- People like it when you take the time to learn their first name and use it when speaking to them.
- If the artist was popular at the time of an album’s release, the first pressing is probably the most common one.
- Only deal with what you know, but also try to know more every day.
- The easiest way to save money is to listen to what other people aren’t listening to. Per Robert Frost: “The good things are hidden so the wrong ones can’t find them.”
- If you’re selling online and the buyer has an issue with an item, never give partial refunds, always ask for returns.
- If all other sellers you meet think an entire genre is categorically not valuable, that is the genre you should research.
- The most costly part of haggling is emotional stress.
- The more expensive the restaurant is, the less food they serve you. This is because most of their clientele does not do physical labor during the day.
- Something being rare doesn’t inherently mean something is valuable.
- Something being valuable doesn’t inherently mean something is rare.
- Don’t ask “is this valuable?”, ask “(why) would someone want this?”
- Usually the people who argue the most vehemently over a few dollars are the ones who can most afford to spend those few dollars.
- A speculator’s market is ultimately only propped up by people who actually want to own the item. Pure speculation always ends in a market collapse.
- All sealed items are prints.
- The market logic of most media collectibles overlaps with that of prints.
- In my line of work, every original is also a copy.
- Prices people ask online are just things that haven’t sold yet. Sales records are the only things that matter in appraisal.
- Reselling is one of the few jobs where you are genuinely paid to learn new things every day.
- If you’re having a problem with a piece of electronics, somebody else has probably had the same problem and complained about it on the internet.
- Collecting things yourself is the only way to actually understand the intricacies of resale.
- There are always more objects.
- Looking for one thing and only one thing, particularly if it’s rare, is a recipe for disappointment. The joy of this discipline is the endless novelty.
- Most highly collectible objects were considered garbage at some point.
- Brick and mortar is about the sense of community. The internet cannot replicate that.
- The best way to always get your money’s worth with a book is to read it and enjoy it.
- Every signed object is a rabbit’s foot.
- This is the study of peoples’ relationships to objects as much or more than it is the study of the objects themselves.
- Your family will have to deal with anything you’ve hoarded when you die.
- Beware of cultural necrophilia. Believing that people aren’t making good art anymore just betrays that you aren’t looking very hard. More importantly, it makes you sound old.
- All broken electronics have many useful components that can be reused in other repairs.
- The desire for recordings of human culture is a pursuit laced with superstitions. It is very easy to be possessed by the dead.
- The contents of a book or record are usually easily available. The container they came in gives their cultural context.
- Being picky is not inherently the same as being discerning.
- If you think a thing looks cool, somebody else probably also thinks it looks cool.
- Much of the desire for cultural objects comes from a sense of rootlessness; a desire for a tangible sense of history in ones surroundings.
- Any book you aren’t reading, any record you aren’t listening to, any game you aren’t playing, is decor.
- The best book ever written on retail is In Search Of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Every object is someone’s madeliene cookie. Touch and smell trigger memory.
- A desire for the past should not be a solution for a perceived poverty of the present.
- The search for a pristine copy of an object disregards why one should seek a physical object in the first place; don’t become the sort of vampire who can only suck the blood of virgins.
- Taking care of objects is important, but so is taking care of ones’ body -regardless, someday we’re all going to die.
- Nostalgia is only one reason to engage the past.
- The culture of endless disposability and the culture of hoarding are two sides of the same coin.
- All right answers are situational. The desire for absolutes is the desire to stop thinking.
- In a capitalist system, people value objects by what other people have paid for them. I sold things on consignment once for a real estate broker; when I explained the most valuable book in his dead father’s house was an academic text on 16th century Italian peasants, he took it with him to read on a plane. He got nothing from it.
- Any great work of art is a moving target.
- Most of the world’s greatest works have been reproduced to the point of having little monetary value. This is a good thing.
- The best way to appreciate what is good in a field one doesn’t understand is to consume something in that field that is bad.
- If God created the universe, all media objects are graven images.
- Every retail store is also a museum. A grocery store is a museum of the present.
- There is no better negotiating tool than genuine enthusiasm.
- Most people coming in to sell things fall into three broad categories: somebody died, somebody got married, somebody really loves going to yard sales.
- A compulsive behavior is only a bad thing if approached thoughtlessly.
- The object only changes when you do.
- I am a benign conspiracist-I believe it is all connected.
- CRT televisions are hazardous waste unless used. Give them a home.
- Love is a relationship to a thing in motion; anything else is taxidermy.
- The artist’s intent is only as important as the intent of the audience.
- Be gentle with those looking to learn, be ruthless with those looking to speculate.
- Something old isn’t something valuable if the people who wanted it are all dead.
- Peel slowly and see.
- Save some for later.
- You will only find what you are looking for. Anything else will find you.
- Everything happens for a reason, but not every reason is a good reason.
- The way a person tells a story tells you how they assess their surroundings.
- Most broken video game consoles can be fixed by cleaning the cartridge slot with isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush.
- All the dead people who wrote books and recorded music were once living people with problems.
- Once you get the message, hang up.
- Are you more afraid of death or madness?
- The voices in your head telling you to do things aren’t you.
- The most difficult part of repairing something most of the time is putting it back together afterwards.
- Many things very popular in their time are nearly forgotten now. The canons we receive are what the generation after thought was important.
- Talk back to the television.
- Anything truly original will arrive without an audience to comprehend it.
- Meaning is only one use of language.
- There are more rare things than common things. There are just more copies of the common things.
- The most important archaeology is that of the present.
- Realism is just another aesthetic.
- The most dangerous propaganda tries to present itself as having no politics.
- Distinctions between high and low culture are primarily distinctions between the economic classes of their consumers.
- Most audio cassettes can be repaired by gluing the felt pad back in carefully.
- Art is not a discrete category.
- You are the only person living your life. Use that.
- Streaming is a nightmare for archivists.
- Are you building a collection or a youtube set?
- Use what’s there.
- Do the thing and stop whining.
- All small time crooks think they’re master criminals. Getting away with something gives them what they actually want: validation. That’s why they’ll tell you all about it.
- The amount of water you get from the river is dependent on the size of the bowl you bring.
- “The more you complain, the longer God lets you live.”-Russian proverb
- Second hand retail is very dependent on weather.
- Know what day of the week it is.
- A person’s collection is a record of their life and interests.
- Self-help books are rarely helpful.
- It’s a thin line that separates the dump and the antique store.
- A hipster is someone who isn’t actually enjoying this stuff.
- College is mostly useful as a way of delaying employment.
- The most valuable thing you can steal is time.
- When I worked in a bookstore, the owner was about to go on a vacation. I asked him if he was excited about it. He looked at his shoulder and said “If I had actually achieved zen in my own life, I wouldn’t need vacations.”
- Reselling is as much about supply and demand as anything else. Don’t overemphasize the importance of the supply.
- If the buyer doesn’t know why they want to buy the item, you need to know why they want to buy the item.
- Don’t just research prices.
- Fidelity isn’t the only measure of a playback device.
- The most useful tools in repairing electronics are a 72 in 1 hobbyist screwdriver set, isopropyl alcohol, and a used toothbrush.
- Most keyboards can be cleaned by prying off the keys with a flat head screwdriver and soaking them in soapy water.
- Read the manual.
- An NES will take nearly any barrel plug power supply 9 volts or over.
- “If your guidance counselor was so great at picking jobs, why did they become a guidance counselor?”-Matt Groening, School Is Hell
- In a comic book one can’t just show or tell, one must show and tell. What’s being told however doesn’t have to be the same as what is being shown.
