I can’t recommend this Amanda Marcotte piece enough. Abortion has no negative net effect on the Democratic Party’s struggles with the white working-class over the past 40 years. Those problems revolve around white people’s racism.
Author Page for Erik Loomis
How did we reach a point in American life where Bud Selig could be the least loathsome of the major sports league commissioners? This thought causes me nightmares.
I’ve been thinking more about issues surrounding what I see as progressives’ lack of understanding around how to organize for the change they want. See here, but to reiterate, too many progressives see voting for “the one leader who will save us” every four years as a useful strategy, as opposed to the decades-long work of creating real change through organizing on the local level and either establishing a legitimate third party with deep local roots or taking over the Democratic Party structure and remaking it in their own image, i.e., what radical conservatives have done to the Republican Party over the past 50 years.
I started to wonder why so many progressives seem to believe this, whether Nader in 2000 or Obama in 2008 or whatever. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. But as a historian, I wonder if part of it doesn’t have to do with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about the past. Traditional teachings of history, as their critics have so long pointed out, have focused on the Great Man. Of course, that was a Great White Man who probably oppressed others or was at least morally compromised in some unacceptable ways (Thomas Jefferson having sex with his slaves, Andrew Jackson and lots of horrible things, etc). That kind of teaching about those kind of people arguably reinforced conservative political values, which is part of the reason that conservatives fight to control local school boards.
But while the Great White Man version of history is rightfully out of fashion for progressives, the Great Person who created tons of change version of history is as strong as ever. By focusing on the Great Person, even as we often tell ourselves that we focus on mass movements when really we don’t, I think we might be creating the conditions for Green Lantern versions of how change happens.
The most clear example of this is the civil rights movement. This story of one of tremendous complexity. It took decades of organizing to make this happen. Yet we tell it as the story of a couple of people doing amazing things. Rosa Parks wouldn’t get to the back of the bus because she wanted to rest her tired feet (a story that actually conflates two different women but one that is commonly told). Martin Luther King had a dream. Then some bad southern white people did bad things and King’s dream convinced the government to do something and the black people could ride the bus and go to school with white people. Therefore, the civil rights movement was a success.
King just had a dream. It was so powerful, look what it accomplished.
Or at least that’s pretty close to the master popular narrative of the movement.
This of course disguises that the civil rights movement was something that engaged tens of thousands of people over a century plus who did amazing actions and still do, even though the master narrative says the movement ended when King was killed in 1968.
It’s not all that different with other movements. The women’s movement is a series of leaders from Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem. Environmentalism is Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir and Rachel Carson. Gay rights is Harvey Milk. Labor is Mother Jones and John L. Lewis and Walter Reuther. Note that I have tried to avoid biographical pieces in my This Day in Labor History series. This is a specific choice to counter these narratives, though I may do so in the future.
We say these are mass movements, but we don’t teach them that way. Instead we teach the Dream and the Great Person. If King could change people’s hearts with his Dream, why can’t Obama change it with his supposed vision?
And the answer of course is that a) King didn’t change people’s hearts solely with his Dream and b) disappointment with Obama, while rooted in real reasons, is also a reflection of how the world works outside of myths we tell ourselves about change. A whole lot of civil rights activists called King a compromiser and even a sellout too, not only Malcolm X or Stokely Carmichael, but everyday people involved both deeply and peripherally in the movement. Whether they were right or wrong is a matter of opinion, but this King-centric Dream story is one that developed after his death, not during the movement’s heyday.
I understand the psychic need we have as people to craft historical narratives to fit our desires for the present. Stories about individual people creating change have a beautiful simplicity to them. But that doesn’t mean they are true. As we see in the present, change doesn’t happen in a beautifully simple and inspiring way. It’s a bloodbath full of power plays, infighting, and knife fights.
And I think if we understood this about the people and movements we revere in the past, we’d do a better job understanding how to organize and what to expect from our leaders in the present.
I don’t want to overstate the case because I am sure it is multifaceted. But I think I am getting at part of the problem.
Chris Blattman links to this very interesting image, charting film genres over time.
As you can see, this charts some expected but interesting phenomena–the decline of westerns, the rise of pornography, the consistent production of comedy.
There are a couple of problems here though. First, a short is not a genre and it makes no sense to have that as a separate category. Yes, 50% or more of early silents were shorts. But they were short comedies, short westerns, etc. Why are these not included in the other categories? Many of today’s shorts might fall under an “experimental” category, which could make sense. But for silent film, it really undercuts itself.
I’m also curious as to the lack of science fiction in the early years. I know it was hardly the popular genre of today. But a lot of the iconic silent films can be classified as science fiction. Maybe they were just statistically insignificant but culturally influential. I don’t really know.
