On "Cancel Culture"

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Tiassa, Jul 20, 2020.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    From another thread:.

    First, it's womyn and wymyn, last I recall, but that's an old standard in a discussion that belongs to Sisterhood, and if it becomes necessary in the course of human events to officially change the spelling, Sister will tell me. Meanwhile, the Sisterhood is divided when it comes to this particular question, and the last solid answer I had from anyone taking part was Indigo Girls on the Womyn's Festival. Just like I couldn't tell you who it was that finally clicked on changing my vocabulary about transgender, sometimes the memo really is as simple as someone saying it a particular way in a tweet that crosses my feed. It's not that I wasn't aware of the issue; it's just that someone finally went and said it in that way that left me saying, "Oh. Well, duh."

    The "womyn" question will be resolved when it is resolved, and then it's just a question of how long before who delivers me the memo.

    Cancel culture, meanwhile, is largely a canard. The general idea it plays to exists in society, but the complaint about "cancel culture" start with the same sort of libertarian-rightist "thought police" attitude driving decades of complaints about political correctness.

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    Barry Deutsch, 1 August 2018

    My problem with the proposition of cancel culture is that the term has been introduced in a way that overlooks functional distinctions; there are any number of ways. A blatant example is the right to exclude. Argue what one will about gay marriage, or a book in a library, for example, but one argument that doesn't work is that being refused empowerment to suppress another person's equal rights violates one's own equal rights. An appeal against marriage equality, for instance, argued that the Christian's right to religious freedom was violated by the fact of gay marriage itself, that equal rights to religious freedom were violated when Christians were not allowed to prevent gay marriage. The book burning argument ran that one's right to free religion was violated unless some other person's right to free speech was refused. Cancel culture is a downstream iteration of an old, bogus complaint.

    Compared to being blacklisted for suspected communism, or disqualified from parenthood for being a lesbian, the idea that a newspaper refused someone a regular column for, say, their support of supremacism, does not mean that person has been silenced. Given the lecture circuit, fawning newspaper articles, website catering to that person's celebrity peer group°, the commission to write the introduction for the fiftieth anniversary edition of a landmark book on freedom and oppression, and a network of online joint multimedia presentations with ideological fellows, it might actually be the drugs that finally silence someone, and even those who find him loathsome might hope he gets better.

    But that one is not at all silenced.

    Part of this came across my twitfeed recently when a reporter who happens to be white challenged a columnist who happens to be black, and decided to make it about Kapernick. The point in question was cancel culture, and the columnist reminded that a private company is not bound to keep an employee who behaves in a manner contrary to company values and policies. The reporter cut in to accuse a black man of siding with the NFL against a black man, which was weird enough, but what the columnist said was values and policies; the problem isn't necessarily whether the NFL can, but that it would—the policies, as such, reflect the values. The reporter is not a slouch, and most readers would consider him progressively oriented; on this occasion, it is, at best, an ugly-looking whoopsie. But he couldn't tell the difference, and accused the black columnist of siding with the NFL's values in their treatment of Kapernick, effectively accusing him of being a black man siding with the NFL's supremacist values.

    Meanwhile, as dust fails to settle around the controversial Harper's Letter, the debacle only goes downhill, with the latest revelation being that the statement against cancellation decided to exclude some potential signatories; when Rowling and Lindsay are both in, but Greenwald needs to be excluded, something went really, really wrong.

    Questions of platform access will always persist, but the proposition of cancel culture is counterrevolutionary, which ought to tell us something.

    It really is as straightforward as reminding that equality does not mean supremacy. As it comes to us, cancel culture asserts on behalf of anti-egalitarianism and radical exclusionism. This is the counterrevolutionary implication: Cancel culture is a complaint against the disruption of empowerment to cancel.


    ° Now including chatter about two recently self-cancellation celebrity volunteers denouncing cancel culture.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I agree with you, Tiassa, in regards to the particular examples you gave, but there is another side to cancel culture that does give me pause for concern. It's the kind of cancel culture in which people on the extreme left target try to "cancel" those on the less-extreme left.

