09 January 2021

Now With All the Clarity of a Dream

I'll try to have at least one item on this sausage platter that does not refer or relate to the unjustified attempted coup this week.

  • Let's get the obvious out of the way first: The initial response of the authorities. On one hand, the contrast with responses to peaceful Black Lives Matter protests — and, more to the point, the contrast with the Lafayette Square fiasco only a few months back — indicates that maybe someone, somewhere is learning that "potential property damage" does not justify urban warfare responses. (Too bad the racial contrast is so severe and so intertwined and so expected.) On the other hand, this was so obvious that it shouldn't have had to be learned by screwing things up the first time. And the second time. And the sixth.
  • But the real problem is school-age lunchroom cliques, with their various insecurities and incitement to at best shunning the unpopular. That's right: The Plastics are to blame. Which makes The Orange One, Mini Orange One, Erik the Viking, and Ivanka rather a Mean Girls clique of their own, doesn't it? And two of them even used to have fashion lines…

    Free speech is not the problem. Platforms without Establishment gatekeepers have a serious potential to overcome the Hyde Park problem: That only those with the social standing and financial independence to spend their days in Hyde Park have a platform for nonmainstream views, and those views are communicated only to those with the social standing and financial independence to wander around Hyde Park (during the workday, one might add, but that's for another time). The real problem arises when the Establishment selectively provides megaphones to those Hyde Park denizens who are furthering its interests, either directly or otherwise… and then exploits the entire scene for its own benefit. (None of the venture capitalists who funded social media platforms were outsiders; indeed, they were all Plastics.)

    It's not just the obvious miscreants who bear responsibility, either. That's getting rather far afield, into…

  • … the antithesis of democracy, of the democratic republic, of simple respect for others: Theocracy. Rudell's op-ed piece is just not willing to apply that label, but that's precisely what we've seen: A power structure composed only of true believers in a narrow set of principles that self-excuses every other abuse — abuses of method, abuses of substance, abuses of principal. That was also the fundamental(ist) problem with the Confederacy — and with tenth through seventeenth-century Europe. Anyone who refuses to draw any lessons from the Crusades/Reformation/Counterreformation is both contemptibly ignorant and probably a theocrat.
  • Then there's the flip side of "political populism": Organization of the non-Establishment (preferably without doing the whole fraternity-hazing thing and becoming the Establishment). That is, unions. Whether in Big Tech or Little Canvas or even the Ivory Tower — and no matter what age — there's a continuous struggle concerning both compensation and working conditions between those actually providing "value" and those who benefit from "value." It's exacerbated in the US by our cramped distinctions of exactly who can organize: The employee/independent contractor, supervisor/drone, policymaker/drone, and a variety of other artificial distinctions that don't make all that much functional sense beyond "cost containment."

    Perhaps the suppression of unions has some reaction in the rise of organized right-wing populism: Those Real 'murikans no longer have unions to speak for them, to push for every worker having a better life than their parents, and so we're back in Lancashire coalfields in the 1970s (the English unions had gone nuts and become ineffective regarding true abuses since the 1960s). Just before the Battle of Orgreave — of which we've just seen sick and twisted echoes replay pretty much throughout 2020, because it's an even closer parallel to Black Lives Matter and that response.

  • Welcome to the party, National Conference of Bar Examiners: You've finally realized that the bar exam isn't testing anything worthwhile. The next step will be questioning whether any exam can do so, followed by upsetting the Langdellian curriculum in favor of learning something about data along with the theory. I don't expect to see either of those during my lifetime… because it would tend to upset credentialism and would force law professors to spend time with and gathering data. Even more so, it would force BigLaw partners to do so — and we can't have that, because if we did they'd be a little bit closer to telling some of their clients "You fucked up! Take responsibility for it!"

OK, so I failed on that aspiration. That is, unfortunately, also perfectly in line with the past week. Hell, with the past four years.