Colin Jost and the problem with bloodless opposition to “identity politics”

27 Nov 2016 04:52 pm
Posted by: Donna

On the Weekend Update portion of the November 19 SNL broadcast Colin Jost made a joke a lot of viewers of the show found offensive.

The dating app Tinder announced a new feature this week with gives users 37 different gender identity options.

It’s called “why Democrats lost the election”.

I rolled my eyes at the joke but I charitably figured he wasn’t just chiding Democrats for being too inclusive of out groups (which is terrible of him). I wanted to believe he was also talking about people voting Republican out of spite over things like this. It’s akin to losing one’s shit over hearing “para español, oprima el numero dos” when calling the cable company. It’s ridiculous.

But it turns out – at least according to his defense of the joke – Jost wasn’t kidding and his remark was directed at Dems, whom he believes lost the election due to an over-reliance on “identity politics”.

For some reason, Jost remained steadfast and decided to *gasp* explain the joke. Not only that, he also tweeted a link to an instantly notorious New York Times op-ed by Columbia professor Mark Lilla called “The End of Identity Liberalism,” which accused identity politics of perverting liberalism and destroying its electoral viability.

Lilla’s breathtakingly bad essay, which Jost claimed in a tweet “expanded on this idea” (referring to his joke), has been rebutted and debunked by far more talented people than I, so I let them do that at the links I provided.

What I noticed right away about Lilla’s piece is how he – like many of those whom Darren Hutchenson calls “post-identity commentators” that we’ve been hearing a lot from topic post-election – leans heavily on the theoretical and carefully avoids describing concretely what it looks like in practice going forward to move beyond “identity politics” in such a way that Democrats win elections again.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

But, as you can see, Lilla does leave clues to where we should be headed, which Colin Jost seems to have picked up readily. Jost did not back down on his argument that Tinder, a private company that runs a dating service, contributed to the loss of the election (in the Electoral College, it should be noted, not the popular vote) by offering its subscribers the completely voluntary capacity to select the gender identification that fits them.

Of course, it’s likely Jost doesn’t blame Tinder so much as he blames transgender activists for pushing for the acknowledgment of gender categories that make Rust Belters (supposedly) feel ooky. Perhaps he feels people who don’t fit into binary gender classifications should just consider going back in the closet for the sake of elections. If so, then this is a real thing that Colin Jost proposes real people should do that will hurt many of them, and worse, reinforce the idea that it’s okay to hurt them. You can try to separate identity politics, or a desired lack of them, from the people those identities are attached to all you want, but you can’t. It’s their lives you’re talking about.

Get the fake news out of the real news too!

16 Nov 2016 12:16 am
Posted by: Donna

In the sad and confusing days following the election of Donald Trump (gag) to President, I noticed a narrative was emerging among MSM pundits about how abysmally ill-informed the electorate seemed to be. It goes like this: The rise of social media has created partisan echo chambers where people pass around fake stories and algorithms promote these fake stories and this creates a sealed bubble into which no outside information penetrates! Naturally, this phenomena occurs…wait for it…on both sides!

This story has found favor with everyone from Chris Hayes to John Oliver and I’m not saying it’s off base. I just find it remarkable how quickly it took off after the election. You’d almost think the MSM were looking for a way to absolve themselves of their own role in fostering massive public ignorance by what they chose to cover (emails! emails! emails!) and not (you know, minor things like Russia and the FBI meddling in our elections, in addition to what Trump stood for and was capable of).

But here is an example of the kind of fake news they’re talking about:

denzel fake news

This fake story, from a bogus “news” site was liked and re-posted multiple times. This kind of thing is undeniably a problem, but it has been around forever, far pre-dating the internet. I agree social media with its algorithms has greatly multiplied the crap but there’s never been a shortage of ersatz celebrity tabloid gossip and conspiracy theories going around, including about politicians. The right wingers peddling conspiracies about the Clintons in the 90s found an eager audience for them well before most people were on the internet. And I was handed mimeographed copies of the famous Proctor and Gamble Satanism myth many times in the 80s. Fox News has been around since 1996! Fake news isn’t new.

