Category Archives: Athenae

You Could Just Ask

Jesus, my fellow white people:

You could just go up and ask, like hi there, you okay? (You could also know your neighbors, such that if you hear a weird noise or see an unfamiliar car you recognize the person behind it, but let’s take baby steps.) I know we’re all about to be raped and murdered by the slavering hordes at any moment, especially nice white ladies who answer to “the wife” at home, but is it completely radical to just speak to someone you don’t know?

Kick talks to every stranger she sees, including Thursday greeting two random high-school-ish boys walking down the street, who then dutifully admired the pile of dead grass she’d begun calling a “garden.” Every day I think to myself that we should start some kind of “stranger danger” talk, especially when she’s chatting up the train drunks, but every day I put it off. There’s so much more damage to be done from fear.

The state of police paranoia being what it is, calling the cops is not some kind of neutral act of precaution. Even if all you want is for someone to move along, if they’re drunk or yelly or just behaving strangely and you think they might need help, calling the cops is not the way to get it.

(Which is another problem, really, and one I’ve been trying to think through: If you can’t depend on the cops to handle a situation without wilding on someone who might be harmless, then you can’t really depend on the cops, can you?)

We white folks have steadily over the past 40 years taught ourselves that everyone who isn’t white is some kind of threat, and fed ourselves and our state this terrified weaponized idiocy until we can’t imagine someone can just exist around us. Be a person like we are. Say hi or respond to a question that maybe we should ask before dialing 911.

A.

Today We’re Gonna Find Out

Today is the day, guys:

Today’s the day Fox News has to prove itself to Chuck Todd. Today. Not any point in the past 30 years. Not during the Clinton murder-stravaganza, not during the “does Barack Obama do terrorist fist jabs” era, not at any time during the “are all liberals traitors who want to suck bin Laden off” 2000s, not during the Swift Boat Veterans for Bullshit, not when Sarah Palin brought sexy back, not at any of those points.

(Not on, say, a random Tuesday, either, when Jesse Watters was being racist or Bill O’Reilly was making lists of things that bugged him or Neil Cavuto was doing whatever that bloated sack of haggis leavings did.)

Now.

Now Chuck Todd needs proof that they’re a legitimate news organization. This derpy bastard.

This is a professional newspersonage, who gets paid SO MUCH GODDAMN MONEY to pretend to an innocence about news and politics that would shame an ingenue.

You went to parties with these people. You shook hands and slapped backs and made nice and you acted like these were your colleagues and in some cases your buds. You didn’t want to say they were bad because that would make you bad, and they are, and you are, and they’ve always been and so have you and no amount of cover you gave them changed things for either of you.

NOW you come out and say this is the test? Now this is the moment?

The goddamn house has burned down, arson investigators are sifting through the ashes, the insurance company’s already sued somebody, and Chuck Todd is swanning around fanning his face, asking does anybody else smell smoke.

For chrissakes, the fire department’s been and gone, Chuck. Home is a scorched and reeking hole in the ground. You watched it happen. Now you think you see a spark?

A.

Remembering the War

It’s been a particularly infuriating week, what with pardoning Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and resurrecting the entirety of the monsters’ ball that was the Bush administration to comment on it. We’ve forgotten, people my age say to people younger, what the beginning of the war was. We joke about the memory hole like it’s something new, like Henry Kissinger isn’t our National Foreign Policy Grandpa, like any mention of the antiwar movement doesn’t come with a dozen qualifications.

There’s a reason we don’t remember the war.

We can’t remember it.

It isn’t over.

And it isn’t over because to this day, the only person to face any kind of real consequences for the war (now that Scooter Libby’s been pardoned) was Lynndie England.

Remember Lynndie? Here she is.

Here she is: 

In an attempt to explain her post-traumatic stress disorder, England recounted, “Somebody dropped something off the [store] shelf and I freaked out. It was two aisles down. They dropped something on the floor and made a big bang and I was like, ‘Ah!’ “

On the back of this woman, who seems not very nice but also not very bright, we’ve put the only blame we’ve been able, as a country, to mete out for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, for the destabilization of an entire region of the world, for the betrayal of trust that now spans a generation.

Do you find that photo, up there, sickening? I do. She had no humanity, in that moment and not much since, and that’s what war does. That’s all it does. That’s what torture does, to the torturers.

