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?
Practice What You Preach
It is late May, the culling time of television. The birthing season of fan petitions and thinkpieces by pedigreed “professionals” about how we watched TV wrong by not obeying their proclamations. The post-election partisanization of life has flavored this years crop. Rather than just duke it out in the trenches of Facebook. I thought I would stand on my soapbox.
First I’d like to discuss the left’s response. As exemplified by Maureen Ryan’s piece in Variety yesterday. After 8 shows that featured and/or were created by non whites/ non males, she rings the alarm: Whiteness is coming. She does note she hasn’t crunched the numbers. I will in my counter argument. Let’s begin with Fox: “Pitch” and “Rosewood”, both premiered low for broadcast (under 5 million viewers) and only went lower both failing to get more than 3 million to tune in each week. Compare to the renewed “Lethal Weapon” which brought in 6 (still low but twice as good and stars a non white lead). On Netflix- “Sense8” and “The Get Down” we don’t have viewing figures so won’t speculate there but in terms of production costs we know “The Get Down” cost over 120 mil for 12 episodes and still was terrible (on this critics will agree). Sense8 which filmed in over a dozen countries probably costed a similar amount. Thats alot for two shows that never achieved even critic darling status. On “Hulu” we have “East Los High” which is ending after 4 seasons (60 episodes) and a movie in the works. It was a low budget emmy nominated series that helped launch Hulu as a series creator. We don’t know the viewership but it was never had much buzz which is needed for a series for teens. On WGNA, “Underground” an expensive period piece that dropped from a million viewers at the beginning of season 2 to under half a million for the rest. It was cancelled because the owner of WGNA is selling the network and cancelled all of its scripted television as it pivots back to a focus on reality because viwership is down and scripted TV isn’t cheap. On MTV is “Sweet/Vicious” which had about 200k viewers on average on a network that averages around a million for a stable hit. On ABC is “American Crime” which in season 3 never got above 3 million viewers on broadcast, a sharp drop from the 8 million of the series premiere. This leads me to the grievances of the right.
The right doesn’t have many options in the 400-500 shows currently on air or streamed yet it makes up enough Americans to win the presidency and both houses of Congress. One show, they did have was “Last Man Standing” on ABC. It was the second most watched sitcom on the network (behind “Modern Family”) and averaged 8 million viewers in Season 6. This had lead to outcry from Trump supporters in particular as liberal censorship. As Tim Allen is a vocal Trumpist. In the end, It suffered from the behind the scenes money trail. It aired on ABC but was made by Fox. Part of the deal between the two companies was that Fox would cover the production costs through season 6. Now we are in Season 7 and ABC would have to foot the bill plus licensing fees to Fox for a show that has peaked. Any syndication money (its one of the few off network modern successes) goes to Fox. Thus it no longer is a money maker and the ax.
TV is a business. The shows are there to fill the space between commercials or an excuse to gig you a monthly fee. It also sells the audience. Every May is up fronts, presentations to Advertisers selling them spots based on viewership or prestige from awards. Over 50 million voted for Clinton last November, the left would have you believe that it is even bigger. Granted as I am a Clinton voter, who knows the actual number of progressives. Despite that, I do believe that the progressives are larger than the viewership of those shows. The ones I know watched none of those series. They watched the diverse shows not canceled like “The Mindy Project”, “Master of None”, “Dear White People”, and “Jessica Jones”. Viewership matters more than tweets or feelings. If more diversity is important to the left then they have to show up. I’m reminded of Frank Capra on the director’s cut: we have to show them we really care. His proposal to the studios was that a list of the ten best directors would be agreed by both sides and if a director ever messed up in editing, the union would fly in one of the ten even for a sixties sitcom to fix it on the union’s dime. Directors now have their cut. If diversity is the secret to success as claimed by progressives then they have to prove it. Make those shows, the shows to advertise on. Same goes for conservatives, a mild hit isn’t enough. There are a third of a billion people in America. You wouldn’t know that by the ratings. Be the person, you praise.
Treachery, thy name is Cameron Harris. -Shakespeare, probably.
Barring the inevitable nuclear strikes that will wipe out history as we know it, 2016 will be remembered as the beginning of a new age of propaganda. In the information age, information has become so available that time has become a much more precious resource. The way to win an argument on a national level is not to debate the facts or even distort them, but to outright lie and let the other side waste their time trying to clean up the mess. By the time that has ended you can have moved on to whatever lie or fact you wish.
Thus we arrive at the scourge of “Fake News”. I actually prefer the term “malicious fiction” because it would give novelists a little of that dangerous edge so sorely needed among modern authors. I am one of the few fiction writers I know that carries a loaded elephant rifle at all times, slung like a guitar over my back. Many colleagues and friends have frowned upon the habit, even though not one of them has ever been able to name a downside of the practice to me. It works wonders when dealing with practically anyone for any reason.
Regardless, I write today because of Cameron Harris.
Remember that name. Cameron Harris.
If by some miracle Mr. Cameron Harris is to read this, I hope he recognizes it for what it is: a total and complete condemnation of his character by a fellow citizen. And that somewhere there is a man who owns little more than a motorcycle and an elephant rifle who would gladly spend a day riding in any direction for the chance to confront him in person.
