Last week, a racist shitrag ran an article about how millennials are totally confused and stupid and don’t know how politics work. They did a poll, and that poll showed inconsistencies in millennial opinions towards politics, taxes, and government. This is newsworthy, apparently, because every other generation is just soooo goddamn consistent and informed, unlike those bratty millennials, who aren’t enlightened enough to believe in privatizing oxygen. It’s also newsworthy because it’s deeply stupid and dishonest, and media loves horrible bullshit.
See, it’s not fair to extrapolate a person’s entire ideology based on poll data. It’s especially unfair to use poll data a proof of someone’s ignorance. Take me, for example. I think the US spends way too much on the military. We especially spend too much on the munitions industry, which actually hurts US security and could fairly be called the most wasteful thing in the history of mankind. In spite of thinking that military funding should be cut overall, however, I think we treat our veterans shamefully and I would approve of greater funding for their healthcare and benefits.
So let’s say I was polled on this issue. If asked “do you think military spending should be cut,” I would say “yes.” If asked “do you think veterans deserve more benefits,” I would also say “yes.” Such wild inconsistencies! Why, I must be a real lamebrained jackelope, to think such incompatible thoughts!
Anyone who has ever been polled—or who has a passing understanding of what a poll is—should realize how narrow and misleading poll data can be. If a similar poll had been taken of Gen Xers or Boomers, the exact same narrative of inconsistency could be spun. But it wouldn’t be. The Gen Xers would be accused of disaffection, and the Boomers’ responses would be chalked up to them just being so gall darn patriotic. The reason this story took off, in spite of it being so fully and absolutely stupid, is because the media hates millennials. Particularly the conservative-libertarian media, who realize that millennials are immune to their cruel, shitty ideology and can formulate no response but to laugh at them.
Kids today got shit figured out. They know the game is rigged. Egalitarianism is a lie, what benefits the super-rich doesn’t usually benefit everyone else, and the government functions mostly to subsidize billionaires while lighting muslims on fire and putting black people in jail. Millennials distrust the government as a whole, but they approve of the parts of it that libertarians hate (like healthcare and schools). Millennial disapproval is aimed towards the macro-level police state shit that most non-stoner libertarians secretly love. There’s some drugwar and gay rights overlap, sure, but that’s about it.
The old Regan/Libertarian lies do not work on millenials. Millennials see a government that is rigged and corrupt because of its relationship to the private sector, not one that will be fixed by granting more control to assholes. Likewise, millennials are just less hateful than Gen Xers and Boomers—not only do they tolerate gays, but they also don’t evince the piggish glee that older generations feel whenever they cut off a cancer patients healthcare or step over a homeless veteran.
Key to libertarianism is the demonization of empathy and the celebration of cruelty. You got to be very comfortable in yourself and your social standing to buy into that kind of bullshit, so privileged and comfortable that you’ve never suffered even a second of self-awareness. Now that the edifice of American Invincibility has crumbled, the old conservative lines have lost their feasibility.
Millennials have a clearer and less stupid understanding of how this country works. They realize that shit is broken in a deep and fundamental level. But instead of working to change society’s brokenness, older generations opt instead to scoff at those who point it out. “Pfft,” we say. “Those kids are dumb. Not only are they not as scared as Muslims as they should be, but they don’t realize the how fun it is to deny healthcare to poor people! And what’s this? They want to spend more money on roads? Don’t they know that government spending is always evil. Pfft, these kids are so dumb.”
Fuck all of you.
No one said hurricanes were sexist, obviously. But last week, in what can only be described as Peak Liberalism, the internet was convinced that sexism influences the way we react to hurricanes. When we hear that a storm has a man-name, we respect Him. He makes us run from our homes and cower meekly in shelters. But lady hurricanes? Please. Ain’t no one scared of ladies. Ladynames don’t evoke The Fear:
"The femininity of the name influences the degree to which people feel the storm is dangerous, and that affects how they respond to it," said Sharon Shavitt, a behavioral scientist at the university and a coauthor of the paper."We had a hunch that there would be some gender biases, but we were quite stunned by the degree of this effect." Their model suggests that simply changing the name of a powerful, hypothetical hurricane from “Charlie” to “Eloise” would cause the death toll to triple, the researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
My twitter and facebook feeds are like 90% liberal-progressive and include a bunch of academics, and at least 2 dozen people commented that, finally, we had “objective” proof of sexism’s existence. Only we don’t. We absolutely do not.
