What Did YOU Do In The Culture War, Daddy?

There are times — at the beginnings of wars usually — when one side knows a state of war exists while the other side doesn’t.  Pearl Harbor comes to mind.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the residents of Hawaii — Pearl Harbor in particular — slept soundly in their beds, unaware that they were moments away from being bombed, strafed, shot at and in every way attacked.  Japan was at war with them.  Japan knew it — they, unfortunately for them, did not.

That’s pretty much how the Left has been reacting to the Culture War the republican party declared not just on the Democratic Party but on the majority of Americans, too.  We’ve been almost oblivious to it.  We’ve heard the war-like chatter in the background but we’ve never taken it seriously.  We damned well better — because the war Newt Gingrich talked his side into launching years ago has finally established significant beachheads in American Culture.

newt-gingrich

Michelle Cottle nails it: “In his zeal to cripple Democrats, Gingrich poisoned the public against the entire American political system. ”

In Newt’s own words: “You have to confront, delay, and undermine and impose failure in order to move the public.”

Newt made it his absolute goal to impose FAILURE on his perceived enemy — everyone who wasn’t HIM.  That included the CULTURE in which the rest of us live.

Right Wing Culture is a lot like what Astrophysicist Neil deGrsse Tyson calls the ‘Diminishing God of the Gaps’ — the place you go to when you reach the end of what you ‘know’.  Right Wing culture — once thought to be a significant part of American Culture is now understood to be a fringe element at best (and shrinking rapidly).  Right Wing Culture is that thing everyone with a sense of humor laughs at.

It is a fact of life that Right Wing Culture has no sense of humor.  Oh, it can laugh all right — at other people.  Especially if they’re suffering some sort of misfortune.  Then they turn hilarious. Right Wing Culture is sanctimonious.  It believes it understands the divine; it believes the divine has chosen it to be its representative here on earth.  Right Wing Culture is seriously delusional.

Right Wing Culture honestly believes that IT is American Exceptionalism — that its very whiteness and maleness and Christian-ness is exceptional.  It’s wrong of course.  America’s DIVERSITY is what makes it EXCEPTIONAL.  That kind of broad diversity never happened before in one country.  It produced remarkable — no, EXCEPTIONAL — results.

White Christian Male culture is the exact opposite of exceptional.  Aside from rage and grievance, it can’t point to a single thing it’s added to the conversation.  Being weak and having few weapons at its disposal, White Christian Male Culture counts on drawing us near enough to sneak in a dirty low blow to neutralize us.

They’re going to be disappointed this time.  A lot more of us are woke now.  We’re paying attention.

And — as much as we can — we’re doing the thing that cuts Trumpists & Religionistas & RW Culture Warriors deepest:  We’re laughing at them.

 

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Dear Main Stream Media – No, Both Sides DON’T Do It

I’m dying to know.  Which class is it in America’s Journalism Schools that’s confusing everyone?  Which class is instructing American Journalists that if you can’t write anything else, fall back on ‘Well, both sides do it…!’?

Whichever class it is, it’s screwing up American Journalism to the point where American Journalism is HELPING undermine the Republic.  ‘Both sides do it’ is literally blinding them to the larger — and far, FAR more  important — story.

‘Both Sides Do It’ Journalism accepts that a man stealing a loaf of bread because he’s hungry is the same as an industrialist stealing billions from the commonweal.  Yes — both men are thieves.  BOTH SIDES DO IT.

But there’s a difference of scale between them, yeah?  Stealing a loaf of bread and stealing billions are both thievery but aside from that abstract fact, there’s not an iota of similarity.  And while you could say ‘BOTH SIDES DO IT’ — it doesn’t exactly capture ‘The Truth’.  In fact, it perverts the Truth.

That’s what ‘Both Sides Do It’ instantly eschews: Scale… Proportion… Context.  It’s a headline that doesn’t actually match the story.

As we head toward an election that will absolutely decide this country’s fate, the American News Media is taking ‘Both Sides Do It’ Journalism to bold new heights.

Today’s ‘It’ — Enthusiasm.  Both sides have enthusiasm.  Yes, they do.  But the ‘nature’ of that enthusiasm — that’s actually the story.  People who want to restrict rights have one sort of ‘enthusiasm’ and people whose rights are about to be restricted — they experience a whole ‘other’ kind of ‘enthusiasm’.  Theirs is existential.  The other is merely cruel and mired in fear of the ‘other’.  It’s Lizard Brain thinking (as it were).

