Culturally Discombobulated

Tag: America

79 long, dark nights for America: Network Decay

Seventy-nine long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Crooked Hillary is flooding the airwaves with false and misleading ads – all paid for by her bosses on Wall Street. Media is protecting her!”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “There is so much more that unites us than divides us. That’s why we’re the greatest country on Earth.'”

Daily election article of interest: Donald Trump Is Going To Be Elected

Nothing particularly new in the Michael Rosenblum piece I am linking to today (see above), but I do like the idea that Trump’s run is somehow connected to the idea of network decay, that he is the end product of a similar drift at the heart of our political institutions. It’s become a cliche now to observe that Trump is our first reality TV candidate, but it is a cliche not without truth to it, like all successful reality stars, Trump is cognizant that isn’t about being polished or being seen as reasonable and balanced, it’s all about cynical drama and fake candor.

The polls may show that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, but don’t you believe those polls. When the AC Nielsen Company selects a new Nielsen family, they disregard the new family’s results for the first three months. The reason: when they feel they are being monitored, people lie about what they are watching. In the first three months, knowing they are being watched, they will tune into PBS. But over time they get tired of pretending. Then it is back to The Kardashians.


The same goes for people who are being asked by pollsters for whom they are voting. They will not say Donald Trump. It is too embarrassing. But the truth is, they like Trump. He is just like their favorite shows on TV.


Mindless entertainment.


Trump’s replacement of Paul Manafort with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon shows that Trump understands how Americans actually think. They think TV. They think ratings.

They think entertainment.


We are a TV based culture. We have been for some time now. The average American spends 5 hours a day, every day, watching TV. After sleep, it is our number one activity.

84 long, dark nights for America: Richard Ford on Trump

Eighty-four long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: [The Donald linked to his pledge to the American people] “This is my pledge to the American people: as your President I will be your greatest champion. I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally.We will reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people.”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Trump’s idea for a new immigration test: ‘Those who…support bigotry and hatred will not be admitted.’


Daily election article of interest:  Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, David Hare and more … leading writers on Donald Trump

Despite the Guardian’s very dubious inclusion of Mark Lawson as a “leading writer” there’s some interesting thoughts and book recommendations in the article linked above, Richard Ford being the real highlight.

My old mentor and friend Shelby Foote used to say that a person couldn’t understand the United States without understanding the American civil war. As a Mississippi kid who was glad the south had lost the war (100 years before!) and who felt that slavery was a blight on American history we would do well to try to “live beyond”, I thought Shelby’s insistence was a lot of hooey intended to prove the south’s undeserved centrality to all things American. In my naive view, the south and “southern values” were a garish anomaly, not typical of what America stood for – those values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

I maintained this view until I unexpectedly experienced the American right wing’s irrationally hostile opposition to the Obama presidency. From questioning – completely without justification – Obama’s birth and religion, to opposing virtually all Obama’s policy initiatives, to slandering the president personally, to denying his actual right to hold office, the right wing formally and informally waged a campaign not only to discredit our legally elected head of state but, in essence, to erase him.

Okay, I said I was naive; but this shocked me. And it puzzled me. What was it about Barack Obama that incensed the right to such bizarre extremes? Here is a superbly intelligent man, dignified and persuasively presidential, a good communicator, an exemplary “family man”, remarkably scandal free; he knows the US constitution, he was and is strongly supported by the other party. He in every demonstrable way has had the country’s best interests clearly in his sight. One could disagree with him policy to policy. But the right’s reaction was outsized and… well… mindless. And all these views – to get around to the point – are the views put forward by Trump, both today and for the past nearly eight years.

It couldn’t just be his race – could it? – that set the right so against the president? Though, in America, one cannot – must not – ever discount the lowest sort of political urgings, and must never overlook race prejudice as a motive for most anything. If it quacks like a duck, etc.

All of what I heard in the rightwing contumely, then and now – including Trump’s stump speeches in the past week – certainly reminded me troublingly of the anti-integrationist, anti-black, so-called states rights – now hygienically rebranded as “nativist” or “populist” – calumny from my apartheid youth in Mississippi: the unrelenting attempt not just to disempower African Americans as political actors, but to extirpate them. How might I inform myself better about this growing sense of unease regarding the president’s race being a primary consideration – acknowledged or unacknowledged – in the right wing’s intransigence?

Well, first, I thought, read about the civil war, the vast crucible of American race politics, the “proving ground” where vitriolic, mindless anti-black rhetoric found its full voice and first prominent advocates. And what was the best history of the American civil war? Everyone knew that – probably even Shelby Foote, who wrote two volumes of his own. James McPherson’s Pulitzer prize-winning civil war history, Battle Cry of Freedom.

Read it. It will open your eyes about race history in America. It will shock you for what it tells you about politics in America today. And it will open your eyes wide about Donald J Trump and what we all have to fear from him.


89 long, dark nights for America: The meat sweats of American political campaigning

Eighty-nine long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Will be doing tonight at 8pm. Enjoy!”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “If was as fearful as Trump, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles would be cowering in the locker room. America isn’t afraid to compete.”

Daily election article of interest:  Who Cares Who Sits Behind Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

One aspect of the campaign that really has me worried for Hillary is the eating component. A peculiarity of the USA is that any candidate who harbors serious design on the Oval Office is required to demonstrate their love for the country by pandering to each region they’re visiting by eating that locale’s most sickening, acid-reflux inducing food. Forget the clichés about kissing babies, the US election season is actually a nonstop barrage of gluttony; Americans expect their candidates to ecstatically bite into cheesesteaks, corn dogs, po boys, sticky ribs, and greedily slurp up their chilli bowls. Ed Milliband, by only having to manage a bacon sandwich, got off lightly.

