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Visual synecdoche for the past thirty years of political reporting

600 million years ago.  In a fetid swamp of decay – the opaque water a slurry of rotten vegetation, air bulging with the upper bands of UV radiation, brown brown everything brown – a lungfish heaves itself up onto densely-packed shitmud.  It can’t tell.  Its senses cannot distinguish water from air, or light from dark.

Immediately the poison blanket of radiation falling from the sun starts to break its DNA.  Enough slams into its cells that, in the few seconds before it collapses back to the stinking darkness of its sludge, the seeds of bulbous tumors are planted in every organ.

Everything bulges.  Everything hurts.  Suddenly it bumps into something in the blind muck.  Maybe the diaphanous remains of a corpse.  It robotically fucks whatever the thing is.  The mindless twisting is weak and languid but still tears its cancer-ridden body down the length of its spine.  The now inert, ragged, floating mass of carcinoma does not bob to the surface.  The water is too thick for that.

The pre-fatal intercourse happened to have been with another (living) lungfish.  And by a billion-to-one odds, the tangle of broken DNA in its malignant come twisted into place to produce offspring with the first photosensitive cells in vertebrates.  

We are able to see because a tumorous shitfish blindly fucked itself to death in fowl brown filth.  

There’s a silver lining to every situation, no matter how objectively disgusting.

Which brings us to Trump, and the media, and centrism.  What are the silver linings, what are we able to see, now that it’s obvious to all what Republicans are as a party?

(skip down to The Prestige to get the summary answer)

The Supporters

They didn’t come from nowhere, these Trump supporters.  They are Republicans.  They were Republicans.  Ten years ago, Republicans were people who, ten years later, would vote for Trump.  (And let’s not forget the majority of the rest wanted Ted Cruz, who is more horrifying than Trump but, thankfully, butt-ugly as a shitfish.)

Here’s how the NY Times characterized the largest blocks of Republicans in 2005:

TRADITIONAL VALUES BLOC Primarily interested in the general decline of morals in society and the breakup of the family rather than abortion and gay marriage. Education is their top issue. VOTERS: Working and middle classes, suburban and exurban

ANTI-WASHINGTON BLOC The largest group. Dislikes regulation, government waste and pork-barrel politics; would move power to the states. VOTERS: Red-state voters who hate blue-state voters

BIBLICAL BLOC Religion drives politics. Allegiance is to causes, not to party unity. For this group, President Bush did not do enough to save Terri Schiavo.  VOTERS: Conservative Christians

This was after 20 years of Rush Limbaugh, who was months away from “Barack the Magic Negro”.  This was after the second-most-popular Republican reason for voting in 2004 was to “keep the faggots from gettin’ marital tax breaks and visitation privileges, as Jesus intended”.  After torture became a plank of the Republican platform, after Katrina and the “shoot the niggers looters yeahhh shoot ’em all good ‘n dead” rhetoric.

This was shortly before Bill O’Reilly busted a vein over immigration like he lost his favorite loofah, with Geraldo Rivera (one not widely known for being able to pick up subtle nuances of sociological trends) warning “You want your viewers to go door to door, ‘You’re an Illegal, I’m going to take you outside and do something to you.’ ” 

To say nothing of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Jim DeMint, and the rest of the unending parade of lazy authoritarians in the Web 2.0 era.  

I wouldn’t use “disliking pork barrel politics” as a descriptor for these people, myself.  

So, Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 1: Pay attention to what’s happening, because the media won’t do it for you.  Clear as day, and in real time, it was obvious that the Republican party was becoming the incompetent clowning fascism Trump and Cruz are championing.  

Why wasn’t this a prominent theme in the media?  

And why didn’t you realize it?

The Media

Clara Jeffery is Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones.  Broadly pro-union, anti-incarceral state, anti-middle class wealth stagnation, and all the other things you’d expect out of a publication that does actual journalism.  And yet, the above.

