Saturday, December 14, 2019

Keyboard Warrior

One of the most common complaints I get (usually from people with a lot of privilege) is that I am a "Keyboard Warrior." That I sit here and write and I don't actually get out and do the protests. 

For starters that's just not true. But why let a pesky fact mess with a good narrative. After all, it can really take the wind out of the sails of a good, “You people should actually DO something,” rant to find out one is, in fact, doing the something that has been deemed to count. So let’s set that aside for a moment and imagine that someone were JUST posting on social media.

Let's play pretend...

Back before I set my comments to "friends only" on Facebook (and still on many walls of many friends that have not), it was (is) a common sight to see the usual suspects to come out of the woodwork and complain that people should DO something instead of impugning a good social media experience with issues of social inequality and injustice. Actually, that's only partially true. See, it's not the injustices themselves that are upsetting people. It's the fact that so many of their friends are posting about it that has them upset. They aren't nearly as upset about the issue as they are that they have to KEEP BEING REMINDED OF IT when they're looking for cat pictures and Baby Yoda memes. So in fact, most don't care if anything "real" gets done or not. What they actually care about is that they stop being reminded of it.

Imagine being more annoyed by a post you have to scroll past about injustice than the injustice itself.

It's the usual "slactivism doesn't work" mantra. Which isn't really new either; it's just changed with the times. The thing is, you hear the same thing no matter what you do. Twenty years ago when there was no FB and I marched in the streets, the same basic kind of people (usually white, usually male, usually straight who are telling me today that I should go march in the streets) would show, be annoyed that I was blocking the streets or something, and ask me, "What good are protests, anyway?" "What good is this fundraising anyway?" "What good is blocking traffic anyway?" "What good is campus activism anyway?" "What good does 'raising visibility' really do? "What good...."

While I think, in theory, SOME of these people might have an image somewhere in their heads of a truly "proper" way one could work toward equality (that is probably based on the sanitized version of Dr. King), these folks, who have never been to a protest themselves or joined a grassroots movement or so much as told their racist friends "Not cool,” probably have not suddenly been possessed with a keener insight into what makes for effective protest than those who've spent a lifetime on the front lines of fighting for social change.

I know it's hard to believe. But they are not actually experts on what works and doesn't.

For most the real message is "please stop talking about it." The usual sort of SQuiD "shut up" that people who don't suffer inequality are wont to make. Please do this quieter. Please do this somewhere else. Please don’t disturb my comfort. Please be juuuuuuuuust inconspicuous enough that I can easily ignore you. Please move over there…..a little more….just a little more. Great, now I can’t even see you. Perfect. 

Please don't ever implicate me in benefitting from the system that marginalizes you or you will hurt my feelings.

Even when this criticism is actually, genuinely sincere (and it rarely ever is), it has the flavor of "concern trolling" baked in. (Gosh, I'm just really SO DARN worried about how effective this tactic might be. You know.....for the cause's sake. For the cause? For the cause! FOR THE CAUSE!!! I want you to succeed, and I'm just so worried that this will make them REALLY mad. I’m just not sure this is the way. I'm really worried about the cause, you see...) As if a person who has never had to face discrimination on a daily basis suddenly woke up and realized that of all the tactics tried for the entirety of oppression, no one had ever tried asking nicely. (We fought a civil war with eleven states who were absolutely willing to go to war to keep slavery, but did anyone think to say ‘Please’?)

But let's pretend...

Let's pretend for a moment that social media hasn't been cited as the single greatest driving force behind most of the social justice gains of the 21st century, the most effective tool for making people aware of injustice, atrocity and even news since television, and hasn’t even been the literal engines of some actual revolutions in Asia.

[This is because online, all voices are considered equal and there are fewer ways for people in power to gatekeep what they consider important or not. (While this can lead to a lot of “fake news,” it also means that you can find out the thoughts of communities who have historically been silenced. People can't control online forums or social media in the way they can physical spaces, airwaves, or mainstream media.]

Feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, racial awareness–they've all cited social media as a powerful force in their modern movements and efforts. They use them to spread awareness, discourse, and organize. Not despite their failure, but rather BECAUSE THEY WORK! It's called “the democratization of media,” and social media is front and center in the new era.

Let's pretend that cases like Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray would have gotten just as much coverage on mainstream media owned and controlled by powerful corporate interests, and that it was not PRECISELY social media that caused these stories to go viral. Let's pretend that shocking brutality and police reports that conflict with reality did NOT suddenly magically start popping up all over the place pretty much at exactly the same time cell-phone cameras became ubiquitous. Let’s pretend that was a big coincidence and that social media isn’t used to expose what used to be covered up quickly and quietly.

After all, we managed to pretend the same thing a generation ago when we acted aghast that Rodney King got the crap beat out of him, like it was the first time the LAPD could have ever overstepped, not maybe just the first time someone had a camcorder at the right place and time. So let’s do it! Let’s pretend that we would have been just as outraged (and even aware) of these stories if they hadn't gone viral on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s pretend they would have made it past local mainstream news if they hadn’t first been viral on social media. Let's pretend that social media isn't the most effective tool for raising awareness of issues that people who don't own newspapers or TV stations can wield.

Let's pretend that everyone has the same resources, capability, skill sets. That, like you (who....I have noticed are almost always white when the issue is racism, male when the issue is sexism, straight when the issue is homophobia, etc....), these people who ought to be going about achieving justice and equality in the way you have deemed proper have money to donate, physical ability to march, and time to volunteer. Let’s pretend that that it isn't a little bit classist, ableist, elitist, and maybe a few other “ists” to tell someone what the pre-approved way to help humanity is as dictated by someone not really dealing with the issue.

Let's pretend that no one has different proficiencies. There isn't anyone who is maybe better at writing than at working a phone bank, or who is better or who is better at reading through dozens of articles and sharing the good ones than at organizing a protest.

Let's pretend that social justice isn't experiencing a renaissance of allyship because of people who have had their eyes opened through social media to their privilege, to the incredible double standards, to how bad it really gets.

Let's pretend that no one who does use social media to discuss social justice issues has EVER had anyone tell them that their words changed their minds, shaped a new opinion, informed them, gave someone else the strength to speak up, or even comforted the group affected by the injustice by showing them entire communities of people in their corner.

Let's pretend that before the days of social media, those who struggled for social equality in the "right way" never needed to interrupt your day, call at dinner, or put themselves in between you and your grocery shopping in an invasive way in order to raise funds for or awareness of an issue. That the social justice warriors of the halcyon days, doing it the "right" way, were always tucked away and easily ignored.

Let's pretend that the "right way" to champion for change has been effective. I mean just look at all this equality. The "proper ways" never suffer from being shut out of spaces by people who don't want to be bothered or marginalized by being called the fringe of a movement or silenced in favor of more moderate voices.

Let's pretend that every grinding, gutting, horrible step forward throughout the entire arc of human history hasn't had an entirely predictable, equally loud contingent of moderates  saying, "this is overreach," "this is too far," "this is too loud," "this is too caustic," "this is too angry," "this too soon," and "this isn't the right way to get what you want." "Sit down. Be quiet. Don't rock the boat. Don't challenge our thoughts. Don't be overbearing. Don't be rude. Watch your tone. Do it only in the ways we deem worthy of attention (and please fail to realize the fact that all those ways we like are the same ones that are most easy to ignore). Do nothing that inconveniences even our FEELINGS and then....THEN maybe, we will deign to consider your redress."

Let's pretend that in all of human history, there was a single instance of systematic social injustice that was corrected by asking nicely.

