Category: Politics

Weekend Links

It’s amazing how much better I have felt this week after the US inauguration. I didn’t realize until it was over how frightened I was for something ugly and dramatic to happen and disrupt or derail the day.

Now, the background buzzing dread of a pandemic badly handled in both my native and adopted countries, heightened political tensions, and general instability is still humming away. Don’t get me wrong, things are still bad, but I am enjoying the sensation that the institutions that govern a large portion of my and my loved ones lives aren’t actively making things worse on purpose.

In other words, I’m excited to return to a world of unintentional mistakes instead of willful ignorance or malicious intent. Humble goals, fam.

This week I’ve found plenty of fun things to read, but I’m clearly still concerned about the next phases of extremism and alternative realities which have taken over too many people’s lives. It’s a mistake to think that these worldviews or behaviors are going away.

Well, yo ho ho.

This article is a profile of a single person, but is an excellent perspective into the wider movement. “For her, QAnon was always less about Q and more about the crowdsourced search for truth. She loves assembling her own reality in real time, patching together shards of information and connecting them to the core narrative.”

I’ve shared this before but it’s worth reupping right now. Particularly the aspect of “forcing the end” in extremist movements, and in the wake of the Capitol storming. Yes, it’s the length of a film. Get some popcorn and watch it anyway.

So, what is going on with QAnon you ask? Well, predictably, some people are going through a faith and grief crisis…and already others are doubling down again. And they are already being targeted by other extremists groups for recruitment. Again.

A really interesting interview on why too many people (guilty!) are looking to European fascism in the 20th century to explain radicalism in the US and we need to look closer to home in our own Civil War and Reconstruction.

How to create a healthier media environment for yourself in 2021.

Honestly, just grim. Necessary (for both military and law enforcement more generally), but grim:

Oh look, that thing I’ve been worrying about for a long time now and fully anticipate we’ll have to deal with next.

WE’VE BEEN SCAMMED INTO BELIEVING Q!!!” a Telegram user declared. “WHAT NOW?!?!?! Indeed, random QAnon Avatar.

Palate cleanser of pure delight.

I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more VP coverage in general, as (not entirely unlike the role of First Lady), it’s a job that seems to get a lot of ceremonial attention but less practical. And in the last administration the coverage was frankly tabloidesque – understandably. That being said, I ate up this insight into the temporary VP residence with a spoon. I need that 18th century teal wallpaper.

And in a typical display of howling hypocrisy from me, loved this insight into inaugural fashion for Dr. Biden.

I’m still awash in delight at the Moment that Bridgerton has produced in the cultural zeitgeist. More fantasy! More women’s POV! More sex positivity! More over the top fluff just because it feels good and is fun to enjoy! At some point I’m going to have to do a full post on it. In the meantime, if over embellished tops and embroidery on the Zoom calls, tea sets, and thirsting over male forearms is the new normal, I’ll take it.

POW. Right in the feels

Apocalypse

It means “disclosure” or the “revelation of great knowledge.” Of course we’ve twisted the ancient Greek word for two millennia and layered new usages on it so it now means some kind of desolation, a wastescape. Some look forward to it, convinced it will benefit them (and deliberately harm or condemn their enemies), others view it primarily through the lens of media and pop culture usuage.

It’s fitting.

Trump’s presidency ends in mere hours when I’m typing theis and for all the harm and damage I believe it caused – which we will spend a long time repairing, from our pandemic response, to wealth inequality, to our national standing in the wider world – I do give it enormous credit for something important: it revealed.

It revealed the racism and misogyny still rooted deep in American history and institutions, and how insidious offshoots manifest everywhere.

It revealed the motives of extremists of all stripes. It promoted or sheltered ideologies by forgoing dog whistles in favor outright declarations.

It revealed how much of our government relies on honor and shame as preventatives – which both should bring some degree of comfort considering who has come before and what they have decided not to do, and should serve as testament how manifestly inadequate they are as guardrails in the

It revealed the collaboration between populism and plutocracy. It laid bare how specific audiences are whipped up to identity-based furor to claim power, before turning around using that power to benefit a very different audience entirely.

