And the Higgy Goes to… Abraham Flexner

April 18, 2022

It was a very light year for Higgy nominations. I suspect that this is not because we have a shortage of (un)worthy nominees. Perhaps instead our team of regular nominators is just a bit worn out by all of the Higginess (to coin a new term) that surrounds us. But we must soldier on.

Greg submitted Steven Novella and David Gorski for consideration. These two academic doctors run a web site that claims to promote science in medicine. Unfortunately, under intense pressure from bullies, they abandoned that mission to erase and repudiate a positive review of Abigail Shrier’s book on the excesses of the transgender craze among young people, Irreversible Damage, that had been published on their web site. These actions by Novella and Gorski were cowardly and intellectually dishonest, making them (un)worthy nominees for The Higgy.

But they are not this year’s recipients for a few reasons. First, there are two of them and the Higgy can only go to one person. if we go down that slippery slope pretty soon we’ll be giving The Higgy to The Guardians, The Silence Breakers, Ebola fighters, The Protester, The Good Samaritans, The American soldier, The Whistleblowers, or even me — each of whom was selected by the parody (?) (check this) magazine, Time, as Person of the Year. Wow, nearly half of the persons chosen by Time in the last two decades weren’t persons at all. In any event, we have to maintain standards and limit the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian of the Year Award to an individual inhumanitarian.

In addition, while Novella and Gorski’s behavior was deplorable, giving inhumanitarian awards to every academic who displayed cowardice and intellectual dishonesty would be like handing out speeding tickets at the Indianapolis 500. Besides, those who really deserve condemnation in that saga are the bullies who torment people for saying eminently sensible things about the excesses of the transgender craze among young people and the academic institutions and organizations that should be protecting scholars against such abuse.

Joe Nathan also offered Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as a nominee for The Higgy. Cardona is also a very (un)worthy nominee given his efforts to adopt regulations to strangle charter schools. But U.S. cabinet members destroying liberty by fiat falls more in the category of Big Scary Dictator Disorder (BSDD) than the Petty Little Dictator Disorder (PLDD) The Higgy is meant to recognize.

The recipient of this year’s William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian of the Year Award is Abraham Flexner. Flexner’s promotion of the false notion of an expert as someone with a credential is a perfect example of PLDD. He imagined that he could reshape the world for good with his controlling plans, but his righteous good intentions blinded him to the damage that would be done by paving the way for the certification of professions and occupations of almost every sort. This marks the first time that my nominee for The Higgy has been selected.

Abraham Flexner joins past winners, Alison CollinsMark DiRoccoKosoko JacksonJohn Wiley BryantPlatoChris ChristieJonathan Gruber, Paul G. Kirk, and the inaugural winner, Pascal Monnet.


And the Higgy Goes to… Alison Collins

April 17, 2021

It is time once again to (dis)honor the recipient of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  This year we had a small set of nominees, but compensated for that lack of quantity with exceptional quality. The pandemic has affected everything, including the number of nominees as well as the deadline for selecting the winner (and filing our taxes).

We had two nominees to consider: Anthony Fauci, nominated by Matt, and Alison Collins, nominated by Greg. While they are both very (un)worthy nominees, our (dis)honoree this year is Alison Collins.

Fauci, along with other public health officials, did much to bring discredit to themselves. They cannot be blamed for failing to be prepared for a global pandemic (even though that is in their job description). The scale and uncertainty of the pandemic were just too great for even the most capable public official to have fully anticipated. Instead, what public health officials can be blamed for is failing to accurately convey that uncertainty to us as if we were adult citizens of a democratic republic. Instead, they chose to convey false confidence in an ever-changing set of mandates in the belief that we would be reassured by their confidence. This was both a political and a scientific catastrophe.

