Trenchant Lemmings
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
 
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
August 30, 2016
Free

If you enjoyed this twitterspasm and would like to know more about the siege of Fort McHenry and the war of 1812, why not go here or here if you can't find the giftshop.

Cockburn, delighted with his recruits, noted happily that they excited “the most general & undisguised alarm” among the populace. He was certainly correct. “Our negroes are flocking to the enemy from all quarters, which they convert into troops, vindictive and rapacious — with a most minute knowledge of every bye path,” wrote an American commander in early August. “They leave us as spies upon our posts and our strength, and they return upon us as guides and soldiers and incendiaries.”
- "Washington Is Burning: Two centuries of racial tribulation in the nation’s capital" by Andrew Cockburn, in Harper's.
Ironically, while Key was composing the line "O'er the land of the free," it is likely that black slaves were trying to reach British ships in Baltimore Harbor. They knew that they were far more likely to find freedom and liberty under the Union Jack than they were under the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
- "Where’s the Debate on Francis Scott Key’s Slave-Holding Legacy?" by Christopher Wilson, at Smithsonian Magazine.

Oh dang, Snopes beat me to it.


August 29, 2016
Interpretation

Go here and have all possible fun watching Americans argue about what "hireling and slave" might mean.


August 12, 2016
Impugn

The racism of the upper class is never, ever the focus of newspaper article or thumbsucker pieces. So much is it ignored that it is as if it doesn’t exist. If it does exist, then perhaps one should ask questions about that class – but to do that is to impugn, even tacitly, the owners of the media. So … look over there, some fat white woman who works at Walmart is showing a confederate flag!


August 10, 2016
Stooges

But by far the greatest irony in all of this is that Democrats have now explicitly adopted the exact smears that were used by the Far Right for decades to demonize liberals and the left as disloyal Kremlin stooges. For the entire second half of the 20th Century, any Americans who opposed U.S. proxy wars with Russia, or advocated arms control deals with them, or generally desired less conflict, were branded as Useful Idiots of the Kremlin, loyal to Moscow, controlled by Russian leaders. Democrats have taken this script – one of the most shameful and destructive in American history – and have made it the centerpiece of their 2016 presidential campaign.
Of doubtful educative usefulness (as the fingers-in-the-ears-screaming-la-la-la self-delusion of decent neo-liberals this election season is off the scale), but a nice overview of the history of this bit of Americana nevertheless.


Codependency

This is why lesser-of-two-evils arguments are so unconvincing: there’s only one evil, it suffuses everything we see, and while one might do less harm than the other, each of its warring parts is still fundamentally the same thing. Donald Trump’s frenzied populism couldn’t exist without the suffocating liberal condescension of a Hillary Clinton; nobody would ever vote for Clinton if it weren’t for the looming threat of a Trump.
In The Baffler, Sam Kriss' neo-Kantian refutation of the witless dogma of lesser-evilism, thinly disguised as a review of Suicide Squad. Perhaps not the most fun part of the piece; although it's all good, the opening four paragraphs eviscerating Jared Leto's idiotic method approach to his three minute turn as the Joker are a particular joy.


August 08, 2016
Interference

If Trump ascends to the presidency or lays the groundwork for an even fouler creature in 2020, it won’t be because liberals have kneecapped themselves through their venality, lack of vision or mocking the youth as hopelessly naive, it will be the work of a network of corrupting agents. It is easier to assume that Trump is a foreign agent than confront the fact that he is squarely within the tradition of American politics and preying on the Democrats’ class treachery. This also nicely augments the Democrat blackmail that the left has to support Clinton to defeat not only fascism but also Putin’s evil empire.

