Sunday, November 20, 2016

political spew II: spew harder

I’m going to do something self-indulgent and respond to a comment in a post, because I’m just not doing so well with the our new white nationalist overlords and I feel an urgent need to spew some more bullshit. The last time I spewed Election I felt marginally better afterward, and it’s important to seize such opportunities in this life. Get on my level.

oneofthejonesboys writes: 
You use the word "arrogant", and I've been thinking the exact same thing from the other side -- surely, SURELY, the lesson from the election is that everyone needs to take a huge dose of epistemic humility.
On the one hand, you've got the people who were wrong five days a week for the past year -- wrong that Trump finally had torpedoed himself now this time for sure, wrong that he'd never win the primary, wrong that he'd pivot to the "centre" (whatever that is) for the general, and then the biggest misprediction of all -- and those people have the chutzpah to turn around without missing a beat, or at most with a few paragraphs of handwringing, and explain to us what happened and what we need to do now. Like, Jon Chait wrote a post "Donald Trump Is Not Going to Win Michigan" and then six days later he's telling us "What should Democrats in Congress — and Barack Obama, and you — do now?". *Six* days later and we're supposed to take him seriously again already? How the hell do you go from being completely wrong about Donald Trump Will Never Ever Win the Election to deserving our trust about Here's Why Donald Trump Won the Election? You fucked the prediction up that badly and now you're going to postdict it? It'd be comical if the stakes weren't what they are. So those people are the worst. But you've also got folks on the other hand who maybe didn't spend the last year singing "la la la never going to happen", but still feel confident now to explain why it happened, and what to do next, and they should STFU too. They don't know why it happened either...I've been seeing this from the distance of Australia and reading either vaguely or less-vaguely left-ish takes on it in our media, and the CW has quickly coalesced into "oh, this was about economic uncertainty, losers of globalisation etc." But how do they know that? All they've got now is one more piece of evidence on top of what they already had; the reasons for the result are an empirical question and should be basically black-boxed until people have done a lot more work to investigate them. Yeah, those explanations sound intuitively plausible (as does your One True Take), but (again) SURELY the lesson of the election is that intuitive plausibility ain't worth shit when it comes to Trump? 
(Anyway, really pleased to see you blogging again, Kim)
I try to avoid reading Chait because he’s consistently the worst. I think it was around the time he wrote that horrible take on political correctness that I decided life’s just too short. I generally feel dumber and angrier after I read him. The response he tends to generate with his more high-profile pieces, too, is annoying to me. I don’t find outrage so useful when it’s basically just explaining how the world works to an infant. Sometimes it’s necessary--maybe it’s always necessary--but increasingly I find I’m losing patience for it.

But anyway, yeah, I find that guy to be intensely arrogant, so I can sort of imagine how that’s playing out these days. Chait is a prime example of someone who, when I survey the landscape on the left, makes me feel total despair. He’s part of that horrible phenomenon where the Left is creeping right while the Right is sprinting radical right. At the same time--and this is more unsettling to me--even the takes from the people whose politics resemble mine more closely have been getting on my last nerve. Like…I get that the “Bernie bros” thing was a myth, but the key to understanding myths is that they’re rooted in something true. (The true thing, in that case, being the alpha male culture you often see around the far left.) White supremacy by its very nature engenders team spirit and a sense of belonging. That just comes with the territory, on the right. Whereas I’m looking around at the people I’m in the room with just like…how is this ever gonna work? Half of them are idiots who think it’s not respectable to boo at Mike Pence or whatever, but then the ones who are smarter can be aggressive and too self-satisfied, which is repellent to me in a totally different way.

Just in the small pond that is comics, some time back, someone…I feel like it was Julia Gfrorer?...talked about how her feminist politics are so intensely personal that she’s given up on finding someone who shares her exact views. That really resonated with me. Certainly anyone who I find to be worth reading in comics, there are moments where I strongly disagree with them. There’s maybe something to a progressive point of view that invites fragmentation that's the inverse of how conservatism finds more unity. Am I making any sense? It’s the middle of the night and I feel like I might sound high. But, you know, I’m just thinking about how poor people in Louisiana love Donald Trump in his golden tower, and how no one truly likes Hillary Clinton, and it just seems to me that neither of those facts come down entirely to him or her, as individuals.

Anyway. With people who comment on politics for a living, I can see they’re in a bind. There’s a lot of conditions on the ground conspiring against the possibility of a nuanced humble take. I think part of it is the expectation that you have to have to come on STRONG, to seem sure, like that's some indicator of your prowess. (Often it's the opposite.) Also a lot of time those guys are working fast. Also, you know, the political ecosystem doesn’t exactly inculcate humility. On top of all that the world is just changing so rapidly. Sure, there’s the shift from truthiness to post truth, which is alarming and surreal. But it’s compounded by the fact that information literacy is very low, and that’s not just a Republican problem, by any means. I follow actual journalists who routinely RT Kurt Eichenwald, and that guy is plainly delusional (plus stupid).

Sorry, this is what you get for leaving a nice comment on my political vomit post. Too many idiots, too many dickheads. Everything’s wrong. I’m perhaps two steps removed from wearing a sandwich board. I read a statistic the other day that 41 percent of Americans--not American Christians, but Americans--think the Second Coming is happening sometime in the next 35 years, and I think that, even more than Trump winning, has made me realize I maybe don’t understand the world so well as I thought? And what's sad about that is I never really thought I understood the world that well.

Still…weirdly, maybe, I found this uplifting. It’s the truest take I’ve seen anyway, and the first thing I’ve encountered that made me feel a little better about the future. I can stomach his certainty, especially given that he predicted Trump a full five years ago.

Motivational Irony Twitter is sort of confusing, but I'll take it.

1 comment:

  1. I very much doubt that the (broad) left is intrinsically more fragmented than the (broad) right. The Onion just had a story "Longtime Reader Of Sick Of Mainstream Bias On Sites Like", which is spot-on. From the outside, either right or left can look monolithic, and any intramural disagreements just nitpicking about trivial detail. Like, a devout member of the Westboro Baptist Church wouldn't see any real difference between you and Chait; you're just a pair of queer-loving decadents. And, contrariwise, the difference between the Westboro Baptists and the alt-right matters a whole lot to them, but to us they just all look like a pack of assholes