Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nah, I think We Will Scrutinize Comedians

Admitted workplace sexual harasser Louis CK continues to accept invitations to do "comedy" shows across the country. Most recently, he's in San Jose, California, joking about "retarded" people, dead babies, 9/11, and how he likes to masturbate in front of people.

What I want people to understand is that, at this point, when people watch Louis CK perform, they're no longer watching comedy.

They're watching a man be rewarded and applauded for banal cruelty while they maintain a collective pretense that his work is edgy, and they - the audience - are cerebral for "getting it" when other people "don't," when what they're all really doing is simply colluding together in rape culture.

Kudos to the people there protesting Louis CK's putrid, unapologetic presence.

It's certainly braver and more ethical than the statement put out by the folks at San Jose Improv, justifying giving this loser abuser a platform (emphasis added):
 “We want [artists] to perform without scrutiny,” according to the statement. “We trust that our audiences can decide for themselves what their limits are. We understand that not everyone will agree with our decision and we respect their right to protest. We also respect Louis C.K.’s right to perform.”
It's funny how it's never women, queers, and/or people of color who are given this special entitlement by the powers-that-be to perform "without scrutiny."  I mean wow. WOW.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Third Reich, Trump, and The Gravedigger of American Democracy

From the October 25, 2018 New York Review of Books, Christopher Downing compares and contrasts the Trump Administration to the Third Reich:
"If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the 'steal'' of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.

One can predict that henceforth no significant judicial appointments will be made when the presidency and the Senate are not controlled by the same party. McConnell and our dysfunctional and disrespected Congress have now ensured an increasingly dysfunctional and disrespected judiciary, and the constitutional balance of powers among the three branches of government is in peril."
So much of the harm Trump has caused, especially on the US Supreme Court, was enabled by Mitch McConnell.

During the tail-end of 2018, I read William L. Shirer's multi-volume The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and what I'll add to Downing's observations is that a lot of really bad men in Hitler's administration have received props for "resistance" when they basically stood around with their dicks in their hands taking no action with meaningful consequences in the real world while millions of people were slaughtered.

The media narratives today, as they have been for our nation's entire history, continue to be shaped by shitty men. Today's incarnations are those who are Very Impressed by men like Mitt Romney who "resist" Trump in the most tepid ways imaginable given their power and status while the ordinary people who put way more on the line resisting are largely ignored or ridiculed as pussy-hat wine moms.

My other observation, also noted by Downing, is that Hitler had no single opposition leader who the country could rally around as an alternative. Conservatives were happy to rally behind him because their interests aligned with his enough, and when he went too far they couldn't, or chose not to, stop him. The center-to-left side of the political spectrum remained fragmented, with Communists continuing to act like moderates, rather than Nazis, were the real enemy and true barrier to progress. Far be it from me to suggest we coronate an opposition leader to Trump in 2020, but approximately 53 people running in the Democratic presidential primary doesn't seem like a great idea either.

My final observation at the moment is that Shirer talked a lot about the narrative that so many ordinary Germans tolerated, even welcomed, the Nazis because they were humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles. That struck me as sort of like the mythical narrative that ordinary Americans voted for Trump because they are economically anxious. Maybe a lot of ordinary Germans, like Americans, were simply bad, immoral people.

America: The Broken

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Further Thoughts On the Sisterhood

As we gear up for the 2020 election, I was re-reading some of the stuff I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, particularly my Election 2016 Fallout series.

Here's me, on white women's complicity, two years ago:


This loss is largely on white people, who disproportionately supported Trump while minority groups rejected him. We also saw white women voting against their own interests for a racist misogynist candidate.

Despite that, I also refuse to demonize white women more than white men.

I mean, really, the pieces that instantly came out about white women "selling out the sisterhood"? Yeah, they did. And people are surprised by this why, again? Oh, right, because nobody fucking listens to feminists, that's why. EVEN THOUGH it's the sad lesson from The Handmaid's Tale (1985): The very worst, most patriarchal, racist dystopia would not exist without the complicity of privileged classes of women.

