dave karpf Profile picture
23 Feb, 11 tweets, 2 min read
This line from Bret Stephens's latest "cancel culture is canceling everything" missive... I dunno, it just kind of bugs me.
I try not to react to Stephens anymore, because (1) it's all been said before and (2) he's just not that interesting.

But let me rehash the core problem.

It's about power. It's about protecting the status hierarchy from critique. It's about keeping everyone in their place.
Stephens is a defender of the existing status hierarchy.

He thinks it is right and good that people like himself can say whatever they want and face no consequences.

He thinks it is wrong and bad when people of lesser status say whatever they want or call power to account.
As a defender of the status hierarchy, his only real critiques of elites occur when they behave in a coarse or declasse manner.

That's what put him in opposition to Donald Trump. He had no meaningful policy breaks from Trump. He just felt proper elites shouldn't talk like that.
Defending the existing status hierarchy means elevating any threats to people-like-him. Hence, the current obsession with "cancel culture."

Stephens and his ilk have been (ahem) *Persuaded* that cancel culture is a massive threat to the American Republic. It... just isn't.
Cancel culture is a status-threat to the most comfortable among us.

It can indeed be an existential threat to people-who-have-weekly-columns-and-sometimes-phone-it-in.

But if cancel culture keeps you up at night, it means you were sleeping far too comfortably to begin with.
The striking thing about every "cancel culture" story is just how *small* it actually is.

Should a professor be reprimanded for writing "n____" in an exam? Should a publisher be retroactively changing titles of old recipe articles to make them less offensive?
In general my answer to both is "eh, it probably depends on a bunch of details that I don't have. Why are we talking about this?"

The basic rules here are embarrassingly simple: #1 try not to be an asshole. #2 Apologize when you fail at #1.
There are more important things to think about, but they all require casting a critical gaze toward people with actual power in society.

(Like, what the hell happened to Texas's utility system? Who screwed up/what should we learn/how do we do less-bad next time?)
Stephens will never write about a topic like that, because it is a critique of the power structure that he likes to defend.

He only concerns himself with threats to that power structure.
It means his work oscillates between boring, frustrating, and amusing.

...And that's why I try not to bother with him anymore.

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More from @davekarpf

25 Jan
@HawleyMO @nypost Okay... so, um, a few notes. This is not a good first draft.

1. The United States doesn't have a social credit score system. (Neither, really, does China.) People don't want to associate you because you promoted a violent insurrection. Do you see how those are *different*?
@HawleyMO @nypost 2. Corporate America didn't "rush to cancel" you.

You lost a book contract with one publishing house, and it was picked up by another. Some corporate PACs also asked for their donations back, because you attempted to undermine the legitimacy of free and fair elections.
@HawleyMO @nypost 2b (cont'd) That's, y'know, the "marketplace of ideas" in action. (You're supposed to like the free market. It's part of your brand.)

If you would like major donors not to demand their money back, then next time you should choose not to support a violent insurrection.
Read 9 tweets
10 Nov 20
A key dynamic over the next few weeks is the absence of any meaningful leadership or strategic direction within the Republican Party.

You have Trump - a tinfoil-hat autocrat at the top.
You have lickspittle cronies currying favor by promoting the latest harebrained scheme. (1)
And then you have a sea of elected officials, each deciding on their own what statement or action is most likely to improve their standing.

(In other words, what will get them on Hannity and juice their fundraising numbers?)

There’s no one positioned to say “here’s what’s best for the country,” or even “here’s what’s best for the party.”

The result is the race-to-the-bottom we’re currently watching.

Read 10 tweets
8 Nov 20
Okay, I’ve got a couple of election-aftermath takes I want to share.

Each of these ought to be a column, but 👏parenting 👏 in 👏a👏pandemic👏is👏exhausting.

(1/who knows?)
First, I know everyone is mad at Nate Silver and the pollsters. I agree that we’ve probably gotten a little too into modeling and polling aggregation.


The rise of Nate Silver was a response to endless utter-vacuous-bullshit punditry.
There is a news hole to be filled. In the epic-long campaign, there’s demand for some expert commentary on where things stand. Sites like 538 aren’t perfect, but they’re so much better than the alternative.
Read 13 tweets
10 Oct 20
Okay, so everyone is dunking on this take. And I’m gonna dunk on it too. But from a sliiiiiightly different angle.

I think the Biden/Harris non-answer is basically fine. It’s also identical to the answer Leonhardt suggests they give instead.

(Short thread)
Trump and Republicans desperately want to make this election about something other than COVID.

(Self-plug: I wrote about this for @wired last week) wired.com/story/the-elec…

The reason they keep asking “is he gonna pack the court” is because they see a potential reframe.
When Biden says “I’m not going to answer the question because they’re just trying to change the subject” he is 100% correct.

Any answer will get stripped of context and nuance and played on a loop. That’s the whole purpose of pursuing an answer.
Read 9 tweets
28 Sep 20
I’m actually optimistic that this Trump taxes NYT story will *matter*, even in this #lolnothingmatters moment in history.

That’s not because some crucial subset of voters will read this and change their minds.

It’s because of how Trump will react.
Trump is already an undisciplined campaigner. Even on an average day, he is routinely his own worst enemy.

The thing he is best at is maintaining constant attention and repeatedly creating new distractions.

It’s a reality TV gimmick. It’s his one superpower.
When Trump flails—when he’s really wounded—he loses that superpower.

Instead of creating another news cycle that leaves us forgetting the previous one, he just intensifies and extends the one he’s stuck in.

He is not a man who is capable of strategically staying quiet.
Read 10 tweets
14 Sep 20
There’s a tension in election coverage that is going to become increasingly jarring in the weeks ahead.

We’re going to read stories about business-as-usual campaigning, alongside stories of structural voter disenfranchisement.

The two storylines don’t easily coexist. (Thread)
Here’s a business-as-usual example:

Florida is an important battleground state. Polls show a close race. Whose message is resonating/what strategic choices are the campaigns making/who will win?

It’s a genre of reporting that we’re all used to — horse race reporting.
But then there’s this alternate storyline:

The courts have just effectively barred 770,000 Florida citizens from voting. This is part of a multi-year disenfranchisement effort that FL Republicans launched after FL voted to restore voting rights for ex-felons.
Read 11 tweets

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