Category Archives: Politics

The corporate woke joke.

In the 1970s, the story goes, a CEO met with environmental activists only to tell them: “I agree with you. Now go out and make me do it.” Businesses operating from a responsive mindset require relentless outside pressures to do the right thing. What is needed in the present moment is not uncritical celebration of “woke” companies working to ingratiate themselves into certain political constituencies, which would likely expand the current us-versus-them political divides into the private sector. Recognizing the dominance of the responsive mindset means all businesses, woke and un-woke alike, will need a healthy degree of “vigilant belligerence” from wider society as they navigate a politically contentious era. But perhaps at a more basic level, concerned citizens need to continually evaluate the degree to which profit-seeking, market-responsive entities should be tasked with preserving the social and political goods necessary for a flourishing society.

–Andrew Lynn, “The Limits of Corporate Activism”

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The soft discipline of neoliberalism.

The hallmark of the neoliberal thought collective was that they more or less accepted the inherited image of an addled and befuddled populace, but thoroughly rejected any appeals to a scientific technocracy to instill some discipline in the masses. For them, the discombobulation of the masses was not a reason for despair, but rather the necessary compost out of which a spontaneous order might blossom. The primary way this would come to pass was through acknowledgement that “the market” was an information processor more powerful and more efficacious than any human being was or could ever be. The cretinous and nescient would propose; the market would dispose. In effect, the NTC believed if only the masses could learn to subordinate their ambitions and desires to market dictates, then their deficient understandings and flawed syllogisms could be regarded as convenient expedients smoothing the path to order, rather than as political obstacles to be overcome, as in the technocratic orientation of postwar social sciences. And, conveniently, the neoliberals would mobilize numerous institutional structures to nudge the people down that path.

Hence, when it came to the simple matter of bamboozling the masses with ripping tales of government as the very embodiment of evil, as Friedman did, there were never any qualms expressed about their simultaneous drive to take over the Republican Party, and then the U.S. government, in order to impose a strong state and an even stronger set of state-instituted novel markets. The neoliberals often had to disguise their true allegiances from the masses: as Friedman once claimed, “the two groups that threaten the free market the most are businessmen and intellectuals.” Yet Friedman promoted the destruction of state education and the privatization of universities to put the intellectuals out of business; he never attacked the businessmen to any equivalent degree. Indeed, he openly preached the doctrine that corporations had no responsibilities to society other than to maximize their profits; if corporations were persons, they were of the purest strain of self-interested creatures, free from all surly bonds of obligation. The demonization of the state relative to the corporation was the epitome of the short-term tactic; the usurpation of power to the extent of reregulation (not deregulation) and extension of state power both at home and abroad were the long-term goals. No matter what Grover Norquist might rabbit on about, no neoliberal in government has ever actually shrunk the size of the state, much less drowned it in a bathtub. That was merely red meat for the groundlings. While in power, neoliberals may have subcontracted out parts of government, but that rarely makes a dent in bureaucracy. The coercive power of government inexorably grows.

–Philip Mirowski, “Neoliberalism: The Movement That Dare Not Speak Its Name”


Emergent propaganda.

Thus the very common type of Twitter user who expresses himself or herself almost completely in hashtags: pre-established units of affiliation and exclusion.

And yet — Russian bots and political operatives (who have turned themselves into bots) aside — social media lack the planned purposefulness intrinsic to propaganda. So they must be a different kind of thing, yes?

Yes and no. I think what social media produce is emergent propaganda — propaganda that is not directed in any specific and conscious sense by anyone but rather emerges, arises, from vast masses of people who have been catechized within and by the same power-knowledge regime. Think also about the idea I got from an Adam Roberts novel: the hivemind singularity. Conscious, intentional propaganda is so twentieth century. The principalities and powers are far more sophisticated now.

–Alan Jacobs, propaganda and social media


“The explanation rests.”

It is a significant commentary on the present state of our culture that I have become the object of hatred, smears, denunciations, because I am famous as virtually the only novelist who has declared that her soul is not a sewer, and neither are the souls of her characters, and neither is the soul of man.

The motive and purpose of my writing can best be summed up by saying that if a dedication page were to precede the total of my work, it would read: To the glory of Man.

And if anyone should ask me what it is that I have said to the glory of Man, I will answer only by paraphrasing Howard Roark. I will hold up a copy of Atlas Shrugged and say: “The explanation rests.”

–Ayn Rand, “The Goal of My Writing,” from The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature (The World Publishing Company, 1969), p. 174


In a way that’s proven.

“I believe that God answered our prayers in a way we didn’t expect, for a person we didn’t even necessarily like,” said Stephen E. Strang, author of “God and Donald Trump” and founder of Charisma Media, a Christian publishing house.

