. Some people are being left behind, not because the future is intolerant of them but because they are intolerant of this future. White men, Protestants from the dominant culture are welcome, but as Chris Evans noted, the story isn't going to be about them all the time, and they won't always be the ones telling it. It's about all of us. White Protestants are already a minority and non-white people will become a voting majority in a few decades. This country has room for everybody who believes that there's room for everybody. For those who don't—well, that's partly a battle about who controls the narrative and who it's about.

Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca Solnit
San Francisco writer, historian, and activist, Rebecca Solnit is the author of twenty books about geography, community, art, politics, hope, and feminism and the author, most recently of The Mother of All Questions and (with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro and a cast of thousands) of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas. She is a contributing editor to Harper's, where she is the first woman to regularly write the Easy Chair column (founded in 1851).