Monthly Archives: August 2017

You God Damn Millennials are Killing All of America’s Shittiest Businesses

fabsofNot pictured in foreground: Anything that actually does anything even remotely beneficial for your laundry.

Earlier this evening, Comrade Levine helped ease the pain by sharing this article to his Facebook wall, an otherwise routine piece of hysteria about Those Damn Millennials and all of the ways in which we are unacceptably changing society. Strangely, most of these articles seem to limit the purview of their juvenoia purely to the consumer realm, and this Business Insider shit show is no exception; it surpasses other articles waxing idiotic about The Kids These Days only in its wide assemblage of consumer examples.

Here are the industries this article says are failing because of disinterest from millennials, along with a brief overview of why I think these industries suck, for I have no job, no current classes, and nothing better to do with my time than try to waste that of others. My hypothesis: Maybe we’d stop murdering all of their beloved businesses if all of their beloved businesses weren’t total garbage.

Casual dining chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s: The food at these places is worse for you than fast food and is every bit as factory-cooked-and-frozen halfway across the country and microwaved in the “restaurant” as fast food. (I’ll have the #WordSalad as an appetizer, thank you.) Instead of getting your food at a dystopian counter in what feels like a mess hall, you are served at a sticky table in poorly-lit, beer-reeking, butt rock-blasting shithole with decor furnished by the nearest bottom-shelf antiques shop.

Beer: Tastes like dirty laundry smells, doesn’t get you drunk if you can hold your liquor. Pass.

Napkins: A napkin is cloth and you launder it. These are shitty little pieces of miserably flimsy paper that no sensible person should use in a world where paper towels are just as readily available.

“Breastaurant” chains like Hooters: When your business is failing, whatever you do, do not look into the politics of your youngest target demographic. That would not be rational in the least.

Cereal: I mean, I never cared for the stuff much, probably haven’t had a bowl in over a year. Not having it because you have to clean things afterward is asinine, though. Heartless Industry 1, Millennials 9,682.

Golf: Ah, yes, I’ll just have my driver take me and my caddy over to the cart rental in the Rolls Royce and we’ll cease our murder of this industry forthwith!

Motorcycles: Loud, obnoxious, dangerous, famously associated with violent criminals, horribly bigoted ones in particular. SEE: “Breastaurant” entry.

Homeownership: Hahahahahahahahaha are you fucking kidding me?

Yogurt: Anyone’s guess is as good as mine on this one.

Bars of soap: And I quote, “Almost half (48%) of all US consumers believe bar soaps are covered in germs after use, a feeling that is particularly strong among consumers aged 18-24 (60%), as opposed to just 31% of older consumers aged 65-plus.” Who are we, Howard fucking Hughes? Heartless Industry 2, Millennials 9,685. At least they didn’t try to spin this one to imply that we’re unwashed.

Diamonds: SEE: “Breastaurant” entry again. Literally involves the dismembering of small children and vicious wars.

Fabric softener: “According to Downy maker Procter & Gamble’s head of global fabric care, millennials ‘don’t even know what the product is for.'” Stupid millennials, not knowing what a pointless product is for. There’s an incredibly apt metaphor in here somewhere, but I’m too busy looking at my smartphone to notice.

Banks: I mean, I’m pretty sure I haven’t heard about millennials stuffing their cash in the mattress en masse, but perhaps this includes business lost to people who are joining credit unions that won’t gamble with their deposited money and nickel-and-dime them with fees and charges. Pah! Credit unions! Why would anybody ever join such a foolish thing?

Department stores like Macy’s and Sears: “Who could possibly want to order goods directly to their door?” ponders industry giants who made themselves into what they are by aggressively circulating mail-order catalogs. Why would I rifle through wrinkled clothes and struggle with store employees who are paid so little that it would come off as offensively desperate if they were helpful?

Designer handbags: Forget it, it’s Chinatown! If you need a magnifying glass to tell that a mainly-cosmetic item is counterfeit, then it is, for all intents and purposes, not counterfeit.

Home-improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s: SEE: “Department stores.”

Football: I won’t go into it at length here, but having read a shit-ton in the last year about the state of football’s popularity, I can say with confidence that this entry is entirely bullshit. Surely they could lament something more specific about football and of which there is more evidence of the uselessness of millennials, like not buying jerseys that cost over a hundred dollars or something.

