A Very Exciting Introduction
TGIF. A weekly report from Nellie Bowles.
Hello and welcome to the Common Sense weekly news roundup. I’m Nellie Bowles. Until a couple weeks ago, I was a reporter at the New York Times. Funky local paper.
During my four years at the Times, I wrote a lot about people and Silicon Valley culture; I won an award for a series on child predators using video games to reach children; and I covered the impact of last summer’s protests on small businesses. You can read those stories here, here and here.
I started at the Times as a very happy, lauded bulldog liberal of a writer (readers may remember and hate my 2018 profile of a well-known professor, the last point of contention in my marriage). In the years since, my curiosity started getting me in trouble with my coworkers. As America’s power center shifted leftward, as the country was being reshaped by a charismatic new ideology, I was supposed to cheer it on or otherwise carefully ignore it.
When I didn’t, I became suspect. My colleagues started leaking stories to other publications to embarrass me. I would get a call from a magazine reporter: “Your colleagues are mad you went to CHAZ. Any comment?” Efforts by well-meaning bosses to intervene only made it more frenzied. At first it was crazy-making, like a breakup or a betrayal, a feeling so many in my position have written about beautifully already in this newsletter.
So I quit. Quietly. Unlike some people around here.
Then I looked around.
And the secret I’ve discovered is: It’s actually more fun outside, out here in the hinterlands. The old newspapers and mainstream TV networks have made themselves docile and—worst of all—predictable.
I’d like to be able to continue to do the thing I am good at doing: looking around and seeing the world. To capture it as it is, sometimes wryly, and hopefully with a sense of humor. You know the old saying: To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. And when the power shifts again, which it will (and, I suspect, very sharply), I’ll follow. But I won’t ignore the most interesting stories of the day to please a feverish, faddish movement.
I’m a reporter, so that’s what I’m going to do here, starting with this weekly newsletter. You can expect it in your inbox every Friday morning. I’ll be kicking it off. And later, we’ll ask some of our favorite Common Sense writers to fill in.
The first few weeks of this are free, but after that, this Friday round-up is only for our paying subscribers, who afford me the view from this here incredible yacht.
Now, onward to the stories that fill the Common Sense Slack . . .
Election Night Rebuttal
We knew a backlash to the new left was coming, but the results of Tuesday’s election still came as a shock. In Seattle, Ann Davison, an actual Republican (!), won the race for City Attorney, beating out the abolish-the-police candidate Nicole Thomas-Kennedy, while the more moderate mayoral candidate won. In Buffalo, the socialist India Walton, who won the Democratic primary, lost the mayor’s race to the moderate incumbent who ran as a write-in candidate. Yes—A WRITE-IN CANDIDATE.
In Minneapolis, a proposal to abolish the police department failed (though an impressive 44% of voters were in favor of abolition). And in New York, Eric Adams, the mayoral candidate (and former cop) who ran as the anti-woke, tough-on-crime Democrat, officially got the gig.
But the biggest shock of all—and the sign of what may come in 2022—was Virginia, where first-time candidate Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe by riding parental rage over education all the way to the governor’s mansion.
How could these parents not be angry? For one, schools were shut down for more than a year. And the focus, at least so far as desperate parents could tell, did not seem to be getting their kids back at desks, but making sure that an unpopular new identity politics pervaded the classroom. All the while, McAuliffe, a Clintonworld Democrat, scoffed that parents shouldn’t have a say in the matter. Meanwhile, national Democrats did everything they could to ostracize those parents. Attorney General Merrick Garland seemed to entertain the notion that protesting parents were domestic terrorists; Obama called it all “phony culture wars.” The smart set’s take was to deny that any of the complaints were real, or otherwise to deride the outrage, including by mocking a video of an older man who couldn’t define the terms on the spot. It turns out that mocking voters, and telling people not to believe their own eyes, isn’t a winning strategy.
Liberal billionaires Reid Hoffman and George Soros are now funding the progressive political strategist Tara McGowan’s new effort to “counter disinformation.” The company is called Good Information Inc. One of Good Information’s projects is The Courier, which has neutral-sounding local newsrooms around the country, so readers might assume they are reading a new local newspaper when in fact it’s part of . . . Good Information Inc. Not Orwellian at all.
That video is topped only by this one, from Microsoft’s annual conference, where corporate leaders offered indigenous land acknowledgements, their pronouns, a description of their race, and, apparently for the visually impaired, a description of their outfits (“blue shirt; khaki pants”). Next time please add: age, sexual orientation, vaccine status, and how often you call your mother.
Cops and firefighters are calling in sick to avoid vaccine mandates across the country. In New York City, 9,000 public workers are out sick, while 12,000 have applied for exemption. In a single North Carolina healthcare system, 175 healthcare workers were let go. The stated goal is public health, but advocates also seem to be arguing that firing vaccine-hesitant workers is a sort of delayed justice against Trump or his supporters. Salon ran a piece with the headline: “It’s time to start firing unvaccinated people: Trump fans are overdue for a lesson in consequences.”
