False Narratives, The GOP And The News Media: How Bullsh*t Goes Nuclear

How in the hell did America’s news media get it into their heads that “both sides do it”? Nothing has been more destructive both to journalism and journalists than this idiotic, deeply cynical, perspective-free point of view. Do both sides do it because they’re the same? Or is it just a freak of nature that “both sides do it” despite being nothing like each other? What’s the “it” both sides are “doing” anyway? For starters, no — both sides aren’t the same. If Democrats were “like” Republicans they’d BE Republicans. But Democrats (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the Democratic Party that opposed Lincoln and ultimately became the Dixiecrats which ultimately became the Southern Strategy oriented “modern” Republican Party) are utterly incapable of marching in lock step like Republicans. Republicans are capable of all believing one thing right down to the chorus and response. Democrats, on the other hand, suck at marching in lock step. They can’t even agree on what “lock step” actually is.

The modern Democratic Party is still every bit the group about which Will Roger famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. When you’re the party of diversity and inclusion, you don’t exclude anyone. You simply don’t think that way. Put ten Democrats in a room, you’re likely to get ten different opinions. The trick, as always, is negotiating a compromise that everyone can live with while quietly hating. Democrats are idealist but pragmatic. That’s the nature of progressivism: it lives in the real world of data points while never surrendering its aspirations. How do we get ‘there’ from ‘here’? That’s the question.

Also worth noting, the Democrats, being diverse, are not the doggedly dogmatic “Christian” party Republicans are. That’s why Republicans so good at goose-stepping together: they can all agree on the same dogma.

Democrats do not do things for the same reasons Republicans do. Democrats, by their nature, favor people over profits. Republicans, by their nature, do the exact opposite. They always favor profits over people. Modern Republicans are very much the Democrats who opposed Lincoln. They haven’t changed a bit; down deep, plenty of people who proudly stick that “R” next to their names would probably vote to bring back slavery if they could only find a way to get it onto a ballot. The only difference is, this time, they’d make a point of enslaving more of us.

As we stand here today, the Republican Party has declared open war on our democracy. Can’t blame them, really… what good is democracy to you if no one will vote for you? But then, who except for white, Christian men see the 1850’s as a “Golden Age”? The RW money grasped in the post Reagan years that the Republican Party faced demographic extinction. It was never a question of adaptation to changing circumstances. Change is anathema to conservatism. Instead of changing themselves, they set out to change the rules. That is not the same thing as “governing”.

But, “Both Sides Do It” refuses to “judge” anyone. It divorces itself from taking sides in any way — even when taking sides is necessary. “Both Sides Do It” assumes that everyone has a point of view. Fair enough — in fact, I agree. Everyone does have a “point of view”. But not everyone point of view has “a point”. I have a point of view about being molested twice by the religious director at the temple my family attended when I was a kid. So does the guy who molested me. If you sat us both down and asked us: “What happened?”, we could both tell you a different side of the story. BUT — just because my molester has a point of view here, that does not mean he has a point. That’s a completely different thing.

Not every point of view is justified. In other words, not every point of view has a “point”.

Hey, remember how our NEWS MEDIA used to entertain discussions about “the climate debate”? Remember when it WAS a “debate”? It shouldn’t have been, of course. Still, because of “both sides do it” and the compulsion to invent false narratives, our news media would put a climate scientist on one side of the screen and a science denier on the other — presented visually as a total “50-50”. Regardless of the information flowing, VISUALLY, the image says both sides have the same validity. Who’s telling the truth? Don’t know — it’s a 50-50.

That happened because our news media refused to “take sides” and call obvious bullshit what it was: BULLSHIT. Instead, our news media regularly gave bullshit credence.

When you automatically give every argument, sight unseen, the benefit of the doubt, you are setting yourself up for failure. Inevitably, some of those arguments benefitting from your largesse are total bullshit. When you ask the question — as too many American journalists do (in their own way) “Yeah, but what IF bullshit was true…?”, you automatically give bullshit credence it does not deserve. It didn’t give itself legitimacy, the journalist supposing it “could” have legitimacy did that.

Once you spray bullshit with the patina of legitimacy, it never goes away. That bit of bullshit might supersede reality. Next thing you know, bullshit rules everything. And everything is bullshit. Every time a journalist sticks a mic in a Republican’s face, they treat that Republican as an honest actor; it’s what they’re supposed to do. But when you stick your mic in a liar’s face — and they lie to you as expected — it doesn’t serve anyone to act as if the lie is true. Now, either the reporters giving Republican arguments credence know they’re being lied to — and allowing their Republican interview subjects to get away with it — or they’re ignorant that they’re being lied to in which case, they’re too ignorant to be working as journalists.

