Fascism, Intellectualism, and the Liberal Class: Why Centrists Hate Democracy.

by Russell Dobular

No sooner had Donald Trump won the Presidency than centrists launched an all-out assault on every external force they could think of that would deflect responsibility away from themselves and their anointed candidate. Russia, racists, and third parties were the preferred boogeymen, and the number of reassuring articles written in the first six months after the election blaming one, or all, of these factors for Clinton’s loss, was truly staggering. But no matter what cause that in no way involved Clinton’s missteps, DNC rigging, the failure of neoliberal policies leading to the hollowing out of the middle class over several decades, exploding Obamacare premiums, low black voter turn-out, etc., any given pundit chose to explore, the theme was always the same: people who didn’t vote for Clinton were dumb, and people who did vote for her were smart. Those dummies out there off the coasts had either been duped by Russia, seduced by white supremacy, or maybe worst of all, been perverse enough to vote for candidates like Stein and Johnson who had no chance of winning. Nowhere outside alternative media did anyone stop to consider the idea that in a country where 63% of the citizens say they couldn’t afford a $500 emergency,  a lot of people decided that given a choice between a candidate who not only defended the status quo, but explicitly ran on the promise of maintaining it, and one who at the very least would function as a big “Fuck You,” to an establishment they had grown to despise, enough people in enough key swing states found the Fuck You option irresistible to make Donald Frikkin’ Trump the President.

In the years since the election of doom, centrists have gone on to launch a rabid campaign against non-establishment voices and figures, from the suggestion that the Democratic Party should change its rules to not allow independents like Bernie to run as Democrats,  to the suppression of alternative media through the use of draconian algorithms on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google, to the oh-so-effective tactic of attacking third party voters and politicians. All of these suggestions and methods are aimed at suppressing free speech and limiting participation in democracy in order to achieve a desired outcome – that outcome being the triumph of the smart people.

It’s truly bizarre to see liberals, who have traditionally been sympathetic to the idea of supporting unpopular speech and tolerating, if not appreciating, third party voices, turn towards what are essentially fascist solutions for limiting opinions and political activity. But in the end, it’s the inevitable outcome of a worldview in which you believe that all the smart people hold similar opinions within a very narrow spectrum of acceptable beliefs, and that anyone whose beliefs fall outside of that spectrum is stupid. If you believe that the only reason your side loses elections is because too many of the stupid people get to participate in democracy and that a lot of those people are also too stupid to see through Russian propaganda and Kremlin-influenced alternative media (in this paradigm, all alternative media outlets are an arm of Russian intelligence), then the logical solution is to suppress that media and narrow the intellectual landscape of those voters. In this view, Bernie’s voters don’t support him because he’s offering solutions to long-standing problems that appeal to them; it’s because they’re too stupid to see that their government is far too broken and inefficient to ever deliver any of those solutions. The “smart people” understand that the best we can hope for is a “pragmatic” neoliberal centrist who wants universal healthcare deep down in his or her heart, but will settle for a reduction in prescription drug costs, because that’s how the system works. If in the course of waiting to enter the Valhalla of a permanent demographic majority that’s always just around the corner for Democrats, you happen to be bankrupted by illness, well, that’s the fault of all those stupid people who vote for Republicans. If it wasn’t for Republicans after all, Nancy Pelosi would tell her donors to piss up a rope and go full Norway in an instant.

The thing that liberals are missing in their newfound zeal for the undermining of free speech (ie, protecting the “stupid” people from Russian propaganda) and the accompanying lionization of our intelligence services (after all, they’re protecting us from the Russians) is that they’re helping to build a fascist police state that will turn on them the second it comes into power. From the Patriot Act’s elimination of Habeus Corpus, to the ubiquitous presence of surveillance cameras on city streets, to the way every aspect of our online activities are being tracked and monitored, we’ve already set up all the infrastructure required for a fascist government to exert a level of control over the population that the Nazis could only have dreamed about. Liberals stayed silent as Democrats in Congress supported all of these threats to our most fundamental legal protections,  and now they are the loudest voices arguing for the suppression of third parties and online speech that they disagree with. Just as with the other assaults on democracy that they’ve supported over the years, the potential long-term ramifications seem to escape them, even now that the thing more sober-minded and less MSNBC-indoctrinated people warned of as Obama was busy expanding the surveillance state has come to pass: a fascist is in the White House, and he’s inherited all the NSA toys we gave him.

Right now there are still too many functioning vestiges of divided government for Trump to make full use of the terrifying powers we’ve imparted to the state since 9/11, but one major terrorist attack on US soil, or the outbreak of a serious war, and its only a short step to indefinite detention for activists and opponents of the regime, many of whom will be the same liberals who cheered the arrest of Julian Assange and want to see Edward Snowden put on trial. And thanks to the Patriot Act, which Congress quietly renewed last week,  as long as the government labels the detainees “terrorists,” it will all be perfectly legal.

Sinclair Lewis is often cited as the source of the famous observation, “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” But the cross and the flag have never really represented the animating spirit of the country. A better formulation for our times would be: “When fascism comes to America it will be holding an iPhone and waving a credit card.” Capitalism and consumerism are the things that drive us. Its no accident then that we’re building our prison one Amazon purchase and Google search at a time. Its also no accident that W’s response to 9/11 was to tell the American people to go shopping. He was never as dumb as advertised; W understood the dangers of harnessing the great desire for civic and community engagement that bubbled up in the wake of such a great national tragedy. When people get together and start helping each other, pretty soon they start asking questions about why the people they’re helping need the help. They start organizing and trying to improve conditions. They become politically engaged. They begin to notice the great gulf between what they’re being told the country is and what it actually is: a white supremacist shopping mall where a few people benefit while most people struggle. Consumerism keeps us all siloed off behind walls of greed, desire, and superficial differences in taste. Better to have them go shopping then, than to have them try to do anything that might connect them to their fellow human beings. Ultimately, fascism is nothing more than an unholy alliance between capitalism and nationalism, combined with a lack of meaningful civil rights and the scapegoating of an “enemy.” As long as you aren’t the enemy, its easy to go along with. So, liberals mostly go along.