- Art is about evoking feelings in a controlled setting so those feelings can be taken apart and put back together again.
- Haggling is something people only do to small businesses. Be careful not to punch down.
- Don’t ask me “What’s the best you can do on this?” I come in every day and do my best. That’s why I look so tired.
- One must eventually put their trust in strangers; this is what’s referred to as community.
- Know when to stop negotiating.
- You pay for everything eventually; be careful what you pay for it with.
- Your confidantes are as often as not determined by your sleep patterns.
- Your time is worth something, if only because you are going to die someday.
- There are many more certainties in life than death and taxes.
- Life is inherently repetitive, your readings of these repetitions determine everything.
- “I’m practicing how to say it right the first time”-Robert Ashley, Perfect Lives
- Meet your heroes in order to realize they are also just people who show up every day.
- We are all beholden to idols and graven images; their quantity is the only natural check and balance.
- Rough edges are what distinguish an accomplishment from an exercise.
- Consider the quantity and pace of production as much as other elements in evaluating a piece.
- Industrial society has produced far too many objects. Don’t buy new ones.
- If your true love is money, kill yourself.
- Don’t be too stupid. Don’t be too smart.
- What a practical joke pokes fun at is the idea that we perceive reality directly.
- Old ways of thinking fade away when the old people thinking them die.
- The value of your excitement in a moment is in that moment.
- Don’t talk like you’re being interviewed by The History Channel unless you’re being interviewed by The History Channel.
- I’m not the reason your adult children don’t return your phone calls.
- Be careful when challenging the state monopoly on violence. A collapsed monopoly of violence is a free market of violence.
- Not all aspirations are legitimate.
- Have you ever met a black libertarian?
- Power and money naturally tend towards accumulation.
- The difference between the Kanye West who thought George Bush hated black people and the Kanye West who wants to go deth con 3 on the jews is roughly $500 million dollars.
- Racists want to be racist until it substantially disadvantages them. Their comfort and safety is our peril.
- No death cult has ever called itself a death cult.
- Don’t produce industrial objects without a clear idea where to put them.
- If you build it they will come. But who are they?
- Any system of psychological analysis that doesn’t confront the death urge is worthless or worse.
- Appeasement begins at home.
- Fantasies in US culture revolve around three primary themes- committing extralegal violence, owning people by conforming them to the dimensions of fantasy objects, and unambiguously becoming an adult.
- Money is translated into unlike objects, unlike objects are then translated back into money or waste.
- If you find crackly sounds physically painful why are you collecting records?
- Curate your complaints.
- Libertarianism is mostly a movement about defending the right to not pay people fair prices for labor.
- Being transgressive isn’t enough.
- Loving the things you loved as a child isn’t inherently a good thing.
- Victim status implies a certain social capital; choose your poor wisely.
- If the existence of god can’t be determined either way, both the theists and the atheists are making empty assertions.
- Don’t put much stock in individual incidents.
- Are you making a conclusion based on an experience because it’s a logical conclusion to make or because you were looking for an excuse to make that conclusion?
- Are you grasping your experiences tightly or loosely?
- Are you practicing religion or tribalism?
- The most valuable part of Marx’s ideas is his rejection of nature, not as a concept but as an inherent good.
- It is very often a good thing that people don’t achieve their goals.
- Don’t confuse a person talking to themselves with a person talking to you.
- The difficult part isn’t killing the king but installing a better successor.
- All experiences are ephemeral, time only goes forwards.
- Don’t privilege your childhood in your memories if you can help it.
- There are far worse qualities a person can embody than insignificance.
- Think in terms of actions.
- Act thoughtfully.
- Free will is a thing you earn, not a thing you’re given.
- The nicest car in the world without brakes or steering is just a more expensive way to crash into a tree.
- I once asked a therapist why so many intelligent and successful people were miserable. He responded “The crazy is like a goldfish; it grows to the size of the container it’s in.”
- A moment doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be specific.
- A story that doesn’t go anywhere, or a story that doesn’t need to go anywhere?
- Home is a set of repetitions.
- Nothing has to be this way.
- A sense of history is a sense of impermanence.
- Life is repetitive; appreciate small variations.
- Folklore lasts longer than whatever happened.
- Most folksy phrases about adulthood revolve around themes of disappointment.
- Try to seem more wise than old.
- Many of life’s most important decisions can only be resolved by gambling.
- How far back do you stand in order to see what is important?
- Have a holy book.
- Knowledge is like clothing; try knowing things until you find the ones that fit.
- Don’t fetishize minimalism, don’t fetishize efficiency.
- A beginning, middle and end may as well be chosen by way of magical chairs.
- Don’t strive to be original, strive to be better.
- Don’t commodify banality.
- The syntax and phrasing and spelling are the message.
- Be polytheistic in your influences.
- Don’t read this in order.
- “The purpose of art is to plow the soul, to harrow it, to make it possible it might turn to good.”-Andrei Tarkovsky
- Relating to a piece of art isn’t an inherent good.
- The value of philosophy is not the soundness of points but the shape of thoughts.
- Your front sign is a billboard telling people who need to get rid of things quickly what you’re looking for.
- Shorthand is a means of highlighting the most important bits.
- A friend with weed is a friend indeed.
- 420 is the most largely embraced act of collective civil disobedience.
- All Holocaust films are either Purim stories or Passover stories. In the story of Purim an outsider is lobbied to save the Jews from mass extermination. In the story of Passover God intervenes to not only save the Jews from enslavement.
- Use index cards to take notes for books you find challenging.
- Every event and object has a historical context.
- Talk back to the television.
- Greatest hits compilations are usually worth less than original albums.
- A good idea had under the influence should still seem like a good idea when no longer under the influence.
- The more specific the subject of a book, the more likely it is to be worth something.
- Items with many varying versions-think any Beatles album etc.-take longer to research.
- Pitch a big tent.
- Know the history of the area.
- Pick and choose the holidays that mean something to you.
- Das Kapital has important lessons in how economics work useful to adherents of any school of economics.
- Have a broader frame of reference than nostalgia.
- The way to have a lot of successful friends is to help your friends be successful.
- Consider multiple readings, not just the one the author intended.
- Criticism is the act of creatively describing objects.
- This is all mandatory.
- In good circumstances, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, within limits.
- Read books about the history of books.
- If you put the creamer in before the coffee you don’t need to stir the coffee and it’s easier to eye the amount.
- According to William James, extreme versions of things give a magnified view of a tendency in the normal version of the thing.
- Stop selling once you’ve sold it.
- Take breaks.
- The most widely read material before the internet was usually placed next to toilets or inside doctors’ offices.
- Mistakes and distortions are the colorings that create the character of an illustration.
- Act like you’re supposed to be here.
- Does anyone care?
- Fortune favors the bold is something I saw on a Flaming Carrot comic book once.
- What makes something iconic? What objects best channel that iconography?
- Older markets are more predictable markets in terms of reselling. This is a major advantage of working with books.
- How long has a subject held public retail attention? When do major trends settle down?
- If an item is very expensive online, put in what you’re willing to pay in every current auction for a while. If it’s a mass produced object, you will probably win one of them. An initial high bid also scares off other bidders.
- Don’t just curate, diversify.
- If you stack two pairs of identical box speakers with the top one upside down, they’ll sound much better than they will as a normal pair.
- Buying large collections is the easiest way to grow inventory value, not just because of the bulk pricing but because a large record collection means the owner didn’t have time to use everything to the point it’s worn.