There is good news on the horizon. Slowly, more and more members of America’s Fifth Estate are opening their eyes not only to the actual story they’ve been mis-reporting now for five years but to the fact THAT they’ve been mis-reporting it because they repeatedly treated Republicans as honest actors when, clearly, they’ve been nothing of the sort.

“The sun sets in the west,” Lester Holt said while delivering the keynote address at the 45th Murrow Symposium while achieving the Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism, “Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention”. Abso-tutely, Lester! Your duty “is to be fair to the truth” first not every dumbass argument spewed by dumbasses.

Donald Trump is what happens when bullshit becomes not only pervasive but president. Our news media is what happens when bullshit becomes mistaken for journalism.

White Perspective Is A Bully’s Perspective

We get it — the idea of power sharing horrifies you; it always has. That’s why you’ve worked ceaselessly — regardless of whether you went by the label “Dixiecrat” or “Southern Democrat” or “Republican” — to prevent anyone NOT white from participating in American democracy — a thing you yourselves abhor. The problem with democracy — from an autocratic point of view — is that you can’t trust voters to vote for you and your ideas; they probably get that you’re a power mad fraud. Democracy is a marketplace of ideas. As we all know, crony capitalists don’t want a free market for you, they want a free market for THEM. Hell, conservatives (the political wing of crony capitalists) now openly admit that they MUST cheat in order to win elections which is WHY Republicans suppress Democratic voters but Democrats NEVER even think of suppressing Republican voters. Democrats don’t have to do that — because their ideas sell just fine in the marketplace.

The right wing money understood a while ago that the more America diversified, the quicker their hegemony would end. The more Black people voted — the quicker white hegemony would end. It’s not as if Black voters are insanely liberal as a group. They’re not. To begin with, they’re not monolithic. No group is — including white people. But there’s a difference. Because they’ve been the ones holding all the political power and wealth in America, white group-think has far greater real world (realpolitik) weight than anyone else’s. We do not now stand on a level playing field. We never have and every time we treat it like it is, we’re grossly mis-representing reality.

White perspective (born of white culture) always assumes it’s superiority over everyone else. For instance, white perspective tells itself it “discovered” America. That assumes that prior to white, Christian Europeans arriving on these shores that the America was a virgin land, filled with darkness, ignorance and savagery — all waiting to be saved by them. No, actually, it wasn’t. As historian Charles C. Mann points out in his excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”, “… the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand.” Native Americans founded, lived and thrived in actual cities in North America while Paris and London festered in the mud, struggling to rise above their humble beginnings.

Historian Jared Diamond brilliantly summed up European “superiority” as “Guns, Germs & Steel” (the title of his excellent history of how the white man’s germs, mostly, reduced North America’s native population so completely that defeating the survivors militarily was remarkably easy. That wasn’t the Europeans plan — not at first; in time they’d realize how effective blankets infected with smallpox can be in controlling Indian population size. It is what happened however.

For what it’s worth, the Indians did pass syphilis — one of their native infections — to the white man.

The first thing every schoolyard bully does is reduce whoever he’s bullying to something less than a human. Bullies can’t bully their equals (they’re all afraid they’d lose) and they certainly can’t bully their superiors. That leaves people the bully feels superior to. And off they go! Bullies see everyone not them as one kind of cockroach or another. Once you’ve stopped seeing other people as people? Bullying them is easy. Who cares if you “hurt their feelings” — to the bully, the bullied’s feelings are there TO be hurt. That’s why bullies bully — hurting other people gets them hot.

Another thing that happens when you reduce other people to “less-than-people” status. You negate their history. White people denied the value of Native American history before they introduced Christianity to them. Who cared what savages thought? Who cared where savages came from or why they had the traditions they had. Cockroaches don’t have “traditions”. White Americans have also negated Black history. That’s why some white Americans think they should be free to “opt out” of Black History Month.

Negating a peoples’ history also negates their wealth. White America’s greatest crime against Black America is slavery of course. But, slavery, remember, is first and foremost STOLEN LABOR. That’s the point. You can’t amass wealth if you can’t acquire it to begin with. And you can’t acquire wealth if you never get paid for your labor — the thing you have to sell.

In the American south, slave owners justified slavery by saying they couldn’t profitably engage in growing rice, sugar or cotton if they had to pay the labor needed to PICK those crops a living wage. Or any wage whatsoever. The costs of buying, housing, clothing and feeding slaves was understood as the “costs of doing business”. In fact, slavery was NEVER a good economic model for those businesses. But then, white people will believe anything if it involves denigrating Black people.