    I don't really want to take time to dig up specific examples right now, but I can give you an example of the sort of thing I mean. What tends to happen is that Person A - typically somebody who supports all the usual lefty ideals - makes a long speech or writes a long article about an issue or talks about something contentious in a comedy routine, and in the process of doing that makes a statement that is just ambiguous enough that if somebody really wants to take it literally, or to try to take offence, then it can be read in that way. Then Person or Group B comes in on their high horse, expressing vocal outrage that person A would make such a statement, and demanding that person A henceforth not be allowed to speak in polite society/be published in reputable publications/be heard on podcasts/appear on mass media/insert other cancellation.

    To maintain this level of rage and outrage at Person A's statement, Person or Group B must ignore virtually everything else that Person A has ever said about the topic/statement/subject matter to which Person B has taken exception. The question "Did Person A really mean that?" must never be asked, in case a reasonable person might reach the sensible conclusion of "Well, that's not really much of a problem, is it?"

    This kind of cancel culture is a kind of internal rot in some liberal circles. It seems that Person or Group B is so inward-looking and focused on cancelling Person A (who, in all likelihood, probably agrees with 95% of what Group B stands for) that Group B doesn't have much free time any more to pay attention to Group X - the actual bigots whose spoken/published/promulgated views are exactly what Group B is trying to tar Person A with.

    This brand of cancel culture does not stop targeting Person A when Person A tries to put his/her statement in its correct context, or when Person A clarifies what he/she meant to say or should have said instead. The people in Group B do not let go once they have the scent of blood in their nostrils. In their minds, Person A should not only be chastised for this comment, but should be forever ostracised or "cancelled".

    Somewhat related to this is when Person B goes out of his or her way to take offence at whatever it was that Person A said or wrote. The idea is that once it is established that Person A is not 100% in agreement with everything Person B believes, Person A has no right to express an opinion - indeed should be actively prevented from expressing any opinion. Usually this is couched in terms of some kind of psychic harm that Person B says they have suffered or may suffer from Person A's statement. It also often comes with the assumption that if somebody, somewhere could possibly take offence at (or be "triggered by ") Person A's statement, then that in itself is reason to cancel Person A.

    Apart from the blatant stupidity of failing to recognise where the real problems lie, this kind of cancel culture is actually contrary to the ideals that the people calling loudest for the cancellation say they hold dear.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2020
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  5. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Genetic fallacy, seemingly unaware of the reality.
    Political correctness is the impetus for cancel culture, and people are losing their jobs and businesses over not toeing the leftist orthodoxy. IOW, cancel culture is the new thought police, and there are very real consequences for violating the new left puritanism.
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  7. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

    Your hypocrisy is glaring. Trump is trying to intimidate critical media organizations, stop the publication of books that he doesn’t like, and purge the executive branch of anyone who disagrees with him. The rest of the conservative movement can be just as intolerant of dissent. There are practically no Trump critics left at Fox News, Never Trump conservatives such as Steve Hayes, George F. Will and Bill Kristol are long gone at the network. Fox’s prime-time programming is wall-to-wall Trump idolatry. When it comes to a diversity of opinions, the right doesn’t practice what it preaches. It (rightly) demands conservative representation in universities, corporations and mainstream media organizations, but it shuns liberal views in its own sphere of control — which now extends to the entire federal government.
  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Let's compare the people who lost their jobs due to cancel culture and the people who lost their jobs due to Trump's inept handling of the pandemic. What is your estimate for jobs lost due to cancel culture?
    There's a better name for cancel culture. That name is capitalism.
  9. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Calling media "fake news" is not intimidation. Naming a journalist a co-conspirator is (according to the Washington Post, New York Times, AP, etc.):
    “With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible ‘co-conspirator’ in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news,” the New York Times editorial board wrote.

    The Post report on the Justice Department’s investigation involving Rosen came not long after the Justice Department seized two months of telephone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press. Gary Pruitt, the AP’s chief executive officer, called the action “unconstitutional.”

