Who Matters?Posted: May 11, 2023 Filed under: Culture, Musings, Politics, society, Uncategorized | Tags: Amazon, America, culture, cyberpunk, entertainment, Peripheral, politics, sci-fi, science fiction, society, William Gibson Leave a comment
(Disclaimer: The following post has spoilers for the first season of The Peripheral on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. You have been warned.)
I recently binge-watched the entirety of the first (and so far only) season of The Peripheral on Amazon Prime (note to Amazon: get on that next season, ya’ll have a bad habit of dragging your feet). I have a complicated relationship with cyberpunk in general and William Gibson in particular. When cyberpunk is done well, I love it, and when it is done less than I despise it. The same can be said for Gibson’s work. His better novels I am a rabid fan of (and that isn’t limited to his cyberpunk work; Pattern Recognition remains one of my favorite novels), but his lesser works leave me completely cold. In both cases I think it is a matter of knowing what heights they are capable of makes me demand nothing less. Fortunately, in this case they delivered, and truth be told The Peripheral goes beyond cyberpunk (although it does incorporate many cyberpunk elements and themes) and covers elements of several sci-fi genres.
One of the key themes that particularly stood out for me in the show was the question of who matters in society. This was brought into stark relief when Flynn Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) states to her “employers” in an alternate future timeline (like I said, it gets into broader sci-fi elements pretty quick), “I’m trying to think of you guys as real.” While this is the most obvious moment, it is far from the starkest divide, as the power differentials between various groups make up much of the drama in the show, and while they are mostly drawn with a broad brush and a heavy hand (yay science fiction), they still serve to illuminate the broader concept.
The most obvious divisions of course are in the future society between the major power players: the Research Institute (the intelligentsia), the Klept (the rich and powerful), and the Metropolitan Police (the government). The rest of the people in this future society are either servants of one of these groups or simply outcasts.
There are other, less obvious (although still not exactly subtle) divisions to be found in the show as well. The specific choice of a small town, rural setting for the 2032 “stub” timeline versus the metropolitan London of the “main” 2100 timeline dovetails nicely with the plot point of choosing groups of rural friends as soldiers for the haptic devices (an obvious allusion to the over-representation of rural Americans in the military), which then lends itself to the obvious division between veterans and civilians. There’s also the divide between disabled veterans and able-bodied civilians to explore.
It’s very easy to tell who the good guys are: just like in real life, pick the people you agree with, and there you go, you know who the good guys are. Because really, there’s no other way to tell. Everyone has an agenda, everyone does morally and ethically questionable things (to say the least), and everyone has a justification for their actions that essentially amounts to “I did what I had to do”. So like I said, just like real life.
It’s become fashionable to loudly proclaim “everyone gets a voice,” while sotto voce saying, “as long as we don’t have to listen to them.” For some groups it has become even more fashionable to simply say, “You are too vulgar, too violent; you shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all.” To those who insist that everyone deserves and must get an equal voice, here’s a short list of groups that I want you to look at and seriously tell me you want all of them to have an equal say:
- Flat Earthers
- 9-11 Truthers
- Disabled people
- Elderly people
Does everyone on the list get an equal say? If not, why not? Was it the same 20 years ago? 50? 100? Why is it different now? (And if the best answer you can give me is “because society is fairer” you get an A for optimism and an F for naivete.) Having a good rationale for not letting part of your population participate when you claim to be a free and just society is putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. Understanding the likely outcome when people feel they are not being heard, their needs are not being addressed, and they are being forced to participate in a society that is taking from them without giving in return is the first step to rectifying the situation. Because the hard truth is that, long-term, most groups are not going to just sit back and be grateful for what they are given. So what do you do then?
And that is a problem that can come from any direction. Look again at that list. I’m not asking you to like or agree with anyone on that list. I’m not asking you to condone or tolerate anyone on that list. I’m asking you to acknowledge that every one of those groups exists, that they have a point of view, one might even say an agenda, and every single one of them is capable of morally and ethically questionable things (to say the least). And I guarantee you, when they do them, they will have a justification for their actions that essentially amounts to “I did what I had to do”. Just like on The Peripheral. The question is, how will you know who the good guys are?