But there are other reasons why neoliberal centrists are even more hostile to democracy than their ostensible foes on the right.  One is that they mistake their social justice positions (the only positions they hold that can be reasonably construed as “left”), as inherently anti-fascist. This is because our idea of fascism has been almost entirely shaped by the version of it that arose in Germany. But there’s no reason that the “enemy” in a fascist state needs to be a member of a racial, or religious minority. The suppression of ideas is paramount; the way that you get there is negotiable. It doesn’t really matter if you’re ruling certain ideas and speech out of bounds by labelling them “Jewish,” or ruling them out of bounds by labelling them “Russian.” The end result is the same; the dehumanization of certain classes of people, under the pretense of protecting the state. This is why liberals remained silent even as Chelsea Manning was being tortured for revealing American war crimes in Iraq. The fact that Manning is also transgender reveals the hollowness of even the identity politics that liberals claim to care so deeply about.

The other reason centrists are so supportive of anti-democratic policies is pretty simple: they don’t think the black hoods and the zip ties are ever going to be used on them. Centrists are centrists because the system is working for them. It always has in most cases. They can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t. It’s easy to give away protections and freedoms that you believe you yourself will always continue to enjoy. Just like its easy to support Medicare For All as an abstraction to be achieved at some point in the distant future, if there’s no chance your own family is ever going to be financially wiped out by an illness. Quite simply, they believe that no matter what happens, they’ll always be spared the worst of it.

One final update to the classic formulation then: When fascism comes to America it will holding an iPhone, waving a credit card, and be wildly popular with the liberal class, just so long as the stormtroopers are diverse and their targets have “Russian” ideas.

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Why Sanders is Going To Win Iowa and New Hampshire

by Russell Dobular

Most corporate media horse race coverage focuses in on traditional metrics; donations, money on hand, endorsements/institutional support, and polling of likely voters. It always worked before 2016, and in an industry where the Chinese adage, “The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down,” is the guiding editorial principal, careerist journos are slow to change their methods even in the face of overwhelming evidence that those methods are outdated and useless in the face of a rising populist wave. It’s a big part of the reason that they never saw Trump coming, and it’s the reason they underestimate the very real possibility that Sanders will take Iowa and New Hampshire. Here’s why:

1. “Likely Voters” and Endorsements

Sanders probably has anywhere from 3%-10% support that doesn’t show up in polling of “Likely Voters.” That’s because for polling purposes, “Likely Voters,” are defined as those who have voted in the past. That’s fine for measuring the support of Joe Biden, who sure as hell isn’t going to motivate anyone who hasn’t voted before to start voting now, but it’s completely inadequate for measuring the support of populist candidates, whose pitch is essentially, “Yes, you’re right, this whole system is rotten, and if you vote for me, I’m going to take it on.” That appeal is aimed squarely at turning out people who have given up on the political system and therefore don’t generally vote. Because they don’t vote, they’re invisible in most of the polling. That’s why in 2016 Sanders repeatedly outperformed his poll numbers, most notably in Michigan, where polls showed him trailing by 20 points, while he went on to win the state by 1.5%. This reality also flips the “endorsements” metric on its head. For a candidate like Sanders, an endorsement from Nancy Pelosi would be the kiss of death. For his purposes, the more antipathy he receives from the party establishment, the more non-voters and independents he’ll be able to turn out.

2. It’s The Small-Dollar Fundraising, Stupid.

In the past, measuring the money race meant measuring corporate donations and the haul from high-dollar fundraisers. Even at the beginning of the 2020 cycle, a lot of corporate media coverage focused in on Harris, Beto, and Buttigeig’s traditional fundraising prowess. That was fine when Democratic party voters were still bowing their heads to party leadership, and, more or less, following their signals about who to support. Until 2016, a primary in which actual voters were allowed to participate was a formality; the “shadow primary” in which big donors, and party big wigs made up their minds about acceptable candidates long before the Iowa caucuses got underway were paramount. This process reached its logical conclusion when, in 2016, party insiders decided they didn’t really need the illusion of a competitive primary, and anointed Hillary Clinton alone to be their candidate, with disastrous results. Sanders changed all that, not only by challenging Clinton without the blessing of ‘The People Who Matter,’ but also by going on to out-raise corporate-funded Clinton with an army of small-dollar donors. To make matters worse, in the course of doing so he was impolitic enough to point out the obvious: corporate donors aren’t writing big checks because of their altruism – they expect a return on investment. As a result, traditionally funded candidates like Biden are between a rock and a hard place. With policies that are far too centrist to inspire much devotion from the kinds of people who would donate online, they’re forced to rely on corporate donors, which in turn opens up an easy and effective line of attack for populists like Sanders. Relying on large donations also puts a candidate at a strategic disadvantage when they’re running against a small-dollar funded candidate. Once a donor has maxed out at $2700 (the legal limit), they can’t give again, while millions of people donating small amounts can just keep on giving. That’s a big part of the reason why Biden’s fundraising numbers have plummeted, even as Sanders’ have held steady.  Thus, the important metrics in a post-2016 world aren’t the number of successful Wall Street fundraisers held by a candidate, but the number of individual donors, the overall amount of money raised, and the cash the campaign has on hand. Sanders not only leads in all three of those categories; in the first and arguably most electorally important, he more than doubles his next closest competitor, Elizabeth Warren.

3. Enthusiasm and Volunteers

Sanders has so far held the biggest rallies of the campaign, both overall, and specifically in Iowa.  Not only does this reinforce the case that there’s a hidden Sanders vote on the ground that doesn’t show up in the polls, but it also demonstrates that Sanders’ base is the most likely to actually put in the effort to vote for their candidate. If you’ll drag yourself to a packed rally and stand on your feet through several hours of speeches, chances are you’ll drag yourself down to the polling station and wait on line when it comes time to vote. This is especially important in a caucus state like Iowa, where voting isn’t a simple matter of pulling a lever, but an all evening affair of not only supporting, but advocating for your candidate. Aside from all that, Sanders hit his target goal of 1M volunteers by the end of February. That number is likely to be considerably higher now. No other candidate has anything even roughly comparable to Sanders’ volunteer operation and that’s going to make a ‘yuuuuge’ difference in GOTV efforts.

