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second-best since Cantor

Category: politick

Stories are made of time and change, not information.

The justification for spoilers (beyond ‘I am anxious, impatient, and have no self-control’) is that you don’t need to receive the story’s info-payload at the moment prescribed by the writers — having the facts, we are told, only clarifies the story, it doesn’t diminish it. Knowing how it ends frees you up to enjoy the unfolding of the story without anxiety.

This disgusts and worries me.

We might think about stories this way:

Narrative structures aren’t vessels containing information, they’re machines for creating information in the mind of the audience. ‘Little Nell dies.’ ‘Oh, is that so? Who’s Little Nell?’ Little Nell is part of a structure which, when activated, effects psychotropism — mental transformation — in the reader. She’s not ‘contained’ in the machine The Old Curiosity Shop, she’s a gear in that machine. To put it another way: the production of fictional knowledge (e.g. ‘informing’/’teaching’ the reader about hobbit feet or the one-eyed bigot at a Dublin bar) is an epiphenomenon of the process of generating the experience of reading itself.

Fictions don’t contain facts, they contain meaningful time: algorithmically generated encounters between audience and story. The text exists to generate the experience of living through it. Characters, plot, setting, are just ‘local variables,’ generated at runtime, which cease to exist when the work is done. But more than that: the work of a fictional scene can’t simply be summarized after the fact (writing tip: if it can, the scene is bad and probably unnecessary). The story effects a set of transformations through sustained audience contact: it’s a smooth curve, flow, the path on which the fictional outcome is dependent. Alter the path, break the curve, obstruct the flow, and you lose the story. What remains are chains and gears, sprockets and lenses — pieces of the machine, meaningless outside of its working.

This isn’t a niggling narratological concern, it’s a serious cultural problem. What’s good about a story is the telling, the reading, the watching, encounter, immersion, sharing — the act of communication, the provisional formation of a network which includes reader, text, artists, imagined-artists (notions which complicate the reading experience), setting, moment… Surprise, as Joss Whedon puts it, is a ‘holy emotion,’ and even in the small doses afforded by the ‘literary novel,’ surprise is an essential element of the fictional contract. But it seems that more and more Americans are terrified of surprise. Parents, bosses, workers, people on dates, schoolteachers, students(!), and of course Discerning Media Audiences — we imbue surprise and uncertainty with anxiety (wishing not to be tested, to risk our precious selves, in a world where the Self is our only permanent or meaningful possession) and seek dumbly to control our microworlds instead of seeking out or cocreating new ones.

Serial novels (‘franchises’) sell like hotcakes, ‘literary’ fiction all but disappears. We read a dozen reviews before settling on a TV show. We ‘swipe right’ based on the literal covers of figurative books. Theaters (both cinemas and the other sort) run only remakes and sequels. We seek out films by particular studios. We welcome a new era of nakedly partisan pseudojournalism. A man who plays a businessman on television becomes president on the strength of his ‘business acumen.’ We are horrified by the news but can hardly pretend to be surprised…

In the grand scheme of things, ‘spoilers’ are a small thing. But as we reconceive what stories and storytelling are, what they’re for, we incur hidden costs. One honourable task for ‘critics’ in this fallen era would be to tally up those costs.

P.S. Scott Alexander writes authoritatively (vs anecdotally) about the value of ‘trigger warnings’, which I pass on as countermelody to my naïve carrying-on about ‘surprise’ as a pillar of fictional experience.

Where are the Dems?

Congressional Republicans imploded this week, which is cute, but where are the Dems? Why aren’t they pushing an alternative bill right now? Why didn’t they have such a bill ready to go, something limited in scope, with fixes to Obamacare which appeal to GOP reps and will actually do good for American citizens?

I understand the desire to play the Party of No — it worked wonders for unprincipled cowards like Mitch McConnell, and only cost everyone else in the country — but why not press their current tactical advantage to actually do some good? Find some conservative reps, pick a half-dozen cost-cutting measures, offer to share credit for the bill, and start working hard to restore Americans’ faith in Congress. Trump himself doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about the actual content of healthcare legislation — why not take a crack at getting a bipartisan modification to the ACA to his desk? Call it ‘repair and redesign’ or something to palliate the fundies, but try something, or this cycle of ideological turtling and self-segregation will continue to deepen.