First—let me correct myself. The term in question wasn’t “fear,” as in “people fear male-named hurricanes more than female-named hurricanes.” The actual, assumed term is “respect.” As in, people don’t respect ladyname storms which is proof that they don’t respect ladynamed womyn. But, seriously, fear is probably a better term to use when we’re talking about people’s reactions to emergency situations. And like, I don’t want to sound stupid, but isn’t it a good thing that we aren’t afraid of female names? If data showed the exact opposite to be true, couldn’t that also have been taken as proof of sexism, since that would show that people react more fearfully to female storms which would demonstrate a latent hatred and loathing towards all things feminine?
When it comes to storms, respect and fear are pretty much the same thing. The only difference is that one term usually has a positive connotation and the other is generally negative. In this circumstance, both could be applied to the exact same data and used to make that data support whatever predetermined conclusions the authors wanted it to.
I’m gonna lay a harsh truth on you guys: it is impossible to quantifiably demonstrate ideology. Period. It cannot be done. Any attempt at trying to do so amounts to nothing more than an attempt to unjustly reify that ideology by making it appear like an objective reflection of reality, and literally every single time that’s happened the results have been horrible. Stop doing it. It’s shitty when scientific racists do it, and it’s shitty when feminists do it.
Within days, National Geographic wrote a great piece about how the original study’s data was badly flawed. Knowing how public discourse works, however, I’m sure we’ll be seeing the original study held up as “objective” proof of sexism for years to come, because assertions matter much more than retractions. And that’s sad for a few reasons:
First off, it’s dishonest.
Second, it demonstrates the ineffectiveness of contemporary liberal discourse, highlighting our drive to turn every single social issue into a matter of identity politics. Mainstream, internet-based feminism has divorced itself from class consciousness so forcefully that anyone who suggests that materialist factors be considered is accused of supporting rape. Everything is about rape culture. That’s that. No other explanations can ever suffice, even when those explanations are much more sane and obvious and immediate.
More broadly, nearly all academic theorizing refuses to take materiality into account, unless that materiality is discussed so obliquely as to render all observations unusable. Describing social phenomena in terms of direct, cause-and-effect materiality is verboten. So we get shit like this, where phenomena can only be ascribed to subconscious, libidinal drives, while much more obvious and sensible reactions get thrown out the window.
Take a gander at the guys in the picture atop this essay. Tell me—honestly, I’m not kidding—what do you think would be a more productive reaction to this picture? Is the picture evidence of a society that treats its lower classes with unmasked disdain? Or is it proof that the men on that roof were secret sexists, that their subconsciouses hated women so, so much that they didn’t bother to evacuate once they heard a storm was named “Katrina?”
If you answered the latter, you have mental problems. You are fucking insane, if that’s where you mind goes.
Remington to release new line of rifles for spree killers
The company’s new “Payback” line will feature high capacity magazines, ergonomic grips.
(NEW YORK—AP) Kentucky-based Remington Arms will soon release a new line of firearms marketed specifically to spree killers.
Set for release next week, the “Payback” series will include a six new rifles and handguns designed for easy concealment and rapid, indiscriminate firing.
“This is a burgeoning market,” explained Remington spokesman Mark LePenn. “We want to get in on the ground floor.”
While the company is excited to reach out to the new market, they bristle at the term “spree killer.”
"The proper term is ‘active shooter.’ And that’s exactly what our customers are: active people who are taking control of their lives, their relationships, and their workplaces."
“This is not about illegal ‘spree killing,’” LePenn explained. “Rather, this is about preventative defense and meeting the diverse needs of today’s hunters. Remington is simply reaching out to today’s Millennials, who prefer to hunt in urban, workplace, and schoolyard settings.”
George Kollitides, CEO of Remington’s parent company, Freedom Group, showed sympathy for victims of last Sunday’s spree killing at the University of California Santa-Barbara, and also for the 27 people murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Kollitides stressed, however, that such sympathy should not prevent his company from aiding Americans in celebrating their Second Amendment freedoms.
“Like all of Freedom Group’s brands, Remington is about freedom,” Kollitides explained. “Our company is dedicated to meeting the needs of today’s shooters, who have expressed frustration with low ammunition capacity, as well as with the inability to sneak rifles into secure areas, such as dormitories and children’s hospitals.”
While Remington spokespeople are excited about the new line of firearms, gun control advocates have expressed dismay. Kate Miller, the founder of Mothers Who Dislike Guns, says the new line will lead to more spree killings.
“They’ve designed these so that spree killers can sneak them into public places and kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” Miller said.
