Tag Archives: Bullshit

Elites for Oligarchy

I wrote a reply to the “Republicans for democracy” feature in today’s The Morning email newsletter. Partly I was just reacting to the ongoing stupidity of this elite fantasy about a “grand coalition” in which democracy is saved by teaming up with anti-Trump Republicans. This is fan fiction, and bad fan fiction at that. But, I think my efforts to compose a relatively tight response helped clarify some concepts which are important. So here’s my email.

I appreciate The Morning emails. They are frequently informative and often thoughtful.

“Republicans for democracy” is really not good analysis.

One, your premise of a crucial division between the Republicans of Trump and the Republicans of Cheney is entirely arbitrary. Trump aspired to use procedural mumbo jumbo to overturn democracy; Bush and Cheney actually did so (as did Trump 16 years later), it’s called The Electoral College.

“But The Electoral College is a legitimate institution,” except it’s an antidemocratic and [as employed since the 18th century] extra-Constitutional institution, which the Cheney Republicans were and undoubtedly remain ready to delegitimize the instant that it might disfavor them instead of Democrats.

20 years before Trump did so, the Bush-Cheney team ginned up a mob to storm and disrupt official post-election processes. You pooh-pooh this precedent as mere “hardball,” and insist that the greater violence of Trump’s mob makes it “not consistent with American democratic traditions.” Yet in the very sentence before you insist that violence and supportive lies are firmly out of bounds, you insist that lying the nation into an entire war is firmly in bounds. Please.

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Twitter Jail 2

I spent the night back in Twitter jail.

Unlike last time, very specific reasons accompanied this lockdown. Wednesday evening, I replied “die pepsico, die (please)” to some dumb bullshit ad polluting my Twitter feed courtesy of the bloated food & beverage corp.

Soon after, I was locked out of my account, pointed toward the offending reply like a naughty child, and given the “option” to delete it. Upon choosing this “option” (over the alternative of losing my account forever), I was restored to Twitter in a kind of ghost state. For 12 hours, I was allowed to see but do nothing else.

Hilariously, this prohibition on interaction extended even to liking. Not only that, but rather than simply disabling these features, Twitter instead programs the app to punish any attempt to use them; click a “like” icon, e.g., and get whisked back to the “you have been naughty and are banned from interacting” page.

This is absurdist.

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The Consortium Calls It

Friday evening a friend wondered “Are they gonna call the election in a Friday news dump?” I laughed, and had been musing on the same question earlier in the day. Though the notion amuses, the alternative carried out today by “they” is much richer.

Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 concludes a week which is a microcosm of contemporary America:

  1. Political debate has conceptually been devoured by a sectarian/race war
  2. Bad rules thwart the majority from doing anything effective about the above, or about the bad rules, or about much of anything
  3. In this dysfunction, power defaults more and more to corporate capital
  4. For ordinary people, conditions get worse, intensified by a dangerous natural phenomenon which could easily be controlled by a functional modern civilization, but which in this case is largely allowed to burn as it will because that’s the option most suited to short-term corporate profits
  5. Meanwhile few people even give much notice to any of this, because our information and conceptual infrastructure is hopelessly misaligned with what’s really going on, owing to a combination of senescence and sabotage
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Tenuous contact with reason

The list of “deserves more attention, shouldn’t get lost, etc.” things is always too long any more. If I were to propose one more item, it would be the alarming reports of delayed ballot delivery in multiple swing states. Or at at any rate, reports which seem like they should be setting off alarms, though so far they seem not to be.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling to maintain some distinction between what makes sense and what doesn’t, something which feels like it’s getting more needed and more difficult in the final stages of this quadrennial mass insanity we call a presidential election.

I don’t mean bullshit, in this case; that’s overwhelming as always, but selfish Republican senators like Susan Collins and John Cornyn e.g. are just lying and that’s terrible but also a constant.

On the other hand, I presume that Senator Chris Murphy meant well when he suggested that “because a statewide election in Texas is so expensive, the marginal value of every dollar donated is higher.” But I believe that is completely backward. Slightly less trivial, perhaps, Democrats as well as small-business advocates are now charging Republicans with doing harm by focusing on a Supreme Court appointment at the expense of relief legislation. That’s much the same argument that Republicans made in 2019—that Democrats were doing harm by focusing on impeachment instead of other “real” issues—and both instances seem dumb.

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Conceptual infrastructure failures

It’s possible for situation to be both terrible and ridiculous at once. This has indeed been the case almost constantly for America, for at least four years.

My awareness of this phenomenon, confronting us from almost every direction, has become overwhelming.

On one hand, things are absolutely abhorrent. Where to begin? The western U.S. is literally on fire, a pandemic has killed 200,000 Americans and climbing, and the president is an authoritarian raving monster who spends his time flying around the country for organized COVID-19 superspreader events, and encouraging Republicans’ frenzied effort to “get rid of the ballots” that might oblige them to cede power in any kind of functioning democracy; they’re clearly willing to destroy what remains of ours, and are preparing to install another radical partisan operative on the nation’s highest court.

Meanwhile everyone is screaming and e-mailing and deploying every cliché in the book—red alert, all hands on deck, etc.—and it feels equivalent to yelling “pull up, pull up!” when the plane’s engines have exploded and it’s in a tailspin trailing smoke and fire.

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Twitter Jail

Note: two weeks later I finally received a response from Twitter, and after a further round of correspondence the same day, I was freed from jail for reasons which are just as opaque as those which put me there to begin with.

A few thoughts while I cool my heels in Twitter Jail (also known as no-warning, no-explanation suspension) for an indeterminate period:

I have no idea why my account was suspended, and everything I know about Twitter and all such massive algorithm-governed systems indicates that there may not really be any reason, even in the narrow sense of a specific rule (however arbitrary or unjust) violated. According to one article, Twitter has even admitted on occasion that it suspended an account for days, “by mistake.”

As well as the above, I have found relevant articles about Twitter suspension from 2014, 2018 and 2019. I suspect that the 2014 article best sums up every attempt to explain Twitter “rules,” however: “These rules are vague by design in order to prevent reverse engineering…”

The published rules as such certainly are vague, and in the absence of genuinely useful detail, seem to permit suspension for: replying, posting links, retweeting, following, unfollowing, using hashtags, or liking. For basically all actual activity on Twitter, in other words.

Without blowing this entirely out of proportion, social media platforms are a big portion of “public” space at this point. It has become very difficult to participate, without using any of the major platforms. Yet they are not only as opaque and arbitrary as any bureaucracy imagined by Kafka, they are entirely unelected and run by people who are unelected.

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