The hysterical Russophobia that has gripped the Democrats, the policy establishment and the liberal media is a form of fetishist disavowal and a collective liberal nervous breakdown. American democracy is now said to be fundamentally under threat, not from any internal corruption but from Russian interference looking to install a puppet regime and subvert the polls in November. This affair has elicited the usual shrieking headlines from liberal HuffPo but the star of this oeuvre is Franklin Foer who, when he could not find a brown paper bag to breathe into, wrote a piece entitled ‘The DNC Hack is Watergate, but Worse’. Foer, whose analysis has been cited by the Clinton campaign, argues that the hack reveals nothing of any news value. Apparently the public should not be surprised about the DNC’s attempts to Jew-bait Bernie Sanders but be ‘appalled by the publication of this minutiae’ for the benefit of a foreign despot.
This piece by Olivier Jutel at Overland on the Democrats' regular as clockwork "It's Us or Fascism!" grift is an excellent read, despite the Lacanian debris you'll have to clamber over in the process. Enjoy! (*cough* my little joke)


July 31, 2016
Dangerous

They might not think as I do. They might not know that she has demonstrated the willingness and the predilection to go to war more quickly than her Republican counterpart. They might not believe, as I do, that money in politics and the slow transformation of this country into an oligarchy is as insidiously dangerous as the lump-headed racism of the alt-right that is drowning the Republican Party.
Michael Harriot states the blindingly obvious. Oh, boy, is he gonna get yelled at.


Exotic

The first instinct of many in the US press and political class is to treat Trump as if he’s some foreign entity, an exotic outsider who can only be referenced with regard to Less Civilized Countries. This tic was again found in President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night at the DNC, when he called Trump “un-American.” Several pundits followed suit, praising this sentiment as clever and effective. Trump was something foreign, without precedent, that could only be understood in the context of things outside The Greatest Country on Earth.

But, as some on the left have noted, Trump is as American as apple pie.
FAIR on the usual boilerplate, linking to Grandin, Greenwald and quoting Robin (see also.)


July 30, 2016
Social Justice Warriors

On Friday 4 August 1939, while members of the Queensland State Labor Caucus were having their morning meeting in a room in Parliament House in Brisbane, a group of 37 men, calling themselves the ‘Social Justice League’, entered, making threats, carrying batons, coils of barbed wire, hammers, knuckledusters and other tools. Barricading themselves in, they demanded a 40-hour week, lower taxes and tolls, unemployment relief, cooperative ownership of primary industry, and a ‘stabilised price’ for farmers.

It was, unsurprisingly, a dramatic scene. ‘I refuse to be instructed by you’, Premier William Forgan Smith told the group’s leader, and went on, in his strong Scottish accent, to lecture the men. ‘This is a display of Fascism and I will not countenance such an outrage in Queensland. We refuse to be intimidated by you, individually or collectively, and I ask you to withdraw’. When a leader (perhaps Richard Newton Boorman), claimed to be a rebel in the Jacobite mould, making reference to the 1746 battle of Culloden, the premier told him that if he was a rebel he ‘would have to take the consequences of being one’. In the excitement, one Minister slipped out to call the police, who soon arrived, and took everyone to jail.
This vignette about your grand-daddy's SJWs comes from Liam Hogan's potted history of the nutty Social Credit movement at Overland.


July 26, 2016
Optimism

I think it’s understandable at moments like this to long for a return to the status quo, but let’s remember that the status quo, whatever its advantages and disadvantages, was not survivable. We cannot survive an endless escalation of inequality, not even physically. Many areas that voted to leave Europe will probably within our lifetimes be forming a much more challenging union with the sea. Neoliberalism has taken a stranglehold on our societies by seeing chaotic events as opportunities. Well, maybe we should take this opportunity to do something decent. To elect a government that will retain the best parts of EU legislation and strengthen them in the direction of workers, rather than corporations. There is a reason that so many banks, multinationals and, of course, the United States feared Brexit. I think if I had to say what the most feared thing in the course of human history is, it’s probably a good example.
-//-
Remain’s leaders would have kept us straitjacketed into the EU’s current death-by-a-thousand-cuts version of corporate neoliberalism. At least now, shed of that distraction, we have our governmental elites much more clearly in our sights. How smaller, shabbier and curiously more vulnerable they look, without that EU cloak they avowed to detest draped around their shoulders. And this is as it should be, as they’ve basically put everything into play.
-//-
I’d like Clinton more if she told the truth about herself: that she is a smart, amoral and competent steward of American empire, who understands material reality and the laws of physics. And that – although it is perhaps not the most exciting case one can make for a leader – this is more than you can say for her Republican opponent. I wonder if Clinton wishes she were running in a different country, one to which she could speak frankly. She’d look it in the eye, and say: “Yes, I believe in nothing. But I’m an intelligent adult. No Rome will burn on my watch. I’ll keep us on the slow decline to which you people are accustomed. I’ll make nothing better – but I won’t make things radically worse.”
Gosh, three cites all from the Guardian; that is strange. I usually find their opinion pages as tiresome as I'm finding the bien pensant wailing wall of latter day Twitter, now spiralling into the tu quoque event horizon that presages an American election.