When you report them as being the same — it distorts everything about the story.  It screws with the Truth.  It’s not far enough away to be dismissed out of hand, but it’s close enough to blur reality in peoples’ minds.  Damage done.

When you approach every story already fixated on the false narrative that whatever crime one side does, the other is matching it step for step.  The most painful example remains every time a ‘serious’ news media outlet hosts a panel discussion about Climate Change and they invite a Climate Change Denier to sit in on the panel.

Television — this is not a revelation — is a mostly visual medium.  How you see things is key to how you perceive them.  When a news outlet splits a screen 50-50, the inherent message is “These Two Sides Are Equal” (by the same token if they squeezed those screens to represent reality — perhaps that would be a genius way to faithfully represent how arguments compare).  When a Climate Scientist shares a 50-50 screen with a Denier — the two are given equal weight, as are their arguments.  Science gets diminished while bullshit gains credibility.  That can’t possibly end well.

But that, too, is part of ‘Both Sides Do It’.  It slides easily into false narratives because it starts from such a distorted place.  Once False Narratives get launched, they take on a life of their own.  The Truth gets harder to discern from all the bullshit surrounding it.

After a while — as we have now — American Journalists start out from a ‘Both Sides Do It’ perspective.  They fail to see any sort of proportionality.  A candidate who equivocates about a senate vote becomes the same as a candidate who lies about raping someone. They both failed to tell the Truth.  BOTH SIDES DO IT.

No, American News Media — Both Sides DO NOT DO IT.

Both sides DO NOT regularly cheat to win elections.

Both sides DO NOT do not disenfranchise and suppress voters.

Both sides DO NOT ‘knowingly’ accept money from FOREIGN DONORS!

Both sides DO NOT lie with such shocking impunity.

Both sides DO NOT so clearly serve the needs of their White, Wealthy, Christian, Male donors at the expense of every other American.

Both sides DO NOT declare Culture War on other Americans.

Both sides DO NOT commit TREASON to hold onto power.

Both sides do not do it.  Period.

 

Our Retail Politics Are Killing Democracy

In theory anyway, Democracy’s simple:  In self-government, the majority of the people get to call the shots.  It’s understood that the majority is made up of a multiplicity of views because it includes so much of the citizenry.

“What do the citizens want?”  That’s the first question.  But it needs to be accompanied by ‘But, what do the citizens KNOW — do they understand what they want in its proper context?’  A citizenry yearning for Unicorns and Jetpacks for all might be a little too hopeful for their own good.  We count on our elected representatives — we expect their perspective to be better than ours,  In order to do their jobs representing us, they simply need to know more of the nuts and bolts details about how we run things.

Can we assume they went into that line of work because they liked it — and thought themselves good at it?

Some people go into politics for genuinely altruistic reasons.  Yeah, sure — everyone wants to ‘make things better’.  The question’s always ‘for whom?’  Guys like Beto O’Rourke — you can hear it in their voices and see it in the way they practice politics: He’s in it because he actually cares — about people, about the commonweal — about the whole notion of what ‘America’ is supposed to be.

Ironically, Beto’s opponent Ted Cruz is the cynical opposite.  Ted thinks he’s smarter than the rest of us — and knows better.  He doesn’t know better what WE need — but he knows damned well what HE needs — and what those giving him money need.  Ted Cruz is ‘clearer’ than an Upper Thetan Scientologist on that.

American Retail Politics isn’t about doing what’s best for anyone.  It isn’t about believing in anything other than getting more votes (however you need to accomplish that end).  It is, by its nature, an exercise in anti-democratic cynicism.  And yet — every two years (on a national level), we demonstrate to the world how little we value actual Democracy and how much we value money.

Our media loves the horse race.  They ADORE it.  They see it through the most narrow Horse Race-y lens.  A zero-sum game where one group of Americans wins while another loses.  Then they wonder — after crowing about winners and losers — whey Americans are perpetually at each others’ throats.  Elections don’t take place in vacuums.  This one certainly isn’t.

Yet the News Media wants to tell THIS story as if it’s happening in a world where the President of the United States — and his political party — aren’t TRAITORS.  When indictments drop — whenever they drop — the News Media will act as if the crime started to be committed AT THAT MOMENT.

