Monday, November 23, 2015

The Enema Within

The circus comes to town, and more hijinks ensue. Violence against protesters has already occurred at several Trump rallies, mostly in the south, which more and more is looking like an area we should have either let go in the first place, or completely eradicated every trace of traitor-slaver existence. It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured or worse.

These yahoos mean business, and by "mean business" I mean that these Horst Wessel rallies provide emotionally retarded morons an opportunity to be their true selves. And that means that if someone browner than themselves is at the rally, they're up to no good, and must be stopped by any means necessary. You know, pointing out that every word out of Trump's asshole-shaped mouth is a lie, including "and" and "the", makes the baby Jebus cry blood.

Not that they care if anything their hero says is true or accurate, or is even grounded in reality. It affirms their bullshit, it validates what they knew all along. There is no perceivable benefit to pointing out that Trump is a liar and a fool, that Ben Carson is even more so. These people don't care about facts or reality. They want what they want. They think Trump is the guy to give it to them, good and hard.

I've been binge-watching the first season of Better Call Saul, the spinoff-prequel series to Breaking Bad. It is outstanding so far, with the potential for true greatness that Breaking Bad had, but in a rather different way. There is a recurring pair of characters, a husband-wife duo of inept would-be embezzlers, called the Kettlemans. Basically Mr. Kettleman is the aggrieved county accountant who found out how easy it was to write expense checks to himself, and how hard it was to stop before he got too far in; the missus is your basic suburban milf grasping for what passes for a brass ring, and she grimly holds onto it even with even more of a death grip than her husband, who after all actually stole the loot.

Long story short, these chumps are looking for legal representation, and the wife is insisting that her husband is innocent, even to Bob Odenkirk (the titular character), who hadearlier physically engaged in a tug-of-war with her over the duffel bag containing the stacks of cash. In other words, Mrs. Kettleman insists with a straight face, to the person she knows has seen the stolen cash, that there is no cash, there was no crime, this is all some sort of bizarre put-up to frame her hard-working nebbish of a husband.

Nothing dissuades the wife from this line of thinking, and it's not just a line of defense. She has told herself this lie so often, she literally believes it, even in the face of all evidence and logic to the contrary. This is the mentality of the Trump/Carson fan -- and that is really what they are, fans, followers, acolytes, somehow both a deeper and shallower connection than mere voters would have. They are true believers, too old and fat and white to actually risk any skin in any meaningful way, but very easy to exhort a like-minded group of them into physically assaulting anyone with the temerity to heckle their wampeter.

There is some truth to the idea that, as we get more and more politically polarized in this country, both sides (Republicans/Democrats; conservatives/liberals) each report roughly the same high levels of feeling alienated. I think it's true, and largely for the same reasons:  each side is frustrated and appalled by the behavior of the other side. If you didn't know better, you might suppose that there was some sort of equilibrium at play here, that these opposing levels were somehow equal and offsetting each other, like a political Newton's Third Law.

But there's one small problem with that theory -- the sides are not equal in scope or scale or degree or even in levels of accuracy, not at all. As radicalized conservatives become more and more detached from the establishment GOP, they become more unhinged not just in their paranoid stylings, but in the way they pervert common words to mean what they think they should mean.

Here's one recent example (no doubt some of your goofier Facebook friends will supply you with many others). If you don't already know, there is a network of right wing "news" sites, with standards that make Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. The linked site is called The Political Insider, but you can find the same "article" with very slight rewrites at many other sites, such as Conservative Tribune, Right Wing News, Western Journalism, and others.

A quick skim -- and I mean, like maybe ten seconds at each site -- of these digital bungholes will illuminate and alarm you. They are mostly there to peddle the lowest-common-denominator form of clickbait. I have yet to see a single post at any of these places that have any attribution at all; the above link is (like everything at The Political Insider) attributed simply to "TPIWriter".

Now, what you see in the linked post is, I can assure you, standard for these sites. It is not at all an unusual example of the prevailing form. The headline, in all its lurid implications, is right on the money for the highly suggestible crowd that consumes this virtual soylent green by the truckload.

Deconstruct the headline and then compare it with the content of the post. There is no corroborating evidence of the headline's assertion, something that is generally, you know, a given in the news industry, and even the "news" industry. Since that post entered the arena at some random node in the digital brownshirt nutwork, it just gets pushed around to all the other nodes, a word change here and there, but generally the same. It's not like anyone is going to do any fact-checking, not the curators of the content, and certainly not the consumers of it.

But it illustrates a fundamental point about the mentality of these people, and the heightened illogic, the built-in contradictions, of their moronic assertions. You mean to tell us that there is a visible multitude, perhaps even a majority but certainly at least a statistically or anecdotally significant number, of "Obama voters" who are "FURIOUS" over some random yahoo using a rifle crosshair as their personal peace sign, but you can't even provide one person on either side of the story to corroborate this? Even Fox News would have found some liberal caricature and egged them on just have something as "proof" of the assertion. These idiots are too fucking lazy to even make someone up.

This is not a small point -- those posts have zero nutritional value, do not stand up to any scrutiny at all, and don't even take their own lurid arguments seriously enough to even attempt to support them factually. The only thing factual in the linked post is that the bumper sticker exists on a truck in Texas. Everything else is the stuff of civics class and Clown Hall opinion pieces. Nothing anywhere in there supports the headline. Those words do not mean what they have typically meant to most people over the years, in that not a single "Obama voter" was asked their opinion of the bumper sticker, nor was even a conservative political observer cited as a source for the headline's assertion.

