This New American Life
I write this in a booth waiting for my current delivery order to be prepared in an empty restaurant that ten years ago would have been crowded. The music is a soft bossa nova and the kitchen while busy is careful to avoid clangs. The decor is standard a medium brown stain colors the wood and the carpet is green and clean. A mother and her retired son are the only other customers. She is dancing while waiting for the spring rolls to arrive. The owner hands me a thai tea on the house while I wait. I can’t help but worry for the fate of America. I can’t help but wonder where do we go from here.
The internet has redefined what and why we eat. It’s less about what we like and having haunts we return to but posting from the current trends to be considered a cool kid. Even those who do not post on social media still Google and Yelp their choices based on the impression that the best rated by those apps have more value experience wise for their dollars. The hive mind that is social media causes attention inequality and narrows culture especially food culture.
Speaking of the Hive Mind. What do we talk about when we say we shouldn’t give someone a platform. As in the current uproar over Megyn Kelly interviewing Alex Jones, a man who has been paid to spew filth since my childhood. He long ago built his alternative media platform and give a place for wayward views. He helped Trump win without a doubt and his org Infowars will have white house press credentials. He doesn’t need an interview on NBC but NBC and those who oppose his views do need these kinds of interviews. Darkness cannot be allowed to fester. Pre-internet denying mainstream outlets was a good way to slow repulsive thought but now mainstream media is one if the last shared spaces in American life and is more effective as a means of exposing.
The tendency of the internet to drive conformity from food and fashion trends to preventing public discourse is disconcerting to say the least. Humanity’s story is one driven by innovation through diversity not just the kind on a college application check box. How much have we lost? What will it take next?
Two pieces in the NY Times, I wish to discuss: California and Mandatory Voting.
An op-ed by an Australian illustrates the inability of the global elite to understand regional differences between peoples. His claim that mandatory voting moderates elections is really a reflection on the Australian character. Their treatment of refugees inspires Trump. Their treatment of race such as the unironic use of black face on national television fits into the views of the American alt-right.
Compulsory voting doesn’t stop voter ID laws and other attempts to stop turnout just adds punishment to those who fail to comply. If fear of fines is the motivating factor in minority turnout as he suggests then western nations have failed to assimilate outside communities.
Compulsory voting also is not inherently more democratic because more people vote in the final election. If citizens don’t participate in the primary process and the ballot question process (most sigs are bought for questions and funded by pacs) then is filling out a ballot truly a measure of civic engagement.
The act of the government enforcing voting is unconstitutional. We are the government and it represents us rather than the reverse as in order countries. Our rights do not come from elected officials as implied by compulsory voting advocates. The anger of Trump voters comes from active civic participation being perceived as ignored by long time voters and Trump inspired many to vote for the first time. His victory was not because he inspired a small GOP base but others outside the classic Republican coalition. A fact that the global elite appear incapable of understanding.
In California, the state is acting like Antebellum south believing their will and stances greater than their fellow citizens. Particularly Sheila Kuehl a member of the LA county board of supervisors who quote “I said ‘If you have to lie, cheat and steal, do it…Take federal money and just tell them you are going to do whatever they want.” That’s terrible to say as a private citizen outrageous to say as an elected American official. No one is above federal law. Think of the outrage Texas received when they played that role to Obama. A democracy is not one ideology system and to act as such as hinted at by California undermines our nation and empowers authoritarianism. Forget the fear of being cut out of Trump’s privatized infrastructure program (it will have no reward for the public). Fear the national guard coming down in ways Obama feared to act. There’ll be more death than in Ohio before 2020.
Facebook’s announcement of an experimental partnership between third party fact checkers: Snopes, PolitiFact, the AP, ABC news, and factcheck.org. Where people request certain links to be factchecked and if they are and found to be false or misleading a warning without reasons behind the warning will pop up before the article opens. Many people on the left and right are wary of this development. For many conservatives, a third of the fact checkers (AP and ABC news excluded) have a liberal bias. For many on the left, this is an expansion of corporate control of media trying to take away their “truth”.