Miller was also upset with Remington’s “Become Legendary” advertising campaign, which advises potential mass shooters about the fame they will achieve after their spree.
“I’ve seen the ads they have planned, and they mention how murder is the easiest way to get famous. Remington should be ashamed.”
In spite of these concerns, LePenn is certain the new line will be successful. He explains that the company is “reaching out to people who are underserved, people who take a more pro-active and preventative approach to self-defense, one that doesn’t wait for people to become threats before he takes action.”
“You never know when a crowded courthouse or schoolroom might become violent,” LePenn explained. “And so you better take them out while you can.”
Remington’s “Payback” line will be available at all Gander Mountain locations. They can also be purchased online, or anonymously at flea markets.
Last night I fell asleep completely sober. It was horrible.
Two things kept haunting me, pushing me towards the Smirnoff jug—first, surveillance is going to be near-total within the next ten years. Already, every mediated thing you write, read, or say gets recorded and added to a pile of your data. Every phone call you make, every website you visit, every hour you log playing Madden, every book you check out from the library or buy off Amazon, every purchase you make anywhere with your debit card, it’s all recorded.
This type of perpetual surveillance is seeping into non-media technologies. Data regarding our driving usage will soon be mandated by insurance companies, as will data regarding how often we exercise or how far we walk in a single day (such programs are already in effect, although they are voluntary for the time being—insurers will decrease your rate if you wear a pedometer or stick a montitoring device into your car). And everybody’s talking about the ascension of “smart” appliances, including smart toilets and fridges and beds—basically, embedding a surveillance mechanism into everything we interact with.
The behaviors that can’t be directly recorded can be inferred through our media consumption habits. If you read a lot of beer blogs, it’s assumed you drink more than the average person. If you comment favorably on a CNN.com piece about pot legalization and then book a trip to Washington, it can be inferred that you’re going to partake in pot tourism. This is only mildly troubling when advertisers use these assumptions to personalize the shit that pops up in your facebook feed. What will happen when health insurers start using it as an excuse to raise your rates? Or when the local PD gives it to a judge as reason why they want to raid your house to search for smuggled Seattle Special?
This is especially troubling because of my secondary scary realization: Law enforcement is becoming increasingly algorithmic. Back in the day, I criticized NSA and DHS spying programs because they generated an unparsable amount of data. It was too much to ever go through, which meant it was too much to be of any use in catching crooks or terrorists. That was before Silicon Valley dedicated a decade to optimizing search procedures, though. Law enforcement no longer relies on human beings to sift through data (or clues) and then piece salient points together into a narrative that explains who (probably) committed (or will commit) a crime. Now, machines can do that automatically. Just as no living human being has to know about how you’re planning a trip to Washington to smoke some legal cush, no human being needs to consciously piece together the information suggesting that I favor radical politics and therefore my presence at an Occupy Rally might pose a danger to the community.
It used to be, back when the narratives were pieced together by humans, the accused would be given their nominal day in court. A judge would first have to make sure the case didn’t reek of bullshit, and then a jury of one’s peers would weigh the strength of the state’s narrative against the plausibility of your counter narrative and if they were completely certain of guilt you went to jail. That system is dead. Law and order is now a quota-based system in which the leverage lies entirely with the prosecution, the testimony of cops is considered gospel (even when contradicted by video evidence) (LINK), and acquittals are almost unheard of. Less than 10% of felony cases even go to trial.
What’s worse, though, is that overview-free, automated methods of dispensing justice are becoming more and more commonplace. The thought is that new, algorithmic methods of determining your behavior are infallible, and since the leverage in criminal cases lies entirely with the empowered, that means law enforcement can use data that says anything to prove any point they want and you and I won’t be able to say shit about it.
Consider—and this might be a stretch—but consider the way that youtube recognizes copyright claims. There’s obviously too many videos uploaded to youtube for humans to monitor (100 hours of video are added every minute, according to their site), and so they partnered with major copyright holding companies to develop an algorithm that scans the audio of all videos and matches it up to any copyrighted movies or songs. Of course it makes mistakes. Sometimes audio is incorrectly identified. More troublingly, sometimes the companies who developed the algorithm claimed to own copyright over a song that didn’t actually own. A person whose video gets taken down has no redress—if your vid is said to have violated copyright, it’s down. That’s it. The claims made by BMG or the MPAA are absolute and uncontestable.
What happens when the feds come up with algorithms that “objectively” determine one’s involvement in seditious activity? Or when the local PD decide to make preventative arrests (which are now legal) based on their determination that your media consumption and eating behaviors match those of a potential terrorist?