Here's a brief thought exercise:  Take a look at Republican clown car, both in its original 19 or 20 occupants, and its current dwindled state. Mentally organize them into some sort of rough "sane to wacko" spectrum, with agreeable (if corrupt) hacks like John Ellis Bush and Chris Christie on one end, and certifiable loons like Huckabee and Carson and Trump at the other. Consider the notion that a politician's constituency is a distillation -- that is, a concentrated version -- of that politician; in other words, a politician who cynically kicks poor people or gays or minorities will resonate most significantly with people who genuinely hate those things.

Consider also the maxim that the "silly season" of the overlong American presidential campaign is really the arena for an even more distilled form of potential voter, the kind of people who would never have the guts to confront a random black guy on the street, one-on-one, but are more than happy to gang up on someone who gets a little too uppity at their Two Hours of Hate mass rant.

Now consider this, perhaps the most potentially dangerous factor in play here:  there are people who believe posts like that TPI link above, complete unadulterated bullshit, just a booga-booga headline with a few dozen words of vague insinuations to pad it out and make it look like something. They believe it, they pass it around on Facebook, they provide hortatory comments to it. In fact I became aware of the linked post via Facebook; one of my Facebook friends, an acquaintance from high school who became an Army chaplain and lurves him some Ben Carson now, liked it or commented on it, so it wound up on my Facebook feed.

At the time I saw it on the feed, the Facebook link to the post had around 10,000 comments, most of them having nothing to do with anything beyond Obama being the current incarnation of Satan. That's not a statistically significant number by itself, in a nation of 320 million people. But it bears reminding that this is one lame post being passed off -- and worse yet, accepted -- as "news", a drop in a veritable ocean of disinformation.

They are drinking deeply, and they have already lost their capacity not only to think critically, to analyze data and its sources, but to even identify what actual information is and does. This is a dangerous spot for any nation to be in, but infinitely more so for the nation that is, for better or worse, the prime movers for all matters economic and military, at least for the time being.

Part of the reason I have long felt that voting does little or no good is the machine that chooses the acceptable candidates for you, the choices are preordained so that any boat-rocking is prevented early on. Here, for once, a variant to that longstanding pattern has emerged; it is unlikely that candidates such as Trump, Carson, or even Bernie Sanders would have gotten this far and sustained their levels of popularity in most previous campaigns of recent vintage. Also-rans and outliers are typically given token mention, with the tacit understanding that they will peter out sometime after the holiday season, but before Super Tuesday.

Carson almost certainly will hold to that tradition, because while he may be a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon and a genuinely nice and sincere human being, he is still an idiot who has no idea how to do the job he is auditioning for, and will be undone by his growing list of known crackpot beliefs. So he'll be gone soon enough, as ridiculous people by definition cannot help saying ridiculous things.

Trump, on the other hand, has staying power, because he can afford to fund himself (even though he is taking donations, thankyewverramush), and because he is the rare bird who owns his ridiculousness, takes pride in it even. He understands his client base the way only a master carny can, gives them what they want. He could be around come Super Tuesday, conceivably. I still don't think he'll hang in that long, but it's becoming apparent that he will stick around at least long enough to affect the nomination outcome. He might even run indy and Perot it for them.

But as dumb as their flock is, I don't doubt that everyone of them will vote, which makes it all the more perplexing when you see that statistically, poor people -- the people most affected by the outcome -- tend not to bother. This, not to put to fine a point on it, is a huge part of the problem.

Since most of my real-life friends tend to be conservative, some of them very much so, this forces me to consider why I, if I were to lump in with one side or the other, would self-classify as a liberal, albeit a heterodox one. Many of the liberals I know, both online and in the meat-world, will talk about having "compassion" or some such. This is all well and good; I do have compassion for the weak and picked-upon, for those who are truly helpless, buffeted about their entire lives, like a doomed raft on the crest of a massive wave. I have empathy.

But that's not why I tend to be liberal on many issues. I find that the liberal position on those issues to be the most pragmatic, the most likely to take in the big picture, to see the nuances and the interdependent relationships, domestically and abroad, that are important to maintain. I am a utilitarian at heart, and a left-libertarian approach that concerns itself primarily with jobs and economic stability is much more appealing than a cadre of weird, hypocritical moralizers that obsess over gays and abortion, right up to the very moment when they get caught sucking off a transvestite and getting an abortion for their mistress.

So it's one thing to be compassionate, but I have no patience whatsoever with the poor and marginalized who have all the time in the world to watch reality teevee and fuck around on their smartphones and impregnate each other, knowing everyone else will have to pitch in and pay for the kid because they sure as fuck can't. In a world where information is free, there is no excuse for staying ignorant, and there's sure as hell no excuse for being too lazy to show up and vote. I have no idea why I'm supposed to care about people who don't give a shit about themselves or anything else. The only reason I want them to get a marginal amount of free food and health care is that I don't want them rummaging through my fucking garage or house for shit to steal.

As much of a joke as the electoral process has become (or maybe it has always been), the fact is that it's that way because we allow it to continue that way; they get away with it because we let them. We don't hold anyone accountable; we check in with our weekly outrages and go back to watching Chrisley Knows Best. This is no way to run a fuckin' railroad, folks. This is why the next generation of app farmers and derp merchants is going to be taking orders from India and China.

[Update 11/24/15 10:00 PST:  Also, too, what Ed said. The corporate media deserve 100% of the blame for keeping Trump going, for becoming victims of their own blindered version of objectivity.]

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