Facebook has the legal right to control its platform that it lets us use. I do think that it can be worrisome to think that there will be blind faith in the warning. I think that this is an opportunity for us all to challenge our dogmas. We all could use a hand in expanding our worldviews and many times that hand needs to come from the opposition. Not saying we are all wrong all the time, but we need to be fluid in our responses. Adapt to the situation at hand not the one in the mind. I think that this experiment is a good step forward and should be expanded to include more viewpoints. We need some radical changes but those changes aren’t possible without agreement and I am speaking about Climate Change. It truly is a bipartisan problem that will alter every human’s life. In the age of Elon Musk, no one can question the possibilities in renewable energy that could occur. I believe we need to support if not with funds than beneficial regulations that aid his innovations while improving the quality of life for his labor. We need to use Capitalism to challenge ourselves for real innovation rather than use our money for novelty add ons. We need the hoarded wealth to be reinvested into the American Dream. None of which is possible without dialogue. If fact checking and discussions not in comments but in researched detail can engage us with each other than it is worth trying. Facebook as a form of communication and a company must respect their power. I think this is a step towards a better social media environment in the age of bullshit heralded by Trump and Putin.
-E. C. Fiori
Identity politics has always existed. White Supremacy is perhaps the oldest modern form. In all forms it relies on tribal dogma to create a world view. This world view does not always conform to the world. In an piece for NPR, Tasneem Raja writes “why it’s never been more important to continue talking — and arguing, and complaining, and venting — about identity in America. To continue interrogating whiteness as a construct, even as we discuss the economic woes of many white Americans. To continue asking why so many of our superheroes are white and male, even as we push to better understand the defeat and humiliation felt by many flesh-and-blood white men in our country.” Superheroes aren’t real. Movies and television aren’t real. The media wastes an incredible amount of time watching other media and reporting on what the media tells them. No wonder we built our own echo chambers, the mirror that was journalism has become a fun house. There are serious deep seated economic ills that affect all Americans that creates a fear of the other. While diverse entertainment options are important. Everyone should be able to share their voice. Art is not as important as economic stability. Few liberals argue that many of the goals of identity politics aren’t noble, but the tactics are ineffective at best. As television moves from viewership numbers to subscriber totals, the actual viewership of any given program matters less. Thus the explosion of perspectives on pay or SVOD entertainment. These shows at their peak with the rare exception have a twentieth of the viewership of the classic model flagship CBS. If content can shape the viewership than the viewership matters. Identity politics by dividing citizens based on birth features encourages white nationalism. If being matters then Whiteness matters. If what was pop culture is white culture then the Whiteness of it matters too. In a country that is still majority white for the next three decades and depending on immigration changes longer, that demographic has power.
The average American white male was the loser of globalism. The Trump supporter is similar to a study on rats as written in the New York Times, “The best verified animal model of depression consists of social defeat. A dominant rat is placed in a cage with a younger, stronger rat from another group. When the dominant rat is defeated, several features emerge. The defeated rat is reclusive, hyper-vigilant, avoidant, and shows an incapacity to experience pleasure.” The Obama coalition was a moment for a future America. A moment of change. The now reviled and then reviled as well white American male was an important piece of the coalition, the Midwestern firewall. The professional class has always been dominant; the working class had their fiefdoms maybe not to the charm of a New Yorker but a loving community home to the residents. That has been stolen and the working class re-dominated. The recession recover deepened the destruction of their middle class world of the last thirty years. Longer than many of the preachers of Identity have been living. 2016 will be remembered as the year that Americans first had the chance to elect a government focused on all citizens but both Trump and Clinton relied on identity. Trump did the math and Clinton expected shame to continue to hold the peace. The basket of deplorables comment probably ended her campaign. Trump did a barebone dog whistle to be sure but Clinton attacked the one group she needed because of identity politics. Being a first isn’t an enough, a campaign is more than a self- esteem booster. That last part is intended to the Trump voters and the chaos they chose as well.
