Monthly Archives: December 2016

Hard Copy

A study was undertaken in 2013 with tenth-graders in Norway, where the students were divided into two groups. One group read two texts (1,400–2,000 words) in print and the other group read the same texts as PDFs on a computer screen. In the reading comprehension test that was administered, the students who read on paper scored significantly better than those who read the texts digitally. It was easier for those who read on paper to remember what they had read. Mangen et al. say that this is because paper gives spatio-temporal markers while you read. Touching paper and turning pages aids the memory, making it easier to remember where you read something. Having to scroll on the computer screen makes remembering more difficult.


Walter Benn Michaels interviewed on the 10th anniversary of The Trouble With Diversity:

As racism and antidiscrimination have become more central to the moral compass of the country, what you get is an increasing number of white people who are committed and convinced that they’re the victims of racism. Among Republicans, it’s something like the majority of them who think they’re the primary victims of racism. There are two ways to look at that. One is that it’s not true. Let me be clear, I know perfectly fucking well that white people are not the victims of racism. They’re not the primary, secondary, or even the tertiary victims of racism. But in a world where racism is a central issue, people begin to understand their own genuine victimization through that lens.

White people are indeed victimized—they’re the largest group of poor people, the largest group of people on welfare, and group below the poverty level in this country. Those people begin to think, yeah, racism is the problem. That’s why what we’ve seen emerge during this Trump campaign is a white identity politics, in which white people go around thinking of themselves as aggrieved, as victims—not because of black people’s prejudice against them but rather the government’s, which prefers other groups. It’s a mistaken view, but a standard view. But then the response on the so-called left is just to go, “Racists!” That doesn’t change people’s minds. You’re not trying to organize them, you’re just scapegoating. Scapegoating people is a bad idea when they’re in the majority and you’re in the minority. It’s one thing if you’re scapegoating 10 percent of the population, but you’re scapegoating a very large part of the population. So as an electoral policy, it doesn’t seem wise.



It was a strange semester. Looking back, prematurely, I remember getting overwrought about politics. This is still the case. But what really interests me is the possibility that very few people born after the end of the Cold War fully appreciate just how pitched that battle was. Not only in terms of real violence but ideologically.

Some of the best anti-communists have been Liberals, historically. The same is true today. Ask a friend how many people were killed in (formerly) Indochina during the American War. Ask them how many people have died thus far in Iraq. Yet mainline Cold War Democrats at least offered a social-democratic/ Keynesian settlement to sweeten the pills of proxy wars, dirty tricks, and outright imperialism.

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