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?
Since the beginning, America has struggled between two destinies: God and Gold. The Virginians and southern colonies birthed by Corporations and Massachusetts and it’s offshoots birthed by the Cloth. Later Slave and Free. Internal migration has shifted the strongholds as we grew and the struggle continues. In the Pax Americana, God is embodied in American Values and physical gold has become the intangible notion of Capital.
American Values have become endangered in the 21st century. The change from liberalism to neoliberalism was mostly removing the morality from the pursuit of profit. Sweat shop child labor became acceptable again for low low prices. Factory shuttering and relocation to countries where worker exploitation is still in vogue has damaged not just an American’s earning potential but our integrity. American world power is more than the number of aircraft carriers we have. It is that the international community is held to our standards and those that fall short are not rewarded. The current administration has voiced that profits are more important than human rights, the cornerstone of Americanism. This has been unspoken policy for some time.
How else can we explain American business’ dependence on China as anything other than selling out our values?
The Great Firewall blocks the truth and free speech maintained in large thanks to American companies. Google gave the Chinese government the data of dissents who are now jailed or executed. How do we explain a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia? A country that practices gender apartheid. A woman last month was detained in the Philippines while fleeing to Australia to escape a forced marriage who was beaten and tied up like a slave by the relatives sent to retrieve her. Our former territory is just as horrific under the murderer Duarte.
The American Way isn’t just a marketing phrase for comic books. It is why the Union won, why the Reich fell, and why Americans are still dying in the desert. It would be an incomprehensible tragedy for Freedom and Justice to survive the jihad to be slaughtered in the boardroom.
– E. C. Fiori
I love this country. I know Americans are the greatest people in human history. I say this because digital disruption has been gunning for the nation state. I see how apps under the banner of connection divide us from our families and communities.
I’ve never understood Yelp. Choosing based on the amassed opinions of those who are either desperate to be heard or assume others wish to hear their thoughts as much as they do. We don’t research the reviewers and compare their opinion to our own. We assume we all feel the same way. An assumption against all evidence. Yet we listen to these contextless opinions and give them the power to control what businesses succeed in our community.
I’ve always loved the film adaptation of “High Fidelity”. The theme of love being beyond shared likes has stuck with me over the years. I feel it becomes more important as our digital lives grow. Tech sells us on the idea that shared likes are the only foundations for bonds that truly matter. Yet as I grow older, other bonds like geography seem to have developed stronger relationships. My high school friends are no less cherished than college friends despite what mass media teaches us. My internet friends vanished as they came once my posts lost their sheen.
We outwardly praise our universality in the face of differences on macro issues but have checkboxes for those closest to us. Does cultural taste matter? I doubt so. I think care matters. It remains after the dreams run dry and the shows are cancelled and after we become feasts for worms. After the dirt is put back, it isn’t your works that warms the cold home in which they gather but the recollections of faux pas and moments of love.
We must strive to innovate and build but will your legacy be a resume or a life?
America long stood for life. Life was the reason for freedom. It was why we fought our greatest conflicts. The Revolution that life was not granted by a king but by God. The civil war that all humans are people who own their own lives. The great depression that employers do not have greater rights to life than those they hire. Civil Rights reaffirmed the lessons of the Civil War. Yet in the globalized age, life has succumbed to luxury.
When Louie CK mocks people who complain about slow loading smartphones, he mis-understands the frustration. It isn’t from a place of entitlement instead it is a dirge for the life they have sacrificed for that moment. We traded good lives to be meatcogs in another’s paradise. All we got was a stupid phone that lasts two years. It is hard to say the masses had much choice in their fate as the current conditions for digital holdouts show. They just scrambled for the first lifeboat they could find.
The one delight in Trump is reading and watching the reactions of the global elite. How he dismisses anything he wishes (mostly their wishes). They crow and caw in their lofty penthouses. Much like how they reshaped America in their own image against the will of the people for the past decades. It would be a more enjoyable experience if he boosted the people but as we’ve been told beggars can’t be choosers.
Can America return to greatness? Can one chose life over consumption?
I can’t answer these. A ballot can’t answer these. Tomorrow can’t be avoided but we still have time to change it. To buy less online, call over text, chat with the neighbor instead of eavesdropping on television. We can act as we want to be treated. We can stop worrying about where else we can be and enjoy where we are. We can go to places, we not the crowd think looks good. In other words, we can act free to become it.
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”.
A fake news editor didn’t want to be known to protect his reputation while he flung shot for a dollar. Cameron Harris is his name and any potential employer should remember and see his spineless nature. I hope he can’t work a job for the rest of his life, a scarlet Google search. I hope the money he made peddling trash is the only dollars he earns.
Harris, a Trump supporter, says he can’t believe that his fellow Trumpers believed his postings but still voted for the man and published libelous filth. He is the shittiest form of human, a being who stands for nothing but self profit. He wasn’t even trying to help Trump but exploit fellow citizens.
The NY Times should be ashamed of their profile of Harris. He has been rewarded for his dishonesty. His Twitter is full of claims of major publications publishing fake news. The most recent being Buzzfeed and the Trump dossier. I disagree with Buzzfeed’s publishing of the unverified document. However there is a massive difference between Buzzfeed’s actions and Harris’, he never believed his claims to be true and doctored evidence to falsify his claim. He deserves jail time for his intentional and knowingly false smears.
His defense of everyone in politics stretches the truth is ridiculous. First it isn’t an argument just a cliche. Second there is a difference between misunderstanding and lying. No wonder he supports the grandest liar to ever enter American politics. Harris and his ilk are leeches in our politics and need to be drained from the swamp. I doubt Trump has that kind of courage being a spineless draft dodger and career huckster.
Update: He has been fired
Most of us myself included know very little about the tools we use everyday, tools we have come to rely on. This is dangerous just like the lessening of car mechanics and rise of car computing threatens our mastery of our lives. We take Google to be the source of knowledge even while acknowledging it is a business based on clicks that benefits regardless of accuracy. When tech was new and fluid perhaps a rival based on verifiable information could have a chance but could anyone overcome the proper noun that has become the verb of the service provided. They have become monopolies and entrenched.
I speak of this as I was inspired by a conversation with Jack Delaney about how empowered consumers are right now. He noted the window could be closing if we don’t act. I agree we have more choice and access to choice through the internet. Granted we are limited by our ability to find choices by behind the scenes algorithms who generate the list we see but it is easier than calling line by line in a phonebook internationally. Just like Citizens United said money is expression. When we purchase we don’t just get a service or object in return, we also tell the vendor that we support them and their ideals. If they outsource labor or use inhumane labor, we support that with our dollars. This concept isn’t revolutionary but usually people think of denial as the main use. Boycotting can be effective but it at best is half the equation. We must research and chose what we support. Whose business practices create a world we want to be in. So not just avoiding child labor but buying companies that maintain a fair pay ratio say 50:1 like under Eisenhower. Saying what we don’t want is easy. Saying what you want and living it is the challenge.