    The actions taken in the cases involving Fox News and the AP went to a larger issue of the Obama administration’s aggressive prosecutions of leaks.

    “Under the Obama administration, charges were brought against at least eight government employees or contractors accused of leaking information to the media, and several journalists were snared in the process through subpoenas to testify or surveillance of their records,” the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote last year. “After public outcry, the Department of Justice released revised standards for subpoenaing reporters.”
    And what book did he stop publication on? Bolton's? Nope, it was only delayed for review. It's out right NOW: https://www.amazon.com/Room-Where-Happened-White-Memoir/dp/1982148039
    The White House wanted it redacted. It never sought to stop its publication altogether. Get your facts straight.
    The Trump administration sued the former national security adviser John R. Bolton on Tuesday to try to delay publication of his highly anticipated memoir about his time in the White House, saying the book contained classified information that would compromise national security if it became public.
    Guess what, White House officials and cabinet serve at the President's pleasure, and he's in charge of the entire executive branch. And I don't give a crap about Fox News. I never cite it because I never watch it. "The right" doesn't only see Fox News, as the vast majority of news outlets are decidedly leftist, and there's no avoiding them. The right is willing to have debates and interviews with anyone, whereas the left will boycott any leftist who dares talk with any high-profile conservative. And Fox News is not the entirety of conservative media, but I wouldn't expect you to know that, from your little bubble.

    Blatant whataboutism and comparing apples to fish. Natural disasters are not the same as targeted boycotts.

    No, a vocal minority is not the free market. It's intimidation. And it only works because conservatives, and the majority of Americans, are largely above threatening the livelihoods of others and not such miserable fascists that they obsess and harangue businesses online for not properly virtue-signalling.
  10. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Of course you don't.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Are you denying that the kind of thing I described occurs?
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    What that's about is the attempt to sow distrust in the fact-based media in general. There are two purposes. One is to sow the seed of the idea that every "news" sources (or source of opinion, for that matter) is as good as any other, which is very useful if you can control enough media space to widely disseminate lies. Another is to avoid accountability. If people come to distrust fact-based media in general, then they will also distrust any reports from those sources that point to corruption in government or institutions, for example.
  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    James, you can't even tell me what you're describing.

    Here, let's review:

    • "I don't really want to take time to dig up specific examples right now ...."

    • "Are you denying that the kind of thing I described occurs?"​

    It's kind of hard to consider what we can't examine.
  14. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member


  15. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Are you sure that's agreement?

    The thing about specific examples, James, is that it makes all the difference in the world as to what you're talking about.

    Like, here's a nonspecific specific example: There's this guy I know, who once tried to hatchet-job something I wrote, setting up a right-wing screed that seemed kind of senseless in its moment, but the thing was I upset him by implying he had done something inconsistent and wrong or unfair. But as he hollered at me about this and that, he said something about people being fired from their jobs because somebody decided to go out of his or her way to interpret one word of something they communicated in the worst possible way it could be interpreted, and therefore to claim discrimination, bullying or intimidation. Furthermore, he has over time variously tried to convince me he is center-left, liberal, and even fellow leftist, yet when he roars, it's a rightward argument with right-of-center lexicon, and has been for years.

    A version of this arose in recent policy discussion: I mentioned that, not long ago, someone out in the world publicly lamented being fired for being a conservative who supports gun rights and has an unpopular opinion of Black Lives Matter, while the truth of the matter is that his employer found out he was a participating American Nazi.

    And compared to any number of not-supremacists complaining about liberals and SJWs and how a respectable man could be fired for just one word, well, right, it's not really about just one word, just like it wasn't really about being conservative or supporting gun rights, or even refusing to support Black Lives Matter.

    The question of respectability, James, is not purely aesthetic; there are functional considerations.

