Mar 20, 2021Liked by Bari Weiss

Bari, you are a mensch. Thanks for lifting my spirits and for the book recommendations.

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Lovely post as usual. I recently read "The Quest for Cosmic Justice" by Thomas Sowell. There is so much wisdom in every sentence. Published in 1996 by even more relevant today.

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Bari - I applaud you in your new crusade to brace the world without the networks or the NYT. Truth be told, my humor and politics line up most with Bill Maher. That is where I first saw you’d. I have always found myself left of center, but have begun to question that and seek out a variety of news sources. Thank you for providing one of those. I find you humble, well read, extremely sharp, and you don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep doing what you are doing. You got this!

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I read both of those books by Christopher Lasch 20 years ago, and I saw them as a warning of things to come, back then! This blog article by NC Renegades, https://ncrenegade.com/editorial/we-have-much-to-answer-for-and-we-have-allowed-this-evil-to-grow-and-happen-under-our-watch-now-is-the-time-to-put-a-stop-to-it/ sums up a lot of what has happened. I am 66 years old. I have seen the polarization of this county happen firsthand, starting back in the 1970s. It actually started a few years before that, but I was young enough at the time, that I didn't really notice it. I started to see it when I joined the military after college. A real eye opener for me, was being on a temporary duty assignment in Berlin. When the wall was up, it was the difference between night and day, when you travelled over into East Berlin. There were still buildings standing, that had been bombed out during World War II. It was dirty, poverty was everywhere, and the people were afraid to look each other in the eye. It was a complete contrast to what life was like in West Berlin. I'm afraid that East Berlin, is what our elites have planned for us. We need to put a stop to it, before it's too late.

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Mar 20, 2021Liked by Bari Weiss

Book club is going to be brilliant!! Bring on the chips

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Mar 20, 2021Liked by Bari Weiss

I've added 'Billion Dollar Loser' to my B&N wish list, as I absolutely love 'Bad Blood'. If you're looking for a good book to read, try 'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens. I generally love historical/biography stuff, so this book was unlike most of my usual fare. It's truly mesmerizing, one of the best books I've ever read. Love your stuff, Bari!

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I paid to subscribe this morning, after enjoying a number of great essays by Bari Weiss from my usual aggregator source. Subscription is to support intelligent writing, but selfishly, it is a payment toward creating the kind of human I want to become: more organic, less device-coupled, and more alive in the real world.

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Hello all,

Thanks as always, Bari, for your insightful newsletter. I've only recently subscribed but I'm quite taken by your integrity as a writer and as an observer of the current condition. Also, I'm delighted to find out that we share a love of Negronis. They really are the perfect drink.

Anyway, I wanted to comment on a couple of points you bring up in this newsletter and elsewhere. Namely, your analysis of the creeping illiberalism that is increasingly characterizing the radical left, and its penetration into institutions of high culture. Let me begin by saying that I absolutely agree with the characterization of what's going on as "illiberal". The silencing of dissent, whether through Twitter mobs or deplatforming or forced DEI seminars, is something we should all be alarmed at. There is a rigid radical-left ideology, it is spreading, and it is antithetical to principles of classical liberalism that protect individual dignity. I'm particularly bemused at how this illiberalism is manifesting in K-12 schools, especially this business around "spirit murder" that is at best patronizing to everyone involved.

Having said that, I'd like to offer some gentle pushback against a couple of the points you raise. Let me emphasize the "gentle" part and say that I would invite disagreement with what I'm about to say. I'll also say that I'm a center-left academic (and, for what it's worth, subject to David Brooks's concept of SID), so that alone might disqualify me in some of the eyes here. But here's what I have to say:

First, the notion that what's going on constitutes a "soft totalitarianism." To paraphrase Eric Kaufmann, another frequent critic of "woke" culture, the conservative position seems to be that critical race theorists and their ilk are going to land us all in the gulag through suppressing and punishing dissent. I understand: I'm also afraid that evangelical Christian politics will eventually land us all in a real-life Handmaiden's Tale. But the truth of both of these seems to me (and Kaufmann, for that matter, see the final chapter of his book Whiteshift), to be an empirical question. I realize that reporters and scholars tend to work from different kinds of evidence - the former with anecdotes, and the latter with larger-N datasets (though some critical scholars don't, more on that in a moment). When the anecdotal evidence seems to reach a critical mass, as it does with the notion of a woke revolution bent on destroying everything that decent people hold dear, it can seem overwhelming. But I would ask if what we're seeing is outliers - albeit very convincing ones - or a true trend. I'm not discounting the existence of the trend, or accusing anyone of exaggerating. But I am saying that while anecdotes can point to a trend, they don't necessarily prove one beyond all doubt.

