A Public Call For the Immediate Resignation and Prosecution of All Senators Who Knew About COVID-19 And Gaslit the Public

An NPR report today revealed that GOP top brass knew about the seriousness of COVID-19 AKA Coronavirus for weeks/months and chose to only tell the truth to business leaders while telling dangerous lies to the public and refusing free testing kits from China.

I am making a public call for all those Senators and House members who did know to resign immediately and face the strictest possible criminal charges that can be brought up. These could include but wouldn’t be limited to: mass homicide by negligence, crimes against humanity, insider trading, and treason.

They took active steps to endanger and kill thousands (possibly millions) of US citizens.

I don’t care about the “realism” of this demand, I don’t care about the logistics. I only care that if you agree, you share this.

They need to know that there’s a massive number of angry people out there who know that members of their own government actively tried to kill them, their friends, and their family members.

They need to know that we’re not going to take this laying down.

And anyone who tries to pull these kinds of genocidal tactics on the US again needs to know they will face dire consequences.

If the President wants to play games with all of us, the press and TV stations should refuse to give him airtime and walk out of his next conference in protest. Don’t broadcast any of it. Let him buy his own megaphone.

Nothing he says is of any value, and it keeps wasting vast sums of time we don’t have.

We either have a society or we don’t.

Who’s with me?

Notes on an Impending Reichstag Fire

1) Donald Trump obviously colluded with Russia. I’m not really sure how any reasonable person could conclude otherwise after he’s fired three separate people investigating into it and multiple aspects of the Steele dossier we all thought sounded ridiculous a couple months ago have been confirmed. He also mentioned in his letter about Comey’s firing “You told me I wasn’t under investigation 3 times.”

2) Trump learned politics from Roy Cohn, one of the most toxic figures in US history. Cohn’s entire strategy was “Never back down on anything and attack anyone who questions you, personally.” Richard Nixon could eventually be cornered into stepping down. Trump will, when cornered, retaliate with any means at his disposal. He’s already done this throughout his life and in his short political career.

3) Trump doesn’t have any real incentive to back down in any capacity at this point because the only way this ends is with his total consolidation of power or with his going to prison/frying.

4) Don’t be surprised if it turns out McConnell and Ryan and others got in on it. Rumors are already spreading on twitter to that effect, and they’re not standing behind Trump at this point because it makes them look good.

5) Trump established a “committee” to investigate the completely bogus “crisis” of “voter fraud” this morning. Translated: there’s a committee figuring out how to fix the 2018 and 2020 elections through suppression of the vote. Anyone who thinks he isn’t going to try to convince his base to go to the polls next year armed to the teeth to scare off potential voters hasn’t been paying attention. Remember the “my second amendment people” comments?

6) You all know I’m about as far to the left as anybody. I don’t like the DNC, I don’t like how they handled the Sanders thing, I don’t like their connections to Wall Street, etc etc. However, the US falling into banana republic status doesn’t help anybody. The DNC doesn’t seem interested in taking all the chips off the table, and for now that’s the best we’re gonna do. You can save the “I told you so” whatever bullshit for later. This isn’t about you or me being right, this is about stopping a racist mad man from consolidating unilateral control of a massive domestic police force and the most comprehensive surveillance apparatus in human history.

7) Trump is only cornered this much so far and he’s already doing this stuff. He has no knowledge of policy or how government actually works. When his economic policies inevitably fail, he will attempt to consolidate power through appeals to violence. This is a common strategy of dictators-let the disgruntled population take out their anger on each other instead of going after the guy at the top. Mao did it, Duterte is doing it. Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort, was involved in the violent consolidation of power in Russia. Putin had his own Reichstag fire. Trump will inevitably try to declare a war/stage his own Reichstag fire/both in order to avoid having to back down. Trump has repeatedly voiced his admiration for authoritarian lunatics ranging from Duterte to even Kim-Jong Un.

I’m not really sure what we do from here.

What the Bowling Green Massacre Means

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Interior shot of Graceland. Elvis used to shoot out TVs with a handgun in the basement.


THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT LED TO THE BOWLING GREEN MASSACRE

The ubiquity of snuff films in the United States since 9-11 was symptomatic of a crisis of cultural capital. For 50+ years television had an unquestioned hegemony over the US media landscape. (It’s also interesting that these 50 years roughly overlap with the United States’ hegemony in world politics.) Television was a revolutionary and traumatic force that completely shifted how Americans became Americans. The sense of community that had before been engendered through shared architectural spaces-the church, the school, the cafe, the bar-was now engendered through the medium of the televised spectacle. Every time I’ve ever heard someone tell me the story of where they were when JFK was shot, the first part of the story always details their shock and the second part always details how soon they got to a television to be able to experience it with everyone else in America. Trauma creates an incredible sense of bonding and for an increasingly socially isolated population their sense of belonging to anything larger came to be mediated through the shared relationship to the television.

This sense of togetherness was an incredible high that America never was able to recapture, though it tried desperately over and over, with diminishing results. Everything on TV that could do so with any chance of not looking ludicrous for trying presented itself as “event television.” The moment in fictional cinema when the crisis occurs went from the Vorkapich style montage of spinning newspapers to the rapid cut montage of TV news anchors saying the same thing in different accents and languages. Every retrospective documentary about professional sports I’ve ever seen has a scene where someone, frequently an academic commentator, says something like “You had to be there-it was all that was on TV.” Our greatest nation-specific festival, the Super Bowl, is as much a celebration of what we can feel when we all decide to watch the same television program at the same time as it is anything to do with football. The TV inserted itself into the bars and schools and I remember getting to college and all the kids from different parts of the country realizing in certain aspects they had shared a childhood; the TV was something between a communal text and a pet that happened to be in all our living rooms at the same time.

If the JFK assassination was the first event cementing American identity in tuning in at the same time to the same thing and then remembering that rush over and over, it was also a plateau. Awful things from the Oklahoma City bombing to Columbine happened, and while everyone still flocked to their TVs and followed the details and commentary vigorously, no strangers are cornering you in a coffee shop (as several have done to me regarding JFK) to tell you where they were when either happened. That is, until 9-11.

My story of where I was when I found out about 9-11 is pretty much the JFK narrative. Our band teacher told us vaguely something bad had happened during the last period of the day, I took the bus home, and then everyone I knew from my parents to the couple that owned the deli down the street were glued to their TV sets for what seemed like and may have actually been several weeks, watching the towers fall again and again and again…

9-11 and JFK were bookends marking the opening and closing of the US as a TV society. In 2001, the thing that would swallow TV was making its way in the world. I’m talking, of course, about the internet.

Experiencing traumatic events through the medium of the internet isn’t unifying or edifying the way that experiencing them through TV is. The US-as-TV-society looked to the news for regularly replenished mythology, not information. This isn’t an irrational response-there is an inverse correlation between the importance of an event usually reported on national television and the event’s direct relevance to the immediate experience of the viewer. It’s considered a strange and novel thing to have shown up on TV and anyone who shows up on the TV frequently begins to take on the aura of the mythic. The TV encourages this.

FROM TV SOCIETY TO THE FRACTURED HIVE MIND

The internet is too fragmented and dispersed to sustain any narrative that there is a monoculure. Tragedies can’t be nurtured into seeming significant as individual events anymore; a single spree shooting can’t take on the cultural space a Columbine did when there’s another shooting that’s reported on every day or two. Terrorism can’t sustain its narrative coherence when it becomes plainly obvious that most terrorism that happens in the US is the result of domestic white supremacists. The “us vs. them” narrative that seemed on its last sputtering legs when the best argument its proponents could muster was “the war might be wrong but you have to support the troops” has morphed into a delusional need for social cohesion that can’t be sated. The political capital and the sentimental reassurance there was a single “them” to be worried about is now patently absurd.

Oddly enough, the internet initially seemed to be doing the opposite-incredible threads written in bits and pieces by complete strangers on forums like Reddit showed remarkably similar patterns of communication leading to the notion of the hivemind. However, the hivemind was quick to factionalize and each hive soon found its reach far more limited than it had hoped. If the TV was a tool of pacification, the internet is a tool of radicalization. It frees the “community” from all the external constraints of physicality and geography; as such its only means for the “community” to maintain itself as a coherent social entity for those who rely on it extensively is to test its adherents allegiance through the devaluation and dismissal of the outside world. If they fail to escalate the shared delusions, the user must admit to themselves that they are alone. The internet, since Web 2.0, has been specifically designed to encourage reliance on itself to the exclusion of other factors.