So I’m suspicious about this sudden interest in “fake news” (seriously, where was it before the election?) especially considering there has yet to be a reckoning for this:

ap tweet

Note how many times that false statement was retweeted. And the venerable Associated Press refused to take it down for weeks, despite multiple demands from fact-checkers to do so. The Clinton Foundation story itself was fed to the AP via right wing pressure group Judicial Watch, which per Media Matters, “has a history of conning media into covering bogus Clinton-related stories, leading outlets to ignore new evidence and even undermine their own reporting in the process”. When the story first broke, at least one local Phoenix news station reported it straight off of AP’s tweet and never corrected or retracted it to my knowledge.

AP wasn’t the only respectable news institution peddling fake news during the election. Clinton Cash, a pile of codswallop concocted by the Government Accountability Institute, was the basis of Washington Post and New York Times reporting on Clinton “scandals”.

And while Hillary Clinton’s vaunted email “scandal” – the end result of the Benghazi fishing expedition – certainly got a lot of play from the respectable news divisions, it turned out to be mostly bullshit to anyone who gave it a real examination. Was there a kernal of truth to it? Yes. Was over 600 days of breathless coverage of it, while giving little attention to multiple other far more pressing issues, acting the interest of an informed electorate? No.

Hillary Clinton was the target of multiple negative hit pieces, both from fake and legitimate new sites. A Gallup word cloud from their polling gives clues to which ones stuck:

hillary word cloud

It’s certainly possible the people responding to those Gallup tracking polls were getting their info (little to none of which appeared to be specific policy proposals of Secretary Clinton’s) from or whatever, but it’s just as likely they were getting it from CNN or ABC or even PBS or the New York Times.

Again, fake news is a problem and Facebook apparently caving to conservatives in refusing to crack down on it is an important story. Also, people reacting to the election by signing up and donating to news organizations with a reputation for excellence is a very positive development.

But merely being judicious about one’s media consumption, and sticking with legit sources, is not a dependable antidote to being misinformed if those trusted mainstream news outlets continue to taint themselves with bogus sources and dishonest narratives motivated by a misguided adherence to “balance”. Clean your own houses, MSM people. You’re a way bigger problem than fake news sites and Facebook’s algorithms are.

I turned them off. You should too.

11 Nov 2016 02:22 am
Posted by: Donna

Maeve Reston works for CNN. Note her sneering contempt for you and never forget it.

Protests have erupted in big cities all over the country in the aftermath of Trump’s (s)election (he lost the popular vote but won the undemocratic-as-shit Electoral College). I’m not sure how effective they are but I certainly understand the impulse to vent anger over this horrifying result, even if you don’t know quite what to do.

I’m not out on the streets. I’m too numb for that. I haven’t even cried – or yelled (that much), which is uncharacteristic of me. What I am doing, which I began immediately doing when it was clear that Trump was going to win, is telling everyone who will listen to turn off the fucking “news” that spent the last two years tongue-bathing Trump while assiduously tearing down Hillary Clinton over nothingburgers like her email server or not holding press conferences for several weeks (remember the obsession over that, completely forgotten when Donald Trump did the same thing later?).

Part of it could be chalked up to what are called Clinton Rules, which is the inexplicable hostility of the Beltway toward the Clintons and their avid willingness to run with bullshit dangled in front of them by right wing ratfuckers. Generally they avoid going with the obviously ridiculous stuff – Andrea Mitchell and Wolf Blitzer know they’d look like complete doofuses if they breathlessly pounded Vince Foster or Benghazi. But those EMAILZ!!1! were a vaguely complex topic that provided the perfect opportunity for Very Serious Pundits to furrow their brows and pretend to be deeply concerned about Hillary’s judgment despite clearing knowing exactly jack and shit about the particulars of the issue and having no apparent sense of its relative importance.

Similar faux-theatrics were at work with the talking head giddiness over Wikileaks stolen emails, which revealed little more than DNC people disliked Bernie Sanders and that a bunch of politicos talked trash, as they are wont to do. As for the Clinton Foundation “scandal”, a pile of crapola peddled by right wing Judicial Watch and lapped up by the AP, the Clinton Rules were definitely at play:

Another part of the failure of the MSM, which was amplified by cable news talking heads ad nauseum, is their fetish for false equivalence, in which minor flaws in Democrats are required to be exaggerated so they appear to match the major ones of Republicans, so that the pundits can maintain that all-important appearance of “balance”. Normally, this is incredibly bad journalism – the opposite of fairness – and a disservice to the public. In the case of Clinton vs. Trump, it borders on criminal negligence. As a counterweight to the endless stream of appalling revelations about Donald Trump, including him being caught bragging about sexually assaulting women during a TV taping we got 600+ days of nonstop repetition of Clinton’s EMAILZ!!1!