And the private sector is just as open to such abuse. The same as your average citizen has zero leverage against an overzealous prosecutor or a violent cop, she has no leverage in her interaction with the companies that run our lives. If Blue Cross says we’re more at risk for an early coronary, we get charged more health insurance. That’s it. There’s no fighting back. But what if Eli Lilly looks at our facebook feed, gaming habits, and sleep patterns and realizes that we might be inching towards depression or suicide? Well, then the cost of Prozac all of a sudden goes up for us.
It’s—everything is looking really fucking bleak, man.
Lately, the term privilege has dominated academic and middlebrow discussions of racism , sexism, and homophobia, and lots of other isms . As a term meant to provoke action against social injustice, privilege acts kinda like a Dialectics For Dummies, encouraging people to take an interrogative approach toward the systemic presumptions that allow certain people comfort where others feel oppression or fear. Put simply, privilege advocates seek to make privileged people (the white, male, thin, heterosexual, and/or cis among us) to become aware of their privilege, to realize how hard other groups have it, and to then…. I dunno. Stop doing things that un-privileged people can’t do? Something like that.
There are many, many problems with using privilege as an analytical base for discussing injustice. Foremost of which—and similar to my complaints regarding the Fat Acceptance movement—its most basic goal to is stress the incomprehensibility of our individual experiences. This is a good goal, politically, because it prevents, say, men from defining what ideal femininity should be, or from pathologizing feminine traits because they run counter to societal norms that arbitrarily favor masculinity. But this is a bad thing, intellectually (and also politically), as it atomizes discourse. Instead of appealing to common ground or working across race/sex/gender lines to achieve goals, privilege adherents seek simply to have everyone respect everyone else’s differences. Once we do that, we’ll all just automatically get along.
This is a stunningly simplistic approach to describing social problems. It is so simplistic, in fact, that its limitations for effecting positive change should be clear to anyone who bothers to think about them. Simply convincing a white male or a straight woman that he/she is insulated from the effects of oppressive social systems does nothing to compel that person to work to change those systems. Furthermore, pointing this fact out to people is more likely than not to cause them to become defensive, as privilege discourse often appears to suggest that merely being exempt from systemic or institutional violence is something to be ashamed of.
Aside from it being disagreeable, though, privilege discourse is simply naïve. Its advocates misunderstand the nature of oppressive systems in two key ways:
1) Privilege misunderstands the spitefulness that underlies racism, sexism, and homophobia
Contrary to what the idealists might tell you, spite is huge motivator of human behavior. So is cruelty, and so is sadism. Some people, I’m sorry to say, are just assholes, and they take pleasure in causing physical or mental harm in others. Convincing them to respect cultural differences, or even encouraging them to be less judgey, isn’t going to rid them of their cruel and sadistic impulses. It’s only going to require them to justify those impulses differently. And, trust me, they’ll find another excuse.
When a cop raises his baton, right as he’s about to smash it into the head of a black teenager who had the nerve to loiter near Dillard’s, do you think he thinks to himself: “golly, the only reason I’m doing this is because this black kid’s blackness makes him less human than me?” When a Republican squeals with approval upon reading that several million people have had their food assistance cut, do you think he thinks “awesome, I sure am glad those people who of different ethnicities will feel the pain of hunger?” Of course not. Why? Because the pleasure these people derive from spite isn’t logical. The “logic” is just windowdressing, applied post facto so as to give their hateful actions some sheen of respectability. And this “logic” already avoids hitting upon obvious signifiers of racism or homophobia, and it can easily be amended to avoid any trappings of privilege. The human race will never, ever run short of logical-sounding reasons to justify violence.
Privilege only works if we assume that privileged people will feel guilt once they’re made aware of the harmful actions enabled by their privilege. This might work in a Women’s Study class or in the comments section of Jezebel, but it won’t cut it in 9 scenarios out of 10. If anything, asking the cop or the Republican to interrogate their social privilege will cause them to double down on their hate; in formulating a twisted, broken excuse for their horrible actions, they justify those actions, become more confident in their own righteousness.
But let’s say we’re just seeking to combat ignorance, not hatred. The cop and the Republican are beyond saving, but we might still convert the girl who says we don’t have racism anymore since Obama is President, or the guy who says that blacks really don’t have it that bad since slavery’s been over for a full 150 years. I still don’t think privilege works, because this kind of egregious ignorance doesn’t precede hatred so much as it proceeds from hatred. Like the “logic” deployed to justify more overt and specific instances of sadism or violence, this type of stupidity comes only after a stupid person has already taken a hateful stance towards a group of people he considers beneath him. First the man hates or fears Mexican people, then later—after he is confronted and asked to account for his hatred—he offers up a dumb excuse: they’re taking away jobs, they commit welfare fraud, etc. Merely pointing out the dumbness of the excuse will do nothing to deflate the man’s hate. This hate is sublogical. It comes from spite. And logic simply will not fix it.