I know ‘Medicare for all’ is too much to ask for, but surely someone in Washington is capable of thinking beyond the Sunday chat shows…

Cognitive dissonance on Trump’s ‘dealmaking’ persona.

Quoth Politico:

Donald Trump had heard enough about policy and process. It was Thursday afternoon and members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off.

“Forget about the little shit,” Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. “Let’s focus on the big picture here.”

The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the “little shit” meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.

“We’re talking about one-fifth of our economy,” a member told me afterward.

Filled with hope once again, Freedom Caucus members were once again promptly disappointed. This meeting was yet another “take one for the team” seminar. The atmosphere was friendly, and the president had the group laughing with irrelevant riffs and stories of negotiations past, but it became clear, as soon as he made the “little shit” comment, that no serious changes were going to be made, because the president didn’t have sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate what would or would not be realistic for Ryan to shepherd through the House.

Trump has never shown any particular abilities as a businessman — he’s a TV/tabloid performer whose job is to act the part of the dealmaking shark, and he’s paid handsomely to propagate that lie. Everyone knows that, right? Everyone I know is up on the salient bits of his life story: the repeated bankruptcies, the tax evasions, the Russian bailouts, the banks’ refusal to do business with him, ‘the only guy in history who went broke running a casino,’ etc. He’s a poseur who’d be broke in a ditch if it weren’t for Dad’s money, and later Putin’s.

Doesn’t everyone know all this? Why do gossip rags like Politico keep giving us Trump stories whose frame is ‘famed dealmaker finds Washington is more complicated than he thought,’ when he’s not famed for making deals, he’s famed for being rich?

But of course, my own cognitive dissonance isn’t as widely shared as I think/hope. A surprising chunk of the American population persists in its belief that the man knows what he’s doing: the folks who watched The Apprentice (I never have, alas) and believed it, who bought into the election-year narrative of Trump as outsider ‘swamp drainer,’ who seriously think of Trump as a master businessman, who voted for the man out of the belief that he’d bring some good ol’ capitalist efficiency to a dysfunctional federal government. I have to keep reminding myself that millions of people continue to think — against all evidence, all sense — that Trump’s doing a hell of a job.

They’re wrong, they’ve been suckered, and for years it’s been easy to see through the con and know how it would end. (And never ever forget that the Republican Party profited handsomely in the short term from the gulling of so many millions of media-addicted marks, at enormous long-term cost to all involved. This isn’t just about Trump; the Democrats are an unprincipled disaster but this particular cluster of lies only works in today’s Republican Party.) But you can’t tell anyone anything. We have to see and hear for ourselves; ask Thomas. With any luck, this first bout of cowardice and stupidity will enlighten a few hundred thousand voters, a couple million, and the inevitable selloff will begin sooner than anticipated.

I got the election outcome wrong (having denied the evidence of my own eyes), but I stand by this prediction: the GOP will turn on Trump the instant it’s politically expedient. Last year I figured that was 2019, but as the reptilian Mr Manafort offers to testify before Nunes and Schiff, I wonder if I wasn’t insufficiently optimistic (pessimistic?) to the tune of roughly two years…

The funniest part of the AHCA debacle, for me — the only funny part really — is that I agree 100% with Trump’s impatient dismissal of the House GOP caucus. The man’s never had a real job; he’s been his own boss all his life, in a flat organization which has allowed him to involve himself in whatever aspects of the business he wishes, to whatever degree he likes, solely according to his whims. He’s contemptible, alright? Yugely so. But he didn’t write a bill that would kick 20ish million people off the insurance rolls, and he didn’t insist on making the bill worse, deadlier, as a condition of his backing it. Trump doesn’t have principles or basic intelligence, but the House GOP is full of genuinely hateful guys. When Trump’s gone, our pseudoconservative ‘permanent opposition’ party will still be around. Trump is, in a sense, the easier problem to solve.

Four things to read.

Not ‘news,’ still timely:

B.R. Myers on North Korean propaganda, internal and external:

It’s an undiplomatic point to make, but the inconvenient truth is that most North Korea-watchers in the United States don’t speak Korean and don’t read Korean. They’re not able to read even the legend on a North Korean propaganda poster. So they, for decades, have had to depend on secondary sources of information, primarily in English. When they read North Korean materials, they have to read the so-called Juche Thought, because the regime has been careful to put this pseudo-ideology, this sham ideology, into English. So when foreigners want to read about North Korean ideology, they have to turn to these books on Juche thought, which really decoy them away from the true ideology.