Oh and also, we’ll have to pretend for a moment that there aren't scams and bait to get clicks and likes and shares. Because for these things to be "absolutely meaningless,” we would have to ignore the incredibly intricate pains people go through to procure them as well as their motivation for doing so.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but you're going to have to pretend that Russian psyops aren't changing the political landscape of the entire world through ONLY social media.

Let's pretend ALL these things...

All of them.

Are you pretending? Okay good.

It's STILL utterly fucking obnoxious to presume what other people are or are not doing in addition to being a “keyboard warrior.” Unless you know for a fact that they're not donating money or volunteering time or that they're helping someone more directly, what you’re really doing is exerting your social capital to try to silence someone.

And even that is only after we do ALL that pretending.

So let's please usher in a new era of SQuiD honesty and simply tell the truth, which is this: "I don't even want to have to FLEX my finger in order to scroll past all this social justice stuff because it clearly doesn't directly affect ME. I would be happier if you would be silent about this.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cliché Springs Eternal

I have a confession. And some days it really does feel like a confession....

Hope won't leave me. It's there, persistently next to me, like some stray-dog trope in kids media. I know that people are being harmed, persecuted, killed, and will continue to be so. I want to be careful that I don't seem like I'm saying, "We'll get through this okay," because I know some of won't––and some of us didn't survive the past situations that people say we "got through."I'm not trying to silver-lining the cultural clash of our day or say that all's well that ends well. And there are plenty who are hopeless in the face of fascism, right-wing populism, climate change denial, and a world (often literally) on fire. Their feelings are valid too. The world is a complicated place.

Also, having hope that things will get better can lead to apathy. ("The 'arc of history' will save us. No need to actually make anyone feel uncomfortable...") Hope is imagining that we might get from A to Z with tremendous effort. Imagining that things will just all work out is rank credulity.

It's still a hard sell. I'm not a love-will-conquer-all optimist or some bullshit. The world is going to get worse in a particular order and even though it'll hit everyone, it'll hit powerless people first and create millions of climate refugees. Our track record is already horrific, and the right wing populists actively want to be even more cataclysmic in their management of the issue.

But I watch SO many Millennials NOT shifting to "fuck you, I got mine" as they age, and I see companies starting to push for change as their "bottom-line" leadership ages out, and I see people who were naysayers starting to come around to the idea that just maybe they have been duped by billionaires and multi-billion-dollar corporations into thinking that everything is okay, so just relax and work a little harder. I can feel this moment where we are positively VIBRATING with that calm-before-the-storm feeling.....resonating with the first creaking sounds of a great groan as the philanthropic and selfless energy of all humanity slowly turns to face perhaps the greatest threat we've ever collectively faced.

I see all that and I can't kick this feeling that 200 years from now historians will look back and some will cynically say , "They gave up that predatory capitalism and nationalism and went green because they HAD to. It was just a cultural shift like the one they had from hunting and gathering to agriculture or the one from fiefs to industrialization. They had no choice."

Some historians, though...they will frame it differently. "They stood up against people and companies with the kind of power and resources that we can barely even fathom today and literally stood in the path of armies. It was bad, let's not sugar coat it. But they knew the stakes and they didn't give up." That's why we're here today instead of only a tenth of the population living in walled "escape" cities, inland and on high ground."

Realism and pragmatism precludes baseless optimism or some refusal to acknowledge the cost that has and is still coming. And hope doesn't mean it's time to do a huge bong rip and let other people do the work. People with far more hope (and far more reason to be hopeful than of an entire planet doing a u-turn on crashing civilization as we know it) have been, and even died, bitterly disappointed.....

......but I can't get rid of it. I still have hope.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

"OK Boomer"

If you've been online in the last couple of weeks, you've probably run into someone who has responded to some criticism of younger folks as coddled or sensitive (or perhaps the idea that the current problems of our time simpy require even more  aggressive capitalism to be fixed) with "OK Boomer."

"OK Boomer" is such a microcosm of our social interactions in the modern era. It works as an overlay to almost any marginalized group that develops a phrase or saying or something to demonstrate that they are fed up with trying to calmly explain how fucking EXHAUSTED they are, handling with kid gloves those who are blaming them for everything.

You see it time and again. A million thoughtful think pieces. A thousand careful provable challenges to the facts that supposedly support the broken narrative being advanced. Hundreds of reasonable debates. Time after time of showing that there's not somehow some magical entire generation that just came out "lazy"––they really have had it harder.

And how far do the marginalizers move? Not one goddamned centimeter. At the end of the day they thank everyone involved in these debates, discussions, and writings for being *reasonable* and turn around and keep saying the same exact thing over and over again. And so the marginalized group, struggling for something more than a satisfying evening of debates, finally shrugs and dismisses them with a phrase about being trash or colonizing everything or being "at it again"....

Or "OK Boomer."

Once upon a time, there was no choice for these groups but to keep playing nice. Any voice that became frustrated enough to be dismissive was silenced--literally blackballed out of any media exposure. They had to be properly deferential in order to earn the right to describe their own mistreatment. The mainstream had the impression that all these debates were just so reasonable; no one was really upset that the powerful casually voiced their thoughts that the marginalized were basically causing the downfall of civilization by having the temerity to keep existing. Those conversations where groups were just DONE being mischaracterized and blamed went on in coffee houses and bars and almost entirely underground. Now a powerful new medium exists that makes simply erasing and silencing someone a whole lot more difficult. The cultural censure of doubt that someone is capable of relaying their own lived experiences is still there, but you can't just pluck the voices themselves whole cloth right out of the discussion anymore.

For most of the history of mass media, controlling the narrative meant mainstream consumers never being aware that a group had hit the moment of "Fucking DONE." Today, with the advent of SOCIAL media, you can see that flashpoint happen in real time. You can witness the EXACT cultural moment that a critical mass of people in the maligned and besmirched group simply gives up trying to explain their side of the situation, invoke nuance, or appeal to compassion. And now we've seen it over and over again.

"OK Boomer" is the latest in a long line of moments where the marginalized have simply left the table because what is the damned point.

And then the reaction hits.

I watch a five-year-old who likes to either win or REALLY win at every game we play, and I can't tell you how much this reaction reminds me of him. I'll play the games he's invented for a while as he keeps tweaking the rules further and further to his advantage so that it basically becomes impossible for him to lose ("Okay but if I touch this pillow, then I can regenerate and have a shield for thirty seconds, okay, Uncle Chris?"). Finally, I tell him I'm not interested in playing a game that he has rigged to be impossible for him to lose and he gets pretty indignant and reminds me a lot of the way no small number of Boomers are behaving, about being told this one-sided interaction is over.

Just like white people get incensed when BIPOC folks are no longer willing to be "reasonable" explaining why they are upset. Just like men get upset when women just start rolling their eyes instead of carefully laying out systematic and systemic abuse for the gazilligillionth time. Just like folks who've never struggled with their birth gender assignment get mad when being told they are at it again.

Setting aside for a moment that a generation who has told the youth to "grow a thick skin," "stop being so sensitive about everything," and "fuck their feelings, snowflake" for a decade has fallen into the mud crying over something as innocuous as "OK Boomer," and after listening to a lifetime to stories of bootstraps and "sticktoitiveness"––though they came from a time with an entirely different financial reality––there is a spectacular kind of irony in the sheer unmitigated fury and lack of cope on display that being dismissed, ignored, and edged out of the conversation is something they can't control (in EVERY corner of social media) anymore.