We here at Common are happily vaxxed, and I personally jab anyone who wanders by. But an Orlando basketball player, Jonathan Isaac, offered, in a minute-and-a-half, more clarity and nuance on vaccine hesitancy than the CDC has in two years. It’s worth watching.
Everyone Gets a Pay Cut
Inflation is at a fresh 30-year high. Consumer prices pushed inflation up 5.4% from a year ago. And this week, old, stalwart Reuters determined that, despite what the Biden administration has been arguing, this does not appear to be transitory. Finally, the Fed says it is winding down its “emergency” Covid policy, slowing a massive bond-buying program.
Courage on the Court
I can’t tell you the difference between a point guard and a power forward, but it’s amazing to see Enes Kanter’s one-man crusade against the Chinese Communist Party and the appalling hypocrisy of corporate America.
Witch Refuses to be Burned
You may not know Kathleen Stock’s name, but you know her story. Professor questions some of the new doctrine. Mob forms. University caves to mob. Professor smeared, shamed, ousted. Only she is not staying quiet:
Good Reads This Week:
Reporter Aaron Sibarium continues to run circles around the nation’s top law school. First, he exposed how Yale Law School administrators threatened and bullied a student who threw a Constitution Day Bash with the Federalist Society and refused to apologize. (The administrator: “I worry about this leaning over your reputation as a person. Not just here but when you leave. You know the legal community is a small one.”) This week, Aaron followed with a deep-dive into that Yale Law School administrator and the sort of casual antisemitism that’s common now in diversity training.
This, by Norman Doidge, is the latest in a series of beautiful pieces in Tablet exploring tension around Covid-era restrictions and vaccine mandates. Another favorite is The Plague of the Poor, by Alex Gutentag, a public school teacher in California, who writes about the fact that since the vaccinated can spread Covid, it doesn’t make too much sense to bar the unvaccinated from civic life, especially considering many of the unvaccinated are the country’s most vulnerable people.
What If Trigger Warnings Don’t Work, The New Yorker
The New Yorker, the Vatican Bugle of good progressivism, defied type and ran an excellent piece on how trigger warnings are—and always have been—useless at achieving their supposed goal (preparing people emotionally for upsetting or violent content). The warnings may actually have the opposite effect. This was from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to bump it in case anyone missed it.
I don’t know if any reporter is having more fun in the new journalism world than Matt Taibbi. Even this vaguely scolding New York Magazine profile of Matt only made me like him more. This week he filed from Loudon County, which has been the white-hot core of the CRT-in-schools debate. He summarizes parents’ feelings on CRT so well, I have to just block quote:
I met people who didn’t care about “Critical Race Theory,” if they even knew what it was, but were still offended by the existence of a closed Facebook group — the “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County” — that contains six school board members and apparently compiled a list of parents deemed insufficiently supportive of “racial equity efforts.” Still others were troubled by a controversy involving the process by which an outside consultancy called the Equity Collaborative came to be hired, at a cost of roughly $500,000, to conduct an “equity assessment” based on a report of racial insensitivity at one school.
ICYMI: This Week on Common Sense:
America's Lost Boys and Me. Rob Henderson is probably the only student at Cambridge University who lived out of garbage bags as a child. How did a boy abandoned by his birth parents and raised in foster care avoid the lost life he seemed destined to lead?
Batya Ungar-Sargon’s essay, How Journalism Abandoned the Working Class, goes a long way to explaining what is driving the ideological transformation of the press. “It has quite simply been a displacement exercise,” she writes. “instead of experiencing economic guilt about rising inequality and their status among America’s elite, members of the news media—along with other highly educated liberals—have come to believe that the only inequality that matters is racial inequality; the only guilt that matters is white guilt, the kind you can do absolutely nothing to fix, given that it’s based on something as immutable as your skin color.”
The Threat From The Anti-Woke Right. Civil libertarian David French explains why Norman Rockwell’s classic painting of Ruby Bridges and the Holocaust have become controversial in some public schools.
Over on the Honestly podcast was Julie Bindel, the radical feminist from England (or, as I call it, TERF Island). Bindel is part of a cohort of old-school British feminists, many of whom are lesbians, who have been urging caution in the new gender revolution and want to keep some spaces (like women’s sports and prisons) exclusively for biological females. This idea, which, a decade ago, seemed obvious, is today extremely controversial. Listen to her—and all episodes—here.
I’ll be spending the weekend reading Caitlin Flanagan’s first two books and chastising Bari if I see her glance at a phone during Shabbat.
I’m thrilled to be out here. See you next week.