Archive for May, 2017

The Ultimate Scam

One thing that you may not know about me — among many dark secrets — is that I love documentaries. I’ll check out films about forgotten rock bands or miscarriages of justice or thematically intertwining stories or just about anything that sounds remotely interesting, as long it’s truthful.

One of my favorite documentarians is, of course, the legendary Werner Herzog, who narrates each of his movies in a weary, existentialist tone that sounds even more nihilistic in his German accent. The guy is a genius.

Two of his films are sort of bookends — one dealing with Antarctica and the other with volcanoes, the obvious interplay of fire and ice.

What the two films have in common — aside from Herzog’s causal observation that humanity is doomed and that Mother Nature will most likely kill us all someday — is that scientists are the heroes of the story.

And this got me thinking. In my last post, I talked about the conservative obsession with the deep state, and the mental hoops that one must jump through in order to excuse Trump’s obviously incompetent behavior.

Nowhere is the conservative mind more tested than when it comes to climate change. Yes, we know the statistic that 97% of climate scientists believe that humans have a negative impact on the environment, and that every year brings another heat record, and that many of the predicted consequences of climate change are already happening.

 

And yet, “majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists,” and some Americans literally do not believe their own eyes when it comes to changing weather patterns.

Conservatives dismiss climate scientists as elitist phonies who make up data, exaggerate their conclusions, and bury the evidence that there is no such thing as global warming. The scientists’ motivation, apparently, is to justify their existences and/or get more funding. Well, either that, or they are working for some leftist global cabal (is there any other kind?) with an insidious plot to enslave us all.

But of course, to believe that, you also have to believe that the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are unethical bastards (a view we don’t even hold for politicians). You also have to believe that their vile manipulation of the data is so ingenious that no one has been able to pinpoint exactly how they have pulled off — and yet it is simultaneously so obvious that even high school dropouts can tell that they faked it.

You also have to believe that thousands of extremely smart people have decided, en masse, that telling a lie and fighting over a limited amount of grant money makes more sense than simply telling the truth (“global warming is a lie!”) and rolling in the cash that Exxon would no doubt throw their way.

Speaking of which, you also have to believe that so few climate scientists have come forward to reveal this deception, even though scientific reputations are made on overthrowing convention and standing apart from your peers.

Finally, you have to believe that some of the brightest, best-educated people in the world have devoted their lives to one subject, and as we see in Herzog’s documentary, often endure brutal and dangerous conditions, for months at a time, all in service of some elaborate hoax.

Damn, there must be an easier way to make a buck.

 


Deep, Like Really Deep

No, it’s not your imagination.

The Trump Administration really is that chaotic, incompetent, reckless, arrogant, and bizarre. It’s a wonder that this gang of hate-filled lunatics hasn’t destroyed the country already.

But of course, if you are a true Trump fan, none of this matters. Either you deny that there are any issues, and everything is going more or less according to plan, or you admit that there are real problems, but it’s not the president’s fault. In the latter case, a natural follow-up is, whose fault is it then?

I’m glad you asked.

According to the most ardent of right-wingers, Trump is not a blithering, easily confused gasbag who is in way over his head (I can see why you might think that).

No, all of his self-inflicted wounds are actually the mechanizations of the fabled “deep state.”

 

For your edification, the deep state is “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.”

This belief in a secret government means that “with varying degrees of credibility and credulity, conservatives have fed stories that Mr. Trump is the victim of sabotage by an adversarial intelligence community full of Trojan horse holdovers from the Obama administration.”

You see, it’s not that the Republicans have horrific ideas and terrible execution, it’s that the deep state — often with a sinister liberal agenda — is thwarting them.

But there are a couple of problems with this hypothesis.

First, despite acres of exposés and essays and think-pieces about the deep state, no one seems able to pinpoint exactly who is in charge of it — or even who the exact members of this cabal are.

Second, if the deep state is so damn efficient — and again, is also determined to crush conservative ideas — then why couldn’t it have, I don’t know, fixed the fucking election in the first damn place?

For that matter, how is that shadowy liberals are able to trip up Trump, without leaving any fingerprints, and yet they can’t implement any truly progressive ideas on a nationwide level?

I mean, if you can frame the president for false crimes and get away with it, it should be a snap to, say, repeal oppressive voter-registration laws, or keep public education intact. For that matter, whatever happened to that liberal-socialist conspiracy to steal everyone’s guns? When is the deep state going to get going on that one?

The truth is that liberals are mocked as wimps, as powerless, as perennial losers at the ballot box — right up until conservatives start fucking up. Then all of a sudden, progressives have this vast reservoir of influence and secret strength, which they dish out wildly against overwhelmed, heroic conservatives.

In this scenario, the Republican Party is not an uneasy alliance of corporate apologists, religious nuts, xenophobes, and crazies, who can’t agree on anything other than their hatred of liberals. No, it is a virtuous organization of (overwhelmingly) men who are too good and decent and pure to be a match for those backstabbing, cheating, and unbelievably powerful progressives.

Sounds reasonable to me…

 


Your Barrio Isn’t Worth Saving

Let’s say that you live in, once lived in, or otherwise have a fondness for a traditional Latino neighborhood in your city.

No doubt, you are aware that gentrification is a powerful force that is either the worst cataclysm in the history of urbanization, or a mighty godsend that will rescue every blighted neighborhood on the planet. Opinions vary.

But let’s sidestep that very real issue for now and address something we can all agree on: Many Hispanic neighborhoods have economic problems that need to be tackled, and improving the quality of life in Latino areas should be a top priority.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to happen. Because your neighborhood, your barrio, is not going to improve.