A couple of commenters and links have basically said that in not taking drone killings of Pakistanis seriously enough (for them) in my post yesterday, that I am basically choosing which brown people matter and which don’t. Jim Henley especially does this, and in a particularly egregious way:
But you know, they are not so rich in Somalia and Pakistan, and not especially white, and a lot of them are women and girls. And Barack Obama operates a machinery that kills these people at a ferocious clip. This was wrong during the Bush years and it is wrong now. Loomis gives every indication of wanting to rule these men and women of color, modest means, and oh-so-convenient distance out of the moral calculus.
This is completely absurd. Yes, voting is about, in part, a moral calculus. But to quote djw,
The moral purpose of democracy is not to keep my hands clean and feel good about myself, no matter how much politicians and other demagogues claim otherwise. The moral purpose of democracy is the reduction of abusive power in the world. Unfortunately there’s a lot of it, and democracy’s pretty clearly an insufficient tool to address it, but that’s no reason not to use the tool, when and where you can.
Indeed. I’m not saying bombing Pakistanis doesn’t matter. I’m saying that basing a vote ONLY on that and its related issues of civil liberties a) completely ignores the very real difference between Obama and Romney on a huge host of issues that affect the poor in this country and b) shows a very real sense of privilege by those making that argument because they are personally far removed from the reality of being a person of color or poor in this country. That’s great that people are highlighting this issue. But many of those who do so also almost always ignore or trivialize internal issues that the poor and people of color face.
It’s not that we should ignore the killing of Yemenis by drones. The problem is that AMERICANS LIKE KILLING BROWN PEOPLE OVERSEAS IF THERE’S NO COST TO THEM. Sorry for the caps but it’s important to get that point across. The problem of drones and civil liberties and human rights is that Americans don’t care about these issues. It’s not about Obama or Romney, not about the Democratic or Republican parties. It’s that there is a bipartisan consensus in this country, supported by a majority of voters in both parties, that using drones to bomb Afghani wedding parties is completely OK.
That’s completely messed up. But there’s nothing I can do about that with my vote. There are other issues where I wish greater differences separated the parties. Agricultural policy, defense spending, etc. But on these issues, I have to accept that I sit in a deep minority here. I could file a protest vote but that’s pure narcissism unless one is truly committed to building party structures that would transform American politics.
However, there are very real differences between the two parties and their candidates on a whole host of issues where my vote might matter. Abortion rights. Gay rights. Environmental protection. Labor rights. Access to voting. Etc. It is on these issues that we have to make our choices. The election is still close and every vote matters, both up and down ticket. Presumably, if you think that you need to vote for Gary Johnson in order to protest drone killing, you want others to do so as well. And doing so over an Obama vote both gives a half vote to Romney and suggests that you are fine with voting for a candidate who would eviscerate the social system of this country if, god forbid, he was actually elected. That is pretty reprehensible.
If either major party offered a platform opposed to killing Pakistanis through the air, that would be great. Instead, we face a choice between someone who has continued the terrible policies of his predecessor and someone who is openly campaigning to kill even more brown people. So even on this issue, there is a slight difference.
Given the reality of American life, I can either make myself feel morally clean, vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and effectively give 0.5 votes to Mitt Romney, a man who would destroy the rights of poor people in this country while make the life of poor people around the world even worse. Or I can swallow my pride, vote for Obama, and work to change the Democratic Party and political life in this country so we can get to a point where we don’t have a bipartisan consensus that killing random Muslims is actually a good thing.
Connor Friedersdorf writes the kind of political essay I can’t see anyone but a privileged white person writing. Going as far as to nearly (but not quite he says!) compare President Obama to an apologist for slavery, he can’t stomach voting for Obama because of his policies in Pakistan, drones, etc.
Instead, he says we should vote for Gary Johnson since there’s a candidate who won’t do those things.
In a sense I respect it when people care so much about one issue that they can’t vote for any candidate who disagrees. On the other hand, Friedersdorf doesn’t seem to care one iota about the horrible economic and social policies a Romney administration would enact. He doesn’t seem to care at all about labor, abortion rights, gay rights, environmental policy, etc., etc. It’s all about drones, civil liberties, and such. And Obama has indeed sucked on those issues.
But given that Friedersdorf probably doesn’t have to worry much about his next paycheck or be concerned about having an unwanted fetus in his body, it’s a luxury for him to be a one-issue voter on this particular issue. It’s all too typical of a lot of angry left-wing white men from Glenn Greenwald on down who live privileged enough lives that they can find the one issue where there really aren’t any differences on the two parties and instead suggest alternatives that completely ignore the poor in this country, whether being Paul-curious to not voting to voting for a whacko like Gary Johnson. That doesn’t solve any problems and it goes back to the worthlessness of politics to make a point I talked about last week.