The second thing is that, in rightfully critiquing the excesses of the racdical left, I can't help but wonder if we're throwing the critical perspective baby out with the woke bathwater. Implicit in a lot of these critiques is that the theories underwriting woke activism - such as, for example, critical race theory - are themselves worthless. As someone who was educated in these theories, I can affirm that at their worst, they are exactly what they're accused of - they understand people in terms of immutable characteristics; they assign generational blame for past injustices; they see everything through a lens of power (distributed according to race, gender, etc.) and declare that nothing can be neutral, to name a few. But the conservative response, which I'm slightly caricaturing, seems to be "there is no such thing as structural injustice, how dare you suggest that there is." I understand that this is partially a question of asymmetry (as pointed out by Kaufmann): minority groups are "allowed" to have group consciousness and group identity politics, while majority groups are not. And again, I want to stress that critical theory does - too often - go beyond suggesting the possibility of invisible structures to insist, without evidence (often relying purely on anecdotes), that everything is a structure, everything is political.

While there are far, far too many examples of critical theory fueling illiberal politics, it should also be recognized that there are scholars who work from a critical framework but do so rigorously and empirically, and who are also not out to impose a dictatorship of the oppressed (one of my Ph.D committee members, a queer theorist, once told me "I'm not interested in toppling one hierarchy only to put another in its place"). To be sure, we are entirely guilty of not speaking out against our far-left, illiberal flank. We too often allow complacence to get in the way of advocating for free speech and inquiry (it has to be admitted that the right has also largely not stood up to its own illiberal flank). And, as an aside, the "ivory tower" characterization strikes me as somewhat unfair: there are many, many examples of scholars doing extensive work with some of the most marginalized in society, as well as "regular folk". Maybe the label is meant more to apply to administrators. But the point is that there are thousands of scholars getting their hands dirty in the field.

Anyway, take this tome of a comment for what it's worth. Maybe I'm too biased as a member of the cultural (but not economic, goodness no) elite to have anything worthwhile to say on this. I'd like to think not, but I'd be a poor scholar if I wasn't willing to acknowledge that my opinion is always partial and based on incomplete information.

In any case, we'll always have Negronis (until the woke police take issue with the name, I suppose).

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Thank you Bari, this is a good break on a Friday. “White Guilt” by Shelby Steele was the most impactful book I read this summer, and every American should read Andy NGO’s “Unmasked.” Neither are uplifting, but both important.

And on the Negroni front, if Portland ever becomes a place people want to visit again, we host an excellent week long bar crawl in honor of the Negroni in June.

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The Second Mountain by David Brooks. Reaches deep into the soul to move life beyond the pursuit of money and career. Deeply layered, causing the reader to think of the depth - or shallowness- of their own life.

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Last book read was "One Summer(America 1927) by Bill Bryson. Wonderful book. Just started reading "The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths versus Reality" by Sheldon M. Stern. It's a riveting account of the Cuban Missle Crisis based on the release of JFK's secret recordings of the ExComm meetings during the crisis. The boom is upending much of what I knew and thought about what happened. Finally, thank you Bari for your recommendations - those books are now on my reading list :)

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Dear Bari, thanks for your newsletter and keep up the fight! Things I've read that I've loved lately:

- House of Trelawney, Hannah Rothschild - wonderful story of a British aristocratic family in the 2000s when the money has completely run out

- Cary Grant, A Brilliant Disguise, Scott Eyman - well written, easily readable about how Archie Leach created "Cary Grant" and lived with the results

And you didn't ask for tv but this is SO good it deserves to better known:

- "Upstart Crow" on prime through Brit box. It's by Ben Elton (one of the co-writers of "Black Adder") and it's a funny look at Will Shakespeare and his plays. Our favorite is the teenage daughter who feels very contemporary to anyone with a teenager!

Thanks again for your good work. Somehow, this is all going to turn out okay, I hope and pray.

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No doubt all these recommendations are excellent. But heavy reader though I am, it’s rare that I can bring myself to read books about how bad our society has gotten — which seems pretty apparent already. Too, too depressing. I’d rather re-read Dickens or Trollope or Philip Roth, or maybe something by Muriel Spark or Hilary Mantel that I haven’t read even once yet.