    Consider the idea of an intense controversy occurring in circles more liberal and leftward than you; the question arises how anyone might describe it. For instance, "the kind of cancel culture in which people on the extreme left target try to 'cancel' those on the less-extreme left", is the sort of expression that ought not rely on right-of-center definitions wrongly describing circumstances. Specific examples, as such, would illuminate those unresolved shapes. To wit—

    —there are contexts by which we might be able to at least appear to agree on something about that statement, but I doubt your definitions because we've had occasion to discuss related issues so often, before.

    But, again, there are reasons why more specific examples would be helpful.

    To the other, I was looking through a backstory, filling some historical gaps, in an episode I'm aware of—particular market forces reiterating a long-simmering question, to the surprise of someone's friend—and while, of course, it is far more complex than the simplified version I might rattle off in a sentence or two, the circumstance only returns to the larger question about a near paradox at the heart of why one part of that particular discussion is taking place at all. For instance, if I say the defense of a person's behavior relies on changing the context of the question in order to pretend affability is some manner of scientific proof, and a counterintuitive pretense of mystery is asserted about complaints in lieu of the source information we have—which pretense, in turn, actually embodies and enacts what the complaint describes—I am neither joking nor surprised. Sometimes it works out that there are multiple questions afoot at once, and none of them speak as well in someone's defense as hoped or needed. But if, for the last six to ten years, and even longer, as the more complicated history goes, someone has enjoyed a privilege of not really needing to answer for certain outstanding questions, a coincidence of market forces raising backlash is not itself cancellation. Indeed, as it turns out, the potential for cancellation he faces is a professional question easily avoided by not behaving in certain ways that discredit one's credential and, thereby, one's fellows. That is, it doesn't really have to do with the part I was looking into, which in turn was what raised the question in the first place.

    For the rest of us, there is a spectacle to behold. A whole bunch of distinguished professionals are verging into an inevitably undignified fight, with the first round defense playing to populism and politics instead of professional standards.

    So, yes, it's true, sometimes the examples get complicated. But that is also an important point: Complaints of cancel culture tend to simplify circumstances. It really is largely the same argument as we heard about thought police and political correctness, decades ago.

    The Harper's Letter against cancel culture has failed spectacularly, but the whole thing has become a flaming disaster of another order, entirely. The primary author has been keelhauled for his own prior writings, and in at least one case a signatory is now in an undignified dispute in which people are breaking out the emails to accuse harassment or show who tried to cancel who.

    Like I said, the general idea the cancel culture canard plays to exists in society. So I'm going to rewind history a little bit: Once upon a time, book and record distribution could be disrupted by offending certain other people's morals, and there has in recent decades, as that empowerment has failed to meet myriad challenges roiling even its safest harbors, emerged a plaintive cry: 「How dare you silence my free speech right to force you to shut up!」 Over time, that idea has found much sympathy; birds of common feather gather together. Certain ideas are hard to justify rationally; it isn't cancellation if we refuse to give certain exclusionary—i.e., silencing, canceling—prejudices a pass on justification. Nonrecriprocal imposition is not equal protection; that is, it is not an equal right to free speech that one should impose another's silence. It is not an equal right to religious freedom that one should impose religious burdens and expectations on others. These are not, nor are intended to be, reciprocal impositions; to be reciprocal impositions, as such, is paradoxical, a form of what is described in jurisprudence as a suicide pact.

    Still, though, we can follow an argumentative line in history, from trying to silence certain music in the 1980s on through wardrobe malfunctions, the Gay Fray, Pill Police, Potty Patrol, and even the present controversy attending at least one of the signatories to the Letter. Of that particular controversy, a novelist is apparently upset that fans disdain particular political advocacy; if, for instance, those fans don't buy the author's next book, that author will apparently be cancelled. This becomes an aptly unfortunate symbol of the cancel culture we hear so much about: The avowed exclusionist complaining that people excluded would unfairly exclude by refusing to buy the next book.