Oil: SEE: “Breastaruants,” yet again. Also smells bad. Is hard to clean off of plants, wildlife, and out of earth and water. Continued combustion will literally make the Earth uninhabitable for humans. Procurement is ecologically harmful as well. Should be conserved as it is otherwise needed for plastics, of which advancing technology and growing populations will presumably only increase demand for.

I find it curious that all of the articles like this use an active word like “killing” to describe a trend which is defined by a lack of the relevant parties doing anything at all, in this case, engaging with these various businesses. Why, oh why, won’t the best-educated generation in human history, which is also simultaneously the worst-paid generation in the last century or so of American history, exchange money they don’t have for goods and services that make them sick, exploit others, and/or are mainly pompous, ostentatious displays of consumerism?

How can anybody seriously wring their hands in confusion at what is happening here? Businesses that don’t sell things people want aren’t logically supposed to exist in the free market, right? Well, then.

Fuck ’em all.

Looking for Black Civil War Veterans in Rahway New Jersey


Rahway is an ancient town in New Jersey with an ancient cemetery. According to the website of the “Merchants and Drovers Tavern” (an inn dating from the Revolutionary War that has been turned into a museum) there are almost three hundred Civil War Veterans buried in Rahway Cemetery, twenty nine of whom were black.

Rahway Cemetery is the final resting place for many famous people from history. Famous burials include; Abraham Clark, A Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Walter Bramhall, a Civil War Officer, John Cladek, a Civil War Colonel of the 35th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, Carolyn Wells, a noted mystery author, and The Unknown Woman who was brutally murdered in 1887. We also have over 29 members of the United States Colored Troops, 299 Civil War Soldiers, and 70 Revolutionary War Soldiers.

Since I ride past the Merchants and Drovers Tavern and the Rahway Cemetery every day on the way to work, I decided to spend the morning of my day off exploring. There are many, many graves of Civil War veterans in Rahway Cemetery, but they’re not always easy to find. Most are very old, and covered by grass or weeds. The trick is to look for United States flags. The groundskeepers plant them near the graves of all veterans, but there are flags on the graves of the veterans of every war the United States has been involved in, from the American Revolution to Vietnam (I haven’t seen any for Iraq). At some point, after turning away in frustration from dozens of graves marking veterans of World War I or World War II, I finally found the general area in Rahway Cemetery that dates back to the United States Civil War.


The typical enlisted man in the Union Army was 19 or 20 years old. James Van Benthuysen was 55 when he died in 1862, probably at the Battle of Antietam. I doubt he was black with a name like “Van Benthuysen.”


Jacob Stark was another middle-aged Union soldier, 41 years old in 1862 where he, like Van Benthuysen, probably died at the Battle of Antietam. Was he black or white?


John R. Rowland, by contrast, was a very young man in 1862. He survived the war and made it into the next century.


At this point, I started to get a bit frustrated. There was certainly no shortage of New Jerseyans who enlisted to fight for Lincoln, but I had no idea if any of them were black or white. The majority were probably white.


Another New Jerseyan killed in 1862.


At long last, I come to the grave of a man I can be sure was black, since someone added a headstone to the original grave marker specifying that he served in the Third Regiment US Colored Troops. Mahlon Edgar would have been in his early 20s during the Civil War. He lived a long life, finally dying at the age of 75 during the First World War.

I don’t know what battles Mahlon Edgar fought in during the United States Civil War or what he did when he got back home to New Jersey. But it’s reasonable to assume that he was a prominent enough citizen to get his own individual grave marker in what would have been a largely white section of Rahway Cemetery in 1915. Many of the tombstones of the black Civil War veterans in Rahway are part of a reclamation project since some of the remains had been buried in a common grave until they were transferred to their own individual plots.
















And just a reminder of why they enlisted. At one time New Jersey was a slave state.


Detroit (2017)


Kathryn Bigelow has directed good movies. The long chase scene in Point Break where Patrick Swayze throws a pit bull at Keanu Reeves is just an entertaining piece of cinema. She’s also directed bad movies. Zero Dark Thirty was not only propaganda for the CIA and the “war on terror.” It was dull, bloated, and overly long. When she announced her intention make a movie about the Detroit riot/rebellion of 1967 — and whether you call it a riot or a rebellion says a lot about your politics — the reaction on the left was decidedly hostile. A white woman who did public relations for the Bush/Cheney torture regime direct a film about one of the largest urban insurrections in African American history? No thank you. Nevertheless, unlike many people on the left, I actually need to see a film before I give it the thumbs up or thumbs down, so I decided to check it out for myself.

So what did I think?

