Archives for category: criticism

Today, on Facebook, I posted this:

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The evolutionary strategy of the cuckoo is well known. It led to the traditional term for a man cheated upon: cuckold. Which led to the sexual kink of a man who enjoys watching his wife being fucked by another man, also known as a cuckold.

More interestingly, the metaphor was then stretched along civilizational lines, into the politics of race, subsidy and much more, all focused on a new term of abuse: cuck. This is the alt-right contribution to modern debate and invective.

There is something to it.

But the alt-right trolls and lolsters were not the first to expand upon the paradigmatic bird, the cuckoo. There was John Wyndham and his science fiction masterpiece, The Midwich Cuckoos, filmed as The Village of the Damned — a great little film, that.

Thus I justify the following visual “meme”:

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Vile, evil, and craven. That is — to name the representations of these concepts in our time — Donald Trump (vile), Hillary Clinton (evil), and America’s press corps (craven). This article (“This Election Has Disgraced the Entire Profession of Journalism”) is from a leftist journalist (Ken Silverstein) with some integrity. And almost entirely spot on.

We have two unbelievably shitty candidates, neither of whom is fit to lead the country.

But it is too painful to dwell further on the presidential candidates. Turn your attention to the journalists. What can we say? Maybe “craven” is too weak. How best to characterize the major media outlets and their ostensible “journalists”? Servile. Cultish. Worthy of utter destruction and salt sown into the presses and TV cameras involved in their craft.

Worse than the two major candidates. And that is bad. Bad indeed.

This election has exposed as never before that there is indeed a media elite, bound together by class and geography, that is utterly clueless about its own biases and filters. A vast number of journalists covering the presidential campaign are economically privileged brats that seem blissfully unaware that for most Americans, the economy is in recession and people are terrified.


A friend offered up, on Facebook, an eloquent defense of his early, by-mail vote for Trump. He expressed how he had “no choice” but to place his vote for the Republican candidate. And then, he — a Christian, last I heard — defended his vote for a man whose vulgarity and sinfulness are widely known. Why? On the grounds that Hillary is worse.

Now, she may in fact (or according to decent values) be worse. In one or two dimensions, at least. And she may even likely do more damage than would Donald Trump. But, as eloquent as my friend was, I was unmoved by his reasoning.

I was going to comment on his Facebook post, at first. I wrote it up, and placed my finger over the “Post” link. But I thought better of it. I’m already a gadfly to my whole community and a troublesome spirit to my friends and family on Facebook; I’m sure, by now, I annoy more than I edify. Why push it?

So I did not respond on his page. But I obviously am under the impression my words matter. So . . . I publish my response here:

Chuck, nifty apologia, but . . . of course you had other choices! There were

  • other candidates on your ballot;
  • you could skip the presidential ticket; or
  • not vote at all.

And since your vote will not decide the election, you are under no desperate pragmatism to veto your values. And yet you chose to give it (and signal us as so doing) to a man who is the very form of crass cupidity and concupiscence covering a substance of ignorance and inanity.

Hey, it’s your vote. I’m not aghast or appalled or offended. And I certainly understand wanting to stand against the Witch Queen of Sinister. But it just seems strange to me that any rational citizen would play along to a rigged and farcical game on the terms set by statists only to signal his virtue by fecklessly pitching for vice.

I am serious about the value of one’s vote. There are only a few uses of a vote. From my perspective, my vote can find use in only a few categories:

  1. AS INSTRUMENTAL IN CHOOSING
  2. AS SIGNAL OF MY PREFERENCES
  3. AS SIGNAL OF MY ALLEGIANCES
  4. OTHER_______
  5. Since I’m familiar enough with economics and probability, I know that my vote cannot gain value by the use it plays in the first category. When I vote, my vote does not decide anything. So, despite what value a candidate or some political tribe may put on it, its marginal utility in terms of choice effectiveness is ZERO.

    But it can serve to signal my preferences (if I tell somebody) or, more broadly, my allegiances (once again, if I tell somebody), and, merely by being counted and thus noticed, it tallies up in some candidate’s or cause’s column. (And thus in some way is of practical value to him or her or them, etc.) So, the mere existence of my vote in some cause or other, counted as a cardinal number, can be the first use for my vote. And thereby gains its value, its marginal utility.