So when Kellyanne Conway keeps talking about an obviously fake “Bowling Green Massacre” or Trump invents a nebulous something awful that didn’t happen in Sweden, it’s a tactic similar to quantitative easing-the political currency of tragedy has been depreciated to where it can no longer do the thing it had done for the last 50 years and the Trump administration is attempting to print money to make up for the lack. This isn’t the propaganda technique of the Nazis but of Nigerian Prince scams . The propaganda is stupid and obvious so as to weed out those who might be too difficult to contain within the constructed hivemind.

Framing the Violence Narrative

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In the past few months the term “fake news” has come into the mainstream in a major way. A cursory definition based on its usage would have you believe it’s just an updated synonym for the old standby “propaganda,” but is this true? Yes and no. Our full assimilation into the information age has drastically transformed the way propaganda functions. Whereas in the past it was possible to withhold information and only present your preferred narrative, the current climate invites everybody to share all their information for the express purpose of cutting it all down and putting it on the same playing field. The idea is to put it in people’s heads that no information is reliable, no matter the source. Once this has occurred you have successfully discredited rigorous investigative journalism based on truth and fact. It’s suddenly no more credible than the .com ramblings of some kook in his rural Texas basement or perhaps more foreboding, the media apparatus of the state (i.e. @realDonaldTrump). This has long been a part of Vladimir Putin’s playbook where the cardinal rule is that in order to get people to believe in something, you first have to get them to believe in nothing.

To simplify (TL:DR in modern web speak);

Pre-information age propaganda = limiting access to information

Post-information age propaganda = discrediting all information (ie, fake news)

If information isn’t credible, framing and emotional narrative rise to the forefront of importance. What you say is less important than how you say it and the cognitive effect it has on the person you are speaking to. This is why Democrats lose election after election in spite of superior policy – Republicans know how to appeal to emotion while Democrats don’t think they have to play that game. We’re seeing how this plays out in reality, and it’s not pretty. The latest activity on this matter is the development of the “violence narrative” –  an attempt to take the riotous activity of the anarchist group Black Bloc and associate it with the entire left-wing, liberal worldview. I will explain this soon but I want to start with a more obvious example of an expert in post-information age propaganda. I don’t mean Donald Trump (though he does qualify) but another media figure who has been compared to a more verbose version of Trump. That being cartoonist Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame.

This is the first paragraph of an article he recently wrote on climate change;

Before I start, let me say as clearly as possible that I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. If science says something is true – according to most scientists, and consistent with the scientific method – I accept their verdict.

This is the third paragraph;

“So when I say I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change, I’m endorsing the scientific consensus for the same reason I endorsed Hillary Clinton for the first part of the election – as a strategy to protect myself. I endorse the scientific consensus on climate change to protect my career and reputation. To do otherwise would be dumb, at least in my situation.”

What have here is a massive contradiction, but one stated with authority and conviction, not unlike the way President Trump plows through his own non-truths. The first thing Scott Adams wants you to know is that he accepts climate change is a real thing. It’s the first sentence in his article on the topic, so therefore it must be really really true. A professional like Mr. Adams would not dare deny the work of science when he himself is just a cultural media figure. Therefore it should come as a shock when two paragraphs later he states that the only reason he accepts the science on climate change is to protect his reputation. In other words he is saying that he doesn’t accept the scientific consensus on climate change but he wants to confuse the reader into thinking he does so that he has more credibility. He’s giving you the runaround, like the narcissist he strives to be.

If we want to take Adams at his word in that he cares about his reputation and career (and this seems reasonable given that narcissists usually do care about this stuff)  I’d posit that he has an anti-climate change agenda. Despite his claims, that’s more beneficial to him personally and professionally at this point seeing he’s become a bit of a right wing media darling in a similar vein as Mike Rowe. As the article continues Adams goes to great lengths to disguise himself as being balanced, saying hyperbolic things like “this is the only place you’ll see both sides of the issue!” That isn’t to say he doesn’t make good or interesting points but that’s always been the hallmark of good propaganda, no matter what era it comes from. It always knows just where and when to sprinkle in just enough truth to lend itself credibility.

On surface level Adams seems to be writing about the difficulty in figuring out the truth behind climate change. In the era of fake news however only suckers read things surface level. Look not at content or facts but framing and intent. Then you might see that this piece is designed not to bring people closer to truthful concepts but rather to fan the flames of debate in order to increase his popularity with his new niche audience. He is playing into the recent right wing promotion of information chaos, which in turn helps to discredit the order and limits imposed by science (liberally biased, naturally). This helps push the right’s anti-climate change agenda which they need in order to pull back all those pesky regulations that prevent enterprising American capitalists from exploiting the environment for profit er… um… I mean creating bountiful high paying jobs for the working class.

