Category Archives: Politics

Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?

While I liked the book Brand Name Bullies, one thing that didn’t go over so well was David Bollier apparently buying into the stock anti-copyright/pro-piracy arguments (some of this is my interpretation so if I’m getting him wrong I apologize). As lots of people will create for free, do we really need copyright to have a thriving culture? If the industry would just make the price more reasonable, or release the album/book/DVD immediately, people would be happy to buy it.

I blogged about some of these arguments a couple of years back, but I’d like to take this post to argue again against the “they’re just too expensive” stance. This is the view that the price of books, or at least ebooks is too high so hey, you shouldn’t have to pay that much, so hey, you’re entitled to steal.

First off, let’s point out the obvious: some people just want their books free. Ditto music.

Second, how exactly are the people who make this argument calculating the “right” price? Are they assuming it’s the labor of putting the book in digital form — laying it out, editing it, creating a digital file? Do they consider the cost of paying for the cover, or publicity? Do they include the value of the actual story itself, because that’s why the book has, you know, words instead of just being a bunch of blank pages. And why, other than I Want It do they assume their assessment of the price is better than the author/publisher? As John Scalzi points out, even physical books of similar size and format don’t cost the same for lots of valid reasons.

To take an obvious example, the price of my self-published books is based on a)a price I think the market will accept; b)a price that gives me an adequate return on my effort. That takes into account that the online bookstores that sell the ebook (or Createspace for physical copies) take a cut; I have to set a price large enough to cover them. Believe me it’s not a substantial return, but what if it was? I’m the one who produced it, I have the right to set a price. If it’s more than the market will bear, people won’t buy it. Except the “you should have made it cheaper” people don’t accept that. They figure they should be able to get the book if they want it and not pay me anything (I’m willing to bet if I had a PayPal or Patreon they wouldn’t be contributing the “fair” price to compensate).

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

One argument I see occasionally is that because digital copies are so cheap and easy to replicate, pirating one of them doesn’t hurt the way stealing something physical does. I don’t think that holds up: stealing one copy of Dan Brown’s latest from Barnes & Noble or swiping some breadsticks from Olive Garden certainly won’t cause a massive shortage. Sure, if everyone did that, it would be a problem, but that’s true of ebooks. If 100 people pirate Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, that’s around $100 out of my pocket. That won’t leave me in the poorhouse, but it’s not nothing (and for people who aren’t two-income families, $100 could be very significant indeed).

I realize even if my readers include pro-piracy types, I’m unlikely to change anything. But still, it’s worth saying.

#SFWApro. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, from Charles Elms’ The Pirates’ Own Book.

 

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Liberals won’t date Republicans? OMG!

At least that’s the word from Washingtonian magazine: DC conservatives are very, very hurt that liberals won’t date them (despite all the Republicans in Congress and their staffers, apparently there are not enough conservatives to date in their own pool). Just because someone supports a white-supremacist president, does that mean they’re beyond the pale?

Right-winger Lisa de Pasquale thinks this is a bad idea: sure, you want someone who shares your values, but why insist on them sharing your politics? Funny, I always hear conservatives describe how their votes are driven by their values, does de Pasquale mean they were lying about that? She goes on to argues that the worst names conservative fling out are “snowflake,” whiny” and “cuck,” which ignores that “cuck” is supposed to be a vicious insult in the alt.right world (and that some conservatives throw out considerably worse—I’ve been called “traitor” a couple of times). “By contrast, those on the right are called ‘Nazis,’ ‘racists,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘sexists’ and, if NRA members, ‘part of a terrorist organization’ by left-leaning people, simply for having conservative leanings.