    Someone, somewhere, calls for some consequence. The proposition of cancel culture pretends to observe something unique, but what actually reserves it from the rest of reality is its own detachment from real function. The overturning of established injustice is not a silencing of the just. This should not be a difficult concept: The Christian censor is not silenced simply because another is allowed to speak; the exclusionist is not excluded if the people one would exclude meet the exclusion. Nor is one cancelled if others don't believe what is obviously untrue, like any number of people who want to make particular irrational arguments, but complain of being cancelled if people so much as address the argument by name. You know, the new political correctness; it's not "misogyny", but, "anti-feminism". Nor is that just the late Roy Den Hollander. One famous anti-feminist recently gave his advice on trolling anti-racism; anti-antiracism doesn't quite have the same ring as anti-feminism, but if we call it stupidity, well, that's actually the point—one is supposed to pretend to be stupid because doing so will disrupt efforts to disrupt racism.

    No, really. That really is a famous anti-feminist's advice against anti-racism. And no, calling it misogyny or racism isn't cancellation.

    "Cancel culture" is just a particular variation on a theme, an appeal defined by its defense of dishonesty, disrespect, disruption, and disparity. Arguments supporting free speech generally appeal to communicative needs. The complaint against "cancel culture" is styled to empower disruption of communication. The question of respectability is not purely aesthetic; there are functional considerations. "Free speech" does not mean it has no communicative value, and as a societal standard is not a suicide pact.

    Function matters, James: What an argument actually does—what the words mean and how it actually works—is not irrelevant.

    So, anyway, is the problem that your examples won't live up to the description?
  16. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

    True, it's a very sad and pathetic tactic of lying about news that is negative towards Trump.

    For someone constantly accusing others of Strawmen, you are quick to toss them into your argument.

    I didn't say he stopped any, but he certainly has tried to stop the publications of more than one book.

    Why then did Trump sue to stop the publication? Get your facts straight.


    Yes, I know the right likes to see it that way, but the President and his staff serve the public; Americans.

    [/quote]"The right" doesn't only see Fox News, as the vast majority of news outlets are decidedly leftist, and there's no avoiding them. [/quote]

    In other words, the vast majority of news outlets don't idolize and lie for the President like Fox News.

    A blatant lie.

    Another blatant lie.

    I know there are others just as reprehensible as Fox.

    What planet are you on?
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Preventable natural disasters are quite similar. In both cases, refusal for people to do something (purchase, fight a pandemic) leads to lost jobs.
    WTF are you talking about? A small number of people making a conscious choice to exercise their free will and shop somewhere else - and encouraging others to do the same - is intimidation?

    Again, it has another name - that name is "freedom," a term you seem to increasingly detest.

    Let's say a local store you frequent puts a sign out front that announces "The only good cop is a dead cop! We support death to pigs." Would you still shop there?
  18. parmalee peripatetic artisan Valued Senior Member

    That really was an odd one. Kinda wonder if some of the signatories subsequently regretted it--though why they signed onto it in the first place is the bigger mystery. I mean, Chomsky? Margaret Atwood? It was just weird, and more something I would've expected from the Quillette crew (not that they weren't represented).
  19. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    So you think Trump single-handedly sowed distrust in the media? That's cute.
    The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 -- as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.
    Long before anyone started saying "fake news".
    The aphorism is true that there's no need to posit a conspiracy (like yours about sowing distrust to get away with government corruption) when human nature will suffice.

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    So the only people who have consistently trusted media are leftists. Should tell you something about the media bias.

    But I don't really expect you to see that.

    I cited my source. Either refute it or take it up with them.
    No, sadly you don't understand the difference between seeking to stop and merely delaying for review of possible classified content.
    The public cannot directly axe presidential appointments. That's the reality. The President has the legal authority to fire those people at will.
    Way to deflect from your obvious bubble.

    There was no preventing Covid reaching the US, even if it only did so through our porous southern border. But whatever you need to tell yourself to suit your whataboutism.
    Social media artificially amplifies their "choice", scaring companies into thinking they're going to lose an overblown amount of profit.
  20. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Correct. When it got here we could have taken immediate action to restart the pandemic response team that Trump shut down, build up PPE stockpiles, work on getting ventilators etc. Several people, including Trump's hand chosen doctors, have testified that quick action could have saved tens of thousands of lives. Instead Trump went golfing - and Americans died.