We are a broken people divided. The New York Times has an op-ed about not going easy on the failures of men. Especially taking aim at the concept as men as the breadwinner and that being the sole responsibility. While I agree that men and woman should do portional housework based on earnings level. The problem is not just that men do less housework or are selfish about the tasks. It is that the stay at home dad is an undesired solution. Here is an interesting Dear Sugar on the subject. Women are more likely to cheat and divorce as the breadwinner. This dissonance is tearing apart our families. We cannot just shame a better tomorrow. So much of the strife and divisions center on money and for some luxury. I think if the pay ratio dropped from the average of 204: 1 CEO to worker to 50:1 at every company, we would see an American renaissance. I think that it would aid the race and gender and sexuality pay gap and earnings gap. I think it would ease the financial burden on families and save marriages. It would rise up all peoples and exclude no American from the better tomorrow. New divisions will not heal the old ones. Shame is not persuasion.
Everyone knows the house always wins. The American republic may have an elite, but as this election show, they don’t own the system. Trump showed that for both media output, both left and right publishers endorsed Clinton. They might pay eighteen bucks to see a celebrity, but they won’t let that celebrity decide their fate. There is no house in America, just we the people.
Pundits have frequently claimed or alluded that Trump can be persuaded. That in his meeting with the press, there appears to be signs of respect. Trump is a bull in a china shop, and they are the porcelain. The election was the wrecking ball, crashing through their carefully worded columns. Their words failed and now they still believe they have the power. Their words cannot chain him any more than they did in the campaign. The press found a pedestal in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Tune in to them to keep the politicians straight. Sure they agreed not to show FDR getting out of a car or in his wheelchair. In some ways they are correct. The freedom of the press is an important right listed with religion coming in at number one on the bill of rights, but like all freedoms they are a matter of debate. If gun control and the increasingly more common gun ban discussed also attack the bill of rights. The need to mention religion exemption to allow ordinary citizens to live their life as they chose. For the press both liberal and conservative, some freedoms are more constitutional than others. This Orwellian drive both increasing and increased by polarization. The need to fill up the 24 hour news cycle opened the doors for more content and in depth detailed investigated journalism takes time and money that doesn’t match the now stretched budget. Opinions are cheap and punditry rose to fill the gaps.
While I am convinced the major media outlets do their homework, an opinion based on fact is still an opinion. Look at the current liberal cry that the blue states are overtaxed. It is indeed true that Wyoming citizens get more per tax dollar in benefits than a citizen of Jersey. The government does far more than tax benefits and overall the Federal government globalization policies benefited the urban areas far more than the rural. Not to mention the rural poor need that support to survive. The party of caring is not quite as open as they claim to be. The popular vote overriding the electoral college will not solve inequality anymore than eight years of Obama did. The problem isn’t a system that is designed to stop a despot but that a faction wants to eliminate the voice of a bulk of states. California and New York would decide most elections. Maybe some campaigning in Chicago. Outside of the state by state primaries, most regions of the country where people could live but chose not to would not exist. Even if you lived in New York and California outside of five maybe six cities, your vote would be useless. Another fact is that a popular vote lead of 2.5 million votes is not a great percent out of the pool of citizens eligible to voting that is about 231 million or about 1%. We are a much larger and franchised nation since the constitution was written. An election lost is not the framework. The blue firewall of the union workers fell because jobs were leaving and nothing was coming to replace them. The Democrats and Clinton herself did not do what they did in upstate New York in 2000, which was going to the people. Trump held rallies everywhere. He at least pretended to that he wasn’t pretending in his outreach and promises. Giving up whether through secession or altering our governing document won’t make the rural folk disappear. The news and the outlets that provide it were historically the only window into the world for most people. The internet has permanently taken that mantle and the news attempting to win the race it invented as spiraled. Truth in the major outlets is at a low. Minimalism is in perhaps, less would be more but less should be longer. I do not suggest censorship but rather would your thoughts be aided by more time and resources longer and nuanced as it is.