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?
There is a very American fear I used to have. It’s embarrassingly selfish and naive to admit, but I always had the creeping suspicion that I would miss my generational moment. Decade by decade, there seem to be cultural hubs in America, where the groundswell of the next cultural wave begins, to roll out across the country, until another starts to build somewhere else.
I never really knew how famous authors, directors, and public intellectuals seemed to be present in these moments. What happened to those who spent the late fifties in Portland instead of New York? Or the sixties in St. Louis instead of San Francisco?
Perhaps it’s a symptom of getting older, but I don’t really have that fear anymore. I was re-reading “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy last night (written off by a lot of fans as “movie fodder”, which I think is a shame because it is actually very experimental compared to his work both before and after).
In it the protagonist, Sheriff Bell, has small first person passages scattered throughout the book, reflecting on the state of the world he lives in. One quote in particular has stuck with me, and I’ve started to believe it’s connected to that old fear:
“Young people anymore they seem to have a hard time growin up. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that you don’t grow up any faster than you have to.” (pg. 159)
I think this is especially applicable with my generation, “the millennials.” It’s hard to interact with any of them and not feel like we live in a nation of Peter Pans. As if a stubborn refusal to grow up will somehow keep looming, ice-age sized economic problems at bay. Part of the difficulty in any kind of massive movement based on these problems is that the young of the falling middle class are still able to leech off of those who have profited from it in the past. Young men and women can still lean on ever weakening family bonds for financial support.
And it’s okay right now. It seems like there is a lot of individual freedom- people can make money streaming video games, or blogging from vans, or go to grad school. But a decade from now, the national anxiety will really reach a fever pitch.
There will be a large movement, and I think it will spring from the millennial generation, when it finally sets in that things will not get better. When opportunities for job security turn out not to exist. When healthcare becomes an issue as we age. When the generation after us comes into the workforce, and we realize that there is no upward mobility anymore. The little projects and Netflix shows and cultural wars we busy ourselves will, with harsh suddenty, not matter.
I’ve started to believe that our reaction to that fact will be our lasting legacy- our cultural movement. It isn’t that we don’t have a place at the table: it’s that we are lead into a room where others are wildly hacking at the table so they can get a piece, and even as we get our hands on an axe or hammer, the top is gone, the legs are long pulled away, and all thats left are screws and dust and the echoes of labored breathing, cursing us for fools for being late to the party.
It has been 101 days since Donald Trump took office. And yet, as I read the expected deluge of think pieces and listicles, I can’t help but feel contempt for them as well. It’s as though Donald Trump presents such a comically large target, that liberals will fail to learn why they lost the government and presidency.
Take Bill Maher. I was watching a segment focusing on 100 days of Trump, and he had a long bit about Trump supporters. Pointing to the “statistic” that all trump supporters are still satisfied with Trump, he made the “humorous” argument that facts will never change a Trump voter’s mind. That for the great unenlightened masses it’s all about the “gut feeling of change”.
What followed was one of the ugliest comedy segments I’ve seen in a long time, with Bill Maher putting on a southern accent and making redneck jokes. First, it is guilty of the cardinal sin of comedy: being unfunny. It did, however, have the added benefit of making me think. There was a time, until fairly recently, that the media kowtowed to Middle America. The lowest common denominator, culturally speaking, that would offend only the least sensible.
I think two things have changed in the information age. One is the mass devaluation of media that comes with its easy accessibility. The second is, in an ever more competitive market, one must up the ante sensationally.
So if we look at these two changes together, it equals exponentially more media exposure for the average viewer, and increasingly insulting coverage for those in rural America.
What would you do if every time you turned on the television you were represented as a criminal and thug? You’d be furious, just as African Americans rightly were, and still are, for shows like “cops”.
Now let’s say an economic recession has wiped out jobs, the market is transforming in ways no one seems to understand except that every industry you could work in is dead, and every time you turn on the television, you’re portrayed as either a rapist or an idiot.
I’d vote Trump too. Fuck um.
These are our countrymen, and Bill Maher gets to lob lazy jokes from his studio castle and get paid an outrageous sum to be the definition of a pseudo intellectual. If liberals don’t take a long hard look into the dark mirror, and have the grace to see the world of insult and fear so many of their own are relegated to, than liberals will be exposed as little more than a blue baseball cap opposite the antagonistic red.
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”.
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
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.