As I Slide Ever Leftward…Posted: December 20, 2022 Filed under: Politics | Tags: America, gun control, politics, Second Amendment Leave a comment
I made a sarcastic comment the other day (and the world shudders as everyone who knows me tries desperately to hold back their utter disbelief) which I will neglect to repost here, as it is unimportant except in how it relates to the topic at hand. It got me to thinking about the debate around gun rights, gun control, and the Second Amendment. In particular the same tried and true (some might say tired and worn out) arguments that get trotted out every time there is a shooting event. *
*Note that I am using the term “shooting event” to be as neutral as possible and not to offend. Please feel free to substitute in your own mind “mass shooting”, “school shooting”, “gun massacre”, “lone gunman”, or whatever term best suits your personal worldview.
The particular issue that came to mind for me was the particular hobby horse of a lot of pro-gun advocates when discussing gun control: “We don’t need more gun control laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have.” I’ve heard this so many times over the years and I never really took the time to give it a great deal of thought; it just seemed obvious to me. For some reason today it struck me differently, and I finally have some sympathy for those on the other side of the fence when they hear this, and I’ll tell you why:
This isn’t an answer to the problem, it’s restating the problem without offering a solution.
Think about it: what’s the problem? There are people shooting other people with guns they shouldn’t have. Put that a different way: We’re not enforcing our gun laws properly.
Okay, so we know the problem. What’s the solution you’re offering? Um… the solution you’re offering is the problem itself.
Now, let’s look at it from the pro-gun control side:
What’s the problem? There are people shooting other people with guns they shouldn’t have. What’s the solution you’re offering? Enact more laws to prevent people from having guns.
Look, I may not agree with that solution, but I can at least concede it is a solution.
There’s a second issue, concurrent with the first. Let’s be extra generous and re-phrase the suggestion for the pro-Second Amendment side:
“We don’t need more gun control laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have by giving the government more money, power and authority to do so.”
There, now doesn’t that look more like an actual suggestion for a solution? Possibly even workable? And exactly how many people who have uttered the words “we don’t need more gun control laws” would ever say that complete sentence or anything in the same ballpark? I’m guessing the number isn’t zero, but it’s not a significant percentage, either.
And that’s the rub. You can’t demand the government be effectual while also insisting it be ineffective. You want a small government? Okay, sure. You want a government that can enforce laws quickly, accurately, and consistently? Can do. You want both with low taxation on the side? Sorry, genie’s all out of wishes.
My Mom Was RightPosted: January 8, 2021 Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: insurrection, politics, Trump 1 Comment
There are certain words I never thought I would say, let alone put in writing.
The President incited a riot.
Insurrectionists took the Capitol building.
My mother was right.
The last one may seem out of place but bear with me. You see, in the last couple of days I have noticed the continuing of a trend that has been going on for years, if not for decades. A trend that has arguably brought us to this point, and one that needs to stop if we are to ever get to a better place. It can best be summed up in a quote from the movie Batman (1989): “I made you, you made me first.”
Call it “whataboutism”. Call it “finger pointing”. Call it whatever you want. It boils down to the simple childish back and forth of “well X did this, which is just like Y”, or “well they did this, which justifies them doing that.”
As my mother told my sister and I when we were kids, “I don’t care who started it.” And she was right.
This shit has to stop. There can be no excuse for the actions that took place in Washington, DC on Jan. 6, 2021. There can be no justification based on actions taken by others because there is no justification. Full stop.
Likewise, to those who are taking to social media taking the opportunity to say, “I told you so”, again I say this shit has to stop. Like so many others, I am saddened, angry, and not at all surprised by these events. But seizing the moment to drive forward partisan divisions rather than simply condemn the actions of those responsible (and yes, that includes specific political figures up to and including Donald Trump himself) is risible. It does nothing to resolve the tensions that led to this moment, it simply exacerbates them. Many of you spent the entirety of George Bush’s presidency claiming he “stole” the election, and much the same of Trump in his sole term. Does that language sound at all hauntingly familiar?