- Signatures don’t always add a substantial amount of value to an object.
- The strangeness of wear can add to the appeal of an item.
- The world is very big. It may even be bigger than our problems.
- Be wary of any ideology that is enslaved to axioms.
- Per Richard Feynman, you don’t truly understand a subject until you can explain it to a stranger in under 5 minutes.
- If you can see the road, don’t turn on your brights. You will blind the driver in the opposite lane.
- Find what you love but don’t let it kill you until you’re ready to go.
- When assessing a hobby or activity as a potential career, put equal weight on your enjoyment of it and your ability to do it for many consecutive hours.
- The heavy trade of “graded” comic books and video games in impenetrable plastic slabs is one of the ultimate affirmations that Marx was correct in his narrative of capitalism as the gradual transformation of a society concerned with the use-value of objects into a society entranced by the exchange values of objects to the exclusion of any other considerations. Money buys objects as a means to reproducing itself.
- A man is given a small book that contains the place and time he is going to die. He sends it out to get it graded and slabbed. It only gets an 8.5.
- Tell people what you’re looking for. They might know where it is.
- If you’re good at one thing and not another, get somebody who’s good at the other thing to do the other thing.
- Every new project also serves as advertising for all your old projects.
- Resale is akin to an ongoing game of poker. Be the house.
- God is an answering machine.
- Whatever it takes.
- When making plans, remember the initial goal.
- Get it done, put it out there.
- Invest in yourself but also monitor your investment.
- The artist reaches maturity when their influences start to look human to them.
- “I’ll talk to strangers if I want to because I’m a stranger too.”
- Your early work will probably suck. If it doesn’t, you may not have long to live.
- A market of pure speculation is a market that will collapse sooner than later.
- Trust your taste over the amount of money someone else paid for a thing.
- If someone is arguing with you in bad faith, be ruthless.
- Image Comics has offered every creator who has worked for them the same rights deal the founders got and they’re doing just fine.
- “If the audience knew what they wanted, they wouldn’t be the audience.”
- Try to recognize magic when you see it.
- Faking it is part of figuring out how to make it.
- Beautiful things are often sad.
- It’s easiest to say things when you mean them.
- Have a posse.
- Choose the things you put up in your home based on the things you want to think about while looking at them.
- Be yourself but don’t just be one of them.
- Love is giving someone the power to hurt you because you are convinced they won’t
- Caring about things is frequently scary.
- Love is like a pair of glasses. It’s always right in front of your eyes.
- Love is a fine tuned and unique dynamic.
- Do you feel, deep down, like this is where you are supposed to be?
- If you want people to show up somewhere, make it somewhere where they’d want to show up.
- The deepest connections are founded in a dynamic. Those are the people you can not see for a long time and then pick up where you left off.
- If you wanted to do it badly enough, you’d be doing it.
- If the revolution isn’t compelling, we lose.
- The distance of memory is not linear.
- For W., who taught me how to write like this without knowing it.
- Sadness is when you have emotions that can’t reach a point of action.
- “Knowledge before you wisdom or understanding is fucked.” – AZ
- I did a gig with Professor Irwin Corey when he was 96. I asked him if he had any advice for living. He replied “Any money you owe when you die is profit,” and then fell asleep.
- You might not ever get over something but you still have to keep moving.
- “I never sleep because sleep is the cousin of death.”
- Figure out what you’re good at and do that.
- “It took eternity to get to my destination.”*
- The thing that actually anticipated memes was the New Yorker cartoon caption contest.
- Are you prepared for when the moment happens?
- Did you change over time or did you adjust?
- Is it enough? It has to be enough.
- Consider the mobility of your employment.
- A person’s voice is the part of their presentation they have the most control over.
- Blow up but don’t go pop.
- Speech doesn’t need to be anything other than sound.
- Sometimes love doesn’t have to be fully reciprocated.
- What is aging?
- What is an adult?
- What is love?
- Baby don’t hurt me.
- Why not get excited about things?
- What makes you accept the authority of another person?
- Which thing is the treasure map?
- Where am I supposed to be?
- Where did I put my keys?
- Stick a fork in it.
In a break from the radio silence from Writers Without Money, we return with our first content in over a month, and that’s the first new episode of Radio Without Money, the official WritersWithoutMoney.com podcast, in nearly nine months, fittingly recorded eight weeks ago (ugh). And, if we’re lucky, perhaps even the missing seventh episode will turn up one of these days! In a meeting more rare than a believable Donald Trump lie, Ross Snider, Daniel Levine, and Aloysius VI assemble once again, as Voltron or the Avengers might, to discuss Trump, the Russia investigation, incompetence and the DNC, the Franken resignation, NIMBYism, privacy, rifle madness, Nazis, the Forever War, public impact on policy, and the then-forthcoming Roy Moore/Doug Jones election.
Podcast recorded Sunday, December 10th through Monday, December 11th, 2017.
<-Check out the last episode!
The several hundred mass shootings that have happened since Columbine have produced some literature from the shooters detailing their political ideologies or lack thereof. Given that a common complaint from the right leading up to their current moment of hysterical mass psychosis was “why does everything have to be political?” despite their clearly saying so for political reasons about everything from Colin Kaepernik to an imagined war on Christmas leaves me wondering whether these acts can and should be taken as acts of political terrorism and warning signs of our current situation in retrospect.
Columbine as Political Terrorism, Anti-Politics as Politics
The Oklahoma City Bombing, ostensibly a white supremacist response to FBI overreach in the handling of the Branch Davidians in Waco Texas, was framed by the Columbine shooters in the numerous written and taped materials later confiscated by the FBI as the opening shot of a “political revolution” of…well…there wasn’t an ideology, simply resentment and bloodlust. No one at the time looked at Columbine as a political act because it was politically incoherent. Yet over time, future shooters ranging from the V-Tech shooter to Vester Flanagan would cite the Columbine shooters as “inspirations” while carrying out similarly cold-blooded and politically incoherent shootings. These spiked in frequency in the years leading up to the current crisis to where there was nearly one per day, and met their official counterpart in a rash of racially motivated killings of unarmed black people, many of them disabled or children.
We are now stuck with a president who lacks any ideology beyond the glorification of resentment and violent displays of power. We are now stuck with a Congress and Senate that state their supposed remorse for the children killed in Newtown, the thousands of others in Las Vegas and elsewhere, then refuse to do anything to stop or even slow down their occurrence. They are essentially tossing Puerto Rico out the airlock as I type this. Our Republican representatives are sadistic voyeurs, mesmerized by the spectacle of their own deepest violent fantasies being offered as tributes from a distributed gestapo the way people burn goats as offerings to the devil.
If I might be allowed to play a game of id, ego, super-ego:
-The Congress and Senate Republicans are the super-ego who pose as the moral authority but are in fact just getting off on both the authoritarian thrill of screaming at the spectacle and the cozy, insular benefits it disproportionately accrues to them.
-The base is the id. The Republican base, perhaps best exemplified by Sandy Hook trutherism and Pizzagate, has grown increasingly schizophrenic and detached from reality. They aren’t guided by conscious concerns or their surroundings; they reimagine their surroundings in order to justify wanton indulgence of base impulses. It’s not a coincidence the people claiming they need guns “for their safety” are the ones assaulting people with them, that they believe they’re the chosen agents of Jesus Christ when they worship wealth.
-The ego is…irrelevant at this point? John McCain?
