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Mobs and the Age of Outrage

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Politics | 0 comments

This, Palin Broke His Heart, would be an interesting read no matter what, but I think it touches on something that it fails to expand upon: that the mob is becoming central to contemporary political and cultural expression.

One of the shibboleths of American politics that is getting eviscerated this election cycle is that The People Are Always Right. It was never true for anybody; certainly any conservative knows, or should know, that a crowd can easily turn into a mob, and a mob is always a destructive force. We may be seeing this year the political equivalent of a mob.

But mobs don’t come from nowhere. It’s very easy to look at Trump voters and dismiss them as thoughtless vulgarians who vote their prejudices, and who therefore can be dismissed as too morally compromised to take seriously: in other words, not just wrong, but bad. I would ask you, though: is this the way the media and others regarded the mob of Ferguson rioters? No: we had a long, loooooong national conversation on the roots of Ferguson’s rage. And we ought to have had that conversation, however ideologically constrained it may have been.

If we see the Trump moment as not just a populist movement, but as more of an uprising and a mob of angry voters supporting the most visceral and outrageous candidate available, then the mob is becoming the preferred bludgeon for political advancement in the U.S. That fits in with the outraged mobs that flock to and fro on social media, crucifying anyone who dares disagree with their deeply held beliefs. This fits in with the idea that we no longer seem to believe that private opinions and political acts, which cause no direct harm to anyone, are reasons to disqualify a person from a job or a business from operating.

5 Facts of the Age of Outrage

  1. Everything is political. Everything. The things you buy, whether you let your kids walk home from school alone, the movies you watch, and the car you drive, the way you do (or don’t) worship, the microagressions you suddenly notice in movies that you used to love as a kid…you get the picture. Everything in America is seen through the lens of political preference.
  2. Everything is judged. Everything. See above and understand that since everything around you and everything you do is a political statement (even if it is an accidental political statement), that everything is being judged by the hunkering masses on social media and around you with their smart phones and instantly available cameras.
  3. And everything is seen. No transgressions seem to go unnoticed: no accidents or bad days or bad moods or bad moments can excuse away your social and political sins. Someone will post the video or the picture or the scan of the credit card receipt and the outrage machine will grind into motion. And while your family might work to protect you, don’t expect your friends to save you.  While some may remain true, may stay in your corner, I’ve also seen folks who have known each other for years turn on each other and unleash crazed mobs.
  4. The mob is power. Unleash the mob, watch the opposition crumble, and know this truth: the mob is political and social power. While it’s easy to see this as a tool of the so-called “social justice warrior,” the truth is that it is everywhere. It is the Trump voters demanding political change and reveling in the overthrow of contemporary conservatism. It is Occupy Wall Street in all its incoherent, shitting on cop cars rage. It is the black lives matter folks shutting down highways, disrupting libraries, and “taking back” Martin Luther King Day. It is every upheaval on Twitter when someone does something stupid, catching the baleful eye of the monster, finding targets in the  young, old, and middle aged, rich, poor, and middle class, right, left, and somewhere in between. The mob is dumb, dangerous, raging, and unpredictable.
  5. The only safe place is in the mob. And that’s why so many people find a safe place in the mob. If they just follow along, then the eye of the beast isn’t on them. The rage isn’t targeting them. The jobs lost, the reputations ruined, the people hurt– well, if you’re in the mob, it’s not your damage.

This, of course, is unsustainable. We cannot continue as a country, working side by side, raising kids, going to church, seeing movies, paying taxes, dealing with every day life if we grow so fearful that we cannot speak and so hateful of our countrymen that we stop caring for their well being.

This, of course, is unsustainable.

But how much damage will we endure and how will we find a way to heal the divisions? It’s time for a new social contract and new social standards to help us curtail the worst of our own natures, but where is the leader who will show us the path? There are very real problems facing our country and we’ve chosen this moment to magnify them with a social movement based almost purely on the politics of destruction. We better start remembering what is important or we will lose this nation and all the good that its future could hold.

Grace and the US Presidency

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Politics | 0 comments

This is stitched together from a series of tweets that I made earlier this morning. It’s been cleaned up and changed a touch, but the flavor and the point remains. 

I probably won’t gain any fans from this next series of tweets and might even lose a few folks along the way. That is as it may be…

I don’t much care that Palin trotted out her Mama Bear persona and her special brand of outrage to pump up Donald Trump. She isn’t someone I look to for political guidance. I didn’t like some of the media treatment of her and her family during the election, that is true, but I found her to be disappointing during the election and doubly so afterward. At best she puts voice to my concerns, but I’ve I’ve never seen her put that same voice to offering meaningful policy ideas, political insight, or solutions.