While this would make Fauci and other public health officials Higgy-worthy, giving any of them the award would be misdirecting our upset. The pandemic is largely a natural disaster. It is progressive-technocratic hubris to believe that humans are responsible for failing to prevent or mitigate every natural disaster. We are all imperfect and I suspect that most of us would have made similar or different errors if we had been in Fauci’s place. Even during Higgy season we should maintain some appreciation for regular human failings, even if they affected irregular events. I know what road good intentions puts us on, but let’s remember that Fauci probably thought he was reassuring us with his false and ever-changing confidence.

Alison Collins’ behavior is harder to explain with good but mistaken intentions. School boards are often a vanity project for their members, but the San Francisco School Board might inspire Carly Simon to burst into song. No sensible person imagines that spending over a half million dollars to destroy a mural of George Washington and then renaming 44 schools were the top priorities for improving the city’s academically struggling schools. Even if your politics incline you to perceive these acts as virtuous, you’d have to admit that the signal to virtue ratio is exceptionally high.

While helping orchestrate this Jacobin orgy of sending (mostly mistaken) racist symbols to the guillotine, Collins has her own racist tweets surface. Rather than gain some humility about human imperfection, Collins brings an $87 million lawsuit against the school board on which she serves for taking away her committee assignments for her “spiritual” and other imaginary injuries. Collins really puts the petty in petty little dictator, making her a particularly (un)worthy recipient of The Higgy.

Anyhoo, Collins joins past winners, Mark DiRocco, Kosoko Jackson, John Wiley Bryant, Plato, Chris Christie, Jonathan Gruber, Paul G. Kirk, and the inaugural winner, Pascal Monnet.


And the Higgy Goes to… Mark DiRocco

April 15, 2020

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It is time once again to (dis)honor the recipient of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  This year we had an exceptionally strong set of nominees, perhaps because difficult times reveal the worst (as well as the best) in us.

We had four nominees to consider: Bruce Aylward, nominated by Greg, Charles Lieber, nominated by me, Nancy Gibbs, nominated by Matt, and Mark DiRocco, nominated by Jason.  While they are all very (un)worthy nominees, our (dis)honoree this year is Mark DiRocco.

While Nancy Gibbs surely did a dis-service to journalism by awarding lousy reporting at the Arizona Republic, journalism is already so beaten down and discredited that it hardly needs our tap dancing on its grave. Will the last reader of the Arizona Republic please turn off the lights on their way out?

Aylward and Lieber were particularly strong contenders given their sycophancy for a murderous, oppressive regime.  But that’s precisely why I decided not to choose them.  While both Aylward and Lieber were excellent examples of PLDDs, their service to a BSDD made their actions too menacing for a our little award.

Especially in these troubling times I thought we needed a Higgy winner who was more familiar and less menacing.  Mark DiRocco’s callous treatment of students as mere revenue units for the schools he represents by seeking to deny Pennsylvania’s children access to existing online services offered by charter schools is just the sort of edu-blob activity we are accustomed to seeing.  It is like the comfort food of PLDD behavior that is exactly the kind of Higgy we need this year.

If you’ve been carbo-loading a bit too much to appreciate the comfort food metaphor, I’d suggest that DiRocco is the Goldilocks of Higgy nominees.  He is neither so weak and irrelevant as a journalism professor, like Gibbs, nor so scary as servants of an authoritarian regime, like Aylward and Lieber.  This year DiRocco is just right.

Anyhoo, DiRocco joins past winners, Kosoko Jackson, John Wiley BryantPlatoChris ChristieJonathan Gruber, Paul G. Kirk, and the inaugural winner, Pascal Monnet.


And the Higgy Goes to… Kosoko Jackson

April 15, 2019

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It is time once again to (dis)honor the recipient of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  We have a smaller but still (un)excellent set of nominees to consider.  I failed to submit my own nominee as I was paralyzed by such a target-rich environment and then came down with a fever just when I needed to make a decision and write it.  Oh well. Higgy nominees are evergreen, so I’ll keep those possibilities in mind for next year.