The people in charge knew that, had every way to know that, had access to the whole of American history and Shakespeare besides, and they still put people like her in a fucking torture prison and said go for it. She went for it, and that’s on her. But they built that prison, and here they are, writing op-eds for Fox News and dancing with talk show hosts and making bank on #NeverTrump, like their lying murdering torturing spying bombing had value because they weren’t eating KFC with a fork.

In a just world, the hierarchy of blame would go something like this: Everyone in the White House from 2000-2008, who either directly promoted this or didn’t throw their bodies on the wheels to stop it. Then every chickenass Democrat up to and including Barack Obama who said we would look forward, not back, and not only didn’t Nuremberg Trial this nonsense but didn’t even bother to censure anyone, such that there’s no historical record and these vampires can claw their way out of the dirt again, like Judith Miller up there who should be breaking rocks in a yard.

THEN everyone who treated it like a video game, and gibbered about it on TV, like Chris Matthews and Brian Williams and Katie Couric. Then our Very Serious Op Ed pundits and Warbloggers, many of whom are now In The Resistance because again, Trump is RUDE about his warmongering and we can’t have that.

Then after we’re done with everybody who knew better but looked at the spreadsheet and said fuck it, after we’re done with power and done with money and done with might, we can get to Lynndie England.

Because she did what she did.

Which is apparently all we can remember.

A.

Endgame

I’d like to believe this is true: 

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.

Ryan’s trying to get out before he gets blamed for anything (too late, dipshit) and McConnell’s pretending like he don’t even KNOW these people at this party he is at with his name on the door, and everybody in the Resistance — those who aren’t total garbage, anyway, yeah I’m looking at you Frum — is so tired we can’t remember what protest we were even at last week.

So I’d like to believe it’s almost over but I don’t. Our systems were designed to do things slowly. Election by election, seat by seat, fight by fight. I’d like to believe we’ll get out of this before November but I don’t see any other way out.

A.

Newspapers Finally Fighting Back Against Newspaper Owners

It’s about goddamn time: 

Here in Colorado, Alden has embarked on a cynical strategy of constantly reducing the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates. In doing so, the hedge fund managers — often tellingly referred to as “vulture capitalists” — have hidden behind a narrative that adequately staffed newsrooms and newspapers can no longer survive in the digital marketplace. Try to square that with a recent lawsuit filed by one of Digital First Media’s minority shareholders that claims Alden has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of its newspaper profits into shaky investments completely unrelated to the business of gathering news.

For 30 years this has been the case. Sure, Craigslist didn’t help, but all Craigslist and the Internet did was remove the ability of newspapers’ owners to steal without COMPLETELY gutting the place. Now they can’t stop stealing and/or gambling, but the safety net that was travel, automotive and classified advertising is gone.

This year began with The Post recovering from more bloodshed as it packed up to leave its namesake city, its journalists clinging to the hope that a newly launched initiative to charge for online content would improve its fortunes.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it at increasing volumes until SOMEBODY FUCKING BELIEVES ME: No amount of income will fix a fundamentally broken structure. It will only prop it up for a time. Without independence and investment this is gonna keep happening SO STOP GODDAMN FALLING FOR IT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROFESSIONAL SKEPTICS, IT’S EMBARRASSING.

We get it that things change. We get it that our feelings are raw and no doubt color our judgment. But we’ve been quiet too long.

No shit.

I’m sorry, I should be cheering this, except that I’ve been writing about it since 2003 and living it since 1994 and it would be nice if the dozen people who figured this out years ago didn’t keep getting called hysterical in meetings.

The smart money is that in a few years The Denver Post will be rotting bones. And a major city in an important political region will find itself without a newspaper.

It’s time for those Coloradans who care most about their civic future to get involved and see to it that Denver gets the newsroom it deserves.

Like, how, though? Paying for news and pumping more money into these hedge-funded pits? That’s the only suggestion  I’ve seen recently that applies to ordinary people, most of who just want a fuckin’ paper on their porch and/or a website that doesn’t heave up its breakfast all over your browser.

I have suggestions if you want them. Support your local independent news outlet. Find out who’s making real news in your community and support that, pay for that, back that. Employee buyouts, another good option for profitable shops, will work only with bankers willing to lend the kind of money it would take. That would also require people who considering they are journalists are really fucking risk averse to take risks not just with their lives but with their families’ and that’s a hard row to hoe if you don’t love this in your bones.

