07 January 2020

Rage-Flavored Link Sausage Platter

This first internet link-sausage platter of the year may, or may not, contain holiday-meal leftovers. I'm not telling; and I'm not specifying species (or planet of origin), either. Nor paying for any intrusive USDA inspectors (even under the currently laissez faire inspection system).

  • RWA continues to demonstrate that it's just like other creators' trade groups in the arts. Or even academia. I've only seen this up close a dozen times or so… and it doesn't get any better as leftovers.

    Maybe the politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low. So low, that is, to those who define "stakes" as "further accretion of money and political power" and not "creative life, or cultural participation, or personal identity." The irony that this distinction in identification itself has strong race, ethnicity, gender, and related discriminatory components hasn't yet sunk in… nor has the problem of an industry oligopolist owned by Sauron that is probably now less discriminatory than it was before he bought it (which should really, really frighten you).

  • If you've got a grim sense of humor — and if you don't, what are you doing here? — that leads right into The Observer's 2019 awards for sexism, narcissism, and generally going to the dogs. Which restrict themselves to corporatism, so they're not as scary as they could be.
  • For example, they're not as scary as pondering war crimes and the racist and religious bigotry therein. Almost universally in the West, but that's a topic that tends to get obscured by overfocus on dynasticism and the nation-state. Do you know who else was hurt or killed in that drone strike, or what property was damaged? Have you even seen any reporting on it? Have you ever seen grainy, declassified post-strike damage-assessment photographs that might raise those questions? Dammit, that's one of the differences between "military operation" and "assassination": The former gives a rat's nether regions about "collateral damage." Sometimes that's all it gives, but it starts the conversation…
  • And in the meantime, an overprivileged white woman plays the civility card in general (barely acknowledging that word) without pondering why there is rage resulting in incivility. Maybe — just maybe — the historical refusal of the privileged to actually change anything, or even listen and engage, when the nonprivileged use civility as their only means of communicating their displeasure, has something to do with it. A call for "civility" is a call for "all interrogations use only the good cop." Sometimes "good cop only" interrogation works to get good information, sometimes it doesn't. But it almost never works for indoctrination…

    McArdle claims that "This might be a fair answer if rage-filled invective worked. But anger and shaming only promote change in people who view each other as part of the same moral community — which is exactly what the scream teams no longer do." This betrays a flagrant ignorance of just how rage-filled (in a contemporaneous sense) the rhetoric of the Founding Fathers was, although they were well-educated enough (in our conception, history being written by the victors) to speak in terms we're not offended by. If McArdle's fellow-traveler/ally DeVos gets her way, though, the "underclass" will be educated just well enough to take those (non-existent) "good manufacturing jobs" — but not well enough to express their rage, fifteen years down the line when the manufacturers are bought out by private equity firms and the jobs disappear, in "civil" language.

    Besides, "rage-filled invective" does work on all evidence, or at least is a necessary part of the conversation to discomfit the comfortable enough so they listen and act. Only after there was public "rage-filled invective" from the black community did the white, privileged community begin to actually take steps to implement Brown's precepts, or establish the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or Civil Rights Act of 1964; only after Stonewall was there a growing, eventually widespread (if not universal) acceptance that treatment of the gay community might require some reconsideration; #MeToo (and anyone who claims that one can talk about sexual assault in a "civil" fashion has never been responsible for any aspect of the aftermath); and so on. So, as is all too typical, McArdle couldn't even get her factual predicate correct without twisting it through her preconceived ideology. And that, more than anything else, is why her variety of civility is so thoroughly and (pun intended) rightly rejected by the unprivileged as insulting, condescending, meaningless blather.

  • Then contrast McArdle's blather with a field guide to tyranny — presented in a civil forum, in civil language, that gets nowhere near (like not even on the same continent as) Rwanda and the Congo and Egypt and Libya. OK, I take that back a little bit: That "book review" by a white male author of a book by a white male author does deign to mention Mengistu in Ethiopia. Once. But not Ian Smith or the RSA. Or the "subcontinent." Or nineteenth-century Europe. Or the pre-eighteenth-century Vatican…
  • I've held off commenting on this for as long as I can, primarily because Reasons. Overdrive, the leading source of electronic materials in US libraries, has a long history of dubious, privacy-infringing, copyright-and-creators'-rights-disdaining activities (just for fun, turn on your packet sniffer and watch its "friendly" Libby app in action). And it's being sold to an even worse new owner. The history of KKR acquisitions doesn't make me optimistic at all… because all the data Overdrive has gathered/does gather is going to end up in someone else's database within 36-42 months. And it's someone even less well vetted for privacy (and, for that matter, intellectual property) policies than KKR — because that's KKR's business model.
  • Which really isn't any better than Silcon Valley entrepreneurship epitomized by Uber, whose founder's, umm, incivility has led to his jump-before-being-pushed permanent departure. Or, as the sausage preceding that one implies, governmental tyranny.
  • But you can't dance to it at the best of times, especially if you're utterly ignorant of the arts as a process and not a thing. Sadly, that last is a shot at Mr Caramanica, but much less so than at the legal community as a whole… let alone the private equity and venture capitalist types — in medieval/Renaissance terms, "patrons" — who control and disproportionately benefit from the commercial exploitation of that process.