Since I often get my first impression of a film by the kind of trailers they show before the film even begins, my first impression was not good. The first trailer up was for the Bruce Willis reboot of Death Wish,  a vicious 1970s movie that glorified a serial killer in the guise of a vigilante. The second was for what appears to be a pro-war-on-terror movie called American Assassin. What’s more, I was the only person in the movie theater. True, it was 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, but I often go to movies at odd hours, and this was the first time I’ve ever had an entire movie theater to myself. After the trailers were over, however, and Detroit got going, I began to find myself getting involved. Kathryn Bigelow does have talent, and the first half hour of the movie, the police raid on the “Blind Pig” nightclub that started the whole thing, was engaging and skillfully done. Bigelow does manage to capture the chaos and disorienting terror of a violent insurrection, and an equally violent police crackdown.

Then we got to the Algiers Motel.

As embarrassed as I am to admit it, I know little about the history of the Newark or Detroit riots/rebellions of the 1960s. I suppose that makes me the typical American. I’m sure Bigelow, as a successfully Hollywood director, knows her audience, and in Detroit she took advantage of my ignorance to overwhelm my senses, and make me shut down my ability to think critically. Apparently, the Algiers Motel affair, where a group of Detroit policemen took two white women and a group of black men hostage,  is based on a real incident. I haven’t a clue about how faithful screenwriter Mark Boal was to the source material, but I soon accepted it at face value. Boal also plays to the left’s natural hostility towards cops. Most of the black people in Detroit are either faceless rioters or innocent victims. Most of the police officers and outright Nazis. If the police officers unions protested Bruce Springsteen’s American Skin, it makes me wonder why they aren’t out in the streets over Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. But perhaps I shouldn’t. The ringleaders of the police torturers in Detroit is so viciously racist and over the top that he can probably be explained by the “bad apple” theory of accountability. Nevetheless, as I was watching the film, it felt subversive and rebellious.

After I left the movie theater and regained my sense of critical thought, I began to wonder why, as much as I enjoyed seeing cops portrayed as monsters, I felt so shitty. Detroit is long, almost two and a half hours, and it feels longer. I could hardly believe it was still light when I got outside. Bigelow also uses a cheap Hollywood trick, common these days among blockbusters. She invites us to mistake bad writing for complexity. She fools us into thinking that many badly developed characters with superficially interesting story lines equals complex realism. But then she funnels everything into one bad, overplayed piece of torture porn. All through Detroit I kept wondering what it reminded me of. Then it hit me. I’ve never been much of a fan of The Walking Dead. After I joined the bandwagon and watched a few episodes of Season 1, I quickly got bored and drifted away. I am familiar, however, with the infamous scene where Negan smashes in Glenn’s skull with a baseball bat and laughs after his eye pops out of his head. 

Now try to imagine watching that for two hours. Only in Detroit, it’s even worse. At least in The Walking Dead, Negan’s victims show a few signs of rebellion and solidarity. In Detroit, the black hostages are either passive victims, or, as in the case of John Boyega’s armed security guard Melvin Dismukes, active collaborators. I suppose what made Point Break such an entertaining film was how Bigelow naturally likes cops, soldiers, and sociopaths, and is most comfortable on the thin line where they all meet. In a comic movie staring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, and Gary Busey, it works. In semi-official CIA propaganda like Zero Dark Thirty, it falls flat. In a transparent attempt to win back her credibility with the left by winning over black audiences, it becomes embarrassing and exploitative.

So where does Bigelow fall on the “was Detroit a riot or a rebellion” spectrum?

Kathryn Bigelow is clearly in the “it was a riot” camp. The only real act of rebellion in the whole film by an individual black character — a drunk who fires a starter pistol at a group of National Guardsmen — is not only portrayed as stupid and pointless. It’s what leads to the hostage situation in the first place. What Detroit really needed was a black version of Bodhi, the character in Point Break played by Patrick Swayze who was somewhere between a charismatic rebel and a sociopath. Instead, she channels all of her deepest subconscious sympathies into Philip Krauss, the viciously racist homicidal maniac played by Will Poulter. Bigelow does, it must be admitted, portray the cops as “devils” — they’re much worse than simply “pigs” — but, to paraphrase William Blake on John Milton, she’s the true poet of torture and police repression. She’s of the party of uniformed mass murderers and serial killers without knowing it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates (accidentally) makes the case for HBO’s Confederate

Few things unite liberals and leftists on social media these days like April Reign’s call for a boycott of David Benioff’s and D.B. Weiss’s proposed HBO miniseries. Their argument seems to be twofold. First, the plot itself, an alternative history that imagines a Confederate victory in the United States Civil War, is simply too dangerous to bring to HBO. Second, dramatization equals approval. That the American government is still dominated by white supremacist politicians like Donald Trump, Steve King, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions means that over the long term the south actually did win the Civil War. Any attempt to dramatize a southern victory as “alternative” history therefore, in effect, denies the real history of slavery and white supremacy.