Everybody says they do, but not everybody does. A lot of people will watch their colleagues walk out the door and not do shit because kids, mortgage, etc, and fear is a powerful motivator. It kept people silent for years when there were enough of them to stop it. Now there aren’t enough of them left.

Sometimes the entire Resistance fits in a Yugo and I honestly don’t know if there’s any gas left in the tank.

A.

Your Occasional Reminder That It’s Possible to Be Good and Brave

One hundred and seven years old, and god damn, what a badass: 

An inspector from the Dutch education ministry arrived at Johan van Hulst’s teacher training institute in Amsterdam on the morning of June 19, 1943. He noticed youngsters and, with SS soldiers standing nearby, asked, “Are those Jewish children?”

“You don’t really expect me to answer that, do you?” Dr. van Hulst replied.

The garden of Dr. van Hulst’s Reformed Teachers’ Training College bordered the garden of a Jewish nursery. Under Dr. van Hulst’s supervision, hundreds of Jewish infants and children had been passed across the hedge and hidden in his school. As Dr. van Hulst recalled, the inspector shook his hand and said, quietly, “In God’s name, be careful.”

Keep stories like this in mind when you hear about how it’s just too hard these days to stand up to Donald Fucking Trump.

A.

No Money for Journalism

There never is any.

I’m getting to the point where I’m thinking anybody working for a non-indy, non-worker-owned news outlet is just getting goddamn taken.

A.

Travel Gaps and Politics

This gets at certain aspects of something I’ve been trying to figure out for a while: 

In the past decade, travel publishers have become much more active in promoting ideas like environmental and cultural conservation. Guides, for example, now routinely warn readers against attractions, such as poorly run safaris or trained-animal acts, that put wildlife at risk, or against activities that could compromise forests, mountains, or barrier reefs. The results have been promising.

It’s not such a huge step to imagine someday that future travel articles might bake into the cake a subtle (or not so subtle) promotion of democratic practices and human rights as well. I’m not sure how it would all work, but it’s conceivable.

As for boycotting destinations or blacking them out – intentionally or not – I still believe that’s simply the wrong way to go (leaving out travel to countries that promote grievous crimes like genocide or human-trafficking). As they say, travelers visit people, not governments, and the potential benefits of travel, including seeing, learning and making friends, outweigh, for me, the possible hazards. And the converse is often true as well: not going simply strengthens the hand of bad actors. I see no good reason to skip travel to Russia (or Cuba, Belarus, Iran, or almost anywhere else) if that’s where your heart takes you.

I’ve written before about the gap not just between rural and urban, between city mouse and country mouse, but between people who travel routinely and people who don’t. I’m not talking about CAN’T, I’m talking about don’t, like they have the money and ability and sit right in their houses doing jack, who act like going to a new grocery store makes them Shackleton at the Pole. The people who say Europe is a commie shithole and won’t drive anywhere outside their subdivision, you know them all.

And the reason that gap is important isn’t that everyone MUST see Paris or whatever, it’s that traveling exposes you to your own prejudices and limitations, and demonstrates that you are willing to face them. On honeymoon in Ireland, I discovered I was married to mealtimes and also kind of hypoglycemic. At work in Jordan, I realized I was reckless (as I followed a strange man down an unfamiliar side street in a country where I did not speak the language because he’d promised to show me something like that’s not how all kidnappings start) and tended to spend money stupidly on the road. In Paris my tin ear for languages reared its ugly head, and in Jamaica I learned I was very, very sheltered when it came to beach nudity and marijuana.

Forget overseas; in Napa I learned I liked wine and in New York I learned not to drink with 22-year-olds and in Kansas City I lost my way in a snowstorm and in New Orleans I ate hog balls and saw the Blessed Virgin and somewhere in the back of my mind there’s a memory of riding up a mountain in Wyoming in a truck with my father that never fails to make me smile.

Travel also teaches you what you won’t face, what you can’t change, and what you love about where you’ve chosen to be. Even if it’s the next town over, you come back to yours knowing its distinctions, and hopefully knowing it’s where you belong.