It revealed the difference between popularity and power. Both have limits and uses and taking the advice of Machiavelli to heart, the one that chooses power is likeliest to take the necessary steps to hold onto it even at the expense of popularity – or representing a majority of the people.

It revealed a cultural spirit of spite that I found genuinely breathtaking in its malice and breadth.

It revealed the fissures of race, class, and other identity markers and how

It revealed (or certainly reiterated) just how the tattered threads of our so-called safety net truly are, and therefore how fragile our overall systems are in the face of shock.

And finally, it was a powerful revelation to many, many groups of people that democracy requires and demands participation. And the administration provoked response and organization in truly unprecedented ways.

My greatest worry now is that with the intersecting challenges we face as a world and country, too many people will see a new administration as a chance to go back to complacency. Almost none of the circumstances which enabled this man and his people to come to power are resolved. Meaning, as exhausted as we all are and, it could happen again if we aren’t careful. My fear is that Americans tend to have short memories.

Weekend Links

How do we reattach people to reality and facts? This is the big philosophical thinking I’ve been debating in my own brain this past week and have no earthly idea what the answer is. Whether the need to behave in specific ways and take certain actions to control the spread of the pandemic, or the political unrest founded on outright conspiracy theories…how do you reach a consensus on truth when it’s the very thing that’s being “debated?” My brain hurts.

As you may have surmised, this week’s batch of links is a mix of grim current affairs and abject silliness wherever I found it. It will not solve any of your philosophical conundrums, but it will clear your skin and help you lose five pounds.

Who knows, it might. Truth is relative, after all.

Heh.

Yes, let’s talk about police response to broadly leftist and rightist protest activity in the US:

“Their hearts, minds and wallets were taken advantage of,” Ms. Mace said, her voice rising in fury. “Millions of people across the country who were lied to. These individuals, these hardworking Americans truly believe that the Congress can overturn the Electoral College.”

Take a moment to educate yourself about the memes and iconography that identify specific ideologies and groups.

Patriarchy is a big part of the problem, but it requires women’s involvement to work. See also, Trumpism.

He resigned before making these statements. (And reminder, they are not actually pro-police so much as they think the police are “against” they same groups they are, and the moment this is questioned, they turn. If you’re not with them, you’re against them. Because they’re fascists. Obligatory trigger warning.)

Oh, and theocratic nationalists…those too. Ultimately, the point it to have enough power to exert your power, regardless of being a minority, because you feel you are morally right to do so and that there is a genuinely a risk to society if you aren’t able to enact your agenda.

Brief palate cleanser time, let’s learn about peanut butter!

Meanwhile, in Britain, an optimistic timeline means Jeff and I will be vaccinated by…September. Woof.

National mythology is powerful and the stories we tell ourselves ABOUT ourselves are important. We need to rethink the framing of those stories. Desperately.

Damn, I might have to use Signal instead. And still I somehow justify using Instagram. I am hypocritical trash…

Shock. Surprise. Whomst could have guessed, etc. etc.

WOMB CANNIBALS.

Something something, “a few bad apples,” something.

Jesus. The long term effects of COVID on mental health are just starting to be understood but I feel that the final toll is going to be grim.

Influencers will be the end of us.

So…this is just going to get worse, huh?

If you have been feeling physically done in recently, you are not alone; and yes, Ms Rona is doing this to us.

When your worldview is a lie

I know I am not as sympathetic to those caught up in conspiratorial thinking as I logically could be. I know how the manipulation works, how media echo chambers function to reinforce the things you already believe or want to be true and insulate you against any difference of thought, and how radicalization works regardless of whether it sends you left or right, religious or secular.

Humans and groups are complex and there are no tidy narratives. I saw people attacking and beating police at the Capitol and I saw people ostensibly on the same side trying to protect those victims. I am sure there are people who never imagined that a protest would turn into a violent storming of the Capitol…but I am equally sure that there are people who knew exactly what they were doing and planned for it.

The evidence of this is mounting every day.

How they were meeting, coalescing, and coordinating on social media.

How specific some of their individual or group agendas were.

How they are not going to stop.

How more is already being planned.

Sympathy for the devil?