    Though this does not exhaust the theory of voting, it is enough to discredit the idea that one “wastes one’s vote” when one votes for a losing candidate. If you think your vote only gains value because it has a drop-in-the-bucket value to a winning candidate and his or her team, you have very strange values indeed. They are not about policy or philosophy or integrity or even tribe. Those values (in voting, mind you), are, if you fear “wasting it,” based entirely on the pathetic desire to appear “not a loser” by being tallied in the winners’ column.*

    No individualist would be such a group cultist.

    And there remains no desperate pragmatism to constrain your vote in any way.


    * That OTHER____ use to which my vote may be put includes a few subtle points that I hope to deal with before the fateful day in November in which we expend much time and energy voting and counting votes. And talking about the results. And even a few other subjects.

    twv

Hillary and Donald both represent villainy as seen by their respective opposing sides.

Indeed, they seem called up out of Central Casting.

Central Casting has been taken over by Grim Ironists, Inc.
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Donald Trump is the corrupting, womanizing, vulgar Evil Capitalist as imagined by the Left for decades, if not centuries. He is Simon Legree for the Age of Celebrity. From his gropings to his breaches of contract, he fulfills every common man’s fear of the rich man. And he is rich enough that even your average richman Democrat can think of him as “too rich.” This is the Devil as imagined by insecure urbanites.

Too rich is right!

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is the corrupt insider worried about by normal citizens (folks with normal jobs and families). She personifies the use of a common trust (working for government) as a means for self-advancement at others’ expense. Scandal after scandal shows a dark strain of avarice combined with an elitism that secures the cultural cachet to cover up all enormities. And as if to conform to every stereotype, not only does she demonstrate a recklessness with the rules (the emails), her scandals include both those of outright corruption (cattle futures as quid-pro-quo bribes) and sexual misconduct (covering up for her powerful husband’s many flashings, gropings, and even accusations of rape). She has it all. She is the rural/suburbanite’s Devil incarnate, the abuser of the public trust par excellence.

Yes, it’s all here, folks!

It’s as if the Anointed One, Hillary Clinton, taken up as the Center Left/cultural progressive avatar heedless of likely backlash — the de rigueur advocate for dim class interests under cover of scarcely believable “common good” rhetoric — was designed for no better purpose than to thumb the nose and raise the middle finger to Center Right/cultural traditional values. Her selection was inevitably provocative in a way even Obama’s (a “community organizer” with a long history of far left connections) was not, for she does not represent to her enemies anything earnest or sincere, not even plausibly so.

And so, if one side conjures up as their Messiah their opposition’s Devil, then why should that other side not call up the opposing Devil? And that’s precisely how it turned out. It is as if the night mind of traditional America saw the writing on the wall (Mene, mene, tekel, parsin) and not seeing Darius riding in to unseat the Corrupt, drew from the depths a Nemesis to mirror the enemy.

You fight fire with fire; you fight missiles with missiles: you fight the Devil with the Devil’s Own Shadow Fiend.

Or so goes the night mind of modern politics, a rich vein of paranoia, hatred, and suspicion transformed into a travesty of idealism. Here, the shadows of two ways of life are mounted upon high horses under the gonfalons of Hope and Justice and The American Way, propped up by shit shovels.

Nothing could be clearer. Has not some literary critic already drawn out the archetypes here? The theme is clear: it is all borne of values upturned. The roots are raised as leaf and branch, and the green has been stuffed into the manure. Calling Hieronymous: we need the right kind of realism here.

This is the Election from Hell, where bipartisan democracy has finally abandoned all sense and both sides praise Evil and battle Evil and mire themselves further in Evil, ensuring only Evil. Both sides having cut themselves so far off, in their imaginations and empathy, from their opponents, the two now can only see the worst, and, seeing only the worst, prop up as the Good what the other side sees as Evil, calling it a Day.

Name the Day. Go ahead, name it. I dare you.

The next question, as Theodore Sturgeon of Sturgeon’s Law liked to say . . . What is the next question?

It is not whether Democracy or The Republic can survive. It is: should either? Or both? Or none?

twv

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Earlier I excoriated NBC for a witless fact check. But I did not read the whole list, since I was so disgusted by the third example. Now that I have recovered a bit, why not do something that today’s journalists seem unable to do? That is, apply logic.