And as I was reading Mark’s piece up there, I was thinking about what I’d have missed if I hadn’t gone those places. It’s not just about “where your heart takes you,” it’s about what you bring back. There are ways to travel more ethically than not, making sure your money stays local for example, and ways to stay safe wherever you are. But you can always find reasons not to go somewhere, and those reasons are always sad and lonely, because everywhere has faces you haven’t seen and all of them are necessary and all of them are God, even the ones that are monsters.

A.

Your Kids Aren’t An Excuse to Suck

It took a while but I found the most offensive part of this offensive tirade against homeless people: 

Some protesters at Tuesday’s meeting said they shouldn’t have to worry about where to put the homeless.

“Who cares? This is not our responsibility,” said Abby Moore, a retiree from Laguna Niguel. “We are not elected to handle this crisis. I just don’t want to be near the homeless.”

Angela Liu of Irvine said she did not know where the homeless should go. But it should not be in her city, she said.

“They need to put them somewhere, maybe somewhere else in California,” said Liu, who owns a legal services company. “I really don’t know where they can go. But Irvine is beautiful and we don’t want it to get destroyed.”

Others suggested the government should simply do nothing. U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) criticized “the spectacle of county-financed homeless compounds setting up shop in our local communities.”

As a parent who owns a modest home in an Orange County neighborhood, I join the outrage that we are assuming responsibility for homeless people, taking care of their basic needs and elongating their agony by removing the necessity to make fundamental decisions about the way they live their lives,” he said in a statement.

As a parent. As a PARENT.

Jesus H. Christ 0n a shrimpin’ boat, own your shitty opinions. Don’t shove them off on your kids. Your having birthed (or your wife having birthed) an infant has nothing to do with how you’re a garbage human being. Your kids don’t carry the blame (nor should they get the credit, frankly) for what you believe, especially when it’s this dumb and mean. Your kids have enough to deal with, having been born into the world you’ve burned to the ground. Don’t put the responsibility of justifying your worldview onto their wee shoulders.

I hear this shit all the time in reference to crime, immigration, homelessness, marriage equality, sex work, a whole host of other issues that are presumed to be moral ones, and whenever someone hauls it out all, “I’m a PARENT NOW” all I hear is “thank God, I no longer have to justify myself now that I can use my kids as human shields.” As if being a parent means the same thing to everyone. As if parenting automatically uploads the same ASSHOLE RACIST update to the human system. As if being a parent gives you a pass to do anything you want so long as you slap a Baby on Board sign on it.

Like, think about this for a minute. As a parent, you have no compassion for homeless people? How is that a nice thing to say about your kids? “Junior, I was going along in life with a normal amount of human morality and thinking that people who lose their homes aren’t inherently monsters and probably ought to be cared for in some fashion even if it meant I would have to acknowledge their existence. THEN YOU WERE BORN, and I realized we should begin immediately feeding the homeless headfirst into a woodchipper lest their stench invade my nostrils. You inspired me, son. Without you I wouldn’t be the gaping butthole I am today.”

As a PARENT. Pull that one out of Mary Poppins’ bag and act like it completes the argument for you. No wonder our kids think we’re trash. We credit them with it.

A.

Now Activist Kids are Killing Journalism

STOP IT KIDS:

What a tool.

Let me list, in order, the things that are killing trust in “our profession:”

  1. A 24-hour propaganda network streamed into every doctor’s office in the Midwest telling people that the news is fake and journalists are evil and biased and vaguely terroristic somehow.
  2. One of two major political parties spending the past four decades attacking the free press every time some reporter somewhere pointed out that they were full of shit.
  3. The other political party pretending numbers 1 and 2 didn’t exist, and whining ineffectively about message discipline.
  4. The press pretending numbers 1-3 didn’t exist.
  5. Rapacious corporate ownership that has stripped local communities of their unique voices, from cutting small newspapers down to glorified shoppers to replacing radio news with syndicated hate.
  6. Hedge fund managers loading up big city papers with debt, paying millions to executives and consultants who just happened to be their buds, giving them free reign to do whatever stupid shit they wanted while laying off every reporter who had the misfortune to be spotted actually working.
  7. An entire cottage industry of turns-out-mostly-perverts who parlayed average sourcing and borderline-adequate writing into some kind of legendary “insider” status, plus everyone who lined up to party with said inside perverts, plus everyone who invited them to speak at their colleges.
  8. Politico, Axios, whatever “ideas festival” is asking people to show up on stage with Steve Bannon, and earnest profiles questioning what Nazis want.
  9. Epic whining and defensiveness every time someone — and Isidor Stone forbid it is a young person — happens to mention 1-8 and correctly point out that all of it is crap.