“Conservative leanings” may be doing a lot of work here. Did someone get called a sexist because they support lower tax rates on corporations. or because they believe women shouldn’t work outside the home or that rape victims had it coming? Both of these could be considered “conservative leanings” but some people with conservative leanings are bigots and sexists. On the far right, for example, we have enthusiasm for controlling women through rape gangs and white sharia. Georgia wants to let adoption agencies turn away gay parents. Or county clerk Kim Davis, who claims she’s a hero for refusing to marry gay couples (or let anyone in her office marry them) but believe she’s the persecuted one (this past post might be relevant). Pundit Rod Dreher thinks French anti-semite and racist Marion Le Pen is pretty awesome, though Of Course he disapproves of her more extreme views.

de Pasquale is just a variation on the time-honored theme that liberals are mean to conservatives and full of hate, unlike, say, Trump. And that campus PC (which squashes conservative voices) is out of control, whereas a right-wing news corporation expanding its propaganda reach is no big. Next thing you know, they’ll say conservative comedy isn’t funny!

Moving on from that little issue-of-the-day—

Pastor Robert Jeffries used to insist it was wrong to compromise moral standards to get the right person elected. In the age of Trump, he’s changed his mind. I’m sure he and the other court evangelicals will be thrilled when Republicans change the law to let them be openly partisan while keeping their tax exemptions. Likewise right-winger Dennis Prager believes Trump destroying liberals is so godly, Trump must be doing holy work. So does Eric Metaxas, who says Trump critics are like the Good Samaritan’s carping brother (there is no brother in that parable).

The Trump White House took the broken system for veterans’ health care and made it worse. They’re gutting consumer protections against financial scams too.

The 1 percent hate pensions because pension programs reduce their power.

The Trump era is like a reality show is a cliche, and not even a clever one.

Even the Trump White House acknowledges Obama-era regulations are cost-effective (but they ain’t changing their anti-regulation policy).

I will give points to Benny Hinn for admitting he was wrong about the prosperity gospel. And to the usual odious Mona Charen for pointing out Republican hypocrisy in talking morality while supporting Roy Moore, child molester (she was resoundingly booed at CPAC for this).

Perhaps this cover by Earl Mayan expresses my feelings best.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

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First women, then guns: a link post

Various suggestions for going beyond the Bechdel test (is there a woman of color as a major protagonist? Are the walk-on roles at least half women? Is there at least one female character with her own story arc?).

Andrew Sullivan insists his personal life experience shows patriarchy is a myth. Echidne disagrees.

Feministing argues that the enthusiastic consent standard shouldn’t be controversial.

Last month’s women’s march unsurprisingly triggers a right-wing pundit backlash.

For 2,000 years, it was taken as a given that queen bees must be kings.

#Metoo is not about women playing the victim. And it’s not about false accusations. Or about somehow making money off accusations. Jonathan Chait adds that #metoo seems impressively reasonable rather than a witch hunt.

Sometimes the Bible commands abortion.

A teenager says cops raped her in custody. The cops say she consented, and in their state that would make it legal.

And in Kentucky it’s legal for adults to marry pregnant thirteen-year-olds, but conservatives sank a bill to raise the minimum age. Apparently part of the issue was that parents should decide whether the girl marries her rapist/abuser, not the government.

The NLRB says Google was in the right when it fired James Damore, the women-can’t-code guy (once in a while we win one).

Rush Limbaugh explains the Florida school shooting is feminism’s fault.

Harassment and rape in the U.S. Forest Service.

Some career-advisors say women have lower salaries because they don’t negotiate. But studies indicate negotiation can be a losing tactic, for example if the company decides she’s acting too unfeminine.

An old post I just came across discussing how “safe spaces” for the socially awkward can be used to turn a blind eye to predators.

Harassment in children’s publishing.

Now, the guns:

Unsurprisingly Megan McArdle thinks it’s a terrible thing for Delta to get all PC and stop discounting tickets for NRA members. Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle responds to Delta’s decision by vowing to eliminate their state tax breaks. Funny how that “businesses should be free of government regulation” outlook disappears when businesses do the non-conservative thing.

David Brooks conservasplains that the reason nobody’s enacting any gun restrictions is because liberals pushed for them.

Thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland school shooting are apparently a coordinated campaign.

David French pretends that the pro-gun side really does support reasonable regulation. Meanwhile plenty of other conservatives freak out that the survivors are speaking up.