Juche Thought is a jumble of humanist cliches like “Man is the master of all things.” This fake doctrine has absolutely no bearing on North Korean policymaking. While people are wasting their time trying to make sense of Juche Thought, the regime is propagating this race-based nationalism. Another problem we have in the United States, a little bit, is political correctness, inasmuch as we are uncomfortable attributing racist views to non-white people.

Scott Alexander (Slate Star Codex) on motte-and-bailey arguments:

Post-modernists sometimes say things like “reality is socially constructed”, and there’s an uncontroversially correct meaning there. We don’t experience the world directly, but through the categories and prejudices implicit to our society; for example, I might view a certain shade of bluish-green as blue, and someone raised in a different culture might view it as green. Okay.

Then post-modernists go on to say that if someone in a different culture thinks that the sun is light glinting off the horns of the Sky Ox, that’s just as real as our own culture’s theory that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas a great big nuclear furnace. If you challenge them, they’ll say that you’re denying reality is socially constructed, which means you’re clearly very naive and think you have perfect objectivity and the senses perceive reality directly.

The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along…

John Holbo’s (nearly 15-years-old!!) critique of David Frum’s conservatism:

The funny thing about this book is: it isn’t nearly as bad I just made it sound. I don’t think Frum is obsessed with beards or anything, actually. He sometimes seems like a pretty sharp guy. The middle chapters – full of history and policy detail, so forth – are quite cogent. Just the main chapters have problems. Frum has written a book about the need for a reflective, conservative philosophy. And: that’s the one thing he hasn’t got. He just has no clue why he is a conservative, or why being one might be a good idea – or even what ‘conservatism’ ought to mean. Whenever he starts trying to talk about that stuff, his mind just goes blank and he fantasizes about shaving beards and the Donner party.

Daniel Davies’s ‘One Minute MBA,’, which may possess more value-per-word than any other blogpost yet written:

Anyway, the secret to every analysis I’ve ever done of contemporary politics has been, more or less, my expensive business school education (I would write a book entitled “Everything I Know I Learned At A Very Expensive University”, but I doubt it would sell). About half of what they say about business schools and their graduates is probably true, and they do often feel like the most collossal [sic] waste of time and money, but they occasionally teach you the odd thing which is very useful indeed. Here’s a few of the ones I learned which I considered relevant to judging the advisability of the Second Iraq War.

The problem is stupidity.

There are evil people in the White House, sure, but they’re outnumbered by the deeply stupid ones — dilettantes and pseudointellectuals like Bannon (who seems to be both), empty suits like Priebus, and of course the president himself, who by all accounts is too dumb to sit through briefings or comprehend ideas beyond grade-school level.

‘Ohhh you elitist jerk! Intelligence and goodness are orthogonal!’

Too-easy response: would you want a stupid doctor examining your daughter, or a stupid contractor building your house? These people need to be smart in order to do complicated things well — ‘goodly,’ as they say (I hope).

Let’s go further, though.

Intelligent people can be betrayed by their feelings, their ‘cognitive biases,’ same as anyone else. Obviously! And equally obviously, ‘smart’ folks can’t claim moral superiority — you can start with little more than the Golden Rule and live a good life, and the road’s littered with corpses left behind by ‘intellectuals.’ But intelligent folks, folks who can read critically and argue, who can handle irony and work through complex lines of reasoning and think dialectically, are much less susceptible (on average) to bad ideas.

Racism, for instance, is stupid — but you can learn that racism is stupid, and more importantly make yourself robust against it. Not through tribal-identitarian rituals (which just teach a kneejerk response to unfashionable forms of bigotry while blinding you to fashionable ones) but by introspecting about your racist beliefs and thinking through their consequences.

Censorship’s stupid too: morality aside, it doesn’t work (censored ideas grow more potent), and since the power to censor changes hands regularly, it’s short sighted to boot — next time around it’ll the other side silencing you. Those who advocate for censorship do so because they can’t think beyond the satisfactions of the moment, and can’t reason their way out of distaste. Empathy at a distance is a learned skill, and by developing that skill you begin to make yourself robust against your terror at unwelcome thoughts and expressions.