It is not going to feel authentic when Hillary chomps down on a serving of barbecued pork and beans at some random county fair. We are not for a moment going to believe she’s enjoying it. She is the cosmopolitan candidate in a period of anti-cosmopolitan sentiment. When Hillary swallows crappy carnival food, you just know she’s aware how awful it is and that she would rather be dining at Nobu. This is a woman who has probably never suffered an onset of the meat sweats in her life.

Trump, however, well there is a man who we know likes his beefy ingestations – ideally a well done steak from sharper image. This is a candidate who you can believe is enjoying his corn dog. Despite on paper seeming the most cosmopolitan of Presidential candidates he can convincingly and somewhat authentically cast himself as the opposite, a man without airs, and, as it turns out, there is also nothing hoity-toity about his palate. Perhaps because it is still the 1980s in his head, the decade that he came to popular culture relevance, but Trump still has that era’s love for fast food. Ashley Parker in The New York Times wrote this week about Trump’s peculiar eating habits.

Mr. Trump’s dining habits also bespeak a certain lack of creativity, and parochialism — the kid from Queens who made it across the river to Manhattan’s glistening skyline, but never cottoned to the city’s haute cuisine. He once praised the “imagination” of his wife, Melania, in the kitchen — before citing, as examples of her culinary derring-do, spaghetti and meat sauce, salads and meatloaf. (He still keeps a copy of his mother’s meatloaf recipe.) Along with McDonald’s, his favorite fast food joint, a family member said, is Jackson Hole Burgers.

One thought is that we do away with the Presidential election debates and replace them with a very special edition of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.



91 long, dark nights for America: Trump as wit

Ninety-one long, dark nights to go.

Trump’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “I am running against the Washington insiders, just like I did in the Republican Primaries. These are the people that have made U.S. a mess!”

Clinton’s Daily Twitter Highlight: “Here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.”

Daily election article of interest:  The Polls Aren’t Skewed: Trump Really Is Losing Badly

And as the head hits the pillow, let tonight’s night fever dream center around the comforting truth that a major party’s Presidential candidate is advocating armed insurrection and political assassination should he lose. This is not a candidate whose natural constituency is the Fox News viewer, this is a man who is, at present, impressing conspiracy theorists.

“… and if she gets to pick—if she gets to pick her judges*, nothing you can do, folks, although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The spin is that Trump is joking. Perhaps that is true. Who can truly know what is happening underneath that fussily thatched dome of his? So let’s do what Trump would never do for us and give him the benefit of the doubt on this. I’m not convinced, but, hey, let’s indulge on that point. If Trump is merely joking then we discover him (once again) for the asshole that he is. We see that his natural propinquity is with the idiot hauled off for questioning after making a lamebrained bomb joke in the airport security line, that he “gets” the guy who anonymously tweets threats at public figures, that his inner child is the douchey neighborhood kid who has spent his pre-teen years perfecting the flaming bag of dog turds prank.

But the problem with jokes – and particularly the problem with unfunny, angry jokes delivered not by comedians or satirists but by a politician standing at a lectern at their own campaign rally is that not everyone gets in those surrounding that you’re not actually making a political statement. The joke isn’t funny anymore.








*Re: Judges. Does anyone know what Merrrick Garland has actually been up to since Obama put his name forward for the Supreme Court? I like to think that he’s in some sort of purgatorial waiting room – a sort of horrid hybrid of a Delta Airline lounge and a DMV office – where he’s just thumbing through old copies of National Geographic wondering if anyone will come to fetch him. Occasionally he hums the melody of American Pie to himself.

We all just need to get through this: West Virginia and Nebraska, 10 May 2016

Despite the overexcited energy and hyperbole they are programmed to engender, there was a subdued tone to cable news tonight. Gone was the febrile, unhinged coverage that has marked this strange electoral season. Perhaps, and this is probably just my wishful thinking, they feel a degree of guilt over their – the media’s – role in the triumph of Trumpism, or perhaps they’re just pacing themselves, taking a quick pause, before conventions, or perhaps they simply couldn’t bring themselves to get at all excited about what Nebraska and West Virginia might be thinking on matters that are already settled.

This new world where Trumpism exists as an actual legitimate political force is proving personally fascinating for how it is shattering a lot of my long held opinions. For one, I’m finding myself impressed with politicians in the GOP I previously never had time for; those who are deciding to not just conveniently line up behind the party’s nominee, but are proving resistant to him. Today, I actually found myself thinking fondly of Paul Ryan. We are most certainly in a new paradigm.

Cable news was grateful for the Sanders win in West Virginia as it allowed them to try and incite another exciting narrative. Clinton won a symbolic primary in Nebraska, but receives no delegates because Sanders had won an earlier caucus in March featuring a far smaller number of people. So Sanders wins a state though Clinton won a vote featuring three times as many votes in the state as in the former contest. I have no idea as to why the Nebraska Democrats would have a caucus and then two months later a symbolic primary. It is, however, worth remembering next time a Sanders supporter tells you about how the political system is conspiring against their candidate.

Sanders spoke impassionedly to a crowd of cheering students in Oregon after the result of his win in West Virginia was announced. I always find watching a Bernie rally somewhat bizarre; it’s as if you’ve discovered your old, hectoring eleventh grade science teacher has managed to create a messianic cult around himself.