These are the top nine things destroying journalism. A student journo talking about the need to speak truth to power and call bullshit on bullshit is number 697 if you accept that it’s a problem at all, which I for one do not.

There have forever been all kinds of journalism, even before these dastardly internets: Activist publications, advocacy journals, specialty and satire and yes, partisan media. The existence of none of these was a problem so long as they weren’t the only game in town, and if you think the only game in town twas ever self-professed objectivity William Randolph Hearst has a nice war with Spain he’d like to sell you.

Schmuck.

A.

All About That Platform

This, about Netflix:

reminded me of the entire OMG FACEBOOK STOLE OUR JOURNALISM AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck which directly followed the OMG BLOGGERS STOLE OUR JOURNALISM AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck, which followed the very very old OMG CRAIGSLIST STOLE OUR CLASSIFIED ADS AND WON’T PAY US clusterfuck.

Journalism entitlement clusterfucks interest me because they’re a prime example of the unasked question. Instead of yelling about why they “give away” their content to “other publishers” for free, they should be asking, “why do people prefer to encounter our content on another platform?”

It’s not just that Facebook is free. It’s the ease of use, the addictive nature, the ability to share and discuss and talk back. Facebook doesn’t drop 56 ad trackers on your computer and then crash every browser you own. If you sign into Facebook it doesn’t reject your login six times and then ask you to re-register and then start a free trial and then enter your billing information and then double-charge you and then send your receipt to the wrong e-mail address and then ask you to reset your password and then tell you you already used that password in the past five years and if you’d like to chat with a customer service rep here’s a popup window you have no way to close.

Not that I’m describing in any way a real newspaper. That rhymes with Schmibune.

(This is, by the way, not a defense of Facebook. It’s a defense of websites working like they should.)

If newspapers, which do not understand the business of newspapers, understood the business of online news they’d make something easy, reliable, valuable, and integrate micro-purchases in-app and curate a comments section that isn’t a trash fire of elderly InfoWars veterans throwing hamburger wrappers at each other.

The newspapers that have managed online subscriptions and web content well — NYT, the Post — have done that. It’s your local Gannett/Lee Newspapers chain paper that hasn’t, and that’s where most people feel the lack. It’s also from whence the most epic journalistic whining about Facebook and Twitter come.

More time and attention spent examining the aspects of alternative platforms that users (customers) enjoy and emulating those things would pay off in ways shitting all over social media never will.

A.

Rise Up

We forget, all the time, what we’re capable of.

How often, how many times a day, do we tell ourselves won’t, can’t, doesn’t? How many times do we say inevitable, impossible, never?

And then a girl stands in front of the whole world and she shakes their windows and she rattles their walls.

Do you know what it takes to hold a stage, to hold a crowd in your hands, for even one minute? To have them breathing with you, every indrawn breath yours to control? There are veterans of Broadway who can’t do that, not on nights when they’re visited by God himself.

I get the cynicism. I get the fear. I get the worry that somebody else will succeed where we’ve failed and I get the shame that drives us to push that away and I don’t care about any of it anymore, I reject it wholeheartedly, I shaven’t it, you can see what I see. Something happened there and when the world brings you a moment like that you thank God you were alive to witness it and you put your feet flat on the ground and you stand up.

We have been telling these children stories, telling ourselves stories, all our lives about those who rise above, about becoming heroes, about fighting back, and we’re still so astonished, almost offended, when someone listens. You told me I could be anything, so I became, and you don’t believe? How dare we?

We have eight months, and then the rest of our lives. Listen to that silence, and I don’t want to know you if you don’t hear the roar.

A.

Ferro, Tronc, Journalism and Money

This guy is a boring, gross asshole who is getting paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS while laying off journalists, please talk to me some more about how I don’t value news: 

Both women say they were drawn to these late night meetings by the promise of financial reward—further investment and connections for Minshew; a potential partnership and possibly even a lucrative job for Kappler. After these encounters, both described being frightened and taken by surprise, as well as fearing that their business ventures were in jeopardy.

