not in our stars, but in ourselves
1. If you haven’t yet read Chris Lehmann’s searing, brutally necessary opinion piece from Al Jazeera America, please do so right now. Basically, his point is that journalism has become so dumbed down, so desperate to regenerate lost income by accepting paid assignments from those with seriously vested interests (he points to Vox as the worst case in point), that it’s leading to the demise of more serious outlets like, well, Al Jazeera America. Lehmann pulls no punches, nor should he:
There’s a certain elegant symmetry, then, in the recent job listing by the explainer-journalism empire Vox Media for the company’s first-ever commerce editor. Vox has been diligently compromising journalistic values all on its own, whether via its rankly disingenuous assaults on Bernie Sanders’ health care proposals or its comically baroque protocols of archive scrubbing. (The practice was far less laughworthy in last week’s trespass, in which the Vox-owned sports network SB Nation briefly ran and then rapidly deleted a monstrous long-form apologia for convicted cop-rapist and erstwhile college footballer Daniel Holtzclaw. At the end of the week, the company announced that it would put long-form articles on ice while it conducts a review.)
It only stands to reason, then, that a site so resolutely light on integrity and forthrightness should be positioning itself on the vanguard of the coming sponsored-content singularity. To read through the particulars of this pioneering post is to see journalism’s obituary take shape before your eyes, in a relentless onslaught of nonsignifying buzzwords.
No surprise that Vox has been such a cheerleader for HRC; she, too, is little more than a boombox for buzzwords. But anyway, read the whole thing. Don’t read Vox.
2. In Bernie news: he didn’t win Nevada, but Matt Karp makes a downright solid case for why he can (and should) win the nomination and then the presidency in Jacobin. I know I’m voting for him in the Massachusetts primary next week, and I really don’t know anyone who’s been paying attention to the real news (rather than the Vox news) who isn’t. Anyway. Politico had reported – breathlessly, as if it had uncovered a huge scandal – that Bernie said in the ’70s that the U.S. ought to abolish the CIA. Sam Biddle notes for Gawker that, um, that’s not the worst thing that could have happened – especially not in the 1970s, when the CIA led directly and indirectly to waves of extremism washing over entire regions of the world through their regime-toppling antics. For any Bernie-bashers out there, don’t worry. He doesn’t say that anymore. He was right when he said it; he hasn’t backed down from it; but he’s moved onto other, more relevant subjects for our times.
3. Remember how annoyed I was with the women in Jaws and Close Encounters? Of course. Who could forget. Anyway, Tribeca’s Matthew Eng has noticed that it’s still a problem: these white male screenwriters have no fucking clue how to write women in their scripts. And that’s just focusing on the sexy love interests; Vulture wrote about a new USC study that finds an “epidemic of invisibility” for women, people of color, LGBT people, anyone who isn’t a straight white cis man. Have you fellas, like, ever met anyone besides other whiteboys? Are you aware that – as Dong puts it on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – your experiences are not universal? I do recommend writing what you know, but I also strongly recommend trying to know more than you do now. If all else fails, make everyone in your script a white male; randomly re-assign them genders and races and sexual orientations; and see what happens. You will probably have a script full of reasonably fully realized human beings. Worth a shot.
5. You didn’t think I wouldn’t sink my claws into HRC, did you? Of course I will. She is bad. She has been bad for a long time. This is a tidy little side-by-side, from a few months ago, about her disastrous love of regime change – disastrous for the people in the countries where the regimes changed, not for her. This is a skeptic’s view of her refusal to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs; the sudden whispers that a print journalist has the transcripts; and the likelihood that this is, once more, a case of the Clinton campaign Dr. Caligari-ing the press to do what it wants. This is a clear-eyed, fact-checked, blunt explication of how and why the Clintons were, are, and will continue to be bad for women who aren’t white, highly educated, gainfully employed, and upper-middle class. That is to say: people like me will be fine if she wins. People with more melanin and less access to education will not be fine.
6. And this is a beautiful, heartbreaking piece about being the young, insecure intern whose boss starts hitting on you. Jean Hannah Edelstein knows that it’s a scorned wife’s prerogative to badmouth the other woman; she knows it’s her right to stand by her man or to leave; but she notes that HRC’s feminism seems to begin and end with HRC:
“So where, you might be wondering, were the feminists back then?” Lewinsky wrote in 2014 in Vanity Fair. They were absent, she continues, calculating that a president who had been good for women in terms of policy should not be held to account for his conduct with her.
But feminists are here now. We’re creating a culture where it’s OK for women to speak up about being on the receiving end of misogyny, to push back when they’re being ill-treated or harassed. If a Lewinsky-esque scandal happened today, far more responsibility would be placed on the shoulders of the president, and the uneven power dynamic, and far less on the guileless intern who made, or was coerced into making, a very bad decision.