“Christians believe in redemption and forgiveness, so they’re willing to give Donald Trump a chance,” said Mr. Strang, who is a member of the president’s informal council of evangelical advisers. “If he turns out to be a lecher like Bill Clinton, or dishonest in some kind of way, in a way that’s proven, you’ll see the support fade as quick as it came.”

Mr. Strang said that those who talk about Mr. Trump tarnishing the evangelical brand “are not really believers — they’re not with us, anyway.”

–Laurie Goodstein, “Has Support for Moore Stained Evangelicals? Some Are Worried”

In written communication, there are certain words or phrases that often do most of the work in a sentence–sort of like load-bearing structures in architecture. That phrase, “in a way that’s proven,” really does most of the work for Strang in this quote. We’re talking about a president who has lied — by the NYT’s account — a little under the half the days he’s been in office. We’re also talking about a president who was caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault, and whom nineteen women have accused of harrassing or assaulting them.

I wonder just how much Strang expects the burden of evidence to weigh with regard to Trump’s lies and lechery. I’m sure that, whatever the measurement is, he can always bump the decimal point on that criterion over to the right whenever he gets nervous about facing up to the truth about himself and his earthly master.

Forgiveness belongs to Donald Trump at any point he feels like not rejecting it. (First he’d probably have to admit that, as a human being, he fundamentally needs forgiveness, though.) That doesn’t mean he should be entitled to the presidency. And it certainly doesn’t mean that he’s entitled to evade the consequences of his actions. Giving someone a second chance doesn’t mean letting them get away with whatever they want.

But then, what do I know? According to Strang, I’m not really a believer.


Lies and damned lies.

Because I mentioned it in a reply to an earlier post, I need to mention that Beverly Young Nelson apparently added the date and place to the inscription Roy Moore put in her yearbook. The way Vox tells it, that doesn’t constitute forgery. In her article, Emily Stewart links to Breitbart, which currently defends identifying the inscription as forgery.

The Breitbart writer, Joel B. Pollak, cites Black’s Law Dictionary in support of the forgery claim. He also cites several instances where Nelson and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, lumped the timestamp in with the rest of the inscription as belonging to Moore — instances Stewart never bothers to mention in her article. The definition Pollak cites appears thus:

forgery, n. 1. The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine … 2. A false or altered document made to look genuine by someone with the intent to deceive … 3. Under the Model Penal Code, the act of fraudulently altering, authenticating, issuing, or transferring a writing without appropriate authorization.

Pollak goes on:

Note that forgery includes altering a real document. It does not matter if part of the document — say, the signature — is real. If any part of the document is altered and presented as original and authentic, it is a forgery and the entire document is legally useless — or worse than useless, since it impeaches the credibility of the person presenting it.

Not being a legal scholar, and thus not having read the hundreds of cases which establish precedent for how to interpret forgery in a juridical sense, I can’t really say whether Nelson’s yearbook legally constitutes forgery. And I do think that Stewart reports on this story in bad faith by not even acknowledging that Nelson made a false claim — that is, she lied — about the nature of the inscription as a whole in the past.

Unfair or not, the fact that Nelson has been caught having made at least one false claim about her evidence against Moore makes it easier for people like Pollak to “impeach” her credibility.

At the same time, Nelson maintains that the actual signature belongs to Moore. Anyone who has seen the photo of the inscription can clearly see the handwriting difference between Nelson’s ad hoc timestamp and the inscription/signature. Nelson is claiming that even though she added the date/place, the rest is genuine.

None of this is to say that Nelson couldn’t have forged the whole thing, or had someone else do it. I lack the expertise to make an empirical evaluation of that sort of thing.

What I do know is that Moore has lied about knowing the women he dated. He believes that the last time America was great was when slavery was legal. He willfully spreads misinformation about Muslims in America. He refuses to obey the law of the land when it suits him. This man is a flagrant liar and a bigot, and often both at the same time.

I don’t want the Joel Pollaks of the world lecturing me about the impeachability of a woman who added a timestamp to a yearbook inscription and lied about it. Not when the person they’re defending has, for what I can only surmise is political expediency, impugned the honor of women who had, at one time, been proud to have known him. And not when that person profanes my faith by using it as an excuse to tell damned lies about good people.

The sad truth of the Roy Moore campaign is that this whole fracas is a sideshow. It’s a sideshow that continues to reveal the pathetic state of American culture. In a healthy society, Roy Moore wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming a U.S. Senator. But this is America. Donald Trump is our president. Here we are.


“He really said this.”

In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

–Lisa Mascaro, “In Alabama, the heart of Trump country, many think he’s backing the wrong candidate in the Senate race.”

H/t to German Lopez, via Eric Columbus.

When I first saw the Vox headline, which quotes Moore directly from the above story, I actually muttered aloud, “Did he really say this?” As soon as I clicked on the story, I saw the subhead: “He really said this.” So, yeah. Apparently I’m still not nearly jaded enough for the political reality of 2017 America.