Of course "OK Boomer" is not mature. Of course it's not kind. Of course it's not reasonable discourse.

It's all that's left.

And like many moments when "all that is left" is finally embraced, it actually makes some folks feel bad. It makes them feel bad in a way that all the reasonable think pieces, discussions, and debates did not. It causes them to pause in a way that, "You are HURTING me!" from the group they were marginalizing simply.....didn't.

For the first time...the privileged feel bad.

In this case it's boomers, but you can see this moment happen along any example. It's all a clever game of intellectual whack-a-mole to the privileged until suddenly someone is no longer willing to play their impossible-to-lose game.


Ironically this moment so often only comes when those at the top of the social hierarchy (in this case the Boomers who still have all the power) feel ignored, dismissed, prejudged, stereotyped.....

Sound familiar?

It often only comes when those at the top of the social hierarchy experience the tiniest bit of what they so casually inflict on those lower than they without examining that they are doing so. For Boomers it's a casual phrase from those they have spent decades calling weak, unmotivated, and parasites on a consumer economy. (As if the mystery of the stagnant wages was simply too damned complicated to figure out.) This indignation at a simple descriptive phrase or the mere act of POINTING OUT systematic bigotry as "the real bigotry" is also echoed in other power dynamics. Men think that the real sexism is women talking about how they don't like being street harassed. Trans exclusionary radical feminists try to get the acronym that accurately describes them considered a slur. A fair number of straight white guys think the term "straight white guy" is an insult. All because it can sting to have one's privilege challenged directly and unambiguously.
Of course, this is indeed the TINIEST taste of what they dole out. The cosmetic superficiality of being dismissed, ignored, stereotyped, and prejudged without the institutional power is no more than a few bad fee-fees. It is nothing compared to the actual power of cultural hiring conventions, poor media representation (if there is any), the criminal justice system's treatment, the legal power to tank the economy, roll back environmental protections, and send (mostly millennials) to go fight needless wars. All those things the group in power says are completely overcome-able with some bootstraps and "reasonableness."

Responding to more of the same dismissive, intractable arrogance (for it's not like anyone is tossing this out as a conversation STARTER) is just the tiniest taste not backed by institutional power, and they still hate it.

But the demand to "be civil," as with so many other conversations like this, is just centering the feelings  (in this case Boomers' feelings) over lives.



There's a lot of nuance. A lot more discussions are coming, now that both sides "feel bad." A lot of DEEPER discussions are coming. The fact that it is not just possible, but INEVITABLE that the oppressors will eventually become the oppressed when it comes to ageism makes it one of the most dynamic and complicated axes of privilege and marginalization in an already complicated and dynamic set of power dynamics. Boomers are on the very cusp of losing the power in our society and they will almost overnight become marginalized within a culture that often doesn't treat elderly folks like people.

There's nothing particularly new about the "Kids these days" dynamic. We have writings from Plato that say, essentially, EXACTLY THAT. And the kids roll their eyes, go find their own power in the world and the old person who talks about "Back in my day...." becomes a trope. Pretty sure "what EVER?" was the same thing thirty years ago, and that I've seen a couple of grandpas who bloviated about the good ol days in Boomer-created media.

And like "Millennials," which has shifted in common parlance from the actual meaning children born from 1981-1996 to a metonymy that essentially means "these fucking kids today," "boomers" also has its own linguistic elasticity. It means people who are ride or die about capitalism. It means people who have a bootstrap mentality despite a changing economic landscape. It means people who refuse to acknowledge their unearned advantages in a world where -isms and -phobias are very real. It means people who believe in exceptionalism rather than the demonstrable historic legacy of theft and plunder. These features are not unique to an older generation, but they are ubiquitous within.


But for the actually '46-'64 Boomers out there incensed, particularly those who spent fifteen years shrugging and looking the other way while Millennials got blamed for, or told to bootstrap their way through, every late-stage-predatory-capitalism thing that went wrong in our society....

For you...."OK Boomer" is your wake-up call. It's the crossroads where you decide how the next ten or so years is going to go.

Like in every generational 80's movie (that y'all fucking made and consumed, by the goddamn way), where the stodgy fuckers from the fifties just didn't GET you, it is time to listen. The oldest of the millennials is pushing 40. You're the ones who still have your children's participation trophies on your walls and in your attics. They grew up in a WORLD that made them lose way more than the occasional soccer game. They were the first generation in a gagillion years to definitively, unambiguously make less than their parents (gen X––which is me, BTW––started the trend but had a lot of exceptions), power from your generation has been relinquished primarily only by being taken from cold, dead hands, and Millennials are tired––oh so FUCKING tired––of being blamed for not keeping the eighties going for another forty years. Maybe, instead of echoing every privileged group's fragility in making it about your FEELINGS, it's time to come to the table in good faith and figure out what the heck happened that an entire generation is fed up enough to feel like it has nothing left to say besides "OK Boomer."


Friday, November 1, 2019

It's Always Okay To Trash The Left

What I've learned from watching US politics closely for 30 years is that the left is always a fair target.

Always.

Whether you ask a Republican, a moderate Democrat, or even a liberal, whatever is to the political left of them is fair game for the worst sort of derision.

The right has to be respected, coddled, the beneficiary of bridges and aisle reaching. Ever wooed. Don't spook them.

Even the far right (until you are pretty far to the left yourself) must never be simply dismissed. EVER. The Far Right deserves a place at the table. It deserves our understanding about what happened. What "traditional values" and “deep-seated anxieties" have led to this? How dare you simply write them off! They are humans too! Bring on the nuance! 

The GOP supporters and leadership have basically decided that it's no biggie for Donald Trump to use the powers of the presidency to run an illegal extortion scheme with Ukrainian aid in an effort to affect the outcome of the 2020 democratic elections. But most people in the middle, including the media, will calmly advance a "both sides" narrative and never be willing to talk about how this is not normal––even for Republicans.

The left, though? Open season. They’re all ridiculous. Socialists. Commies. Social Justice Warriors with their absurd identity politics. Out of their minds. Always okay to lampoon. Simultaneously absurd peace and love hippies with no sense of a dangerous world and violent antifa who clearly skipped tolerance day at liberal school. You can barely even talk about Nazis marching in the streets and plowing cars into their ideological enemies without taking a moment to make sure that everyone knows you are just as upset with those bad actors on the left. The left is always okay to mock.

Of course in parlance, it’s really only the "FAR" left that is acceptable to sneer at, but that is Hillary Clinton depending on who you talk to, and not Sanders or some leftist politician (the likes of which the US actually doesn't have), which is probably part of what's going on here. The "far left" is a moving target that has been deemed okay to make fun of, so it is used by everyone from Breitbart talking about Obama to Pelosi talking about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Or Joe Biden talking about almost anyone he’s running against (except maybe Buttigieg). It simply becomes the label that is slapped on anyone to the left right before the aspersions start.

Democrats, even deep blue democrats who are self-identified liberals don't have any compunction taking shots at anyone to their left. Left wing pundits are completely fine deciding that the contingent who tried to talk to them about ableism or fatphobia were all from the fringe lunatic wing of moonbat patrol. Liberals don’t demand that the far left get a seat at the table or that we should try to understand what deep-seated anxieties they face. The "far left" gets viciously scorned. In a 4-million popular vote blowout with an electioneering conspiracy by a foreign government (and all but absolutely provable collusion), they'll look to their left and blame identity politics for electing Trump.