Claims the Parkland teens are just agents of a secret conspiracy have many predecessors. And the Mary Sue wonders where to get some of that cash George Soros supposedly hands out to liberals who speak up about guns or harassment.

As Echidne says, imagine the media reaction if Hilary Clinton said she’d have run into Parkland.

One of the Parkland teens acknowledges the inspiration of Black Lives Matter.

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The Florida shooting and other links

A survivor of the shooting suggests we name the AR-15 the Marco Rubio because anyone can buy one.

The NYT airs the views of a pro-gun bullshit artist. And here are some flaws in standard pro-gun arguments. Not to mention veterans scoffing at Trump’s “arm the teachers” argument. And why is it we’re told “liberals who attack guns will alienate gun lovers?” but pro-gun forces are never warned about alienating us?

A right-winger proposes the Florida shooting wouldn’t have happened if kids had been nicer to the shooter. Another conservatives says that the Second Amendment is obviously why there’s never been a time “when people were crushed by the government and marched into camps.” So the Japanese American internment was just fake news then?

Feministing offers examples of civil disobedience. Slacktivist suggests its up to us to act without waiting for a chosen one.

What we can learn about current politics from the election of 1968.

Stonekettle lemonade points out the basic flaw in trickle-down economics: it gives the rich more money, but “rich people being richer does not create jobs.”

Donald Trump’s presidency is the triumph of libertarianism. And also steeped in the Reagan conservative tradition. Neither of these is a good thing.

What is the legal meaning of emojis?

Can we turn presidential norms into binding precedents?

Don’t get flu shots because Jesus!

No, Ivanka, Black History Month is not about “all Americans.”

Treating problems such as drugs or terrorism as national security issues changes the political debate.

Once again we have the argument that being criticized equals being silenced.

Bearing false witness, Slacktivist says, isn’t the same as lying — lying requires intent, false witness doesn’t.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court threw out the Republicans’ gerrymandered maps. So Republicans propose impeaching the judges.

And that’s it. A short one as I’m still recovering from Mysticon fun (which I’ll post about tomorrow)

 

 

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The Florida school shooting, victim blaming and other topics

I never have much to write about tragedies like this. So I’ll just link.

Charles Pierce says Trump supporters know perfectly well that “nobody expects him to mean what he says, because that would mark you as a sap who believes that politics can be a constructive endeavor.” Got to say I don’t think this is so. Neither does No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Paul Campos reminds us that while shootings are up, overall murder rates are down. Whatever that signifies.

Apparently white nationalists who claimed the shooter as their own were lying.

Right-winger Ben Shapiro suffers from the delusion that old-school morality stopped sexual harassment. As explained at the link, wrong (and I make the same point here) And of course lots of traditional-values conservatives are still into blaming the victims.  Case in point, right-winger Sandy Rios supports accused spouse-beater Rob Porter — you can’t believe a word those lying sluts accusing men say, right? Of course the White House repeatedly contradicts its own claims about Porter but I bet Rios is okay with that. Other right wingers settle for blaming the whole thing on liberals and feminists. And that like Shapiro, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if we went back to the Good Old Days.

Continuing with the victim-blaming, conservative pastor Kevin Swanson explains that the Larry Nassar scandal is what you can expect if you put a “red-blooded” male in the presence of a lot of women who are dressed immodestly. So Swanson thinks assaulting underage girls is natural for red-blooded men (a typical man-hating attitude on the right)? And he ignores that Nassar penetrated his victims with his fingers — that’s abusive but it’s not what most men do for sexual satisfaction. As for Swanson’s claim Nassar was caught because God wouldn’t tolerate him — er, why did God put up with him for the previous twenty years, then?

There’s a theory Trump can’t be blackmailed because nothing shames him. If that were true, he wouldn’t bury so many stories.

More ways in which the Trump budget sucks. Here’s another. And it will bring on a massive deficit but articles on the budget ignore that’s normal for Republicans.

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey beat a corruption charge because court decisions have made proving corruption harder.

it seems Wikileaks was more than a little biased against the female candidate in 2016.