And so, no, I do not think of all of these people involved in the storming of the Capitols in exactly the same way…but I am struggling to parse the categories correctly. I think many of them are victims, but where does that victimhood end? In addition to willful bad actors, some were probably just caught up in a moment, the collective conscious of a mob. The vast majority of them have been lied to and isolated from alternative points of view for so long that many people do believe we are living through some kind of cataclysmic crisis.

If I believed some of those things, would I be willing to do something drastic about it? Yeah, if I’m honest with myself, I can see the appeal or at least the logic. Everyone likes to think that if put in the circumstances of history, that they would make the valiant and historically vindicated choice. Well, a lot of these people think that’s what’s happening and they are trying to make what they understand to be a valiant choice. There’s a strange sort of bravery in it.

The problem is…the underlying premise of their belief is deeply, tragically flawed. The people who converged might have nuances and differences, but underpinning all of them is a collective, fatal lie; that the election was invalid in some way.

What do we make of genuine attempts at heroism for a false cause? It’s the same logic of ISIS, the crusades, leftist eugenics of the late 19th, early 20th century, and more. Fervent commitment to a false cause is a human problem, it’s always been with us.

So, what do?

So while I want the people who did illegal and violent actions on January 6, 2020 to face the requisite legal repercussions for their actions, I still think the long term focus MUST be on the ecosystem that made this not just possible but probable. Garbage in, garbage out. We should hold people accountable for their individual actions, but we MUST hold responsible the people who should have been a check on the worst of this and didn’t. And yes, that includes the President, which is why I think impeaching him is the right thing to do. There needs to be deterrent for leaders and those in power from feeling able to leverage violence and extremism – whether through incitement, tacit approval, or passive acceptance – for their political benefit.

I don’t know what to do long-term, however, about the problem of living in alternate realities that are founded on these beliefs. QAnon believers still believe President Trump has a plan to take down a global pedophilia and hormone harvesting ring of Satan worshipers (yes…really…). NeoNazis are already spinning last week as a victory that validates their views and appeals to new recruits. Lots of various other groups believe that they are going to be marched into concentration camps, have their guns confiscated, that the government is about to enact martial law, and any other variance.

Each of these worldviews shares a trait: they have an almost religiously protective reaction to any attempts to persuade them otherwise. It reinforces their faith more than harms it. It’s why I wrote about giving up most of my attempts to argue with people who disagree with me with a view to convincing them – because I’ve lost confidence that it actually produces an effect.

But then, what will work? The only thing I can think of is rooting it out, which is also why I favor deplatforming and push back strongly when it’s called censorship. It isn’t.

We have to confront the ecosystems that create and sustain brittle and false worldviews. This is partly what activists mean when they want to dismantle white supremacy/racism/misogyny, or dispute terminology in a way that makes conservatives mad. It’s also what produces so much backlash against this activism – see paragraph above. If your worldview premises are challenged and they are somehow fundamental to your identity (religious, political, social, you name it), you might interpret a different opinion or movement as an attack. And you might respond accordingly–that’s exactly what’s happening.

We don’t have to be talking about “isms” for this logic to work. I could say the same same is true of the systems of education and media and politics in which we find ourselves, which have helped shape deep and entrenched identities. At a deep level, I’d say this gives insights into how left-leaning people like me position themselves and why. Because I don’t want to dismantle existing systems of power (white privilege, patriarchy, the worst iterations of wealth inequality, and so forth) because they are MEAN or UNFAIR–a criticism often lobbed which I think is juvenile and patronizing. I want them to end because they are founded on lies or false narratives.

We have to confront the lies at the core of these identities. Otherwise they will do what extremist and reactionary movements have always done – reconstitute themselves underground until they see another chance to break out again. History demonstrates this over and over.

The Big Lie

Ultimately I keep coming back to thinking about lynch mobs, that horribly American historical precedent. This is absolutely stemming from seeing a gallows erected on Capitol Hill. People are frantically debating whether it was meant to be symbolic or was intended to kill people…and I think that utterly misses the point.

