Sunday, February 5, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Picked up this image off Twitter. Looks like we've found our Weekend Roundup motto, for the next four years anyways. More links than usual because so much shit's been happening. Less commentary than in the old days because it's all so straightforwardly obvious.

I had meant to write about Matt Taibbi's book Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus, but should hold off and do that later. I will say that the big problems with the book are due to the concept: it mostly a compilation of previously published pieces, so tends to preserve the moment's misconceptions in amber rather than taking the time to rethink the story from its conclusion in a way that might make more sense of it all. On the other hand, it didn't make sense, and still doesn't make sense, and as the consequences of the election unfold becomes more and more surreal. In Taibbi's defense, he probably had a better grasp both of Trump's appeal and of Clinton's repulsion than any journalist I can think of. Also does a heroic job of not mincing words, and remains exceptionally conscious of how presidential campaigns warp the media space around them. Still, he can't quite believe how it turned out, and neither can I.

A short bit from a New York Times "By the Book" interview with Viet Tranh Nguyen (wrote a novel, The Sympathizer, which my wife read and loved):

I've been reading news and opinion pieces on Facebook and Twitter. They're utterly terrifying and depressing, since my social circle basically thinks that a Trump presidency spells the end of the world. To get out of the echo chamber, I read Donald Trump's Twitter feed. It's utterly terrifying and depressing, and I run back into the echo chamber.

I take comfort in the children's literature that I read to my 3-year-old son. He will tolerate the tales of Beatrix Potter, which I find soothing, but mostly he wants to hear about Batman, Superman, Ghostbusters and Star Wars. The moral clarity is comforting not just for a 3-year-old, but also for many adults. This is why they are relevant to our divided age, where most people identify with the rebels but so many in fact are complicit with the Empire.

The links below, of course, come from the left-liberal echo chamber (well, plus some anti-war paleo-conservatives). They're the ones paying attention (in some cases a welcome change after sleepwalking through the Obama years).

I picked this up off Twitter, but I also saw the video clip (OK, on Saturday Night Live, but it sure looked authentic. Comes from Bill O'Reilly interviewing Trump:

O'REILLY: But he's a killer though. Putin's a killer.

TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What do you think -- our country's so innocent?

There are a lot of things one can say about this. For one thing it's true, which isn't often the case with Trump. But it's hardly a revelation. It's just something that no politician would say -- least of all someone like Obama or the Clintons who have personally signed off on execution orders then gone on to gloat about their killings in public. So you can chalk Trump's admission up to his anti-PC ethic: his willingness to call out truths in blunt language. But more specifically, he's denying O'Reilly resort to a PC cliché. He's saying you can't dismiss working with Putin out of hand because he's a killer. We're all killers here -- Trump joined the club last week in ordering a Seal Team 6 assault in Yemen -- so that hardly disqualifies Putin. The disturbing part is that being a killer is probably something Trump admires in Putin. Back during the campaign, Trump not only vowed to kill ostensible enemies like ISIS, he talked on several occasions about shooting random people on Fifth Avenue, like the ability to do that and not be held accountable would be the pinnacle of freedom. Being elected president doesn't quite afford him that latitude, but it does offer plenty of opportunities to indulge his blood lust. Worse still, Trump's championing of killers helps establish murder as a political and social norm. Sure, assassination has been sanctioned as expedient politics by US presidents at least as far back as Kennedy, but Trump threatens to make it a uniquely new bragging point.

As this and similar stories play out, all sorts of nonsense is likely to ensue. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at Adam Gopnik: Trump's Radical Anti-Americanism. The truth is that America has a long history of split-personality disorder, at once touting lofty progressive intentions while having committed a long series of inexcusable atrocities. So will the real America stand up? At least with the exceptionalist cant you knew they'd try to put on a kind and honorable face. But with Trump and his more bloodthirsty followers, you're liable to get something else: a celebration of the underside of American history, a legacy that celebrates brutal and ruthless conquest.

Some scattered links this week:

Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political insanity:

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