When analyzing fake news  what one says often has less importance than when they say it – timing is everything. Just like you never get a second chance at a first impression, the first statement one makes tends to be the most revealing. Adams first statement was that he accepted climate change, though he carefully omitted his reasons for this until later. He dropped in a very mainstream point of view to set the frame that he was a credible guy. Compare this tactic to one used in numerous conservative responses to the recent punching of Richard Spencer on the day of Trump’s inauguration. This article by John Nolte of conservative news blog “Daily Wire” is a perfect example, though interestingly it’s a little bit trickier than what you get from a so called “master persuader” like Scott Adams. There’s some build up, starting with the first paragraph;

“Okay, fine, somewhere in my Twitter stream you will find a joke about my not being too terribly upset over this creep Richard Spencer getting sucker-punched on TV last week. My tweet was a joke, though, and I am clearly on record, time and time again, speaking out against violence and the encouraging/excusing of violence. Also, I am not The New York Times.”

Nolte is humanizing himself by letting us all know that yeah, he felt none too bad to see physical violence enacted against the self proclaimed leader of the “alt-right” (which is now synonymous with white supremacy). He goes as far as to call the guy a creep, just to make sure we all know that Mr. Nolte in no way approves of the viewpoints of Mr. Spencer. He also clarifies the he’s very much anti-violence in any way, shape or form (he was just joking, after all!), thus further laying down the frame that he’s a decent guy with good values. What follows is an overly elaborate and hypothetical construction of Spencer as an actual Nazi. Hypothetical because in reality Nolte wants to enforce the notion that really the guy is just an unpleasant kook and nowhere on the level of actual Hitler. This is down to downplay the danger people like Spencer represent to society and in particular minorities. This is summed up in his fourth “paragraph” (just one sentence, for potency I guess);

“For argument’s sake, I am ready to stipulate that Richard Spencer is one sick and twisted piece of racist garbage.”

In his next “paragraph” (again, one sentence) he drops the true bombshell, already hinted at in paragraph one;

“Nevertheless, in its attempt to normalize and excuse and rationalize any kind of political violence against anyone, even a Nazi, The New York Times is more a Nazi than Spencer.”

Though not as direct as Adams, the tactic Nolte uses is essentially the same. Adams emphatically stated that he believed in climate change but then quickly made that belief subordinate to another point about the fuzziness of truth and unreliability of science. Nolte emphatically states that he despises Spencer and goes as far to paint a picture of him as an honest to god Nazi before revealing his true target – the NYTimes and by proxy, the liberal left. From one of the final paragraphs in his piece;

“This push for and encouragement and normalizing of violence among the left and our national media, is no joke. It’s been going on for years, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, from the Obama White House, and within the institutional left.”

Let’s overlook the fact that a death from a purely ideological left wing terrorist attack hasn’t occurred on American soil since 1981. During that same time period since then there have been numerous deaths associated with domestic right wing terrorism in multiple attacks. That’s merely a side point to the fact that right-wing motivated violence is more likely to be state sponsored than left-wing violence which tends to come in the form of civil disobedience that generally spares harming  individuals in favor of property destruction. This paradigm works very well for the right because state sponsored violence is not only legal but far more brutal and effective than anything pesky civil disobedience can muster up. The military and police have wide latitude to do what they want and not face legal repercussions, for better or worse (some may argue they need that latitude to perform a tough thankless job, but that’s another topic).

State sponsored violence however doesn’t have to come from an organized and sanctioned group.  It can also be self-defense, and thus legal (ie Trayvon Martin). This point is reinforced by the creepy way Nolte’s article ends;

“Buy guns, America. You need to be able to defend yourselves and your loved ones.”

So just like Adams wrote an article denouncing climate change disguised as an article about the fuzzy nature of truth, Nolte has written an article essentially endorsing violence disguised as an article about how the left should be villainized because they endorse violence. Left is right. Up is down, something something 1984. It’s all very confusing and intellectually draining to try and follow. What’s not confusing is how Nolte comes very close to advocating the murder of political opponents by planting the seed in people’s minds that if you don’t kill the leftist first than the leftist might… um, sucker punch you in the face.

