The False Dimitris, Time of Troubles, Making the Apolitical Political
The Serpent’s Tongue: In Praise of Kellyanne Conway
It is currently the favorite pastime of over half the nation’s voting population to condemn, scorn, laugh, and generally degrade a single woman: Kellyanne Conway. This excludes the amount of joy her many media appearances and statements have given non-U.S. citizens, but for the sake of brevity, let’s put the number at 62.5 million people.
But have we, the scornful masses, ever taken a step back and asked how she does her job? She was given the impossible task of successfully running a presidential campaign, and even worse, consistently deal with gaping logic flaws, insane scandals, and indefensible political positions. Yet she has handled her lot in life with an amazing amount of grace.
She attends not only Fox and Friends, but some of the hardest, most blatant left leaning shows, like Bill Maher. He assembles a panel with the sole directive of nuclear annihilation, and yet time and time again she returns.
That is because she is someone who does not gain satisfaction from the ideological debate, or from the foisting of a candidate she believes in. She is the kind of political operative that adores the pageantry of it all, the performance, the “pivot”.
It is these psychotic adrenaline junkies that Trump has surrounded himself with: people cut from the same orange cloth as he. Once Sean Spicer gets the boot the press will have to find a way to starve her of the thrills she seeks. The clock is ticking.
Day 71: American Leech, Swamp Water Rising, The Bro from the Black Lagoon
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”.
Day 40: What is the Ministry of Truth?
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
Day 33: What to do About a Problem like Putin
Putin made a monkey of us all. He shifted the election into his favor and now NATO which has guarded his advances since the days when he served in the KGB. In the New York Times, the other day there was an argument that the new fear of America was good. The only problem is the wrong people fear us. The dictators of the world has cheered this result because they know Trump maybe be the only leader who cares less about the truth than them. It is the people who formerly and hopefully still will stand with us in war that are afraid. They are afraid that the United States will not stand up to the barbarians at the gates and not just the Jihad, but Russia and the other illiberal rulers. A free tomorrow is endangered. This election is more damaging than Watergate in that a foreign will decided over our own. The victory was slim and this attacks orchestrated by Putin could have decided the in some cases 10,000 vote difference. I believe now more than ever we need the electoral college to be more than automatons. There is an unqualified possibly impeachable candidate or the choice to send it to the chosen representatives to chose. I don’t expect Clinton to win in that scenario, but at least a republican not chosen by an enemy. We cannot fall to a despot without an active decision by the electors to do so.
-E. C. Fiori
Day 32: A Rose by Any Other Name
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.
Day 26: There is no House
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.
Day 25: To Play The King
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.
Day 12: America, the Gilded Crown of the Trump Family Brand
Donald Trump’s recent meetings with both Japan’s prime minister and a group of Indian businessmen share more than just the location they took place. As Trump transitions from Business Magnate the Candidate to President Elect Business Figurehead, we have seen him flirt with Kleptocratic route. Now in the early meeting, his desire to mingle both his worlds has been laid bare. In his meeting with Shinzo Abe, his daughter Ivanka was present. Part of her purview within the family business is international expansion. There cannot be no denial that brand of the president elect still has some sway, Trump spoke highly of India’s Modi. Now, he may have three new complexes with his name in the works. Pundits speak often how the campaign and now his presidency may injure his business. Yet for all the connections severed, he seems to be using his mantle to make new ones. The man isn’t bulletproof as much as a Hydra as seen in the trials of Hercules.
Trump’s supporters often point to his wealth as a suggestion that he is corruption proof. Yet, Trump is a man who is bonded to money not as a tool of survival but the source of worth. Not that we know his true worth since he hasn’t released his tax returns. It is estimated to be about 3.7 billion currently. An amount that could be claimed by a small nation. That being said if he had just invested his inheritance in low risk mutual funds, he would probably be worth more today. He leveraged his economic wealth into a social wealth culminating into the highest office in the land. Not a bad trade off but now that he claimed that title he must take on the full mantle. The traditional blind trust and a staff free of his son-in-law. The separation of family and state is an important and legal wall within our government for a reason. The main one to avoid the temptation of self enrichment. Grant’s presidency was blemished by the scandals of close associates. I understand the need for some privacy but the close to total press blackout is very unpresidential . Especially when other people without security clearance are present. If we are to be informed citizens in the legacy of the Founders then the press must have more access. Here we face a man who still tweets about a late night sketch show and a letter delivered to an important figure. Will interviews and meeting attendance as well as location be given only to friendly journalists? Will we ever know anything about the Trump presidency besides speeches and executive actions?
I sense his legal troubles including the recently settled Trump University lawsuits as well as his continued business interests both known and unknown will cause trouble. The constitution did not leave the people powerless from the clutches of despots. Impeachment is more difficult than an alternative like recall elections but if the reason is noble than I do not doubt bipartisan support. There are still 60 days of decisions to change the course. The man always has pulled through so I wouldn’t bet against him.