But hey, as Winston Churchill said, “never let a good crisis go to waste,” amirite?
This shit has to stop. I don’t care who started it.
Let’s get in the wayback machine, shall we? In 1994, Newt Gingrich led a revolt in Congress, the so-called Contract with America. He got the Republicans to start playing hardball in politics. The Democrats were slow to catch up, but they sure were game for it. And hey, they decided to end the filibuster for non-SCOTUS nominees, so all even right? Nope, then the Republicans ended the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees. And Wow, those SCOTUS nominees! I mean, look at the way Garland was treated! No Supreme Court nominee has ever been treated badly by the Senate ever! He totally got Borked! Totally justifies screwing over the next guy if we can!
“I made you, you made me first.”
This shit has to stop. I DON’T CARE WHO STARTED IT.
Now there are people on social media demanding that those who perpetrated this offense against our nation be hunted down and executed summarily. Others see them as some sort of heroes defending the union against tyranny. I would humbly suggest that both sides are extremist assholes who need to put down their cellphones and get a nice cold glass of shut the fuck up.
I don’t care who started it.
I want them, all of them, to have the full benefit of the American justice system. Let them have a real trial with a vigorous defense and a jury of their peers. Let there be no doubt in any reasonable mind (you can’t reason with the unreasonable) that they were given every right under the very laws they so carelessly flouted. And let them enjoy the full penalty of the law as decided by that system they tried to destroy.
What truly makes America great, what always has and will continue to make America great, is this: despite the avaricious desires of some, we always have and always will, even- nay, especially in the face of adversity strived to be a nation of laws, not men. While we have in the past and even to this day sometimes fallen short of that lofty goal, that is not an excuse to lower the bar. It is instead all the more reason to set it higher.
The Great Debt DebatePosted: June 26, 2019 Filed under: Politics, society | Tags: economics, economy, fiscal policy, politics, student debt, student loans Leave a comment
There’s nothing like a heavily disputed presidential primary season to bring exciting new ideas out into the open, and there’s nothing like new ideas to generate debate (or if you’re on the internet, scorn and abuse). One of the big ideas being tossed around among Democratic presidential hopefuls is the idea of alleviating some or all student loan debt. Whose, how much, and how are all part of the mix, and of course the ever-present “why?” raises its head in the discussion, particularly when the question makes its way outside the narrow corridor of progressive thought.
In a lot of ways I feel like I’ve had this discussion before, on any number of topics, pretty much anytime the subject of government intervention in the economy (or any kind of government spending really) comes up. The simple fact is that government spending exists for a lot of reasons, but it always has one of a few intentions:
- Providing basic services. This one seems kind of obvious, but it doesn’t cover nearly as much ground as most people think it does. That’s because there’s a significant amount of ground between what you want and what you need. We’ve become accustomed to a government that provides an awful lot of wants in addition to a scant handful of needs. This is not intended to be a polemic against government providing those things, merely pointing out that there is a difference between the two. This also goes hand in hand with…
- Making a moral statement. You might not think something as dry as taxation and spending would have moral implications, but boy would you be wrong. Consider the phrase “provide for the common weal”. What exactly does that mean? What does it cover? And how do you intend to collect the money to pay for it? Once you figure that out, you’ve taken a moral stance, and your budget and taxation priorities will reflect that stance.
- Stimulating the economy (whether it’s effective or not). I’m going to be generous and pretend that every time politicians have said that their various taxation and budgetary maneuvers were intended to “stimulate the economy” they were being sincere, regardless of the actual outcome of those efforts.
Please stop laughing at me.
So where does that leave us when considering the idea of relieving student debt? Well, a lot of that is going to depend on how you feel about it coming in. As Obi-Wan once said, “you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Do you consider college to be a basic service? If so, then government should have been providing it all along, and of course people shouldn’t have to pay for it, either in the past or in the future. Pay off ALL the loans and make all public colleges free. Perhaps you believe this is a matter of economic justice, in which case something more akin to Elizabeth Warren’s plan is more to your taste, with only a certain amount of debt being paid off, and an income cut-off being involved to ensure it’s more progressive than regressive. Or maybe you’re interested in stimulating the economy, in which case you want something a bit more modest but even-handed.