What we have seen happen here is an example of the right wing media writing about political violence in a way that falsely frames it as purely a leftist phenomenon. Were this just some rambling kook on a right wing dumping ground then this wouldn’t be much of a problem but sadly these things don’t stay so neatly contained. The extensive media coverage of the riots at UC  Berkeley in response to a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos handed the right wing media a golden opportunity for a more concentrated effort to paint the left as violent and threatening and possibly even something worth countering with violent force of your own, if necessary. This narrative has been created and framed independently of the facts, which in the case of both Berkeley and the Spencer punching still seem rather fuzzy, lost in the tides of information and “fake news”.

There is no doubt that violence is occurring in America in 2017 but who is really being harmed? Rather than accept right wing narratives at surface level, people need to be asking deeper questions. Is the broken window at Wells Fargo bank in downtown Berkeley really more egregious than the thousands of sick and disabled people who could die with the repeal of the ACA? Is Spencer taking a sucker punch more disconcerting than the fear minorities live in thanks to the spread of his ideas? To me the answers here are obvious but perhaps the kind of violence I’m talking about is too esoteric to play well on CNN. On a logical level I think most of us know where the most harm is being committed but thanks to their expertise at controlling narratives, the right wing has put the emotional view front and center and are using it for political gain. Luckily enough their act is not a hard one to replicate, and the facts being on your side makes for a more definitive tie breaker than a Mike Pence trip to the Senate. It’s time the left learned how to beat the Breitbart’s and Daily Wire’s of the world at their own game.

A Quick Note on The Deep State

Yesterday General Michael Flynn was forced to resign from his post due to leaked information showing that he lied about the nature of his contacts with the Russian government before the election. This evidence of treason seems to point back to Trump being compromised by the Russians and most speculation on the subject so far has centered around the presumption Trump or someone higher up in Trump’s inner circle was instructing Flynn to make the call. While this is still speculation, it’s not that far fetched.

We don’t know who actually leaked the Flynn phone call or what specific agency they’re attached to, if any. In his final days in office, Barack Obama put rules in place allowing raw data intercepted by the NSA, presumably including the Flynn phone calls and any number of other juicy tidbits, to be shared across the 16 federal intelligence agencies before classification safeguards were put on it. This means that the source of the leak could have been involved in any of these agencies. Leaking signals intelligence is extremely uncommon and technically a felony. The reasons for that are pretty obvious.

I’m going to state the rest of my argument in bullet points.

1) The Trump administration has thus far been a giant dumpster fire and he’s pissed off a lot of the intelligence community.

2) The NSA, per the leaked Snowden documents, has the capacity to and likely does log/record all electronic communications inside the US and between individuals in the US and foreign individuals/agencies.

3) Trump is about as “old man” as it gets with tech and is reportedly still using his unsecured android phone. If Flynn was the go-between for Trump and Russia and the intelligence agencies were able to record his entire phone call, we can presume the security for whatever illegal/treasonous activities weren’t well hidden either. Trump is so unconcerned with security that people at Mar-A-Lago were posting Twitter selfies with the guy holding the nuclear football.

4) The intelligence agencies have more than enough to sink the entire Trump inner circle and are allowing them to stick around only for as long as they’re useful to the intelligence agencies.

5) The intelligence agencies now hold the actual power. This doesn’t really go away with elections. This is a potentially shittier status quo than “President” Trump.

Thoughts on this?

Why (and How) Protests Work


From the anti-war protests of the Bush years through to Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the other groups too numerous to list, the left has been gaining momentum and sorely needed independence from the death sentence of center-corporate Democratic party policy. With the influx last week of several hundred thousand people at the Women’s March, many of whom  have never protested or marched before, we’re shaping up to be a more formidable force than we’ve been in decades. 

If you’re one of those people who marched for the first time last week, or if you’ve been at it for decades, welcome. We’re gonna need all the people we can get.

Because of this influx, numerous know-it-alls have been trying to seem helpful by questioning the effectiveness of protesting and the sincerity of the protesters. I won’t go into their possible motivations here beyond to say: don’t worry about the haters. Again: we’re gonna need all the people we can get. And some fresh eyes on these issues is always a welcome development.

I’m going to structure this article based around paraphrases of common criticisms I’ve seen. These will be in bold, while responses will be formatted normally.

#1: I understand things are politically FUBAR but why don’t we actually do something instead of just marching or sitting near things all the time?

