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  1. by Walker Carson Do your politics determine—or at least predict—your mental health? Recent research indicates that the answer is “yes.” A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology found a correlation between agreement with social justice mantras (colloquially referred to as “wokeness”) and depression, anxiety, and lack of happiness. As reported by the New York Post, researchers in Finland sent out an assessment to participants that measured symptoms of anxiety, depression, and happiness along with degrees of dedication to social justice ideas. After examining core tenets of intersectional feminism, critical race theory, postcolonialism, and queer theory, the study authors created a list of principles, which they called “Critical Social Justice Attitude Scale” (CSJAS). The initial CSJAS included statements such as these: “If white people have on average a higher level of income than black people, it is because of racism.” “University reading lists should include fewer white or European authors.” “Microaggressions should be challenged often and actively.” “If a white person doesn’t admit they are racist, they are still probably racist.” “Trans* women are women.” (* = born male but identifying as female) “A member of a privileged group can adopt features or cultural elements of a less privileged group.” (reverse scored) “The police are institutionally racist.” “The ideas of Karl Marx should not have more influence in national politics.” (reverse scored) “Other people or structures are more responsible for my well-being than I myself am.” “You should not say things that might offend an oppressed person.” According to the study, agreement with such statements was positively correlated with anxiety, depression, and unhappiness, though weakly. Overtly identifying as “woke” also paralleled with unhappiness: “Self-reporting as ‘woke’ … and [being supportive of] CSJAS items were strongly correlated (r = 0.62). … Self-reporting as woke was also correlated with depression, anxiety, and (lack of) happiness.” In a subsequent iteration of the study involving more participants (5,030 vs. 851 in the first study), the full list of woke statements was reduced to just seven items: “If white people have on average a higher level of income than black people, it is because of racism.” “University reading lists should include fewer white or European authors.” “Microaggressions* should be challenged often and actively. (* = verbal communication or act, which can be seen to reflect negative attitudes towards a minority group, regardless of original intent).” “Trans* women who compete with women in sports are not helping women’s rights.” (reverse scored; * = born male but identifying as female) “We don’t need to talk more about the color of people’s skin.” (reverse scored) “A white person cannot understand how a black person feels equally [as] well as another black person.” “A member of a privileged group can adopt features or cultural elements of a less privileged group.” (reverse scored) The results were substantially the same as in the first study. Agreement with the first item on the scale (“If white people have on average a higher level…”) displayed the largest positive correlation with anxiety and depression and negative correlation with happiness. The connection between negative mental health and these beliefs was the same or slightly weaker than the connection between mental health issues and being politically leftwing in general, according to the study. Interestingly, men were much more likely to reject statements in the CSJAS than women. According to Oskari Lahtinen, “Three out of five women view ‘woke’ ideas positively, but only one out of seven men.” So, what does all this mean? The findings are not conclusive, of course, since the correlations were weak and the study involved people from just one country, but they do provide a fascinating indication that social justice ideas in general bear some kind of relationship to unhappiness. What is the nature of that relationship, exactly? Here, we enter the realm of speculation. It’s unclear whether unhappiness leads people to embrace social justice ideas or whether social justice ideas engender unhappiness. Conservative commentator Matt Walsh argues that it’s a bit of both: “Wokeness attracts unhappy people, and it also makes people unhappy,” he says. Walsh points out that social justice, with its emphasis on victimhood and oppression, tends to remove human agency and responsibility from life. For those who adhere to such beliefs, this could create a feeling of losing control over one’s own life and future, which is the very essence of anxiety. Social justice is often predicated on the assumption that the world is inherently unjust. All of life, politics, culture, art, and religion boil down to a brutal battle for power, the oppressor subjugating the oppressed. A mentality that sees the world as unjust and a blind struggle for selfish ends can only breed sadness, anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. How could it be otherwise? If you preoccupy yourself with negative thoughts, your mood will suffer. And what could be more negative than always sniffing out injuries and hidden matrices of oppression directed at oneself and others? Additionally, a person who is already unhappy will gravitate to a worldview that seems to justify and explain that unhappiness. If Jane carries some unhealed wounds inside, some feeling of having been injured in her life, it won’t be hard to convince her that all of human affairs turn on the axis of oppressor and oppressed, victimhood and exploitation. Any reputable psychologist would know that paranoia and victimhood complexes are unhealthy. What our culture today has done, however, is take those pathologies and institutionalize them, holding them up as the pinnacle of political, social, academic, and even moral/religious concerns. It is, quite literally, madness. Is it any wonder people are unhappy? **** Walker Larson teaches literature at a private academy in Wisconsin. He is the author of two novels, Hologram and Song of Spheres. When not in the classroom or spending time with family and friends, he blogs about literature and education on his Substack The Hazelnut. This content is shared and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