4. Mayor Pete & Deval Patrick

The conventional wisdom is that Mayor Pete’s rise in the polls will hurt Biden. That’s true to a degree, but the person with the most to lose from Buttigeig’s recent surge is Elizabeth Warren. Although Sanders and Warren are usually lumped together in the public mind, they’re actually drawing from very different pools of voters. Sanders’ voters are more diverse, more working class and younger,  while Warren and Buttigeig are most popular with college-educated whites.  Consequently, a lot of Warren’s base are open to considering Mayor Pete, while Sanders voters soundly reject him. This dynamic can only help Sanders and hurt Warren going into Iowa. To make matters worse for Warren, with Deval Patrick running, some of her neighboring-state-advantage in New Hampshire will be blunted. Patrick’s entry is also bad news for Biden, given the former’s close relationship with Obama, and the widely held belief that he got in the race with Obama’s blessing. That’s going to peel away some of the establishment Democrats for whom an Obama endorsement is something akin to a Papal Bull. With an already shaky, low-enthusiasm campaign, and Patrick’s support coming largely at his expense, its hard to imagine a scenario where Biden takes either of the first two states. With Warren wounded and Biden bleeding, Sanders probably comes out on top.

There are other, less tangible factors that I haven’t explored, like the fact that the Democratic party electorate seems to be growing more disenchanted with its leadership every day, and the way that the more that leadership panics at the prospect of even a Warren victory, much less a Sanders one, the more strategic blunders they seem to be making, like throwing yet more candidates at the problem. It’s really like watching a long-despised aristocracy that’s been far too removed from the public for far too long to understand its mood, trying to justify its own existence, but having no idea of how not to add fuel to the fire with their every utterance. The parade of billionaires, including soon to be candidate Bloomberg, going on TV of late to argue the virtues of unrestrained capitalism, feels something like watching Louis XIV argue the case for the Divine Right of Kings, circa 1788. All this will benefit the Sanders campaign greatly, at which point, if you think the establishment is freaking out now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Hello, Neuman: Mayor Pete Could Be The Centrist Vote-Splitter Progressives Need.

by Russell Dobular

When this latest edition of the quadrennial shit show we call an American election first started, I was pulling for undiagnosed-sociopath Kamala Harris. Not to win, but to siphon off enough votes from Biden to allow either Sanders or Warren to emerge as the nominee.  But sociopaths are innately creepy and even though Harris’ record is certainly no worse than Biden’s, (and in many ways considerably better in a leper-with-the-most-fingers-contest kind of a way), the voters, in a rare moment of perceptiveness, picked up on her weird vibes pretty quickly. The only person who doesn’t seem to know her campaign is over is Harris herself, which is pretty much what you’d expect, given the tendency towards grandiosity of people with her condition, along with an inability to take responsibility for one’s own failings (Russia is apparently to blame for her collapse, rather than her own miscalculations. Hmmm, where have we heard that before?)

While I can’t deny a certain satisfaction in seeing the arc of the universe bend towards justice for a change with the abject failure of a woman who once argued against freeing prisoners because California needed their labor, it has created a conundrum for progressives.  ‘Cause the truth is it will probably be one more election cycle before enough boomers have departed this planet they’ve spent their lifetimes helping to destroy, for a progressive to win the Democratic nomination outright in a one-on-one contest against a centrist. These folks already got theirs and they could give a flying fuck about what they leave behind for the grandkids. Free college, universal health care, and a living wage don’t register on their list of priorities, much less motivate their voting habits, except in a negative sense. They’re going to go all in on making shit worse one last time by nominating yet another neoliberal douchebag, before riding off into the sunset with the lost wealth of the once prosperous nation they inherited pouring out of their saddlebags.  Our last, best hope for preventing that outcome could lie in the centrist vote-splitting abilities of Mayor Pete.

In a lot of ways, Buttigieg is a better spoiler than Harris ever was, because unlike Buttigieg, Harris could actually have won the nomination if she didn’t suck so hard.  With a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, she could have gone into South Carolina with momentum, and with a 1st or 2nd place finish there, have taken the big prize of California on Super Tuesday.  None of that is in the cards for Mayor Pete, as he’s polling between 1-3% among black voters. But he could do well enough in Iowa and New Hampshire to keep the money train rolling for just long enough to do some real damage to Biden.

But what’s going to keep Mayor Pete in the race, even as he loses in state after state, including the early, predominantly white states where he’ll probably have his best showings? Well, for younger neoliberals who are particularly attached to their virtue signaling, Buttigieg represents the ideal. An old, straight white man like Biden, with a long history of off-handedly racist remarks and casually sexist behavior, was never an easy fit for these people. When you’re essentially a pro-choice Republican, whose entire “left” identity is built around not eating at Chick-Fil-A, the prospect of making Joe Biden the leader of the party is just kind of a downer. A young, gay, married, veteran is a lot closer to the sweet spot. Just think of all the opportunities to feel good about themselves running a gay candidate against Donald Trump in the South would present. The inevitable protests from the Westboro Baptist Church alone would generate about 7 million chances to gawk at the deplorables.

That’s why, even though it should be obvious to anyone with two eyes and a pulse that Mayor Pete has about the same shot at the nomination that Lyndon LaRouche has (and he died in February), Wall Street and Silicon Valley will keep on bankrolling his campaign, while the media continues to churn out enough absurdly optimistic puff pieces to keep him in the race for a good, long time. That will not only siphon votes from Biden now (note how Biden’s numbers have plummeted in tandem with Buttigieg’s recent sort of rise), it will also give the supporters of Klobuchar, Bennett, Bullock, and all the rest of the centrist wrecking crew, someplace to go besides Biden as their candidates come to terms with reality and drop out over the next few months. That will provide a much needed counter to the progressive vote splitting that’s already happening between Warren and Sanders.  While they may be drawing from different pools of voters on the whole, Sanders is the most popular second choice for Warren supporters at 36%, so clearly there’s a fair amount of overlap. Progressives need equivalent vote splitting on the other side to overcome the literal death grip that the old and the rich continue to have over the nominating process.

In light of these electoral realities, progressives should probably lay off Mayor Pete, at least until after Super Tuesday.  Hell, if you really want to throw a wrench in the gears, say nice things about him.  Chris Cilizza will be all over the Sanders/Warren to Buttigieg voter narrative after only, like, ten #gomayorpete tweets from progressive accounts and the rest of the groupthink pundits will follow along immediately, like they do.  I know it’s gonna be hard to resist the bait as he continues his attacks on every progressive policy proposal anyone, anywhere has ever thought of, and the press continues to give him a pass on his shitty record as Mayor of a city with about eight people in it, two of whom are African-American and by no means thrilled with his leadership, but we need to think about the long game here.  Mayor Pete is the perfect centrist spoiler; the kind that can’t win but has enough wealthy corporate donors to keep him in the race, and a big enough ego to stick around long after any rational prospect of clinching the nomination has evaporated.