Finally, the DC political media (I believe, and said it recently) are in the thrall of the unspoken agreement emerging around 1980, that the GOP are the rightful owners of the White House. I truly believed the Trump candidacy would jolt them out of it. I was wrong.

I’m not going to presume to quantify the effect of this utter abdication (not all of them, by any means, there were many great journalists doing good work who were unfortunately overshadowed by the hacks and poseurs) of the Fourth Estate’s duty to inform and act in the public interest. There’s no doubt it contributed to Clinton’s high negatives and the “lesser of two evils” narrative (because the MSM’s gotta peddle a “narrative”, that’s apparently their main job). Sharper minds than mine are analyzing the data and hopefully Democrats will calmly determine, based on evidence and not preconceived biases, what was lacking and what wasn’t and figure out how to do better. What I do know is I cannot bear to watch insipid, dishonest cable “news” coverage anymore. I am no longer entertained by it. I am disgusted. I am done.

My tiny form of protest is to turn the shitty punditry off and advise others to do the same, loudly and often. I can still get the news from sources that aren’t completely ratings-driven and compromised, like the BBC, so it’s not like I’m isolating myself from the world. But I’ll be doing more worthwhile things like watching Netflix shows or reading books or taking walks during the times I’d be parked in front of MSNBC or CNN. I know I’m not the only one.

Turn them off. They don’t deserve our eyeballs or money. Let them drown in their own perfidy, gasping for those mythical conservative viewers they’ve desperately tried to lure with their asinine “balance”.

White Arizonans will show us who they are this election

07 Nov 2016 10:42 pm
Posted by: Donna

Fucking trolls took the blog down again a few weeks ago so I was unable to post until now. Which turned out to be okay because there’s been enough punditry this election season (most of it shitty) and what I needed to be doing was canvassing and phonebanking, given that Arizona is a battleground state(!) with a real opportunity for a Hillary win and some Dem pick-ups.

Tomorrow brings the final end to a gut-roiling year that has felt like a grotesque experiment in which we will learn how rancid a Republican can be and still get white people to vote for him. And, oh wait, I already wrote this blog post a couple months ago. I’ll just lazily repost it now:

…It has long been the aspirational myth here of Democrats that the demographic “sleeping giant” of Hispanic voters will awaken and overtake the elections here. It hasn’t happened yet.

Republican consultant types, at least in my experience, have especially loved to jibe Democrats about this. But some of the less hardcore partisan ones, along with several media pundits and mainstream establishment thought leaders, subscribe to a concurrent aspirational myth of their own: that of The Moderate Republicans Who Are Going To Come To Their Senses Any Day Now And Save Us From The Lunatics Currently In Charge.

This, too, hasn’t happened yet. It hasn’t happened despite gutting Clean Elections, an AZ Republic columnist’s crusade to “de-kook the Legislature”, two failed Top Two Primary campaigns, and attempts by business and academic leaders to forge “nonpartisan dialogue”.

The myth relies on the existence of a “sleeping giant” of Arizona voters and prospective politicians who are socially moderate yet fiscally conservative, whose economic and policy interests line up closely with those of the business community, and who shun blind partisanship yet must have a Republican to vote for because they will never, ever vote for a Democrat.

Indeed, these people have been presented plenty of times the past two decades or so with “moderate” options*, both in GOP primaries and in general elections with decidedly non-extreme Democrats, yet they haven’t managed to pull the trigger on the whole saving-us-with-moderation plan. Instead, the aforementioned Jan Brewer won decisively for Governor in 2010 on the strength of SB1070 (round up the illegals!), along with a whole bunch of other Republicans who have felt little need to moderate themselves on a host of issues from public education (cut it and funnel tax dollars to charters and private vouchers!) to energy (demolish the solar industry and do whatever else the Kochs want!) to culture war issues (Cathi Herrod, by all means, have your way with us!) to the disgusting and utterly morally incomprehensible defenestration of child protective services (are there no churches? work houses?).
Arizona voters who insist on voting Republican despite all of that have had ready-made excuses for doing so, including:

“Taxes! They’re too high!”
“What part of “illegal” don’t those people understand?”
“I already pay enough for the schools so why can’t the teachers take a pay cut?”
“Corporation Commission? What is that? These ads tell me all I need to know!”
“Why should we throw money at CPS when I read an article about how a social worker forgot to check on an abused kid?”