The far left even takes shot at the OTHER far lefts that it doesn't get along with. Democratic socialists will try not to get any REAL socialism on them. Social progressives take shots at anti-capitalists. Leftists take shots at neoliberals. (And I'm left wondering if that's not exactly working as intended.) The left doesn't have anything even CLOSE to the kind of knee-jerk, automatic, predictable, overwhelming, finger-wagging response that goes on if conservative positions are dismissed outright as simply being absurd.

The left is okay to just blow off as being "out there." The left is always okay to roll one's eyes at. The left's concerns are always okay to dismiss.

The left is always a fair target.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Sum of Our Parts

If you ever want to understand the concept behind gestalt psychology (that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) get an OKCupid account, answer a bunch of questions, and then spend a few days checking out your high matches. I guarantee you will feel instantly both seen and understood but also strangely atomized into useless piles of meaningless homogeneous components.

Perhaps I should back up just a tad....

I'm dating.

Okay that's not true. I'm TRYING to date.

One day, many years after a terrible break up, I woke to the realization that all of my relationships were long distance or involved people who were married and had very full lives already. Meanwhile, I spend most Friday nights watching old Star Trek shows and cooking for one. I decided to try to find if there was someone polyamorous, close, and available ENOUGH that they might want to join forces to take down The Legion of Doom.

So far, this involves poking at OKCupid and scowling a lot.

One of the weirdest things about OKCupid is how it both knows and doesn't know me. It quickly gained a sense of the important component parts that make me up from these questions I answered. It successfully knows what I like, what I don't like and (for the most part) what would be deal breakers*. However, what OKCupid doesn't seem to understand how those things work together. It pulls these aspects of apart when it's showing me matches.

*Of course, I'm talking about the algorithmic searches. The recommendations they send me are comically bad––like that well meaning family member who just DOESN'T GET IT. "No Aunt Martha, I'm pretty sure a 64% match monogamous lesbian and me aren't going to hit it off. I just have that feeling."

See I have many things that make me who I am (values and interests and passions), but I am not just those things. I am more than the sum of those parts. What is also important is the way those things COMBINE AND INTERACT and exist in a rich, nuanced, and vital air/fuel mixture. When they are pulled apart, I find myself intensely uncomfortable. Any one ingredient in my "special blend" taking over creates something that I am actually actively uninterested in. The way their algorithm works, unless someone is OPPOSED to another part of my persona, they show up as a high match because we "get along" so well in the one aspect. I'm talking mid-to upper 90s.

There are artists, but they are so artsy, they don't DO mainstream media. They are apathetic to politics. They have dinner parties, drink wine, argue about dadaism and seek out artsy experiences.

There are contrarian activists who are unwilling to see anything that isn't independent film, who never watch Netflix, never play video games, and never spend money that they think would help a capitalist.

There are spiritual existential thinkers who are so love-is-all-you-need that they're about to float off the Earth and evolve to rejoin the solar wind or something. They don't want to hear about how angry social issues make you (especially not if it's about their cultural appropriation of "exotic" religious iconography), because they're just too full of love and harmony for that negativity.

There are these entrepreneur go-getters who are going their own way and carving their life out in a world that loves people to punch a clock, but they have exactly zero time for politics, movies, mainstream media. If it's not improving their outreach or landing them a client, what is even the point?

There are geeks and nerds who love the MCU and video games but who hate how "everything is political these days" and think feminism has "gone too far."

There are those wary of government power.......so wary that they have become libertarians, and think that everything they have was earned. That no advantages exist because they are white, have intergenerational wealth, or benefit from roads or an educated citizenry.

I am all these things.

But I am none of THESE things.

There isn't a thing on here, I don't consider a part of me.  Every single of these is something I'd consider important to who I am––vital even––but pulled apart, I find these people horrifying. Disengaged, uninteresting, vapid, and often extreme to the point of caricature.  Without the other aspects in that perfect mixture that blends, combines, synergizes, and limits any ONE part of me from being too much, I find the singular aspects....well the opposite of romantically tempting.

Maybe I should take up line dancing....

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

They Don't Value Honesty

Trump is a liar. Even his most ardent supporters (using euphemisms like "alt-facts" or "loose relationship with the truth” or the even worse “oh it’s just his way”) will admit that. He lies about shit that is not even important and easily verifiable––like what he said on record or that there are clips of. His supporters knew it. They liked it about him (along with the bigotry). They don't value honesty. Perhaps even more accurately, they value dishonesty. Or at least they value dishonesty if it works better than honesty does to achieve what they want.

Trump’s "the lurkers secretly agree with me" lies are not easy to confirm or deny and he's always talking about the "many people" who agree with what he says, but sometimes (like a couple of weeks ago regarding tariffs on China or this thing with the sharpies and Alabama), he just starts making up conversations that he never had with other foreign leaders. Like, you can maybe get away with claiming to have had a conversation if you know the person you're lying to isn't going to immediately go check with that person. We are all guilty of talking up what a hard ass we were or how reasonable we were (when the other person would characterize things very differently), but with Trump we're talking whole cloth fabrication here. Entire conversations with people––easily verifiable––that NEVER HAPPENED. But his supporters don’t care because they don’t value honesty.



Or more recently doubling down on something misinformed until he’s involved in a scandal with the NOAA and threats of firings. You know honesty is not your jam when your ego is so fragile that you have to threaten to fire members of a government body (NOAA) if they don’t back up the lie you’ve already doubled and tripled down on. You know you're okay with lying when a state spending millions for hurricane preparedness means less to you than admitting you misread the "green zone" on a map as being more significant than it is. 



And guess what? His supporters STILL like it about him. They like his fantasy. They like his grand conspiracy theories about entire science disciplines trying to make him look bad with a grand coverup and the media that just “never gives him a break.” They like his made-up conversations. They like someone who just gets up there and says something that pisses off the people they hate. They know it's a lie (they do), and they don't care because they kind of dig the lie. The lie upsets the people they don't like. It's like when the bullies all agree to say that it's Wednesday and the more someone tries to prove it's Monday, the harder they laugh. They don't value honesty.

THEY DON'T VALUE HONESTY.

Truth only matters when it gets them what they want or can be used as a cudgel against their opponents (or "enemies" as Trump has now taken to saying openly and often). As soon as it stops working––the INSTANT it isn’t useful––they happily abandon it for deceit and falsity. (Much like open democracy or free markets, but that’s a whole other rant.)



So the whole "Truth will merit out" brigade are bringing knives to a gunfight. Expecting the GOP to gasp when it becomes clear (well, clearER to many of us) that Kavanaugh perjured himself under oath about sexual predation to achieve a lifetime appointment to the highest court is not reasonable. And the tendency for the intelligentsia to think they're going to Snopes their way to Trump supporters one day saying, ”Holy shit. He LIED!” is predicated on values that Trump supporters simply do not have. We say it to ourselves to remind each other that This Is Not Normal, but we are not going to sway those who have chosen their moral values. That’s NOT going to happen.

Because they don’t value honesty.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

White Supremacy and the GOP

The modern GOP knows that they're sunk without white supremacists and thus white supremacy. That's why that memo that leaked about deflecting blame towards left-wing "extremism" and doing anything needed to pull focus from white nationalist terrorism was written in the first place––if they had nothing to do with white supremacy and didn't want white supremacists in their party, such a memo would be an awfully strange thing to write.

But they do and they do.

They need white supremacists. They can't live without them. Their pencil thin margins of victory (even after all the disenfranchising and gerrymandering and not stopping Russian interference and cheating they can muster) absolutely REQUIRE the white supremacists for political support. They jumped in bed with virulent racism during the Southern Strategy and now they CANNOT win without courting it.