So, for all those reasons, from now through Super Tuesday, I ask you to join me in my rallying cry: Go Mayor Pete!

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A Joker for Our Times: Eat the Rich, and F*ck Batman.

by Russell Dobular

**This post contains some minor plot spoilers for the film Joker.**

Lets face it, Batman has always been a superman. Not in the red cape, allergic-to-kryptonite sense, but in the Nietzschean, ubermensch sense. Nietzsche believed that certain exceptional men (being of his time, women were presumably excluded from his philosophy) were beyond conventional notions of morality and thus were exempted from society’s rules. Laws and social mores are for the sheep, while the ‘ubermensch’ (literally, “superman”), due to his exceptional nature, is not bound by any such notions. He believed that these rare, gifted men were the true driving force in historical processes, and the natural leaders of the masses.

The core premise of the superhero genre is itself Nietzschean, with its protagonists using their powers to impose justice, independent of government sanction or official recognition. Frank Miller in his influential The Dark Knight Returns, takes on this subtext directly, coming down decidedly on Nietzsche’s side of the argument. In his telling, everyone who raises constitutional questions about Batman’s right to beat the living shit out of people is either a limousine liberal or a foppish bureaucrat. To drive the point home, he has the now retired Commissioner Gordon mansplain to his female successor the futility of lesser beings such as themselves evaluating the morality of Batman’s actions.

It’s entirely appropriate that Miller specifically picked Batman around whom to build his case, because nowhere in the superhero mythology is there another character that so fully embodies the notion that it’s up to one exceptional being to protect society from chaos. The fact that he’s a trust fund baby whose sainted parents used their wealth to try to save Gotham in more traditional ways, before being murdered by one of those people who represent the forces of chaos that are Batman’s thematic nemeses, adds a class dimension to the story that’s hard to miss. In Batman’s world, billionaires are an idealized aristocracy who know best how to fix society’s ills, and the poor are either salt of the Earth types who look to Batman and/or the Wayne family for salvation, or criminals who threaten the social order and are therefore to be dealt with severely by a rich kid in a bat suit.

In the end, Batman’s mission is to defend the status quo. Like Elizabeth Warren, he is a capitalist to his bones who doesn’t see any problems with the social order that can’t be fixed by a generous donation from the Wayne Foundation, or, failing that, a good beat down. He never asks why Gotham is a crime-ridden hellhole full of dangerous psychopaths; he only knows that it’s up to his own very exceptional self to keep the forces of anarchy at bay. If the Nazi regime had survived long enough to create superheroes, what they came up with probably would have looked a lot like Batman, with his enemies being Jews, communists, and subversives. Take the Jews out of the equation and that’s pretty much what he is now. In a time when wealth inequality is at levels not seen since the Gilded Age, and entire regions of the country are collapsing into third world conditions, it was inevitable that someone would reevaluate the mythos of the character – which brings us to Todd Phillips’ Joker.

Joker isn’t the first foray into the Batverse that touches on some of the class tensions inherent in the story. A debate still rages about whether Heath Ledger’s Joker was actually the hero of 2008’s The Dark Knight, partly because a lot of his observations make good sense. In one famous scene, he tells Harvey Dent, ““You know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan.’ Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blowing up, nobody panics because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die…well, then everyone loses their minds!” Hard to argue with that. And its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, goes even further, having Catwoman set the tone by telling Bruce Wayne at an opulent soiree, “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” From there, Bane goes on to take over Gotham, with director Christopher Nolan’s vision of what that would look like taken directly from the worst excesses of the French Revolution.

The obvious difference with Joker is that there is no Batman to make the counter-argument, and reassure its audience that he has the right of it. This film is about what Gotham looks like to all those people at the bottom who don’t need a Dark Knight so much as they need a functioning social safety net and an equitable distribution of wealth. The city has been brought to the precipice of anarchy not by “super-villains” like Raz Al Ghoul or a guy with a weird riddle fetish, but by a system that lavishly rewards the rich and throws everyone else to the dogs. Thus, Thomas Wayne isn’t portrayed as a benign philanthropist, but an arrogant asshole who ultimately gets his comeuppance not from a mugger, but from a rioting citizen making a political statement by taking out Gotham’s wealthiest man.

And this is really why the film is making some people feel queasy. It isn’t simply a Batman movie without Batman. It’s a movie that relentlessly and consciously repudiates everything that the franchise has always been about. Joker isn’t quite a hero in the film, but he isn’t quite a villain either. He’s a victim of circumstance and a society that doesn’t care enough to help. And because there are millions like him, when he snaps by killing three stockbrokers, who also happen to be Wayne Enterprises employees, it triggers a movement. In other words, this is the kind of nightmare Jeff Bezos probably wakes up from in a cold sweat at 2 AM; a violent popular uprising aimed at tearing down the entire system and whose violence is directed specifically at the wealthy and the powerful. Its striking a chord at this moment because we’re closer to that place than we’ve been since shotgun wielding Okies descended on California en masse during the Great Depression. Joker’s creators have put a bony finger right on the pulse of the very sick patient that is 2019 America, and forced the audience to look at its ills head on. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Many of the film’s detractors claim that they fear Incels will take it as inspiration for further acts of violence, as if someone who’s going to be set off by a movie about a killer clown with Tourettes really needs an excuse. And the Identitarians miss the point like they do, by asking why we need another sympathetic portrait of an angry white man, seemingly in the hope that angry white men will go away if we just stop talking about them, in spite of the fact that white men, angry or not, will remain the largest single voting block for a good, long time. But these complaints are all dancing around what it is about Joker that’s so uniquely subversive for a big budget Hollywood movie. It presents us with a society in which institutions are collapsing, and the public has lost faith in them and those who lead them. And it shows us how combustible that can be, by allowing Gotham to combust in the film’s final sequence. In doing so, it goes a longer way to explaining how we got to a Trump Presidency than all the many thousands of hours wasted over the past three years by the corporate media on the two R’s (Russia and Racists), combined. And it gives us an all too plausible window into what comes next if nothing changes. Well, maybe not the clown masks. That would just be goofy.