It took two months for the Wisconsin GOP to formally disavow anti-semite candidate Paul Nehlen.

Right-wing Christian pundit Dave Daubenmire says black Christians only call him racist because skin color matters to them more than God. Otherwise why would they have voted for the Muslim Obama like they did?

Megan McArdle has become the WaPo’s new columnist. Roy Edroso, who despises her writing as much as I do, vents. LGM looks at some of her past bullshit. If you want more examples, plug her name into my blog’s search engine.  Though Chris Christie as pundit is no improvement.

I’ve never had much use for Joe Scarborough, but he totally crushes the author whose book claims Trump is on a Christian spiritual voyage.

Ben Shapiro (again) cannot understand why black people are so excited about a movie with an almost all-black cast, so he dismisses it as identity politics. The late Dwayne McDuffie pre-emptively explains this writing about what T’Challa’s first comic book series meant to him.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a simple way to stop Republicans losing seats in special elections: don’t hold any.

 

 

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Trump’s idea of “the best and brightest”

Back in 2016, a former FB friend of mine (rape-apologist trolling is a fast way to get yourself unfriended) argued we didn’t need to worry about Trump being a vainglorious dumbass. He was a smart, Big Apple businessman: he knew how to hire the best people, they’d make up for Trump’s shortcomings.

Like so many rationale for why Trump was the right choice, it’s bullshit. Let’s look at some examples:

First of course, as you probably all know, we have Staff Secretary Rob Porter. His alleged history of spousal abuse was enough to keep him from getting a security clearance. (apparently lots of Trumpites working with classified material do not have clearance). But Trump hired him anyway — after all, Porter denied the charges! How could they have known? Even John Kelly, The Grownup In The Room supported Porter — and as LGM points out at the second link, what does it say about Trump hiring the best people that everyone accepts the White House needs a grown-up in the room? Of course, Trump himself says Porter is awesome and besides, Porter said he was innocent! I’m sure the latest White House abuser says the same thing. Though as LGM points out, Trump doesn’t care about innocence when it’s Clinton or black men rather than white male abusers.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, tries to pretend he and  President Shit-Gibbon really care about spouse abuse (newsflash: a lot of religious conservatives don’t). He also indignantly denied his support for “conversion therapy” when he was called out by a gay Olympic athlete. More here.

Trump lickspittle Kellyanne Conway is head of the White House opioids response team. Her response? Ignore experts and rely on political appointees. Of course Conway’s a political hack herself whose highest career accomplishment is toadying to the white supremacist in the Oval Office, so it’s not surprising — but it’s still horrifying. We’re seeing hundreds of deaths from this thing, and Trump’s crew of the Best People doesn’t give a damn.

And even Conway looks good compared to FEMA’s Puerto Rico contractor, Tiffany Brown.

Kentucky Republican and Trump backer Timothy Nolan has been charged with forcing women to sleep with him, using everything from threats to money to calls to their probation officer. He’s pleaded guilty.

As for Trump’s decisive ability to bellow You’re Fired at his people just like he did on The Apprenticewell, no. Though apparently the blame for the Porter fiasco is somehow settling on Porter’s current girlfriend. And President Shit-Gibbon is quite happy to punish legal immigrants who use federal services by making it harder for them to get a green card.

It would almost be funny if this incompetent and morally bankrupt hacks weren’t running the country and getting loyal support from Republicans in Congress. They own this as much as Trump does. So let’s look at the rest of the right wing:

They hate that conservative kids might be exposed to liberal ideas in college.

Right-wing liar David Barton claims Obama designated him an enemy of the state. And a right-wing Christian pastor claims the Trumps had to exorcise Obama’s literally demonic influence.

A Fox News executive objects to the Olympic team being too dark and too gay.

Repub presidential wannabe Marco Rubio thinks we should fund paid family leave by cutting Social Security benefits.

An armed Trump supporter asked a Navajo legislator if he was a legal immigrant.

