Friday, September 01, 2017

How the media feeds tribalism

American journalism has taken a beating in the last year, to a large extent by those angry that it's doing its job. "Fake news" has come to be a lazy slur toward any story that reflects poorly on one's tribe.
But what's obscured is the culpability of the increasingly large part of the media that no longer engages in journalism. The part whose sole purpose is to give microphones to divisive windbags and blowhards reading the Script of their tribe.
Most of this part of the media is stuck in the binary narrative that essentially reduces everything to a zero sum gain. It is tribalism plain and simple.

There is no more effective recipe for division than convincing people that social and economic progress is a zero sum gain.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Trumpism is a cult


Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump adheres to his cult, but Trumpism has clearly become a cult.


During last year's presidential campaign, I often noted that Donald Trump's appeal reminded me very much of the sort of naked tribalism westerners associate with the so-called 'third world.' South African comedian Trevor Noah went so far as to describe Trump as America's first African president.

His presidency has shown this to be completely accurate.

Guardian piece interviewed a number of Trump supporters at one of his recent virulent rallies. He is much better at campaigning than at governing.

One woman praised him for being "anti-left, anti-PC, anti-stupid."

She's no 'deplorable', easy for snobs to look their nose down at. She is a senator in the Arizona state legislature.

But her comment perfectly encapsulates Trumpism.

She does not state one positive (in her mind) accomplishment that Trump has made since becoming president. Not one promise kept.

In her eyes, and the eyes of many Trump loyalists, his best quality is how much he hates the left. How much he hates the  "politically correct." How much he hates the media.

His emphasis on hating other Americans is not a flaw, in their eyes, but his greatest virtue. If you press them, it seems to be his only virtue.

This is why they are impervious to any kind of logical argument.

They claimed to oppose Hillary because she was investigated by the FBI but when Trump is investigated by the same, it's a conspiracy. They claimed to be furious at Hillary's handling of emails but ignored Vice-President Pence's similar infractions. They denounced "crooked Hillary" but have no problem with Trump turning the presidency into an extension of his family business (very much like a stereotypical African dictator). They cheered his insistence that he would make Mexico pay for the border wall but are silent when he threatens to shut down the government if the (US) Congress refuses to fund it.

And can you imagine the rage they would launch at any "liberal" with such deep ties to regime hostile to the US? At any "liberal" who defended symbols of anti-US sentiment (Confederate statues)? At any "liberal" who attacked Gold Star families?

The reason for these apparent inconsistencies is simple. All the claims above were not sincere. They were poses. They were pretexts invented to justify what was really a vote for a worldview, far more than a vote for a particular candidate.

That is why that when, he can't deliver on his promises, it never due to any fault of his own. It's the fault of the evil media. Or the powerless Democrats. Or of venal Republicans who don't obey his orders completely.

They could only vote for him for president. They really want to install him as emperor.

Donald Trump is part of their tribe and what he actually does is fairly irrelevant to his most rabid supporters.

Partisan politics has always had a certain tribal aspect to it. But there's always been the pretense of a certain ideological basis. Trump has resorted to naked cult appeal.

This is why his poll numbers are collapsing. In a recent poll, 61% of Americans said they had low or no confidence in Trump. Only 49% of Americans voted for Hillary. Clearly, even many who voted for him are starting to see through his scam.

In a story about the 1982 New York Democratic gubernatorial primary, a Village Voice article noted: "For too many people in our tightening political economy, the family ties and values he loves have been broken or twisted so that they bear no fruit in good health or fresh opportunities. And as openness and hope become overwhelmed by fear and hatred in enough people's lives - openness curldes to bitterness and hope shrivels to a craving for revenge - hard-pressed voters turn to leaders with a streak of malevolence resembling their own - leaders who reassure them perversely by showing them where they can extract vengeance for their own diminished lives."

It is even more true today than in 1982.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Christian fanatics threaten far more Americans than ISIS

There's been much talk in recent years about "religious liberty" and "religious freedom." In general, this is a fraud. What is usually being discussed is the supremacy of a particular religion. What many want is for the US to implement the Christian equivalent of Sharia Law.
This is a grave threat to our constitutional republic, something that threatens far more Americans than anything ISIS is doing in Syria or Iraq.
Remember, if you are a soldier, politician, Peace Corps volunteer or any other kind of public servant, you swore an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC.
The Founders of the republic intentionally devised a system where no one faith had official status. This is why no specific religion is mentioned in the Constitution.
While everyone is focused on the chaos in the Trump regime, much truly evil legislation is being pushed at the state level with far less notice.
The Texas legislature has a bill which would allow medical "professionals" to deny care to LGBT people. This is not refusing to sell someone a cake.
You could be dying and the doctor could refuse to treat you because s/he doesn't like gay or trans people. Seriously WTF?! Is this America or Saudi Arabia?
It would allow nurses and doctors to discuss a woman's medical condition with her husband against her wishes, if their religious beliefs state that a husband is the head of the household.
But theocrats should beware of this double edged sword: such a bill would also permit a Jewish or Muslim nurse to refuse treatment to Christians.
It would also let them refuse to serve you because you're a man or woman if their religion bans them contact with people of the opposite gender not related to them. Your intent may be to harm LGBT people but you risk harming yourself.
So-called Christians are plotting and, in some cases achieving, far more damage to American citizens than any Muslim extremist group. Civilized Christians need to denounce this and loudly.
If you are a medical PROFESSIONAL, your job is to help people, not to refuse to help them.
You have the right to a religion. You don't have the right to a job.
If your religion states you can't do your job helping someone because of who they are, you either need a new religion or a new job. Or perhaps a new country.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

What a racket: Crooked Donald and the family presidency

Donald Trump used a lot of rhetoric during the presidential campaign that resonated with people for reasons other than bigotry. Nearly all of his actions have betrayed that.

He talked about “draining the swamp” and taking on Wall Street, which he quickly betrayed by appointing a cabinet almost entirely madeup of Wall Street fat cats and other oligarchs.


He talked about reviving American manufacturing. Now he’s going after an American retailer for dropping his daughter’s failing line ofmerchandise which is… made in China.


The real purpose of Trump’s presidency is simple: to be an extension of his and his family’s businesses.


He bellowed non-stop about “crooked Hillary” but what he’s doing is worse. Far worse


It started with him violating the Constitution since the moment he swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution.


It was followed quickly using the White House website topimp his wife’s jewelry line.


He hired his son-in-law to be his unaccountable taxpayer-paid advisor.


Now, he’s using his taxpayer-paid spokestools to defend hisdaughter’s private business interests.


All this and he’s only been in the job for three weeks.


Any one of these things might excusable.


But put them all together and you who is acting like some two-bit banana republic dictator.


Then again, we’ve devolved into a political culture where big business has successfully bought politicians to advance their corporate interests at the expense of the public. I guess Trump is just skipping the middle man. Maybe that’s where Betsy DeVos got the idea from.