Cameron Harris is the 23 year old recent college graduate who spent last summer creating a “fake news” website, and was the author of the smash hit story “BREAKING: ‘Tens of Thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton Votes found in Ohio warehouse.” He deliberately chose a domain name (Christiantimesnewspaper.com) that would be confused with a real news site. He deliberately attached pictures to his stories that would be confused for visual evidence of the fiction. Cameron Harris went as far as catering his fake news towards stories he felt would be more believable, to increase traffic. Why the need for traffic? So he could make more money.
In what appears to be the new rationale of the twenty-first century, Cameron Harris makes the plea that he didn’t have a job and needed money. He made roughly 22,000 dollars on the website, but spent the money on rent, student loans, and car payments.
In short, he made a living by purposefully deceiving people through malicious fiction, not just because he enjoys it, as though there is a moral leg to stand on. Cameron Harris should be informed that the rest of the nation goes to great lengths at time to pay rent, student loans, and car payments. And we manage to do so without spewing misinformation in the most convincing manner we can across the internet during an election cycle.
I will not fall into the trap of victim blaming- that those who are fooled are at fault because they are somehow less intelligent for being deceived. They are not at fault. The man with the unlocked window does not deserve to be robbed. The woman who answers the door does not deserve to be assaulted.
Cameron Harris will not be clean in my eyes until he becomes a journalist and does hard time, informing the public while fastidiously fact checking his stories. Until he does good and honest work as a part of the scrupulous media, he should be, as E.C. Fiori put it, “a scarlet google search”.
I know many on the left will give this post title an eyeroll but I must speak about the two wars on Christmas: one waged by the secular leftists and the other from Radical Islam. The left has long sought to undermine the separation of church and state by submitting religion to federal control. People must petition Congress for religious exemptions. That is not what this country was founded on. The government does not grant us rights. Our religious institutions Christian or other are not granted passage by Big Government. This is why battles over the building of Mosques disturbs me. It isn’t for the President or the selectmen to decide. We do not have the right to stop peaceful worship if they own the property or at least have legal access. I believe both the the left and the right have assaulted our religious rights.
The war on the Western world from Radical Islam is a clash of civilizations. Christianity and Islam can and do coexist in Western Civilization. Not that there aren’t conflicts between religious groups under liberal order but our values as a society push us towards unity and respect. Radical Islam under its strict literal theology cannot exist within the West. It’s practice goes against all of our values. If the West is defined as uncertain and fluid then Radical Islam is defined by the opposite. The temptation is it promises a known purpose in life. In the West, religion and work (our institutions of purpose) have been under attack by the political elite. The resulting society promotes unlimited freedom by removing dedication and devotion as values. Purpose limits choice. True freedom is being adrift in space without a footing to stand on. People want to have a purpose, at some level we need it. As the work that gave employee’s pride is automated, a pillar of society teeters. We don’t need more stuff to throw away, we need more purpose in our days. I have been told of a notion where freedom from work allows us to achieve higher purposes. I don’t agree with it. An attempt by the left to marginalize people’s lives. Autowork gives more back to the community than art and is no less noble. That’s the problem with the Progressive goal to achieve the end of history. People want to be a part of their lineage, not escape it.
The converts to the radical civilizations (Radical Islam and Neo-Nazis are just the most aggressive) flee the increasingly inhuman West shedding its values without replacing them. Multiculturalism isn’t a value as much as the absence of one. The American Melting Pot wasn’t a place where you kept your way of life as much as subvert your rituals to the American way. You came to America to be American. Immigrants make America great by becoming American. Entangling the threads of their traditions into our quilt. The american ethnicity is multiracial and our DNA is global but at our heart we are all brothers and sisters under and for the Republic and all for which it stands. In reading the Atlantic review of “Silence”, one would assume Art was created outside of religion when until recent history it was a tool of faith. The reviewer believes taking religion seriously is radical. I find that to be belittling to say that the ancient mysteries of religion especially the inevitability of suffering were not a legitimate source of Art. The left has turned tradition radical. Until the liberal order reclaims its history it will be on the losing end of a war they refuse to admit exists.
I am an American with Cerebral Palsy, a condition now detectable before birth. In the Atlantic, I saw a horrifying article on human genetic engineering. I’m not against birth defect detection if it is used to prepare support for the future child but I will never accept the conception of designer and now “anti” designer babies. The anti in quotes because because if you engineer the person to be as repulsive as possible it is still an active choice.
I’m very grateful to be alive and loved. I want fetuses like I was to have chance at life without restricting access to abortion. I believe it is a woman’s choice without a doubt. I want us to ask ourselves if we split and add and recreate our DNA is the end creature even human. Our anatomy can be born wrong but regardless of genital the rest is uniquely human and shared. I’m not a huge fan of the GMO movement in general particularly the use of killer genes. We don’t know what will be lost and never regained. I do know that we are lucky to be as genetically and socially diverse as species. Maybe it is as funky as plaid but I’m always amazed by the awesome range of humanity. We are all improvisions of human DNA. I believe in God and that his creation has a method. How cruel is the idea that a parent would willfully have their child as ugly as possible as an art exhibit. Not everyone is traditionally attractive and deserve love but to do it to live as Dr. Munroe is evil.
We do need to overcome our traditional prejudices but making more to solve is insane. I think it is an attempt to distract the matters at hand. Eugenics for master races is wrong as is for artistic statements. Art is property and people should never be again.
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.