The 2016 election defied the wisdom (of the GOP leadership, I might add) that they could no longer win while focusing exclusively white voters. Basically everyone thought the "wink wink nudge nudge" days of racism had to be dialed back so they could pull more women and non-white voters on board. They were prepared to expunge some of their dog whistling and broaden their coalition in order to survive.

But it was never JUST a strategy.

Instead Trump went all the way in. He dropped the euphemism, just said the quiet part out loud, he won the primary as "their guy" and now they HAVE no choice. If they lose the white supremacist vote, they lose. That's all there is to it. White supremacy, always more powerful than white America would admit, has hijacked the Republican party. THEY are the mainstream now.

That is who the Republicans are now. (That is who they have been for my lifetime with a tacit nod and a conspicuous silence, but now they are out and open about it.) And while some of them don't appreciate having the quiet part said out, their struggles have been superficial and tepid at best. White nationalism is the no-longer-deniable moral stain and legacy of their party all grown up and calling the shots.

Hobbs & Shaw: Reviewish


Hobbs and Shaw is pretty much exactly what it looks like it's going to be in the trailers. It's big. It's ridiculous. It's a couple of ripped dudes trying to out "lone wolf" each other and learning that the real anti-terrorism is the friends they made along the way.

Go see it if you like popcorn movies with driving stunts that make you say "Yeah, that's not really possible by the laws of physics."

Now for the (mild) spoilery part.
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I've noticed a lot of movies lately have an "ends never justify the means" villain. They're basically RIGHT, but "that's NOT how one goes about getting change."

In Hobbs and Shaw, the genocidal virus-unleashing Idris Elba played bad guy was ostensibly an anticapitalist environmentalist who was terrified that humanity was on track to wipe itself out by 2090. Of course, if he had stopped riding motorcycles off of skyscrapers for a second, he probably would have realized that the power his boss had to control literally ANY story would make for a useful tool in getting some green legislation passed, but maybe that's just me bringing my brain to a movie where it clearly isn't welcome. Still, I've been hearing "calm down and MAYBE we'll listen to you*" for my entire life, so it's pretty easy to imagine a political landscape in which eventually that doesn't work.

*They won't, by the way. They want you just "calm" enough that you can be ignored.


Entertainment is often cultural anxiety turned up to eleven. (There's a reason that for fifteen years after 2001 a LOT of blockbuster movies had an antagonist-ruined cityscape and protagonists basically going to get some payback.) But boy, it's going to be a plot twist to people who consume mainstream media when they find out which ideology is actually on track to trash the planet and kill billions––no super virus required.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Gravity House Effect of U.S. Politics


You know those gravity houses? The kind that tip you one way and your mind technically knows what's going on, but you also sort of adjust to it despite yourself. So even though you know why it is working that way, your brain still tricks you and you kind of freak out when it looks like shit is falling up or rolling uphill.

Yep. I'm going to make a metaphor. About Republican cheating. Because we know it's going on, and we've been dealing with it for decades, but our mind also kind of adjusts to it. And when we lose elections by narrow margins, we kind of don't realize we probably should have won. Or when we win, we kind of don't realize that it should have been a blowout.

If you think about how long the cheating has been going on (at least here in the U.S.), you'll realize that the left has actually been winning the war of ideas for a long time––we're just up against those who feel they have a moral imperative and are perfectly willing to toss every underlying principle of democratic government to maintain a minority rule and get what they want.

About twenty years ago, they started computer-assisted gerrymandering to maintain their control. This creates "safe" districts and dilutes the power of their opponents. Then about thirteen years ago, they started voter ID laws, essentially creating a poll tax. Ostensibly this was because of fraud, but in-person fraud is extremely uncommon and the more common form of it (mail in ballots--though still rare) was left alone because the military uses them and they tend to vote conservative. In some places DMVs were even closed en masse to make getting ID far more difficult. Just a couple of years ago, they ramped up the process of purging voters from registrations. These efforts, of course, are ALWAYS in places with certain "kinds" of voters (and it's not middle-class white folks). They are proposed by, endorsed by, paid for by, campaigned for by, passed by and defended in court by conservatives, and overwhelmingly hurt liberals.

You don't need a degree in rocket science to put together what is happening. Just because they've rolled out the cheating slowly, so they win by plausible margins and loose from time to time doesn't erase what they're doing. The room is starting to tilt, and even though we can see it, our brain is also starting to adjust to it despite us.

Yesterday Mitch McConnell stood in front of the American people and openly, shamelessly said with his facehole that they won't pass a law to fix election security in order to prevent interference from a foreign geopolitical enemy we KNOW has interfered, is interfering, and will interfere again and who wants the GOP to win. They won't do this because because free and fair democratic elections would give Democrats "political benefit."

Here. Let me translate that for you just in case you didn't catch it over the sound of all the jaws hitting the floor: "Our prior levels of cheating are not cutting it anymore, so we need this outside interference or we're going to lose."

What surprises me, honestly, is not the behavior of the GOP. I became politically aware during Gingrich's "scorched earth," so I pretty much expect them to lie, cheat, and steal for power grabs at any opportunity. They lost any vestige of personal ethical high ground they may have had thirty years ago when they offered up their integrity on the alter of a Faustian deal to win at any cost––it's just taken this long for most of the country to get the memo.

What surprises me is how many liberals and moderates still act like we have a fair democracy. It's not that they don't see it. It's just that their minds have also kind of adjusted to it a little and it sort of looks like votes are "rolling uphill."

Progressive ideas should be kicking ass, but instead we've got minority rule by a party increasingly willing to hide their cheating in plain sight. And instead of treating them like exactly that, we're still hoping they can be convinced of their own moral turpitude and will have a "coming-to-Jesus" moment.

They won't.

They have no shame.

It's time for plan B.

You'll Never Convince the Racists That They're Racists


About 30 percent of the country (almost all white) will never admit that Trump is racist. They never ever will. We should divest ourselves of whatever fantasies we might have that some day Trump will do something SO outrageous that they will finally realize it. It is in their interest not to see his racism, and so they will not. Not ever. These people lost the ability to control the narrative that racism is okay (about forty years ago), and so they embraced the secondary ability to smirk and say, "That's not *really* racism."  At least until they can embolden white nationalism enough to come right out and say it as they could before––something they are dying to do.

And the scripts of white supremacy (even on the left) support them. Every time a liberal white person says, "Sure I hate racism, but THIS is not an example of it" to a person of color who is pointing out racism, or a white liberal goes to the mat for a six-hundred-comment thread in the name of "intellectual integrity" to say that some act with racial impact wasn't INTENDED and could have had something (anything) other than stark, naked racism that motivated a person to do something racist, they are enacting this same script. Bigotry is "bad" so no one can ever be labeled as a bigot without some "soulbeam" mindreader bullshit proof. Instead of just acknowledging that we are all racists (even we liberal white people), we all do racist things, we all have work to do, and the people best able to explain it to us are the folks who live with our fucking bullshit every day.

So the well-meaning often provide plenty of ground cover for the smarmy insistence (now that people at the tops of social hierarchies can't just BE bigots) that marginalized people have no say in what counts AS bigotry. Men, white people, heterosexuals, cis...they will be the arbiters of what counts.

And we're NEVER going to convince them that what Trump did is racist because they know EXACTLY what will happen to their entire paradigm if they, even once, say "Maybe you're right." Like Trump himself, there will be no moment where they feel shame. They have abandoned this. Because then they might have to question a lot more than just this one moment of abject racism.

