Tuck You, Mother Tucker!

For a long time I’d heard of Tucker Carlson but had little idea who he was beyond a Fox commentator with a face for radio. Then I began seeing references to him in terms of the emerging national populist movement but still wasn’t that interested. Then I started hearing about a great monologue he did at the beginning of the year.

I’ve I’ve finally had a chance to listen to it.

The good is that it’s the single clearest statement of the discontents caused by neoliberalism. Some might say it longer, or better, or more academically or with more emotional force but it’s the single best introduction to the topic for general audiences that I’ve heard (I didn’t watch it I listened while doing other stuff which is my usual MO when the visuals aren’t critical).

The bad is that it won’t convince anyone who doesn’t already think that neoliberalism is a social (and moral) dead end that needs to be replaced (there’s no fixing it anymore than there was any way to fix Polish socialism in 1989). Neoliberal progressives will dredge up some sexist incident form 50 years ago or some racist public policy from 60 years ago  (and ignore the fact that Obama facilitated the largest transfer of wealth from working people to financial elites in the nation’s history). Neoliberal conservatives will cackle to themselves that they’ve got their jack and if you don’t then too bad for you (and dream of the glory days of Rush Limbaugh) and dream of war with Iran.

Tucker just isn’t charismatic enough to be the carrier of the message for a large audience (so…. no, no Tucker 2024 or 2020). It’s good as an info point for the intellectually curious or as a data point for those whose minds might be eventually changed.

A charismatic politician who knows how Washington works and who can think on his feet and isn’t encumbered by a massive ego could easily take this message to the White House. And I hope one does.





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Weird Old Guys

Was walking around with a friend who brightened up seeing a bar that was offering grzane wino (mulled wine).

“I was there with friends from work, they had Chartreuse, let’s go in and see!” he said.

I followed suspecting nothing. Then he started talking to the barmaid who looked to be in her 20s.

“I was here a couple of years ago” he began looking around. “There was a different name then and things were arranged differently, but maybe you still have Chartreuse?”

“Huht” she asked skeptically.

“It’s a French herbal liqueur…”

“No, we don’t have that” she said in that tone people reserve for the demented but probably harmless.

Outside I asked what he’d been thinking…

“I thought you meant you’d been there a couple of weeks ago, not a few years ago.”

“I thought they still might have it…” he said.

“Now we look like weird old guys who go around bothering young people with irrelevant stories while they try to look understanding while hoping we’ll just leave them alone.”

I work around people in their early 20s all the time and absolutely didn’t need to start the New Year with an outside reminder that I’m getting old…

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Learning by Listening to Haters

For a while now, I’ve been puzzled by my lingering affection for Family Guy. The first time I saw it, it seemed like a blatant Simpsons rip off and I ignored it untill about seven or eight years ago and then rapidly caught up with the whole series.

Interestingly I haven’t been able to stand the Simpsons for over a decade and long for the franchise’s death. The first 10 or so seasons were very good and often great and then… the long slide began into blahdom and I can’t even imagine watching it now and I don’t even want to watch the old good episodes anymore. But while the basic machinery of Family Guy is also worn and creaking and moaning and held together with scotch tape and spit I can still watch and enjoy it.

Don’t worry about him, he gets killed all the time.

It was while watching a youtube channel (a critic of animation who will remain uncited here) that it finally began to click. This critic hates the show with a passion and while watching some reviews of episodes he especially hates I got it. The critic is a normy and probably a millenial and is worried about things like characterization and continuity and plotting and so of course he hates Family Guy and so of course I don’t mind everything he hates because I’ve never watched the show in terms of plot or characterization (beyond the barest stereotypes) because that’s what it’s about.

More trickster hijinx.

For me, I know realize, Family Guy takes place in something like a suburban American Dream Time where nothing is permanent, real or unreal. Peter and Stewie are both Tricksters ruled by their momentary desires and engaging in wanton destruction (Peter and his fixation of the day or week or moment) and creation (Stewie and his inventions). The other characters play off these dual tricksters as antagonists (Lois) or sidekicks (Brian).

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania peter griffin as pretty woman

Pretty Peter….

Seen this way the lack of continuity or plotting or consistence is not a fault but simply part of the medium just as the gross out or shock humor in the cutaways is part and parcel of the Trickster’s modus operandi (as is the frequent gender bending the two characters engage in).

I’m sure that no one intended Family Guy to become this type of show but it’s interesting that it has more or less on its own evolved into a mythic time setting with characters that never develop or change or learn. What’s interesting is how this can still work at the pure level of entertainment. Family Guy’s hardly great art (or even very good a lot of the time) but I’m glad I now understand a little better why I can still enjoy it.

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What Will the New Year Bring?

Ever since Hillary Clinton (who I actually supported at one time) lost to Donald Trump, political writing in the US has been getting more and more hysterical. The current focal point (after the long term nothingness of Russian collusion has bored everyone but zealots to death) is the ongoing series of caravans (I read a new one is just about to get started). There’s also the fact that the left is officially turning into a bunch of warmongering neocons. There’s more, but it’s all so wearisome…

Over here in Europe I increasingly have the impression that more and more countries are undergoing their own collective nervous breakdowns… Spain has been freaking me out with nihilistic films and tv shows that use the metaphor (Spain is a Death Trap!) and the UK keeps getting more and more unhinged about Brexit which should be a non-issue (give them a Norway or Switzerland like status and be done with it), and France has an ongoing citizen revolt (that hasn’t gone away even if the media is doing its best to not cover it). Germany seems relatively stable but is about to try to outsource its army and I don’t trust Merkel to gracefully leave office for a second.

