How Kendrick Lamar's new album tackles cancel culture, artistic expression, and social justice
This week on our Substack, Jason Zito writes about Kendrick Lamar’s latest album. He explores Lamar’s bold approach to difficult topics, the Entertainment Industrial Complex, and the cultural consequences that come from telling the truth.
“We now live in a world where most entertainment is not only politically motivated, but doctrinally motivated. In our new paradigm, opinions and creative expression must conform to a set of predefined rules. That is by nature unartistic, leaving creative people scared to make an error or take a risk. As Lamar says, “The media is the new religion. You killed the consciousness…The industry has killed the creatives. I’ll be the first to say it.”
Throughout this album, Kendrick Lamar is boldly voicing things that most are afraid to. Its music runs headlong into the culture wars without becoming a merely political piece of art. It reminds us that individual redemption is the true path to cultural redemption. What really matters, despite all of the insufferable disputes which drag online discourse into the mud, is the power of the individual to be reborn. It’s not your fixed traits or your problematic past; it’s your willingness to change and grow. That power, spread across millions of people, can also change the world. There are many who underestimate that energy, many who openly laugh it off, but regular people are counting on it.”
When ‘Racism’ Is Not Really Racism
“Terms like “systemic racism” are not utterly without use. For one, of course there are actual racists embedded in some segments of American society, not to mention less overt, yet intolerable, racism of subtler kinds. For example, the idea among medical practitioners that Black people are more tolerant of pain than others is a kind of racist bias whose effects spread throughout the medical system. The fact that cops are more likely to rough up Black people cannot be treated as anything other than a “systemic” manifestation of underlying dehumanization.
But such cases are exceptions. Most disparities between Black and white people, though they exist and are not something Black people deserve any kind of blame for, are not due in 2022 to “racism” in any sense compatible with clear and honest language.
To insist on using the term this way so challenges basic understanding that it can only encourage less discriminating observers to see it as “playing the race card,” confused by the idea that the racism of the past leaves behind a system that continues to exert that trait as if it were sentient. Calling systems, structures and institutions “racist” encourages a kind of anthropomorphization of abstract matters, which is a simplistic and even unscientific mode kind of thought.”
Public education is drifting from its founding ideals and public purpose
For The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, FAIR Advisor Robert Pondiscio writes about the crisis of trust in K-12 education in America. He examines the reasons for this lack of trust and how we might move forward in a constructive manner to ensure the best educational outcomes possible for our children.
“When education drifts from its founding purpose of citizen-making, and cultivating “prejudices in favor of our country,” when it becomes a form of social justice activism, when it dwells exclusively in the bad and the broken, it tacitly encourages children to see their country as nothing more than a collection of problems to be solved, with none of the virtues and blessings of citizenship.
We want to educate our children to be problem-solvers, but that doesn’t mean schools should be problem-spotters or should fetishize America’s failures.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that schools promote mindless nationalism or teach sanitized history. Fair-minded people can see that gratitude for what works and outrage at what’s not working are equally important to cultivate in a well-functioning society. But when only our shortcomings are emphasized, we risk creating in the minds of our children the impression that their country is reflexively antagonistic to their interests: What we have, what we have been given, and what some may seek to preserve is wrong, unjust, and must be dismantled, root and branch.”
There Will Be No Heroes
On her Substack, Broadview, FAIR Advisor Lisa Selin Davis writes about the mainstream media’s seemingly sudden change of heart about discussing “gender affirming” care in a manner that takes all sides into account.
“For those of us who’ve been trying to deliver this message through mainstream channels—some for years, and in my case, a year-and-a-half—it’s a little frustrating to see this information presented as some kind of new revelation. But mostly it’s a relief. It signals to other outlets that they’re allowed to present dissent as rooted in science, not hate. So perhaps this is the moment many of us have been waiting for, when the media will embrace the mission of reporting honestly, even when it is politically inconvenient to do so.
Several people sent me the piece and suggested that I and others who’ve tried to tell this side of the story would be exonerated. Are those who’ve been sounding the alarm and trying to tell a more complicated story for much longer than I have finally going to be able to rip the scarlet letters from their lapels and say they told us so? Or will the media simply start reporting a new story, with no nod to the reality that they weren’t before, no mea culpa, no acknowledgement of previous misinformation, and no acknowledgement of the costs—the bodies and psyches truly hurt by a medical practice overwhelmed by ideology over science, unwilling to see the costs, only the benefits?”
Why Do I Avoid Polarization (not Politics) at Thanksgiving Dinner?
For Yellow Seed Magazine, Jefferson Shupe writes about having politically charged discussions with family around the dinner table, the cost of needing to have the last word, and the need for nuance when debating topics with those you love.
“Despite defending my political team that day, I didn’t gain any victories furthering my political cause, and the only result was a weakened family relationship.
Our dinner conversations are a microcosm of America as a whole. Can you feel the division? We were never meant to all think alike—hashing out differences is as American as peanut butter and jelly—but our discord has made disagreeing toxic and ineffective. We are trading the principled Battlefield of Ideas for the anything-goes Cage Match of Ideologues.
My failed crusade at that party was like a late-night fast food stop: it felt great in the moment, but I soon regretted it. And after further reflection I launched into a years-long quest to find a better way.
My goal changed from converting or shaming my political adversary to understanding them. From achieving the ultimate mic-drop to seeking out nuance.”
The tactic of the bully
For Milli Hill’s Substack, The Book Forge, FAIR in the Arts Fellow Rosie Kay writes about the tactics bullies use to cow others into silence, the importance of women’s rights, and the principles we should hold true as a society.
“But look at what is happening to women who dare to speak up for women’s rights. We are being bullied, ostracised, our livelihoods destroyed, and our reputations and careers threatened. Instead of standing up and supporting these women, there is a collective silence and even a collective de-platforming. More than the bullying, this level of cowardice from everyone else in your career fields chips away at your trust in the decency of people and the strength of collective good.
We see it in our political parties, we see it in the arts, we see it in universities, we see it across so many aspects of society. As Joan Smith said in The Critic, ‘accusations of ‘transphobia’ are a means of asserting power, a reminder that its dangerous to challenge the reactionary and unscientific ideology of trans extremists’.
But we are strong, intelligent women, and we are often at the height of our powers, and we feel compelled to speak out and to seek the truth and to protect women and girls now and into the future. There is nothing transphobic about the protection and safeguarding of women in vulnerable spaces, in prisons, in sports and in hospitals, and it shouldn’t take courage to say so.”
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