On the Potemkin scale of revolutionary cinema, I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

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From “But Her Emails” to “But His Son” – Democrats’ Gaslighting Tactics Won’t Work This Time Either.

by Russell Dobular

Kamala Harris this week, in her ongoing quest to find just the right parade to jump out in front of, suddenly reversed her position on impeachment by coming out in favor of it, and, for good measure, defended Joe Biden, saying, “Leave Joe alone,” when asked about the propriety of the Vice President’s son serving on the board of a foreign energy company. Still casting about for some way to win the hearts of Democratic voters, she then tweeted out a defense of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail clusterfuck, saying, “Hillary Clinton served our country with distinction and always put our country first — something Trump knows nothing about.” HRC herself responded to Harris’ fawning with the kind of finger-on-the-pulse instincts that made her such an effective campaigner. “But my e-mails,” she replied winsomely.  Staff sources at Third Way claim that Neera Tanden literally busted a nut in the middle of a thus far unnamed fine dining establishment upon reading the exchange.

But it isn’t only undiagnosed-sociopath Harris who’s being careful to avoid suggesting there might be something wrong with the VP’s son getting $50K a month from a foreign entity whose country falls within his daddy’s purview. Elizabeth Warren, in an episode reminiscent of her reversal on the question of whether or not the DNC primaries were rigged (she answered with an unequivocal “yes,” in an MSNBC interview, before changing her mind the next day, presumably after party leadership sat her down and gave her a good talking to), first claimed, when asked, that her anti-corruption plan would not allow a little ne’er do well shit like Hunter Biden to take a cushy gig with a foreign company. Then she quickly did the math on superdelegates who might be miffed at that answer and backed off to, “I don’t know. I mean I’d have to go back and look at the details.”

Aside from cowardly and opportunistic politicians, the corporate media has been doing Cirque Du Soleil-level acrobatics to convince the public that black is white, up is down, and there’s nothing untoward about a recent drug rehab alum landing a lucrative gig for which he had no apparent qualifications in a country where his dad just happened to be making decisions regarding US policy. What could possibly be wrong with that? Just look at all the job fairs they hold on the lawn at Betty Ford. Any ex-addict can tell you what a hot commodity employees who might be doing bumps in the bathroom between strategy sessions are in the current labor market.

Regardless of what Trump did, it’s all very reminiscent of the way Democrats tried to sell the public on the idea that there was nothing weird about setting up a private server in a basement, or deleting 30,000 e-mails that were under subpoena at the time they were destroyed. There’s a word for that. The word is illegal. Don’t believe me? Go set up your own private server, run classified information through it, then start deleting e-mails when the man catches on. Tell me how that works out for you.

Or how about the interference Dems ran for the pay-to-play scam that was the Clinton Foundation? If there’s a reasonable explanation for how a major donor ended up on the International Security Advisory Board, without having any expertise in the area, I’d love to hear what it is. Or why it was that countries that gave big donations, many of which were autocratic regimes with horrific records of human rights abuses, got huge increases in their arms shipments during HRC’s tenure as Secretary of State.  If these facts belonged to any Republican, Democrats would connect the dots pretty easily. It belonging to the Clintons, they wrote it all off as a conspiracy theory. They still do, even with the smoking gun in the form of a total collapse in donations after the 2016 election. If it was all about charity and not about buying access, why did the donations dry up once there was no longer a Clinton lined up for the Presidency? Donations to the Salvation Army don’t rise and fall with election outcomes. Why would the Clinton Foundation have that unusual distinction, if not for the fact that it was always an elaborate bribery scheme?

What Democrats seem to forget in these situations is that most people aren’t hyper-partisan party loyalists. Only 14% of those polled have a “great deal” of confidence in the media that pedals these narratives, and the Congress that’s handling the impeachment inquiries has a 20% approval rating.  Beyond that, only around 29% of voters identify as Democrats. If we had to venture a guess, we could safely say that about half of those are extremely partisan, like, Nancy-Pelosi-is-doing-a-heck-of-a-job, and nothing-wrong-with- the-Secretary-of-State-having-a-home-brew server, kind of partisan. The rest are probably like most Americans: deeply skeptical of the whole bloody system and all its players. So, what you really have are a fringe minority representing about 14% of the public who think a VP’s kid cashing in on his father’s influence is A-OK, as long as his father is a Democrat. For everyone outside the partisan bubble, that assertion is batshit. Just like the assertion that because Donald Trump is a lying scumbag, Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. One has nothing to do with the other, and anytime your argument becomes, “My candidate is less of a scumbag than your candidate,” a la, #butheremails, you’ve already lost.

The most dangerous part of all this, just as was the case with HRC, is the way that denying the reality of the Biden family’s long history of corrupt behavior and practices now, is going to set the Democrats up for a rude awakening later, should he become the nominee. In this sense, as in most others, they are being ill-served by their preferred media sources. The Ukraine is truly the least of it. At best, Biden repeatedly turned a blind eye to his brother James and son Hunter repeatedly and blatantly cashing in on his political position. At worst, he tailored policy to aid them in their ventures. The only question really is whether Biden’s behavior represents the kind of corruption that we still have laws against, or the kind of corruption that’s so rampant in our new Gilded Age that it’s all perfectly legal. Either way, the more the average voter hears about it, the less they’re going to like it.

None of this is to say Democrats shouldn’t be pursuing impeachment on the grounds that Trump pressured a foreign country to investigate a political rival. But if they continue to try to have it both ways, its going to blow up in their faces. If they make a corruption case against Trump, while at the same time denying that Biden’s behavior was itself corrupt, they’re opening up a contradiction wide enough to drive a Trump re-election through. The masterstroke would be to impeach Trump and repudiate Biden at the same time. That would go a long way to refuting any suggestion of partisanship, and would stand in sharp contrast to the way the GOP is ultimately going to rush to Trump’s defense for fear of his rabid base. It would also give the Democrats something they haven’t had in a long time, even among their own voters, many of whom are more reluctant and resigned than enthusiastic about the party: credibility. Admitting wrongdoing by one of their own most prominent establishment figures would be so completely out of character, it would make a lot of people who have given up on the Democrats take a second look.