It’s as useless an argument as whether we were supposed to take Trump “literally or seriously,” because ultimately…it doesn’t matter. The big lie enables and justifies either outcome. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

Looking at the history of lynchings in America, it is actually rare that every single person would have participated in the actual torture and murder of the victims, many would have been spectators or even treated it as some kind of ghoulish community event. But everyone in those crowds would have thought what was happening was “right,” “justified,” or even “righteous.” They would have believed that this action would have been taken because the victim, almost inevitably a person considered inferior or dangerous (whether Black, Jewish, German, Chinese, or any other group) “deserved it.”

You didn’t have to be the one slinging a rope over a tree limb to participate in the big lie of racism. They believed what they were doing was right, whether they watched from a picnic blanket or murdered with their bare hands. These might not be considered equivalently evil acts when viewed in isolation through a purely objective lens – but you can’t do that. Both are categorically underpinned and linked by the same false and evil premise and you cannot detach one from the other.

To do so is to capitulate to the lie. And ultimately, that’s what they want.

Weekend Links

Guys, I just

I mean…

The thing is…

I can’t. Have some links. Let’s catch up in the comments.

See, the American right needs its viewers and product consumers absolutely livid with rage and grievance…but not enough to actual riot over it. That’s a tricky balance, and I’m not surprised they lost control over it. That’s always the end result of rabble-rousing. I wrote about this back in 2016 and the last four years have only reinforced my thinking on the matter.

Hells yeah, and I’m one of ’em. Shout out to my doctor who explicitly said she didn’t want to take me off my meds in winter in a normal year and she definitely wasn’t going to do it in 2020. Bless her.

A story about emeralds, the best gem:

Indeed, there are things from 2020 we need to retain, and righteous anger is one of them. And activism, which is not at all what the storming of the Capitol was.

This story is bizarrely engrossing.

America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional.” Yeah…but he owned the libs, so…

I know we shouldn’t be surprised by anything this may does anymore, but still – HOLY SHIT.

A grim assessment.

Locking the barn doors after the horses have stormed the Capitol….

Who cleans up after the coup?

When you feel betrayed by your messiah figure, what happens to belief? Well, you despair, you hold out hope, or you wait for a sign. MAGAland is bang on target. But I feel obliged to repeat, this is also bang on target for fascist movements which will stay enraged and look to the next guy to lead them to victory. Apart from his personal failings, which are legion, the long term risk of Trump was that he would pave the way for someone much better at the authoritarian dictator gig than he was.

Starting to think misinformation is bad and dangerous, fam…

Understanding the new mutations of the coronavirus.

Do. Not. @. Me.

Fascism is at its most base and basic, the singling out of chosen, “superior” in-groups to enjoy the protection and backing of those in power–from vicious rhetoric through violent means–at the direct expense of villainized outgroups who are denigrated, disempowered, and at worst violently targeted.

And here’s the thing: you can’t fake it. You can’t cosplay fascism on the weekends. You can’t indulge in a little light fascism for fun and profit. You can’t enable it, it thinking it will benefit you but that you can leave it behind when it becomes just a little too distasteful. You can’t flirt with fascism. It’s not what you believe, it’s what you do.

Because due to the very nature of the ideology and by design there are ultimately only two categories–the fascists, and their victims. You are either with them or you are against them, and all the evidence of history shows us that there is no room for conscientious objection. The structure does not allow for it. Sooner or later, whether because you truly believe in it, or are just willing to look the other way while others enact it, you end up with the fascists or on the enemies list. Every. Single. Time.

A lot of people have cosplayed as seditionists and lite-fascists for so long that that’s what they have in effect become. It frankly does not fucking matter what is in their heart of hearts. Fascism is what you do, not what you believe.

You can be shocked but only the dangerously or willfully ignorant can claim to be surprised over the events of the last 24 hours. This is the wholly predictable (and indeed, predicted!) culmination of years of media manipulation, deconstruction of institutions (including the very notion of god damned objective truth), and the coddling of the absolute worst of our national character and history. It doesn’t matter the numbers of their minority, what matters is the vigor of their commitment and intent.

