The Dim-Post

November 26, 2016

Room at the top

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:12 am

Via the Herald:

Thirty-three of New Zealand’s most senior editors have urged the Commerce Commission to rethink its plan to reject the NZME-Fairfax merger. They are at loggerheads with a group of 11 former editors who say the Commerce Commission got it right.

Thirty-three senior editors seems like quite a lot of editors for two media companies who have sacked their subs and most of their actual reporters. A few years ago a friend of mine was working at Fairfax, on one of the late shifts. Some major news event had happened, and she was the only reporter in the office, but the news editor, the group editor, the Stuff editor and the Dom-Post editor were all clustered around her desk demanding copy.

What I’ve also been reading

Filed under: books — danylmc @ 5:55 am

I’ve read a lot of Ballard this year. Early on in his career he wrote two collections of linked short stories: Vermilion Sands and The Drowned World. They’re excellent. A lot better than Crash or High Rise, although you should probably read Crash anyway. (I still haven’t read Empire of the Sun.) Back in 1970 he said:

A lot of my prophecies about the alienated society are going to come true … Everybody’s going to be starring in their own porno films as extensions of the polaroid camera. Electronic aids, particularly domestic computers, will help the inner migration, the opting out of reality. Reality is no longer going to be the stuff out there, but the stuff inside your head. It’s going to be commercial and nasty at the same time.

I also read the Issacson biography of Steve Jobs. Bono is in it a lot, which I found a bit surprising.

Jobs was so furious that Palm was hiring some of his former employees that he complained to Bono, who was a cofounder of a private equity group, led by the former Apple CFO Fred Anderson, that had bought a controlling stake in Palm.

Apparently most of Bono’s wealth – which is vast – comes from his equity investments. U2 are arguably the most fashionable band in the world to hate nowadays – partly because Bono is so annoying; partly because their old songs are so ubiquitous it’s hard to pay attention to them as actual music. Naturally this makes me sympathetic to them. I heard All I Want is You on the radio the other day, for the first time in a while, and it’s a beautiful song.

November 22, 2016

Quotes of the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:04 pm

With the destruction of history, contemporary events themselves retreat into a remote and fabulous realm of unverifiable stories, uncheckable statistics, unlikely explanations and untenable reasoning

Guy Debord, writing about ‘post-truth politics’ back in 1968.

And I’m finally reading Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (this book gets name checked a lot in early Stephen King, and many of the scenes in ‘Salem’s Lot and It are borrowed directly from Metalious). It is exactly what I was in the mood for after all the Russian history and Marxist theory I’ve been reading all year. Sample quote:

20161122_094533

November 19, 2016

Supposing about Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:26 am

I’ve been thinking about this Frost poem recently:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

I thought this Scott Alexander blog about the left ‘crying wolf’ about Trump’s victory was interesting. I don’t agree with his conclusions but he makes some important arguments.

I’ve read an awful lot of takes on what Trump will and/or won’t do, and I think one of the main reasons he’s frightening is that no one really knows what he’ll do. Will he be like Hitler! Or Reagan! Or Berlusconi? Or George W? Or Putin? Or some new and totally different thing? Who can tell? Maybe some of the people making wild guesses will turn out to be correct. But I’m really over all the punditry jeers about how bumbling and incompetent his transition is and how ineffective he’ll be in government. The exact same people spent a year laughing at how hopeless Trump’s campaign was and he left the entire US political establishment in a smoking ruin. Here’s a Hollywood reporter article on his instantly notorious strategist, Steve Bannon:

In a nascent administration that seems, at best, random in its beliefs, Bannon can seem to be not just a focused voice, but almost a messianic one:

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Bannon represents, he not unreasonably believes, the fall of the establishment. The self-satisfied, in-bred and homogenous views of the establishment are both what he is against and what has provided the opening for the Trump revolution. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” he continues. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no f—ing idea what’s going on. If The New York Times didn’t exist, CNN and MSNBC would be a test pattern. The Huffington Post and everything else is predicated on The New York Times. It’s a closed circle of information from which Hillary Clinton got all her information — and her confidence. That was our opening.”

“I am,” he says, with relish, “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.”