Or perhaps your stance leans more the other way. I have heard arguments asking why student loan debt should be privileged over other kinds of consumer debt, such as mortgage debt or credit card debt. These are important questions, and worth addressing by those who would forgive or pay-off student loan debt. I have a few answers of my own, although not sufficient answers I am sure for those who are asking those questions.
Regarding comparisons to mortgage debt, mortgages have been privileged over other kinds of consumer debt for as long as the modern income tax has existed. Last I checked I couldn’t deduct my credit card interest or my rent payments from my income taxes, and while I can deduct the interest from my student loans from my income taxes, there’s one big difference on those that I’ll get to in just a moment. So suggesting that relieving student debt would be an anomaly because we would be “privileging” one particular kind of debt is disingenuous at best. While there’s a fair argument to be made that the price of the mortgage deduction has already been “baked in” to the price of housing, the same can be said for the price of tuition, with the cost of public four-year institutions increasing 213% in 10 years. I’d like to flip that house.
As for credit card debt, that’s a tougher lift. Despite the calls to limit interest rates at 15%, I haven’t heard any suggestion of relieving existing debts, nor do I seriously expect there to be any suggestion for that happening either (nor do I think such a suggestion would get any traction). Going back to needs and wants, there is an understanding in America today that you need a college degree; despite the realities that many Americans face of having to get by week to week using any means at their disposal, including high-interest credit cards, there is still a Puritanical moralism that says credit card debt represents wants. Regardless, though it has been made significantly more difficult in recent decades, there is still an option available to credit card debtors that is not available to student loan debtors: bankruptcy. Yes, it’s an ugly word in America. Yes, it will ruin your credit rating. But it sure does beat insurmountable debts. At least it does if it applies to the insurmountable debts you have.
I am not unsympathetic to any of these positions. I am a renter, and I have been a home owner. I have dug myself out of the bottom of a very deep hole of credit card debt more than once, and I know how awful it can be. Worst of all, I have carried substantial college loan debt for a quarter of a century, and every time I make a payment I am reminded of all the stupid choices I made that got me into that debt. I own those choices, I do not deny it. And I have been paying for them for over twenty years. It is not something I would wish on another human being.
The best answer I can give, ultimately, is the same answer I have always given when it comes to government policy or societal action: someone’s gotta take it in the shorts. It may not be “politic”, but it is absolutely egalitarian. It is the recognition that in a cooperative society, there are only two ways to manage things: everybody goes it alone, in which case the winners and losers make themselves, or we do things cooperatively, in which case we collectively make winners and losers. Either way somebody takes it in the shorts. There is no scenario in which everybody comes out ahead, but there are many scenarios in which everybody is worse off. The question we have to answer is which scenario we choose to pursue, and who ends up taking it in the shorts.
Anybody who says the student loan industry is getting it right is someone who is profiting off college students. And it’s not just teenagers. Veterans, working professionals, career switchers, stay at home parents returning to the workforce; these are all people who are trying to navigate a complex and often predatory environment, and they don’t have decades before retirement to pay back overwhelming loans. I’m not advocating any particular approach, I’m saying a conversation needs to be had now before the bubble bursts and it’s too late for a conversation, and all that’s left is to try to clean up the B.S.
Some Questions for the NomineesPosted: September 26, 2018 Filed under: Politics, society, Uncategorized | Tags: conservatives, democrats, Kavanaugh, liberals, politics, republicans, Senate, Supreme Court Leave a comment
To this point I have (with great restraint) avoided voicing any sort of opinion on the Kavanaugh controversy, and I will continue to do so, except to say that I believe very strongly that the best course of action is to investigate the allegations seriously so as to avoid any uncertainty in the event that Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed.
