You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Academics’ category.

One of the reasons Mad Max: Fury Road is so good (umm spoilers if you’ve been chained to a bed in a Misery-type scenario and haven’t been able to see it) is that it dramatizes ideological constraints.

No-one can see past their prejudices.

Not the chalky henchmen, not the escaping women, not the old crones in the desert, not Bad Teeth Joe who crashes his empire for no reason.

Enter: Oprah.

THROUGH ME YOU WILL BE REDEEMED

THROUGH ME YOU WILL BE REDEEMED


One of the defining characteristics of centrism is ignoring and denying the structural factors that constrain individual action.

Unemployed?  Move to where the jobs are!  Or get more education and skillz!

Face sexual discrimination at work? Lean-in and do what the boys do!

Oprah is a consummate centrist entertainer, emphasis on the first syllable.  Featuring self-help gurus, spiritualists, vision boards, and other self-improvement claptrap by the truckload, she rigorously advances individual responses to social problems.

Nicole Aschoff, in a compelling excerpt printed in the Guardian from her recent book New Prophets of Capital, documents a number of these ridiculous piece of advice, including becoming an “out-of-the-box thinker” to lessen back-pain at work and reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles to lessen stress when you can’t pay your rent.

Obviously, an obsessive focus on individual-level solutions to broad structural factors prevents people from organizing to change those factors.  Macroeconomic policies that depress wages and boost unemployment while siphoning resources to the rich are not in peril from people learning to become out-of-the-box thinkers, or reading Murakami.

But Aschoff goes deeper: the kind of relentless individualistic remedy Oprah promotes is centered on a specific idea of what a person is.

It’s simple. Anyone can become anything. There’s no distinction between the quality and productivity of different people’s social and cultural capital. We’re all building our skills. We’re all networking [. . .]

The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.

A necessary part of Oprah’s vision being a specific kind of person.  Attributes of this person, besides being willing to buy homeopathic remedies because a Turk is wiling to wear scrubs on TV:

  • She is not too poor to acquire new skills
  • She has a social circle she can leverage
  • She is not too physically isolated, due to geography or illness or personality

But more generally, and more importantly, she is the type of person that doesn’t look for collaborative, communal organizational activity to solve broad social problems.  She has to be psychologically comfortable with not changing the situation she finds herself in through collective action.  She has to be willing to cope without rocking the boat. 


The centrist tropes Oprah relies on are a narrative that creates this type of person.

Success in life means that you earned it; failure means you did something wrong.

Finding fulfillment is finding the right self to fit your environment, not in finding fulfillment in the struggle to change your environment.

Saul Bellow once wrote: “That’s the struggle of humanity, to recruit others to your version of what’s real.”  The tragedy of this centrist story is that it tries to turn this quote on its head: the struggle is recruiting versions of your self to fit what others define as real.

That’s partly why I’m making an effort to write this shitty blog again.  Too many of my friends, family and co-workers are falling prey to this centrist narrative.  I want to get it to stop.

And if it ever does?  Oh what a day.  WHAT A LOVELY DAY.

Q: What’s the worst thing on TV right now?

A: Those fuckin’ trailers for Lincoln that get shown three times every commercial break.

Q: What’s the worst thing about the trailers?

A: It’s not that it looks like Spielberg’s conception of Lincoln was that the yellow Sun of the Earth gave him moral powers far beyond the reach of ordinary men, which is a shame, because Daniel Day-Lewis, David Strathairn, and Gale Boetticher all look like they’re having a ball. It’s that it forces one to remember that Doris Kearns Goodwin exists, and Doris Kearns Goodwin is fucking awful.

Let us draw a merciful curtain across the nagging plagiarism details; not only have they clearly not affected her rise to a comfortable role as a prominent public intellectual, but it is a might unseemly for someone with those connections and fame to have to deal with subjects that crude.

For, verily, she has to keep herself nice and clean in order to spray the fucking shit that keeps coming out of her mouth on television.  Like this recent nugget about the 3rd presidential debate, in which she acknowledges that Romney lied his Byrlcreemed head off but still “did what he had to do to seem presidential”.  Debates are a reliable staple in Goodwin’s wheelhouse, who can always be counted on to counter any naysayers of those misleading and inconsequential snoozefests with “oh no you don’t understand these debates may be incredibly facile and staged more than Danny Boyle’s Olympic ceremonies but you need to keep watching because, uh, here are the greatest hits from the past debates” fluffpieces.

It’s not just that she uses the same model of trite cliche generator Friedman uses but sprung for the “erudition” upgrade, it’s that she knows better.  She has to know better.  Because even though standards have been slipping at Harvard ever since they stopped asking Jews to prove the Riemann Hypothesis as an entrance exam question, presumably they still teach the fundamental basics of academic disciplines.  And presumably Doris Kearns Goodwin, with both an undergraduate degree and PhD in political science, would have been taught enough to know just how much of her Meet The Press appearance yesterday was a big mouthful of donkey come: all of it.