While much of the rise of the right could be seen as simply a perfect storm merger of the collective interests of white supremacists, Christian fascists, internet trolls, individual billionaires and large corporations, what ultimately brought them together were sustained outbursts of mass psychosis defined by mob violence and outright denial of reality-Gamergate, the police shootings of blacks*, the genocide by neglect going on in Puerto Rico, the denial that any children were shot in Sandy Hook.
The NRA, the 2nd largest right wing organization in the US behind the Republican Party, has a financial incentive to want mass shootings, because every time one happens, gun and gun accessory sales spike. Yet I think their hearty embrace of Trump and the violence of the current moment isn’t exclusively financial, though they have every financial interest in guerilla civil war breaking out and have even basically threatened it in recent advertising. This is after all an organization that exists as much as a culture of violent paranoid fantasy as a gun rights advocacy organization. They have been incredibly racist for most of their existence. They use “thugs” and “home intruders” as dog whistles to mean “black people” in tons of their literature. Their most famous spokesperson got the job because he was famous for screaming “Those damn dirty apes!” for fucks sake.
Violence as anti-politics is hardly a new phenomena, but has been accelerated through the return to tribal politics facilitated by the internet hive-mind and the slight decline in the financial fortunes of the privileged non-oligarch class.
Two years ago I wrote about the exceptionally banal manifesto that accompanied Elliott Rodger’s drive-by shooting in Santa Barbara, CA:
Rodger’s “manifesto” tells us a bit more. The MRAs, like Roof’s Stormfront folks, are the product of white men revolting over the fact they might not be as privileged as they once were. But Rodger more clearly outlines the surreal banality of the spiritually dead culture of privilege he was an extension of.
Rodger spends portions of his manifesto nostalgically lamenting how everything was fair and right with the world when he was a young man playing Pokemon, and how happy he was there was brand synergy between the cans of Mountain Dew he was drinking and the World of Warcraft MMOs he was playing. I’m not making this shit up, it’s all there. Rodger may have been the most boring person who ever lived.
By being more boring, Rodger takes on a weird interest. His privilege, and he had tons, is not enough. He fears the universe is manifestly unjust; that maybe women can’t actually be bought. In more optimistic moments he clings to the hope that maybe they can be bought but he just can’t afford them yet.
The surreal climax to his autobiography/manifesto describes his staking whether he’s going to kill himself and go on a shooting spree or not on whether he wins the Powerball lottery. He spends his time driving 8 hours across state lines because the Powerball tickets weren’t available in California. He can’t buy other lottery tickets because he doesn’t consider anything less than a couple hundred million dollars capable of making his life anything other than a story of someone tragically wronged by fate.
Part of how he’s wronged is by being a white man who can’t get literally everything he wants right this second. This being wronged doubles over on itself because his mother committed the cardinal sin of not being “white” so he can’t feel as fully wronged about his not getting everything he wants as he could if he were unambiguously “white”. Rodger spreads white supremacist diatribes all over his manifesto despite his being mixed race because white supremacy is an aspirational ideology.
Remember when Charles Koch, a man whose net worth equals a couple dozen Powerball jackpots and whose whiteness probably attracts moths, said when he was caught stealing oil from an Indian reservation: “I want what’s coming to me, and that’s all of it”?
Maybe Rodger was right about himself. He wasn’t crazy. He was just a loser.
Of course the opening shots of a revolution of anti-politics would be incoherent. That was the point. The longer we keep pretending the right is acting on rationales of anything besides the naked display of power through spectacles of opulence and terror, the more shit we’re gonna have to deal with later.
*It seems worth noting that Trump thinks the Central Park five did it but OJ Simpson is innocent. Perhaps by killing and sexually abusing Nicole Brown as violent tributes to the patriarchy, Simpson became honorarily “white” in Trump’s eyes. Trump clearly sees some of himself in Simpson and therefore could never believe Simpson was guilty.
In this exceptionally brief (for us!) episode of Radio Without Money, the official WritersWithoutMoney.com podcast, Ross Snider and Aloysius VI try to put lipstick on a pig by discussing Daniel Levine’s disappearance, user analytics, the budget, Wikipedia, propaganda, Facebook’s new fact-check alerts and the conflation of “neutrality” with “objectivity,” journalism in general, the aborted Republican health care legislation, and the conflation of neoliberalism with traditional, progressive liberalism.
Podcast recorded Thursday, March 23rd through Friday, March 24th, 2017.
Welcome to Radio Without Money, the official podcast of Writers Without Money! Today on the show, Aloysius VI and I discuss Flynn’s dismissal, memories of proto-Alt-Right-neonazi-whatevertheyrecalledfuckthosedickwipes, the Super Bowl and how pro wrestling relates to labor politics! Stream it below.
Hopefully there will be new episodes of this once a week, possibly even more frequently once I get the mixer working. If you’d like to be on the show or would like to syndicate this to your local community radio station, leave one in the comments.
Is there any other nation so completely identified with one man as Germany with Adolf Hitler? We don’t necessarily think of Napoleon when we think of a Frenchman or Mussolini when we think of an Italian. Winston Churchill, a bombastic liberal imperialist and wildly overrated military leader, has earned his place in history mainly because of his opposition to the Nazis. That American historians regularly conduct poll about who was the “greatest president” is proof that there is no one representative American head of state. When we imagine the typical German, on the other hand, we don’t conjure up Luther or Goethe, Beethoven, Mozart, Karl Marx, or Frederick the Great. Adolf Hitler has taken the entire history of a great nation, and swallowed it whole.
The American misconception that Hitler was “Austrian not German” points to some of the reasons why. Unlike the British or the French, the Germans do not have a nation state with a history that goes back to the Middle Ages. The Prussian Reich that Bismarck founded in 1870, and which was destroyed in 1918, is only one of many political entities that have, at one time or another, represented the German people. To argue that Hitler wasn’t a “real German” because he was born in Braunau am Inn instead of Berlin or Königsberg is simply another way of fetishizing the dead Prussian state, the ghost of which haunts the late German dictator’s well-known but infrequently studied autobiography.
Mein Kampf is not a well-written book. If anybody needed a good editor it was Adolf Hitler. Getting through all 525 pages of James Murphy’s unabridged translation felt a little bit like fighting the Battle of Stalingrad. Hitler doesn’t argue. He simply asserts, a style of writing best taken in small doses, not gulped down in long turgid paragraphs written by a man determined to make us sit through the history of every thought that’s ever come into his brain without explaining why we should care. Nevertheless critics like George Orwell who spend time criticizing Mein Kampf’s literary inadequacies miss a point that Hitler makes over and over again in the book itself. He knows he’s a shitty writer. He doesn’t care. Unlike many of his critics, he also understands that there’s a difference between “literacy” and the ability to read and write. Most Germans in 1925 could read and write. Very few were “literate.” The typical citizen, even in an advanced first world country like Germany or the United States, responds, not to the written word, but to the spoken word, not to logic, but to personal charisma and the ability to create an aura of power and authority.