2. Privilege denies the material/economic factors that incentivize racism and sexism.
Racism and sexism are not incidental byproducts of a society that just so happens to favor and be run by white males. Racism and sexism are both tactically deployed. They are tools. The empowered classes use them to maintain their power.
Don’t believe me? Think this sounds too Marxist? Take a look at this article from Politico . The article wonders why for it be that Asian Americans don’t vote Republican, even though Asians are typically higher-income and higher-income people should naturally support policies that hurt the poor. The authors do “a study” (seriously) and find that Asians are largely turned off by the GOP’s relentless, but mostly superficial, racism, like in how Republicans are way more likely to tell a Chinese dude that he speaks good English or ask a Japanese woman if they can pet her baby:
Asian Americans who were exposed to this race-based presumption of “not belonging” were more likely to view Republicans generally as close-minded and ignorant, and have more negative feelings toward them. Our findings suggest that Asian Americans associate feelings of social exclusion based on their ethnic background with the Republican Party.
That’s all obvious. What’s hideous is their suggestions for potential remediation. Rather than encouraging Republicans to stop being so fucking racist, they propose a new rhetorical approach, suggesting that the GOP gain leverage by pitting rich Asians against poorer minority groups:
One article focused on the impact of Arizona SB1070, a law that required police officers to ascertain people’s immigration status, indicating the common status of immigrants of Asian and Hispanic origin. Another article focused on how the current immigration reform debate can pit higher-skilled immigrants from Asia against lower-skilled immigrants from Latin America.
[ … ]
The result: When immigration was framed as an issue that teamed Hispanics and Asians together under the umbrella of common interest, 72 percent identified as Democrats and 28 percent as Republicans. But when immigration was framed as an issue that pitted Hispanics and Asians against each other, only 67 percent of Asians identified as Democrats and 33 percent as Republicans.
Fomenting racial divisiveness is an easy way to justify the hateful, materially self-interested politics of economically empowered groups. Duh. That’s such an obvious point that we can write trendpieces about it without offending anyone.
Fundamentally, white power is an aspirational politics , one that takes root when disempowered members of a relatively empowered group become convinced that their personal low status is caused by racial, as opposed to economic, outsiders. This makes racism imminently usable for the empowered classes, because they can deploy it to turn “privileged” people’s attention away from the economic factors that underlie their own disenfranchisement. And so, according to the popular sentiment of America’s white poor, our startling income inequality hasn’t developed because the legal system is ginned to support every whim of the super rich while stomping out workers’ rights. Oh no. It’s because of Mexicans! We aren’t hyper militaristic because spending trillions of dollars on unnecessary weaponry enriches politically connected defense contractors. Oh no. That’s because of Jews!
I—I cannot grasp how racism’s utility isn’t apparent to all of us. It’s a hugely usable tool, one that’s deployed as often by the mainstream left as it is by the conservative right . These arguments are disingenuous and specious to a degree that even a dumb person can tell they are bullshit, and that should make us consider that maybe, just maybe, the people making them aren’t suffering from a lack of enlightenment so much as they are exploiting the hatefulness of others in order to enrich themselves.
Privilege is real, of course, but it is first and foremost a product of a society designed to enrich its elite class by exploiting its lowest classes. Racism and sexism do not therefore proceed from privilege, so much as they are a means of preserving the social structures that result in oppression. The empowered remain empowered because they know how to foment and maintain racist and misogynistic attitudes among the masses. And focusing so strongly on issues of identity, as opposed to issues of class or economic status, only helps to strengthen the tactical power of racism.
White Hot Harlots is proud to announce a partnership with Ross Douthat. Ross is a conservative intellectual and renowned columnist for the New York Times. His work will appear here periodically.
Whenever the talk of American politics turns toward abortion, the same conversations always seem to take place. Taking a look at history might help us understand why we keep having these repetitive discussions.
In 1933, the big question on the mind of European intellectuals was “what is happening right now?” Across the globe, people were turning en masse toward authoritarianism. This turn made little sense, since by definition authoritarianism is bad for most people.