So we had three nominees to consider: Richard Henry Pratt, nominated by Matt, Kosoko Jackson,  nominated by Greg, and William N. Sheats, nominated by Patrick Gibbons.  While they are all very (un)worthy nominees, I think Kosoko Jackson is clearly most deserving.  Pratt and Sheats were much more like BSDDers than the kind of PLDDers we are seeking for the Higgy.

Sheats mustered the coercive power of the state to amend Florida’s constitution to forbid integrated instruction in Florida public schools.  Pratt embarked on a systematic government program to remove Native American children from their families to be educated in boarding schools that would raise them as “real Americans,” which was tantamount to obliterating an entire people, their language, their religion, and their customs.  Whenever people start arguing that we need public schools to create a common sense of identity and shared understanding of democratic citizenship, remember that line of thinking ultimately leads to Pratt. Both Sheats and Pratt are horrifying, but too horrifying for the Higgy.

Jackson is the winning nominee because his dictatorial behavior was really about self-advancement, not truly oppressing large numbers of people.  Jackson joined in social media witch hunts that falsely called out competing authors (falsely) for alleged infractions of the Young Adult Fiction politically correct code.  That was working well to clear the path for his own career until the mobs came after Jackson.

Posturing on social media as woker-than-thou to advance one’s stupid career and at the expense of a commitment to truth, good sense, and professional courtesy… .  Hmmm, does this sound like something familiar?

Anyhoo, Jackson joins past winners, John Wiley BryantPlato, Chris Christie, Jonathan Gruber, Paul G. Kirk, and the inaugural winner, Pascal Monnet.


And the Higgy Goes to… John Wiley Bryant

April 17, 2018

Image result for John Wiley Bryant

Today taxes are due, so it is time to announce the recipient of this year’s William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  We had many (un)worthy nominees, so it was difficult selecting the winner (loser).  My nominee, Derek Jeter, is certainly annoying in trying to make us eat our baseball vegetables by denying fans the fun distraction of mascot races while the team loses a lot of baseball games goes through its rebuilding phase. But the criteria for awarding The Higgy states that: “‘The Higgy’ will highlight individuals whose arrogant delusions of shaping the world to meet their own will outweigh the positive qualities they possess.”  So, there should be some amount of coercion in whoever receives The Higgy and Jeter is not really forcing anyone to have no fun at baseball games.  If anything, it is my own darn fault for being a Marlin fan.  Jeter is just doing a poor job of running the team, but I am free to become a fan of another team or enjoy something else.

Jason’s nominee, Traci Wilke, was a principal who punished a student for secretly recording a teacher making threats against another student.  There is clearly an element of coercion in the principal’s behavior, but if we started awarding Higgies to every school administrator who suppressed the revelation of unflattering information, we’d run out of space on the internet.  It would be like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.

This year’s Higgy really comes down to Greg’s nominee, Romanus Cessario, or Matt’s nominee, John Wiley Bryant.  Greg’s nominee is certainly vile for defending the forced abduction of a Jewish child because he believes Catholic doctrine requires it.  It almost feels like the sort of argument one might make as a freshman in college to see what ridiculous extremes you might reach if you followed a certain idea to its bitter end.  But this is a serious grown-up writing in First Things, which was once a respectable outlet.  As Greg notes, the really insidious part of the article is that it reveals how much social conservatives seem to be willing to abandon liberalism.  The way I’d put it is that these days you don’t have to scratch much beneath the surface to discover how many Jew-hating authoritarians there really are out there.

But I think Cessario falls short because he has no ability to shape the world to his ends.  Writing this kind of drivel has about as much influence on the world as the guy sitting on the park bench muttering to himself about how things will be different when he is in charge.  Greg is right that abducting children is BSDD, but I think writing in defense of it falls short of being PLDD.  The too-easy embrace of authoritarianism and Jew-hating by social conservatives is alarming, but Cessario is a very mediocre anti-Semite.  He couldn’t even achieve excellence at that.