You see, we have only so many resources — and more importantly, only so much empathy — in this country. And currently, both are being used up in the effort to rescue small-town America and the white working class.

Now, you might ask, “Hey, isn’t the white working class synonymous with ‘Trump voter’? And isn’t there lots of proof that many of them are racists who have sold out our country because of their fear, hatred, and ignorance?”

Ha, no. I have it on good authority (i.e., the mainstream media) that the WWC are actually the salt of the earth, and they have been cruelly left behind by economic elites, and they have suffered greatly due to myriad other injustices that curiously never get mentioned whenever we talk about ethnic minorities (but that’s a mere coincidence).

In essence, we have unlimited sympathy for poor whites, and vast reservoirs of excuses for why they are free of responsibility for their problems and/or questionable decisions. For those Latinos who live in struggling urban neighborhoods, however, the message is clear: This is all your fault, so quit your whining.

For example, that opioid epidemic devastating rural America? It’s a full-blown crisis. But drug problems in the inner city? Just the moral failures of black and brown people.

Aren’t you glad that I cleared that up?

Oh sure, you might point out that based upon every statistical fact, lower-class white people actually have many advantages over Hispanics, and in some cases even over those Latinos who don’t live in poverty.

It doesn’t matter, because the image of the proud but destitute coal miner — the embodiment of the white working class — is stronger than any silly little facts or figures you could throw around.

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Subtle Subtext

“The implications are bizarre.”

That’s certainly true.

But what are we talking about? Perhaps the fact that the president of the United States doesn’t know basic facts about American history? Or that millions of Americans still believe climate change is a nefarious liberal plot? Or that Eric Thames in leading the league in homeruns?

No, we’re talking about a recent study that concluded racism motivated Trump voters more than just about any other factor.

This study has jolted those Americans — whether liberal or conservative — who insist that racism is dead, and that Trump won simply because of his brash tough talk or pro-business views or patriotic fervor or blah blah blah.

The immediate rebuttal to the study’s damning assertion is that Trump’s predecessor was a certain African American gentleman, whom you may remember fondly. So how could a nation of racists have elected Obama in the first place?

 

Well, here are some theories that explain that apparent contradiction:

First, the report implied that “a lot of racially bigoted people were willing to vote for Obama [but] flocked to Trump when he made ‘political incorrectness’ central to his pitch.” Basically, many former Obama voters aren’t overt racists, and may not even be aware that they harbor negative feelings about ethnic minorities. But once someone gave them psychological cover for their negative perceptions, they could justify pulling the lever for a guy who was endorsed by the KKK, without thinking that they were bad people. Yes, this is a spinoff of the old (and increasingly pathetic) defense of “I’m not racist. I’m just not PC.”

These voters who got mindfucked had their deeply buried prejudice activated when a candidate — say, an egomaniacal sociopath — reinforced their racism. There are various ways of doing this, mostly of the dog-whistle variety. But the gist is that “if you want a racist’s vote, you have to make an appeal directly to their racism. Without it, he or she just might vote for a racial minority.”

A second factor is moral licensing. This is a fancy term for a psychological self-defense mechanism where “any act and any thought that you consider to be ‘good’ can license a subsequent ‘bad’ behavior because we feel that we deserve a reward for being so righteous.” For example, if we voted for Obama, we may feel that this is proof that we are not prejudiced. It therefore gives us a moral license — a sort of free pass — to be bigoted in the near future.

Moral licensing is our psyche’s way of saying, “Look, you voted for the black guy. That gets you off the hook. Go ahead and put that Trump sign on your lawn.”

A third reason why some Obama voters switched to Trump is the discomfort many white Americans feel over the nation’s cultural changes. A decade ago, white people were just starting to feel their decline. But by 2016 — with the opioid crisis in full swing and a black guy calling the shots and more Latinos popping up on television — it was undeniable that the good old days were over for white people.

During the Obama era, push very quickly came to shove for white people, who saw their numbers dwindle and their power slip (albeit slightly). This was enough for many white Americans to declare that enough was enough. After all, it was one thing for ethnic minorities to make some progress, but it was another to see so many dark-hued people doing better than they were. Indeed, “the achievements of black Americans, those who have become CEOs, scholars, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers and politicians—and now even president—have fueled the resurgence of intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

In other words, many white Americans sincerely didn’t believe that blacks and Latinos, by gaining just a modicum of cultural and political power, would actually do that much better. It was alarming, and it provoked them to call for taking their country back and making America great again and otherwise returning to a glorious past where ethnic minorities knew their place.

Finally, there is the fact that Obama’s election in the first place was — and this is disturbing to admit — a bit of a fluke. After all, in our nation’s history, no other ethnic minority has even gotten close to being a major-party nominee. And it must be acknowledged that Obama’s first campaign in 2008 came amidst an economic meltdown and the waning days of a Republican president widely regarded to be an incompetent frat boy. In other words, one reason that Obama won in the first place was because shit was so horrible that the country was willing to take a chance on a black man. Eight years later, with the worse over but vague dissatisfaction lingering over Obama’s “socialism,” it was much more acceptable to embrace white nationalism.

So there you have four pretty good reasons why many bigots voted for Obama but then switched to Trump. And these handful of closeted racists were enough to decide the election.

And how will they vote in 2020, when their savior, the Orange One, fails to improve their lives and make all the minorities go away?

That’s an excellent question.

 


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