One such intellectual was Willhelm Reich. Reich, a German psychoanalyst, suggested that the turn towards fascism and communism was a result of widespread sexual frustration. In his Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich suggests that “the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation.” So far as Reich was concerned, all of the world’s woes could be solved through morw sex.
Reich was a member of the German communist party, and in the 80 years since his book was published, the left still believes that social problems can be traced to a lack of sex. While the belief was patently false in Reich’s day, it at least fit into trends established by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Similarly, todays’ liberals draw their inspiration from Gloria Steinem and Alfred Kinsey.
This background is critical if we wish to understand recent congressional battles about women’s reproductive health. On the one hand, conservatives believe that abortion is society’s ultimate sin and must be stopped. On the other hand, liberals believe that anything that stifles the free and easy exchange of sex can have dire social implications. Both sides need to make adjustments if we wish to solve the abortion debate.
If conservatives want to make the debate more honest, they should admit that abortions are sometimes caused by material conditions, and that perhaps instituting harsh criminal penalties for women caught seeking abortions might be going too far. But on the other hand, no progress in the debate will be made until liberals abandon their long-held belief that sex solves social problems all by itself.
Just as Reich’s communism was naïve, so were the sexual politics of the 1970s. Women predicted complete equality, which of course did not happen. The result of their “feminist revolution” has been a decoupling of sex from love, a society in which more than half of marriages end in divorce, and skyrocketing abortion rates.
Liberals might choose to ignore the link between sex and abortion, but it’s there. The only question is: will they change their path and begin to speak honestly? Will conservatives let such an honest exchange take place?
Only time will tell.
Let’s say, several years ago, I killed somebody. It wasn’t a clear-cut case of murder, though, because it happened in one of those backwater states like Florida where they got wacky gun laws that make it easier for civilians to shoot minorities. Maybe I saw a black kid cutting across my lawn and so then I shot him. That’s borderline legal in Florida. Maybe, if it had gone to trial, the judge or jury would have determined I was within my rights and let me go.
But the case never went to trial, because instead of informing the authorities, I buried the kid’s body in my basement, right next to an inflatable Wal-Mart Santa and a pile of “Sweatin’ To the Oldies” memorabilia. Two years later, my wife goes down the basement and notices a severed hand sticking out beneath a my replica of Richard Simmons’ death mask. She gets scared and calls the cops, and I get arrested.
In that scenario, would my wife be a whistleblower or a traitor? Would the press coverage surrounding the incident focus mostly on me and the crime I had probably committed, or would it instead focus on my wife’s neuroses and proclivities? Would she be barely mentioned, as a witness, or instead would columnists call her a traitor hold her up as an example about how women these days just don’t respect the bounds of family?
This is basically what’s happening in the case of NSA-whistleblower Edward Snowden. He uncovered gross criminal activity. He reported it. And instead of focusing on the criminality of said activity, the press has decided to speculate on his mental state and call him a traitor. This is stupid, and it needs to stop happening.
And, please, don’t try to pick out holes in my metaphor. First off, and most importantly, PRISM is not legal. It’s not legal in the same way that murder’ generally isn’t legal, since monitoring the communications in general isn’t legal. The only way that PRISM could have been legal was if it, like murder, gained a special, court-sanctioned exemption. This couldn’t happen, because like my hypothetical murder, PRISM was kept secret, which means it was necessarily kept beyond judicial or congressional review and therefore was grossly illegal.
Second, you might complain that in my metaphor, the wife goes to the proper authorities. Snowden did no such thing, you might say, because instead of submitting his domestic spying information for proper review, he blabbed about it to a newspaper. This criticism is very dumb. You should be ashamed of yourself for making it. Where else could Snowden have gone? Should he have had filed a report with HR? Should he have called the very same authorities who were breaking the law and politely asked them reconsider their actions?
Again, PRISM is illegal. Its secretive nature is what makes it illegal. It’s not illegal because monitoring everyone’s communications is necessarily and always wrong. It’s illegal because it happened beyond the scope of review that sanctions government actions—by being conducted entirely in secret, it subverted the very foundations of legality. In the murder metaphor, the killer’s potential legal defense was rendered moot by the fact that he tried to cover up his actions and put them beyond judicial review. The same thing happened with PRISM. There was no verification, no checks or balances, just a gross over-reach of federal power conducted beyond the boundaries of normal accountability. The only way the wrongdoing could have been exposed was by leaking it to the press.
So everyone, please, stop calling Snowden a traitor, and stop focusing on him instead of on the massive crimes your government just got caught committing.