John Wiley Bryant is the most deserving of this year’s Higgy because he arrogantly and coercively sought to reshape the world in a way he imagined would be better, but ended up making it significantly worse.  Like Matt and many other people of our generation, I gained significant cultural literacy (and had a ton of fun) watching Bugs Bunny cartoons.  For trying to force us to watch “educational” television instead of freely choosing quality programming, John Wiley Bryant is awarded the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  He joins last year’s winner, Plato, the 2016 winner, Chris Christie, the 2015 winner, Jonathan Gruber, the 2014 winner, Paul G. Kirk, and the inaugural winner, Pascal Monnet.


Update — Thanks to Greg for being our official Higgy Historian and remembering earlier winners.

 


And the Higgy Goes to… Plato

April 16, 2017

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We had a particularly strong set of Higgy nominees, mostly because things are so awful that the list of those contributing to that awfulness has grown quite long.  In a normal year Joe Biden might make for a fine recipient of the Higgy, given his wild claims, multiple incidents of plagiarism, and grossly inflated status as a respected politician. But Trump makes one pine for the days of ordinarily unimpressive politicians of which Biden may be the archetype.  Kimberlé Crenshaw would also make a worthy recipient of this dishonor for her intellectually lazy and politically disastrous idea of intersectionality.  But these days outrage at the defects of PC is so commonplace that there is little need to pile on.  TIFs are a truly horrible idea that fuel the public corruption of handing tax breaks to favored industries or friends while righteously claiming to be creating jobs.  But the Higgy cannot go to the entire city of Cerritos, California for pioneering this vehicle for Petty Little Dictators since the dishonor really needs to identify an individual.

This year’s Higgy has to go to the “ur-Bossy Mcbossytoga” — Plato — who has provided Petty Little Dictators across the generations the intellectual defense and respectability they crave to lord over others while claiming that reason and science justify their actions.  Greg may well be right that Plato’s Republic should be read as a metaphor for the well-governed soul rather than a proposal for what seems to me to be a nightmarish dystopia.  And he may be right that Plato articulated a more appealing political vision elsewhere, but the fact remains that The Republic — even if it is a common mis-interpretation — is the most horrific political dystopia ever-described.  It puts 1984, Brave New World, and the rash of recent Young Adult dystopias to shame because at least you hear villainous music in your head as you read them.  The Republic is so pernicious because it is completely awful while also being completely righteous.

It is this righteousness that makes Petty Little Dictators so insufferable.  They have complete confidence that they are guided by reason and science.  Anyone who fails to submit is anti-science or motivated by base interests, requiring re-education and denunciation.  It is incredibly painful to acknowledge, but I believe that education reform — an effort to which I have devoted the bulk of my professional life — has been almost completely captured by Petty Little Dictators, including its researchers, advocates, journalists, and practitioners.

I sometimes wonder whether we might have been better off leaving things alone.  I wish I had listened more closely to the great political scientist, Ed Banfield when he warned us of the dangers of “reform.” Instead, we Young Turks in grad school generally dismissed Banfield as the old and out-of-touch emeritus professor whose office had been moved to the basement of Littauer Hall as a sign of his declining relevance.  In fact, Banfield had something more important to teach us than all of the “science” we were learning to fix the world — wisdom.  Unfortunately, I and my ed reform peers were all young and generally lacking in wisdom.  The mystery to me is not that young people in ed reform can be so lacking in wisdom, it is that there seem to be so few grown-ups who have acquired wisdom from hard experience and are able/willing to restrain the next wave from trying to foist their brave new world on all of us.  It is as if even the older ed reformers suffer from some sort of Peter Pan syndrome where they never grow up.  Rick Hess’ new book, Letters to a Young Education Reformer, is a refreshing exception to this Peter Pan syndrome but his is largely a lonely voice standing athwart history, yelling “stop.”