We don't call these things for them––not for those 30%. They are wrong. They are callow, obstinate, and wrong and they will probably die callow, obstinate, and wrong. Maybe some of them will change, but not from one shining moment of "Oh shit, he really IS a racist." They already know. Their moral and ethical die has been cast.

We don't scream and point at every "go back where you came from" or "shithole countries" or his casino records on racial issues or his property records on racial issues or his attacks on the Central Park 5. Or from his followers the "he says what I feel" or the "he's not hurting the right people" or most recently after his comments that four US citizens should go back where they came from: "this is why we voted for him."

We're never going to "prove" it to their satisfaction. That's because we live in a country with an ongoing legacy of white supremacy and a cultural bedrock of bigotry, and it'll take white people confronting that to undo it. Don't forget that the first thing the Mel Gibsons and Paula Deens and Tim Burtons and Hulk Hogans of the world say after they get caught being unequivocally racist is to look at the camera and say, "I'm not racist." That's all that's happening here. It's the Nigerian Finance Minister email that says in the subject line, "This is not spam!"

They have picked their moral quality. We shall never sway them. Time to work around them.

We DO it for the 1 or 2% of those who will peel off from the right. (Maybe who will abstain from voting in 2020 for moral reasons.) We do it for the outliers for whom this might be the last straw. For those who, while I adamantly disagree with them, really ARE Republicans because they want smaller tax burdens and who are not comfortable with the Faustian deal their modern party has made with white nationalists and bigots.

We do it to scream that this is not normal. Or more accurately that it kind of is, but we're not going back to a time when saying it out loud was okay, or that we won't stand up and speak out against the regressive blowback to any vestige of progress. And we're not going to give up until it really ISN'T normal.

We do it to be counted, both by those we face down and the ones we stand beside.

Dear Fellow Dudes: Shut Up About How This is No Biggie

Image Creator:Brian Snyder Credit:REUTERS

[Note: Formatting is weird on this article because I brought it over from the old site and I didn't want to redo all the links.]

To all my fellow dudes who are just calm as a cucumber that the recent rash of laws is never going to get past SCOTUS, let me put this as diplomatically as possible:
You need to shut the fuck up with that bullshit.
For starters, by and large, you've been wrong since about 2015. You've been wrong about the degree of bigotry fueling the right. Like really wrong. You've been wrong about the white nationalists not really being a thing. You've been wrong about the wall being a weird crowd-pandering thing that would never happen. You've been wrong about the concentration camps being harmless and the most sympathetic policy we plausibly could enact and that it's over because of the protests. You've been wrong about the travel ban. You've been wrong that there aren't literal fucking Nazis in the street. You've been wrong that it wouldn't be so bad and people would survive this.
So it is time to stop imagining yourselves the rational überpundits of political thought, look into the veritable avalanche of your fucking WRONGNESS, and admit that you do not POSSESS the ability to predict the perturbations of an approaching threat the way that those directly affected by it do. And that your calm, collected, rational demands that everyone around you chill the fuck out about laws that are never going to affect YOUR body autonomy are not just WRONG (but holy shit are they ever wrong), but are also gaslighting those who are affected that their spider sense isn't really tingling.
You blew off those who study dictatorships, legions of historians, political scientists, communications experts, folks who have LIVED in dictatorships, countries we're allied with, POC, LGBTQIA+ folks, immigrants, Muslims, Latinx folks, most Germans, and pretty much all Jews who lived through the Third Reich––all those folks were jumping up and down and screaming. And yet here we are...with a constitutional crisis every week, a president cosying up to dictators, and suggesting that he's owed a couple of extra years, and watchdog groups saying American democracy is more threatened than ever before.
And right now you are missing the bigger picture. Right now you're in the process of being WRONG again. Because if you were listening to any expertise beyond that which you arrogantly pulled out of your own ass (because of [I guess] your considerable experience dealing with legal abortion politics?), you would know that forced birth extremists have been putting these pieces into place for decades. If you read beyond the preview text or paid attention past where you were sure you had all the answers, you would see over and over the concerns of those groups that have been fighting this fight this since Roe v. Wade and before are not so cavileer.
1- None of these experts is even remotely as cocksure as you are that this court will not uphold one or more of these laws. Kavanah (despite the assurances of uterus-less dudes, whose bodies are not the one being legislated, that he is mostly harmless) was literally appointed, among other things, to undermine Roe. That was one of the gold stars on his resume.
2- That THESE laws may not pass, possibly even all of them, is not the point. These laws are designed to get to SCOTUS. They are a "probing of the defenses." This is the velociraptors testing the fence perimeter. A lot of very powerful forced birth extremists want to know which arguments are going to gain traction with the new SCOTUS makeup and, to mix metaphors, these laws are throwing spaghetti at the wall. They want to ARGUE it. They want to see who leans forward and who rolls their eyes when they make certain points. Once they know what'll stick, they go back to their desks and write the exact, precise laws with the legal wording that will exploit the weaknesses they discovered.
3- Between the passing of a law and its eventual SCOTUS challenge (possibly as much as a year later), real people get hurt. It's not just an intellectual exercise of armchair legal expertise. THIS WILL ACTUALLY AFFECT REAL PEOPLE.
4- There are dozens of ways proven conclusively to reduce abortion much more effectively than outlawing the safe and accessible kind. Cheap and easy access to birth control, for example. (Spoiler: they're coming for that too because of "religious freedom.") There are hundreds of ways to respect children's "sanctity of life," from free access to prenatal and postnatal care to fixing lead-contaminated water to ensuring that children from poor families always have shelter, food, electricity, and running (clean) water. But largely when these ways of being pro-life are brought up, the same group of lawmakers and a 90%+ overlap of supporters are staunchly against such things being "the role of government." There are even fertility clinics with fertilized ova given a "Meh..." shrug/pass even though the unused embryos are tossed into the trash. And these laws always target women and the doctors who treat them but never the men. This isn't about "Won't someone think of the little souls!" It's about controlling the bodies of people with uteruses. And if some group out there were working FURIOUSLY, day and night, with an army of lawyers, enacting the endgame of a plan in the works since 1974, to mandate control of YOUR body so that you had to be an incubator to another organism no matter WHAT the extenuating circumstances were, you would probably not be so goddamn fucking blasé about it.
So shut the fuck up about how none of this is a big deal because your vast constitutional scholarship and extensive political abortion law activism somehow also includes psychically knowing the minds of nine high court judges. (Not to mention your boundless expertise on fetal development, late term abortions, and prenatal care.) And listen for a fucking second to the people who are actually affected by these laws tell you that they are terrified as shit because they just heard the branch crack underneath them. Because poo-pooing their feelings like you can oracularly view the future of abortion jurisprudence, know better than battle-hardened activists, and aren't concerned about that thing that won't be directly affecting you not only makes you an insensitive, gaslighting fucknoodle, but history suggests that you're going to be WRONG.
Again.

I Want the Truth!



"Our Black president isn't a U.S. citizen."

"I just want the truth!"

"He's a Muslim from Kenya."

"I just want to know the TRUTH!"



"Obama wanted people to die in Benghazi! Clinton basically murdered people.”

"I have questions I want answered!"

"It was actually Obama's fault there was a shutdown. He secretly wanted it."

"Let's get to the bottom of this!"

"There's a 22nd hearing on Benghazi targeting Clinton.

"I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!!"

"Her e-mail server was sending state secrets to Anthony Weiner."