And a special note to the liberals out there who think that criticizing Snowden makes them appear Serious or Respectable: fucking stop it. You remember back in 05 and 06, when flag-draped septuagenarians would embrace George Bush at town hall meetings and pledge their support to him by giving the feds permission to tap their phones? Remember how stupid and insane those people seemed, trying so desperately to excuse the criminal actions of their bullshit president? That’s what you look like now. Like a bunch of sad, shitty morons.
You heard anything about 3d printers? They’re all the rage in the academic nerd circles, but the only mainstream press coverage they’ve gotten has been about how they could potentially be used to make guns. I say “potentially” there, instead of that they have already been used to make guns, because the news coverage has been particularly misleading in this regard. Supposedly, a gun has already been made, and plans for said gun are freely available on the google. But this “gun” was just the lower receiver of an AR-15. Anybody with access to a high school shop class could have made a better one, too, since this one was made of plastic and only fired 10 rounds a short distance before it melted. (And that’s after the guy who “printed” it had to spend several hundred dollars buying additional, factory-manufactured parts so as to turn it into a fireable gun).
The mainstream media’s imbecilic handwringing over the 3d printed gun is similar to the manner in which academic writers have grossly overreacted to 3d printing as a basic concept. All you have to do is load up your printer with raw carbon and petroleum and trace amounts of various minerals, and, voila, you’ll be able to make whatever the fuck you please. The food-a-rack-a-cylcle from the Jetsons will be real, and so grocery stores will go out of business. Likewise, all manufacturing will grind to a halt, since we’ll all have tiny little factories built right into our homes. You want a metal bedframe? Print it! A strawberry ice cream parfait? Print it!
I’m not kidding: this is what humanities people actually believe is going to happen. And they are as naïvely optimistic as the mainstream media is naively scared.
First off—I don’t know how much climate change reading you’ve done (I would advise against it, if you don’t enjoy being really scared and sad), but it’s pretty goddamn optimistic to assume that first world society is going to resemble its current form in the year 2050. Huge, densely populated swaths of Europe, Asia, and the Americas will soon become uninhabitable. And—seriously, dude—the best estimates say that the east coast will be flooded by 2075 at the latest; that’s assuming we work up the political will to begin aggressively fighting climate change, which we won’t. The worst estimates predict catastrophic change within the next decade.
This isn’t a doomsday scenario. The human race won’t get wiped out. You and I will probably be okay (our kids might not be, though). But a shitload of people will die. Most likely beyond WWII-levels. And however society gets rearranged, it won’t be according to any lofty democratic or equality-based standards. It’ll be somewhere between old-school feudalism and new-school, Chinese-style industrial slavery.
Good, forward thinking social theorists have been making this point for a while. Guys like Matthew Stoller look at massive deleveraging of America’s middle class and our country’s gigantic income inequality not as some accident of capitalism but as an intentional process. The rich are girding themselves against catastrophic social realignment. They have to hoard power because freedom is about to become exponentially more expensive, well beyond the means of people who right now are relatively fortunate.
So pardon me for not embracing a fucking printer as the harbinger of a gloriously democratic, post-capitalist future. You have to be insane to think that regular people are ever going to be given access to 3d printing technology. Democracy is trending backwards. The whole post-war American ideal, where minorities were afforded some basic rights and social mobility was somewhat of a reality? Where you could live comfortably working 40 hours a week and the state served functions other than as a mechanism of oppression? That was an historical blip. It’s gone, dead forever, and it’s never coming back. The government and our elite classes have a clear, vested interest in taking power away from people. It’s no longer a matter of wanting to preserve luxury; it’s a matter of basic survival.
To this end, I think it’s foolish to assume that 3d printing will be anything other than a tool of oppression. Other, supposedly democratizing technological breakthroughs—like cell phones, internet access, and social media—have been widely disseminated only because their use reinforces extant power structures. Your iPhone makes it easier for the government and elite classes to track and commodify you. That’s why it’s not illegal. If it posed an actual danger to power, if its promise of giving a voice to the voiceless were really true, it would have been either outright banned or priced so restrictively high that no truly voiceless person could afford it.
Likewise, the future of 3d printing is up in the air. If the gun example scares enough empowered people into thinking that 3d printing might actually change our social structure, like by arming the citizenry or destroying the financial industry, then it might get banned. If it can be shown somehow to aid in the further deleveraging of non-elites, it will be allowed to exist in a tightly regulated manner. But no way, no how, will it make society more equal or just.