The damage wrought by Petty Little Dictators is not just in their faux-scientific bossiness, it is in the backlash they generate, which is the essence of Trumpism.  If PLDDers want to impose their will in the name of science, Trumpites dismiss science altogether and focus exclusively on the triumph of their will. As they see it, science, facts, truth are all just a charade to disguise one’s interests, so their interests might as well prevail.  Petty Little Dictators fuel this oddly post-modern rejection of objective evidence by the Trumpites because they behave exactly as the Trumpites think one should behave — imposing their will arbitrarily — even if the PLDDers are simply more self-deceptive than the Trumpites about what they are really doing.

There is an alternative to invoking Science as the club to beat others into submission and advance toward the perfection of human beings or rejecting science altogether — it is called Conservatism.  Unlike the Trumpites, Conservatives believe that there is such a thing as objective reality and give deference to science and reason.  But unlike PLDDers, Conservatives are keenly away of how flawed we all are and do not trust themselves (or anyone else) enough to be the True Guardians of science and run roughshod over everyone else.  They believe people can never be perfected and that it is dangerous to try given our deeply flawed nature.  The best we can do is to preserve the traditions and institutions that hold our flawed nature in check while using science and reason to improve things on the margins.  In short, Conservatives emphasize humility while PLDDers suffer from over-confidence.

It’s true that Plato (via Socrates) displayed much humility in works such as the Meno, emphasizing how little we really know.  Then again William Higinbotham also did much good by contributing to the development of video games.  But Plato is worthy of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award because the damage done by The Republic — even if it is simply by permitting a common misinterpretation — outweighs the good.  Plato joins last year’s winner, Chris Christie, and Jonathan Gruber the year before that.

(edited for typo)


And the Higgy Goes to… Chris Christie

April 25, 2016

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(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Where has the Higgy been? As the traditional nomination date of April 1 and the traditional winner anouncement date of April 15 have come and gone, angry mobs have been gathered around the National Higgy Convention for weeks as the delegate has fruitlessly passed through round after round of voting, trying to find one candidate among this year’s overwhelming bumper crop of potential nominees who can secure a majority vote on the floor. I am now proud to announce, on behalf of the Convention, that the delegate has finally settled on a winner.

The 2016 William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian of the Year is Chris Christie.

Like so many public figures in this remarkable year, Christie exemplifies the spirt of the Higgy and its (un)illustrious namesake:

“The Higgy” will not identify the worst person in the world, just as “The Al” does not recognize the best.  Instead, “The Higgy” will highlight individuals whose arrogant delusions of shaping the world to meet their own will outweigh the positive qualities they possess.

Encapsulating the (de)merits of this year’s winner is a challenging feat. Let me attempt to convey his (un)redeeming qualities through the three lessons all future PLDDs can learn from his example:

1) Despite your arrogant delusions, you will not, in fact, get to shape the world.

Christie go home

 

Christie thought that by signing up to campaign for America’s Mussolini, he would gain influence over the budding BSDD’s ambitions.

Yeah, that didn’t work out any better for Christie than it did for any of the other PLDDs who (as all PLDDs eventually do) latch onto a BSDD in hopes of gaining power.

2) People punish arrogance by seizing any opportunity you give them to laugh at you.

Christie M&Ms

I’m just going to leave this here.

3) You will lose your soul.

Christie soulless stare

Every day from this day until the day the illusion of your existence ends, every moment of every day, you will do nothing but seek out alternatives to distract you from staring into the void of a meaningless world. Eat Arby’s.

Christie joins previous Higgy winners Jonathan Gruber, Paul G. Kirk, Jr. and (the greatest of them all) Pascal Monnet in their fruitless pursuit of identity and purpose.


And the Higgy Goes to… Jonathan Gruber

April 16, 2015

I know that the winner of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award is supposed to be announced on April 15, but I needed more time to decide among our three excellent (horrible) nominees and filed for an extension.