We all know what the Trump insurrectionists were thinking. They told us. We know what they wanted — and still want. Being the ultimate bully, Donald Trump can’t conceive of losing. But, Trump’s bullying has an extra dimension to it: treason. This is no secret to Trump’s republican co-bullies. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously told a roomful of Republican leaders a month BEFORE they nominated Trump to be their POTUS candidate “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” The reason the entire Republican Party has gone along with this insanity is because they’re all guilty of treason.

White people need to step back for a bit. If they don’t do it of their own accord, their stepping back will be done for them and probably not nicely. No one likes being bullied. Especially not bullies.

Ironically, when it comes to being bullied? Bullies hate being bullied more than anyone.

Hey, America — There’s A New Boss In Town — It’s The “African-American Vote”

Common wisdom (often more common than wise) has whispered for a while now that African Americans were the core constituency of the Democratic Party. Don’t have them behind you (on a national level)? You aren’t going far.

Yesterday, that bit of common wisdom looked unnaturally wise. Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign went from zero to hero almost entirely on the strength of the African-American vote. As a voting block, African Americans didn’t just flex their muscle, they demonstrated just how powerful a muscle they wield. Now, let’s be clear — African Americans don’t get on the phone with each other to discuss how they’re all going to vote. Jews don’t do it either. Neither do Latinos or any voting block (except Bernie Bros apparently and Republicans). African Americans — though not voting “as a group”, voted as a group of individuals with a common experience: American politics at their expense.

As a group, African Americans have a very particular history. As a group, Jews have a very particular history. That history imprints upon a group in myriad ways, most of them very subtle — but definitive. When you cannot automatically trust the political system you have no choice but to participate in, you approach it a little differently than someone who’s always benefited from that system. White people get to take our system’s inequalities for granted one way. People Of Color get to take them for granted the other way.

African American voters are pragmatic through and through. There’s one thing that, as a group, they’re aspirational towards like no other (because it touches them so completely): social justice. When you’ve never actually gotten to experience what everyone else has taken for granted — the thing that gives them monumental advantages over you — you recognize that before you can have anything else, FIRST, you must have THAT.

You must have social justice in order to have a remote shot at all the other things you deserve — same as everyone else.

Donald Trump has made it clear as can be that one of his biggest missions is to reverse, undo, destroy or shit on EVERYTHING Barack Obama accomplished as president. Trump has billboarded his racism from the get-go. Birtherism should have been the end of Trumpism. We should never have gotten to “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy-grabbing”. A decent Republican Party would have made racist birtherism anathema to them.

They didn’t. Because decency died in them long, long ago. The people now calling themselves “the Republican Party” share philosophy (though not name) with the Dixiecrats. I recommend historian Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” which explains how the Republican Party — at its founding — were a lot more like contemporary Democrats than contemporary Republicans. Names mean a lot less than core philosophy.

The modern Republican Party is very much the Dixiecrat Party — Nixon’s Southern Strategy come back to life as a ravenous Christo-fascist hate-zombie who knows the demographics bode poorly for white, Christian, male power. Southern-sympathizing white, Christian male power. What African Americans know — we’re still fighting the Civil War. And we’re still fighting the Civil War because we let slavery in the door.

Rather, we didn’t kick it out upon the nation’s founding. We compromised with something you cannot compromise with and maintain your integrity. You cannot say “All men are created equal” while owning other “men”. You can’t.

African Americans have lived and died on the crux of that matter. As a group, they did not ask to be here. Once here, they did not want to BE here. Once that choice was taken away — to have their old lives back — they wanted to survive the inhumanity being inflicted upon them. The stolen labor. The stolen children. The stolen lives and property and dignity and even history.

Poll taxes and voter ID laws are all ways racists try to stop African Americans from voting. On one side of this equation are all those people TRYING to stop people of color from voting. On the other side are people of color who just want to exercise their right to vote. It’s kind of organic that those people of color would therefore — on a regular basis — vote differently than the people trying to suppress their vote. ‘

Back in Lincoln’s day, that would have meant massive turnout for Republicans — the Party of Lincoln.

But the two parties have swapped names — that’s really what’s happened here. The Party of Lincoln has morphed into modern Democrats while the Confederacy has morphed into the Republican Party. When African Americans turn out en masse — as they did yesterday for Joe Biden — it has actual historical significance. While speaking as individuals — with the same righteous indignation in their hearts and the same pragmatism in their heads — also African Americans spoke as a group. They brought Joe Biden’s presidential run back from the dead not because they dislike Bernie Sanders (or anything Bernie stands for) but because 300 years of group experience has taught them that whatever serves social justice best — that is how they must vote.

I say all this as a socialist. I was thrilled to attend Bernie Sanders’ first campaign rally here in LA in 2016. I took my son even (he was 17 — and has, since, become a bit of a Bernie Bro — in his “Bernie Or Bust” thinking). I aspire to everything Bernie aspires to. But, I’m pragmatic, too. And there’s reality. I have to live in it — so must Bernie.

