There’s a red cloud hanging over us

1 03 2017

I am once again yelling at the media.

Back in the day—waaaay back in the day—I used to regularly berate journalists, pundits, and politicians who happened across my t.v. screen or radio. I’d slap the newspaper or crunch it between my hands. I’d carry on arguments and yell rebuttals and gesticulate and swear and occasionally throw soft objects at whatever device was relaying the offending message.

I once smeared a butter pat on the t.v. in my dorm floor’s lounge (I cleaned it up).

It got to be a bit of joke among my friends, but it was never schtick to me: I’d honestly get pissed off and let loose. They might have thought it funny or stupid, but I was dead serious.

And then, at some point, I stopped.

I don’t know why. Maybe when I got rid of the t.v. and thus no longer watched the news I fell out of practice. Maybe I figured out that I was not required to listen to bullshit and thus turned off the radio/t.v. rather than get into a fight with the voices coming out of it. Maybe I just gave up.

Well, I’m back, and so is the yelling. Well, not yelling so much as muttering, and I’m not back to full-bore argumentation. No, I’m dropping such bon mots as “motherfucker” and “asshole” as I flick through my Twitter feed and suggesting “go fuck yourself” to whichever Trumpeter is weaseling on the radio.

I’m not proud of this, but I’m not quite chagrined, either. Swearing may not work to hold back the pile of radioactive horseshit Trump and his GOP enablers are shoveling at us, but it does remind me that I haven’t given up, that I shouldn’t give up.

I do think I’ll leave the butter be, however.

Ain’t got no headphones

1 12 2016

What to do about white fragility?

I don’t think it’s at all necessary that everyone concerned about racism also try to understand why some people are racist (and why many more tolerate racists and racism), but some of us should.

That is, some of us white people in particular should—just as some of us male people should try to understand sexists and the folks who tolerate them—but even as someone who’s willing to try, I don’t know how much good it will do.

I mean, I want to understand because I don’t understand why you would feed the belief that other people are worse than you. Yes, I get it, seeing others as worse is pretty much the same as making yourself feel better (in both senses of that term), but why is better, better?

Anyway, before I go flying off into word-play, back to political matter at hand: does knowing why people are racist or believe in conspiracy theories or peddle horseshit help to combat racism/conspiracy theories/horseshit?

James Fallows, among many, many others, has noted the challenges for the media of dealing with a president-elect who lies, but what of citizens dealing with their reality-hamstrung fellow citizens?

We’re not supposed to call them out or confront them or criticize them for their shitty views—this just makes them mad and sad and defensive and won’t work anyway—so then what?

I think the first principle of any strategy is that of commitment, which is to say, militancy. If you are committed to anti-supremacism, then, goddammit, don’t back down from that, don’t apologize, and don’t act as if that commitment is somehow up for grabs. Speak and act forthrightly, and hold the line.

So that’s what one should do for oneself, but, again, what to do with others who are put off by anti-supremacism?

Some of them are themselves committed to supremacism, and should be recognized as such. Commentators who suggest we not be mean to the racists seem to operate on the assumption that if we’re all just nice enough, we can, eventually, all just get along. But no.

What of those less committed to supremacism/conspiracism/horseshittery? What’s the best way to wean them away from it? There seems to be a fair amount of social science evidence, centered on but not limited to studies of cognitive biases, that it’s damnably difficult to pull people out of their own asses, but it’s been done, right?

I mean, people convert from A to B or deconvert from B to C, leave cults, are disillusioned with someone/some movement which they formerly revered, so there must be some way or ways (which do not include kidnapping and abusive deprogramming) to nudge or seduce or yank someone out of a closed loop.

I like to win arguments—I REALLY like to win arguments—but this is less about winning arguments than opening someone to the possibility that there is even an argument to be had.

Circus Maximus MMXVI: Just a little bit longer

8 09 2016

I may wax and wane in my enthusiasm for voting for Hillary Clinton, but I am firm that I’ll vote for her.

And whatever waning there is, doesn’t mean I think I’m voting for “the lesser evil”.

Greater and lesser evils in politics: such horseshit.

Bernard Crick argued that politics requires pluralism, which in turn creates the conditions in which politics may flourish: that there are differences requires some mechanism for negotiating amongst those differences, and politics (as opposed to technocracy or totalitarianism) provides an open, inclusive, and non-violent way for a citizenry to deal with itself.

Politics is more than this, of course, but that notion of conciliation and compromise are key: if factions are only ever maximalist, only ever all-or-nothing, only ever my-way-or-else, then politics will be ground out of existence.

Which is where my evilism-is-horseshit stance comes from: someone is decried as a lesser evil because she isn’t perfect, is compromised, is too willing to compromise, adheres too closely or not closely enough to the party line, will disappoint, will likely fail.

All politicians fail. Good politicians fail well, bad politicians fail badly, but if politics is about advancing an agenda against competing agendas, then the old cliché sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you means that even the greatest advances will contain losses.

It also means that to advance your position, you’re likely to have to settle, to give something to get something. To compromise.

Yeah, sometimes you can hold the line, and those hard-liners do have a place (tho’ not in leadership) in politics, but if your political adversaries are present in enough numbers to get in your way (which is almost always the case, if not at any one moment then certainly over a relatively short period of time), you’re going to have to pay attention to them. You’re going to have to deal.

As with failing, you can be a good (moves you closer to your goals)  or bad (moves you further from your goals) dealer, but if you don’t deal at all you’re not much of a politician, much less a political leader.

To deal is to be political, not to be evil, so any assessment of a politician should not be Does she deal or not but Is she a good dealer or bad dealer?

Again, none of this means candidates, even ones one is waxingly enthusiastic about, are above criticism—criticize away! But criticize them on their politics, not on the fact of their imperfections.


*It’s not that evil doesn’t exist at all in politics—if you’re a genocidal dictator you pretty much fit the definition of an evil leader—but that in ordinary or functioning politics, the evil quotient is going to be pretty low. (I could go full Crick and state that genocidal dictators are anti-politics by definition, and thus fob off evil on the upside-down, but that’s a little too convenient.)