Minshew and Kappler, who are now speaking about their experiences on the record for the first time, encountered Ferro through his work as an investor and dealmaker. But his sphere of influence and power increased over the past couple of years after he became the non-executive chairman and largest shareholder of Tronc, the publishing powerhouse that includes iconic titles like the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the Baltimore Sun.

On Monday, Ferro announced that he was retiring from the board of directors of Tronc, and that CEO Justin Dearborn would succeed him as chairman. Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant.

Consultant on what, exactly? What on earth could possibly be the value he provides? For years we’ve been told our newspapers are transforming into more nimble, digital-first enterprises focused on the internet because all us terrible dastardly readers didn’t want to pay for news anymore, and all it’s ever seemed to mean is cutting days, cutting staff, cutting the physical size of the paper down to a pamphlet and propping up a website that heaves with pop-ups.

This is the Chicago Tribune’s front page today, without Ad Blocker running.

Where is the news? What am I supposed to look at? Where is the name of the goddamn paper? Why did my browser just empty both barrels into itself?

When Ad Blocker does run, the little SIGN UP TODAY! pop-up is still there, the menus are still tiny and I don’t see how laying off a bunch of reporters fixes this problem. In fact, the more reporters that get laid off, the dumber this shit seems to become. Subscribing doesn’t get me an ad-free experience. It just gets me access to the articles if I can find them under all the sponcon and automotive pimping going on.

If this is the indispensable knowledge for which Ferro’s employees were expected to endure his sad, middle-aged advances, it sucks.

Whenever there’s a round of layoffs, as there was last week, journalists jump on Twitter to sanctimoniously lecture everybody about how if we all paid for news none of this would be happening. WHICH ISN’T THE GODDAMN CASE. We could all pay for news tomorrow at the rates people subscribed to print in the 1940s and anuses like Ferro would still siphon it all off to snort blow off a hooker’s tits.

It’s easier to yell at imaginary readers online than it is to yell at your bosses to adequately value what you do for a living over their own venal, sexually harassative interests. But the boards who hire disgusting pigs like Ferro for their supposedly irreplaceable genius and pay them like they’re worth anything more than a wooden nickel and a punt in the junk need to hear that there are people in the industry starting to see through this bullshit.

In the end corporate ownership and hedge fund-backed chain management have done damage to journalism the internet could only dream of doing, taking money away from the things it could pay for to throw at “consultants” who are just trying to bang the interns.

A.

Who’s Not Extremely Online

Let’s keep having hearings about Facebook and Twitter as if those are what motivated 79-year-olds in Michigan and Indiana to vote for Trump: 

As was true in previous Pew Research Center surveys of social media use, there are substantial differences in social media use by age. Some 88% of 18- to 29-year-olds indicate that they use any form of social media. That share falls to 78% among those ages 30 to 49, to 64% among those ages 50 to 64 and to 37% among Americans 65 and older.

Despite the best efforts of publishing companies to completely bow down to social media, what primarily gets shared on social media is … traditional media content. And what’s blaring in the waiting room of every podiatrist in the Midwest is Fox News or MSNBC. We vastly overestimate the influence Facebook has on the older folks who tend to vote Trumpish.

Leaving Trump aside though, you know what I see in this data? Customers. Unreached customers for some enterprising news organization to solicit, whose money is green and who would loyally read or listen to something that served their interests. There’s no need for traditional media outlets to flail blindly at every app that lifts its skirt when there are always people out there who aren’t on it. Go find them, sell to them, and you’ll be set up for life.

A.

We Understand Gun Gulture Just Fine

This shit again: 

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — As Democrats have fled rural America — or rural America has fled Democrats — many of them, living in cities, are left without an understanding of rural culture and its core values. If it isn’t on abortion, our deepest cultural divide might be on guns. The guns issue also has a profound political dimension, reliably driving rural Americans into Republican arms.

You know, Democrats in cities understand gun culture just fine. Here, let me explain it to you:

There are hunters who like to hunt. There are hobby shooters who go to ranges. And then there are racist paranoiacs who drive around in vans covered in HITLERY stickers who can’t stop waving every single gun they own around, who eat Fox News and InfoWars for breakfast lunch and dinner, who can just never SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT THEIR STUPID GUNS.

Those are three distinct groups, and when I, a city Democrat, was growing up, the first two laughed their asses off at the third and there was no major lobbying group to tell them to make common cause against the evil conspiracy of reasonable regulations on 5-year-olds owning M-16s or whatever it is milquetoast thing Democrats stand accused of these days.