Every single politician who did the devil’s arithmetic and calculated that they could infinitely head a mob, continuously whip it to greater heights of rage, and expect to stay in charge of it, your ignorance alone should disqualify you for public office. The entire weight of history is against you. Every person who told themselves that by staying in the room and abetting the worst tendencies of a malignant narcissist with the nuclear codes they were somehow doing us all a favor, your hubris is insulting as it is laughable. Every official who is performatively resigning with less than three weeks left in their tenure, your cowardice and self-interest after spending four years enriching and empowering your ingroups is naked. You deserve to be hounded from public life. Every single person who shrugged at the antics and rhetoric (which you would NEVER have tolerated from anyone outside your precious ingroup), you are complicit not in just the coarsening of our public life, but in a rising tide of nationalism and authoritarianism which you were happy to go along with when it benefitted you…BECAUSE of the people it harmed, not in spite of it.

Fascism isn’t something you believe, it what you do. And you are either with them, or you are against them.

Never have I been so delighted to have my cynicism go unfulfilled

Spiking the postal service, sowing distrust, decades of gerrymandering, lawsuits to close and reducing polling locations, AND a global pandemic and this election broke participation records.

This doesn’t unmake damage, and it’s no substitute for the systemic work that needs to happen to live up to the promise of our national mythos. I’m still afraid of possible anger or disappointment turning to violence, I’m still not hopeful that the gridlock strategy won’t rear it’s horrible head again, I’m still convinced that the conservative pivot to “the debt ceiling” or whatever is going to give us all whiplash, and I’m certain that the incumbent administration can do a lot of damage on their way out. Hell, I’m not sure Don Jr. won’t announce his candidacy next week or something moronic.

I’m most afraid that a lot of (white, comfortable, middle class) people are going to think “Job done,” dust their hands, and go back to being complacent. Women’s marches, BLM marches, indigenous peoples marches, the active role in promoting not just petty fandoms but the democratic process…that needs to keep happening. We need people of all stripes to push for the world we want.

The thing about democracy is that you have to keep doing it.

But just for this weekend, in this incredibly exhausting and bonkers year, I’m just going to enjoy the many reminders that activism and civic engagement work.

Weekend Links – Expletives Abound

It’s been another rough week, kittens. Have some links to help make sense of the world and zoom out from the individual things that might be stressing you. Also, should you be so inclined, check your voter registration, request your ballot, and donate to a cause you care about. For me it was ActBlue’s “Get Mitch or Die Trying,” for what by now should be obvious reasons.

Cool archaeological news!

BLEEDING HELL

The Venn Diagram of those who think climate change is a hoax and those who oppose immigration is largely a circle. One of these perspectives is going to HAVE to give.

The problem of pandemic commerce doesn’t lie simply with low supply or high demand. Instead, the coronavirus has eaten away at the entire system by which things are bought and sold in America, and few signs of improvement are on the horizon.”

The president also expressed surprise that Washington could not demand payment from the companies in exchange for approving any agreement.” Because that’s called corruption, my dude.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s America’s–oh no!

Speaking of image control, Emily Ratajkowski penned an incredible essay this week. Major trigger warning.

Fascinating piece on consumer behaviors right now, and something that is probably extremely good for society and the planet whilst being extremely bad for the economy. Which is kind of the thing our political system is struggling with right now: the literal choice between lives and GDP.

This is both extremely interesting from a scientific and cultural perspective and very gratifying for someone who thinks that all the odd Nordic worship of some of the weirder portions of our society could use this little reality dose.

FUCK.

May her memory be a revolution.

No shit.

No shit again.

Understanding “flat earth,” how it rose and propagated, how it evolved, how algorithmic media fed it, and how it’s not actually about the shape of the earth is…really helpful in understanding a lot of other things in our media right now. From memeification, gameification, collective identity and media as community, the pervasiveness of apocalyptic thinking, and what happens when people have to justify the impossible and need a reason for why the world is the way it is. (Spoiler, it’s not just about flat eartherism.)

Weekend Links – My Dog Died

I’m having another week where trying to keep up with the cascade of bad feels like it takes too much. Britain COVID cases are trending up again, wildfires plus plague plus civil unrest in the US, really scary protests in Europe against authoritarianism, 9/11, malignant incompetence made worse by deliberate misinformation run rampant–and no one is being held accountable for any of it. I’m exhausted.

And then my family dog died this week. And for all of the above plus a heaping dose of sadness, this just ENDED my siblings and I when my mom told us. There were a lot of tears, lots of story swapping and commiserating across three continents. She was an animal with a lot of personality and character, and she was our dog for 16 years. Even Jeff really loved her and shared a ton of photos with us.

