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.
We all know the Orwell cliche “who controls the past controls the future and who controls the future controls the present”. The left certainly has in a fifty year war on history.
To begin we must discuss the evolution of the progressive ideology in America. The progressives of the Theodore Roosevelt age fought for a silver standard, temperance, and for small business. One of the lions of the age, William Jennings Bryant faced his Waterloo in the Scopes trial (he stood against evolution). Liberalism and progressivism formed a coalition under FDR that birthed the new deal.
The red scare of the 50’s forced the progressives underground and ended the golden age of progressive force. Like a cicada, they re-emerged in the 60’s in Academia as a small but vocal facility faction. These professors like Howard Zinn began reshaping American history through a marxist lens. The baby boomers came of age making up little under half the population. More went to college than any previous generation. Under the tutelage of the socialist leaning professors, they became righteous acolytes. This was the beginning of the new left. When the personal became political. The Vietnam draft only pushed more youths to seek refuge in the left from dying in a pointless war.
Reagan marked a key moment, separating the true believers from the rest. By the end of Reagan, P.C. Culture had been born from the next generation of academia. Teachers and professors lionized by their mentors moved American education to the left but while CEOs remained perennial boogeymen. P.C. Culture directed progressives away from the growing wealth inequality in America and focused instead on abstract academic concepts on race, gender, and sex. Based on victimization, the PC outlook took Nietzsche’s slave mentality to its logical conclusion. By 2007, this outlook would dominate the Democrat coalition. Even in the aftermath of a global economic meltdown, wealth never became a priority for the new progressives.
America had and has on going systematic issues involving race, gender, and sex. Those issues need to be solved but they are far from the most pressing issues, which would be a fair economy and access to healthcare for all. In fact, I would say PC culture is responsible for the current level of tribalism and partisanship in America. This was done through the revision of history no longer a grand narrative of the course of civilizations but an endless list of grievances. We no longer learn the story of America as much as we learn of every wrong action taken by white men who are rich for the most part.
Worst our enemies are absolved as victims. Take this op-ed on North Korea published in the Washington Post. You would never have guessed that NK started the war. It spins the Kim family’s cruelty towards those under their rule as an American war crime. If NK surrendered, the air strikes wouldn’t have killed so much of the population. If the air strikes stopped before surrender, NK would have been able to overwhelm the American forces and slaughter the people of the south.
But does the modern progressive movement control the future? They certainly believe that they will through demographical shifts. As their views narrow and become dogmatic their influence will wain. Liberalism in all its messiness will return as people seek freedom. Conservatism is changing with the population as well. American history swings towards freedom and truth. We must rebuff all movements that want to take those values.
Louis Hyman wrote an op-ed against saving America’s Main Street. Walmart is more efficient. Their low prices just by virtue of bulk buying power. He not only ignores their lower wages and reliance on part time to avoid benefits. His future is either as a remote receptionist probably part time working at minimum wage for a metropolitan office or hustling crafts online. A job is a job but neither is a secure future. The advantage of a remote receptionist is the business can avoid the salary requirements of a city resident while maintainig an office in the right address. The second is the digital hustle. I think more people digital hustle the digital hustle than any other good. Either way, they still serve the same urban elite masters.
The notion of replacing modern manufacturing with the virtual bazaar has become a new Horatio Algers myth. That everyone’s merit will shine a beacon of success if they spend enough time on the internet. Society has long assumed talent is cream but skill or even being skilled at promoting one’s skill is no guarantee. A lottery at best, putting all your eggs into the whims of the internet is dangerous. Hyman’s woods craftsmen would better talking to the shop owners of main street Echo Park and Bushwick who could showcase his wares to the well off audience, he would be stalking online. We’ve all been hawked snake oil from those on the other side of the rainbow. Does that mean that one shouldn’t try or internet infrastructure expanded? No, it means there are no small fixes for the end of an economic age.
Hyman’s solution flaw like most progressive solutions is based on people other than the author making changes as the author has achieved cultural nirvana. I don’t think he understands main street as the average citizen does only has it is seen in liberal straw man scenarios. “It’s locally owned shops selling products to hardworking townspeople. It’s neighbors with dependable blue-collar jobs in auto plants and coal mines. It’s a feeling of community and of having control over your life.” The last sentence is true but the rest is disconnected. Would you rather enrich a spoiled heir or help your underwater neighbor? That’s the real choice between chain and local. Would you rather wealth stay in the region or go to tax breaks for out of state and increasingly country movie stars? How many years can you be told it will trickle down before you don’t believe?
Main street isn’t just about shops. It is about having safe public spaces to congregate. A place a child can meet with friends without fear of being offered drugs or harmed into silence over witnessing crime. It is a place children want to return to after college and a way to stem brain drain. It isn’t trying to make Celebration, USA in every town or bringing back the 50’s.
My great grandmother had to drown her cat as a child because of the depression. Her son had a dog that died of old age and his daughter paid 10k to save her dog from cancer. I’m pet free to avoid the fate of door #1. The contract of the New Deal is broken and Americans want to re-negotiate. 80 years ago, we were given economic freedom. Defending the system that stole it will only further our slide back to serfdom. We need futures not dependent on the fads of the wealthy. Coal might be dead but America isn’t.