If all people did with guns in “rural America” was hunt animals and protect their houses from horror-movie villains breaking in, that might not be every city Dem’s bag but it would be fine. You know why?

BECAUSE NOBODY WOULD HAVE TO HEAR ABOUT THE FUCKING GUNS THEN.

God almighty, I am right up to here with the guns right now, how much you love them and how sacred they are and your great-great-grandpappy who fought for slavery in the Confederacy and whatever else. I understand gun culture just fine and it bores the living shit out of me and the only reason I bother engaging with it at all is that lots of people are getting DEAD.

You know, for the past two years we’ve been hearing about how Republicans were so sick of having basic respect for others “shoved down their throats” that they had to vote in the current racist monster and his gang of ten-a-penny fascisti in the White House. They were so, so sick of political correctness that they had to burn the whole world down. Their dicks all fell off because women were writing words on the Internet and they had no choice but to yell LOCK HER UP and vote for Trump.

Political correctness and women voting having killed exactly nobody, I would then turn that deep understanding of others’ culture right back around and offer this.

You can have all the guns you want.

Provided you don’t shove them down everybody else’s throat all the time.

A.

‘The Work Is Worth Doing’

Mallory Ortberg on their new book and the nature of the unknown: 

Ortberg: If you look at the Christian Bible—again, that’s the story that I come from—you look at the Book of Job, and there’s this fascinating, open-ended question of what is the Satan? Because that’s literally the name of the character in the book. It’s called the Satan, not like the devil or Lucifer, Satan, like that’s his name. It’s just the Satan, and it means that he has a job. It’s your job. You bring evidence against humanity, and you are in God’s employ, and obviously we lost some of that over time. You remember the cartoons of the sheepdog and the wolf who would fight all day, and then they would end by swiping their punch cards? That’s been lost, and there’s just the sense of—it is this actual demonic, supernatural entity that lives somewhere in the ether and is out to get me. I think if you look at those stories, they are incredibly destabilized and all over the place, and that’s fantastic.

Rumpus: In these fairy tales is a universe that is random and tricky. You write with a real confidence, yet a lot of what you’re getting at in this book is the ways in which no one knows anything.

Ortberg: The confidence is in saying, This work is worth doing, not, I know what the work is, or Here’s how we all get it done.

There’s a lot in this interview — which is about fairy tales and gender identity and all kinds of questions which is to say read the whole thing, as the kids once said — about questioning as something to be feared. The Olds get so ragey about the gender stuff, like it’s maddening to them, “how do I know what you are?” And they’re actually asking how do I know what I am.

We are not comfortable with our own unknowns. We feel like there is some point at which we get to Know Things, and be Done. We feel like at some point we’ll stop feeling uncertain, we’ll stop worrying if we’ve accomplished enough, and sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking this is the case. And then along comes something to upend that.

The reason this interview struck me so directly is that what Ortberg is saying is that not only is the work never done, but the work itself is the work. The figuring, the questioning, the exploring, the arguing, the uncertainty and fear, those are all the point, and if you never find answers it’s still worth shoving yourself forward. Accepting that the work will never be done, put your shoulder to the wheel anyway, and glory in the moment of being alive to do so.

How do I know what I am isn’t something you ever stop asking, even if it gets buried under all the shit you have to do to make it day to day.

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A Question of Emphasis

This is honestly the only thing that needs to be said about the ongoing self-fucking chicken that is the NYT opinion section:

They could write about anything. Like, get paid to start conversations about literally anything on this earth, conversations that would then be backed up with action by people with the capacity to enact change. Can you even imagine? Think about that.

It would be like if I could write in this space that all Americans should knock off wearing sleeveless turtlenecks and immediately YouTube would fill with people burning their sleeveless turtlenecks in the trash. The UN would introduce a resolution declaring that if it’s cold enough for a turtleneck it’s too cold for bare shoulders. Lawmakers would pass legislation fining people for making themselves look like sausages. My personal word would save us all from this fashion abomination for all time.

I’m joking, but think about that kind of reach, that kind of power. David Brooks and Bret Stephens and this Bari Weiss person and all the other Mousketools in that office have that.

And they choose to write about people on the Internet, being mean to them.