Democrats also need to accept the reality before them, which is that even if Kavanaugh is not confirmed (whether he withdraws or is down-voted), the very real likelihood is that there will be another conservative justice on the court. The only way this wouldn’t happen is the near-impossible confluence of events whereby the current nomination is dragged out past the current election cycle, Democrats take over the Senate, they manage to keep any and all vacancies open for two full years, and then keep control of the Senate and win the White House. Impossible? Stranger things may have happened, but not by much.
What I am interested in however is the discussion that is not happening. Once again we are being presented, by both sides, with the rankest sort of hypocrisy, and nobody is being called out on it because it is politically unfeasible to do so. Without getting into the specifics of “did he or didn’t he”, “is she telling the truth or is she lying”, my concern is with the way both sides have already taken a stance on whether a person’s actions as a teenager should determine their fitness for higher office (much) later in life. This is particularly galling as in their standard approach to criminal justice the left and the right tend to have opposite stances to the approach they are taking in this case.
Liberals tend to be very much in favor of rehabilitation over incarceration, with the eventual goal being reintegration into society. Judging someone in their fifties by a crime they committed in their teens, let alone something they were merely accused of committing, is seen as a horrendous offense…usually.
Lest anyone think I am letting Conservatives off the hook, think again. Conservatives cast themselves as “law and order”, with incarceration being the law and “paying your debt to society” being the order. Like a loan shark that debt never seems to quite get paid in full for most people once you get under the thumb of Johnny Law… unless you happen to be of the privileged class. “Pearl clutching” and “NIMBY” are phrases that seem to have been tailor-made to go hand-in-hand for these folks.
Consider then that this year and in the years to follow we have hundreds if not thousands of individuals on both sides of the political divide who could be considered nominees for political office. With that in mind, I have a few questions I would like to pose to them:
- If someone were accused of a misdemeanor as a minor, should they be able to vote?
- Should they be able to hold any public office?
- What if it was a nonviolent felony?
- What if it was a violent felony?
- What if they were convicted?
- Same questions as above, only the crimes occurred when they were an adult.
- If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, is there any specific limit of time they need to wait? Are there any actions they need to take beyond serving their sentence if any (e.g. restitution) before they would be eligible?
Feel free to make your answers as short or as long as you like, but please none of the usual dodging or bloviating. Everyone seems both eager and capable enough to take a clear stand on whether or not they believe and support either Judge Kavanaugh or his accusers. Just this once it would be nice to get that kind of clarity on something else.
You Can’t Spell “Treason” Without “Reason”Posted: September 12, 2018 Filed under: Humor, Politics, Satire, Uncategorized | Tags: Donald Trump, politics, republicans, treason 1 Comment
Now that President Trump has expanded the definition of treason to include “anyone or anything that I personally don’t like”, I would like to be the first person to applaud his
gross overreach of power disturbing authoritarian tendencies brilliant political insight and statesmanship. In that vein, I would like to “nominate” my own small but important list of people who are equally, if not more so, deserving of being branded as traitors as everyone Trump has levied the charge against to date:
· Every kid who ever beat me up
· The first girl who ever broke my heart
· My 11th grade English teacher for failing me and making me take summer school
· My “friend” who got me hooked on Magic: the Gathering
· Everyone who ever laughed at me, not with me
· The people responsible for “Highlander II: The Quickening”
· My Not So Humble Sister (YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID)
· That one kid who stole my Halloween candy
· The second girl who ever broke my heart
· That one guy who gave me a wet-willie that one time
Hopefully we’ll see the kind of bold, decisive action we’ve come to expect from this administration against these traitors. If not, I’m sure we can expect to see the administration held accountable by Congress, where we have Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate. Otherwise I guess both sides are to blame.
The Government You DeservePosted: August 29, 2018 Filed under: Humor, Politics, Satire, society, Uncategorized | Tags: democrats, Donald Trump, election, Election 2018, humor, politics, republicans, satire 1 Comment
It’s another election year, and this one may be the most important year of all. Before you decide who to vote for this year, I’m asking each and every American to look deep inside and ask yourself one very important question: how do you really feel about your fellow Americans?