No — all the time the News Media behaved as if this was Normal World, a CRIME was being committed — right in front of them.  They even asked some of the perps questions — and got lied to.  The TRUTH didn’t matter, the ‘correct answer’ did.

It’s the ‘correct answer’ that drives Retail Politics.  It ain’t about what anyone believes.  It’s about the getting and keeping of power.

That’s NOT how Democracy works.

We are living inside PROOF that THIS — what we’re living in — is how Democracy dies.

Never Mind ‘Winning The War’ If You End Up ‘Losing The Peace’ That Follows

History is littered with the lamentable stories of Cultures that ‘won wars’ but lost the subsequent peace that should have been the spoil of their victory.  Case in point: The Union (The United States of America) v The Confederate States of America.

Grant accepted Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  The Civil War ending was the Union’s high water mark.  Turns out, it was all downhill from there.  From Lincoln’s assassination to Johnson’s presidency (and his impeachment) to the terribly botched Reconstruction to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to Separate But Equal to & through every awful instance of America’s deep-seated racism — all born of a terrible, terrible mistake:  the refusal to deny SLAVERY at America’s inception — and IN America’s Constitution.

A lot of terrible things have flowed from the Civil War into our Timeline.  But the most damning and damaging comes via the Confederacy’s Ghost:  Having lost the War, it seemingly ‘rose from the dead’ and WON THE PEACE.  How’d it do that?

Usually, it’s the Victors who get to write the History.  But, perversely, that didn’t happen here.  Southern writers — or writers influenced by Southern sympathies — started using the term ‘States Rights’ to describe the Confederacy’s motives for attempting to destroy the Republic. Suddenly the rebels went from trying to destroy the country to being the ones ‘dedicated’ to making us ‘A more perfect Union’.

It’s utter bullshit, of course.  If you go back and read every Confederate State’s exit statement — not a one of them mentions (their supposed core principle) State’s Rights.  On the flip side — the Northern states do talk about State’s Rights — what they are and what they aren’t.  The NORTH cared about States Rights while events were happening, not the South.

And yet — the South latched on to States Rights as its means to re-write History — to paint themselves more favorably — and less honestly.  And damn if they didn’t get away with it.  We actually still debate, in this country, what caused the Civil War — as if, when the simple facts are presented, it wasn’t as obvious as a sledgehammer landing on your foot.  The word we’re all looking for is: “Slavery’.  That’s what caused the Civil War.  But Slavery was such an egregious error on our part that even ENDING IT did not end our problem with it — because we enslaved people UNLIKE us — and never made that fact up to them.  We never ‘owned’ our racism — and apologized for it — and made the people we enslaved ‘whole’ again.

We — the enslavers — did not do that.  Slavery remains an open issue on our books.  That happened because the Union, exhausted by its war win, left the storytelling part of the exercise to the war’s ‘losers’.  They LIED about their story.  They pitched a completely FALSE NARRATIVE.  We bought it…

And, today, an empowered, racist South holds outsized power over the country’s future direction.  Mind you ‘The South’ doesn’t just live ‘in the south’.  it’s spirit lives all over the country in small enclaves of tiny-minded, racist-and-misogynist thinking.  Their horse shit was allowed to thrive and prosper because it wasn’t cut down at its inception.

And every time the news media wonders aloud why White People are so angry, they’re adding to the South’s (and Conservatives’)  narrative that their rage is justified.  If we had just paid a little more attention at the start — when the first Southerner/Conservative spewed the words ‘States Rights’.

If we had just slapped them down — with our words — we wouldn’t be having ‘this’ problem now.

 

 

‘Both Sides Do It’ Is As Dubious As It Is Dead End

American journalism has multiple issues that prevent it from doing its job correctly.  Corporatism’s up there but we can’t blame corporatism for ‘Both Sides Do It’.

I’m curious — Is ‘Both Sides Do It’ (the market version of ‘False Equivalence’) actually taught at American journalism schools?  Is that where the Chuck Todds & Alex Witts & Andrea Mitchells & Wolf Blitzers & Chris Cilizzas of the world learned to ditch all analytical thinking and simply assume that all things are indeed equal?  They certainly couldn’t have ‘learned’ that from actually studying reality.  Or living in it.

The first thing ditched when a journalist tacitly accepts that ‘both sides do it’ is PROPORTION.  They could (and the Chuck Todds ALWAYS DO) ask the dopey ‘what if’ — “Well, what if this otherwise completely illogical, unbelievable thing were true…?”  The next thing they do — if there’s a shred of similarity — is “See?  Both sides DO do it!”