    You can try to spin that all you like; won't bring those dead people back to life, and it won't erase Trump's negligence.
    You didn't answer the question. Would you shop at a store that advertises their support for killing cops?

    (I understand why you don't want to answer - you can't without revealing yourself as a hypocrite.)
  21. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Fallacy, straw man: "single-handedly sowed distrust in the media".

    Fallacy: The poll asks Democrats. You should probably check in with actual leftists, sometime, on how they feel about mainstream media. The Gallup Mass Media Poll, for instance, isn't really considering, say, a Democrat's trust in the World Socialist Web Site, or any number of leftist newspapers that leftists distribute because they don't trust corporate media.

    One reason conservatives are so often alarmed about radical leftist Democrats is because they have no idea what real leftism is. They're doing it to themselves. And, really, it's not a new problem; these days, there isn't really any excuse for mistaking Democrats as leftists.
  22. pjdude1219 The biscuit has risen Valued Senior Member

    what porous border? net immigration from mexico is negative and has been for the last few years. your showing your racism again. the fact is most south american countries didn't see their first case until 2 months after the us. its far more likely that the us caused outbreaks in latin america than the reverse. in fact it was travel to the us that got Guyana its first case. you really just can't help yourself can you?
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  23. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Partly false: The Trump administration disbanded the “pandemic response” team, but some of the team members were reassigned to roles that included pandemic response

    The White House Coronavirus Task Force is a United States Department of State task force that "coordinates and oversees the administration's efforts to monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate the spread" of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The task force was established on January 29, 2020.

    Our ruling
    Trump said the Obama administration left him with a "stockpile with a cupboard that was bare."

    In one specific way, he has a point: N95 masks were depleted after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, and experts warned years ago that the supply should have been replenished.

    White House defends Obama's golf outings during crises

    No, I wouldn't, but I also wouldn't spend time or energy getting others to boycott it. I trust that people are either moral/mature enough to make their own decisions or won't care even if I did admonish them. That's the difference between me and people seeking to intimidate the companies themselves with the oversized threat of market repercussions, instead of simply trusting the market to have the desired effect. Leftists don't trust free markets, hence the threats.

    No, you just failed to follow the whole discussion.
    That started from Q saying: "Trump is trying to intimidate critical media organizations, stop the publication of books that he doesn’t like, and purge the executive branch of anyone who disagrees with him." - http://sciforums.com/threads/on-cancel-culture.163388/#post-364371
    IOW, in case you still can't manage to follow, it was about Trump's treatment of the media, from the start. If James wishes to change that context, he's free to, but didn't in any explicit way. So why not let him make his own arguments?

    You're being disingenuous if you're pretending that leftists do not self-identify as Democrats.

    No, there's clear evidence that the far left is increasingly taking over the Democrat party and that every supposed "slippery slope" has proven to eventually come true. There are leftists, leftists who lie about how left they are, leftists who merely condone far leftism, Democrats who are oblivious to either how far left their party has moved or politics in general, and Blue Dog Democrats who are a dying breed, increasingly being driven from their own party. Just because the Overton window moves with the left, due to the ubiquity of left-leaning media, doesn't mean the Democrat party is not moving left. But, I wouldn't expect you to recognize that.

    LOL! A net negative illegal immigration doesn't mean there's no illegal immigration. And border counties are currently showing very high spikes in Covid cases.
    While some big cities in Texas are reporting signs that an alarming surge in cases of the coronavirus may be leveling off, officials in counties along the border with Mexico said Tuesday that the outlook there remains bleak.
    Dallas County officials said the daily number of new COVID-19 cases dropped way below 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time in more than two weeks, and officials in Houston are seeing signs of optimism.

    But along the border in Starr County, Judge Eloy Vera said “we’re very close to losing the situation” and plans to issue voluntary stay-at-home recommendations this week.
    Unless you can account for that disparity in surging numbers, their border location is the most obvious.

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