God forgive me, I watched an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher’s panel included Michael Moore, a weasel-faced Goldman Sachs cheerleader, and a Pinterst-looking woman who appeared to be doing a bit. Zach Galafanakis was the episode’s special guest, because apparently he’s some kind of fucking pundit now that he appeared in The Campaign (and, he said, you wouldn’t believe it but real politics is just as goofy as his movie!)
Maher asked Galafanakis why it was that the right was so good at grass roots organizations, what with the Tea Party having so much congressional success, but then the left has hardly any grass roots support. Home for come that be?
The weird fascist Pinterset woman jumped in, saying, no no, it’s a good thing that the Democrats haven’t suffered from that kind of mass movement:
"Do you really want them to? Frankly, the primary process the Republicans have been going through has been painful, has been divisive, has been counterproductive. When conservatives are so busy trying to out conservative each other and that is the primary goal of the primary, it’s not good for the party. I think your party has been smart enough to say ‘He’s a moderate? Lets him stay there and see how he does.’ And primary for primaries sake hasn’t been good for the Republicans.”
A statement like that is just empty think tank pap. It does not deserve to be scrutinized at face value. Reading just a bit between the lines, however, we get a real answer to Maher’s question: the left doesn’t have an empowered grass roots because the party that represents them hasn’t allowed such a movement to form. Effectively, there is no left.
Now, I can’t quite get a bead on where this woman is coming from, ideologically. She’s on MSNBC, but she’s written a book about how the left has launched a war against organized religion. So far as I can tell, she’s some sort of new wave conservative emissary, probably hired by forward-thinking GOPers in order to make their brand more appealing to people who aren’t klansmen. She’s not exactly an intellectual powerhouse, but then again if she were, she probably wouldn’t be on TV.
I’m trying to dissect her image because the only way we can glean any worthwhile observations from her is to view her not as a person but as a marketing strategy. She’s a slogan for a brand. That brand is what I’ve come to regard as “beige-washed conservatism.” It’s the same pro-business Randian bullshit as regular Republicanism, but instead of relying on racism and homophobia for its selling points, it’s now dressed up in boring NPR monotone so as to make it more palatable to people under 50. Intellectualism, like everything else, is largely an affect, a vague feeling that gets triggered into existence by certain empty signifiers. The woman wears glasses. She dresses smartly and speaks in complete sentences. Golly, that must mean she’s smart.
She also tries very hard to seem like a centrist. Her opinions are timid and obsequious, which is what most people now mistake for intellectualism. The Democrat Brand is a sort of emptily elitist technocracy, a system in which the opinions of experts and the financially empowered are prized while everything said by everyone else is ignored. This is good when it comes to stuff like evolution and climate change, but bad when it comes to most matters of social import, or to fields that are as intellectually corrupt as economics. This pinterst pundit fascist woman is apparently the GOP’s attempt to appropriate the Democrat brand for their own ends, like when Wal-Mart began copying the beige color scheme of Whole Foods so as to trick people into thinking they were somehow eco-friendly.
This is the lesson that got learned by the last election: fuck the people. Do not, under any circumstances, take their concerns seriously. Back when the GOP just made bunch of noise about praying away the gay and hunting undocumented immigrants for their pelts, they did fine. But as soon as they elected people who were stupid enough to actually attempt getting any of these things done, the party became unseemly and began losing.
So that’s the new face of politics. The Democrats’ winning strategy—the strategy that embodies the popular perception of intellectualism—is to insulate government from the input of its citizens. Instead, government should be run by hacks and technocrats who are told what to do by media elites, military personnel, and financiers. The Republicans are copying this playbook, apparently, only instead of Bill Gates and Larry Summers, their cadre of elites consists of people like Bill Koch and Ted Nugent. Same shit, different flavor.
Once we come to this realization, we can see how stupid Maher’s question really was. The Tea Party/Occupy split is a false binary. Occupy was a legitimate grass roots organization, which meant it never really existed so far as our elites were concerned. The Tea Party is an astroturf project designed by FreedomWorks and funded by the Koch brothers. Occupy was treated with widespread derision. The Tea Party was a media creation that had an entire cable network. And, most fundamentally, the Tea Party is in thrall of power, while Occupy represents a legitimate (albeit small) threat to power. That’s the biggest difference between the two, and it’s why one has been actualized via congressional representation while the other has gotten the shit kicked out of them by cops.
The Tea Party was an empty marketing gimmick. It was a stunt, a make believe carnival sideshow that got a little bit out of hand. Don’t’ worry, though, because Republicans are going to make damn sure that doesn’t happen again.