An Illinois neo-Nazi joins the ranks of neo-Nazis who’ve run for office as Republicans (David Duke did it years ago)

Remember when Republicans claimed cutting the deficit was the most vital mission on Earth? They lied.

And the Trump Consumer Finance Protection Bureau won’t do crap about firms that don’t guard our personal information.

A Trump supporter and Pizzagate believer is shocked anyone would say she pushes fake news.

And I’m inclined to agree with Lance Manion that if Trump’s biggest accomplishment is keeping America whiter, he’d be proud of that — as if FDR wanted to be remembered for the Japanese-American internment camps.

Rights to Edward Munch’s The Scream remain with current holder.

 

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Hypocrites and Pharisees, i.e., Republicans

As I’ve mentioned before, pointing out Republicans don’t live up to their own supposed standards sometimes comes off as if that’s the problem with Republican policies. It isn’t. Even if they walked the walk, their policies on abortion, birth control, taxes, etc. would be horrible — their personal virtue or lack of same doesn’t affect that.

But that said, as they are so quick to crow and puff themselves up about having the moral high ground, it can’t help to point out that the congressmen (and President Shit-Gibbon) have no clothes — for example, they’re perfectly fine (as they were throughout the W years) with warrantless spying on Americans, just not on themselves. And they’re perfectly fine overriding states’ rights if it’s in their interest [update: Alito ruled against the appeal, so I apologize for thinking the worst of him]. Or if it will ban abortion. Or Jonah Goldberg arguing that liberals are the real white nationalists so how can they criticize Trump (I have actually had a Republican friend cite Woodrow Wilson’s unquestionably racist views as if that really proved 21st century liberals are the real racists). And for that matter libertarians talk a lot about freedom but some prominent ones are fine with rallying behind Trump. Why wouldn’t they?

Then we have Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” in DC of corruption. Yet we end up with a CDC head who buys stock in tobacco and pharmaceutical firms — no way that could be an issue, right?

And for all they talk about freedom and their love for the bill of rights, conservative pundits is always happy to demand government treat Trump critics and “disloyal” government officials as traitors. Though there’s nothing new in this, they were making the exact same arguments while W was president. And they’re also hoping to go back to the spoils system where federal workers can be fired and hired based on political loyalty. Again not new — the Iraq occupation was much more interested in recruiting conservatives than anyone with relevant qualifications.

Then we have the Religious Right. Supposed moral voice Tony Perkins insists it’s perfectly reasonable not to hold Trump to moral standards such as “thou shalt not commit adultery.” Which makes perfect sense as a political tactic, but it also says Perkins and all the other religious rightwingers rallying to Trump aren’t actually moral voices unless morality translates into ” oppress gay people” or “oppress women.” Similarly, you can’t pretend your concern is “moral decline,” and then defend Trump. No, they support Trump as a political move that gives Christians more power in government, even though they pretend they don’t want a Christian state. Just as some white nationalists don’t want to admit they are.

But it’s not just religion: NRA sock-puppet Dana Loesch has gone from condemning people who trash Trump opponents (back when Loesch was in Ted Cruz’s camp) to trashing Trump opponents. This is, of course, pretty common. David Brooks enthusiastically supported the Iraq war, then wrote a column about how our leaders totally misread the situation, and didn’t mention his own misjudgments. Syndicated columnist Ron Hart gushed about how utterly, utterly awesome Sarah Palin was, then as soon as she lost only referenced her as an obvious incompetent. I don’t recall him ever explaining the switch, other than political convenience.

And we’re still stuck with a media where many reporters and pundits struggle to make it look like both parties are equally insane. Which is not really hypocrisy, but it’s definitely false. And by trying to treat Republicans as if they were anything other than a white supremacist/1 percent-supremacist party, ignores how rotten they are.

And to end with something that’s not hypocritical at all, but is extremely stupid, we have a religious conservative recommending we not get flu shots — Jesus is our flu shot! Given my health issues, needless to say I disagree.