I’m thinking that this isn’t healthy and more and more I’ve been having the idea that we’re building up to something…. I don’t know if it’s gonna blow in the next year or keep on simmering and maybe die down. The year 2019 could be a very wild ride… I’m hoping it settles down and people get a grip but I’m not super optimistic about that…

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A Tale of Two Victims…

After a number of misguided (Obama winning the Peace Prize?) or clearly publicity seeking (Dylan winning Literature?) Nobel awards, the Nobel Peace Prize this year was unusually well-deserved. The prize was awarded jointly to Nadia Murad and Dennis Mukwege, both of whom work in different ways, against sexual violence in the context of war.

What was very unusual was an almost total lack of coverage of Murad’s story by US (and more generally western?) feminists. I checked a few supposedly prominent sites and most made a perfunctory mention of it once or twice but there was nothing in depth. Nothing remotely comparing to the slavish and whimpering coverage given #metoo “it girl” Christine Blasey Ford who was maybe groped at a drunken party as a teen.

And that’s one reason for the disparity in coverage.

Murad’s family was killed, she was literally enslaved and sold as property and raped multiple times and forced to renounce her religion (since reclaimed) and wasn’t broken. Blasey… was groped at a drunken party as a teen and to hear he tell it the experience all but ruined her life. It ruined it so much that she could not speak of it without sounding like a frightened infant…

Another reason is, of course, cultural. Murad was brutalized by Muslim religious fanatics following their religious text to the letter (and was helped in her escape by Muslims who were not following their religious text to the letter). Like many western progressives, modern feminists are not prone to view non-westerners as moral agents and can only see Muslims in the west as victims of colonialism or other such nonsense and are all too happy to embraces powerful symbols of sexual coercion such as the hijab and niqab as liberating…. somehow.

The secondary fact that the mass sexual trauma endured by young Yazidi women led to a major change in Yazidi culture with survivors welcomed back as ‘holy women’ rather than expelled from the group as would have happened in the past. No modern Muslim culture displays anything like this type of dynamism, locked as it is, into dead end literal interpretations of the Koran and hadith.

In other words, Murad’s award makes highlights and makes obvious many things that modern feminists and progressives wish to not know; The real rape culture is not in the west but in places like the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa; People in those countries are not helpless victims of colonialism but moral agents who at times choose unspeakable evil; Modern Islam is drenched in sexual coercion and violence; Western women have been led to be weak and wilting and dependent on others rather than strong and independent by third wave feminism and it’s micro-analysis of petty slights and discontents. I don’t blame them for trying to ignore her, the cognitive dissonance, should they allow themselves to perceive it would be far too great.

It’s so much easier to hashtag #metoo and keep the bad thoughts at bay.

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In Which Our Hero Explores the Depths of European Discontent…

I decided to ask a French colleauge about the unrest in their homeland. Being a very subtle and considerate sort I began with: “So are y’all about to have another revolution?” Fortunately this colleague knows me pretty well. They began “Well it’s not that bad….” in the tone they reserve for trying to knock dumb ideas out of my head.

I quickly explained that while the foreign media is probably intentionally not clarifying what the anger is about I’d been trying to read up and now understand the latest fuel tax was just the final straw and that as far as I can tell I’m probably on the side of the yellow jackets.

The new enemy of the elite

This began a long tirade of how terrible Macron is and how much everybody hates him now (colleague included) with lots of specifics I hadn’t known including points about pensions and retirement ages (which the media are carefully not talking about).

“It’s like they’re trying to get right wing people into power!” they concluded winding down.

I then volunteered my theory as to why Macron wants an EU army – to put down domestic unrest if and when the French army doesn’t want to shoot French citizens.

“Oh no… they would have to get approval from.(mumbled name of some European institution) I don’t think they would do that….” in an increasingly uncertain voice.

I decided to test the water further and volunteered my prediction about widespread citizen revolt in western Europe unless there were policy changes (which have not yet occurred).

“It’s already started!”

I’ve had similar interactions over the last seven or eight years with people from different western European countries. There is tremendous anger among everyday European citizens who are not remotely right wing nor populist but who are progressive and cosmopolitan (within some limits). It’s just below the surface and they have to feel they’re safe in expressing it for it to come out, but once they start….

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Suicide by Noble Sauvage

Often my mind doesn’t work fast enough to say interesting things in real time. I need to think about things a short time and then let them shift down into my sub-conscious where they stew and then I finally can put things together that might seem very obvious in hindsight.

The story of the disturbed young man who died in an attempt to bring Christianity where it wasn’t wanted is a case in point. I read a story or two and googled a few minutes and it seemed like a waste of a young life and I put it away behind issues of first contact and the great physical danger he must have known he posed to the natives.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania primitive warfare

The Welcome Wagon….

Then I realized what might have been going on. He had a death wish but his religion made conventional suicide a mortal sin (or whatever his evangelical equivalent of that was). Described as an ‘adventurer’ or ‘explorer’ there was a pattern of what seemed like reckless and foolhardiness that seemed counter to valuing one’s own life.

So the reason he wasn’t worried about contaminating the natives was that he was counting on not being a danger to them. They probably didn’t want to kill him if they didn’t have to which is why they first aimed at his bible but he wouldn’t stay away and so they did what he had to know they would do.

I’m not sure if this was all consciously worked or if it was subconscious but if I’m right it was a win-win situation for him. He ended the life that had been vexing him in the service of his religion and escaping the no suicide clause of the salvation contract. Yeah, I could be wrong but I don’t think I am. Just don’t ask me to bet my life on it….

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