In other words, think of Mein Kampf the way you’d think of the screenplay to a movie. The words are only a small part of what makes the entire production. In 1925, José Ortega y Gasset announced the death of the traditional bourgeois novel. That same year, Adolf Hitler proclaimed the death of the traditional, literate, bourgeois politician. If you can get through the bad writing, Mein Kampf is a cogent analysis of the politics of a post-literate society, well-worth looking at, if only because so little has changed. Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan have replaced Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln even as Star Wars and Lady Gaga have replaced Charles Dickens and Herman Melville. If you think you’re ever going to see anything like the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence again in your lifetime, think again. Turn on the TV instead. Look at a meme on Facebook, or go to a rap concert. Adolf Hitler figured out the way our brains work all the way back in 1925. It’s just too bad he used his insights for evil, and not good.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 to a lower-middle-class family in Braunau am Inn, a small city in the northwest corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, an authoritarian government employee wanted his son to follow him into the civil service. Hitler himself, convinced he had real artistic talent, wanted to be a painter. In 1907, after both his parents had died, the 16-year-old Hitler moved to Vienna, and quickly descended into the underclass. Like any would-be artist or writer, the young Hitler got through his semi-homeless days as a casual laborer thinking of his future success. His sense of identity fell apart in 1908 when he was rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art on the grounds that he was “clearly unfit for painting.” His personal disintegration reflected the political disintegration of the sprawling, multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire, a mostly Slavic state governed by an elite minority of Germans and Hungarians. I don’t think Hitler mentions the Hungarian people in Mein Kampf, not even once, but his hatred of Slavs, of Czechs, Slovaks, Serbians, Poles, and Russians becomes an obsession.
In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist, and Hitler, baffled that a Slavic nationalist would murder the pro-Slavic crown prince of the Habsburg Empire, crossed the border into the German Empire to volunteer for military service. Terrified that he would be drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army, and quite possibly have to serve in a multi-ethnic regiment, he was overjoyed when he was accepted into Kaiser Wilhelm’s Army, and sent to the western front to fight the French. For many men of Hitler’s generation, the trenches of northern France, the Battles of Ypres and Verdun, were the definition of hell on earth. Hitler, on the other hand thrived. The Imperial German Army and the powerful, majority German Hohenzollern Reich replaced the disintegrating multi-ethnic Habsburg Empire even as the idea of being a soldier replaced the idea of being a painter. Hitler’s sense of identity became so tied up with fate of the German Empire that in 1918, after German offensive against Paris was turned back — largely because of fresh troops from the United States — and the Hohenzollern monarchy fell apart, he took it as hard as he would have taken the loss of his arms or legs. What’s more, since the French, British, and American armies never pushed their way into Germany and occupied Berlin, He was convinced that the Imperial German Army would have won the war had it not been for a “stab in the back” by Jewish Marxists.
Like hundreds of thousands of other demobilized veterans, Hitler went back to Germany to swell the ranks of a newly emerging radical right. What finally distinguished him from the crowd of so many radical German nationalists was his instinctive understanding of the way propaganda works, his eccentric yet powerful reading of German history, and, quite frankly, his genius. To read Mein Kampf, to plow through hundreds of pages of turgid, badly written prose, is to realize that Adolf Hitler was essentially a brilliant advertising man who put himself in the service of a radically authoritarian political ideology. Had he been born in the United States sometime in the 1930s, he might have ended up as just another Don Draper, a Madison Avenue advertising executive selling Lucky Strikes and Coca Cola instead of anti-Semitism and mass murder. Instead, he was born in Europe in 1889. As if to fulfill his youthful dream of becoming an architect, wound up building a totalitarian state on the smoldering ruins of the Habsburg and Hohenzollern Empires.
As I read Mein Kampf, I tried to look at it from the point of view of someone reading the book in 1925, not 2016, someone who had not yet witnessed the Second World War and the Holocaust. Going through the autobiography of one of the greatest mass murderers in human history felt a bit like reading hard core pornography, something vaguely shameful, but fascinating, if only because of its forbidden quality. So I resisted the impulse to loudly and moralistically condemn the book in order to prove that I’m not a Nazi, to declare that I don’t have any latent fascist or anti-Semitic biases. Instead, the question I kept asking myself was “is the ideology in Mein Kampf harmful in and of itself or was it simply a reflection of the violence that came out of the First World War?” I also kept noting the disturbing similarity between Mein Kampf and the views of a lot of contemporary 9/11 conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, even as I reminded myself that no 9/11 conspiracy theorist has ever committed mass murder or started a world war. The conclusion I came away with was that everybody should read the book at least once, if only to be able to see through the propaganda on the radical right.
There are about 5 or 6 basic tenants to the Nazi worldview:
In 1914, on the eve of the First World War, the largest political party in the German Reichstag was the Social Democrats. It’s important to remember that the German Social Democrats in 1914 were not simply liberals by another name like Bernie Sanders or the British Labor Party. Instead, they were a genuinely revolutionary movement officially devoted to the teachings of Karl Marx. That made it all the more shocking, therefore, when their leadership decided to support the monarchy and vote yes on declaring war against the British, French and Russians. Marxist Leninism, a more radical, and anti-parliamentary, version of social democracy came to the mainstream during the First World War, largely as a protest against the more orthodox German and French socialist surrender to militarism and nationalism. Trotsky and Lenin were allowed free passage into Russia by the German government precisely because of their anti-war views, to give them the opportunity to take Russia out of the war and free up German troops on the eastern front to join the offensive against France. Sending Trotsky and Lenin into Russia worked, but it was too little, too late. In 1918, the German monarchy, which had been starved by the Royal Navy’s blockade, and which was now facing the United States in addition to the British and the French, collapsed. The same Social Democrats who voted for the war credits in 1914, now led the German Revolution against the Kaiser. In October of 1918, Germany was an empire. In November of 1918, it was a democratic republic. Sadly for the fate of Europe, however, the vindictive French government, still resenting their defeat 50 years before in the Franco Prussian War, decided to push for a hard peace, for the return of Alsace and Lorraine, and for massive reparations that would make it difficult, if not impossible for the Weimar Republic to establish itself over the long term.
For Adolf Hitler, and for many radical German nationalists like him, the Social Democrats who led the German Revolution in 1918 were nothing more than front men for an international Jewish conspiracy. Marxism, for Hitler, was not only Judaism by another name, but a dagger aimed at the heart of the German nation itself. History was governed, not by economic forces, but by an eternal, and largely ahistorical struggle between the “Aryan” and the “Jew.” Other peoples, Slavs, blacks, Asians, the French, and even the majority Germans, were a mongrelized, easily manipulated, and degenerate mass, raw material to be fought over by the creative Aryan and the destructive Jew, the Christ and Satan of Hitler’s atheist theology. The disagreement I have with most reviews of Mein Kampf, from Adam Gopnik’s clueless and snobbish article in the New Yorker to Kenneth Burke’s classic examination of Hitler’s rhetoric as a demonic appropriation of Roman Catholicism is that they deny just how sincerely Hitler believed in what he was saying. Hitler wasn’t simply the low-class malcontent of Adam Gopnik or conscious propagandist of Kenneth Burke. He was a man of his age, a Social Darwinist who built an entire world view out of a distorted reading of natural selection and the idea of the death of God, and then built an army to put his ideology into practice.
Hitler’s fundamental insight was the idea that the only way to defeat a revolutionary ideology was with another revolutionary ideology, that the German bourgeoisie was too tame and conservative to defend its class interests against revolutionary socialism. What won Hitler the support of the German ruling class, in spite of his pretension to being anti-capitalist, was that he replaced the Marxist emphasis on economics, the idea that capitalism produced its own gravedigger in the form of the revolutionary proletariat, with a radical right wing nationalism and an ahistorical, biological essentialism. For Hitler, Germany was not a political entity like the Habsburg Empire or the Hohenzollern Reich. It was not defined by the German language, but by “blood.” The idea of forcing Poles, Czechs, and Serbians to speak German, to assimilate into a traditional Germany way of life, was horrifying. A Pole or a Czech, even if he spoke German and worshipped at a Lutheran church, was still a Pole or a Czech, a biological inferior species who degraded the German race as a whole. Human beings did not have souls, did not stand apart from or above nature in any way. For Hitler, the idea that we can master nature is Jewish, and Marxist propaganda. Like any other animal, humans are locked into a biological process that they do not control. Different races, like different species, cannot and should not interbreed. A Pole or a Czech having children with an Aryan is like a pig having a litter with a goat, an abomination of nature orchestrated by the demonic Jew.
