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Monday, May 09, 2016

No, Mark, Bernie Isn't Ralph: a letter to the Philadelphia Gay News

I'm increasingly struck by how fuzzy Mark Segal's thinking often is. There's no comparison between Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader.

Nader is called a spoiler because, running as a third-party candidate, he competed for votes that might otherwise have gone to either Bush or Gore. Bernie not only isn't doing this; he's promised he won't.

In fact, as socialist Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, who spearheaded the $15 living wage movement, has pointed out in an online petition, Bernie could run as an independent and still not be a spoiler, by simply bypassing "close" states like Pennsylvania. In this way, if he doesn't get the Democratic nomination and turn that party into one that reflects his progressive, anti-corporatist values, he could garner millions of volunteers, votes, and federal matching funds to launch one that does, without aiding Trump in any way.

Meanwhile, for Bernie to try and "make up" before the convention by diluting his agenda would simply serve to demobilize his movement and foreclose the chance for the kind of progressive realignment that his candidacy makes possible. By the same token, it would also demobilize those forces that would be needed to help elect Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee. This would be a lose-lose for everyone but Trump.

TAL's Doubly Wrongheaded Disclaimer

The guest host on the latest This American Life introduced one of the segments in a profoundly misleading and potentially hazardous way, thanks to his thinking's being warped by erotophobic ageism. I wrote him as follows:

You opened this piece with a disclaimer that managed to be wrongheaded in two opposite ways simultaneously, by saying it "acknowledges the existence of sex, and it's probably wrong for young children."

On one hand, you thereby suggested that the mention of sex made it wrong for young children, despite zero evidence that there's any age before which hearing about sex is apt to cause problems. I would refer you to this brief filed by sex researchers and others in opposition to the misnamed Child Online "Protection" Act: http://www.fepproject.org/courtbriefs/ashcroft.pdf.

On the other hand, the same wording implied that the mention of sex was the ONLY reason the piece might be "wrong for children." In fact, it was less about sex than it was about genital mutilation, a violent, bloody, and painful human rights violation. There's considerable reason to think young children might be traumatized by hearing about this, yet your mention of only sex in the disclaimer gave no clue. Had I any children, I'd naturally have assumed (as in fact I did) that the line about children reflected only the mention of sex, and that I consequently had nothing to worry about. And then my children might have had nightmares.
I might have added that the disclaimer before a segment of Snap Judgment concerning suicide, also on NPR a couple hours later, was by contrast perfect in its general applicability: "Sensitive listeners and people with small children should be advised that this broadcast does traverse some dark territory."