But of course, the odds of the Dems throwing Biden under the bus where he belongs, are somewhere up there with Chuck Schumer forswearing corporate contributions; slim to none. So get ready for that same, “I must be taking crazy pills,” feeling that you had in ’16 every time a “liberal” told you that nominating a historically unpopular candidate in the middle of an FBI investigation wasn’t going to cause any particular problems. And once the But His Son tweets start (in about 3, 2, 1), there’s no turning back. The Democrats will once again be putting themselves in a position where they have to defend the indefensible, largely by screaming “whataboutism” at anyone who points out the obvious fact that Biden is just as corrupt as the early 20th Century Irish ward heelers from whom he gets so much of his political style. A less hapless leadership would see the writing on the wall and be running away from Biden as fast as their septuagenarian legs can carry them. Instead, just as Democrats have embraced every slimy person and institution that Trump has ever had a beef with, from the media, to the intelligence services, to John Brennan, they’re likely to double down on Biden as he increasingly comes under fire from Trump and his surrogates. Given that, this is the best thing that could have happened to Biden’s primary campaign. And consequently, it’s also the best thing that could have happened to Trump’s re-election prospects. Donald Trump has been given many blessings in life, but nowhere more so than in the quality of his enemies.

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Are We Really Going To Do This Again?

by Russell Dobular

Being a Democrat, even a nominal one like myself, is a lot like being a Mets fan. While there are plenty of teams in baseball with a losing record, the Mets are unique in their preferred style of losing: from ahead. Being a Mets fan means walking the dog in the 8th inning, feeling secure that a 12-run lead can’t possibly be overcome, and then returning home to find that lead has evaporated in the past twenty minutes and now you’re into extra innings. I found that constant disappointment so painful and frustrating that it turned me off to all sports by the time I was ten. Unfortunately, I remain a Democrat for lack of better options in our system, and that means having a similar experience once every four years.

Much like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden is leading in all of the polls among Democrats. And much like Hillary Clinton, he easily wins in theoretical matchups against his likely general election opponent, more than a year before the voting starts. And again, just like Hillary, he really doesn’t give a fuck what you think about his high-dollar fundraisers, where he offers the 1% solace and the reassurance that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his administration. Now there’s a campaign slogan. And in one more eerie similarity to the doomed Clinton campaign, the lack of genuine enthusiasm for his candidacy is such that he draws smaller crowds to his events than you’d get for an REO Speedwagon reunion tour, in spite of his huge polling lead.

There are a lot of differences between Democratic and Republican primary voters, but none are more important to electoral outcomes than the way they choose their candidates. Republicans pick nominees that they feel passionate about. Democrats pick nominees that they think other people will feel passionate about, or at the very least, find tolerable enough to vote for them. As we’ve seen time and time again, trying to imagine what non-Democrats are going to find appealing is a fool’s errand, and Democrats, on the whole, aren’t very good at it. This is partly because of the basic premise that they start from: ‘who’s the best person we can field that will appeal to inland-dwelling deplorables?’ When you’re trying to find a candidate who can win over who you think of as shitty people, your solution is probably gong to be to pick a shitty candidate. That’s pretty condescending and likely to play to the voters you’re trying to persuade not as a genuine attempt to speak to their interests, but as a reflection of how little you think of them. Nominating a doddering old Mad Men-era benign racist to take on Trump would be telling the electorate in no uncertain terms, “This is how we see you.” And it is.

When you ask Democrats what the rationale for Biden is, they don’t talk about policy or integrity. What they’ll invariably tell you is that Biden is the best we can do in a country full of troglodytes. Sadly, according to Joy Reid, that goes double for the older black voters who underlie his polling lead. In a recent interview with Time magazine editor-at-large, Anand Giridharadas, addressing Biden’s horrific answer in the 3rd debate regarding how best to address the legacy of slavery, Reid claimed that among black voters over 40 that she’s spoken to, support for Biden isn’t predicated on the premise that he’s not a racist, but entirely on the assumption that America is so racist that he’s the least racist candidate who can win. We can safely assume that was also the reason black voters got behind someone in 2016 who ran an inarguably racist primary campaign against the first black President. How to explain Obama’s two terms then? According to Reid, it was an “aberration,” in the view of her community. So how did Hillary fare with black voters in the general election under the same set of assumptions? Low black turnout ended up being one of the key factors in her loss.

Turns out a lot of African Americans, especially the younger voters who have cut their political teeth on the Black Lives Matter movement, weren’t all that eager to vote for someone who straight out called herself the candidate of “hard working Americans, white Americans,” just a few years earlier. And yet, here we go again. There are videos of Biden floor speeches that make Hillary’s “deplorables” fundraiser look like a James Brown concert. And you can be assured the Trump team has all of them locked and loaded and ready to drop the second he clinches the nomination.

What’s really mind-boggling about Biden’s seemingly unassailable lead is the way that Democrats are once again unerringly honing in like a Tomahawk cruise missile specifically designed to find the least electable person in the field, on one of the few people who could actually lose in 2020. Its kind of uncanny.

As a progressive, I’d love to say that only a progressive can win, but Donald Trump is so fucking awful, I can’t honestly say that. Pretty much everyone in the top to mid-tier would likely beat Trump, with one exception; Joe Biden, and for a lot of the same reasons that Hillary was uniquely positioned to lose to Trump. Biden represents the status quo at a time when the country is desperate for change. He has a checkered enough past on racial issues for Trump to muddy the waters on the question of who’s more racist, probably fighting that issue to a draw. I know, Charlottesville. But Biden helped craft mass incarceration, while Trump signed the first major bill aimed at dismantling it. If I’m working on the Trump campaign, I’m all over that framing. And just like Hillary couldn’t do anything with the corruption angle, in light of the Clinton Foundation’s fairly transparent pay-to-play structure and her $500K speeches to banks, when Biden goes after Trump on that score, Trump will go after his family. And don’t kid yourself, there’s a lot for him to work with there. 

Even if you somehow manage to get past all of that, there’s the simple and obvious fact that Joe Biden is clearly in the throes of cognitive decline. I know some in the press are trying to counter that early by making the same claims about Trump, but that’s just wishful thinking. Trump sounds like the same crazy bastard he’s always been. Biden, on the other hand, is not the same Joe Biden. Sure, he was always a gaffe machine, and I’m hearing a lot of Democrats reassuring themselves, with a big assist from the corporate media, that that’s all it is. But that isn’t all it is. “Poor kids are just as smart as white kids” is Biden being who he’s always been; a benign racist who forgets sometimes that what might have made him the “liberal’ in the room when addressing a union hall circa 1975 doesn’t fly anymore. This is different. The Biden we’re seeing today is not the Biden who took on Paul Ryan. This is a man that no responsible parent would trust to watch their kids for fear he might accidentally burn the house down trying to make toast. Senility is one of the few traits that are so definitionally disqualifying that there’s just no getting past it, no matter who the opponent is. So naturally the Democrats think it’s about as good an idea as running a candidate who’s in the middle of an FBI investigation. What could possibly go wrong?