So no, I don’t care who she supports.

I do care about policy, thoughtfulness, communication, and solutions. I care about American culture and the idea of tolerance. I want to support someone who won’t deepen the divide between us, who is principled but not blindly dogmatic. I want to support someone who will start moving the ship back in the right direction, but will take the time to do it right. Not with fragile, blunt tools that are built to impermanence, but with leadership, persuasion, compromise when required, and adherence to the rule of law and the traditions that once made our political system something other than a series of executive decisions and decrees from un-elected agency heads.

I want wisdom and thoughtfulness. Trump fans want outrage and outrageous pronouncements.

All of that leads to one question: who do I support?

I could vote Rand Paul, although I disagree with him on some important issues, but Rand is already out of the race. He just hasn’t noticed yet. Similarly, Carly is someone that I like quite a bit but she had no chance. Not in this election, not with Trump taking up all the available space and dominating the news cycle. No, Carly never had a chance.

I have a mad dislike of Jeb. As a politician, I find him grating, but even more I don’t want America held hostage to some new aristocracy and the presidency isn’t a thing to be handed back and forth between two families every eight years or so.

Imagine how I feel about Hillary.

Kasich, Christie, and the rest of the second tier are just background noise. The greatest service they could do for their country now would be to exit the race and let their support go to folks who might actually win the office. But that isn’t the path of politicians.

Bernie’s beliefs and policies are so far from my own that the idea of supporting him is, for me, laughable.

And that leaves just two.

I’ll vote for either Rubio or Cruz when the time comes, but I have a strong preference between the two. And this isn’t about electability……neither, for that matter, is it purely policy. There are real differences between them but those differences are relatively small. Neither of them represents me on all the issues, neither is a perfect candidate, and, in some areas, I would end up opposing either in their presidency. But on many important issues (taxes, economy, the proper role of gov’t), I find common ground. That’s important, but one step beyond that is important to me, too: what kind of person do I want to vote for?

I want to vote for someone who can show grace and kindness even in disagreement. I want to vote for someone who can distinguish between the argument and the person. Which sounds small, but leads folks to treat others very differently.

I want to vote for someone who has the generosity of spirit to accept differences while maintaining their own beliefs. Which is a stronger expression of principle than the brittle, unyielding kind of stand that most people take on cultural and political issues. And while I’d vote for a atheist or Jew or, yes, even a Muslim for the job if I thought they had the right policies and patriotic spirit……I cannot deny that my Christianity also guides me to look for someone who embodies the values that I hold dear. Not necessarily……that they themselves are Christian, understand, but that they embody those values.

Do you see the distinction?

What is that thing that I’m looking for right now? That answer came to me earlier today as an embodiment of some of those values: grace.

Grace in the sense that a person can show kindness, generosity, and caring even when faced with profound disagreements. I really don’t want to vote for someone who will tell half the country to get to the back of the bus. Whoever we elect will be representing all of us– not just a tiny slice of one demographic. All of us. There are very few one size fits all solutions in a nation of more than 300 million varied so much by custom, religion, region, race, and political belief. And I don’t want the person I vote for to treat the other side of the electorate as conquered foes.

Why all this? Rubio’s answer to a simple question. He won’t have changed the guy’s mind, but he answered with grace.

 

So, Rubio is my guy. I’ll disagree with (and push against) him on a myriad of social issues, but I believe that he has the temperament to help guide us in a positive direction. At least, that is my most sincere hope.

In the end, though, America will vote and we will get the President that we most deserve. The one who mirrors our own face.

Last thought: if we truly get the president we deserve, would you rather it be a mirror of our outrage? Or should it be something better?

Thought of the Day: Choosing Slavery

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in Politics | 0 comments

It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Music Download: Joe Passed, “Lego My Ego”

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Arts, Music | 0 comments

Via Riot Act Media, if fuzzy, post punk type pop music is your thing, then this is your thing. Download “Lego My Ego” from soundcloud.

One of the songs from Jo Passed’s upcoming EP, Out, it’s heavily textured, buzzing with energy, and catchy in a head-nodding kind of way. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the thing sounds like.

Fifteen Minutes of Shame

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Celebrities, Culture, Design & Marketing, Sex, Gender, and Stuff | 0 comments

Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Man with Make up and Make Up Brush

Don’t Tread on Me
Photo from Dollar Photo Club.

From National Review, we learn today that “Eliminating Gender Norms from Clothing Styles is Actually Transphobic” for some reason. This being the Age of Outrage, you can be damned sure that someone is going to preach the good word–which is to say, we’re not going to tolerate that shit.