Men alone cannot make racism and sexism "work." It is always a tangled knot. Forgive the circularity here, but many women hate women because women are hated. White women have a long history of benefiting via their kinship and marriages to racist, misogynist white men. It pays to be a cool non-feminist girl, for a time anyway. ("Trump can grab my pussy," boasted one Trump supporter, who both completely misunderstands the consent element of things and perhaps thinks her offering will insulate her from even worse misogyny than what she sees around her, inflicted on "other" women).

And this sweet, fresh hell in The Nation? In it, the author argues that white working class women in particular rejected Clinton because Clinton spent too much time cozying up to Lena Dunham and Big Feminism, whatever the fuck that is, when she should have been promoting:
"...[A] robust economic agenda focused on women’s needs: a $15 minimum wage, universal child care and pre-K, paid family leave, free college, and tough laws that crack down on wage theft and guarantee fair scheduling and equal pay for women."
You know, the very policies Clinton supported, to varying degrees, had anyone in the media stopped talking about her emails for 10,000 straight days and actually fucking covered them.

Sure, everyone has their theories about whose fault this is.

What seems clear is that white men are almost completely being given up on as people who can contribute to the electorate as anything other than angry beings who must be coddled and centered lest they elect nightmare authoritarians to make life hell for everyone else.

Example: An actual think piece in The New York Times, which I won't link to but is titled "The End of Identity Liberalism," sneers at the "failure" of liberalism's "narcissistic" "identity politics." Here's my summary of this piece and the dozens like them I've seen: As Trump fills his cabinet with KKK-supported white guys, white guys everywhere think liberalism has failed them because liberals talk too much about race and gender.

And so, the twin narratives about white people are that we ought to empathize with white male feelings of aggrievement while being disgusted at white female complicity. That, my friends, is just another fucked-up misogynistic fallout from this shit-show of an election that I refuse to indulge.


My addition to this piece, now two years later is about The Women's March, which I was initially very excited about as a movement to channel women's anger and feminist resurgence.

Many of the women who marched, in my experience, were angry and somewhat-traumatized by the election of Trump and the misogyny we watched Hillary Clinton endure during the race. Relatedly, Trump's election is a symbol of white male supremacy, and very specifically female subordination, in the United States.

I had long known that prominent national leaders of The Women's March had supported Bernie Sanders and seemed to, I'll just say, not be fans of Hillary Clinton. They excluded specific reference to Hillary Clinton's historic run in communications about the March, which always seemed like a major disconnect from the rage and pain many women were feeling very specifically about how the mainstream media and Hillary's competitors treated her.

I have always wondered why seemingly anti-Hillary folks were chosen as leaders of a movement that was largely catalyzed by Hillary Clinton, and had been uneasy about it, but staying united against the Trump regime has always struck me as more important than letting that bother me too much 

A little over a year ago, I wrote of some of the intra-feminist conflicts within The Women's March, and specifically the decision some on the national team then made to invite Bernie Sanders to speak at the Women's Convention in Detroit in 2017, with some of their initial communications suggesting a sort of center-stage role for Bernie at this women's event. To me, it seemed like a decision that simply didn't think very highly of a not insignificant number of Women's March supporters - and the resulting criticism bore that out. For the leaders to virtually ignore, and thereby diminish, the historic nature of Clinton's run while continually lauding one of her white male opponents was bound to alienate many women.

Now, I think the best I can say is that I'm not even sure how relevant the national leaders are to the numerous local Women's March groups or the many women doing progressive, feminist work across the country, in their communities, and on social media.

From reports I've been reading, I think some factions of the left at best have very strange, gaslighting definitions of intersectionality that posit that only certain forms of identity-based oppression are valid for progressives to focus on at the moment and that if a person isn't that identity then they are a political neophyte, and an all-around shit person, who has nothing to contribute to the movement.

Somewhere around half of the white women who voted in 2016 voted for Trump and the left has been in a moral panic about it ever since. That statistic is also now used to treat white women as a monolithically-privileged class of conservative monsters, regardless of whether we're progressive and/or also poor, queer, trans, old, fat, disabled, or non-Christian. White privilege is real, even for women. And, many people have simply given up on trying to adeptly talk about people who have white privilege while also being oppressed along other axes of identity.

