Harry Frankfurt (1929-2023)

I am sorry to see that Harry Frankfurt has died.

He was a emeritus professor of philosophy at Princeton University, but most of us probably knows him from his impactful book On Bullshit. It was originally printed in Raritan, volume 06 number 2, Fall 1986 from the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.

On Bullshit is a slim volume, and brings a core message about the role of bullshit, as distinct from lies, in the modern discourse. In many ways, it addressed the current QANON, Trump and the GOP long before they became what they are now.

For more, see the obit at the NY Times: Harry G. Frankfurt, Philosopher With a Surprise Best Seller, Dies at 94

Hitler is obviously maligned

At least according to a tweet by David Josef Volodzko, a Seattle Time editorial writer.

Text of tweet by Volodzko

The text of the tweet states:

In fact, while Hitler has become the great symbol of evil in history books, he too was less evil than Lenin because Hitler only targeted people he personally believed were harmful to society, whereas Lenin targeted even those he himself did not believe were harmful in any way.

Both Lenin and Hitler generally targeted categories of people rather than individuals, and they did not care whether they personally could be considered harmful to society or not, but rather whether they were undesirable or as a group could be considered harmful to society (by whatever warped measures they used to determine that). Trying to make any comparison between Hitler and someone else, where you decide Hitler is less bad, is making an excuse for Hitler. You can say that Lenin was bad, without saying that Hitler was less bad.

Unsurprisingly, and quite correctly, the tweet led to Seattle Time firing him.

Seattle Times note on firing Volodzko


The text says:

A Seattle Times editorial writer engaged in Twitter recently in a way that is inconsistent with our company values and those of our family ownership. Effective immediately, he is no longer employed by The Seattle Times. While we passionately believe in creating lively discoruse through a variety of viewpoints, we do so with respect and appreciation for all communities. We apologize for any pain we have caused  our readers, our employees and the community.

Volodzko also apologized in a twitter thread, though his first tweet mischaracterized what he had actually stated in his now deleted tweet


The tweet says:

I recently argued Lenin was more evil than Hitler for wanting to kill more people while Hitler was more evil for actually doing it. Let me say sorry to anyone hurt or offended by that because regardless of my intentions, the comparison is a dangerous one.

This is, of course, not what he argued, but at least he seems to have understood that it is comparison that gives covers to White Supremacists and (neo-)Nazis.



What has happened with TYT?

It used to be that The Young Turks was a progressive voice, though a problematic one, given the sexism and Armenian genocide denial by Cenk Uygur in the past.  Lately, however, many are asking what has happened to them. Both Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur has made anti-trans remarks, and Ana has come strongly out against the homeless.

This has led to 10 of the moderators of The Young Turks youtube channel to resign – they have written an open resignation letter.

A very different Hitchens

I am listening to an episode of the podcast Decoding the Gurus, a podcast I have some issues with, especially their both-side bullshit. In this episode, they have Matt Johnson on. Matt Johnson is the author of How Hitchens Can Save the Left: Rediscovering Fearless Liberalism in an Age of Counter-Enlightenment.

It is an interesting episode, because the Hitchens that Matt Johnson talks about is not the same Hitchens that I saw back when Hitchens was alive. He has a glorified picture of Hitchens as a pure fighter for international rights and free speech, ignoring the very real damage that Hitchens helped push on the world (e.g. through his promoting of the Iraq War and his promotion of bigots and far-right monsters). I have in the past written somewhat positive about Hitchens, when I reviewed his autobiography Hitch-22, but I am not blind for his flaws – flaws that has only gotten bigger when looking back through the lenses of time.

Hitchens did fight for a number of good causes, but he also helped promote cover for bigotry against Muslims and was friends with a number of right-winged people who have caused real damage in the US and in Europe.

In order to use Hitchens as shining light, you have to have to just accept him at his words, ignoring his actions in the real word.

Unsurprisingly, the hosts of the podcast are not giving anything more than the mildest of push-backs.