Why do intellectuals fall for bad ideas? Because they’re scared to make use of their faculties — they crave status, fear exposure, succumb to parochialism, or are just lazy.

The stupidity of the Trump White House bothers me because, even if Trump’s people are exactly as (im/a)moral as Obama’s, high-level thought can’t survive in that environment. Their organization is dysfunctional because so many people in it are too stupid to work together, for the future, at short-term cost to themselves. The best opportunity for the Republican/conservative agenda in more than a decade has been pissed away because the White House can’t play smart.

Which is merely quite bad right now, but will be a disaster when an actual external crisis hits. That’s the risk: the White House, the federal government, is not robust against calamity. You look at it the wrong way and it wobbles and falls.

Ignorance is our natural state, but willful ignorance is a sin. The president trusts Fox News and the Breitbart mis/disinformation machine for his daily news, even though he’s got the entire intelligence community ready to do that work for him. Why?

Because actually doing his job is too hard. Because he’s too stupid and too scared to keep up with the work.

So was GW Bush, of course — but Bush had principles, a compass (however faulty), and a deeply held sense of noblesse oblige. He was a cretin but he knew what the job was, more or less, and seemed to know his limitations. And like Obama, Bush was a voracious reader — you don’t suppose that’s a coincidence, do you?

Stupidity makes you cruel because it keeps you afraid. It makes you violent because it blinds you to better solutions. Stupidity makes you weak, because it keeps you from seeking out the interesting challenges that make you strong. It makes you boring because it shuts out all but the most obvious desires.

Lionel Trilling spoke of a ‘moral obligation to be intelligent.’ I look at Trump and his gang of second-raters and for a second I know just what he means.

Hold up!

Note that Obama’s impatience with the chanting (they’re yelling ‘Hillary!’ and ‘U-S-A!’) is immediately apparent — it seems to me this isn’t an insincere reaction to the crowd, it’s a sincere reaction to the protester himself. And you can tell, you could tell even if it didn’t echo what he’d been saying all throughout his political career, that his ‘Don’t boo, vote‘ line isn’t just a line. We should consider ourselves lucky to’ve had a president, a law professor, who yells at his party’s supporters (or seethes at his Supreme Court) that democratic principle trumps tribalism and partisanship.

Heilemann & Halperin, GAME CHANGE.

A behind-the-screens account of the 2008 presidential campaign, focusing on Obama/Clinton and the general, giving short thrift to McCain’s primary campaign. The excuse for the latter oversight seems to be that McCain was the presumptive front-runner from the jump; the truth is probably that they weren’t granted access. Palin gets plenty of coverage, of course.

Self-serving campaign bigwigs gave the authors extraordinary access, after the fact, to everything from internal campaign memos to email archives to extended interviews with most of the campaign’s major figures. (You can tell from the quoted dialogue who collaborated with Heilemann and Halperin — it seems the entire Clinton campaign was especially leaky.)

I wanted to know about the internal machinations of the Clinton campaign, to get a sense of what the next few months before the 2016 general election will be like. Turns out they were a disorganized shitshow, riven by factionalism and long-simmering vendettas and uncontainable egos. The Clintons don’t seem to have any idea how to organize such a group of people; presumably as a defense mechanism, Bill and Hillary’s self-pity is (depicted as) boundless, as when Hillary says that that nation faces ‘a terrible choice’ in Obama/McCain.

Hillary comes off the way critics who’ve looked closely at her record have led us to expect: unusually smart for Washington, analytical, cold, brittle (a nerd who’s tasted power), paranoid, an ineffective manager, shorter on principle than her supporters like to think, and — maddeningly — forever devoted to the husband whose serial sexual predations Hillary has clearly (evidently) made a devil’s bargain over. Bill comes off as a talanted sociopath, duh, though Heilemann and Halperin’s gushing over his once-in-a-lifetime political intuition isn’t justified by their own reporting.

The 2008 Clinton campaign, meanwhile, appears to’ve been full of feckless morons and reptiles whose main qualification was/is undying loyalty to the Clintons. The Clinton White House (where HRC was by her own account ‘co-president’) had the same quality. The foibles of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC, which over the last few years has made itself a well-paid arm of the 2016 Clinton campaign, suggest that the same dynamic obtains there even today.

