Tag Archives: Bullshit

Asymmetric belief in authority

Most people on the mainstream center-to-left spectrum have been successfully trained, to respond to the paralysis of this Congress, by parroting the names “Manchin and Sinema.” Supposedly Democrats are soundly for change—even in the US Senate 96% of them want to do something!—and all the responsibility for obstruction lies with the Evil Bobbsey Twins plus all the Republicans.

There are multiple reasons why this excuse is unsatisfactory, and I will note some others below. But first, I want to revisit something I have posted about here, before.

If you take them at their word (and in this regard I believe that we should) then Democratic elites genuinely believe that Mike Pence, alone, could via some sleight of hand with note cards have literally made Donald Trump the president for 2021-24. They may also profess that this act would have violated the rules, yet the degree of alarm in references to that prospect, combined with other patterns, convinces me: they really believe that one (lame duck) authority figure could have declared that down is up, and obliged the rest of society to stand on its head.

Yet these same Democrats profess that Senate President Harris and Senate Majority Leader Schumer are essentially powerless observers. Their hands are tied.

Say what you like, but this is an extremely asymmetric belief in authority.

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Nonsense, BS and outright lies

Today marks three years since the US House asserted its completely valid right to examine Donald Trump’s tax returns. Despite which, those returns remain locked in a vault even after America elected a U.S. House, U.S. Senate and president purportedly committed to oversight and accountability.

This seems like a good day to survey the degree of dishonesty which prevails generally even within the “responsible” portion of US politics, at this point.

I don’t imagine that this is really a new phenomenon, but we’re now years into perma-crisis; did that shock anyone into shaping up? Not a bit of it.

One can insist that there’s a continuum from reasonable errors, through nonsense, bullshit, and denial, to outright lies. On February 6, 2021, when Representative Marcy Kaptur proclaimed that “Our union remains strong. Our democracy may bend, but it will never break,” maybe that was just nonsense. Maybe it was a reasonable error when Nancy Pelosi said obtaining Trump’s tax returns would be “one of the first things we’d do” if voters gave Democrats a House majority.

But at some point, the volume and consistency of statements which don’t fit reality is just too much for positioning on the continuum to matter very much.

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Journalists get it, partly

Friday’s “The Morning” e-mail from The New York Times is interesting for how it mixes up a flicker of “getting it” with plenty of the ordinary obtuse fare.

Much of the e-mail carries on the braindead political “analysis” which was a big inspiration for my book Nemesis. German Lopez writes an extensive e-mail about “why Biden is unpopular,” walking backward through the past year and a half of covid and covid policy, without ever considering

  • The obvious question of what, exactly, “unpopular” is being defined against; voters have rapidly turned against every president for decades, and more significantly they punish the president’s party consistently, even when presidential approval is much more favorable than Biden’s.
  • To the extent that presidential popularity is variable, at all, could disdain for Biden have anything to do with the fact that even mainstream journalism is so relentlessly affixed to narratives of scandal and (Democratic) failure that the result wildly misleads people about reality?
  • “Analysis” mostly just makes up its premises of what’s supposed to move public opinion and how. From month to month, “The Morning” tells us that Democrats are disappointing the public because of Afghanistan, no because of covid, actually it’s the economy, and they’re out of touch with public fears of “CRT,” etc. The claim, in Friday’s email, that the Biden administration committed itself to firm promises about freedom from covid also seems suspiciously unfamiliar to me as a fairly regular reader of “The Morning.” It feels like “truthiness.”
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Rebuilding

Brooke Binkowski seems to Get It, including the fact that “This bullshit is not cutting it.” Her suggestions include:

  • we need to truly ask ourselves what we want from our country and our leadership and especially our media.
  • we need a new Constitution and a new flag and new borders
  • big social sites need to be recognized as their own forms of nation-states
  • We need more responsive local leaders and better funded newsrooms, and everyone needs to understand the power of weaponized narratives. None of this is “just happening”
  • I advocate for unionization, mutual aid, and other expressions of solidarity, because that’s what we need the most at this time and that is what we are lacking

I don’t know that a meaningful “perfect complete program of reform” exists, but the above is a much better start than the bullshit from the obsolete liberalism which just will not respond to a challenge which demands different tools.

The pretense of functioning, legitimate authority in America is really just ridiculous at this point. I could go into some recent events but, really, it’s just playing-out of what various people have seen in motion for years. From Eric Sandy writing that “the brakes are cut,” to my own scribbled note that “the crash is going to accelerate” (along with plenty of other writing to that effect) to the random person up the street who put “it will get much worse” in the apartment window in autumn 2020 to plenty of others… 

Yet the band plays on. Parts continue grinding away within the broken machine.

The concept of a reverse “first they ignore you” seems increasingly relevant: First people respect and feel part of the system, then people bump up against unworkable features of the system, then people laugh at its continued pretense of authority, then people just ignore it.

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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