"I have legitimate intellectual inquiry that I won’t be satisfied about until I know all the facts."

"Hillary Clinton is running a human trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor and advertising it in code."

"I JUST WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH!"

"Russian propaganda psyops attacks affected our democratic election, and half the major players in the new administration met with Russian agents and at least two were Russian assets. Collusion can’t be proven, but Trump acted in obstructionist ways at every turn. Basically every federal prosecutor says that the only reason he didn’t get charged with obstruction is because he’s the president. We’d like congress to see the full report and interview a couple of witnesses”

“This is just a goddamned partisan witch-hunt. Let’s focus on running the country, m'kay?"

Nurturing Your Persecution Complex 101



How to pretend your free speech is being infringed upon when it is not:

Step 1. Say some outright bigotry bullshit under the cover of your constitutionally protected right to do so. It doesn't even matter if you use a bunch of supremacy symbols that people are "wink wink/nudge nudge" about. Be sure to be privileged and say it about groups that are already marginalized. (Otherwise this could backfire.) But if you do it right, folks–even on the left–will insist on the need to hear you out and provide you with microphones and podiums and sites for your hate speech as part of their deep value of free expression.

Step 2. Once you are known for exactly the sort of message you will deliver every time you open your mouth, schedule a venue in a super liberal area. You might even consider nudging that hate speech needle over toward inciting violence JUUUUUST a little. I mean you still want plausible deniability of course. Bring a gang that likes to provoke people (but of course you can't possibly control them DIRECTLY). Don't worry, this won't be held against you in the final analysis. Hopefully you can provoke someone into taking a punch. No nuance will be examined about high running emotions or the level of provocation you and your people used. No matter what happens (including often if your folks throw the first punch and your opposition had the temerity to fight back), people will think you just came there to talk and be reasonable and the evil leftists showed up just spoiling for an anti-first amendment fight.

Step 3. Some progressive protestors will then exercise their OWN freedom of expression to protest your event. Don't worry that their speech is as free as yours–you have this wired. You live in a land where the perception is that anger isn't free speech, but urbanely espousing bigotry is. They may do so by trying to appeal to the venue or arrange a concurrent event. At this point, you've already won, no matter what happens.

Step 4. The venue will then decide whether it is worth it and/or if they have the security necessary to host your event. If you are lucky, you will lose your venue, but the beauty of this is that it will work even if you are allowed to speak but someone dares criticize you. You're already in the clear.=

Step 5. At NO time will the government send agents to intervene in your free expression. No one will arrest you for speaking. Your published materials will not be seized by agents of the state and destroyed. If there is a policing presence at all, they will let you say anything you want short of outright imminent threats, and may not even intervene then. This doesn't matter.

Step 6. If you had your venue cancelled, or even if you didn't, you can whinge about how unfair the left is and how they stood in the way of your free speech with their overbearing opinions, and so much for their vaunted values of tolerance and free expression. Even their own people will wonder if they're "hurting their own cause."

Milk it like you're a men's soccer player who actually got kicked.

Rinse. Repeat.

Freeze Peach


"These SJWs are infringing on my free speech. I should be able to say whatever I want!"

Look around, Chippy. Nazis on the march burning literal swastikas. Every social media crawling with naked bigots. Open white supremacists running for office as Republicans....and sometimes winning. Men's Rights Activists and Men Going Their Own Way who think the 1950's were a little too progressive misogyny-wise. Breitbart. Savage Nation. Sean Hannity.

You already fucking CAN say whatever you want.

What you're complaining about, Cupcake, is consequences. You don't want freedom of speech; you want freedom FROM consequences. You want to be able to say any level of dehumanizing thing you want and not have a soul so much as call you out. You want the right to march down the street calling for an ethnic cleansing but not have your boss on Monday tell you that you that the Youtube video you were in doesn't seem to represent the values of the company. You want to skirt the margins (barely) of inciting violence but never be deplatformed from the fancy colleges that give you honorariums to speak or the medium that will be boycotted by their advertisers if they bring you on. You want to spew whatever level of misogynist or transantagonist or racist vitriol you want but never be asked to leave the online community, group, or page. You want to protest with white nationalists who want an ethno state that has no meaningful definition besides "white," but never see a counter protest shouting down your repugnant beliefs. You want your public social media behavior or your weekend warrior behavior to exist in some alternate dimension where there are never real world consequences––like a video game that just goes away when you turn it off. You want to be a terrible person, but never have to deal with the consequences of being a terrible person.

That, I'm afraid, is not how any of this works.  You can legally speak in a public space, but you are not entitled to a medium or an amplifier nor are you free from the consequences of what you say.

Free speech isn't a fire-and-forget missile you can lob off with nary a care. Other people around you get theirs too.

When West Wing Waxed Weakly


I love The West Wing.

It’s got super problematic moments, didactic moralizing, and Sorkin falls into the pitfalls of a lot of his generation that all the radicalism that came before about 1975 was super good shit, but now the DNC needs to chill out and be really luke-warm moderates. But the show is total liberal competency porn, and that’s hard not to love, especially in our current political climate of right wing populism, cruelty, rising fascism, and incompetence. I put it on during the Trump administration and imagine a president who does things that help people, struggles for progressive gains, and uses complete sentences.

But I always had trouble past Season 4 when Sorkin left the show. The writing took a nosedive and the plots became much more embroiled in personal drama (which is easier to write about) than the politics (which requires more finesse). A couple of years back, I finally decided once and for all to finish the whole show’s run, even if it was only the one time. (It was.)

In particular, I remember watching the episode that is basically a staged debate. The entire episode is the debate, and my understanding is that the actors had to actually learn that shit cold because they filmed it like a debate in basically one take in front of a real audience.

That’s pretty cool, but here’s what I remember: in the end they had the "two different theories of government" speech that distills the difference between the left and the right to free markets vs. regulation and lower taxes vs. a bigger safety net.

I've heard this speech before. You've probably heard it too. I've heard it from Mitt Romney and John McCain as well as Obama.

I certainly don't think we were young and innocent back when The West Wing was wrapping up its final season, and the DNC absolutely hasn't expunged its own form of leftist bigotry–even if it more typically is followed by "How is that racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic?" rather than "I'm sorry, but that's just what I think."

But that whole “different theories” thing is the civility politics version of “our differences.” It is the "gentleman's perspective" of politics. It is the idea that just a few small differences in the role of government separate us, and it’s certainly nothing worth losing a friend across the aisle over. It’s this idea that when you leave the purview of those whose taxes might only go up or down by a few percent or who may have to install a new piece of safe or environmental equipment that they wouldn't have bothered with UNLESS there was a law…we’re really mostly the same.

But it’s not true. Once you get past the brandy snifter and monocle argument among white men of "different ideas about the role of government..." it's hard to ignore that conservatives are (and have been for some time) aggressively pursuing legislation that causes direct, measurable harm to folks that have been pushed to the margins of society. And every once in a while, someone forgets the obfuscating party line and just comes out and says it.

I really wish Matt Santos had made THAT point.

In Any Other Context


Here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it.

If you saw ANY other society--in a distant corner of the world, in a dystopian YA science fiction novel, or on a television show--go from having ONE demographic group be completely, utterly, unapologetically, overtly in charge of everyone else (leadership positions, economic power, property owners, and all of them openly, nakedly, saying that they were the superior demographic), to a series of “sweeping" reforms in which that demographic group lost power until they were only about 85-90% in charge of everything. Oh they still ran most things, still held most power, most political leaders were from their ranks, and still had more social standing in virtually any situation. If you saw all this, you would need absolutely NO help to realize how absurd it would be for all the other demographics pushing hard for continued and ongoing reform to be considered "just as bad" when they got frustrated or annoyed, particularly at those who were saying the loss of 10-15% of the power meant that THEY were now the subjugated ones.