So many great excuses! Huge excuses!

Moment of truth time, people. Donald Trump is running on a bald-faced campaign of white supremacy. He is. That’s all there is to it. The current polls show him having more or less (and in the more-or-less realm lies the Electoral College votes) a tie with Hillary Clinton in Arizona. If the polls are to be believed, then in sheer numbers at least half the voters in our state feel that an unabashed white nationalist supremacist is a fine person to lead our country.

And this means that The Moderate Republicans Who Are Going To Come To Their Senses Any Day Now And Save Us From The Lunatics Currently In Charge are, in fact, not going to do that. They can’t, because they don’t exist.
Which means that you, people who supposedly yearn for moderate governance in Arizona, had better get with the Democrats, and help them get enough voters to the polls defeat the Trump horror show. It’s not like there isn’t an abundance of history showing you where his shit leads.

Today we find out. I don’t expect to see a significant shift in the way white people vote (though my anecdotal experience indicates there may be some).

Deplorable AZ GOP chair Robert Graham won’t be casting stones at a guy simply for being rapey!

10 Oct 2016 05:10 pm
Posted by: Donna

robert graham

Here’s AZ GOP Chair Bob Graham, standin’ by his man

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

PHOENIX – This afternoon Chairman Robert Graham of the Arizona Republican Party released the following statement in support of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump.

“Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” As Chairman of the Arizona Republican Party and Executive Board Member of the Republican National Committee it is important to me to share my thoughts regarding Donald J. Trump.

Do you regret anything in your past? There is no explicable way to defend Donald Trump’s comments and their aggressive nature towards women from more than a decade ago…nor has he asked us to defend him. Donald Trump has sincerely expressed his regret and has apologized for his actions.

We understand when the leftist media condemns Republican candidates with bias. However, it is hard to understand why some are willing to surrender the principles and values we espouse as conservatives well-knowing that Hillary Clinton, if President, will systematically condemn our freedoms.

Leadership is more than stopping political mail, not campaigning for someone or making statements condemning a person’s comments made nearly a dozen years before–Leadership is making the tough decisions, digging in and sacrificing for beliefs and ideas greater than one person.

Donald Trump is a fighter and showed us all the fight that it will take to get our nation back on track. From lowering taxes, to protecting Americans, to replacing Obamacare — his plans are consistent with what our country needs and our citizens are longing for.

Secretary Clinton once again showed why she is part of the problem we have in America. Her answers were the same tired and unproductive government based solutions that she has talked a lot about over the last 30 years, but done very little to change.

Whether the image is Donald Trump surprised by a loving embrace from a family who lost their home in Louisiana or when he stands in front of thousands of supporters promising to make America great again…his love of nation and his love of the people of our nation is clear.

In the end, I will not condemn or abandon a man that has every right to forgiveness as I do. Nor will I give up on the people of this great nation. We must lead. It is my responsibility, as a member of the Republican National Committee, to elect our Republican nominees and defend our country against all enemies. Hillary Clinton is an enemy to our nation’s security, general welfare and blessings of liberty. I will continue to work with passion, integrity and restlessness to stop Hillary Clinton and elect Donald J. Trump.

Donald Trump has the same right to be forgiven and have everyone move on that Robert Graham does. It’s a sacrament belonging to wealthy white straight men. Everyone else, but especially you ladies and LGBT, your lot is a lifetime of pain and punishment, if not death, for your “sins”. In Graham’s view, it is better to have a (probable) rapist be President than a woman who would want to help a rape victim get a morning-after pill. Deplorable!

You better accept the “nice” misogynists, ladies, or you’ll force us to run really gross ones!

07 Oct 2016 02:39 pm
Posted by: Donna

Right wing dude barfed this “wisdom” up about Trump, in the wake of recent further revelations of what a nasty, rapey scumbag the GOP Presidential nominee is.