Yeah, Chuck Todd, they do.  Hey — didja know that humans and fish both ‘breathe’?  They do!  Both sides DO IT!  Of course, humans breathe air and fish breathe water but — that’s a minor detail, right — at least it always is where your storytelling is concerned:  “BOTH SIDES DO IT!”.

Let’s try on proportionality.  A man who steals because he is hungry vs a man who steals BILLIONS because he can.  Both men are thieves; BOTH SIDES DO IT.  The proportions aren’t quite the same though.

If journalism is an inquiry into The Truth, then any journalist taking up the mantle that ‘Both Sides Do It’ has just cut their vision of The Truth in half.  Maybe more.

Any journalist even ‘thinking’ that ‘both sides do it’ is a journalist who’s already left the building.

Bad enough as ‘both sides do it’ is as an ‘analytical tool’, it’s a hell of a lot worse as a basis for action — as in ‘both sides do it so here’s what WE should do…’.  There’s nothing of substance where the ellipse now is.  You can’t take ‘both sides do it’ and create actions to stop both sides from doing it.  It’s a dead end description — in addition to being inaccurate.

The way it almost always works — no, ALWAYS works — is we all turn to Liberals, Progressives and Democrats to ‘be the adult’ and step back from the precipice first.  No one ever looks to conservatives to make the first move because they know — compromise is not in any conservative’s DNA.  There’s a reason they’re conservative:  They want to CONSERVE something — the past is my guess.

Every time they compromise though, a piece of that past gets wiped away forever.  It’s no more than a memory now… .  Conservatives know that.  Newt Gingrich did.  newt-gingrichThat’s why his revolution allowed no compromise.  Compromise wasn’t just failure, it was extinction.  In response, Newt launched the full-on Culture War that got conservatives so crazed they thought joining forces with RUSSIA was an okay idea.  They thought taking Russian money and serving Russian masters was preferable to compromising with progressives.

Think about that.

One side does it for a specific set of reasons.  Conservatives and republicans ‘do it’ because they know the demographics are against them.  THEY ‘do it’ because their ideas appeal to fewer and fewer people — most of whom, it so happens, look just like them.  Conservatives do it because they dread losing power; they know it will never come back to them.  Not if Democracy works the way it’s supposed to…

Which brings us to Mitch McConnell — the man who has single-handedly destroyed the US Senate — the man who stood in the way of Barrack Obama telling America in September that our election was under attack from Russia — whose aim was to make Donald Trump president.

Mitch McC

Mitch, it turns out, has been taking Russian money forever… As in MILLIONS of it.  And we thought he was only the Koch Brothers’ lackey… Silly us.  Mitch literally robbed Barrack Obama — AND EVERY AMERICAN WHO VOTED FOR HIM — of the SCOTUS pick THEIR VOTE WON THEM.

‘Won’ them.  Or is winning different when Democrats do it?

DO both sides do what Mitch did?  No, both sides do NOT.   I rest my case.

America Has A ‘Body Image’ Problem: Why Gerrymandering Is Our DYSMORPHIA

What does America ‘look like’?

Imagine us sweeping into a dressing room for a fitting.  How shall we ‘dress’ going forward (through the door of the next election — there, that’s the whole metaphor)?

Turns out we have the whole world’s attention as we twirl in the mirror.  They all see us how they see us — like friends and rivals, each with a history and an attitude toward us.  Can’t do much about that right now.  History is history.

But, as we twirl, we catch our own reflection.  And what we see staring back… It confounds us.  We know what we are in our heads.  Why doesn’t our body look like it?

Welcome to Gerrymandering.

Quick example (drawn from Lawrence Wright’s wonderful piece in the New Yorker from a few months back about the effects of gerrymandering on Texas).  Austin, Texas has a largely progressive voter population.  And yet — of the SEVEN voting districts into which Austin has been carved, as of the time Wright was writing, only ONE was represented by a Democrat.  The rest of Austin’s six — predominantly progressive — districts were represented by conservatives (and in several districts, ARCH conservatives).

