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What Happened Today: April 5, 2022
New York’s never-ending antisemitic hate crime problem; Putin a ‘war criminal’; Go ahead, say ‘gay’
The Big Story
Two recent incidents illustrate the reality behind the 400% increase in antisemitic hate crimes so far this year in New York City compared to the same period last year. The first attack last Friday was caught on video: A 21-year-old Hasidic Jewish man dressed in traditional garb was randomly attacked by six men and beaten to the ground in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. There were no “prior words of provocation,” according to police. The group reportedly carjacked an Uber driver after the assault, which left the victim with minor injuries. In the second antisemitic attack over the weekend, six Jewish teenagers were walking on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when they were threatened by a group of three teenagers. “The suspects brandished a knife, a crow bar, and a sword, and followed them toward their residence before fleeing,” according to a police spokesperson. There was no physical violence in the second incident, according to a complaint filed with the New York Police Department. While Jews continue to be far and away the most common targets of hate crime in New York—they were the victims in 38% of all hate crimes recorded in the city last year—attacks against other groups, particularly Asian Americans, have gone up as well. As The Scroll has repeatedly pointed out, the rise in hate crimes targeting highly visible and vulnerable groups like religious Jews and Asians tracks to the increase in the overall level of violent crime and disorder in the city. The previous mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, repeatedly promised to do something about the attacks but settled on symbolic and administrative measures rather than more aggressive policing in the most affected neighborhoods. De Blasio also claimed more than once that antisemitic attacks, including those involving non-white perpetrators, were a product of “white supremacy.” New York’s new mayor, Eric Adams, a former police officer, has been rhetorically tougher but has yet to make any substantive policy changes to address the steady tide of hate crimes in the city.
In The Back Pages: Go Ahead, Say ‘Gay’
→ U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and said he should be tried for war crimes in the wake of new evidence showing that Russian soldiers deliberately massacred dozens of Ukrainian civilians. The killings took place in the town of Bucha outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Photos from Bucha show what appear to be at least 11 bodies left in the streets after Russian forces took control of the city. Russia denies any responsibility for the killings and has accused Ukraine of manipulating the images, but an analysis of satellite imagery by The New York Times suggests that the bodies first appeared while Russian troops were still occupying Bucha.
→ Putin appears to easily clear the bar for qualifying as a war criminal—but, as strategic analyst Edward Luttwak points out here, calling him one is unlikely to make it any easier to negotiate an end to this war.
→ China has placed 26 million people under lockdown in the financial capital of Shanghai. The citywide quarantine is being imposed in the midst of what Chinese officials have called the most severe outbreak of COVID-19 in China since 2020, but there appear to be a total of only 268 symptomatic daily cases in the city. China’s draconian “zero-COVID” policies mandate that children have to be separated from their parents if either test positive for the virus, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
→ Look out for even more disruptions to the global supply chain caused by the extended lockdowns in China, meaning both product shortages and higher prices, according to the logistics industry journal American Shipper:
The protracted, spreading confinement measures are likely to cause supply chain disruptions far greater than last year’s partial closures of the ports of Yantian and Ningbo due to limited outbreaks and more on par with the manufacturing blackout that began in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic two years ago, said ocean shipping expert Jon Monroe.
Everstream Analytics, a company focused on mitigating supply chain risks, offered this prediction to customers: “The severity of the current outbreak—by U.S. standards low, but the highest in China since the Wuhan lockdown—suggests that electronics and automotive supply chains will experience ‘significant disruption due to supplier outages in the coming seven to 10 days.’”
→ Exxon, the U.S. oil company that would like you to forget about any intuitive associations you have with its name and instead focus on how Vladimir Putin is a war criminal responsible for your high gas prices, is on track to break a seven-year quarterly earnings record. The company’s first-quarter operating profits from oil and gas look like they’re up by as much as $2.7 billion over the previous quarter’s $6.6 billion. The good news for Exxon comes after the company raised oil prices by 45% last quarter, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the highest level in seven years.
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→ Oberlin College, the very picture of an ultra-progressive elite American liberal arts college—tuition: $78,147 per year—has been ordered to pay $31 million to a local bakery that students boycotted and smeared as racist after an Oberlin student was caught shoplifting there in 2016. The judgment by a state appeals court in Ohio upholds a 2019 ruling that ordered Oberlin to pay Gibson’s Bakery $25 million in damages and $6 million for legal fees. The court’s ruling reflects the fact that top faculty members at Oberlin, including the former dean, Meredith Raimondo, played an active role in the protests.
→ The evolution—progress may not be the word for it—of sexual ethics in the span of a single decade.
