I’m a longtime reader of Popehat.com and a big fan of popehat’s main author Ken White’s writing. From time-to-time I share specific posts with friends. Once in a while I even try to quote the site, with attribution, in spoken conversation. E.g. I often use (read: botch) this line: “There are stupid lawyers, there are bullshit artist lawyers, and there are crazy lawyers, but even crazy stupid bullshit artist lawyers sound different than non-lawyers, as a result of being dehumanized by legal education and the practice of law.” Mostly I use the line to scare young people away from law school, but sometimes I just use it to explain to family why I’m less fun to be around since law school.
Popehat has been around and updating regularly for more than a decade, so at this point it has more to offer than you have time to read, so a round-up of the best posts is called for. I haven’t read quite all of the site myself, and of course these are the best posts to my tastes, but if you don’t like it, make your own damn round-up. So, without more ado…
First up, some of the posts at Popehat are good, readable arguments on the why and how of free speech, and other fusillades in defense of civil society.
Free Speech and Civil Society Manifestos
Libertarianism as Ten Questions Rather Than Ten Answers
This post is a terrific presentation of the animating concerns of the thinking, feeling libertarian. There are other posts that are more fun, (this post doesn’t really name call anyone) but if you are a smart person who doesn’t understand what libertarians contribute to our political discourse, this is my choice for the best popehat post for you to spend some time with.
On Punching Nazis
This is a fresh reiteration of the timeless point that norms against using violence to deal with speech one finds odious are essential. It’s also an enjoyably scathing attack on American Nazis and certain other stripes of stupidity and cowardice.
There’s no picking a best line here, it’s all amazing. Example:
We have social and legal norms, including “don’t punch people because their speech is evil, and don’t punish them legally.” Applying those norms is not a judgment that the speech in question is valuable, or decent, or morally acceptable. We apply the norms out of a recognition of human frailty — because the humanity that will be deciding whom to punch and whom to prosecute is the same humanity that produced the Nazis in the first place, and has a well-established record of making really terrible decisions. You — the bien-pensant reader, confident that sensible punchers and prosecutors can sort out Nazis from the not-Nazis — will likely not be doing the punching or prosecuting. The punching and prosecuting will be done by a rogue’s gallery of vicious idiots, including people who think that Black Lives Matter should be indicted under RICO and that it’s funny to send women death threats if they write a column you don’t like.
The Persistence of Tyranny
A look back at the Supreme Court case that decided school children cannot be compelled to stand and speak the pledge of allegiance. A valuable reminder that people are tyrannical toward one another all the time, because that’s human nature. Tyranny isn’t something we need to guard against because the government is a faceless, inhuman monolith. No, tyranny is something we need to guard against because the government, and the public, is made up of people.
This link is Ken’s take on what it would be like, defending Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit.
Example line: “Put another way, it is a matter of judicial record that the new President of the United States is habitually full of shit. This is optimal for a defamation defense, if perhaps not for America.”
This link is Ken’s take on what people connected to the marijuana industry need to know re: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statements about prosecuting under federal marijuana laws even in states that have legalized it.
On Blasphemy and Blasphemers
These are all great, and I won’t blaspheme by deciding between them, and you can’t make me. The main thing to remember is this: you can’t draw a line for punishing “blasphemy” that doesn’t empower tyrants and strongmen to enforce political orthodoxy, so don’t pretend otherwise.
Good Takedowns of Bad Lawyers (and a Judge!)
Texas Attorney: Fraudulent Buffoon, Violence-Threatening Online-Tough-Guy, Vexatious Litigant, Proud Bigot, And All Around Human Dumpster Fire
Actually no, the full title calls out the specific attorney by name. You kind of already know what to expect, but if you don’t, no blurb here will do. Don’t miss the follow-up post, when aforementioned proud bigot resorts to directly threatening Ken White. That is, in this country, not a good way to make a story go away.