It’s not even that they’re wrong, although they are. It’s that they’re small, on the largest stage there is for a newspaper journalist. Give them the chance to write the world, give them journalism’s largest piece of real estate, and they describe … themselves.

Like, say what you want about Nick Kristof and I’ll say plenty but he does at least pay attention to people with less power than he has, and try to tell their stories even if he never completely manages to get out of his own way. Say what you want about most of the NYT but most of their journalists are actually trying to tell us about other people’s lives and then along come these assclowns making their workplace a punchline.

That they’re wrong, and they’re bad, and they’re overpaid and dishonest, those things are bad enough. The real crime they commit against their trade is their news judgment, their sincere belief that there is nothing larger than them happening right now in the world. That more than the subject of any correction should be a fireable offense.

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Notorious RBG

I’ll be in line all night like this is a Star Wars flick:

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David Brooks Thinks Twitter Invented Politics, Or Something

Who’s to blame for the fall of democracy? It won’t surprise you that Brooks thinks it’s millennials on the Twitters: 

Italy is now a poster child for the three big trends that are undermining democracies around the world:

First, the erasure of the informal norms of behavior.

Norms aren’t laws, which is the problem when somebody — Trump, Bush before him, Lee Atwater before them — figures that out and don’t give a fuck no more.

Second, the loss of faith in the democratic system. As Yascha Mounk writes in his book “The People vs. Democracy,” faith in democratic regimes is declining with every new generation. Seventy-one percent of Europeans and North Americans born in the 1930s think it’s essential to live in a democracy, but only 29 percent of people born in the 1980s think that. In the U.S., nearly a quarter of millennials think democracy is a bad way to run a country. Nearly half would like a strongman leader. One in six Americans of all ages support military rule.

It’s almost like 60 years of Republican howling that government blows, amplified by the likes of Brooks and his fellow Very Serious People, had some effect on those who grew up listening to it.

Also, a system of government is only good insofar as it benefits the people under it, so maybe the problem isn’t so much Kids Today not reading Plato as it is Kids Today being broke as hell.

Third, the deterioration of debate caused by social media. At the dawn of the internet, people hoped free communication would lead to an epoch of peace, understanding and democratic communication. Instead, we’re seeing polarization, alternative information universes and the rise of autocracy.

One of my favorite ongoing Things is discussion of polarization that completely ignores Fox News. Look, the majority of Americans do not sit on Twitter all day yelling at their relatives. They watch Fox clips in their podiatrist’s office and yell at their relatives in person, via the voting booth.

Polarization was not invented by Facebook. It was created by Republican operatives and funders who found it effective and lucrative, and spent eight years screaming about anti-American traitors who loved terrorists, and then another eight screaming about the president being born in Kenya.

Back when there was no social media, in the glory days of Internet 1.0, you had all of cable news debating whether Bill Clinton and Hillary murdered Vince Foster and HEY WE’RE JUST RAISING QUESTIONS, so yeah, it’s Snapchat that’s the problem here.

But don’t forget, BOTH SIDES:

The underlying message is clear. As Mounk has argued, the populist wave is still rising. The younger generations are more radical, on left and right. The rising political tendencies combine lavish spending from the left with racially charged immigrant restrictions from the right.

“Lavish spending” aka teaching children to read and curing diseases, versus banning all Muslim immigrants and deporting people who’ve lived here for 60 of their 61 years on this earth, those are the same! Polarization! Millennials! It’s dumbfuck bingo!

This is among the laziest of Brooks’s outings recently. If you want an equal opposite of Trump’s Muslim ban you need to make the case that liberals want completely open borders, and cherrypick some Reddit anarchists to support that contention. Fully funding the operations of public schools is not the example you go with.

I don’t see how he can lament the death of democracy when he’s so fucking confused to begin with about what it even is.

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Not Everything Sucks

Some people are building libraries.

Sunshine High School in Newbern, Ala., closed its doors for good two years ago. But the town’s 186 residents didn’t just lose a school, they lost a library — the only one for miles around.

Luckily, Newbern is home to Rural Studio, a design-build program within Auburn University’s School of Architecture. Following the principle that “everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design,” Rural Studio set out to build Newbern a new library.

Students repurposed an old bank building donated by a local family, reusing many of the original materials. Wood that was part of the teller’s counter was made into the librarian’s desk, bricks from the vault are now part of a patio wall and the original vault door is on display in the front window.

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