Not surprisingly, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic has come out in favor of the proposed boycott. Coates, who has an almost demigod status among white leftists, is a good prose stylist and articulates the case for the boycott fairly well. I especially liked his line about how “Hollywood has likely done more than any other American institution to obstruct a truthful apprehension of the Civil War, and thus modern America’s very origins.” Yet I find his argument unconvincing.

He mentions two films, the well-known silent film Birth of a Nation and the widely panned Gods and Generals. That Coates can only cite the most obvious cases makes his argument seem glib, and shallow. Nobody on the left will dare criticize Ta-Nehisi Coates, but for me, as good a writer as he is, he seems to be phoning it in. The history of the “Lost Cause” in American cinema is just far too interesting to stop at Gods and Generals. Someone calling for censorship based on his “expertise” in the history of film needs to make a real case, not just point out some obvious and widely reviled propaganda.

Hollywood provides us with much better examples of “alternative histories,” built on “alternative facts,” assembled to depict the Confederacy as a wonderland of virtuous damsels and gallant knights, instead of the sprawling kleptocratic police state it actually was.” Take Michael Curtiz’s historical abomination Santa Fe Trail, a romantic drama made in 1940 starring Errol Flynn as the gallant knight J.E.B. Stuart, Ronald Reagan as the gallant knight George Armstrong Custer, and Raymond Massey as the villain, John Brown, depicted, essentially, as Adolf Hitler. Coates could have pointed out that Curtiz, far from being a conservative, was a Hungarian born, Jewish leftist who would later go on to direct Casablanca, and the openly pro-Stalinist Mission to Moscow. While today we might call Santa Fe Trail a fascist movie, Curtiz’s goal was the quite the opposite, to make a colorful Hollywood romance that flattered the south so they would support Franklin Roosevelt’s drive to bring the United States into the war against Hitler. That’s right, Hollywood used to make pro-Confederate “alt-histories” that had an anti-fascist agenda, a much more interesting, and troubling, reality than some awful Bush-era, neoconfederate war porn.

Where Coates’s argument falls flat on its face, however, is in his astonishing lack of familiarity with the real outcome of the Second World War.

Knowing this, we do not have to wait to point out that comparisons between Confederate and The Man in the High Castle are fatuous. Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg. Confederate General John B. Gordon became a senator. Germany has spent the decades since World War II in national penance for Nazi crimes. America spent the decades after the Civil War transforming Confederate crimes into virtues. It is illegal to fly the Nazi flag in Germany. The Confederate flag is enmeshed in the state flag of Mississippi.

John B. Gordon was indeed an advocate of the “Lost Cause” and a white supremacist, and he did indeed go on to become a United States Senator and the 53rd Governor of Georgia. But Coates’ argument that there were no German John B. Gordons proves he either hasn’t studied the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, or simply that he’s so locked into a mainstream liberal view of history that he cannot bring himself to admit the extent to which the United States government rehabilitated high ranking Nazi war criminals as allies against the Soviet Union. Reinhard Gehlen, for example, who was the Chief of Intelligence for the German Army on the eastern front under Hitler — that means he knew all about the Holocaust — would go onto serve as the chief of West German intelligence from 1956 to 1968. That’s right, the Federal Republic of Germany, an American ally, had a former Nazi war criminal as head of its version of the CIA. For Ta-Nehisi Coates, however, the fact that it’s illegal to fly a Nazi flag in Germany lets him ignore the real history of America’s, and more specifically the CIA’s, collusion with former high-ranking Nazis.

A good “alternative history” of the United States and Nazi Germany, a better written, most historically specific version of The Man in the High Castle, might have cleared up some of his confusion. In fact, Coates’ mention of the execrable Gods and Generals made me think of its director Ronald F. Maxwell’s earlier film Gettysburg. Gettysburg, which is a pretty bad movie itself, has one very memorable scene. John Buford, an important commander of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry through most of 1863, and the real architect of the Union Victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, is inspired to seize the crossroads at that fateful little town in southern Pennsylvania by none other than his imagination of a Confederate victory. Alternative history does in fact have its uses.