White Feminist used to mean a non-intersectional feminist, but it has quickly come to mean "any women who is white and has an opinion about something," such that now progressive white women are in the same category of "feminist" as Ann Coulter, which you'd think would render the whole fucking concept null and void among any person with a rational thought in their brain but here we are. And, even many progressive feminists have internalized this thinking.

It must be an MRA's dream come true.

In many ways, I have felt very disconnected from politics on the left, right, and center for the past couple of years, with a few exceptions. All of this is part of the backlash. Women have so many pressures to "forever cancel" other, flawed women, when men rarely do the same to each other.

Every generation of women will have to endure this, I believe, as the reasons women are given to hate themselves and each other, including and especially the "progressive social justice" reasons, continue to adapt to every gain feminists make.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Keep Your Trickle-Down White Male Socialist Revolution

Over at Shakesville, I wrote about the Bernie revolution, and recent revelations about allegations of sexual harassment on his 2016 campaign:
"So, how was it that Bernie Sanders, champion of the ordinary worker, had by his own admission "inadequate" procedures to deal with sexual harassment for the many ordinary people working on his presidential campaign?

Could it have been that Bernie seemed to think that the outcome — the revolution — could trump process; that is, how the revolution was won?

Now, some folks are waiving away these allegations by saying that women are harassed on all campaigns, but that strikes me as an argument to hold our leaders more accountable, not less. I would think the standards would be especially high for a politician, like Bernie, who consistently frames himself as not residing in the same swamp as the rest of America's political class."
Read the whole thing!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

This Is Fine

Greg Miller at The Washington Post reports:
"President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.


The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference."
Somewhere in a parallel universe President Hillary Clinton is running the United States of America while not being a Russian asset.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

On the Hashtag Resistance

From time to time, I think about the folks who deride, sneer at, and otherwise denigrate what they refer to as the hashtag resistance.

This happens on Twitter a lot. As folks across the political spectrum engage in this ridicule, a common bond is often, although not always, that its purveyors are straight white cisgender men.

With the Trump Administration disproportionately targeting those who are women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, immigrants, and/or poor, this ridicule is no coincidence, but part of a backlash to social justice activism and, especially, feminism. For one, many men, whether they will admit it or not, and regardless of political party, are likely following Trump's lead in the way that those on the center-to-left side of the political spectrum so often internalize Republican attacks and cruelty.

Is there a person who is on the left side of the political spectrum who would ever admit or acknowledge that they've been affected or swayed by Republican attacks and talking points?  Probably not, and yet.

Remember that rash of post-2016 election articles telling us to give up on identity politics since that's what led to Trump?

Let's also look at the way the right obsessively attacks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Many center-to-left folks love her, but over the years, we're going to see that change. Now, a change in popularity is bound to happen to any politician, but with a woman of color in the US, it's always going to be complicated and tainted by misogyny and racism. Rightwingers know this, and know that they can taint liberal-left politicians by simply putting attacks "out there" and letting them seep into the minds of receptive liberal-left audiences.

Also, millions of kids are growing up in conservative homes only learning the Fox News perspective that she is terrible. These kids will grow up to be voters one day, with some of them leaving behind their conservative roots and yet, how many of them will have echoes of the constant attacks against Ocasio-Cortez ringing through their heads?  There's just something about her, they'll say, they just can't fully trust or like.

We'll see.

And two, regarding the hashtag resistance, it's not straight white cisgender men who are leading it.  It's women, primarily. And, an eternal political question in the USA seems to be whether, if men are not at the center of a political movement, does it exist as all a serious phenomenon?

The men who are part of the hashtag resistance, meaning that they understand the reality that Democrats and Republicans have significant differences and they are not at all "the same," are also ridiculed, probably in no small part for their association with something associated with pink pussy hats and wine moms.