To reduce humans to just another animal makes the idea of genocide inevitable. Whether or not someone has the power to kill 6 million Jews or not, the argument Hitler makes in Mein Kampf is that it’s his duty to try. What makes Hitler different from just another racist, anti-Semite, or conspiracy theorist is the radical break with the Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) assumption that we have souls, that we cannot be reduced to our “blood.” For the capitalist ruling class of the 1920s and 1930s, who also believed that humans could be reduced to objects, to “hands” or “human capital,” Hitler’s ideology was a useful weapon to use against revolutionary Marxism. It still is. Whether in the form of the radical French proletariat of the Paris Commune of 1871, the German Social Democratic masses of 1918, or the third world refugees of 2016 desperately streaming into fortress Europe, a class society always produces its own gravediggers. A revolutionary conservative reaction is never far behind.
A similar question makes itself present in almost all junctures and lines of human questioning and refuses to come to neat resolution. This is the recursion problem, the point at which a dam must be artificially erected in order to continue the act of rationalist reasoning. It has many names with slightly different connotations that nevertheless seem more fraternally tied than differentiated-the a priori assumption, the axiom, the absence necessarily implied when Derrida discusses supplementes, and in more specific contexts, both the Big Bang and God. None can be justified except by the negative consequences and loss of forward direction that would come with their not being presumed. We’d lose geometry and a bunch of other stuff.
It seems like a safe initial presumption, given the small sliver of the totality of existence any of us is allowed to live in, the further limitation of our reliance on our senses within the context of this limited sliver and the limitations of comprehension and our own singular consciousness in relation to the processed data of these senses, to put any presumptions to absolute knowledge of metaphysical laws by human beings on permanent probation status. The implied problem in any text with phrases like “Let us presume (x).” There’s a hole behind the presumption, it’s always been there. We can’t really know what we’re missing, that’s the exclusive property and knowledge of the hole, and in order for human society and thought to progress we kinda have to treat it like an outstretched power cord in a cluttered apartment we have to be careful not to trip over.
This problem creates the more practical problem of leaving a certain uncomfortable but unavoidable looseness in the classic questions “How ought I live?”, “What’s right?” and related questions. On the final level, once the logistics and practicalities are considered, or sometimes before they can be considered with any seriousness, this question of when the recursive series of “why that?”‘s ends comes up and can’t be resolved except by ignoring it or cheating; the ultimate Kobayashi Maru, the Gordian Knot that can’t stop unspooling rope on either side, a series of colorful handkerchiefs tied together pulled from a top hat with no bottom. What’s called faith or confidence insists it must come into play; the world and our selves refuse to change without us stepping out of the room momentarily lest we actually see either naked. No one who ever claimed to have peered inside eternity’s trench coat has ever seemed happier for having seen the bared and dangling thing therein.
For the honest person of a severe rational character this can loop around back to a rhetoric of “science” that ends up as circular and self-justifying as the vocabulary set it replaced; that can’t answer the finer questions of culture with any more precision than an allan wrench can drive in a philips head screw. Our tools cry out more and more to us for attention in the manner of children; they desire constant assurances we love them and need them more than they especially care or are equipped for fixing the pressing problems of capitalism’s increasing irrelevance or climate change.
The easiest way to psychologically resolve the deadlock and make way to action, meaningful or meaningless, is in the shape of the oppositional identity.
The oppositional identity works a bit like the archetypal silent comedy mirror routine.
Each side of the mirror keeps making halting gestures, almost recognizing itself but wanting to be sure that the thing on the other side isn’t itself, defining it’s self and it’s course of action in the negative space of the other. Normative identity in the US is very much built around what one doesn’t do, for the reason the (insert “undesirable” element) does whatever this is and usually little other reason. Performative differance. The moments of recognition, the common ground so often sought by ecumenical organizations religious and secular, is in fact the source of antagonism and anxiety and when the energy to antagonize and worry dissipates, the source of peculiar absurdities.
Lacan claimed that the thing the patient actually wants when entering the analyst’s office is a way to hold onto their symptoms, not to get better. While Freud’s thoughts and theoretical work has been applied to group psychological contexts more frequently and substantially, it seems this observation could be overlaid on the current US scene and yield insight.
When the far left wants to defend the far right racists currently “occupying” federal land in Oregon on the grounds that action taken against the Bundy crowd would bode poorly for the left come…the revolution? OWS mach 2? I’m not entirely sure? Possibly nothing? I can only presume such a line of reasoning arises from the shared awkward flirtation with the notion of revolution on both sides, the bared fantasies of overthrow that have their uncomfortable and not just slightly masturbatory existence outside the manufactured structures of ideology, the empty space in the attic that’s still an integral part of the house. The far right wants to protect the abstract fantasy of “revolution” the way many teenage girls would likely cry if Justin Bieber ever got married.
What do these people stockpiling guns want them for if they don’t want to shoot someone? What common ground is desirable with what amount to domestic brownshirts? As a psychological phenomena, fascism is built around the absence of a substantial structure to temper pure oppositional identity; the idea of “decentralized” or “distributed” fascism, what would have sounded like an obvious oxymoron not that long ago, seems very much a possibility, maybe even a reality. The necessary logistics have shifted. As Stanley wrote a couple months ago:
Even though Donald Trump has not yet successfully built up a fascist mass movement, he has something Hitler and Franco didn’t, a mass media based on 24/7 cable news and the Internet. Germany, Spain and Italy in the 1930s had well-developed civil societies, educated populations, and conservative family structures, a traditional culture in touch with history the United States in 2015 doesn’t. An Italian or German in 1930 could turn off the radio. Americans in 2015 always have their smart phones, or their computers. Few Americans have any space at all outside of the corporations and the mainstream media. Ironically, however, it also makes the charismatic fascist demagogue unnecessary.
The thrust of this society, the guiding principle that outstrips the actuality of the large corporations and federal or state governments, is the belief that it’s an innate human right, for some humans anyway, to collect rent on other humans’ labor. There’s been a stewing slaveholder’s revolt in this country that has flared up repeatedly since its initial salvo in 1861. Human slavery of course has no reasonable justification that stands up to any logical scrutiny based in any consistent ethics; at the same time more literature has probably been produced justifying it in one way or another than on any other human question.
If the justification for this eventually has to come to its stark nakedness, public masturbatory displays, open carries, gloppy angry sentimental mush like all nationalism, to expect reason from a class purposely set out to avoid it lest they give up their privileges, we should expect some ugly shit to go down.
So long as this belief exists as folk religion, as the unspoken foundation of peoples’ dreams and the foundation of the wealthy who exist as carrots falsely promising the actualization of this dream to those beneath them, there will be flare ups. We should be actively trying to figure out what to do to curb and seize the massive private stockpile of arms in this country.