This should worry you, if you’re not a Trump supporter.

Obama comes off as an extraordinarily intelligent, naturally gifted candidate with rare policy chops, unusually high-minded principles, and a freakish ability to learn as he goes — his performance during the 2008 financial meltdown is his crowning achievement. The book also paints him as arrogant and slightly brittle, but those qualities don’t appear to be at all unusual. Perhaps because they (1) helped the authors and (2) ran the White House, Obama’s political/policy people come off extremely well in the book. (I’ve come to believe that several characters on Veep are based on figures in Game Change.)

Biden the goof, appears to be Biden, the goof. He’s one of the few human beings in the book.

McCain’s campaign was also a shitshow, of course. Like Clinton’s, it had no real message other than ‘stay the (neoliberal militaristic) course, pretending to change.’ McCain himself comes off as a reasonably principled but querulous old codger who fell apart as the campaign progressed. His choice of Palin was driven by desperation: McCain’s first choice was Joe Lieberman (Lindsey Graham, who otherwise comes off as a smart serious figure, blew up that pick by flapping his gums), but in a ‘normal year’ he’d’ve settled for Tim Pawlenty; Sarah Barracuda was chosen as a counter to the campaign’s Obama-embodies-change problem. Palin is the book’s most interesting figure: pig ignorant but extraordinarily eager to do good work, a serial liar obsessed with her favorability ratings in Alaska only, a very talented ‘red-light-on performer’ (i.e. able to instantly enter performance mode when the moment hit) who to my eye was suffering from a dangerous mix of postpartum depression and shell shock at the height of the campaign.

I’ve long thought Palin was a common grifter, and Game Change backs up my supposition, though it also suggests that that wasn’t always true — unless she’s a bigger sociopath than Bill Clinton, she was by all accounts an oddly serene (if cagey) true believer who tasted the good life and decided she wanted more, on her terms. I actually like her more after reading. And I like this too: McCain, seeing how hard her job in the campaign was and how desperately she tried (and failed) to do it, refused to say an unkind word about her, even to his own campaign staff (who were, by the way, repulsive). The McCain campaign’s failure to vet Palin — they took less than a week and ended up having to google her name while fielding questions from the press after she was announced as the pick — is one of the most intriguing and disquieting process stories in the book.

So that’s the gossip. (There’s a lot about John Edwards, who by all accounts is a delusional shitheel, and his wife, whom the authors depict as a minor Satan. None of that interests me.)

And gossip is just about all there is, unfortunately, because Game Change, while endlessly fascinating on its own insider-baseball terms, is completely devoid of any detail about anything except the internal machinations of three groups of largely unprincipled, high-functioning rich assholes. The financial crisis gets something like a one-paragraph thumbnail summary, only enough to set the stage for more candidate heroics/follies. Race relations exist only insofar as they pertain to ‘the race card.’ Iraq exists only as a political albatross. Bush is only the political background to the story (the only evaluation of his presidency: whether it was a political liability for McCain).

The characters are smart ruthless predators — or titans bestriding the world like colossi — or tragically flawed stage heroes. Campaigns are staffed by schemers and mad political geniuses and backstabbing Iagos. Journalists are servants of democratic ideals, or victims to be pitied. ‘The Web’ exists only as Obama’s ‘money spigot.’ (‘Special interests’ are not, as I recall, even mentioned.) The universe of the book extends no further than the campaign itself, and the book’s subjects are masters of that universe. The idea that any of them have any moral responsibility or outlook almost never intrudes on Game Change‘s cozy little bubble. Sports metaphors abound. There is not even a hint of irony anywhere to be found.

This is, in other words, the usual sort of Washington hagiography masquerading as incisive journalism. It is evidence of The Problem — Washington’s absolute disconnection from American life.

I recommend the book, which reads like a potboiler and throws some light on the most powerful people in America. But I recommend, also, that its Rolodex-stuffing authors be thrown into the sea with the rest of the steno pool. What they’ve given us, in terms of information about the workings of our democracy, isn’t worth the cost to our republic of letters, which is that every day it becomes impossible to think about political campaigns as anything but expensive TV dramedy miniseries. (Indeed, this book was turned into one. It won some Emmys, too.)