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Some stuff I recommend: Shabbat Shalom

1. Dog’s Best Friend: The Story of an Unbreakable Bond by Simon Garfield

2. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbour by Yossi Klein Halevi

3 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

4. Daniel Deronda by George Elliot

5. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (zt”l)

6. The Choice by Dr.Edith Eva Eger

7. The Taming of the Jew by Tuvia

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I'm someone who isn't as alarmed about the future of the culture wars. As a white heterosexual male, and a Rawlsian Socialist, and a Zen Buddhist I've woken up (yes, I'll use that phrase) and realized the extent to which racial resentment and outdated attitudes about gender and sexuality have been deeply oppressive for so many Americans. I think we are currently going through a time of painful and confusing, but ultimately necessary, change for the better. I imagine a future America where everyone feels like they have an opportunity to thrive, and doesn't feel less valued by society because of the way they were born. And I'm seeing some of this come to fruition in younger people.

Not that I haven't seen some excesses coming from the left in this regard. I certainly have. But ultimately these excesses are rhetorically weak. For example, when I read that "perfectionism is part of a culture of white supremacy" I roll my eyes, whereas I think Bari Weiss becomes deeply alarmed. I roll my eyes because it is so manifestly untrue, and so easily disproven. It seems so obvious, to the wide majority of people of common sense, that perfectionism is a personality trait found in people of all races, and that while it can be taken to harmful excesses, it also has it's positive side. For that reason I don't think these kinds of arguments have much staying power, and I think they will ultimately bounce back on those making them.

I'd like to recommend the book The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee. It lays out, in overwhelming detail, the ways that people of color in America have been systematically disadvantaged, and how this systemic racism has ended up hurting all of us.

One statistic made the whole thing clear for me: The average white household has $170,000 in wealth, whereas the average black family has $17,000 in wealth. If you read this book it will become clear and obvious why. Even after Jim Crow, up through the 1990s we had laws on the books that made it difficult for black people to live in certain neighborhoods, or to qualify for government guaranteed loans, and they have been disproportionately targeted by the sub-prime mortgage industry. And it's not hard to see how this vast disparity in wealth has resulted in disparities in educational achievement, and health. Obviously, wealthier parents can offer their offspring more and better educational opportunities, and better access to healthcare. Heather McGhee is a terrific writer––knowledgable, concise and eloquent. I hope you all will give it a look. I'd love to know Bari Weiss' thoughts on it.

If you really want to challenge yourself, and even your common sense understanding of reality, I recommend a recent book by my Zen teacher (and former science researcher) Steve Hagen titled: The Grand Illusion: What We Know But Don't Believe. If you think you exist, you're wrong. If you think you don't, you are also wrong. Perhaps this book will help you realize the depths to which you are suffering from your ignorance of the Grand Illusion. (Spoiler alert: the grand illusion is our common sense belief in substantiality.) It will also help you to understand the important difference between faith and belief.

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I love the "soft totalitarianism" line. I often say that these elites and their wandering minstrel side kicks that Bari is talking about really prefer the top-down China model best. In academia, they basically advocate for it and allow their students to pummel them with struggle sessions. But we all know that already. Pushback time. Don't worry, no one is going to all you a Trump supporter if you do. Remind them Trump is gone, and not to live in the past. I believe the people Bari is speaking of like that China model and believe it just needs a little make up, some Eurovision, some diversity. That is what they are trying to deliver. Sadly, it is NOT just in our schools, it is in all of media (Hollywood esp has become an outright social engineering mechanism for this) and in some corporate HR departments.

Lastly, the pandemic has gotten me to work out more as Im more glued to home after losing my full time job (at a well known media company) in March. HIIT with no weights in morn, full body, 15 -20 min. HIIT workouts again around dinner time, 20-25 min, with weights. I'm a beast!

Books: The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite by Michael Lind. I call them the Party of Davos, but that's just me. Not cancel culture or culture wars. More woke capitalism and their friends in DC.

Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. Long...watch her interviews on YouTube, just as good.

And for those who REALLY want to get deep and add a bit of theology to the mix...I really love The Powers series by Walker Wink. Unmasking the Powers is one. Engaging the Powers is another.

Find them all on Barnes & Noble. Give Daddy Warbucks and his e-Commerce platform a pass. He's got enough money.

Good work again, Bari. Try making a sidecar on a cold night. It's the margarita of the winter! Just never forget to sugar the rim, or its just not gonna work right (ex-barman here.).

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