The march/rally and the sit-in have both been repeated central elements of all the major protest and resistance movements of the last hundred years and beyond for the simple reason that they work.

How are they effective? In no specific order:

-They block the flow of commerce. Being that the major problem here is the extreme concentration of wealth in our society (Trump is an awful symptom), anything that can shut down or even substantially slow the flow of money going in and out of things like banks, shopping malls, etc. gets the attention of the wealthy and forces their hand. If forces their hand because they hate losing money more than literally anything else in the world. The Women’s March shut down the main metro area of nearly every major city in the United States. The economic impacts were likely enormous.

-A march shows that there is in fact broad based support for the cause. This makes the fascists nervous-they know that it’s very likely many of their friends and colleagues disapprove of what they’re doing. This reinforces the social taboos that keep them from acting out. A lot of young men are drifting to the fascists but fascism becomes a much less appealing option for teenage boys once they realize it’s going to severely limit their dating options.

-They work as excellent educational tools for the people that attend them. When people go to a march and they see journalists getting arrested just for being journalists, or their first instance of unwarranted police brutality, they realize pretty quickly that they could’ve been the person getting beaten over the head with a stick. It also gets activists talking to each other and a largely invisible infrastructure develops. Despite a lack of formal infrastructure at Occupy Wall Street, because of it I now have a nation-wide network of other activists with a wide variety of skills I can talk to about what actions to take or any other political questions I might have. The vast bulk of my political education came from long discussions with fellow Occupiers. 

-They boost morale and get everybody outside and moving. It gets pretty lonely and depressing on the internet. A march reaffirms both to the people there and to the people on the fence who weren’t there but were considering it that they’re not alone. They think “oh! So someone else is concerned with this too!”

-It gives the marchers a sense of ownership over the movement. Instead of thinking “I gave money to (blank)”, they now think “I was a part of this!”

#2: Where were you when Obama (expanded the surveillance state, drones, etc)?

This response comes from a place of frustration and I’ll admit the left has, at times, been a slow and frustrating thing to be a part of. The long time lefties have been undercut by the “center-left” corporate wing of the Democratic Party too many times to count, and have seen their efforts co-opted like so many football being pulled away from Charlie Brown. 

However, while it would have been nice to have seen the 3.6 million Women’s Marchers out in 2001 for the initial Iraq war protests, it didn’t happen. This time it happened. The numbers are here and real positive change is in sight. 

On a related note, the level of political literacy in the general population and popular news sources has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 5 years. Even Robert Reich is toying with the idea of abandoning the Democrats.

This is a crisis that effects 99%+ of the population, a population that now knows the banks and the major parties do not represent their interests. No one wants a war with China except a couple people in the White House. The number of extremely broad based issues gaining traction for dissent has grown more in the last 3 months than it did even in the turbulent 9 years since the 2008 crash.

We want you out protesting. The most important moment is now. If someone is hassling you about doing something, ignore them and go about doing something.

#3 You mean well but by protesting you’re doing exactly what the fascists want!

This criticism falsely presumes a) there’s a monolithic fascism that can make decisions as a single coherent actor (there isn’t, much as the fascists would like to imagine themselves as such), b) there’s a monolithic left that can make decisions to protest as a single coherent actor (there isn’t.) 

It’s also a presumption based on a politics that stopped being relevant on November 9th. Yes, the Trump administration is looking for any excuse to ramp up martial law or consolidate power among institutions. It may use the protests against Milo Yiannopolous to do this. However, we also know that this administration will lie about the obvious and apparent. They will find excuses to do what they want regardless of facts or reality. They will only relent on something if they feel like they can’t get away with it. 

The power we have, in our numbers and our principles, is to show them exactly how and why they won’t be able to get away with it.

And with that power comes enormous responsibility.


Cargo Cults, US Fascism, and Where We Go From Here


The 2016 elections centered around how to interpret the post-WWII history of the US. A mixture of panic and nostalgia produced a bizarre confluence of memes in the time leading up to November 8th. Conservatives shared warm memories of Saddam Hussein because “at least he killed all the terrorists for us” and endless memes were spread among the center-left optimistically praying for the second coming of…Dwight Eisenhower? 