Meanwhile, Krugman can’t figure out why the media are “objectively pro-Trump”:

It’s not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery — but barely made a dent in news coverage. 

[…] Brian Beutler argues that it’s about protecting the media’s own concerns, namely access. But I don’t think that works. It doesn’t explain why the Clinton emails were a never-ending story but the disappearance of millions of George W. Bush emails wasn’t […] [or] the revelation that Colin Powell did, indeed, offer HRC advice on how to have private email the way he did […]

And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation — which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found — fits into this at all.

No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.

These are related.

Think of your workplace (you know, the place you’re sitting right now).  The industry it’s in.  There are all sorts of weird idiosyncratic ways of doing things, of seeing the business, that are essentially irrational, right?  That were created out of an organic process which no single person or entity is directing?  Maybe sales have to be conducted in a certain way.  Or a concept has to be explained like this and not like that in order to avoid looking like a rube.  

The equivalents in journalism: 

  • Boomers are right and the kids today are wrong
  • Republicans are serious
  • Anything bipartisan is good 

These are all ubiquitous enough to be cliches.  The editor-in-chief of a lefty magazine can be confidently illiterate when bashing the young’uns; Erik Erikson can go on CNN for years; I can offer $100 for a pejorative use of “bipartisan” confident that it can’t be claimed. (Unless, of course, it’s pork-barrel spending, which is an example of why “Republicans are serious” for “opposing” it.)

For other examples, see Charlie Pierce, now and always.  

The media’s treatment of Trump isn’t anything more than “Republicans are serious”.  Trump is a Republican.  He’s serious.  

Like other Republicans before him, he’s serious when he says he has a “secret plan” to end the war; when he says tax cut incontinence will create a bazillion jobs; when he advocates immigration policy from 1933 Weimar Germany.

Hell, even Trump’s obvious and clumsy grifts have a rich history within his party.

Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 2: Political journalism has its own dynamics that have nothing to do with the truth.

It’s clear as day now that the media doesn’t cover Trump objectively, but slots him into their typical political coverage: that is to say, it will treat any objectively insane policy proposal of his in a sober and serious manner.  

But . . . why?  

And why didn’t you notice it before?

The Centrist Ideology

“I’m not an ideologue.”  “Both sides go too far.”  “I don’t slavishly follow a party, I make up my own mind.” “I’m a moderate.” “I’m a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.” “I just care about what works.”

These are the siren calls of centrism, the ideology that marinates political coverage.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle of the extremes of left and right, and partisan cheerleading for unbendable ideas blinds people from seeing what needs to be done.  What could be more reasonable, more obvious, than that?

What’s missing is that the “extremes of left and right” do not exist out there in the world. They have to be built rhetorically.  Picking a middle from the extremes involves picking extremes.  What is the opposite of $4 trillion of tax cuts: infrastructure spending, or preventing the Federal Reserve from crushing wage increases?

Besides extending a spatial metaphor into uselessness, picking a middle from the extremes requires two extremes.  If one set of ideas is generally plausible and sane, and the other set the equivalent of slapping a hornets nest with your hand to kill all the stingy things inside, there’s no need to bother with the second set, is there.  

Finally, locating a political philosophy “in the middle” requires a large set of assumptions.  A small sample:

  • that political institutions are taken for granted the way they are
  • that the norms of political behavior are taken for granted
  • that the political economy framework within which policy is enacted is taken for granted
  • that the goals of the policies “in the middle” have already been determined 

Centrism is thus inherently an ideology of the status quo; it is inherently Establishment.

That the media should adopt centrism as their implicit frame for political coverage could be due to a lot of reasons: not wishing to upset access with their sources; subconsciously defaulting to the ideas that benefit the class and social strata most journalists come from; adapting to the political framework set out by their corporate owners. 

But whatever the reason, notice that the centrist framing of political coverage drives the three trends discussed above.