July 10, 2016
Post-mortem

Much of the content of this populism is, simply, nothing other than what an ordinary member of the ALP or Liberal Party believed a half-century ago. The political–media caste imagines that social-historical time flows the same everywhere. It doesn’t. The revival of Pauline Hanson’s fortunes is not a sign that the new senate system is “a disaster” or that “the genie is out of the bottle”. That’s nasty, elitist stuff. What it means is that people knew who they were voting for, and got them, rather than whichever carousel creation of insiders the ticket-voting system dished up. Hanson’s vote – about 8 per cent – is not an unusual showing for a nativist party, with the usual obsessions, in a Western society. The new system didn’t conjure her supporters into being. They were always there. Now their reasonable arguments can be debated, and their more noxious and wacky ones vociferously challenged. Finally, the 2016 election got exciting. It just happened after the voting stopped.
- Guy Rundle in The Saturday Paper
At this stage the only thing that seems clear is that Malcolm Turnbull’s days as prime minister are numbered. The Coalition may be returned in its own right, or Turnbull may be able to form a minority government. But his ability to placate the rabid right wing of his party depends on him delivering clear electoral victories. He has failed his first test. He is unlikely to get another chance. How did it come to this?

The better question is: why did Turnbull get even this close? On its record, the Turnbull-led Coalition should have lost in a landslide. But we live in a mediated age ... [and] during the 2016 election campaign, mainstream content was virtually silent on the government’s record over the past three years. Even the most trusted of outlets, the ABC, was little more than a conduit for the parties’ narratives.
- Russell Marks in The Monthly
There’s a lesson for Australian media here. Journalists need to stop seeing themselves as players. Their job is to represent the public to decision-makers, not the other way around. We don’t want them to make forecasts; we want to them to demand answers to simple questions. We want them, beyond rare exceptions, to stop reporting self-serving anonymous scuttlebutt and to insist that people go on the record.
- Mr Denmore.

Mr Marks' and Mr Denmore's complaints about the news media are sufficiently valid that I will forgive their usual error of imagining the function of journalists (at least those who work for the commercial side of the legacy media) as genuinely something other than to provide content for an advertising platform.


July 06, 2016
Certainty

When the economy necessarily determines policy, why waste time with conferences and branch meetings and the other rituals of old fashioned political engagement democracy? You don’t lobby the seasons to change, you don’t protest at the ebb and flow of the tides. Once the market’s entirely naturalised, what’s the point, other than nostalgia, of a trade union or a pressure group?

...

[F]or the new mandarins, the shrinkage of such bodies doesn’t matter. On the contrary, it was all to the good, since it allowed the duly qualified experts to do their thing undistracted – and they had the business of governance entirely under control.

Until, suddenly, they didn’t.
- Mr Sparrow
Since when did the primary role of government become providing “certainty” to the business community? In fact, it’s hard to read a newspaper or turn on the TV these days without some rent-seeking plutocrat whining about the democratic process getting in the way of the grubby business of making money.

...

In short, “certainty” must be denied everyone but the wealthiest and most powerful members of the community. The rest of us, through three decades of neoliberalism, have gradually been stripped of our life protectors and told to sink or swim.

...

Now, with another indecisive election outcome, the business cassandras are out in force again, blitzing the media with doom-laden press releases – each of them faithfully recycled by a media that has come to accept uncritically the message that business interest and the public interest are one and the same.
- Mr Denmore.

Amusing also to see the media cheerfully doing the (ex-)government's work for them in spreading the Mediscare lie. While serving the Coalition's agenda to delegitimise their (near) loss, for our commentariat it, like the "Howard fatigue" nonsense of 2007, serves their neverending efforts to delegitimise democracy itself, and bury any suggestion that voters might be motivated by rational views on substantive issues, rather than being gulled by the scams of the campaign, sheep that we are.


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