  2. Public shaming can help uphold online community norms. bo feng/iStock via Getty Images by Jennifer Forestal, Loyola University Chicago “Cancel culture” has a bad reputation. There is growing anxiety over this practice of publicly shaming people online for violating social norms ranging from inappropriate jokes to controversial business practices. Online shaming can be a wildly disproportionate response that violates the privacy of the shamed while offering them no good way to defend themselves. These consequences lead some critics to claim that online shaming creates a “hate storm” that destroys lives and reputations, leaves targets with “permanent digital baggage” and threatens the fundamental right to publicly express yourself in a democracy. As a result, some scholars have declared that online shaming is a “moral wrong and social ill.” But is online public shaming necessarily negative? I’m a political scientist who studies the relationship between digital technologies and democracy. In my research, I show how public shaming can be a valuable tool for democratic accountability. However, it is more likely to provide these positive effects within a clearly defined community whose members have many overlapping connections. When shaming helps Public shaming is a “horizontal” form of social sanctioning, in which people hold one another responsible for violating social norms, rather than appealing to higher authorities to do so. This makes it especially useful in democratic societies, as well as in cases where the shamers face power imbalances or lack access to formal authorities that could hold the shamed accountable. For example, public shaming can be an effective strategy for challenging corporate power and behavior or maintaining journalistic norms in the face of plagiarism. By harnessing social pressure, public shaming can both motivate people to change their behavior and deter future violations by others. Public shaming has a long history. But public shaming generally needs to occur in a specific social context to have these positive effects. First, everyone involved must recognize shared social norms and the shamer’s authority to sanction violations of them. Second, the shamed must care about their reputation. And third, the shaming must be accompanied by the possibility of reintegration, allowing the shamed to atone and be welcomed back into the fold. This means that public shaming is more likely to deliver accountability in clearly defined communities where members have many overlapping connections, such as schools where all the parents know one another. In communal spaces where people frequently run into each other, like workplaces, it is more likely that they understand shared social norms and the obligations to follow them. In these environments, it is more likely that people care about what others think of them, and that they know how to apologize when needed so that they can be reintegrated in the community. Communities that connect Most online shamings, however, do not take place in this kind of positive social context. On the social platform X, previously known as Twitter, which hosts many high-profile public shamings, users generally lack many shared connections with one another. There is no singular “X community” with universally shared norms, so it is difficult for users to collectively sanction norm violations on the platform. Moreover, reintegration for targets of shamings on X is nearly impossible, since it is not clear to what community they should apologize, or how they should do so. It should not be surprising, then, that most highly publicized X shamings – like those of PR executive Justine Sacco, who was shamed for a racist tweet in 2013, and Amy Cooper, the “Central Park Karen” – tend to degenerate into campaigns of harassment and stigmatization. But just because X shamings often turn pathological does not mean all online shamings do. On Threadless, an online community and e-commerce site for artists and designers, users effectively use public shaming to police norms around intellectual property. Wikipedians’ use of public “reverts” – reversals of edits to entries – has helped enforce the encylopedia’s standards even with anonymous contributors. Likewise, Black Twitter has long used the practice of public shaming as an effective mechanism of accountability. What sets these cases apart is their community structure. Shamings in these contexts are more productive because they occur within clearly defined groups in which members have more shared connections. Acknowledging these differences in social context helps clarify why, for example, when a Reddit user was shamed by his subcommunity for posting an inappropriate photo, he accepted the rebuke, apologized and was welcomed back into the community. In contrast, those shamed on X often issue vague apologies before disengaging entirely. The scale and speed of social media can change the dynamics of public shaming when it occurs online. Crossing online borders There are still very real consequences of moving public shaming online. Unlike in most offline contexts, online shamings often play out on a massive scale that makes it more difficult for users to understand their connections with one another. Moreover, by creating opportunities to expand and overlap networks, the internet can blur community boundaries in ways that complicate the practice of public shaming and make it more likely to turn pathological. For example, although the Reddit user was reintegrated into his community, the shaming soon spread to other subreddits, as well as national news outlets, which ultimately led him to delete his Reddit account altogether. This example suggests that online public shaming is not straightforward. While shaming on X is rarely productive, the practice on other platforms, and in offline spaces characterized by clearly defined communities such as college campuses, can provide important public benefits. Shaming, like other practices of a healthy democracy, is a tool whose value depends on how it’s used. Jennifer Forestal is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
  3. For the second time in the past few weeks, an Elmira Police Officer was involved in a car crash while responding to a call. According to Elmira Police, on Sunday evening around 9:45 pm, Elmira Police conducted a traffic stop on Hoffman Street and Elizabeth Street in regards to a disturbance call that they were investigating. Other Elmira officers responding to this traffic stop to provide assistance, an Elmira Police officer was operating a marked patrol unit with the emergency lights and sirens activated. They came to a stop at the intersection of West Washington Avenue and Walnut Street heading westbound. A civilian vehicle heading south on Walnut St, failed to stop for the officer who had began to proceed through the intersection, and ultimately struck the patrol car. The civilian driver was not injured and the police officer was transported to a local hospital for minor injuries. The investigation into this incident is ongoing and any additional information will be made at a later time. Anyone who witnessed this incident or has video of the incident is encouraged to contact the Elmira Police Department at 607-737-5623.
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