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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.
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.
These are golden times for media centrists. Sinecures as far as the eye can see in multiple mediums, and the only thing you’re accountable to is how well you vomit the conventional wisdom. Easy peesy lemon squeezy.
Seeing this stuff for what it is and calling it out with inappropriate cussing and sexual imagery, on the other hand, is difficult difficult lemon difficult. You have to show how language choice and emphasis and tone and all these weird amorphous concepts conspire to advance a specific political effect or vision. Tough stuff.
But lo, like a Lady in the Lake clad in shimmering samite, fate has thrown a gift from her inscrutable depths: Republicans which are just balls-out crazy and no longer give a fuck about hiding their sociopathy. And when this unstoppable force meets the moist quivering sponge of centrist journalism, the latter can’t help but get swept away, exposing itself in the process.
Case in point, Time’s Michael Crowley, whose schtick is so obvious in response to Paul Ryan lying on every substantive point in his convention speech I can just quote individual words and phrases. From the first few paragraphs:
most famous cutting prosecutor
master cultural beacon for the middle class
[WHO GREW UP IN A 6,000 SQ. FT. MANSION – sorry]
grand ideas attention-grabbing address
drew rhetorical blood vivid fillip [JEEEEEEE-SUHS]
These meaningless fluff words from the first few paragraphs do not belong in a story recounting the most mendacious American political speech given in at least the past five years, and they were written from a place of cowardice.
The fact that a few more paragraphs down the actual lies were recounted with “fudged facts” language, in a manner that makes it seem like typical political practice, becomes much easier to discern and almost beside the point.
The centrist pundit cannot stop, of course, it’s a compulsion, a dark passenger borne of insecurity and ego, so last night after Romney’s speech Crowley went on Greta’s House of Pain. After a speech which featured snide jokes with literal lip-curls and birther shout-outs and a fucking call-and-response section where a stadium full of assdicks chanted “no” in unison, Crowley had this to say about Romney accepting the nomination:
It was more sorrow than anger . . . not an angry message, we’ve talked so much in that last few years about the anger out there, in the tea party and the primaries, yknow, all of us were at primary events were voters were just furious and they wanted to just stand up and yell and give speeches.
But the tone tonight was sorrow, not anger, “let’s do something that we don’t feel great about doing but the time has come, we gave the guy a chance . . . but it’s over”
Fuck you, Michael Crowley. Crichton might have given you a small dick in one of his books for petty reasons, but you deserve a far worse fictional fate:
Talk about a fucking beat that would sap anyone’s strength . . .
Had you caught Paul Ryan’s speech to the Republican convention last night (and if you missed it figuring you were all full up on egocentric monsters luxuriating in their own righteousness, more sympathetic I could not be), had you braved the speech you could not fail to notice Paul Ryan flatout lying on every substantive point he brought up.
Not errors of omission, either, like how a half hour earlier Cloud of mushroom with a side of Rice had just kinda not mentioned Iraq or how Osama Bin Laden has not been livin’ for the past year. No. Ryan told straight-up fuckin’ lies. A sample:
– The “Obama took $715 billion from Medicare” chestnut that Michelle Bachmann got called crazy for peddling in 2010, and which cuts in any case Ryan put into his own Granny-starving plan.
– A GM plant in Ryan’s hometown was closed, AFTER Obama said that “if government helps [this situation] out, this factory will stay open for another hundred years.” GOODNESS. But uh the plant closed in 2008 so uh yeah.
– Trashing Obama for failing to follow the Simpson-Bowles commission, a commission which did not actually issue a final recommendation because it was blown up by a certain zombie-eyed House member from Wisconsin.
– Trashing Obama for getting US debt downgraded by a few agencies. Oh if only the agencies issued reports specifying in detail why they downgraded that debt why they might have specified that their decision was because of the Republicans’ willingness to treat the debt ceiling like the Lindbergh Baby which would eliminate any excuse for a barely sentient person to avoid calling this stinky bullshitty lie what it is.
Prudence demands drawing the curtain on the freak show at this point, but rest assured there are plenty more where those came from. Those links are all compendiums of lies, by the way, and they don’t overlap very much.
(Update – Can’t believe I forgot this: aside from the fucking lies, Ryan just flat-out contradicts himself within a few sentences.
Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you . . .
When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
In other words, “it’s Obama’s fault that you’re such a fucking moocher.”)
At this point the only sane, rational, honest response to Ryan taking out his cheddar cheese dick and slapping every American in the face with it is the one of Timothy Bryce, the only interesting person I know:
This, of course, is a character from the cinema movie film American Psycho, expressing similar sentiments toward Mr. Ryan that he expressed toward a speech in which Ronald Reagan was lying in said movie film.
Does the reaction of centrist media types meet the lofty standards of a character from American Psycho? Read the rest of this entry »
via lots of folks but the precipitating factor was Atrios.
The deal here is that an ABC news correspondent gave three minutes to Honeywell CEO and member of Obama’s debt commission David Cote: asked him a few questions, got a few answers, put it on the air. Of course Cote said within thirty seconds of each other “The reason there’s so little hiring is because of uncertainty about the debt” and “The reason Honeywell is not hiring is because of slow orders”, ie lack of demand. So the reporter, Devin Dwyer, or asshead Devin Dwyer to use his professional title, could have asked a quick follow-up to explain that contradiction. Or he could have asked Cote about whether there is a lot of debt reduction to be had by performing an audit on the 15% of its revenues Honeywell gets from government coffers in the form of aerospace contracts, one of the ugliest wings of the military industrial complex in which no-bid offers and unnecessary procurement have the run of the place. Of course the next question he asked was “What advice would you give to President Obama?” And the little cherry on the sundae was Cote’s answer, “I’m not going to tell you that,” and Dwyer’s response, “Fair enough.”