[W]hat the president has to do to build his mandate is to play both an inside game and an outside game.  He should use that political White House as an asset, more than he has done before.  I would have the– I’d have a cocktail hour every night, you have forty Republicans there, forty Democrats there, night after night after night, do what LBJ did, do that more than he’s done.  But the outside game means he has to mobilize that base.  That base was energized on election night.  He said to them, your job is not done.  It’s not just voting.  It’s there to bring pressure on obstructionist if they don’t get a deal done from the outside in.

1) The parties have become so polarized among such a wide variety of policies (PDF in google docs) that the good ol’ boy methods of the past like building coalitions based on personal relationships that relied on significant ideological overlap and lax party discipline taint work no’ mo’.  2) If I hear one more goddamn thing taking the BULLY PULPIT at face value Imma take my frustration out on some innocent nebbish pulpit, and that wouldn’t be fair.  3) “Build his mandate.”  Jeeeeeeeeee-zus.

But the fundamental loss of this campaign probably took place in the Republican primaries when they put out a group of people who were so far off the political cliff on issues that mattered to Latinos, to women and to young people.  And that is the new governing coalition.  And perhaps the fact that the economy got a little bit better is another fundamental fact.  But all these other things preoccupied us for so much time, you can only, looking back, see that.

A necessarily partial list of outlets running stories in real-time which boldly defy Doris Kearns Goodwin’s pronouncement: Salon. Fox News. NPR. The American Foreign Press also somehow got ahold of the analysis no-one did and put this samizdat in papers worldwide.  And I guess when shares of Etch-a-Sketch went through the roof in March it wasn’t because a presidential campaign made a statement about how the extreme things their candidate had been forced to say in the primaries weren’t worrying them.

I think what the president needs to do is to bring some CEOs into his top positions, FDR did that.  He brought in the head of Chrysler.  He brought in the head of Sears and Roebuck.  What about bringing Romney in to deal with this whole problem of how do you keep manufacturing here rather than going abroad?  What incentives to use?  What sanctions to use against countries that are not dealing fairly?  I think you bring people in but you don’t lose your conviction.

I’m actually glad she said this because it lets me bring up my favorite thing in the entire world: when David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell and member of the Erskine-Bowles commission, said within a fifteen-second span both that companies are not hiring because of regulation and uncertainty, and that Honeywell wasn’t hiring because there was very little demand for their products.  I can understand why Doris Kearns Goodwin would not want to acknowledge the existence of such things.  Oyez, more of this please, for fuck’s sake.

Literally the only thing I haven’t quoted is her saying she’s sad that important people can’t fuck anyone they fancy to their heart’s content without their careers suffering consequences for it.  So, 1 for 4?  If we’re using pity points?

And Christ maybe if she were actually deserving of the laurels heaped at her feet the constant centrist mist spritzed from her face would be more tolerable.  But the court intellectuals are always hacks, for some reason.  Her annoyance factor is not even about the plagiarism, it’s about the fact that her stuff doesn’t hang together academically, and that she isn’t afraid to do something like soft-pedal the immense racial hypocrisy of her subject in a work partially about his innate moral goodness if it makes for a good story.

Plus if Lincoln turns out to be horrible for that reason, the blame can’t all lie with Senior Spielbergo.  Some of it’s on the source material.  Some of it’s on Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Dixon remembers the Tale Emerson lov’d to tell, of Galileo before the Cardinals, creaking to his feet after being forc’d to recant, muttering, “Nonetheless, it moves.”  Watch, patiently as before the Minute-Hand of a Clock, become still enough, and ‘twould all begin to move. . . .  This, Dixon understands, is what Galileo was risking so much for, – this majestick Dawn Heresy.  ” ‘Twas seeing not only our Creator about his Work,” he tells Mason later, “but Newton and Kepler, too, confirm’d in theirs.  The Arrival, perfectly as calculated, the three bodies sliding into a single Line. . . . Eeh, it put me in a Daze for fair.”  Whatever the cause, the times he records are two to four seconds ahead of Mason’s.

– Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon

Stay thirsty, my friends.  Although,

This, or odd behavior like it, is going on all over the World all day long that fifth and sixth of June, in Latin, in Chinese, in Polish, in Silence,- upon Roof-Tops and Mountain Peaks, out of Bed-chamber windows, close together in the naked sunlight whilst the Wife minds the Beats of the Clock,- thro’ Gregorians and Newtonians, achromatick and rainbow-smear’d, brand-new Reflectors made for the occasion, and ancient Refractors of presposterous French focal lengths,- Observers lie, they sit, they kneel,- and witness something in the Sky. Among those attending Snouts Earth-wide, the moment of first contact produces a collective brain-pang, as if for something lost and already unclaimable,- after Years of preparation, the long and at best queasy voyaging, the Station arriv’d at, the Lattitude and Longitude well-secur’d, – the Week of the Transit,- the Day,- the Hour,- the Minute,- and at last ’tis, “Eh? where am I?”

– Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon, previous page

Try not to let the force of rational knowledge riptide you away from the other kinds.  Nearly impossible.  But not quite.

I named my cats "I don't give a shit" and "About the consequences of what I say"

I named my cats “I don’t give a shit” and “About the consequences of what I say”

Via Mondoweiss

Jesus fucking Christ.  Yagil Levy, an Israeli assistant professor of political science writing for Foreign Policy, posted roughly the following:

“Could allowing Israel to strike Iran have a net-positive outcome? Israel wouldn’t be ready for retaliation, especially Tel-Aviv, and would be hit hard. That would make Israel ready for a negotiated peace. In exchange for monitored Iranian nuclear program, Israel could be persuaded to leave the West Bank, maybe even the Golan Heights!  It’s worth a shot, because after all diplomacy sometimes ends in [and this is the exact phrase that is used] “costly war”.  There is another way of course this is far-fetched and diplomacy is always best we should do everything possible to keep from engaging in this last resort which I have just spent thousands of words defending in glowing terms.”

Centrist crimes:

Explaining the benefits of another motherfucking goddamn fucking unnecessary war.  Fuck you.  Centrist crime against humanity, life in the Hague.

Treating massive civilian death as a perhaps tad messy but otherwise neutral way to accomplish strategic goals.  “Tel-Aviv is not built to withstand an Iranian attack and would get pounded.  Good news for the negotiating table!”

Spinning out elaborate scenarios based on hyperspecific assumptions about the interaction of complex and unknowable variables.  “The war will proceed like this in such and such timeframe, and Israeli public opinion will respond like that in such and such timeframe, which will affect the negotiating positions of Israeli leaders in this specific way, which will force them to solve this festering sore of apartheid which has been one of the most intractable geopolitical problems in the post WWII era.”  You do not advocate a fucking war by writing fanfic with international countries.  That’s just something decent people don’t do.

Never once, at all, considering the response of someone considered an enemy in any capacity to be anything other than what the centrist wants and requires it to be.

Using the faux-erudite tone de rigeur among centrists which wraps everything in cotton in a very sober and reasoned way that makes the insane fucking things the author is saying seem objective and inevitable.

Refusing to even gesture toward potential negative geopolitical consequences of starting a fucking war in the Middle East while writing about the potential benefits.  Double life sentences in the Hague.

I don’t know this Israeli professor, don’t know his politics, don’t know his academic work.  But fuck him for vomiting that centrist militarist effluvia into the public sphere.

Email

We're all in this together

bothsidesdoit

at

gmail.com

It’s Raining Tags

#RomneyShambles Andrea Mitchell Another reason why J R is the greatest satire of our age As an academic you're supposed to be a fucking officer class thinker why are you saying this bullshit CBS Centrism: still damaging even when it comes from nobodies Centrist jizzum is the medium through which corporate political discourse propagates Charles Murray Charles Pierce: fucking awesome Clint Eastwood Clive Crook Cory Booker crazy-eyed centrist David Brooks: fucking awful David Gregory David Petraeus Doris Kearns Goodwin Ed Rendell Evan Bayh Feeeeeeeeed Fox News Glenn Kessler Harold Ford Jr. Hey you know what would be awesome war in the Middle East Ian Bremmer I can't think of a tag that can adequately capture the dickassness of Ryan Lizza I wish they would at least hide it a little Jeremy Peters Joe Klein John Heilemann Josh Kraushaar just take the middle of two arbitrary points Just wake me when it ends Lanny Davis Lawrence Lessig I don't envy you your trials LGM Mainly for me to get down in writing what's been screaming in my head Matt Apuzzo Matt Bai Matt Miller Michael Crowley Michael Gerson Newspapers Norm Ornstein Objectively defending awful policies in the name of objectivity Obscene depictions of obscene political and economic processes Old white guys be acting old and white Oprah Probably too long Rachel Maddow Romney Science is pretty alright but damn dude it ain't the only thang Science motherfucker do you speak it Stephen Colbert The fall of Americans Elect is the Centrist 9/11 The goddamn AP The Guardian These are the jokes The worst thing about 30 Rock is when they treat Brian Williams without contempt This made me laugh so hard that I was rolling on the floor Tommy Friedman Tony Blair Too angry to swear much this time Van Jones Vox Washington Post We will refrain from making Mickey Kaus goat jokes. For now. What happened Nate Silver I had such high hopes for you what is a centrist I don't even Who? Whoever coined the term "Bri Wi" should be forced to take massive quantities of Ex-Lax and Loperamide at the same time
wordpress visitors