 

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The thing about cover-ups (a sexual harassment link post)

People often say that “the cover-up is worse than the scandal.” Meaning cases of police brutality, sexual harassment, corruption etc. would cause less of a shit-storm if people hadn’t covered them up. But as I pointed out in an old And column, that’s not really true. The players can reasonably hope that the cover-up will hold until they’re retired or dead so they’ll never suffer any blowback from either superiors (“How could you humiliate us by taking this public?”) or the enraged public. It’s a gamble, but it’s not a foolish one. Just an utterly unethical, morally bankrupt one: screw the needs of the many, what’s in it for me?

Case in point, Michigan State University which Athletic Magazine shows completely failed in its handling of the Larry Nassar sex harassment case (not to mention sexual assault cases involving athletes). Well completely failed unless it’s intention was to bury the accusations by Nassar’s victims, such as Rachael Denhollander. If that’s the standard, they were aces. Nevertheless, the only thing MSU President Lou Anna Simon is suffering is resigning her job, while insisting the university did everything right (the MSU attorney told them they were doing great!). Nassar himself spent more than two decades abusing girls with impunity before justice caught up with him. Prior to Simon’s resignation, one board member laughed at the idea she needed to go — what was “this Nassar thing” compared to MSU’s new basketball stadium?

And of course, there’s plenty of harassment elsewhere to go around. Like a black-tie fundraiser that offers up its female waitstaff as sex toys for guests. Or Silicon Valley swinger-parties for dudes who feel they don’t get enough sex.

Rep. Patrick Meehan insists he totally did not sexually harass the staffer he called his soul mate.

Stanford University is putting up a memorial plaque on the site Brock Turner assault victim. When the university didn’t like the quote she suggested for the plaque, it picked “Everything is okay” out of context from her trial testimony.

Kirsten Gillibrand on not letting your side get away with harassment or abuse. “[Franken] is entitled to a hearing. He’s not entitled to my silence.”

Perhaps part of the problem is that even in consensual sex, women are taught their discomfort is normal.

Missouri Republican Courtland Sykes is so stereotypically sexist, Slacktivist wonders if he’s a hoax (but thinks he’s probably for real).

For something to wrap up, when teen adventurer Jade Hameister encouraged her fellow teenage girls to shoot for the stars, Internet trolls responded with “make me a sandwich!” So she did — they just have to get to the South Pole to eat it.

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Rush Limbaugh’s ratings sink, so his bullshit grows

Rush Limbaugh’s ratings and the reach of his show have been shrinking for a while. So perhaps it’s not surprising that he’s racing even further into right-wing idiocy to keep up with the Alex Jones of this world. For example, claiming that beloved bugaboo of the Trumpites, the Deep State, tricked Bush II into invading Iraq to destroy his presidency.

For the record this is crap. We have two accounts of W declaring in the week after 9/11 that he suspected Iraq; Vice President Dick Cheney had been advocating overthrowing Saddam for a while; Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz believed Iraq was behind the Oklahoma City bombing; W and Cheney began pushing Iraq as the enemy well before the CIA’s findings; and several defectors and assets told the U.S. government that Hussein didn’t have any weapons (W pulled weapons inspectors out of Iraq before they’d finished their inspection or they’d presumably have found the same). Oh, and W said before his election that if he got to be a war president he’d use the political capital to push big domestic policy changes. W wasn’t a dupe; at best, he wanted to go in so badly he fooled himself, at worst, the weapons were an excuse for what he and Cheney wanted to do anyway (Wolfowitz once described Saddam’s WMDs as a convenient excuse — the real goal, he said, was to eliminate Saddam, remove US troops from Saudi Arabia and thereby relieve pressure on the Saudi monarchy).