A Note: All those wishing to write letters to Robotical Presidential, Inc. complaining that people are always judging Hillary Clinton’s appearance because she’s a woman, be aware that the purpose of this excerpt is to demonstrate and assess her operational realism solely in her capacity as a politician. That even those lovely jowls on Chris Christie don’t make him look as much like a bunraku puppet as Hillary Clinton is not a reflection of either of their looks, but rather a reflection of Clinton’s exceedingly well-programmed politician expressions and cutting-edge artificial intelligence providing her with the general cognizance not to become too emotional in public. Conversely, Christie’s psychotic tirades make it apparent that he is exceedingly human. Thirty-five years ago, this would’ve been an Operator’s Manual for a Ronald Reagan PotUS Unit (also Mark II, incidentally).
8. Uncanny Valley and Your Clinton Unit
When operating your Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II robot, it is important to note that Clinton-bot’s various modes are accompanied by expressions that convey varying levels of realism. The more emotional or otherwise-stirred-up a crowd is, the more susceptible they are to comments delivered in spite of robotic expressions, audible distortion, or visible discharge of mechanical fluids.
Boot System Malfunction: Please note that Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II bots still contain a minor design flaw of the prior Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. I and Senatorial Unit bots. If, when booting up your Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II, you engage the activation mechanism too quickly, Clinton-bot’s enthusiasm circuits will receive excess stimulation. You can most quickly identify issues of this sort should you be greeted after turning on your Clinton-bot with an expression not dissimilar to this:
Should your Clinton-bot begin acting erratically–eschewing pantsuits, talking about Barry Goldwater, or reminding you that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican–consult your nearest shotgun in order to engage the “active shutdown” method. By no means should your Clinton-bot be used as a sex-bot, although your Clinton-bot doesn’t really mind if you use a proper sex-bot as a sex-bot in the next room while your Mk. II is activated.
Folksy Back-Home Type: Though not a distinct mode with its own unique library of expressions as it was on our renowned Palin-bots, Clinton-bot’s shameless adoption of her “true” accent when campaigning the South demonstrated to us that this feature was an important-enough element of the PotUS Unit Mk. I to justify bringing back in our Mk. II units.
Now we can get on to the modes proper.
Enough is Enough mode: With all the authenticity of a Turkey Italiano Melt from Subway, your Clinton-bot will fiercely scorn her most threatening adversaries with complaints about disingenuity and the vagueness of policy proposals slightly less vague than Clinton-bot’s own. Though Clinton-bot’s policy parameters can be updated with the most recent polling from Pew Research, we recommend avoiding the “policy” elements of Clinton-bot’s functionality.
Advantages: Clinton bot es un robot muy fiable y puede hacer muchas cosas excelentes . Para obtener instrucciones en francés, por favor refiérase a la sección 17.3 en el manual “G”, que se encuentra en el tercer disco en el segundo aglutinante de instrucción proporcionada con el bot Clinton.
Disadvantages: Watch in horror as Clinton-bot cries “Shame on you!” for reasons you could never quite grasp at black politicians threatening her foretold ascension to the Presidency. Clinton-bot’s movements in this mode appear cold and mechanical, so it should be used when there is a podium for cover. Clinton-bot has been known to engage fins not unlike a Dilophosaurus before similarly shooting acid at observers when highly-agitated while in this mode.
Capitalization Mode: Clinton-bot takes advantage of ham-handed opposition attempts to impugn her integrity, causing area-of-effect Democratic victories in off-year elections.
Advantages: In addition to the area-of-effect, Republicans fail to notice actual shortcomings by Clinton-bot for another three turns (this effect is stackable). Mana pool is fully restored immediately, Clinton-bot takes a turn in place of her next opponent’s turn. 91-98% chance of supporter applause and subsequent statistical buffs.
Disadvantages: Republicans still hate Clinton-bot for imagined and outright-slanderous reasons. Media continues airing their grievances with minimal accountability.
Hell Hath No Hillary Like a Hillary Scorned: The most-realistic and possibly even the only outright-genuine of Clinton-bot’s expressions. Denoted on the graph by red, the color of passion and of hatred. Best summarized by the quote “He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch.”
Advantages: Victim sympathy from the left.
Disadvantages: Victim-blaming from the right. Also that acid-spitting thing from earlier.
I must say, in reading this manual excerpt combined with other reviews I’ve seen for the Mk. II Clinton-bot, I feel that it seems Robotical Presidential, Inc. has fallen into the same bad habits of other technology companies, purveying new, cyclical editions of items that are of little improvement upon their predecessors and are even less durable. Additionally, this new and “improved” Clinton-bot’s much-touted “Capitalization” feature was used to poor effect in the latest Democratic debate when she invoked Nine Eleven to defend her ties to Wall Street. I was thinking I’d hang on to my Obama v1.1 (the more resigned 2012 upgrade; poor Bo didn’t get his own second version outright for the re-election), but as it is, an old, balding politicobot with rusted circuits has gone rogue in my home and taken up residence in the downstairs guest room. I’m not quite sure what his angle is, but he keeps hollering on and on about how we already live in a socialist country and demanding I stop trying to plug things into him and instead give him some food.
Night after night they sat in restless repose, watching beer commercial after beer commercial and car commercial after car commercial, not necessarily in that order, ten and thirty feet respectively from where a 24-pack of clearance-sale Budweiser resided in an ice box and from where a Cavalier resided in a carport, doors and skirts rusted out courtesy of design flaws and thirty years of being parked in that pointless structure. Some commercials beckoned them to rise while others intimidated them to remain in repose, or coaxed them deeper into their slouched reclination with sweet songs and elegant whispers. All the commercials served the same ends, of that they were certain, but in time they grew less certain and forgot entirely what the ends themselves were, only that all of the commercials were serving those ends. Then they became uncertain as to whether the ends were their allies or their enemies.
When they did rise, it was on command, at the beckoning of the television. The programming congealed into a continuous shrift of the intellect, but It was welcome, they’d said, We had the right to turn our brains off after a hard day of work, they’d said. There would sometimes be stirring programming snuck in-between the commercials: a noted athlete on a political tirade, or an allegory snuck past the censors in artful fiction, or a program that found humor in social discord, or a protest on the news. On rare occasions, the protest on the news would sometimes cease to be narrated and for but a moment, in the wild chorus of voices heard between the end of a news reader’s spiel and the first of the next commercials, some truth they knew to be incontrovertibly true would be heard and, just as quickly, washed away by a commercial for a 39-gem luxury watch, with all the finest movements and impeccable timing provided for by the large number of gems incorporated. They were not watchmakers and so did not understand why the gems made for such impeccable timing and movements, but the glints of light on them and the gold that housed them, the silver and gilded gears that surrounded them, made them salivate for water and their minds could not shake them of this association, even as they failed to comprehend it superficially.
Their most prominent source for the time, the display upon the cable box, glowed proudly with the hour.
The children, as expected, proved more responsible than the adults. Sometime toward twelve, after giggling their way through the Tonight monologue with hands clamped over their mouths, they would pull blankets over the unconscious adults up to their shoulders, and then slink quietly away to their beds. The adults would wake in the mornings, mouths dry with the pungent vapors of hops and ethanol, heads foggy with a night’s dreams of fantastic products inserted and infomercial scenarios throughout. Then, as expected, the children proved more wily than the adults, soon catching on to this trend and selectively turning to stations before they went to bed, ones which would be advertising items of interest to the children toward the morning and the more-remembered portion of the dreams in the adults’ slumber.