The game didn’t change. The book’s title is a lie. The book — for all the Hard-Hitting Truths it reveals about the people who decide the fate of billions — is perpetuating and selling a lie. You’ll get a real kick out of it.

Antonin Scalia on Clarence Thomas.

Scalia was asked about how his judicial philosophy differed from Thomas’s. ‘I’m an originalist,’ Scalia said, ‘but I’m not a nut.’ (via)


Does this look like wordcount padding to you?

In the clamor of a presidential race, which this year is even more distracting because of a clamorous and vulgar talking yam, a lot of important information gets drowned out that ought to be part of the presidential race in the first place.

That’s Charles Pierce, beloved of leftish readers who prefer articulate but shopworn outrage to analysis, drowning out some important information with a rush of cliché over at his blog ‘shebeen.’ Annoying as I find the ‘yam’ bit, it’s the misused ‘in the first place’ that puts me off. Surely a quick reread should’ve flagged that clunker?

Sensible people insist Pierce is a Great Writer in his mode, but his Esquire Politics blog has been trash all year, and paragraphs like the one quoted above are the reason why. Every single fucking post is riddled with ‘clever’ nicknames like ‘the vulgar talking yam’/’He, Trump’ or ‘Tailgunner Ted Cruz,’ tired rehashes of years-old jokes, and threadbare secondhand verbiage out of the Sclerotic Greyhair anthology. There’re ten thousand leftward bloggers like him, frankly, and dozens of them are reaching for new insights and new prose without any noticeable loss of perspective. I’ve linked admiringly to Pierce in the past, when his brand of overwrought doomsaying has suited the emotional tenor of some darker-than-usual cultural moment. But at this point he’s stamping about the ol’ shebeen like a more historically informed and somewhat less self-important Keith Olbermann — remember how K.O. got off a couple of memorable ‘viral’ speeches on his TV show before abruptly reaching the limit of his insight? — which is a damn shame considering Pierce’s actual talent and skill levels.

He was necessary reading once, back when he couldn’t be reduced so easily to a formula.

I say all this because Pierce talks constantly (and with extraordinary condescension) about the decline of rationality and sense in the USA — this from a man who in 2009 wrote a book called, wait for it, Idiot America — yet as near as I can tell, he long ago joined the parade of hurt/comfort pundits whose main job is to point at an extremely obvious outrageous affront to leftesque sensibilities (dumb people with guns! the politics of the image!) and recite a comforting litany of complaints (our nation is in decline and you and I are in no way to blame!), the balance of outrage and been-there-blogged-that worldweariness calibrated to go well with, say, a sugary milky caffeinated drink from your local fast-coffee chain. The ~left blogosphere has made this sort of pageview-trawling pseudoanalysis its primary sport for years and years now.

And while you might well think that the Real Problem is the rise of right-wing talk radio (which has been a major cultural force in this country for a quarter-century, you knob) or Citizens United or the lack of safe spaces or Lin-Manuel Miranda not getting enough awards or whatever issue you fill your Outrage Moments with…the fact that the tribe which identifies itself as Educated and Informed and More or Less Left But Also Totally Jazzed About the Fruits of Hypercapitalism — know anyone like that? — just can not be bothered to communicate with any of the other tribes, the fact that our Elites are doing their best to turn not only their neighbourhoods but their entire mediated existences into gated geographic/cognitive communities (the Safe Space as model of the Self), is exactly isomorphic with the ‘epistemic closure’ which was such a big deal amongst Righty crankfluencers a few years ago.

In other words: if you prefer your own tribe’s clichés to merely being in the world with members of any other tribe, you are part of the Idiot America that Pierce and his (mostly younger and dumber, therefore more forgivable though no more tolerable) cohort like to think they stand outside of. The system is rigged against you, just like it’s rigged against everyone who isn’t in charge of it, but you still bear a portion of the blame. Just like me and Charlie.

But you’re not getting paid to pass off your outraged gesticulation as critical insight. So your share of the blame is that much smaller.

That’s all.

A ten-minute Obama lecture on cynicism and polarization? Sure, why not.

I’m going to miss this man when he leaves office. His successor will be…ugly.