As a result of his early-stage dementia, Biden has fallen apart at various points on stage in every debate thus far and regularly does so even at his own pre-planned, scripted events. What do we think is going to happen when his mind starts to wander in the middle of a debate with the Master of Disaster, Donald J. Trump? Give the devil his due; the man has a nose for weakness and a talent for manipulating the press into adopting his framing. You can already hear Trump’s response to a crazy Biden ramble-fest: “Does anyone understand what he just said? No really, can anyone make any sense out of any of that? What the hell is he talking about? You sound like my dad after he got Alzheimer’s, which is a terrible disease by the way. Its nap time Joe, go home and take a nap, this is too much exertion for you. No really, I’m concerned for you. This is why your buddy Barack told you not to do this Joe. He knew you weren’t up to the strain. And so on. A Biden nomination means an election cycle in which you’re bound to wake up to the headline, “Is Biden Going Senile?” And because he very obviously is going senile, it’s going to stick.

All this to say, he’s very likely to be the nominee. Because these are the Democrats we’re talking about. The New York Mets of politics. If there are ten ways to win and one way to lose, they’ll always find the one way. It’s who they are, as woven into their DNA as choking in the clutch is for my hometown team. As a betting man I can tell you I’ve lost money every time I assumed that the Democrats wouldn’t do the absolute worst thing they could possibly do in any given situation. I’ve never lost money betting against them. The same clueless dumbasses who slapped a “Dated Dean, Married Kerry,” bumper sticker on their cars in ’04, supremely confident in their political acumen and maturity, are going to proudly march into the voting booths this time around and nominate a man who’s about three years away from needing ’round-the-clock care. So, if you have any money laying around, put it all on Biden for the primaries and Trump for the general. By the time the Donald gets done wrecking what’s left of the country, you’re probably gonna need the cash.

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How I Kicked My Corporate Media Habit, and Why You Can’t Kick Yours.

by Russell Dobular

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” – Fight Club

My habit started innocently enough, as it does for so many, with the Nightly News. Growing up, my family watched the 6:00-6:30 local reports over dinner and then adjourned to the couch for the 6:30-7:00 World News Report. ABC was our preferred station, so whitey, whitey, white boy, Peter Jennings, gave me my first impressions of the world outside of then crime-ridden, post-apocalyptic New York (at least if you were to believe the endless accounts of murder, rape, robbery, and just pure madness that the aptly named Roger Grimsby would deliver in a straight monotone night after night).

By high school I had started to dip my toe into The New York Times, and This Week with David Brinkley, feeling very grown-up carrying around the “newspaper of record” in my Daily News-saturated section of Queens, and already developing a deep affection for the uber-WASPy Brinkley. Man, was he fucking suave.

By the time I got out of college, my addiction had progressed to that ultimate expression of bourgeois respectability; the Sunday Times spread out on the coffee table, with by then, Tim Russert on television, explaining the world over breakfast.

And once MSNBC went on air it got completely out of control. I’d get my fix from 6-11 every night, raptly shooting up the whole nightmare, from Chris Matthews straight through to Lawrence O’Donnell. I even read Newsweek on the regular. I guess you could say I hit rock bottom around then.

If you asked me at the time what my political opinions were, you would have had the kind of experience that I now often have when I speak to someone who still considers Chuck Todd a newsman. Which is to say, all the years thinking that staying informed consisted of watching an ancient reptile like Cokie Roberts reminisce about the fabulous Washington parties her family once threw had left me with some very warped perceptions about the world, mainly:

  1. ‘America has its problems, but its still the greatest country on earth, bar none. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a cuckoo radical nutjob.’
  2. ‘The Democrats want to give you health care and higher wages and all the rest of it, but…Republicans! Donors have nothing to do with it. And even if they do, that’s smart politics. You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight and all.’
  3. ‘The middle is where the votes are. Twenty years after Rove and Bush (and two years after Trump) proved that theory completely wrong, that’s still the story we’re going to stick with, all statistical evidence to the contrary be damned.’
  4. ‘There’s no such thing as an economically liberal and culturally conservative, voter. The same people who are against abortion rights are also against a $15 per hour minimum wage. Therefore, you can never win those people over with economic populism. Again, all evidence to the contrary be damned.’
  5. ‘Change happens through slow, bi-partisan compromise, not through mass movements, protests, social unrest and activism. “And next up, tune into our hour-long special on the Civil Rights movement.”’ They never really address that contradiction and most people seem not to notice. I sure didn’t, until I did.
  6. ‘Corporations aren’t evil. They’re our partners in building a better world. Just look at all their programs in Africa. And besides that, all the reasonable people know that if you lean on them too hard, they’ll just fire everybody and move to Mexico and then where will we be? Also: Communism.’
  7. ‘It’s a dangerous world full of dictators and theocrats beyond our borders. We don’t want to bomb the shit out of countries that pose no obvious threat to us, but think of the children. Not the ones we’re bombing, the ones we’re saving from despots by bombing them. Supporting mass murder doesn’t make you a monster, it makes you informed and pragmatic. Y’know, like us.’
  8. And this is the big one, without which none of the others could exist: ‘The media has no agenda. It only reports the news. People who criticize their coverage are themselves biased and therefore their opinions don’t matter. And even more insidiously: Since the opinions the media offers are the “smart, fact-based” opinions, if you don’t share those opinions, you must be stupid, or at the very least, uninformed.’

The increasingly difficult-to-ignore elephant stomping around the spin room these days is the undeniable reality that the corporate media has been catastrophically wrong about every major event in American life for the past twenty years, from WMD’s to the election of Donald Trump, to the Mueller report. This would be fatal in any other industry. If a car company repeatedly made cars that blew up in the driveway as soon as you put the key in the ignition, that company would go bankrupt very quickly. At the very least, some heads would roll with the people responsible being disgraced and driven from their professions. And yet the corporate media keeps on chugging along, with no accountability for its constant industrywide failures, and with no one losing their jobs. The cast of characters that assured you that Donald Trump would never be the President, while at the same time gifting him billions of dollars in free advertising, are the same people offering their “hot takes” now on everything from Syria to the electability of Joe Biden. But alas, these same institutions, that, through their relentless coverage of Trump’s campaign were the single biggest factor in his election (their own fevered attempts to re-focus public attention on Russia aside), have since seen an explosion in viewership and subscriptions, which is kind of like turning to the person who broke your kneecaps for comfort and perspective on your debilitating injury.