But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory. They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion. All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?

Well, Katie, I hope it leaves us in a place where we’ve reached (I hope, I pray) peak absurdity. This is a moment where it doesn’t matter what you say or do, someone will be offended. They’ll be offended because they prefer the social benefits of outrage over finding the good (or intended good) in what people do. They would much prefer to aggregate power behind cultivated victimhood than merely give the benefit of the doubt.

But it doesn’t matter anymore. It can’t matter any more. It’s just a bunch of people yelling at the top of their lungs, pegging the max on their outrage meters, desperately trying to enforce their view of how everyone else should behave.

It’s a funhouse version of Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, though. In the future, everyone will spend fifteen minutes of shame at the hands of an internet lynch mob and no carefully assembled armor of social justice causes and virtue signaling can possibly save you. It will be a quiet joke told between friends, a well-meaning photo that you took (but didn’t vet with your minority advisory council), an inappropriately appropriated “ethnic” meal, a candidate or cause you supported decades earlier, a political donation you forgot to regret loudly and publicly enough, or merely daring to believe something outside of the current cultural orthodoxy.

Whatever it is, the lynch mob is closing in and your fifteen minutes of shame is coming up.

But, surely, no society could possibly withstand that, could it? No society can maintain a common fabric with so many power hungry, outraged fingers pulling at the threads. Surely, we’ll grow past this absurd moment and remember that the other people on the receiving end of our outbursts of self-righteousness are just like us: imperfect folks doing their best to get along. Surely, we’ll remember to extend them good will and the benefit of the doubt when they say something questionable (and maybe even remember that it isn’t our place to police every word that comes from their mouths to begin with).

Surely, with generosity of spirit and kindness in mind, we’ll remember that ripping each other to shreds and leaving careers, personal reputations, friendships, and dignity in tatters isn’t the best way to build the better world that we all are aiming for.

Institute for the Study of War

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Iraq, War | 0 comments

The ISW is a site that you should add to your blogroll. They’re bringing important updates and analysis about the state of conflicts, broadly, in the middle east.

Start here, with a graphic that shows a current map of control of terrain in Iraq. Which, while we deal with ebola, mid-term political campaigns, a pugnacious Russia, and Peyton Manning’s weekly record chase, we might still want to spare a thought for Saddam’s former playground.

New Music: The Smith Street Band, “Surrender”

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Music | 1 comment

Because today deserves guitars, drums, and a very strange mess.

Fight the Man

Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Arts, Music | 0 comments

I love this story and I hope the forces of good triumph over the forces of Warner.

Happy Birthday remains the most profitable song ever. Every year, it is the song that earns the highest royalty rates, sent to Warner/Chappell Music (which makes millions per year from “licensing” the song). However, as we’ve been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain.

Read the rest.

Grand Jury Sins

Posted by on Jul 20, 2014 in Politics, US | 0 comments

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most important jobs of the informed citizenry is to push back against government excesses. All governments– indeed, all bureaucracies– are inclined to grow fat with power and reluctant to relinquish either the money that they collect or the control that collects around them. It is their nature.

That doesn’t mean that government is evil or only does evil, only that the balance of power should always tip in the favor of the citizens. Government employees and politicians should always be made to be aware that they serve at the whim and will of the people. Protect the people and serve them well, and be safe in your job; serve yourself and you’ll soon need to be looking for a new line of work.

Sadly, it’s damned hard to fire government employees (whose jobs are not only safe, but they have better benefits and pay than their civilian counterparts), and politicians at the national level enjoy retention rates that are ridiculously high (and approval rates that are similarly low).

Gnaw on that fact for a bit.

So, as citizens, we keep rewarding failure at the highest level with more pay, perks, power, and job security. The failures of the United States are not the fault of the political class; they are the fault of the citizenry that refuses to do its job. We have become a trivial people given to worry over irrelevant social policies while our economy continues to falter and the politicians become ever more powerful.

Which is a long-winded prologue to this story of why government, at every level, must be held accountable for their failures and citizens must be protected from their excesses.

Grand juries are supposed to protect us from false allegations, but the old saying that prosecutors could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich”reflects the reality that most fail on that front. Instead, as this study from the Cato Institute explains, they’re often used to harass and intimidate.

Read it all and remember: it’s your job to push back against the excesses of government. At every level.

Vote wisely in the upcoming elections.

A Little Summer Music: bentcousin’s “DIZZY”

Posted by on Jul 19, 2014 in Arts, Music | 0 comments

Don’t know what it is about this song, but I’m really enjoying it right now.

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