Consider a piece in bro-rag Vice, in which its author actually spent time curating "The Worst Anti-Trump #Resistance Pop Culture of 2018." His examples are things like Jim Carrey's art and JK Rowling's Twitter presence and oh who gives a fuck, why is this even a battle someone would want to fight right now? The big kicker, though, is his intro, in which he snarks:
"Donald Trump is a demonstrably corrupt and narcissistic con man. Two years into his presidency, this is not a novel thing to say. Actually, you would think that pointing out his loutish personal behaviour, destructive policies, or chaotic governing technique as if it were a new observation would be regarded with the same sort of derision reserved for people who still say Nickelback sucks. Yes, and your point is."
Yes yes. It's so interesting that many people - many women, including that crone Hillary Clinton - were warning about Trump more than two years ago and while so many media men stood around with their dicks in their hands, literally in some cases, they have now come to understand the danger and also, by the way, they don't think it's, like, even very interesting to point out anymore.In fact, it's so uninteresting to say nowadays, that anyone pointing it out ought to be mocked.

This sentiment has to be something pretty close to peak privilege these days.

Imagine thinking that, let alone putting it in writing, when Donald Trump's approval rating currently hovers around 42%, meaning literal millions of people actually do think he's doing an okay job and don't yet see or care that he's a con man. Contrary to this writer's dopey assertion, we don't actually have collective agreement in our nation, at all, about Donald Trump.

Trump fans approve of his cruelty. The indulge it, celebrate it, and engage in it themselves and, worse, they weaponize it via their votes and continued support of this man who is actively hostile toward marginalized people.

My point?

This Vice piece is part of a toxic online ecosystem that privileges the viral, marketable "hot take" over the accurate, but no longer new, statement of fact..

The center-to-left Cool Guy on the Internet mockers of the hashtag resistance never seem to care about what a gift their smackdowns of a woman-led movement are to the millions of rabid, bigoted Trump fans that exist in the US. They don't have to, because so much of politics is an abstraction to them, an ironic joke to make, or a quippy, one-liner re-tweet that he desperately hopes will help him build his Twitter brand.

Entertaining is the point, rather than informing.

Which, coincidentally, is also how the normalization of Trump has functioned.

Friday, January 4, 2019

I Guess I Listen To Podcasts Now

It was bound to happen, and it's actually been a nice way to take more walks. 

Here's what I'm currently listening to:
  • Nancy - The folks at Nancy, particularly co-hosts Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, generate queer content that has both humor and heart. Recommended episodes: "The Ring of Keys" and the interview with Alexandra Billings.
  • Battlestar Galacticast - One of my favorite things about Battlestar Galactica is that many of the cast members are at least as nerdy about the show as the diehard fans. This podcast is hosted by Tricia Helfer (Cylon Number Six) and writer Marc Bernadin, with special guests also appearing.
  • Gaslit Nation - Co-hosts Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa provide essential analyses of current political events, particularly the Trump regime and Russia.
  • The Hilarious World of Depression - The format here is that host John Moe interviews comedians, musicians, and celebrities about depression and mental health. It's done well, I think, and it's been informative to me to see how differently the same mental health issues can manifest in different people. 
  • Bag Man - This one's hosted by Rachel Maddow and, in it, she recounts the investigation into Vice President Spiro Agnew's illegal activities and eventual resignation, with obvious parallels to current events.
Feel free to drop recommendations in the comments!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

You're Not Interesting Because You're Cruel

Over at Shakesville, I wrote about disgraced comedian Louis CK's big comeback tour as a rightwing crusader against political correctness and kids who survived a school shooting:

"What I can't stop thinking about in [the leaked audio] clip [of a recent performance], though, are the people guffawing at his commentary, in that sorta-guilty way that people sometimes do when they're laughing at something their deeper conscience tells them they maybe shouldn't be laughing at. I'm reminded of the people at the Trump rallies visibly delighting in Trump's calls to violence, reveling in the cruelty.

While many women in the public sphere are expected to spend their lives apologizing for their very existences, men like Louis CK and Donald Trump traumatize and re-traumatize with wanton, unremorseful abandon."
Read the whole thing!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Iowa Polls: "I guess he'll do" 2020

It's 2019.  Grab your barf bags because we're off to the 2020 races and three white men are leading in the polls of likely Democratic voters.