So, what shattered my own illusion that what I was receiving from my “most trusted” news sources was actually news? As for many, many people who experienced a similar epiphany around the same time, it was the relentlessly hostile coverage of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. Without getting into too much detail (that’s a subject that’s been well-covered by some great journalists, most notably Thomas Frank), it was impossible for a Sanders supporter to come out of that experience without feeling like Roddy Piper in the sci-fi classic, They Live, having donned a special pair of glasses and suddenly seeing that everything you ever believed was total bullshit. Of course, for people on the Clinton side in those primaries, nothing much changed. After all, it’s not bias if you agree with it; its just the smart take. But if you disagreed, it was kind of breathtaking in its scope. Sixteen negative articles from the Washington Post in 16 hours; The New York Times retroactively altering positive stories about Sanders; Chris Matthews screaming about socialism so hard his show looked like a FOX News audition tape; even Maddow, our beloved Rachel Maddow, repeating the lie that Sanders supporters had thrown chairs at the Nevada state convention, going so far as to use a clip of chairs being thrown at a wrestling match in lieu of actual footage of the fabricated event. And if the smartest, smarty-pants purveyor of smart takes ever, Rachal frikkin’ Maddow, was lying to us, what did that say about the rest of them? On the upside, this revelation did allow me to avoid wasting two years on Maddow’s charts, diagrams, and “it was Don Jr. in the pantry with an oligarch” coverage of Russiagate. Those are untold hours of many millions of people’s lives that they’re never getting back.

I was honestly depressed for about a month after I realized that I had spent literally decades offering opinions that were not truly my own, and believing things that very obviously made no sense if you just took five seconds to think it over. When you’ve always thought of yourself as an informed, intelligent person, that’s a hard day. But once the stages of grief had passed, I had only one question: why hadn’t I realized this before? Its not like you have to go on some kind of Indiana Jones quest through the jungles of the dark web to figure it out. All you have to do is look at who the advertisers are. For the Sunday morning talk shows in particular, its a virtual comic-book line-up of the world’s most evil corporations, from Boeing, to Monsanto, to BP. All that’s missing is Luthercorp. Its all very obvious, no fevered conspiracy theories required.

I gave a lot of thought as to why so many otherwise intelligent people continue to consume such a blatantly defective product. Why would they trust journalists who had repeatedly fed them disinformation that later blew up in their faces, most recently by promising both implicitly and at times explicitly that the Mueller report would end with Donald Trump in handcuffs? Or that an obvious dufus like Beto O’Rourke was gonna be a thing? I mean seriously, it’s trivial now, but did anyone actually watch him do his messianic table-jumping, arm flailing thing, before anointing him the Great White Hope?

It’s not like the old days, when you had to go to a street corner in Union Square to find alternative media. Reputable alternative sources like The Intercept, Common Dreams, Truth-Dig, and a host of others are available to anyone with an internet connection. Under those circumstances, why would anyone read The New York Times or watch CNN for any purpose other than to keep an eye on them? Who does all of this appeal to at this point? This is what I came up with:

Aside from the elderly, and actual elites, for whom the whole tone and viewpoint of the corporate media, particularly its political coverage, must feel like something akin to reading the hometown paper, right down to the names of people you went to school with being featured prominently in the bylines, the bulk of the audience for corporate media are members of the middle class who have a deep emotional need to see themselves as part of a club that they will never actually be invited to join. Where their European forebears filled their homes with cheaper versions of the kinds of decorations and tchotchkes that might have been found in the palaces of the aristocrats, today it’s regular trips to museums where they pretend to like art produced by an industry that abandoned any sense of accessibility and public utility a hundred years ago, and a house full of fair-trade products made by third world craftsmen. The New York Times and regular viewings of Meet the Press, seen in that context, are a way of checking in on elite tastes and opinions, by way of convincing yourself that you’re one of them, just with a little less money.

In the end, that’s why no matter how many times they get it wrong, and no matter how obvious their biases are, there will always be an audience for what they’re peddling, and for most of their customers, it isn’t news. Corporate media is a lifestyle brand, no different from Goop, or Lululemon. The point of consuming it isn’t to become informed about the world, any more than agreeing to stick a jade egg up your hoo-hah and paying good money for the privilege has anything to do with improving your health.  If it was about becoming informed, there would be a steeper price to pay in viewership and subscriptions for getting it mostly wrong, most of the time. Carrying around The New York Times under your arm and cultivating opinions that align with the its dominant narratives, is a way of telling everyone around you, “I’m in the club.” It’s aspirational. And if you aren’t quite like those twee couples in the investment bank ads, who seem to spend all their time strolling along fabulous beaches in remote areas and hanging out at their rustic cabin, well, with just a little more money in the 401K, you will be. You already have all the right opinions, so it’s just a matter of time.

Along the way you end up absorbing and championing viewpoints that are not only completely contradicted by the facts, but that run counter to your own interests. Health care is a good example. Even with health insurance, a lot of middle class people are only one serious illness away from bankruptcy. And yet many of those same people advocate for slow, incremental change. Why? Because they’ve been told that’s what they’re supposed to think by a media that takes millions of dollars in advertising from drug and insurance companies. A cursory examination of American history will tell you that the core premise behind this argument is a lie: from the union movement, to civil rights, to gay rights, real, structural change has only ever come through mass movements and activism, and never from moderation and slow, patient, incremental reform. But there’s no incentive to question these narratives if your purpose isn’t to hold objectively true opinions, but to hold the “right” opinions.

The good news is, the next generation isn’t buying it, for the most part. For people starting out in life facing grotesque wealth inequality and imminent eco-catastrophe, the soothing tones of Doris Kearns Goodwin and company waxing poetic about the glorious bi-partisanship of the Lincoln White House are about as culturally relevant as Pat Boone. In light of that, it’s hard to imagine that, in twenty years, the corporate media as we know it will continue to exist. But they’re going to do a lot of damage on the way out the door. And no one is going to be less prepared for the consequences than the people who thought they were members of the club, not realizing they were only invited in to do the catering. In the meantime, when you encounter these folks on social media or IRL, and they start calling you a Putin puppet for not sharing their point of view, seemingly oblivious to the ugly history in this country of that kind of thing, go easy on them. As any drug counselor will tell you, everyone’s rock bottom is different. Mine came in ’16. For some, its going to take the evaporation of their retirement savings and the ocean in their front yard before they bottom out.

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