The (intended) result — A MAJORITY  Progressive voting population is represented as a MINORITY Conservative population — the Will of the People has been completely CIRCUMVENTED.  The intended result isn’t just an electoral win for the MINORITY candidate but the creation of a Juggernaut of electoral invincibility that will keep the conservative white, Christian minority in power over a progressive, diverse majority.  In heavily gerrymandered districts all over the country, Democrats must, in essence, generate at least twice the voter turnout just to achieve ‘parity’ that overcomes the distorting effect of the gerrymandering.

Because that’s what gerrymandering does (aside from circumvent the will of the people) — it creates a distortion — exactly like dysmorphia — to take root in our brains.  The News Media — glomming onto the numbers (like it was our weight expressed down to the atom) — doesn’t see or acknowledge the context that gerrymandering presents, that the numbers, without that context, tell, in fact, a very false narrative about a district that doesn’t exist.

If you’ve ever experienced body dysmorphia — or know someone who has — a dysmorphic’s body image does not match reality.  They desperately need a meal but their dysmorphic mind says ‘Go on a diet’.  The diet could kill them.

That is us — America.  A progressive-by-nature country (that’s what diversity does — it’s why diversity COMES in the first place because progressive places welcome while regressive places turn away) being run by arch conservative people NOT because the progressive population ‘wants’ to be governed that way but because the arch conservative people figured out how to HOLD ONTO POWER despite the fact that they were no longer the majority entitled to hold onto power.

And they did that through GERRYMANDERING.

When America looks in the mirror, it sees THIS —

It sees diversity.  It sees every color in the rainbow and every variation on the theme of being human.  It sees America staring back at it.

When Conservative America look in that same mirror, this apparently is what it sees staring back —

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump Holds Election Night Event In New York City

THEY look like that, yes.  They do.  And they’re proud of it.  But it’s not what WE look like.  It’s not what America looks like.

When we start to get healthy again — soon, I hope — we’ll see it.

 

‘MAGICAL THINKING’ isn’t ‘Thinking’, It’s BULLSHIT; That’s Not A Revelation…

There’s a phrase I’m fond of saying here:  “BACK IT UP OR IT’S BULLSHIT”.

I appreciate that it’s just easier to let other people think for you — especially where the Bigger Questions In Life are concerned.  Where did ‘This’ all come from?  Why are we here?  What is the point?

‘Cos god’ is what Institutional Religion wants you to buy — and they hit you early and hard to make you buy.  And, because they’re hitting you early, when you’re a kid, they know you have no capacity to fight back.  Or ask a good question or two.  Something that might stump them like: “What the hell are you TALKING about?”

Enter the ‘Mumbo Jumbo’… the ‘Ooga Booga’… The MAGICAL THINKING.

What happens when we die?  Heaven.  Proof of it’s existence?  Don’t need proof — faith.  Ah — and ‘faith’ in WHAT?

Faith in the Magic.  Faith that ‘The Magic’ is real.  Based on… nothing.  Because there never was anything to back it up.

For a generation now — since Lee Atwater & Newt Gingrich & Karl Rove & everyone who ever worked in the Nixon White House declared open cultural war on Progressive America (AMERICA in other words), actual data to back up and justify their policy initiatives and the direction they wanted to take America were totally non-existent.  But MAGICAL THINKING was suddenly available in abundance.

Liberated from having to actually BACK UP their claims, republicans and conservatives went hog wild — trickling down all kinds of bullshit on the heads of the American People.  Bullshit is like a booby trapped toy dropped into a war zone.  It looks so innocent when you pick it up — and then it ‘explodes’ inside your head.  Coat the Truth in enough lies often enough and the lie begins to cover up the Truth completely.

The story of how marijuana was ‘illegalized’ in this country comes to mind.  And while I’m at it, let me do a little cross pollenization —

https://www.marijuana.com/news/2018/08/blunt-truths-introduction-how-one-man-turned-the-law-and-society-against-weed/#comment-687464

Inevitably, Magical Thinkers legislate their Magical Thinking onto the rest of us.  We find ourselves subjected to laws and rules that WE KNOW are based on bullshit.  And we look around at each other and we wonder — how the hell did THE MAJORITY of Americans end up HERE — where BULLSHIT (Magical Thinking) gets taken seriously while The Truth gets tossed aside?

Bullshit — and those who deal in it — count on their bullshit causing confusion and disrupting logic.

Donald J Trump comes to mind, strangely…

Good thing the cure isn’t hard to find or take:  Read.  Learn.  Analyze.  Question.  Back It Up.