I trust that, should he not win the nomination, Bernie Sanders will do what he said he would and back whoever the Democratic nominee is. But what of the most ardent Bernie followers — the ones ( like my son) who have said they won’t vote if Bernie isn’t atop the Democratic ticket? I hate to say this (son — ya listening?) Taking your ball and going home is such a White Guy thing to do.

For real.

If you really want social justice — and social justice is the foundational idea on which Social Democracy and socialism is based (that and economic justice — but, it’s the social justice that demands the economic justice not the other way around) — then you, at least, have to look at how African American voters voted yesterday. They chose Biden because they see the clearest path toward social justice.

If we make the 2020 Presidential campaign an epic battle between Good — social justice — and Evil — All Things Trump — we will win that battle hands down, going away and by a mile. We have, on our team, a group with a great nose for social justice. They’ve pointed us clearly in one direction.

Hey, White People — let’s start listening for a change.

Is It A “Stupid Question” To Ask “What’s Up With America’s Love Affair With Stupid”?

Not A Revelation: Stupid plays very well in America. I don’t mean we like to laugh at stupid people (everyone loves laughing at stupid people except the stupid people themselves), I mean we we like it when stupid people laugh at us.

We must like it; we keep setting ourselves up for it to happen

American politics has an actual history of stupid people proudly proclaiming how stupid they are — the whole point being how stupid they are. The “Know Nothing” movement was an actual thing started by a bunch of nativists in 1855. When it started, “I know nothing” was the intended response to any and all questions (especially as they pertained to the group’s rabid anti-Catholic xenophobia).

Know-nothingism touched something deep in American racism.

Later on, Dixiecrats — State’s rights Democrats (modern Republicans) — took up the Know-Nothing banner and waved it proudly. Racists like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms extended the subjects about which they “knew nothing” to pretty much everything. Republicans turned “knowing-nothingism” into a battering ram of legislative ignorance, bad faith and racist claptrap.

Jump cut to today. It’s the “know nothing” attitude — the I don’t give a crap about the facts, I only care about what I want — at the core of a rip tide of anti-abortion legislation. It’s not a love of science seizing the nation, it’s a love of scientific ignorance. Feelings over Facts. Foolishness over everything else.

We are letting stupidity — and stupid people — dictate not only policy but “morality”. Stupid people have stupid morality. Even if well-meaning, stupid people unloosing their stupid upon the world never works out well for the world. Do anti-vaxxers think pathogens like measles and polio give a shit what they think?

Could the Right To Life movement be more blatantly stupid (in addition to dishonest, hypocritical and misogynistic)? You can’t sell stupid with facts. You can only “sell it” (cram it down the Nation’s unwilling throat) by saying it louder and longer. That’s always stupidity’s goal — to outlast you. It’s the only weapon on its tool belt after all…

What is Donald Trump if not Stupidity on Steroids?

Every pronouncement he built his reputation and base on was based on stupidity — and relied on other peoples’ stupidity to take off. It relied on the American news media’s willingness to spread that stupid like fertilizer. And, boy, did they! What makes Donald Trump’s lies so painful isn’t that they’re lies, it’s that they’re so damned STUPID. He must think WE’RE stupid when he says them.

That Donald Trump is STILL president makes the case that, indeed, we ARE stupid. We’re so stupid we’ll let our own rules trip us up — while we try to stop from stupidly going down the road to chaos, corruption and authoritarianism.

Worse than our love affair with stupid however, is America’s almost palpable hatred for smart people. The word “elite” really means “educated”… or “articulate”… or “thoughtful”. In other words, “not stupid”. Republicans love calling Democrats and Progressives “elite” — by which they mean “not stupid”.

Back in the 1950’s the Democrats twice put Adlai Stevenson up to run against Dwight Eisenhower. It was a thankless task — running against the War Hero who’d just won the Second World War in most Americans’ eyes. What Republicans relied on however — to beat down Stevenson — was his intelligence. Republicans called Stevenson “egghead” because his being well-read, well-informed and capable of critical thinking apparently made him less of a public servant to their way of “thinking”.

Oh, irony… poor, irony.

Where does that come from, I wonder, America’s virulent — persistent — anti-intellectualism? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many religions have been created here. A religion is a fantastical answer to a practical question — why are we here? But, whereas a science-thinking person starts to answer it by establishing first what they can prove with facts, a religionista doesn’t bother with facts (because facts can only confuse them or screw them up).

A religionista’s answer (to anything) doesn’t have to have a basis in reality.

I’m biased, I guess. That sounds painfully stupid. Never mind asking what could possibly go wrong, I want to know what could possibly go right?