I am not going to fact-check the NBC/Politifact fact checkers. I am going to logic check them. That is, I am going to analyze their presentation of alleged facts to see just how ably the fact checkers can stick to facts and not engage in spin.

  1. Trump said he didn’t urge people to “check out a sex tape” about former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. He did.
  2. Trump said health care costs are going up by 68 percent, 59 percent, 71 percent. The national estimate ranges are far lower.
  3. Trump said Clinton “acid washed” her private email server. She didn’t. She used an app called Bleachbit, not a corrosive chemical.
    Previously criticized.
  4. Trump said Clinton doesn’t know Russia hacked the DNC. U.S. intelligence has said they very likely did.
    Must one remind fact checkers that “knowing” and “guessing” are two different things?
  5. Trump said Clinton got a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl “off” his charges. She didn’t.
  6. Trump said Clinton laughed at a child rape victim. She didn’t.
  7. Trump said Clinton “viciously attacked” four women. This is largely unsubstantiated.
    It is worth noting that if one takes the perspective of a feminist, and believes women who charge men with rape, then ‘largely unsubstantiated’ could be interpreted as ‘likely nevertheless.’ From what I can tell about criticisms of the Clintons, an enduring theme is how the couple weasel out of charges by lying, stonewalling, and backroom negotiations. So one gets the sneaking suspicion that the judgment, above, is of dubious merit.
  8. Trump said his 2005 recording didn’t describe sexual assault. It did.
    This is very much a matter of interpretation, which is why on the page devoted to the issue, NBC admits that “It’s unclear what Trump means.” And it is also the case that a sexual grope can be welcomed and that does in fact make the grope not a sexual assault. I have been groped without my permission. I moved the “assaulter’s” hand away from my crotch. I guess this is an example of one standard for men and another for women, since I would never have accused the man who groped me of sexual misconduct worth legal reflection, though by the letter of modern law he could have been prosecuted. Further, it is worth noting that Trump was bantering with a friend. He may very well have been engaging in something like hyperbole.
  9. Trump said Clinton’s campaign started the “birther” movement. She didn’t.
    This is a prime example of sneaky re-phrasing. “Clinton’s campaign” is not the same as “She.” And the article linked, incidentally, does not deal with the key proponent of the idea in the accusations I have heard. I rate this “Fact Check” DECEPTIVE.
  10. Trump said Clinton wants a single payer healthcare. She doesn’t.
    No one knows what a liar wants, not for sure. The link at the time that I inspected this page did not go anywhere to back this up.
  11. Trump said the San Bernardino shooters’ neighbors saw bombs in their apartment. They didn’t.
  12. Clinton wants 550 percent more Syrian refugees, Trump said. He’s right.
  13. Trump said the nation can’t screen those refugees. That’s false.
    To back up this expression of apparent certainty, NBC/Politifact notes “the extensive screening” current refugees “undergo.” This assumes that the screening that now takes place is effective, and that Trump would be forced by the facts to agree with that evaluation. I doubt if many people would concur with NBC here. The assumption that some current level of screening could scale up to Trump-acceptable screening is not logical.
  14. Trump said he was against the Iraq invasion. He wasn’t.
  15. Trump said he doesn’t know Putin. That’s not what he said before 2015.
  16. Clinton said she wasn’t Secretary of State when Obama proclaimed the use of chemical weapons by Syria was a red line. She was.

Though this list is not utterly without value, a simple look at the words chosen shows that quite a few rhetorical and logical tricks have been used to declare Trump less factual than Hillary.

I wish to add, however, that I am not defending Trump as a reliable deliverer of facts. He is not. He is, generally, sloppy regarding facts, seeming more like a bull-shitter than anything else.

But when it comes to chickenshit, NBC and Politifact remain champions.

twv

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This is from NBC.

Read no. 3 again. Yes, you read that correctly.

Think on’t, as Shakespeare put it.

Selah.

Why do we hate the major media? Could it be because of things like this third “checked” fact?

Trump said Clinton “acid washed” her private email server. She didn’t. She used an app called Bleachbit, not a corrosive chemical.

