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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 8/24/20


 

CAN A BROAD CONSENSUS FOR CHANGE BE MAINTAINED?

At a moment when we seem at the cusp of real change to address racial and economic inequities in our society, it will be interesting to see if people can “keep their eye on the prize.” There is reason to be concerned that the core message of this movement will be diluted by arguments over the other issues being seized upon by some of the movement’s leadership.

The leadership of the Black Lives Matter organization expounds economic policies many of their supporters don’t endorse. They also support the boycott of Israel (BDS), thankfully something many of their followers don’t endorse. The fact that there may be those in the leadership of Black Lives Matter who believe that “intersectionality” requires that they object to the idea that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state is unfortunate. But, as much as issues pertaining to Israel are important to me, I’m not sure it reaches the “top ten” list of important issues among the supporters of the movement. There is a disconnect, it seems, between the main focus of the organization and the statements and beliefs of the elites who run the organization.

This disconnect between the commonly perceived purpose of the organization and what the leadership pursues is not unique to Black Lives Matter. Organizations are created with a particular objective in mind and garner support from people who support the general purposes of the organization. Then the leadership expands the organization’s charter until they lose support of many of their natural followers.

There are numerous examples of organizations that begin with a specific policy focus that then define their focus so radically that they lose natural alliances and/or become something quite different than originally intended. Take the NRA, which initially was an organization of hobbyists and hunters that focused on firearm safety and responsible gun ownership. That organization has been hijacked by those who think the Second Amendment grants American citizens the right to bear anti-aircraft weapons in their suburban homes. This is notwithstanding the fact that the rank-and-file supports background checks and reasonable limitations on gun ownership. Or the American Bar Association, which lobbies for legislation that may or not be supported by the majority of its members.

When the leadership of organizations tries to do too much and expands the platform too broadly, it often leads to dissention in the ranks, dilution of message, and taking the eye off the ball on the issues that the organization initially stood for. It takes humility for the leadership of any organization to resist the temptation to use the organization’s “bully pulpit” as a “personal pulpit,” instead keeping the organization focused on achieving real gains in a defined area.

 

THE DANGER TO FREE SPEECH ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

I’m troubled by the attacks on free speech on college campuses. Clearly certain speech is beyond the pale, to wit, urging violence against others. And I certainly think racist and even insensitive statements have no place at a college (or for that matter, a business or in the public square). But I am concerned about silencing people or exposing them to a star chamber that stands ready to punish them for “racist research and publication,” whatever that means (it’s to be resolved later apparently).

Rather than expound on my own, I commend a couple of articles for reading. First, this article from the Atlantic regarding the Princeton faculty letter: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/what-princeton-professors-really-think-about-defining-racism/614911/ and another from Forbes regarding some of the more concerning of the Princeton faculty letter’s demands: https://www.forbes.com/sites/evangerstmann/2020/07/12/princeton-professors-want-the-power-to-punish-research-they-deem-racist/#f4facedc716a

From the Atlantic article: "I am concerned that some faculty members are unwilling to publicly criticize a demand that they scoff at privately. Can they really be counted on to protect academic freedom in a faculty vote?"

 

CORRECTION OF YESTERDAY’S TWEET SUMMARY

Here’s what it should have said:

From our President during President Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention:

HE SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN, AND GOT CAUGHT!

Nope. Didn’t happen and he didn’t get caught. Then, during Kamala Harris’s speech:

“BUT DIDN’T SHE CALL HIM A RACIST??? DIDN’T SHE SAY HE WAS INCOMPETENT???”

No she didn’t. Neither comment. What she did call him out for, in my opinion the low point of her campaign, was working with known segregationists in crafting legislative compromise early in his career.

 

IN PRAISE OF CHRISTOPHER GUEST

Thanks, Dave Swartz, for reminding me of one of the great filmmakers of his generation, the king of mocumentaries—Christopher Guest. With a “regular” troupe that includes Eugene Levy (of Schitt’s Creek fame), Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer, Jane Lynch, Parker Posey and Fred Willard, Guest made several classics, which were highly improvised by the actors and often included original music and staging (all of which is intentionally sub-par). It is a genre that gets too little mention and these films are extraordinary:

This is Spinal Tap—Directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride arguably his greatest), a documentary of “one of England’s loudest bands.”

Best in Show—Directed by Guest, a satire of The Westminster Dog Show. Will Hubert be victorious?

For Your Consideration—Couldn’t be funnier. A movie about the making of a movie and its potential for Academy Award accolades. The premise, “Home for Purim,” set in the 1940s deep south. When Ricky Gervais comes in late in the movie to share that the movie might be “a little too ethnic,” tears were running down my face.

Waiting for Guffman—Much the same gang in a spoof of a small-town theatre company that will be using connections to meet a critic that could get them their off-off-off-Broadway break

A Mighty Wind—Basically the same folks spoofing a 1960s American folk music reunion in memory of a music producer. Songs include “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” and “Old Joe’s Place.” Mitch and Mickey never were better…

Best regards,

Glenn

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