Though the adults disregarded any stray thoughts they had of obvious children’s toys, an affinity for the more technological of wonders permeated through, and soon the rusty Cavalier was outfitted with a GPS and a satellite radio, the Budweiser came to be housed in a refrigerator with a screen in the door that you could look up recipes on and order groceries through. Soon the cathode ray tube television that occupied the place in the family room that a throne occupies in a throne room came to be usurped by a smart t.v., the sort that records shows for you and goes on the internet and can use your cell phone as a remote control, slipped surreptitiously onto the wall with its scandalously-small footprint. With all of these changes the intellectual capital of the children rose, and in response to the customary cries of the adults of illiteracy with the new technology they would come and make the technology do what the adults could not make the technology do, and would increasingly chastise those of majority age for adopting the newest technologies and then still remaining the loyal base of media consistently informing them of their own powerlessness and lack of worth. They were convinced of their immobility even as the GPS in their car beckoned to take them on a three-state tour in the space of two hours.
The children came together in frequent meetings to discuss these developments, wondering with one another whether to smash all of the devices as they’d once considered doing with the television, or to continue attempting to usurp the influences upon their progenitors with positive ones. In the end, as the children became adults themselves, it was decided that the existing adults’ ignorant tendency to vote, validating fixed elections, would be permitted until the day the children had come to replace the fixed elections with true ones. They pushed the adults to exercise this civic tic through voting for American Idol contestants and new M&M colors, tried with futility to compel them to at least vote Democrat or third-party if they had to vote at all. When the children were still too young to seize upon the day for actions of their own, Election Day would be occupied by a ceremonial banging of their heads against one another. They began to understand and appreciate why the athletes did it, and soon ascribed a cultural warrior status to those who engaged in university sports for no immediate reward and at great risk to themselves. They were personally indifferent on the matter, but doing so pushed the adults from their fascination with gladiatorial athletics: the young had seized, had ruined it for them by injecting their politics into the adults’ sports. They had learned the trick when adults once dissuaded them from an interest in anime by pretending to think anime was cool too. With the television occupied all day Saturday and Sunday with college and professional sports, the adults found themselves uncertain what to do.
They took the three-state tour their car’s GPS had promised. They met people of the sort they never would have met before. They went on the internet and argued futilely and made friends with people who thought differently. They grew as individuals under the guide of their children and their own usurping technologies, the machinations that had pushed them down, from their careers and any belief in their own triumph, into their repose. The children finally went to them after this development, hoping their conversation to end with the return of the adults into the intelligentsia.
“Fathers and mothers, now have you found the source of your restlessness? Now have you found why your repose has been so uneasy all of this time?”
“We have. And we miss the targeted advertising. We hate shopping, but love buying. We miss the gladiatorial combat. We hate pain, but love seeing it inflicted. We miss social warfare. We love to be respected, but hate respecting others. We miss class warfare. We hate being poor, but love being richer than others. We wish we had never produced the lot of you, for we did not need to be awakened, or reminded of the forces which move against us. We knew these things once and we discarded them willingly, and had we known you would wrest us from our slumber we would have discarded your lot willingly as well.”
The children mulled this revelation over for a brief time, before deciding wordlessly, with glances amongst them, that the adults’ time was running out anyhow and as their successors knew now to shift from re-education to marginalization. Such it was that they came to sit the adults back before the televisions, disabling the “smart” functions that allowed them to convene with the outside world and urging them again to take in the algorithmically-manicured advertising as the t.v. had before beckoned them to do.
In the end, it was decided that the adults would be tolerated but disregarded.
In the past, ideas dangerous to those with cultural influence have been subject to direct and purposeful exercises of redefinition. It’s not so easy to see that this has in fact happened in the past outside of inherited folklore: a ‘fog of lore’ settles down over history, which is constantly unfolding under a blanket of narrative forces. But artifacts of redefinition can be seen – no doubt ‘invisible hand’ (which was coined by Adam Smith to mean ‘keep ownership of national resources inside a country’) has left some artifacts on the trail it has taken since to meaning ‘sell ownership of national resources in third world countries to superpowers’. The revolutionary terms ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ have similarly been made to mean ‘liberalism’.
It’s a rare and potentially educational opportunity to be in a position to see this happening as it unfolds with clarity and to have the opportunity to document it.
“Sanders and Trump: Two Populist Peas in a Pod?” the National Review writes. NPR authors a program titled “Nativism And Economic Anxiety Fuel Trump’s Populist Appeal,” though the content and URL both reference Bernie Sanders. Other titles include “Donald Trump Is a Plutocrat Populist From Hell” (HuffPo). These are the first three search results I received searching ‘trump populist’ online. I myself was guilty of adopting the term – writing about the weird inconsistencies in Trump’s platform in which I referenced to it as ‘right-populism’.
The mainstream media equivocation of the term during these elections is to equate ‘populism’ with elements of social welfare, to socialism, or to liberalism. Pressed to describe the populist elements of these candidates’ campaigns: their support for single payer healthcare is cited. For Trump a rejection of migratory peoples. For Sanders his embrace of migratory peoples. Somehow, Trump’s tax cuts to the rich are populist. As is Sander’s calls to end Federal regulation of marijuana.
But these don’t resonate with what it means to be a populist at any point in history nor in any part of the growing international populist movement today. Populism around the world today and throughout history has meant a call for national sovereignty. The recent crawl of populism into the consciousnesses of first world countries has turned the word into “a rise of people’s interests over those of the elites.” (Indeed, this is what Western Wikipedia editors seem to think it means.) When the petty-bourgeoisie think that populism means that it’s unfair that they should be so petty – that they too should be elites, they’ve got it all wrong.
A quick check on Trump’s and Sander’s foreign policy show that they do not believe in national sovereignty for the people of the world. They believe that, or at least retort during debates that, the American people need to be given a real chance to become the elites that take the foreign sovereignty from the majority of the world.
“We’re going to make America strong again.”
There may be hope. While Obama calls for Middle Class Economics – the nicest way to rephrase Reaganomics – eventually American commoners will realize that the elite are a class you are either born or graduate from the Chicago School into, that they can’t be the elite, that democracies don’t make good empires, that “Corn and Superbowl” isn’t that much better than “Bread and Games”, and that they have 6 billion allies around the world who do want to make democracy work.
If Sanders believed that people around the world should be represented as political and economic equals to United States citizens he would never be a candidate for the Democratic Party. Trump wouldn’t get away with saying he thinks Mexicans are hard working people, much less good people or subject to equal political expression and opportunity.
In the 1910 Supreme Court Case “Weems v. United States” it was decided that colonies of the United States (such as the Phillipines under discussion) were not the United States, and therefore colonial subjects inside of these colonies were not subject to the Constitution, and therefore (as written in the Declaration of Independence) these colonial subjects do not have unalienable rights.
This Supreme Court Decision has not been overturned today. Sanders is not proposing to overturn it. Trump is not proposing to overturn it.
We can ask ourselves: who would Venezuela vote for in this election if they could choose an American president? Cuba? Who would Bolivia vote for? Haiti? Honduras? The Middle East and North African countries? Papao? The people of the Philippines?
Amid discussions about political transition in Syria not involving any Syrians. Amid discussions in Washington that recognizing Taiwan as Chinese territory could be a nice superpower bargaining chip. Amid planning to reunify the Korean Peninsula, even if it takes a false flag operation.
What client state of the United States would want United States flavor of populism? What populist country on Earth would want United States flavor of populism?
When our equivocation of populism means ‘slightly left of center in America, slightly right of center everywhere else’ it hardly is a good definition for the political struggles the rest of the populist world faces. For the rest of the world ‘populism’ mans to have a government that represents their, rather than colonial cronies’, interests.