Cote also let himself indulge in a bit of centrist rhetoric to just make this latest boning of the public discourse extra special. “Republicans and Democrats need to come together and, I think, quit saying that the hole is on the other guy’s side of the boat. We’re all in the same boat.” Yeah, but some of us are in the filet mignon dining area and some of us are in the rape chambers. Why they put rape chambers on the boat, I don’t know, but there are a lot of them, filled to capacity.
And look this is another instance of getting all sweary and invoking the metaphor of testicle consumption over insignificant media production which is just designed to fill up space, a three minute clip of an interview that maybe tens of thousands of people actually saw, and about twenty-seven actually paid attention to.
But that’s the thing again, isn’t it. If the centrist equation holds for even this; if reporters value access and not-giving-a-fuck-ness to this extent; if public figures are not called to task even when they flat out contradict themselves or have the grossest conflicts of interest in even a quick little story; then of course the stuff that matters will be so thoroughly integrated within the centrist framework that it will be more centrist spin than fact, its viewpoint twisted and evil.
So we’re up to speed here, yes?
Cory Booker declared criticism of the industry where his campaign donors come from off-limits, released a youtube video where he doubled down on that declaration, and hit a few softballs that were walked up to a tee for him by asshole Rachel Maddow in an interview where he refused to address what he said re: declaring his campaign donors off-limits.
But the donors were mighty titans of the financial industry, so no serious media person gave a shit, of course. It’s all “process” and “tone” and “campaign positioning” and look a baby panda who convulsively sneezes in a funny way. None involved will ever be punished for polluting the public discourse, and we all die alone.
BUT. Centrists are unique among members of the class Insecta in that they run toward wherever the media is shining light at any particular time.
SO. It is time for that cherished ritual, a children’s treasury of lolCentrists which makes fun of all the asinine and terrible things centrists say whitewashing objectively awful comments by a centrist colleague.
There are a lot of them so they are off the main page. The last one is out of left field and is the funniest. The meat, as the samurai said to the courtesan, is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »
So Cory Booker released a follow-up video to his execreble Meet The Press appearance in which he refused to even acknowledge that Romney’s business practices involved taking over companies, liquidating labor and assets, finding buyers or declaring bankruptcy, and pocketing modest eight-figure consulting fees in the process. Said it made him “very uncomfortable” to talk about.
He released a follow-up video “after getting social media feedback” and . . . ugh just watch.
You can’t even use this to play Centrist Cliche bingo, because everyone would win.
“My political superiors have done a fantastic job”
“This negative campaigning hurts the process”
“I don’t like the SuperPACs that I am currently pandering to”
“My biggest concern is for the voices that are not being heard and voices not being shared”
“Let’s not bicker over small things, let us not denigrate each other or paint with a small brush, let us unite around ideas”
Some of that is typical politico pablum but is kinda jarring to hear IN A VIDEO APOLOGIZING FOR ACTING TOO MUCH LIKE A POLITICIAN.
But my favorite absolute best part is when he actually gets around to his Romney remarks 3/4s of the way into the video. “Romney’s not being completely honest about his business record, and I encourage examination and discussion of that record.”
So. He’s on a show where Romney’s record is being discussed. When Romney’s record is being discussed accurately and fairly he says “private equity in general is a bedrock financial institution and my wallet is on a centrist diet and gets queasy when we start criticizing this stuff.” Then he makes an apology video 5/6s of which is claiming to rise above partisan muck and saying “I encourage examination of Romney’s record.” None of which, I hope it is unnecessary to point out, contradicts or qualifies his earlier “open for business” statement to private equity firms he’s apologizing for.
Fuck Cory Booker.
Via LGM and Steve Kornacki comes this sordid little episode from Meet The Press this morning. Cory Booker, an Obama campaign surrogate, refused to criticize Romney’s business record when given amble opportunity to do so.
And he used several tried-and-true centrist methods to do so. When talking about specific deals Romney made which resulted in lost jobs, failed companies and yet millions of dollars of Bain profit, Booker lays a jujitsu move and tries to make it appear like even discussing this stuff is an attack on the entire concept of private equity investment. He then fails to even take a position on whether private equity investment as it’s generally practiced can be criticized, saying that “they create a lot of jobs” and that when people start making these criticisms “I’m very uncomfortable.” Weasel words which no one pays attention to and cannot possibly come back to bite him should Savior Lord Jesus come down from the heavens and it becomes politically popular to reign in the financial system and private equity investment.
The people who are paying attention are noticing his refusal to attack Romney’s business record. Steve Kornacki thinks that he’s cultivating them as a funding stream for his potential 2014 Senate run. This blog wishes Booker godspeed on his quest to man the USS Centrist, and hopes he succeeds in his goal right before the ship crashes and drowns all hands.
via Dean Baker
And as usual, everything in the picture is in Miller’s column. The last part is in there too, it’s just implied where the others are explicit.
If the fall of Americans Elect was the Centrist 9/11, these fucking pundits are the Military-Industrial Complex using it as an excuse to gain more money for themselves.
I am the Cameron Frye to Rebecca Elliott’s Ferris Bueller: she’s my hero.
She compiled a nice little list of pundits making grandiose claims about the centrist equivalent of seasteading, Americans Elect, which after delaying their schedule of implementation by several planting seasons features a front-runner who is a mere 9,700 votes shy of getting the 10,000 votes needed to become the Americans Elect candidate. Frye did little summarizing of the pundits’ views toward Americans Elect and just let the their words speak for themselves beneath tasteful photos.
Several of those characteristics will be kept in this post and several will not.
As the sailor said to the native girl, there’s much more below: Read the rest of this entry »