Day 11: Brewing War on the Western Front, Brother Against Brother, Slaughter in the Sierra Nevadas
The easiest houses to break into are the ones you’ve been in before. Nothing is more disorienting than trying to be silent in a dark house with no knowledge of the layout. Professional thieves are masters of two skills: observation and a keen sense of time. Maximize profit as the clock counts down to a shotgun blast through the thorax.
The whole evening had started with me in the Silverlake Lounge, a normal Thursday. I was trying to read the New York Times while a punk band screamed at an audience of five, two of which were employees behind the bar. “RAGE IS A CURE” was tattooed in bright red on the leader singer’s forearm, visible even as she pounded out Pachelbel’s canon on a marimba. Not bad, though it’s tough to make it as a band when your tattoo is the best thing going for you.
What I read next threw me bodily out of my seat, and I let loose a yelp so loud even the drummer stopped for moment. Could it be true? In The Times no less?? I sprinted out the service exit and jumped into The Black Shark, flooring the gas so hard that a spray of gravel bombarded the side of the building on my way out.
E.C. Fiori. Only he could explain this- make sense of it all. Fiori is one of those people who has a truly unique perspective, a real god damn writer, if only society would get out of the way and let him.
I sped east in the crown vic, the V8 a pulsing black scar under the hood, frantically slaloming between lanes, towards miracle mile. Pulling up in front of his english tavern of an apartment building, I wrestled with the “Bull-Buster” cattle prod I keep under the driver’s seat. It’s always best to start heavy- you can always be sane later.
Slipping a coat hanger through the gap in the two front windows, it was only a few moments before I was standing beside his bed, my cattle prod jammed under his chin. “Explain this.”
His eyes opened, blinked once, and took stock of the man standing above him waving a crumpled copy of the New York Times “Opinion” page in his face.
He seemed calm, perhaps because this was the fifth time I’d done this since Trump was elected, or perhaps because he had seen the signs I had. Or, as it turned out, it could be because he was pointing a massive revolver at the side of my head. I could read “Taurus: Judge” stamped on the barrel. Where did he get it? How did he know I would come? Was the bastard sleeping with the pistol to end all pistols in his right hand every night now? Had our country come to this?
He offered to make me coffee, and I agreed. If I shocked him with the cattle prod his muscles would seize like galvanized bridge cables, pulling the trigger and putting an entire shotgun shell through my head. Never pays to continue negotiations at a disadvantage, and he always made good coffee.
In the kitchen he served me a cold brew, all while keeping the Judge aimed at me, but he knew I wasn’t going to try anything. The op-ed sat between us, and I must have looked feeble and defeated in the warm light of his kitchen.
“Is it true? How could The Times print this?”
“I know. I’ve heard it’s been in the works for years. Anger at being wealthy and not ruling Washington.”
“Californian secession though? Civil war? Before the new administration is even sworn in?!?”
“Many will bleed under the standard of the bear.”
“Don’t these fools realize what secession would mean? It would mean the Siege of San Francisco! It would mean the Massacre of Reno, and the Route in Big Sur! The rest of the country would invade and water wouldn’t be the only thing we’d be missing. We’d have POW camps, years of litigation for war crimes and a permanent DMZ the size of-”
“Tactically speaking, it wouldn’t be a fast loss. Mexico might come in on the side of California, and China could back us too, not to mention the headquarters of Lockheed…”
“God damn it Fiori- not all of us have your tactical expertise and experience in the field! Explain it to the common man! Imagine I’m just a man off the street who broke into your home and asked you about the op-ed in the Times that explored the possibility of a Californian uprising.”
E.C. stroked his beard, then looked at me with tired eyes. Normally I would think it was the hour, but his grip tightened around the revolver, and when he spoke it was with steel in his voice.
“Jack, what you have to realize is that California is a great center of wealth. They have agriculture, entertainment, and technology. They get less from the government then they pay in, and it makes people stupid. It has for all of history. Why pay if we don’t get our way in D.C.?”
“We’ll both have to be unionists, when the time comes.”
I clenched the cattle prod with white knuckles in fury, tears coming to my eyes unbidden. “Why would our fellow statesman make us fight on the side of Trump? Why would they force that confrontation, smashing a liberal bastion that couldn’t be more prosperous through open rebellion? The federal government won’t act, but our state laws keep us fat and happy! Do they want the federal government to make every decision for them at the end of a AC-130 circling above? HOW COULD IT COME TO THIS?”
I sat at his table and cried low gulping sobs: for our future and present- surrounded on all sides by a country I no longer recognize, and ready to betray our foolish state to keep it that way.