Space Seed (1967)


While people sometimes remark that the first interracial kiss on American television took place between William Shatner as Captain James Kirk and Michelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura on November 22, 1968, it’s not even the first interracial kiss on Star Trek. Whether or not Ricardo Montalbán would have been considered “white” in 1967 — and he probably would have since he had a long career in Hollywood as a “Latin Lover” unaffected by California’s anti-miscegenation laws — is beside the point. His character in the classic Season 1 episode Space Seed, the genetically modified superman Khan Noonien Singh, is certainly a man of color. More than that, he does more than kiss Lieutenant Marla McGivers, a “ship’s historian” played by Madlyn Rhue. It’s clear that before they lead a mutiny against Captain Kirk and briefly take over the Enterprise, they fuck each other’s brains out.

Nevertheless Space Seed is not socially progressive. In fact, it’s probably the most reactionary episode in the whole series. “Every woman adores a Fascist,” Sylvia Plath remarked in her poem Daddy, and Marla McGivers is no exception. After Khan Noonien Singh, a Twentieth Century fascist dictator with the seductive powers of an Adolf Hitler, wakes up from his two hundred year hibernation, he quickly begins to plot his coup. Like all fascists, he takes advantage of the openness of a liberal democratic society. Kirk gives him access to the ship’s technical manuals without thinking and welcomes him as a guest, not as a potentially dangerous criminal. Yet the key to Khan’s takeover of the Enterprise, the weakest link in the utopian society of Federation of Planets, is Marla McGivers, the silly woman with a soft spot for the “bad boy.” Mr. Spock, by contrast, the unemotional intellectual, is the only member of the Enterprise’s crew completely unaffected by Khan’s “charm.”

The idea that women, and womanly sexual desire, are the key to understanding fascism, is, of course, nonsense. There were no women involved in Hitler’s takeover of Germany or Mussolini’s takeover of Italy, and Franco was a very traditional, patriarchal Catholic. Gene Roddenberry was simply an MRA decades before his time, the male geek who feared that the abusive jocks were getting all the girls. Nevertheless, the decision to cast the Latin Montalbán as the fascist Don Juan instead of a blond, blue eyed Aryan, as the shows producers had originally intended, was a stroke of genius. Space Seed expresses a very real anxiety many white liberals felt during the 1960s. Until William Shatner’s stunt double beats the crap out of Ricardo Montalbán’s stunt double at the very end of the episode, the usually dominant Kirk, a liberal alpha male in the style of John F. Kennedy, simply fades into the background. He seems dull, insignificant, “inferior” as Khan remarks. He doesn’t get the girl as he does in so many other episodes. He doesn’t even come close.

1967 was the very height of the counterculture, the year that the liberalism of the early 1960s was giving way to the radicalism of the late 1960s. Khan’s character is a tyrant who physically abuses his lover Marla McGivers, and uses torture against Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, but I don’t think the screenwriters Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilbur are afraid of another Hitler. The source of their anxiety is the rising third world, the idea that people of color might not be inferior but superior to white men, and that white liberals in the form of James T. Kirk might simply become irrelevant. The fear underlying Space Seed was not so much a fear of tyranny, but, rather, the fear of a brown planet.

Ricardo Montalbán would return in the The Wrath of Khan. Though it’s usually considered the best of the Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan loses all of the political nuance and sexual politics of Space Seed. Montalbán is no longer a sexually menacing South Asian, but, rather, a white haired maniac in command of a crew that looks like they had just been pulled off their surfboards on a beach in Southern California. Marla McGivers is nowhere to be seen. She’s been replaced by Kirstie Alley as a young female vulcan and Bibi Besch as Kirk’s ex lover Carol Marcus, a scientist who surely would have found the original, bronzed, black haired Khan ridiculous.Women in 1982 were a lot more liberated than they were in 1967, and that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily make for better science fiction.

Utopia, Dystopia, and the Clockwork Orange Effect


While most fiction has an element of the the utopian — has anybody fallen quite so immediately and passionately in love as Romeo and Juliet? — or the dystopian — was London really as bad during the Industrial Revolution as it is depicted in the novels of Charles Dickens? — the modern “dystopian novel” as a genre was invented in 1908 by the American socialist Jack London. The 1890s had been the golden age of utopian fiction by genteel, upper class socialists. News from Nowhere by William Morris and Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy had both imagined a future without war, poverty, or crushing, repetitive labor, but neither seemed to have any idea how to get there. Jack London, a revolutionary Marxist who saw history in terms of class conflict, knew that it wouldn’t be so easy. In The Iron Heel, still the greatest of all dystopian novels, he dramatized just how far the rich were willing to go to defend their money and power against a challenge from the working class. Militarized police, a totalitarian torture and surveillance state, gated communities for the rich, London got just about everything right. The Iron Heel is now non-fiction.