  • Boomers are the Establishment, run the institutions, and are tremendously invested in the status quo
  • Republicans need to be Serious so that there can be “two sides” to be “in the middle” of
  • Bipartisanship is “meeting in the middle”; in other words, of the status-quo institutions continuing to run as they have been run

Trump’s Silver Lining Lesson Number 3: The media’s coverage of Trump is not due to Trump, but due to the way they cover political events.  The centrist ideology which frames political coverage necessitates covering Trump in a certain way.  It necessitates covering Republicans a certain way.  It necessitates covering issues a certain way.  

And that’s why it took Trump waving his tiny hands around for you to notice how the media covers politics with a centrist frame: it took someone so obviously unfit and hateful, so cartoonish, so small-handed to demonstrate the framework the media uses to cover politics.  

The Prestige

Here, then, in three sentences, is the point:

The media’s centrist framing of political coverage over the past thirty years helped create the conditions for Donald Jay Trump.  Pay attention to that centrist framing.  It’s insane and brings evil into the world.  

That’s the reason for this blog.  

h/t LGM for the image

 

 

This Vox article about SoulCycle smells really fishy.  It smells an awful awful lot like sponsored content.

Fresh fish fresh fish fresh fish

Fresh fish fresh fish fresh fish

For those interested in the prosecution’s case, it’s below.

The money shot first:  it’s tough out there for writers and new-age media companies, and who really gives a shit about paid content if it’s clearly labeled.

This isn’t labeled. 

Does Vox do this regularly?  That’s part of the problem, that you have to know.  Bah.

Some background before Jack McCoy starts his presentation: SoulCycle (in case you’ve never heard of a Bugaboo stroller) is a stationary bike exercise class that has a schmear of new-age sentimentality over it that apparently justifies its $30 / session price (for the lowest tier).

Take it away, Jack.

The Newsroom didn't deserve you, Jack McCoy

The Newsroom didn’t deserve you

Exhibit A:  Personal testimonial frame and rhetoric that is right out of “How to Write a 3am Infomercial for Dummies”

– My name is Alex, and I’m addicted to SoulCycle.

– I don’t have all the answers as to why some people are obsessed with SoulCycle [. . .] But perhaps I can shed some light on why the company is as successful as it is

– By the end of every class, I’ve left a small puddle of glistening sweat beneath my bike and my shirt is soaked through.

– It was awkward, and one-on-one training is something I have never tried again.

– It leaves me sweatier and more accomplished than any cardio I would normally do on my own.

– Anyone who tells you that vanity and the desire to look fit are not part of the reason they do SoulCycle is lying. And from a purely vain standpoint, I’m really happy with my results.  But I’ve also noticed other positive effects. My endurance has increased, my resting heart rate is down, I sleep better, and when I go to the “regular” gym, I’m stronger when it comes to exercises like squats and leg presses.

I’m running out of pixels, but there’s a lot more.  All of it positive, all of it reading like an F-list movie reviewer trying to get on a poster of Adam Sandler’s new movie.  “I laughed, i cried, I cashed the check the producers sent me.”

Exhibit B: Really really slanted rhetorical methods

The brand — which promises a full-body workout via “indoor cycling reinvented” — has been labeled a cult, an obsession, even therapy.

The first two links are to NYMag articles; the third is to a SoulCycle ad.  A child can see that’s wrong, right?

One of the worst fitness experiences I’ve ever had is taking a “free” training session from a personal instructor at my gym.

Does the context justify the quotes around the “free”?  Reader, it does not.  The only reason to put them there is to denigrate the entire silly notion of taking personalized exercise instruction that isn’t from SoulCycle.

It likely won’t be long before you find an instructor whom you mesh with — whether it’s due to their teaching style, the way they push their students, their inspirational attitude, or their feelings on Rihanna’s music.

What the fahk dude Jesus you’re not even trying to hide it.