Asked last year to elucidate on her “loony tunes” remark, Hillary Clinton refused: “I am not going to comment on what I did or did not say back in the late 90s,” she said to Diane Sawyer. And sure, that’s her prerogative, to say nothing. But I think it’s a bad choice. What happened in the 90s happened: it’s a crucial part of the narrative of the Clinton dynasty that has driven Hillary Clinton forward. Hence, it’s my prerogative to feel ambivalent about supporting a candidate who positions herself as a feminist but who has been yielding in her support of a partner who has been a serial ill-user of women – and who, lest we forget, paid $850,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit out of court.
Yet at the same time I can see that Hillary Clinton would not be a likely presidential candidate without having made the decisions that she made in the late 90s. Would any of us have made a different decision? Would any woman, in that political climate, have taken a public stand against the president?
At 16 years old, I would certainly not. But I can recognize the folly of my 1998 opinions. Feminism has evolved dramatically: there is a slow but inexorable shift of power away from men like Bill Clinton and the men who I encountered early in my career. Not all whips are gone from offices, but I haven’t been whipped for a while. And I know that if it happened again, I would have ample support when I chose to strike back.
Women need leaders who acknowledge that. Hillary Clinton and I will have a lot to talk about when we run into each other in that special place in hell.
I don’t think Edelstein wishes to paint HRC as the villain in this piece. That’s clearly Bill. If, however, she wants all us women to be with her, she might consider what her and her husband’s decisions have done to those who aren’t Clinton women. She might consider addressing those decisions. But that presupposes something like compassion, a quality of which I’ve yet to see even the faintest glimmer.
7. Finally, you may have noticed how sour and angry I sound when I talk about all this 2016 stuff. It’s true: this election has gotten my blood boiling. Some of the main issues:
– Tronald Dump would not be a serious candidate if the mainstream media hadn’t fallen for every trick he pulled, shining a spotlight on him all along, legitimizing him by providing him with a free and easy platform to fire up the crazies. Now, on the one hand, if he somehow wins the nomination, he will be easy to defeat. On the other hand, whether he wins the nomination or not, he has spewed so much hatred – the kind that makes not-so-secret racists feel like their dim little worldviews are justified and justifiable – that I don’t know how we un-fire up the crazies.
– While I’m railing against the mainstream media’s culpability, Hillary is bad and it infuriates me that she’s gotten so far without so much as a serious question about her record as a borderline war criminal and profiteer.
– And it ALSO infuriates me that, because HRC supporters can’t really attack Bernie on anything except the so-called lack of feasibility of his platforms (because if they start talking policy, it will become blatantly clear that all of hers are either smoke-and-mirrors or downright terrible), there is suddenly a legitimate narrative in the mainstream media about his allegedly abusive (white male) supporters. Listen. If you’ve had a specific run-in with a Bernie supporter, that sucks. I’m sorry. I absolutely refuse to believe that it’s the widespread problem we’re told, because that myth has been debunked about a dozen times by, you know, journalists who are willing to check facts and sources.
– Every time I see a Clinton supporter beating their gums, I want to scream, “WHAT ARE HER POLICIES. WHAT IS SHE PROPOSING.” Because, see, Sanders is very clear: he tells us all what he aims to do, how he aims to do it, and how it will benefit us all. Clinton spouts buzzwords. This isn’t to say that you can’t criticize Sanders’s proposals; you can, because he offers substance with which you can choose to engage. What does she offer? I have no idea what she actually intends to do if she’s president, no more than I have any idea how Trump intends to get Mexico to pay for that wall he wants. It’s bullshit that she’s given a pass on that, and a sign that politics isn’t for grownups anymore – it’s just for fuckwit knucklescrapers.
– And frankly, I’m just sad that the one candidate whose platform and policies are calling for a return to something like decency, fairness, justice, etc., is constantly attacked and belittled for being an out-of-touch old lunatic. He’s not. The ideas he’s proposing are big, sure. We need big ideas. We are dying. The GOP will ensure that we die quickly. HRC might draw things out a bit longer. Sanders is absolutely the best chance we have to make sure that the richest country in the world isn’t starving, miserable, destitute and desperate. He is up against so much bullshit in the press that I want to scream and cry and drive a war rig right into the New York Times (uh, not that I would) or the Washington Post (I might) or Vox (definitely would).
So anyway, the point is that the entire right is bad, and HRC is also bad (and lines up very cozily with the right on most foreign policy issues; her domestic policy issues are all lip service, and she’ll veer back right if she wins the presidency). I am mad at a lot of people I can’t address directly because I know it won’t make a difference. 2016 is, thus far, very bad for my blood pressure.