The historical moment that produced The Iron Heel is what Lenin referred to as “the highest stage of capitalism.” By 1908, the industrial revolution had long been completed. The railroads had been built. The trans-Atlantic cable was already a half century old. Germany, France and the United Kingdom had great, industrialized mass armies and navies that represented the cutting edge of early Twentieth Century technology. HMS Dreadnought, the first modern battleship, for example, was launched in 1906. If neither Gustave Flaubert nor Charles Dickens wrote dystopian fiction then it was partly because the world they lived in was not yet complete. Capitalism was still in the socially progressive era of the revolutionary bourgeoisie. By 1908, however, a question had crystallized in the minds of the most advanced, far seeing intellectuals and artists. What would come after capitalism? Would it be socialism or barbarism? For Jack London, it would be barbarism, and then some. It would be exactly the kind of totalitarian society that became reality in the 1930s.

By the 1930s and 1940s, Jack London had produced two notable imitators, Sinclair Lewis and George Orwell. Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, inspired by his wife, the anti-fascist journalist Dorothy Thompson, imagines what the United States would be like under the Nazis. It is, to be perfectly honest, a pretty bad novel, badly plotted, with paper thin characters and ponderous, wooden dialogue, and an ending where Lewis simply gives up writing fiction and descends into half baked alternative history.  It has one good moment, the two Marxist sectarians who refuse to ally with “bourgeois liberals” in the concentration camp. 1984 is somewhat better as a novel, but it’s basically just a ripoff of The Iron Heel, with Stalinist Russia standing in for capitalist America. Orwell had forty years to improve on the original, and all he could really come up with was TV and newspeak. The reason is obvious when you really think about it. Who needs dystopian novels when history has already given you Nazi Germany? What’s more, Sinclair Lewis and George Orwell weren’t attacking capitalism or the ruling class, only fascism and Stalinism. Both It Can’t Happen Here and 1984 are already nostalgic for the “highest stage of capitalism,” the world where you could railroads and modern cities, but where you had not yet been forced to make the choice between socialism or barbarism.

In other words, if there’s no conception of dystopian fiction under capitalism in its early, progressive phase, then there’s no need or use for dystopian fiction under the late capitalism that produces fascism and Stalinism. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always found Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle somewhat underwhelming. While it is true that the New Deal had given democratic capitalism a thirty-five-year long stay of execution, and Dick expressed some of the anxiety people must have felt over the way Hitler had come so close to world domination, it all just seems a little beside the point. How could any dystopian novel compete with the Nazi death camps? What short story could compete with the headlines under Donald Trump? Why Amazon decided to produce a mini-series based on The Man in the High Castle is anybody’s guess, but it caused nowhere near the outrage that HBO’s proposed Confederate, which is set in an alternative timeline where the south wins the Civil War, is currently generating on social media.

I suppose that some of the anger on the left over a proposed dystopia where the Confederates win the Civil War comes from the idea that one man’s dystopia is another man’s utopia. Let’s call it The Clockwork Orange effect. Clockwork Orange, a novel by Anthony Burgess, and more importantly, a film by Stanley Kubrick, both celebrate fascism under the cover of dystopian fiction. Kubrick barely even tries to hide his love for Alex and his Droogs. Confederate, many people on the left seem to fear, far from being a condemnation of totalitarianism in the tradition of 1984, will simply be Game of Thrones style torture porn marketed to Donald Trump’s America. The one thing you can say about Orwell, I guess, is that he was never the “true poet,” a man, like John Milton who was of the devil’s party without knowing it. Has any reader of 1984 ever admired O’Brien or Big Brother? As far as the left and Confederate go, I’m not quite so confident. Social media liberals love Game of Thrones. Perhaps some of the left’s need to make sure that Daniel Benioff and D.B. Weiss never get the chance to bring their alternative history to your TV comes from anxiety over how they themselves might sympathize with the oppressor as much as any conservative would. Many “white allies” who support the boycott of Confederate aren’t really quite so anti-racist as they think they are. Perhaps deep down inside they’re afraid that people who currently go to Black Lives Matter marches might tune into HBO every week and come away singing Dixie.