But the head shot might be the consistent denigration of the competition.  Besides the above about the “training” “session” “at” “the” “gym”:

– At other places, like SoulCycle competitor Flywheel, there isn’t as much of a relationship between the music and your actions. You’re often just told to pedal fast or slow.

– And while many fitness studios and boutique gyms are forging deals with services like ClassPass (a sort of fitness class broker) to fill their empty slots, SoulCycle’s classes are as popular as ever.

No wait this is the head shot:

When people make fun of SoulCycle (I’ve made fun of it in the past), their derision is never about the actual workout.

Even Bert the Bailiff is rolling his eyes

Even Bert the Bailiff is rolling his eyes

Exhibit C: SoulCycle is so great. You exercise, on a bike!

– There are “hills” — intervals where you crank up the resistance and pedal against it — where it feels like you’re moving your legs through thick mud. There are fast sprints that will make you gulp oxygen and feel like your lungs are leaking.

– “Maybe tomorrow I can put on more resistance,” I’ve thought to myself. This is, of course, a lot easier said than done.

– Though all participants reserve a bike (signups open every Monday at noon) and choose where they sit, the rows tend to sort themselves. The newbies are usually in the back and off to the left and right. The overachievers tend to gravitate closer to the center and the front.

– Sessions are divided into sprints, hills, jogs (a medium-paced interval), and “jumps” (where you hold yourself up out of the saddle for two, four, or even eight beats at a time) — intervals that require different paces, changing beats, and varying levels of effort (sprints require bursts of energy, whereas hills require more endurance). The music acts as a skeleton plan for riders, keeping them together.

Why do this “golly there are varying resistances to this velocipede machine” routine if you’re not trying to sell the experience?

Exhibit D: There’s a big press push from SoulCycle now as they’re expanding

Someone from Style lost their SoulCycle virginity recently.  AdWeek likes SoulCycle’s offices.  CNBC had on SoulCycle’s CEO to talk some squawk.  Something called Bustle posted a listicle.  Months after her show with a SoulCycle plot point ends, Ellie Kemper’s SoulCycle love is in Shape Magazine.

And Alex Abad-Santos just chooses now to effuse about his SoulCycle love?

SoulCycle totally paid for this.

I have painstakingly decoded the very complex and subtle way the New York Times uses its readers’ prejudices to signal that Bernie Sanders’ campaign is not worth taking seriously:

Personally I think old ladies are very astute and hip.  I doubt the NYTimes' demographic does though.

Personally I think old ladies are very astute and hip. I doubt the NYTimes’ demographic does though.

The premise of this piece is that Bernie Sanders is a wicked-scary political force and mentions rallies of hundreds of people.  “Hundreds of lame people,” the editor said under his breath as he was selecting a photo that more people will see than read the first paragraph of the piece.

“But old people vote!”  *You* might think that, but *your psyche* is thinking “Bernie Sanders supporters are old white women, and not the fun Betty White kind.”  During the first Democratic debate you’ll be wondering why Sanders’ railing against the TPP makes you think of Grandma’s Boy.

And no-one liked Grandma’s Boy, not even Nick Swardson.

I prefer my misogyny out in the open.  I like it niiiiiice and inflammatory.  People can react to it, and it can be dealt with.

We don’t live in that world.  We live in a world where misogyny slips into cracks, into subtext, into what is *not* said.

We also live in a world where misogyny is deeply intertwined with corruptive and reactionary view of politics.

Perfect example: Benedict Carey’s Memorial Day article in the NY Times.


Carey’s article is nominally about the increased rates of mental illness among women in the military than men.

One of the biggest adjustments the United States military attempted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was cultural: the integration of women into an intensely male world.

I know I know a US military that “attempts” “adjustments” is a horribly reactionary frame; move past it, move past it, there’s worse.

The evidence that Carey, the Times’ reporter on brain and memory science, provides for the increased mental illness rate among women has more holes than Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds.  But leave that to one side (or check the bottom of the post *), move past it, move past it, there’s worse.