Here's from a recent CNN poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa (cite: PDF):

That's right, Joe Biden (32%), Bernie Sanders (19%), and Beto O'Rourke (11%). These are three men who have each lost the biggest political races in which they've competed. I'll just say for that reason alone, although there are many others, I am very concerned about 2020 and our chances of defeating Trump and the Republicans.

What could it possibly mean that Democrats and major media voices are not widely shouting at these men to retire into the woods and knit for the rest of their days?

Here are some theories, any combination of which might be playing out.

(1) It's Iowa, which is about 91% white.

Yet, in national polls, Biden has tended to lead, with Bernie Sanders coming in second, and someone else coming in third - often Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.

(2) Biden, Bernie, and Beto all have a lot of name recognition right now. Biden, who lost his previous bid badly, can ride on President Obama's coattails. Bernie has essentially never stopped running for president, even when he lost badly to Hillary Clinton. And, Beto just lost a high-profile race with the extremely unlikeable Ted Cruz.

(3) Hillary Clinton's electoral college loss to Donald Trump was deeply humiliating for American women and many women have lose their appetite to endure both the misogyny she (and her supporters) faced and another loss.

(4) The center to left has been in a moral panic about "white women" since approximately 47% of the white women who voted voted for Donald Trump.  It's as if some people have discovered, and just started thinking about, for the first time the very existence of conservative white women. Yet, rather than this 47% statistic being an indictment of conservatism, Christianity, misogyny, racism, or bigotry, in the framework of Clinton's loss, the 47% statistic is widely perceived as an indictment of "white feminism," a category that no longer means "non-intersectional feminism" but has come to mean, on the Internet, "words said by any feminist who is white."

I'm still teasing out the 2020 implications of this, but I've seen many men take advantage of this collapsing of many progressive feminists into the category of "irredeemably bad feminist who needs to shut up forever" in ways that are profoundly misogynistic. I see a lot of cynical mocking of the hashtag resistance because it's perceived as being comprised of dorky, white suburban moms who wear pussy hats. I see a lot of progressive white women internalizing this misogyny. Ironically, I see a lot of progressives who have just given up on intersectionality beyond the prism of one or maybe two intersections of identity, when there are so many more.

I think all of this contributes to the perception that it will take a white man to beat Trump.

(5) Relatedly, some people might want to vote for someone who isn't a white man, but they don't think enough other people will, so they perceive it as safer to support a white man.

(6) Many people are more tolerant of flawed white men, where women/people of color have their flaws amplified and used as dealbreakers. Every woman who runs will have her own version of "the emailz" to contend with, while her male competitors could be literal traitors to the nation and receive no comparable coverage.

(7) The beltway media portrays, and many people perceive, politics as akin to a boxing match, rather than a popularity contest that is largely framed by the media. And in a boxing match, people think it takes a man to beat a man. Hence the various male politicians and their fans with their "Bernie wouldas" and "Biden wouldas" after the 2016 election.

(8)  Decades of rightwing anti-Clinton propaganda and attacks amplified Hillary Clinton's flaws and contributed to many people on the center-left thinking she was a uniquely bad candidate, thus masking the misogyny that lingers among the voting population, even among Democrats and Independents. See, for instance, how Elizabeth Warren is already being treated, now that it's almost certain she's running.

(9) The mainstream media is still dominated by misogynistic, white supremacist people, especially white men.

(10) Our society still widely hates ambitious women.

(11) Trump is so bad that many people have completely romanticized the Obama years. They want the perceived safety of Joe Biden, the daddy/husband figure, even though Russia interfered with the 2016 election on the watch of Obama/Biden.

(12) It's very early. Other candidates may rise in the polls over time, with more exposure.

Note, none of these reasons are grounded in any of the leading men being uniquely good politicians.

They're not.

Yet, the thing about many white male candidates is that they rarely acknowledge the invisible assists they get from white male privilege, instead taking it for granted that their polling numbers and/or popularity are an authentic reflection of their qualifications for the job. 

What else?