Let’s face it folks, anyone who says they actually “like”, “respect”, or “would piss on them if they were on fire” about their fellow Americans is spreading FAKE NEWS. Our country is falling apart faster than a meatloaf without breadcrumbs, and we all know who’s to blame: the other guy. That’s right, that low-down bastard who doesn’t really love their country, isn’t really a patriot, and would probably spit on the flag and/or a veteran first chance they got.
So what’s the answer? Sure, you could waste your vote by trying to go with one of the major parties, but let’s be honest, what have they done for you lately? The Republicans have had their chance, and they’ve managed to take things from bad to “we need a Space Force so we can nuke the site from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure”. As for the Democrats… oh the Democrats. Just when you think they can’t find new ways to snatch defeat right out of the jaws of victory, they look you right in the eye and say “hold my beer”. You think nobody can lose against Donald Trump? Think again. You think nobody can lose running against Donald Trump and a House full of spineless Republicans? Watch and see.
But there’s another way. A better way. Look deep inside yourself, and discover the Truth that’s always been there but you’ve always been afraid, nay, compelled to deny. Deep down, you know you really want someone who feels the same way you do. Deep down, you know you want:
The Misanthrope Party.
Yes folks, this year it’s time to send a clear message and vote Misanthrope. As that great moral philosopher A. Skywalker said, “Search your feelings; you know it’s true.”
What do I stand for? Absolutely nothing. Not in a nihilistic sense of “nothing is real, nothing matters”, but in a very real sense of “screw you guys, I’m going home”. I promise to not even bother to show up. I’ll just collect a paycheck and not even bother to show up for floor debates, because really, what’s the point? Everybody who isn’t already bought and paid for has already made up their mind, they don’t change anything, and nobody watches them anyway.
I already live near enough to D.C. that if I decide to show up for a vote because I’m bored I can drive in, which will make me look all fiscally responsible, which I hear some people actually like. I’m far enough away that I’m technically not a “Washington insider”, which apparently is the hip thing these days.
Here’s the best thing: I’m a completely dishonest politician in the classic sense, because I don’t stay bought. Want to buy my vote? Go ahead and try. I’ll take your money and I still won’t vote. The best you can do is pay me not to vote for an issue, and even then you’ll be left wondering: did we just get had? I’m not saying. I’ll just run for re-election.
Face it folks: At least I’m honest. And I’m as good as it gets these days.
How Far Is Too Far?Posted: May 4, 2018 Filed under: Culture, Politics, society | Tags: Brian Kemp, Georgia, gun control, guns, media, politics, Second Amendment, television 1 Comment
In a recent campaign ad for governor of the state of Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp loads a shotgun and points it at a young man who (in the ad) is “interested in one of my daughters”. He then proceeds to grill “Jake” on why Mr. Kemp is running for governor and what qualities are essential in a young man who will be dating one of his daughters. Naturally, those would be “respect and a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir.”
Where do I begin?
As someone who has often stated my support for the Second Amendment and the personal right to own firearms, as well as a satirist in my own right, the casual reader might expect me to fully support this ad. After all it’s just in good sport, right? A little poking fun, ribbing the liberals, maybe the casual allusion to the classic “Southern dad with a shotgun” motif? There’s at least a few things wrong with that.
The first thing is that it’s not “just in good sport”. There are a two rules in comedy that are getting violated here. The first, and one that is getting a lot of play these days, is that you punch up, not down. Who exactly is Mr. Kemp punching up at? Gun control advocates? Liberals? Jake? It’s not clear, but like many other politicians these days, he is in a position of power already, and he is using that position to take cheap shots (pun intended) at those who oppose him.
The second rule in comedy that is being violated is that the secret to good comedy is timing. As the editors of The Onion once pointed out, the closer a joke is to the tragedy it’s making fun of, the funnier it needs to be. If you’re going to riff on a tragedy the day after it happened, that better be the funniest joke I ever heard. Given the proximity to the Parkland shooting (along with any number of other teen shootings in America, which may not have gotten the same level of publicity but are just as heartfelt to the victims), I just don’t think this one makes the cut.