The reached for (and “reached” is definitely the verb, if not “shitted-out”) explanation is that women can’t access brotherly love.

For men, the bonds of unconditional love among fellow combatants — that lifeblood of male military culture — are sustaining. But in dozens of interviews with women who served, they often said such deep emotional sustenance eluded them.

[. . .]

“It creates a kind of bond between members, a love that transcends anything you’ve ever known,” David H. Marlowe, the founder of the Army’s behavioral health unit, who died last year, once said. “You come to the absolute belief that the noblest and most important thing you can do is die for the others.”

Many women in the military did not have that kind of love — at least when they were deployed. “It’s like, I got all the downside of serving in the Army and none of the upside, the camaraderie,“

Hmm.  Are the ways that women fail to access this “lifeblood of military culture” different from the ways men fail to?

It's that guy from Law and Order: Criminal IntentHint: this is not Batman

Benedict Carey doesn’t know, because Benedict Carey lumps all men together and all women together.  Men do not have difficulty accessing this camaraderie; women do.  This “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” framing, the individualization of the problem, is endemic to centrist political reporting, and glosses over the institutional dynamics that contribute to problems.  This is an individual problem for people to deal with, not a social problem for communities and institutions.

What’s puzzling, and acts as a key to unlocking the piece’s deeper misogyny, is that Carey quotes a woman that offers a way for the Army to deal with this predicament.

“It’s such a tricky thing to navigate; you have to learn to approach guys like a sister, not as a potential romantic partner,” said Anne, a woman who served two tours in Iraq and wanted her full name omitted because she is currently on active duty. “When you do that, they’ll do anything for you. But so many females coming into the Army, they’re so young, they don’t understand how to do that.”

Provide training and create a culture where men and women generally interact with each other platonically, not as people eyeing each other at a club in 1 in the morning.

tumblr_mg7d877tWa1rfvb9ro1_500

These boots were made for creating an atmosphere of sexuality

But Carey doesn’t frame the quote this way; it occurs during a dump of quoting women describing their experiences, and its implications go unremarked.

We’re on to something, here.


The “Men are Martian,  Women Venetian” frame that emphasizes individuals and ignores how institutions create the context in which they operate partly explains why he does this.  There’s a deeper reason though.  It ain’t pretty.

For all his focus on individual experience, Carey misses A GIANT FUCKING ENORMOUS matzoh ball: how the differences among women contribute to the difference in their experience.

Carey doesn’t even rhetorically ask whether women of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds experience this lack of social integration differently.  This is baffling, because, as with the quote above outlining a perfect institutional response the Army could take, Carey provides quotes highlighting the importance of ethnicity and class in individual experiences:

[Social Scientists] have found that the mental costs borne by those in the minority are similar.  Members of such groups tend to report as many insults and bad days as members of the dominant culture. But compared with the majority, they feel far less secure.

[…]

She also learned how to handle the rich girl comments: “So what, I’m here just like you.”

How ethnicity and socioeconomic status affects the ways women handle stress in the military isn’t just something Carey overlooked; it’s explicitly in Carey’s narration of the issue.  But it’s not in his analysis at all.  Every woman is white, and every woman is upper class.

girlshbo

If that’s even the term for it.  Carey chooses to frame his story around a young Lieutenant who developed mental problems: feelings of inadequacy, numbness, anxiety, panic attacks.  She went to Philips Exeter Academy, one of the most elite prep schools in the world; graduated from Wellesley; and has been traveling the world for a couple years as a way of combating her illness.  Her father is an international venture capitalist for software firms.

She’s a sympathetic figure, and I wish her nothing but the best in her struggles.

Benedict Carey treats her ethnicity and wealth as invisible.  As unworthy of discussion.  If someone’s ethnicity or socioeconomic status differs from hers, Carey doesn’t find that relevant enough while exploring women reacting to stress in the military to even ask whether it matters.