The Republicans might as well fight tooth and nail for Todd Akin’s bid to become a senator from Missouri. It’s not like a sizable percentage of Republican politicians and activists honestly have a problem with Akin’s legitimate rape comments. Their problem with him is that he said them out loud. The GOP war on women continues unabated.
It certainly seems to me that a huge percentage of our leaders, whether in business, politics, university presidents, or whatnot are former fraternity members. Theoretically sorority members too, but who are we kidding. Glass ceiling! Anyway, the next generation of leaders from the University of Tennessee really inspire confidence in the future…
As medical personnel treated a University of Tennessee student for severe alcohol poisoning from a bizarre consumption method, UT police walked into a drunken scene at a campus fraternity, records show.
Officers early Saturday found several young men at the Pi Kappa Alpha house, 1820 Fraternity Park Drive, passed out in their rooms “and bags from wine boxes, some empty and some partially empty, strewn across the halls and rooms.”
Authorities think Alexander P. Broughton, 20, of Memphis, who had a blood-alcohol level thought to be “well over” 0.40 percent, ingested the alcohol by a method known as “butt chugging,” in which wine was inserted directly by a tube into his rectum for quick and potent absorption.
“Upon extensive questioning it is believed that members of the fraternity were using rubber tubing inserted into their rectums as a conduit for alcohol as the abundance of capillaries and blood vessels present greatly heightens the level and speed of the alcohol entering the blood stream as it bypasses the filtering by the liver,” DeBusk stated in a news release Monday.
I don’t know why I even bother commenting on this. But first, if you are going to insert a tube up your ass and dump alcohol into it in order to get as drunk as humanely possible with great rapidity, why would you even bother with wine? Why wouldn’t you buy a bottle of the cheapest vodka on the market?
Second, the image of a bunch of frat guys shoving rubber tubes up each others asses and then dumping alcohol in the tubes does what I thought was in fact impossible–lower my opinion of the greek system.
On the other hand, you have to admit that we have some fine candidates to be solons in the Tennessee state legislature.
….Also, while we lack concrete evidence that Glenn Reynolds bought the wine for this UT Young Republican night of pranks, it would be irresponsible not to note that we also can’t rule it out.
Wendy Lyon with an interesting piece about the Irish labor movement explicitly excluding sex workers from its definition of labor. It’s hardly surprising, both within the Irish context of discomfort over such matters and within labor writ large excluding those outside of “respectable” forms of work. But it also leaves some of Ireland’s most marginalized workers exposed to danger, violence, and exploitation. I know that recognizing sex work as work means that we are legitimizing the sex trade. But does not legitimizing that trade accomplish anything positive at all?
It’s probably not uncommon for City traders to wonder how they burnt so much cash during a drunken night on the town.
But Steve Perkins was left with a bigger black hole in his memory than most when his employer rang one morning to ask what he’d done with $520m of the oil trading firm’s money.
It was 7.45am on June 30 last year when the senior, longstanding broker for PVM Oil Futures was contacted by an admin clerk querying why he’d bought 7m barrels of crude in the middle of the night.
The 34-year old broker at first claimed he had spent the night trading alongside a client. But the story began to fall apart when he refused to put the customer in touch with his desk for official approval of the trades.
By 10am it emerged that Mr Perkins had single-handedly moved the global price of oil to an eight-month high during a “drunken blackout”. Prices leapt by more than $1.50 a barrel in under half an hour at around 2am – the kind of sharp swing caused by events of geo-political significance. Ten times the usual volume of futures contracts changed hands in just one hour.
The investigation also shows that he was able to trade huge volumes with very little cash up front and no position limit, exposing how it easy it was for a single British broker on a bender to cause chaos in the oil market.
I obviously should be silenced for questioning the competence of the people controlling our economy.
…In comments, Malaclypse points us to the fate of the drunken oil trader–he got a job as an energy trader in Switzerland! Because in the new Gilded Age, our elites can never be punished. A failure is just an opportunity for a better job.
I love the Seattle Seahawks. But they just won the worst refereed game in the history of the National Football League. After bogus call after bogus call, affecting both teams equally for most of the game, the final blow against the NFL lockout has just happened.
In a last second pass, Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw a pass that was “caught” by Golden Tate. By “caught” I mean the ball was obviously intercepted. But the refs called it for Seattle, end of game. Green Bay just lost a game because of scab referee incompetence.
This is a complete joke. Laughable. I know I thought the NFL wouldn’t let it get this far. And some have repeatedly pointed out I was wrong, even trying to say the scab refs weren’t that bad. And so who knows, the NFL leadership is so ideologically committed to not paying the referees a pension, that they could let their product go to complete shit. But this has gone way, way too far. This is now the story of the NFL season. If the Packers don’t get home field advantage in the playoffs, if they get a wildcard instead of a division championship, if they don’t make the playoffs by a game, the referees just cost the Packers.
PC: Check out this still frame of the “game winning touchdown catch.”