I thought my nominee, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, was a strong candidate because he illustrates how our liberty faces the greater threat of gradual erosion from Petty Little Dictators than from Big Scary Dictators.  Ardis may only be the mayor of a small city, but he still has the power to find some legal pretext to send the police to raid the house of people who mocked him on Twitter.  We can all recognize how a Putin or Khomeini might want to oppress us and so we all (or should be all) make efforts to counter those threats.  But the mayor of a small city in cahoots with the local police and judge can exploit the fact that our extensive legal code makes each one of us a possible criminal to selectively use the force of the government to punish enemies.

Ardis, however, falls short of earning a Higgy because his actions were too transparently self-interested.  The ideal Higgy candidate believes he is shaping the world for the better, but is foiled by hubris, self-delusion, and the extent to which the complexity of the world exceeds the ability of people to impose centralized plans on it.  No one believes Ardis was trying to make the world better.  He was just trying to settle a score.  It’s oppressive but it isn’t Higgy-worthy.

Greg’s nominee, John Maynard Keynes, is also a strong candidate.  Yes, Keynes’ ideas provide justification for reckless state intervention in the economy.  But my previous objection to awarding Keynes with the Higgy still holds.  I don’t think the state needs much justification to intervene.  In fact, the historical norm is heavy state distortion of economic activity.  This was true for centuries (probably millenia) before Keynes came along and is still true today when few even bother to reference Keynes for support.  Keynes may have bad ideas but so does the guy who stands on the corner of the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market who shouts about how Jesus smoked pot and 9/11 was an inside job.  You don’t get the Higgy just for having bad ideas.

Matt’s nominee, Jonathan Gruber, didn’t just have bad ideas, but he helped develop a plan to foist those bad ideas on the country through deception and manipulation.  And he engaged in this central planning because he believed he was doing something good for us.  Let me be clear — I don’t believe Jonathan Gruber is a bad guy.  I know a number of economists who are his friends and they swear that he is a decent, capable economist who was just caught on camera expressing the type of hyperbolic commentary that is fairly common at academic conferences.  That may be true, but there is a kernel of truth even in that hyperbole.  And that truth is not very flattering to Gruber or ObamaCare.  It reveals the type of hubris and delusion of control over events that is a near-perfect model of a Higgy winner.  And Gruber does not have to be a a bad guy to do something that worsens the human condition enough to warrant a Higgy.

I therefore bestow the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award to Jonathan Gruber with all of the dishonors, responsibilities, and lack of privileges that accompany it.


And the Higgy Goes to… Paul G. Kirk, Jr.

April 18, 2014

We have had another excellent (that is, horrible) group of nominees for the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.  It is more than a bit disconcerting that both this year and last we have had a plethoria of compelling nominees.

My own nominee, Paul Ehrlich, was a strong candidate.  His modern Malthusian warnings about how humans were exhausting natural resources and needed to control pupilation to avoid an imminent catastrophe helped justify the oppressive and disastrous Chinese One-Child Policy.  Ehrlich would have won The Higgy were it not for the fact that folks are already recognizing the dangers of declining birth rates, especially when coerced by the government.  Even the Chinese are starting to back away from their policy.  The demographic problems of more retireees dependent on fewer workers is becoming a big topic of discussion throughout Europe, Japan, and America.  And even the developing world is producing dramatically lower birth rates.  The highly influential Higgy does not appear necessary to discredit Ehrlich’s ideas.

Barney Frank is also a very worthy nomination.  Frank not only personally contributed to the causes of the Great Recession by  championing policies that pushed and subsidized lenders to provide houses to everyone, regardless of the ability to pay, but also has the chutzpah to assert “The private sector got us into this mess. The government has to get us out of it.”  But Frank falls short of The Higgy because he was far from alone in the governmental recklessness that nearly destroyed private credit.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle favored a house in every pot (they had to up the ante from chickens).  Politicians will always be tempted to promise free money and we’re to blame if we take them up on their offer by electing them.