→ “The triple peak day.” It makes you weary just hearing it, but that’s the term that a team of researchers at Microsoft has given to the new round-the-clock cycle for members of the knowledge economy with the good luck to work from home. “Traditionally, knowledge workers had two productivity peaks in their workday: before lunch and after lunch. But when the pandemic sent so many people into work-from-home mode, a third peak emerged for some in the hours before bedtime.” Clocking in on the factory floor has never sounded so good.
Scroll Columnist James Kirchick on Why the ‘Grooming’ Panic Is About Homophobia, Not Protecting Children
As what we in the Alphabet Community derisively call a “straight-acting” gay man, I’ve lost track of the times people have mistaken me for a heterosexual. Usually, this error takes the form of being asked about a girlfriend or a wife, a question that, depending on the location and the circumstance (reporting trips to various outposts of the former Soviet empire and the West Bank not being particularly welcoming places for those of the same-sex-loving variety), I politely deflect or answer candidly by stating that my partner is, in fact, a man. Although various self-appointed Alphabet Community spokespersons insist that I should take great umbrage at such displays of oppressive heteronormativity, rarely have I felt the need to reprimand my interlocutors, who are usually acting in good faith. Heterosexuality, after all, has long been regarded as the default orientation of the human species, an expectation that Gen Z is doing its best to upend.
People assuming that I am straight is something that happens much less frequently these days, however, a salutary development that I believe to be more than just a consequence of my own visibility as a gay writer, but indicative of a larger trend. In 2022, the vast majority of Americans understand that gay people, as Proust wrote, are a “part of the human whole … numbering its adherents everywhere, among the people, in the army, in the church, in the prison, on the throne.” And they understand this primarily because they know openly gay people, something that was not the case when gay people were compelled by law and social convention to live secret lives.
The legal equality and broad social acceptance that gays and lesbians have achieved over the past 60 years is one of the great triumphs of the liberal society, a direct result of the United States’ capacity for pluralism, tolerance, and free expression. Consider how, within living memory, homosexuality was illegal in every state, gay people were stigmatized as mentally ill, and the dominant media image of the homosexual was that of a dangerous “sexual psychopath” who lurked in public parks and preyed on children, and you will appreciate just how far we—gay and straight Americans—have come.
As the author of a forthcoming book revealing the many and surprising ways homosexuality influenced American national politics over the course of the 20th century, as well as a 2019 essay titled “The Struggle for Gay Rights is Over,” I will be the first to acknowledge the progress our country has made in welcoming gay people in from the shadows. But every now and then, the old bigotry rears its ugly head, and bigotry is what I believe best describes Florida’s much-discussed Parental Rights in Education Act. By banning “discussion” and “instruction” on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in classrooms (a phantom threat that, even if it did exist to the extent claimed by the bill’s supporters, is best addressed at the local level), the measure goes far beyond the goals of its more well-intentioned backers, who quite reasonably want to shield their elementary-school-age children from the invidious nonsense of academic queer theory and radical gender ideology. Treating the mere existence of homosexuality as a taboo subject, the act conflates sexual orientation with sex and lends credence to the hoary slander that gay people are determined to “groom” children.
Consider the reaction to the bill from the usually sensible Abigail Shrier, a writer, who recalls how, when she was a girl, “we used to try and derail class by asking the teachers questions like, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ They never indulged these questions. They said ‘My private life is none of your business.’ That was the correct response. Bring it back.” My schoolmates and I too engaged in this juvenile behavior with female teachers who used the honorific “Ms.” But that the rest of our teachers had spouses and children was hardly a secret; photographs of their families were often visible on their desks. Do we expect gay people to practice a higher level of discretion about such anodyne realities? If so, why? In reaction to Disney’s opposition to the bill, anti-critical race theory campaigner Christopher Rufo lit up Twitter with a thread documenting employees of the corporation who have been arrested for various sex crimes against children, a seemingly long list not nearly so damning as Rufo thinks it to be once you realize that the company employs nearly 200,000 people. “Wait until he finds out about the Catholic Church,” snapped the great lesbian wit Katie Herzog.
In 1978, when an initiative that would have banned gay people from working as public school teachers was placed on the ballot in California, a conservative icon offered a pithy reply to those who said the measure was needed to “protect” kids from adults keen to “recruit” them into the gay lifestyle. “If teachers had such power over children,” Ronald Reagan wrote, quoting a voter with whom he had corresponded, “I would have been a nun years ago.” At a time when our elites of both political parties recklessly amplify a set of multiple moral panics, of which this latest Florida hysteria is a prime example, how stark is the absence of leaders willing to do the responsible thing and tell us to calm the fuck down.