Mark Lilla has what will probably be the canonical article on ‘the left must abandon identity politics to win’. He advocates a return to traditional ‘pre-identity liberalism’. But that’s a form of liberalism that appealed to class consciousness (ie basically just another form of identity politics) and that sense of class solidarity between workers doesn’t really exist any more.  It was also a very unequal form of liberalism in terms of outcomes, thus the emergence of race and gender based identity politics. This stuff is the solution to a problem. I agree that a lot of it seems like a flawed solution, but you can’t just dump it all without addressing the problems.

The left sure do seem to have a lot of intellectuals who claim they know exactly what to say to win the elections, and the uncultured, unintellectual right sure do seem to win a lot of elections. That’s all I know right now.

National disasters and data harvesting

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:26 am

Labour have come up with some clever ideas in the past to scam people into letting their data be harvested for the party’s voter contact database, but the earthquake is an actual national tragedy so this one seems kind of gross to me.

November 12, 2016

Preliminary demographics of the 2016 race

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:22 am

I thought this was interesting. A breakdown on US voter behaviour by race and gender:

It seems sensible to precede this with caveats about US political statistical data. And those are raw numbers, not percentages. Also, there’s enough information in there to focus in on different things and construct a narrative of what happened. You can also make the argument that the election was close, Clinton won the popular vote, ect, and if things had been slightly different the data would look very similar but the narrative stories we tell about it would be radically different. The election would have been about Trump alienating white women voters, and that would have been the decisive factor rather than whatever people are saying now: that Hilary was too close to Wall Street, or identity politics has failed, or that liberals are too smug and live in a bubble, or that white people are evil, or whatever.

One of the big questions for me is: why was the election so close? Trump is basically the incarnation of everything the left hates, and everything it exists to indict. Oligarchy, Racism. Sexism. Exploitation. Ignorance. Normally the left assures itself it fails to defeat these things because of structural barriers. Lack of money. Media bias. The establishment protecting the rotten status quo against progressive change. But none of those things were true this time around, and the right-wing candidate was the least qualified, most unpopular candidate in US political history, and the left got to spend an entire year saying everything it wanted to say about all of its core beliefs in a uniquely benign media environment. Obviously we can say, in hindsight that it was real close, Clinton was a flawed candidate because Wall Street etc, but is that really an explanation, given her far more deeply flawed opponent, and what was at stake, and the nature of the campaign?

Why was it so close? It’s like, I dunno – a world heavyweight boxing champion losing a bout to an untrained, unfit amateur and afterwards everyone nods their head sagely and says, ‘No sense generalising about what happened. Could have gone either way,’ or ‘Turns out that wasn’t quite the right world heavyweight champion to fight that untrained amateur. Should have picked that other guy.’

In general terms the election was about both candidates losing votes rather than gaining them. That makes sense to me. They were both unpopular. But what’s key here, for me, is that one candidates unpopularity with different groups did not really translate to another’s gain. Trump lost white women but so did Clinton. There’s this debate among the left-wing political class in the US at the moment about whether the Democrats should reach out to try and win white voters and male voters, or whether that’s letting the racists and bigots, win. That chart suggests the basic problem is reaching out to try and win anyone during an election in which they should have been winning everyone.

November 11, 2016

Now you’re talking

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:13 am

Naomi Klein writes:

Neo-fascist responses to rampant insecurity and inequality are not going to go away. But what we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left.

Stalin/Zhukov 2020

November 10, 2016

The first big thing I don’t understand about the US election

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 4:51 pm

One of the baked in assumptions about the US election and Clinton’s inevitable triumph was that Trump was toxic to women voters. The comments about Megyn Kelly, the Access Hollywood tape, the trail of sexual assault allegations, all compared to Clinton’s historic status as the first female presidential nominee would, it was widely assumed, reduce his support white women voters to such a degree his path to the presidency would simply be impossible.

And I am bewildered and dumbfounded that this did not happen. Instead he got almost the same proportion of white women voting for him as they did Romney. What happened there? Is it because Trump ran a campaign based on white identity, and ethnicity prevails over gender issues for many voters? If so, I guess that would have been a useful thing for the Clinton campaign to know before they walked into a campaign overwhelmingly predicated on gender and ethnic division. Was there some other decisive factor? What was it?