She was old and we knew she was going to go soon, but losing this little neurotic goofball bloody hurts extra hard.

She knows of which she speaks.

The legend of Mulan has evolved to fit the times. Doesn’t mean the movie is particularly good.

Radicalization is the same, whether ISIS or hypernationalist militias. There is. No. Difference.

END THIS RIDICULOUS FAKE “TRADITION.”

Philanthropy is no substitute for the collective civic investment that is…taxation. We badly need to rewrite the narrative on taxes. Taxation and the subsequent allocation of monies by a democratically elected body is not theft, it is not punitive, and it’s not something to find loopholes to get out of. It’s the literal costs of running a collectively beneficial society. Tax the rich, tax business, simplify the code and close loopholes. And for the love of god stop asking “but how will we pay for xyz” in bad faith.

Clearly, there’s a sinister side to memes that requires unpacking.”

So…a government function is going to be deployed for the defence of the President in his capacity as a private citizen

And look, more whistleblowers.

And look, more manipulated information.

We’ve known this was coming for years, and still the images are wrenching. And yeah, where will we go, indeed?

I really love Anne Helen Petersen’s writing, her personal work as much as her reporting, but her latest newsletter was rough again because I think she nailed the sensation of trying to comprehend and compartmentalize time and information in an overwhelming year. “The past year has been an exercise in mass compartmentalization: how can you take what’s happening around you, flatten it, then divide it into small enough sections that you can endure it? If you can just get through the summer, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the week, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the day, the afternoon, the hour.”

Oh dear, Posh is going to take more of my money again.

Fucking GOOD. Finally.

As per usual, Dr. Blyth sums up a lot of my frustrations.

How to help victims of the US wildfires.

Weekend Links – #BLM, Baby Yoda, or GTFO

I’m not sure what it is about shorter weeks that somehow twist the fabric of the spacetime continuum to feel twice as long, but this week was definitely one of those. I’m staying mostly logged off to preserve my own sanity after another bonkers roller coaster ride in 2020, but rather than just spew unfiltered rage, I’ve made a deliberate attempt to provide you an extra heaping dose of style and pop culture. We’ve got a lot on fashion and style because we need beautiful things to look at and think about, in between bouts of sharpening our pitchforks and ensuring we retain and use our rights to vote.

I thought I was alone! (Seriously, I hope I never meet our downstairs neighbors who I must regularly traumatize with my constant klutziness, especially my phone or water bottle, and usually out of reasonable hours. I cringe at just the thought of encountering them in the stairwell.

Well, this is just heartwarming.

Feel like everything you see on your social media feed is the same? You’re not crazy. And we all might be sick of it.

What a great and interesting project! It’s always fascinating to see icons or iconography made human.

Yes, I will watch the crap out of this film. Mary Anning doesn’t get nearly enough playtime.

Major world events trigger fashion changes, so what do we think is going to be the post-COVID style leap?

His artistic work is the loss, but TLo did a beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s beautiful personal style and retrospective of how he opened up fashion for men in a big way.

Damn, Refinery29 pulled out the stops on this one!

Every brand is a media brand in 2020.

Damn it. I think I need to learn how to sew

BAD. Bad for the whole international military and supportive communities. BAD.

No one:
Literally, no one:
Not a soul:
Donald Trump: I DIDN’T HAVE A STROKE!

Grim. Grim and horrible.

Cool. We’re doomed. I look forward to the entire political right pivoting to caring about debt again – depending on the outcome in November.

In slightly more uplifting new, a meme accomplished something good!

I fucking hate him. I really, really do. And I cannot understand the mental gymnastics required to continuously justify the stream of petty cruelty, selfishness, incompetence, UNFIT filth and enablement that flows from him without any consequence.

Who else but Lindsay Ellis could possibly delve into the world of bizarre fanfic erotica and the legal implications of the federal court case that ensues and keep the whole thing not just SFW, but an examination on the difference between genres, tropes, and copyright claims:

 

Oh thank god. I need this. WE need this.

And yea, if you were still wondering for some reason, BLACK LIVES MATTER.