The second problem I have with this commercial is that it’s not about liberals versus conservatives, it’s about responsible gun use versus careless or outright unlawful gun use. The first rule of gun safety, always, is to treat every weapon as if it is live, loaded, and ready to fire. A logical extension of this rule that all responsible gun users follow is “don’t point a weapon at anything or anyone you don’t intend to shoot”. I don’t know if it’s because he’s trying to intimidate Jake into voting for him, scare him away from his daughters, or he just doesn’t like his actors, but none of those is a sufficient reason to point a gun at someone. Well okay, maybe because he’s an actor. (See? That’s comedy.)
Finally, the trope of the “Southern dad with a shotgun” is tired, played out, and insulting. Speaking as someone who has both been “threatened” by a father with a shotgun on multiple occasions as a teenager, as well as someone who has actually once been held at gunpoint for real, I can say with authority this shit needs to stop. You are sending one of two messages: either you are a homicidal lunatic who doesn’t understand how to participate in civilized society; or you prefer to use threats, bullying, and intimidation and don’t understand how to participate in civilized society. Neither is something that we should be modeling in the media as something to aspire toward, and certainly not something we should look for in our elected officials.
I Guess the Joke’s on MePosted: April 30, 2018 Filed under: Culture, Politics, society | Tags: Donald Trump, journalism, Michelle Wolf, politics, WHCA, White House Correspondents' Association Leave a comment
Here’s a quick joke for you: What’s the difference between a comedian and a politician? A comedian knows how to tell a joke, but a politician doesn’t know how to take one. I know, it’s not very funny. Guess I would have fit right in at the White House Correspondents Dinner the other night with Michelle Wolf. See, she wasn’t very funny either, according to many inside sources. It seems she wasn’t given the approved list of topics in advance that she wasn’t allowed to make jokes about because it would have been “in poor taste” or “going too far”. As George Carlin and Redd Foxx roll over in their smutty graves and Richard Pryor curses a blue streak that causes thunderclouds to form, I have to wonder what in the world these people are thinking.
There are several reasons that attacking Michelle Wolf is wrong, but I’ll focus on three: defense of the comedic tradition, the fact that such attacks are thinly veiled misogyny, and finally naked self-interest for journalism itself.
The tradition of the comedy roast is a time-honored one, and vulgarity is a common component of such roasts. Is it a bit crude and arguably tasteless? Sure, but it’s still a tradition. Besides, as William Blake said, “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.” Or if you prefer Ferris Bueller, “You can never go too far.”
…Unless of course you’re the President of the United States. As many commentators have pointed out, Mr. Trump is well known for making gross, insensitive, and outright vulgar comments about women that are objectively as insensitive as anything that was said by Ms. Wolf. There are three differences worth pointing out. The first is that Ms. Wolf is being called out for her comments by a wide swath of people, some of whom have served as apologists for Mr. Trump. The second, and probably more notable difference, is that Ms. Wolf is a comedian whose job it is to make pointed and (to some) humorous observations about others; Mr. Trump is the President of the United States. Regardless of what they have to say, to at all put their language or behavior on the same level is ludicrous. Finally, by calling out Ms. Wolf without calling out Donald Trump for equivalent comments, there is the faintest stench of “ladies don’t talk that way”, the kind of “there, there” misogyny that says women aren’t capable of meeting men on their own terms.
And ultimately that is what it’s all about: meeting the haters on equal footing. The press is supposed to be a participant in and defender of the First Amendment, which sometimes means taking a stand for controversial speech. The accusations that the White House press corps has gotten too cozy with the administration are hard to ignore are defend against when the WHCA starts taking sides against the entertainer they brought in to mollify the man who has popularized the term “fake news”. I’m not suggesting that every journalist everywhere should stand up, cheer, and demand an encore. That’s a decision for every individual journalist to make. When the association as a whole starts turning on individuals for expressing opinions or even for doing the job they were hired to do, that creates what’s known in the biz as “a chilling effect”. You want to know that professional associations will have your back, not put a knife in it.
I expect politicians to make hay out of this; it’s what they do. I guess I just expected better from journalists. I guess I’m learning better.