A reader in a comment suggested John Maynard Keynes, who is also a compelling candidate for The Higgy.  But the reader did not make a full case, so it is hard for me to fully judge the merits of this nomination.  In addition, I’m inclined to believe that governments did not need Keynes to believe that they should actively meddle in the economy.  They were doing it plenty  well before Keynes came along.

This year’s winner of The Higgy is Paul G. Kirk, Jr. for inventing the pernicious notion of a “free speech zone.”  Even with a constitutional guarantee, free speech is always under seige because the government and other powerful folks would rather not be undermined by it.  People often wrongly cite the decision in Schenck v. United States as proving that the government would only restrict speech if it posed a “clear and present danger.”  What those people forget is that even while articulating the clear and present danger standard, the Supreme Court upheld Schenck’s conviction for passing out leaflets in front of a draft office during the Great War.  If a guy on the street corner handing out leaflets can be interpreted as a clear and present danger, then clearly the government will be inclined to restrict speech whenever it can.

The essential check on government control over speech is the popular backlash that would occur if the government over-reaches.  The accountability of the government to people in elections (and if bad enough, in the form of revolution) is essential to making the words in the Constitution protecting free speech real.  In the face of popular protection of free speech, censoring authorities have to find sneakier ways to control speech.  They have to find indirect and less obvious ways, like creating free speech zones.

For contributing to this sneaky infringement on our liberty, Paul G. Kirk, Jr. is deserving of the dishonor of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award.


And the Higgy Goes to…

April 15, 2013

In announcing the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian of the Year Award, I established the following criteria for selecting dis-honorees:

The Higgy” will not identify the worst person in the world, just as “The Al” does not recognize the best.  Instead, “The Higgy” will highlight individuals whose arrogant delusions of shaping the world to meet their own will outweigh the positive qualities they possess.

Frankly, I had in mind those suffering from Petty Little Dictator Disorder (PLDD) more than those with BSDD (Big Scary Dictator Disorder).  BSDD folks obviously worsen the human condition with their blood-thirsty and brutally oppressive ways.  But almost everyone can recognize BSDD folks and an opposition to them forms naturally and immediately.  BSDD is awful and frightening ( it is Big and Scary), but it is also relatively rare.

The more common and insidious threat to the human condition comes from PLDD folks as they sit around in their offices or bars or cafes dreaming about how everyone else’s lives should be organized and what should be done with everyone else’s money.   Unlike those with BSDD, the PLDDers are facilitated in their disorder by the righteous (and self-deluding) conviction that everything they are doing is actually for the benefit of others.

The alphabet soup of DC-based think tanks and advocacy groups are filled with PLDD, but we couldn’t just give the Higgy to all of them.  We aren’t Time Magazine (and as  the recipient of the 2006 Time Magazine Man of the Year honor, I intend the magazine no disrespect).  Instead, we have to name an individual who has worsened the human condition through the arrogant delusion of shaping the world to meet his or her own will.

This year’s recipient of the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award is Pascal Monnet.  Monnet is what the alphabet-soup PLDDers look like if they actually succeed in gaining power.  Once their dreams of lording over others have been realized, rather than fixing the world, as they had imagined back in their cubicle days, successful PLDDers like Monnet just want to make sure that others don’t displace their position by fixing it on their own.  In the end we learn that it was all really about control, not repairing the world.

Greg also had an excellent nomination, David Sarnoff.  But Sarnoff didn’t have delusions of shaping the world; he actually did shape the world, at least for a while.  He might be closer to a BSDDer than a PLDDer.  And my nomination of Louis Michael Seidman fell short because Seidman only provides the rationale for the PLDD of others.  Matt’s nominee, Pascal Monnet, more closely captures the essence of the Higgy because of his petty dictatorial impulses to block a group of artists from doing his job better than he could by fixing the clock in the Pantheon.

Anyone who could block a group of super-hero-looking artists like the UX members pictured below certainly has to be cast in the role of the villain.


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