On all sides except for the Hillary camp, there was a sense of an order collapsing-nostalgia without any countercurrent is the fork society sticks in an era to confirm that it’s done. Like the infamous Cargo Cults, they fixate on the external trappings of the US post-war boom as a way to avoid confronting the larger set of events that made it possible. The Sanders followers grew from a progressive left that had been saying since 2011 or so “If we bring back the New Deal tax code/financial regulations, everything will be back like it was.” The Trump followers said “If we go back to being as racist and sexist as we were then, the post-war boom will return.” 

Of course neither of these options will actually bring the boom back, even if a return to New Deal checks would be welcome. The US economic miracle was a result of being the world’s only uncontested superpower and having endless contracts to rebuild Europe for 20 years and those circumstances coinciding with the peak of Fordist manufacturing. Those conditions aren’t going to happen again. 

Hillary Clinton’s projected nostalgia, being for the last 8 years/the 1990s, was even less convincing and added insult to injury by using tired tricks on an increasingly politically aware population. Clinton was perhaps the most pragmatic in that she saw the 1950s weren’t coming back no matter what. However, she also offered a fatally unconvincing vision of what to do going forward.

The stories of election tampering taking root in the digital hive mind  serve as proxies to speak about 3 primary suppressed anxieties shared by the majority of the population:

1) If advertising analytics/data crunching voodoo actually works then it by nature can’t coexist with actual Democracy. Our individual fantasies of being master of our own destiny, built up for decades by trying to label whatever it is we’re buying “the alternative” don’t hold. We know that our decisions are no longer entirely or even substantially our own. This isn’t a result of Russian etc. interference but simply a fact of surveillance capitalism/web 3.0.

2) Everyone knows that the wealth gap is increasing and will continue to increase due to the basic math that Thomas Picketty laid out: the rich getting richer and everyone else being left out to dry is what capitalism is. Capitalism as we imagined it up to this point is a withered carcass; all that’s left is the accumulated money at the top. No one besides maybe a couple die hard Hillary hold-outs seriously thinks capitalism can continue much further. The whole border wall thing is a ghost dance for a capitalism that isn’t coming back.

3) Climate change is real, and furthermore climate change is something we’ve done to ourselves and that we could conceivably rein in. I believe the part in italics is what actually scares much of the population and particularly the wealthy/religious as it punctures the idea a God is watching over us or an invisible hand is strategically grabbing the market by the pussy.

The upper middle class and aspirant classes beneath them been circling these tire fires for the last 9 years since the 2008 crash. Trying to “detoxify” ourselves and the uglier parts of our way of life by buying more expensive groceries and/or obsessively revisiting the markers of youth and trying to get double equity on them by reselling them as important political events (this is as true of the right wing ad campaign for the Seth Rogen vehicle The Interview as it was for the new Ghostbusters). These campaigns advertising everything from cars to movies to vegetables all had a heavy shaming element. This was because their actual social function wasn’t primarily to “save organic farming” etc etc but to preserve the social markers telling people as their wealth shrunk that they weren’t actually poor, that their college educations still made them meritocratically superior and not just deep in debt. Artisan hamburger restaurants and craft beer were similar manifestations. Of course, eating the right vegetables and other acts of symbolic ethical consumerism won’t pay off your student debt.

These 3 anxieties correspond with the death of an economic system, the collapse of the primary controlling social narrative (Horatio Alger etc), the rapid cold decimation of an entire way of life that existed before computers, and the potential deaths of hundreds of millions of people/loss of all of the world’s coastal cities. Everyone going crackers at the same time is a predictable if dispiriting response.

The way forward from here can’t be a nod backward. Automation’s arrival leaves two paths open for the US-either an equitable and liberal welfare state, or a society obsessed with ignoring/removing society’s “disposable” elements-the migrants, the poor, minorities, and anyone standing in the way of the disposal (the left basically.) The US is currently heading down the latter path. 

We need to aim big if we’re going to have a future. We can’t simply shoot for reforms. The tools and infrastructure for a futuristic, equitable and sane society are in front of us. Automation’s impending destruction of the global jobs market could be a positive thing if the tools of automation were seized for the general population. Many platform economy systems could be replaced by open source software updated with tax payer money. There is little about Uber’s app that couldn’t be replicated fairly easily and certainly nothing about it that warrants the size of the single company. Austin Texas already has their own replacement app just for Austin that’s been working fine.The e-commerce platforms could become a dynamic unified e-communism without too much tweaking.

These are the sorts of demands we need to be making. This isn’t the same world it was 10 years ago. And this time we can’t just make demands-we need to be willing to fight for them.