Do Judges Have Inherent Dignity
In which a Judge Mark Mahon, of Florida’s fourth circuit, earns our scorn by flatly, idiotically, failing to note the most basic of rules about restricting speech in traditional public fora. Judge Mark Mahon is “biased, dishonest, partial, prejudiced, and a stone idiot who has no business presiding over parking ticket appeals.” Yeesh.
Michael Savage: World’s Biggest Weiner
This post is a take-down of the attorney bringing a lawsuit on behalf of Michael Savage. (Who is Michael Savage? “Michael Savage is either a vicious and contemptible demagogue or getting rich playing one.” Also, Michael Savage is a radio host in the mold of Rush Limbaugh, but angrier and, if memory serves, not quite as fat.) “I’m aghast that a lawyer would sign this lunatic pleading.”
“Safe Spaces” and The Mote in America’s Eye
Q: “Today’s college students came of age in the years after 9/11. What did we teach them about the balance between liberty and safety in that time?”
A: We should have taught them to be uncompromising about freedom. We didn’t.
Read the whole thing. Follow a few of the links, if they grab your attention.
In 5th grade I learned the “occasion/position” format for organizing a thesis statement, and the essay it introduces, to include an occasion or event, an opinion on that occasion or event, and a conclusion re-expressing that opinion.
Occasion: “In short, a student and employee at Indiana University was disciplined for reading a historical book about the Klan near coworkers, after the coworkers refused to listen to the employee explain that the book is actually an account of how Notre Dame students fought against Klan prejudice. … The letter admits in a distinctly begrudging tone that Sampson is not prohibited from reading books in the break room, but insinuates that he may have been reading this one in order to harass others with its subject matter — only to admit that there is no evidence of this.
Position: “Combined with the first letter, it’s a breathtaking exercise of bureaucratic thuggery.”
Conclusion: “This incident illustrates that a rational anti-harassment policy cannot possibly be tethered to subjective offense, or it will become a laughingstock. Some people are idiots and will be offended by idiotic things — like by someone reading a book that decries racism and celebrates people who stood up to it.”
Happy To Be Here
This is a great post to have handy for any attorney, or attorney’s loved one, who may have struggled with depression.
“No matter how often I say that depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and how sincerely I believe it in my head, my gut tells me otherwise. But every time I write about depression, I get emails from people thanking me for talking openly about the subject and for describing what it’s like. And, as I said, I’m only here because of the decency of others. I owe back. I owe back more than I can possibly repay. A little squeamishness doesn’t weigh much in the balance.
So here we are. I’m Ken, and though I live an outwardly “normal,” high-functioning and successful life, I suffer from grave anxiety and depression, and last year it got bad enough that I was hospitalized “voluntarily” for it.”
The hope you can offer to someone who is depressed or anxious isn’t your problems will all go away. They won’t. That’s ridiculous (though certainly it’s much easier to solve or avoid problems when you’re not debilitated). The hope you can offer is this: you will be able to face life’s challenges without fear and misery. The hope isn’t that your life will be perfect. The hope is that after a day facing problems you’ll still be able to experience happiness and contentment. The hope is that you’ll feel “normal” again.
Kenneth Eng Is On The Other Side of Viral Now
Here, Popehat holds up a mirror to the many journalists, and their audiences, who roundly mocked one Kenneth Eng, who said racist things but was also plainly just experiencing mental illness. “We all knew perfectly well in 2007 that Kenneth Eng was crazy. But we pointed and laughed anyway.”
Other Assorted Delightful Tidbits
Fans of C.S. Lewis will love these bits posing as Screwtape, of Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” in which Screwtape discusses this newest technology of damnation, “the internet.” They aren’t by Ken, but rather by a different Popehat writer, “Patrick Non-White” under the tag Screwtape.
This re-post of a poem about Erdogan (the President of Turkey) made me laugh out loud, and prompted me to share the link immediately with a professional mentor with connections to Turkey, notwithstanding that it is probably the most obscene thing I’ve read in months, and that I normally don’t share obscene links with professional mentors