Memo to NBC: You miserable, illiterate, deceptive hacks! I’m no Trump fan; I will not vote for him. But I know a figure of speech when I see one. If you don’t, you do not deserve to be listened to even by a bartender, much less published by a major media outlet. If you do understand, you deserve ignominy to the end of your days: You are merely trying to corral the rubes into voting booths to vote your way, before being slaughtered.*

As Americans prepare for the worst presidency in our history, and the implosion of the GOP in the wake of Donald Trump’s great hijacking, perhaps we should prepare ourselves for the complete destruction of the Fourth Estate. No group in America, other than Congress, more deserves an immediate cessation of life. And a salting of the Earth upon which it inhabits.

twv

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* And yes, that italicized sentence is rhetorical, too. Not literally true, but you get the idea, you pathetic ninnies.

The Piccolino Eponymy: An instance of excessive artistic self-reference, as in “songs about songs” and “songs about dances,” or “movie scripts about writers” and “films about actors,” but going that extra mile by identifying itself as its own title.

“Turkey in the Straw” probably seemed the height of brilliance at its debut, and in the early days of its popularity, because of that key passage in its lyrics where it names itself as its own very tuneful self, that is, “Turkey in the Straw.”

But it seemed “kinda dumb” when I first heard it, and remains, to this day, just the most memorable dumb song that refers to itself as its own title. Years later people would sing “Let’s do the…” Twist, Hokey-Pokey, who-knows-what. No real difference.

Some whole genres solipsistically do this on a regular basis, not by particular title but in praise of the genre itself: “It’s only ‘rock ’n’ roll’ but I like it.” Yawn. (I say this as I quote from my favorite rock concept album.)

Named for the worst song in a great movie, Top Hat. The song, of course, is one whose lyrics celebrate a song titled “The Piccolino.”

Philosophy and Christianity have been mostly at loggerheads from the beginning . . . of Christianity.

My side is with philosophy. No doubt about that. But having watched God’s Not Dead for the first time tonight, I have to say that I am not exactly on that proselytizing film’s critics’ side. The movie is not as bad as most critics make out. It is well acted, tightly plotted and edited, artfully framed with incidental music, and contains several juicy, fun scenes.

At base, God’s Not Dead is about a philosophical argument. Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist philosophy professor who professes atheism but engages in almost no philosophical argumentation.

I would like to say this makes the film horribly unrealistic, but I have heard stories about such abominations in colleges. Sorbo’s Prof. Radisson is a terrible teacher, and there is little evidence demonstrating his expertise in his subject. Surely most philosophers would leap at a student’s interest in a subject dealt with in many different ways during the course of philosophy. Instead, Radisson tries to skip the theology section of his philosophy course by demanding that each student sign a piece of paper saying “God is dead.”

An absurd approach to teaching, and no way to cover philosophy, which began, after all, as the critique of both religion and common sense.

But it does not really seem too far out of the stream of bad teaching in America.

His foil is our hero, a young Christian student who stands up for God in class.

Philosophers who like movies might want to contrast it with Agora, a film set in late antiquity Egypt starring Rachel Weisz as the neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia.

Whereas God’s Not Dead is fiction, with a shaggy god ending, Agora retells a historical tale. Fictionalized, of course.

In Agora, as in history, a  mob of Christians kills the philosopher.

In God’s Not Dead, the filmmaker kills off the atheist professor . . . fictionally, giving him a deathbed conversion to boot.

This is how Christianity has progressed: from lying about and killing a philosopher to discrediting a philosophical position by “killing off” the vexatious representative character.

In a film that also depicts (fairly realistically) a Muslim father who disowns and throws out of his house a daughter who converts to Christianity, I would say that this is a kind of progress.

Still, the attack upon reason goes on. In real life, a number of years ago, Christians got their hands on senescent atheist philosopher Antony Flew, cajoling him into a half-assed repudiation of some of his previous positions. The devil takes the hindmost; Christians pick off the weakest.

Most critics of GND hated it, saying it was too simplistic and tendentious. Objectively, that is true. But we are talking movies here. Simple-minded and tendentious is the new style, no? That’s what all political movies are, basically. Michael Moore, anyone?

It is not as if today’s highly politicized ideological culture is better when it comes to politics. It is not.

For my part, the biggest disappointment in the film is not the convenient death of the professor. It is the ending at a Christian Rock concert. If I wanted to disprove the existence of God, I might point to Christian Rock as all the proof I need. God cannot even make a miracle of converting young people to like great music. Instead, they adopt CR as a smoker switches to vaping. The drug is there. It is just a new delivery system.