We just finished Kevin D. Williamson’s The Smallest Minority and as we were finishing that up we heard about Clemens Tonnies, the chairman of the Bundesliga soccer team Schalke who was attacked by the social media mobs that Kevin is writing about. Let’s start with Kevin.
We really enjoyed The Smallest Minority. Kevin creates some amazing comparisons. It is hard (probably impossible) to find as literary a political book where Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare are crucial to understanding the text. It is in turn nasty (Minos was a Cretan, Matthew Yglasias is a cretin), hilarious, insightful and crazy. Sometimes it is all of those at once. It is easy to guess who is the mad dog of Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Be sure to real all the footnotes. Twice.
Sidebar One: We rarely comment on why folks do things. Rather we are more interested in what they do. We are convinced that this book is the real Kevin. We understand that it is easy to get fooled and that is why we rarely comment on why. We often wonder why folks behave like they do on TV and radio. Kevin is really enjoying the conflict about social media. End Sidebar One.
The backstory is that Kevin was hired by The Atlantic and shortly thereafter fired because of a social media storm. The book is Kevin’s generalization of the problems with social media. Kevin is correct when he says we need discourse, a real discussion, to discuss our pressing problems. Social media gives us anti-discourse. We get slogans and attacks to stop discussion. People do it because it works.
The book was a joy to read. The literary bent, character assassination, and asides are great fun. The Smallest Minority just didn’t resonate with us. We didn’t buy the Shakespeare analysis but that wasn’t it. Twitter, Facebook and other social media just isn’t that important to us. There is a lack of an intersection been MWG and Kevin’s book. We don’t follow the recommendations to improve the MWG penetration following by tweeting and pictures. We really appreciate our followers but we blog for our own benefit and so we don’t fill up Facebook (our only social media) with political stuff. We are not sure social media is that important to the wider world. Kevin didn’t do much to convince us on that account.
Then came Clemens and Schalke that made more of a connection or intersection for us. These events didn’t completely change our mind but they did make us reconsider. Here is a summary of what happened:
Many fans had been calling on the 63-year-old [Clemens] Tönnies to resign over the comments he made on Aug. 1, when he told a public meeting in Paderborn that tax increases to fight climate change were wrong and claimed it was better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.
“Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark,” Tönnies said in comments first reported by the Neue Westfälische local newspaper.
Tönnies, Schalke chairman since 2001, apologized for his comments
Of course, Clemens has stepped on at least three third rails of social media. First, he fought climate change recommendations. Second, he talked about Africa and (gasp) Africans. Third, he apologized to try and sate the mob. They cannot be sated.
OK, he is not exactly right. What Africa needs is capitalism and Germany could use a little more. Here is part of a story on Tanzania:
The real cause of that reduction is pretty straightforward: economic freedom. Tanzania has gradually dismantled the socialist or “ujamaa” economic policies enacted by the dictator Julius Nyerere, since he stepped down in 1985. Nyerere was widely praised by leftist intellectuals in developed countries for his sincere belief in socialism, relatively low level of corruption, and not intentionally slaughtering his own people like so many other dictators.
Dang. We got rid of the tab before we made the link and now we can’t find it. To get back to Clemens, we agree with him that tax increases to fight climate change don’t make sense in Germany or elsewhere. We also agree with him that economic improvement in Africa would be a good thing and it will require carbon emissions.
Sidebar Two: We have argued that a revenue neutral carbon tax that eliminates the gas tax is a good idea. It is not a tax increase. Sidebar Two.
Africa could use more and better power. Our first priority would be economic structure rather than actual structures but Clemens has a reasonable idea. Reducing the cutting down of trees is probably a good idea a way for Clemens to try to connect with the climate change folks. It is not unreasonable to argue for more trees. He spoke of the number of African babies. So what are the fertility rates in African countries? Glad you asked:
The vast majority of the countries in the world with the highest fertility rates are in Africa, with Nigertopping the list at 7.153 children per woman, followed by Somalia at 6.123 children per woman. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Chad follow at 5.963, 5.922 and 5.797 children per woman, respectively.
So the top five countries in term of fertility are all African. Germany, on the other hand, has a fertility rate of 1.586. We are not convinced that overpopulation is a problem but the climate change folks often suggest it is. Clemens is using their rhetoric against them. They should respond rather than call him names but, as Kevin points out, a name calling ochlocracy is effective in silencing people these days.
The Clemens story has not made fighting the ochlocracy a front-burner item for us yet. We could be trending in that direction.