But I don’t doubt Limbaugh’s bullcrap will find a willing audience (No More Mr. Nice Blog has thoughts on that). Just like there are people willing to buy into Pizzagate and the even more batshit theory The Storm.  Because as Slacktivist points out, you can fool some of the people all of the time . Some people want to be fooled all of the time because believing lies makes the world the way they want it to be. Believing in the Deep State’s absolute power explains why Trump hasn’t already ended gay rights, abortion, immigration and rebuilt the coal industry. Limbaugh, Jones, Mike Cernovich and others know that and exploit it. They sell bullshit to willing customers (much like creationists accept the impossible to preserve their faith in an inerrant Bible, and the media cling to the delusion Trump will suddenly become competent) who want to know that the other side are lying traitors and cannibal child molesters, so believers can feel virtuous just by hating them.

Some of the believers probably swallow the bullshit wholesale, so they can keep hating. Some of them have enough self-awareness to struggle. The right wing’s lying liars such as Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer knowingly prey upon their willingness to be fooled. Take Trump’s affair with porn star Stormy Daniels. Some conservative men may see it as proof Trump is awesome, other voters are probably glad to hear Fischer and Perkins, as representatives of godly morality, assure them it’s no reflection on what a godly man Trump is (just like the religious right rallying around Roy Moore). As former RNC chair Michael Steele has pointed out, what Fischer and Perkins say makes no moral sense but they probably don’t give a damn (the real moral threats are gay people and women having sex without risk of pregnancy, not men enjoying themselves). And their listeners can use their words, or Fox News, or Limbaugh to reassure themselves Trump’s morality is not an issue. And that voting straight Republican is a vote to stop Hilary Clinton personally raping the pizzagate sex slaves.

And then they can sleep at night.

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The Chosen One trope didn’t give us Trump

Writing a guest post for John Scalzi’s The Big Idea, Michael Moreci describes his novel Black Star Renegades as a rejection of the Chosen One trope. “See, I’ve always had trouble with the messiah complex. The idea that we should sit around and wait for an all-powerful someone or other to come along and save our butts from the fire isn’t a healthy one. It leads to bad places. Like when, oh, I don’t know, a tyrannical buffoon campaigns under the promise that he’s the only one—him alone—who can solve all the country’s problems. And people actually believe him. Because that’s what we’re taught. Iron Man will save us. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. Harry Potter. Whoever. There’s a magical chosen one, and without this person we wouldn’t be able to do a darn thing on our own. Sure, we can play supporting roles, but at the end of the day, only one person can vanquish Voldemort or Vader.”

Like Melissa Olson’s critique of suburban horror, I think this gets lots of stuff wrong — which doesn’t say anything about the quality of the book, of course.

First off, Moreci seems to be equating “the Chosen One” with “the hero of the book,” and that’s way off. As I put it seven years ago, Chosen Ones are born great, gifted with great powers or a great destiny. How does Iron Man qualify? Tony Stark is a hero because he made himself one. Built his armor (albeit with help). Improved his armor. Made the choice to use it to protect people. He wasn’t born great, he achieved greatness (I break down the differences at the link)

Katniss is the third category, one who has greatness thrust upon her. She enters the Hunger Games because she has no choice if she wants to save her sister. By the time of Mockingjay she is indeed the shining symbol of the revolution, but that’s revolutionary propaganda to rally the troops, not because she is, in fact, a Chosen One (in its own way, I think Mockingjay rejects the same tropes Moreci objects to)

Harry Potter? True, he’s born to be the nemesis of Voldemort, but he still relies heavily on training and pluck more than destiny. And far from doing it alone, he does what heroes are supposed to do: inspire others to follow them. He takes the lead, but he’d have been toast without Ron or Hermione, or Dumbledore’s Army, or the Order of the Phoenix There are likewise lots of stories where superheroes inspire others to step up to the plate, rather than do it all themselves.

As I’ve said before, it’s not longing for a hero that gave us the Trump presidency, any more than movies like Dave. The desire for an authoritarian leader is one that exists quite independently of pop culture. It no more goes away if we don’t have chosen ones than we can banish it by dramatizing the horrors of fictional dictators (Doom, Palpatine, Darkseid).

 

Which is not to say Moreci’s idea of a book where everyone has to step up to the plate is bad. It’s a good, classic idea, one you can see a lot in WW II movies, where we were told over and over again that everyone has to do their part.

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