“It could be worse” is a common tactic of sexists attempting to shut down feminist opposition to sexism. In this case, Dan McLaughlin is cherry-picking a few personal aspects of Mitt Romney, while completely ignoring the actual problems Democrats had with his stances (anti-choice, anti-safety net, lack of concern for wage inequality, etc.) in 2012. Bad laws and policies toward women don’t harm us less because a genial, “G-rated” guy is doing them to us.

And as far as that goes, McLaughlin seems to have forgotten whom Democratic voters did send back to the White House in that elections. We put Barack Obama and his family back in, and I challenge anyone to find a clan more impressive and respectable than they. Democrats didn’t choose vulgarity over gentility, Republicans did when they nominated Trump.

Own your shit and stop trying to blame everything you screw up on liberals, Republicans, kthxbai.

Pence won the Theater Critics Award for his debate performance. Which is great for anti-choice liars.

06 Oct 2016 02:46 am
Posted by: Donna

One of the many things Indiana Governor and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence lied about in his award-winning Tuesday night debate with Democratic nominee, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, was the stance on abortion held by Donald Trump and himself, namely that women should face prosecution for abortion.

Pence piously insisted, with a wistful shake of his head, that this would never happen:

“Donald Trump and I would never support legislation against women who make the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy,” said Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence.

Oh my, heavens no! Never!

Yet Purvi Patel was sentenced to two decades in prison for self-inducing an abortion – called “feticide and neglect of a dependent” – in July 2013. Patel could hardly turn to her governor for help – it was Mike Pence.

A judge overturned the conviction, meaning she could walk free on 31 August after one year behind bars.

Patel was bleeding through layers of clothing when she came in a panic to her local emergency room three years ago. She admitted to staff that she had taken abortion pills. She came from a conservative family who would not have approved of her having sex outside of marriage. She had placed the foetus in a dumpster.

Two years later, the 34-year-old was facing punishment. Punishment that would span the majority of the rest of her life.

The fact that Donald Trump actually said, when caught off-guard by the question about it by Chris Matthews, that women should be punished for abortion, was conveniently forgotten by pundits, including Matthews himself, who breathlessly declared Mike Pence the “winner” of the vice-presidential debate for lying so skillfully.

The willingness of MSM people to put the comfort of conservatives ahead of truth and decency, and to hand them cookies and prizes for wording good and approximating human empathy, has been a real boon for anti-choicers. They are rarely confronted with their monstrous views on women and forced to defend them. When they are, as with the Trump-Matthews exchange, a sort of gentleman’s agreement ensues where we all have to pretend it never happened and give the more practiced anti-choicers the opportunity to refine the terrible position:

“If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman,” Trump said. “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”…

…The Susan B. Anthony List chalked up Trump’s comments to his recent opposition to abortion rights and said punishments should only be dished out to “the abortionist.”

“As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion — the destruction of an innocent human life — which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth,” the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said in a statement.

And that works out fine for pundits who are super-duper careful about stepping around the feelings of right wing reactionaries. It’s not so great for women who have to deal with laws passed on the basis of the belief, as evinced by Mike Pence Tuesday night, that they are such stupid, heartless cretins that they wait until the “moment of birth” to terminate perfectly healthy pregnancies.

An MSM less smitten with “Mike Pence won cuz so polite!” might be asking why Mike Pence thinks so badly of women. They might also ask why he thought women should be forced to provide funeral services to an abortion or miscarriage.

The goal is to deny, deny, deny, their actual intentions, until they come to fruition. And then anti-choicers count on (as with Purvi Patel) people’s sexism, racism, misplaced trust in authority figures, and the Just World Fallacy to kick in.

The just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, to the end of all noble actions being eventually rewarded and all evil actions eventually punished. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is the tendency to attribute consequences to—or expect consequences as the result of—a universal force that restores moral balance. This belief generally implies the existence of cosmic justice, destiny, divine providence, desert, stability, or order, and has high potential to result in fallacy, especially when used to rationalize people’s misfortune on the grounds that they “deserve” it.

Just FYI, giving someone like Mike Pence a “win” for blatantly lying through an entire debate is a pretty forceful rebuttal of the above. Namaste.