All the things Carey does re-enforce each other, making a tepee of social shittiness to trap women.  If males are all able to access brotherly communion that women have difficulty sharing, and the military itself doesn’t shape the problem, the stress and mental anguish women experience are due to something innate to being a female – ethnicity and class don’t affect things, after all – and can only be changed by women acting differently on an individual level.

The message is: a woman’s isolation and alienation in a social space is a problem specific to something innate about women, not a social problem; and women need to deal with it individually, not collectively; and certainly not men, and not institutions.

Notice how free-floating the message is once its received.  It applies to a woman working the line at McDonald’s as well as someone in upper-middle-management who rarely sees another person wearing a skirt.

“Your feelings of isolation and alienation are because of you.  You’re the only one who can deal with them.   Hope you have enough money to travel the world.”

images

The ultimate con here is one I’ve already lost by discussing this stupid, shitty, misogynist article by Benedict Carey: we shouldn’t be getting our patterns of thought from the media.  It shouldn’t matter that Benedict Carey wrote a piece that ignores how the military institutionally creates a social environment, that erases distinctions among ethnicity and class, and treats all men and all women as two homogenous groups.  The words should have the same affect being printed in the NY Times as being printed on a handout you get while walking through the airport from someone waving a tambourine.

But in order for that to happen, your parents would have had to raise you differently.  It’s probably too late now.

I suggest meditation. Or Jack Daniels.  I use both quite liberally, and concurrently.

* He cites a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine  to talk about the increased risks women face over men when they return to civilian life.  The *conclusion of the study* is “the post-deployment adjustment of our nation’s growing population of female Veterans seems comparable to that of our nation’s male Veterans.”  Umm.

He cites a finding in that study that the expected rate of depression among enlisted women is likely between 1.1 and 1.6 times that of men.  But the expected rate of women in general to experience depression is twice that of men in general.   Umm.

The study relies on self-reporting of sexual harassment, depression, and PTSD.  I am not a betting man, as it is against my church, but if I were allowed to bet I would bet that male soldiers are less likely to self-report those things.  Umm

The other piece of data Benedict Carey provides, although without attribution, is that “Army data show that the suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14 per 100,000 from 4 per 100,000 back home — unlike the rate for men, which rose more modestly.”  So.  During a deployment when women were being used in combat roles in an unprecedented way, the suicide rate for women rose more than it did for men.  Umm.

And that’s the hard data in Benedict Carey’s piece.

The nicest touch is that in his discussion of how minority populations in general face more stress, he says the data isn’t there for women in the military:

The search for answers continues.

Researchers are now asking how much “all those little things” — the differences inherent in being on the margins of a culture — affect a person’s mood, especially under the stress of combat.

Carey explicitly says he’s pulling stuff up outta his ass.  That the story he’s trying to sell about women’s mental illness in the military – that it’s due to maladjustment with a male culture – is a story, unbacked by data.

So, to be clear, the shitty parts of the story – that ignore the military’s role, lump all men as homogenous and ignore ethnic and socioeconomic differences among women, and creates such a shitty message – are not driven by data.  They’re driven by Benedict Carey.

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.

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:

Paul Ryan: American Psycho

The voice of reason. Boy next door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

The flavor profile of the combination is quite complex and I love the overtones of UTTER DOMINATION

The flavor profile of the combination is quite complex and I love the overtones of UTTER DOMINATION

No way I could mack on this fly honey if I started giving a fuck.  I'd be doing human interest stories in North Platte, NE, ugly-ass capital of America.

No way I could mack on this fly honey if I started giving a fuck. I’d be doing human interest stories in North Platte, NE, ugly-ass capitol of America.

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.

Tony Blair is testifying to the British government about the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal.  He had some very nice things to say about the man to whose daughter he serves as Godfather: “He is not actually a sort of identikit rightwing person … you know, he has bits of him that are very anti-establishment; meritocratic, I would say.”  Chahhhhhhming.  I suppose they hack private cell-phones in a proactive way that’s outside the box in an outrageous new paradigm and totally in your face.  Well, maybe not the last one.  More like totally sneaky in a matter befitting a major felony.