That would be ridiculous, right?

Compound this absurdity with the inclusion of violence on only one side. The group struggling for continued reforms speaks out mostly of its experiences in a world that doesn’t treat them as equals. Despite constant attempts to silence them from the dominant group, they are angry, but almost never violent, and the violence it does express is usually property damage when frustrations boil over. In fact, folks within this demographic are themselves most often the ones hurt and killed on the regular, both by open proponents of the demographic that want to be completely in charge again as well as by armed agents of the state that is still run by the dominant group and maintains a criminal justice system that is demonstrably, statistically, and indisputably more brutal and cruel to others than it is to the favored demographic…at every level.

No question, right? This would be piss-easy to “decode.” Like if this were a video game, movie, or book, you would think it was actually a little ham-handed.

You would roll your eyes and know exactly what was going on when the powerful demographic complained about their loss of absolute hegemony. You would need no help to realize how feckless it was of most to value stability and peace and the status quo more than they did the continued reform. You would see right through their attempts to slow things down or to calm those dedicated to change who used harsh language and fierce rhetoric (though not ever the same violence that was used to bring them to heel). You wouldn’t be fooled when the folks in charge held up individuals or small groups from these underclass demographics who said things were great and people should stop complaining.

And most of all, you would know exactly what was up when they kept saying “Slow down. Slow down. Slow down.”

This would not be a difficult scenario for you to put together. You would have no issue seeing that those who had power were trying to maintain power, and that they were violating the social conventions of civility (that they themselves had created––and which they were more than happy to break with the stroke of a pen, wearing a suit, and sporting a smile) in order to silence those trying to achieve equality. It would be UTTERLY almost PAINFULLY obvious to you observing this foreign society that the levers and pulleys of systematic power were being exploited to KEEP that group in power (or even roll back the existing reforms).

Yet somehow when it’s our own society, the cries that struggles for equality and justice have “gone too far," are actually taken seriously.

Mythical Creatures


You know, I sure did encounter a lot more women who "just hate men," people of color who just "have a chip on their shoulder," angry lesbians, raging feminists, hateful gays, and folks who just "liked having reasons to be angry" before I made an effort to check my privilege and started to give a crap about *their* vision of equality instead of my own.

Seriously, they're almost mythical now, the sightings are so infrequent. I keep wondering what dudebros are even talking about with these stories that they're still out there.

I wonder if there's some kind of correlation.

Reviewish: Far Cry 5



I just finished my second play through of Farcry 5. And I just....

It is a fun and engaging badass game. The mechanics are good, the stealth system is good. The walking-around-with-the-biggest-gun system is good. There are multiple ways to solve most problems. Except for building permanence (which would take a whole new level of game), it feels really realistic on the harder settings. There is a character advancement mechanic that is slow enough to hold interest but powerful enough to put you to work figuring puzzles to get into hidden areas. Every external non-plot part of this game is spectacular.

Shame that it was written by 12-year-old who thought they were being "edgy." The plot was just a trash can fire inside a landfill inferno located on the planet of burning tires.

I could seriously run multiple classes (maybe even a whole semester) on what NOT TO DO as a writer, based on just this fucking game.

Fuck everything about that end. Fuck the conceit that any remotely kind or benevolent God would communicate with a murdering, torturing cultist in a way that they were "right all along." Fuck those weird-ass bliss-induced cut scenes and how they got used to be the deus ex machina of whatever supernatural bullshit boss fights the creators could dream up. (Hey let's have a flying demon? This is a real world game, Chuck. Screw it...make it a bliss hallucination. Sounds great! And at the end they fight all their friends. Wha-- Why would they do that? Um......I dunno....bliss?) Fuck the moralizing about the violence you are forced to commit to save people from being tortured and killed. Fuck the completely untelegraphed nuclear holocaust. (Here's a protip. If you want to have an "It's a cookbook" ending, you drop some hints that things are bad.) Fuck the reverse catharsis ending that took every accomplishment made and relationship forged by the player away for the sake of a "wasn't this shocking" ending. Fuck the attempt to be edgy. And fuck the game for not letting you choke that a-hole with his own fucking rosary.

Honestly, this is the the best ever game I've ever played that if the plot had a face, I would punch it.

There Will Be No Bridge



I know they want all this nuance and these bridges built, but all I consistently see––outside of the few people who know how to stick to those erudite talking points when a camera is in their face––is an entire wing of US politics throwing a tantrum because it's been asked to respect human dignity for someone other than them.

They are SO angry that they can't just make fun of trans folks, or just repeat the word "immigration" enough times and not have their solution of a concentration camp for brown kids on the southern border given a pass as being a tough but necessary decision, and not in the least bit racist....how dare you even insinuate such a thing. They are SO incensed that naked displays of racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia have consequences beyond a few gasps at a party and a knowing look from the guy across the table, or that the double standards they've taken for granted are so much as being DESCRIBED by the people on the shit end of them. They are SO infuriated that women have the temerity to define behavior that is unacceptable and that makes them feel unsafe and disrespected and can no longer blow off up to and including sexual assault (for reasons––always for reasons).

More than any policy or platform, this hatred unites them. They hate "social justice," "PC culture," and us "libt*rds with our identity politics" (a clever way of saying that any issue not brought up BY cishet white men FOR cishet white men is beneath them). They want their bigotry-adjacent rhetoric legitimized and exculpated as "economic anxieties" (as if no one on the left is economically anxious or left wing policies aren't trying to improve the economic situations of poor people by doing things like raising minimum wage, taking care of healthcare since it's the number one cause of bankruptcy, or passing massive infrastructure jobs packages). As if excusing someone's naked racism because that person might be doling you out some money isn't itself kind of racist...how dare you even insinuate such a thing. But then they turn around and cozy up to and/or become white nationalists, supremacists, and literal Nazis when the rubber hits the road. And they put increasingly zealous support behind a leader who will say aloud all the things they've been quietly, conspicuously, guiltily keeping to themselves at the office parties. The absolute fury they have at being called out is a more cohesive glue for their politics than the special rust belt manufacturing renaissance that was promised just for them or that tax cut that turned out to be for corporations and the 1% or even a health care reform that doesn't shoot themselves in the foot.

And so they've become cartoonish in their reactionary swing. Hateful. Cruel for cruelty's sake. Practically daring anyone to stop them. They disenfranchise voters change the democratic bylaws in one naked power grab after another. And they have embraced ever the persecuted victim when their behavior is anything but lauded (like standing in the middle of 37 indictments, convictions, guilty pleas, an emoluments nightmare, periods of "private chats" with Putin, and verified Russian interference that were cheered on by the President of the United States, and instead of intellectually grasping why that might have looked bad, they demanded apologies and started talking treason). They slash budgets because "fuck you, that's why." And their ideology is one tissue-paper-thin rationelle away from being right on the surface all the time these days. Skim off one layer of slick-ass talking heads who know to wear a suit and tie and avoid saying "those people," and their bigotry is all right there in a boiling cauldron that is powering right wing political will right now.

That is why there is no careful examination of nuance. It is just the nuance of bigotry and we've had quite enough of that. That is why no one is building those bridges. They are bridges only to the very worst of human nature.