Notes on Trump’s victory

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:34 am
  • Wow! There’s this apocryphal quote attributed to both Sinclair Lewis and Huey Long, that when fascism came to America it would be ‘carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag’. Turned out that when fascism came to American it really just openly looked like fascism. And people voted for it anyway.
  • I had this post up a couple of days ago about Albianian click-farmers targeting Trump voters with mis-information. Ha! Stupid Trump voters! But it now strikes me that all the commentary and analysis confidentially predicting Clinton’s victory, citing the superiority of her campaign machine, the sophistication of her data operation, mocking Trump’s lack of ground campaign, the incompetence of his staff and the deluded idiocy of his over-confident supporters, which I’ve been avidly consuming for months weren’t any more credible than the fake stories written by Albanian click-farmers, were they?
  • It was a close result in terms of the popular vote. And you could argue, I suppose, that we shouldn’t make generalisations about the outcome when it could have gone either way. It wasn’t supposed to be close though, was it? Trump was supposed to be the least popular nominee in history: an incompetent and an amateur, surrounded by flunkies and incompetents and amateurs, up against the ‘most qualified candidate in history’. So I give myself permission to generalise.
  • I’m definitely shocked that Donald Trump is now the President of the US. But in an odd way I’m relieved. I thought that Trump would be the unsuccessful fore-runner of someone much darker, someone more credible yet even more malevolent. Which is not to say that things under Trump won’t get pretty fucking dark. His victory represents a crushing defeat for liberalism and traditional conservatism. Maybe he will be the Thing Itself, rather than its predecessor? The US has had a very Wiemar-like quality to it for a while now: dysfunctional institutions, cultural elites that openly despise and mock those they perceive to be their inferiors, openly corrupt political elites like, well, the Clintons. Now that this has happened it seems inevitable. Andrew Sullivan paints an ominous and very plausible picture of America’s immediate future.
  • I didn’t pay much attention to Hilary Clinton for most of the campaign. I was too captivated by Trump. So I was surprised to watch the debates and see what a mediocre talent Clinton was. I won’t pretend I thought she’d lose: I was still somehow confident she’d win last night, way way into the evening, even after it should have been obvious she’d failed. I think it was hard for progressives like me to really see her through the haze of idealism about a first woman President: turned out the voters saw her as a symbol of an arrogant, self-serving elite instead of a symbol of emancipation and hope.
  • In the end it was Trump who weaponised identity politics more effectively than Clinton. There will be a spectacular tantrum on the left about this. ‘How could racism and sexism win? And why are white people and men so stupid?’ Okay, sure: Trump is a racist and a sexist, and so are many of his prominent supporters, but pointing that out explains nothing. Millions of white Americans who voted for Obama switched to Trump instead of voting for the white Democratic candidate. Republican women voted Trump. So did white independent women voters. So did half of college-educated women. There was no gender backlash. ‘Women’ don’t vote the way progressives think they should. Why was such an appalling candidate of such an appalling party more palatable than the left-wing alternative, not just at the presidential level but across the country?
  • I’ve felt that there’s been ‘something’ wrong with the left for a long time now: that beneath all the sanctimony and self-righteousness and sneering and eye-rolling contempt lies a moral and intellectual vacuum; and that none of our dazzlingly brilliant, super-erudite, super confident intellectuals really know what the fuck they’re talking about. I feel this very acutely again today. When I’m reading analysis of Trump’s victory – of which there will be endless screeds – I’m going to be interested in takes by people who are humbled in defeat, and are questioning their assumptions.

November 7, 2016

Tlon, uqbar, Mar-a-lago

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 12:54 pm

There’s this classic Borges story in which (spoiler) someone creates an encyclopedia of a fictional world, and because people prefer the history and languages and metaphysics of the fictional world over our own, they study that instead of ‘the real’ and our planet slowly transforms into the fictional one. And today, via Buzzfeed:

Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.

The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.

As a result, this strange hub of pro-Trump sites in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now playing a significant role in propagating the kind of false and misleading content that was identified in a recent BuzzFeed News analysis of hyperpartisan Facebook pages. These sites open a window into the economic incentives behind producing misinformation specifically for the wealthiest advertising markets and specifically for Facebook, the world’s largest social network, as well as within online advertising networks such as Google AdSense.

Maybe this isn’t really happening though, and the Buzzfeed article is just a fake story designed to generate clickbait for the lucrative ironic psuedo-intellectual market?

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