Well but so it wasn’t a total loss.  A protestor somehow made it up to the testifying area and after a quick “Excuse me” started calling Blair a war criminal and accused him of being paid off by JP Morgan to let them fuck with the Iraqi bank.

Other protestors threw eggs at his Rolls when he left.  I’m a big believer in this stuff.  Part of the reason these assdicks get away with the heinous shit they do is that there’s not enough push-back against the construction of them as serious, thoughtful, considerate, decent people.  The more folks that go “huh, I wonder what that was about”, and the more that see breaches of decorum like chicken embryos sliding down their 100,000 pounds sterling cars, the harder it is to portray war criminals as thoughtful statesmen.

Of course there are tactics which have evolved to fight the above.  One of which is centrist media portrayals of the incidents which treat the protestors as a common and inevitable feature of the landscape that is nothing anyone has to think about.

The Guardian, for some fucked-up reason, portrayed the protestor as an example of the “placard-wielding critics” that follow Blair around “like little black rainclouds”, though noting that Blair had the kind of tan you can get “when you can source expensive sun year-round.”  Blair “barely flinched”, “waited with his chin in his hand,” “another day, another call for extradition to the Hague.”  Ha ha people who care about war crimes are funny and come with the territory of being a major politician who must commit war crimes as a matter of course nothing to see here.

The Guardian also, of course, said Blair attempted to “set the record straight”, quoting him as saying, “Um, can I just say, um, actually, on the record, what he said … is completely and totally untrue …” Interesting that they left out caveats Blair said, which is that “what he said about Iraq and JP Morgan is completely and totally untrue.  I’ve never had a discussion with them about that.”

Hmm.  I don’t think I could use that as a fulcrum for a perjury charge.  But if I were detective Lenny Briscoe I would give my partner a wry look.

via Crooks and Liars.

So this gets very deep in the weeds of a completely diaphanous article that only got written because the NYT has to fill slots in their political coverage.  But I think going through it serves a purpose by demonstrating just how much centrist pap is mixed into the foundation of political reporting, even when that reporting is very far away from anything anyone can call “important”.  This centrist stuff isn’t just  for the movers and the shakers.  Everyone’s got to do it to prove they can be trusted.  It’s like prison tattoos.  Onward:

I understand that the craft of political ads can be a legitimate news topic.  Like when there is subliminal or not so subliminal religious imagery or questionable skin tones.

I get that unusual techniques in campaign ad production can be a legitimate news story.

But the story Jeremy W. Peters, Professional Political Reporter, filed with the NYT wasn’t about those things.  It breathlessly reported that a new ad created a fictional story to highlight problems with the current administration. That it used actors to do so.  That it spent some money to do so.

Independent of the ways in which the piece tries to conceal just the laziest fucking hackwork: what the fucking balls was going through Jeremy W. Peters head when he wrote this article?  Why did he want to write what he wrote?  To what purpose? There is absolutely nothing fucking remarkable or newsworthy about the ad he’s writing about. Production values have always kept pace with the rest of television.  Actors have been used since motherfucking Eisenhower.  The Reagan “Morning in America” ad that the application for a centrist card requires you to present physical evidence that it moved you to tears was a montage of images of a young man’s life from riding a bike as a kid to helping around the house as a teenager to getting married to growing old.  Sounds kinda similar.  Plus you’d think a piece of journalism that breathlessly reports a political ad is using a fictional story would at least mention the Obama “Julia” ad released a few weeks ago which does the same thing, but then you’d remember this was a piece which gestated in the nourishing fluid of centrism, and you would put such silly thoughts aside.

And there are lots of centrist tropes in here. And they all come, like the origami fetishist, after the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

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