In honor of the Easter holiday and the timeless story of Jesus rising from the dead, I too have chosen to resurrect myself for my friends and followers. And although Jesus may have ascended to the clouds to play mahjong with God, Shiva, and Tom Petty for the rest of eternity, I have opted to stay and spew volcanic ash on everything that surrounds me.
When I last posted, we were deep in the heat of the #MeToo movement and Sexual Assault was the dominating issue of the day. Two short months and a school shooting later, and the flavor of the season is now back to Gun Control. The pedophiles and sexual predators in Hollywood must have spent a lot of nights praying to their dark gods for that freebie. My, how the times change.
I feel it’s important to acknowledge how important the March For Our Lives movement is for the future of liberal politics in America. As I alluded to earlier, the Trump Fatigue weighs on us more and more with each month. His ability to walk away from every single gaffe, mistake, and scandal has reached an almost mythical level, to the point where we don’t even sweat the fact that he probably definitely bribed a porn star to stay quiet about an affair. The punk rocker in me has to at least admire his brazenness. At least JFK had the decency to be dead for a couple decades before we started hearing about all his affairs.
But I digress. It’s demoralizing. We’re all aware and have upped our alcohol/drug intake accordingly over the past year and a half.
We’re only a month and a half removed from the Parkland shootings, but it may yet prove to be one of the most important stories of 2018. Considering all the potential catastrophes between now and the end of December (North Korea, midterm elections, the looming threat of Trump firing Mueller), we should all collectively hope that’s the case.
At first glance, it appeared that Parkland would be yet another average file in America’s Tragic Shooting Episode Catalogue. A week’s worth of CNN coverage, some vague platitudes from politicians, and maybe a human interest story on the poor, pitiful shooter who didn’t get enough hugs, then off to the media back burner as we all fixate on the New Fucked Up Thing That Trump Did. We should have all moved our focus over to the Stormy Daniels interview, or Cambridge Analytica, or some other shiny object by now.
But that hasn’t been the case. The kids are still in the news. Their cause is still in the news. Just last week, millions of people gathered to march across the country for that exact reason. Millions of people marched against the NRA, against gun lobbies, against close-mindedness, and against Trump-induced political apathy. It was a beautiful fucking thing. Similar to last year’s Women’s March, it was a testament to the convictions of the progressive movement in our country and a reminder that we still exist and we are still a force to be reckoned with.
The point is that between #MarchForOurLives, #MeToo, and #BlackLivesMatter, the young progressive elements in our country are beginning to find their voice and, more importantly, their legs. These kids are standing their ground against Conservative Hate Demons like Dana Loesch, Alex Jones, and Laura Ingraham and hawking a loogie directly into the airless chasms where their eyes should be. It’s certainly been an inspiration for your humble ringmaster. Throughout this year, and last, I’ve been thinking of retiring this blog and moving on to new artistic pursuits. “There’s too much hate in our culture,” I thought, “there’s too much anger. I don’t want to be part of the noise anymore”. I was ready to hang up my gloves, settle down, and focus on my stamp collection.
But then I realized that’s the whole endgame of the powers that be. They want us silent, apathetic, and docile. They don’t want us blogging, marching, speaking out, fighting back. They want us suffering bullshit in silence and various hangovers. I look to kids like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, who have bucked the stereotype of the apathetic youth voter, to stare down despair and say fuck you, dude. I’m still here to fight, scream, and rage against ignorance and hypocrisy in our nation and culture. And there are millions of us.
I feel a tremendous amount of hope in light of the March For Our Lives, but I also feel a well-founded degree of fear for them. Anyone who has witnessed the extreme conservative reaction to the march and its supporters can concur. We’re a far cry from Sandy Hook, when anyone who expressed skepticism about the shootings taking place were immediately relegated to Crazytown and Ignoreland. Now, less than five years later, it’s a mainstream conservative viewpoint that the survivors are just actors and any business that “caves” to their demands is just as complicit in their “treason”. That’s some dangerous rhetoric to be throwing around a population that we’ve already established is armed to the teeth and have few ethics about flaunting it.
Everyone on the front lines of the movement is putting their future careers, and more importantly their lives on the line for what they believe. It’s a fine line that they’re walking now and they can’t afford to make anymore enemies. That’s why, like it or not, you won’t hear a single peep about police brutality from the Parkland students or associated groups despite the admittedly tragic and jacked-up story of Stephon Clark. The March For Our Lives students are already taking on the NRA, conservative media, and the unwashed masses of Trump supporters while holding their own. The minute that they turn their attention to the police is the moment that the law turns against them. They know the score. They saw, and we saw, what happened to the Black Lives Matter movement. When the machine wants to crush a movement, they will fucking crush it. It’s a sad, fucked up truth but it’s still the truth of our society. The day that David Hogg speaks out against the police is the day he gets “busted for drugs” or some other equivalent character assassination.
But, despite the cynicism, I still have hope that these things can change and they will change if we can hold onto the momentum from March For Our Lives and beyond. Mobilize it into voting for liberal and progressive politicians in the midterms. Mobilize it into fighting back and calling out ignorance. Mobilize it and keep it maintained no matter how exhausting and limitless the opposition might seem. Take a note from these kids. It’s a long game that we’re playing and winning the youth is how we win the future.
When the New York Times published their exposé of Harvey Weinstein, it was the first gavel-fall of a reckoning that is still taking place in our country. It has already claimed the careers of beloved actors, comedians, and promising politicians while forcing the progressive movement of our country into yet another paralyzing moment of self-examination. Today, with the announced resignation of Al Franken, the movement has shown that its judgements are not privy to party lines. There have been many falls from grace in the last two months (see: Spacey, Kevin and CK, Louis) but the loss of Franken might be the hardest and most bitter of all the pills to swallow up to this point for myself and fellow armchair liberals.
Al Franken has always been a very interesting subject to me because he has been, to my knowledge, the only person to truly bridge the gap between comedy and politics. We’ve had plenty of successful celebrity-politicians in the last few decades (look no further than our sitting president), but no comedian-politicians. I’ve been a fan of Franken for many years and have read several of his books including his latest that details his run for Senate. Franken writes at length about how a lot of his comedic past was perceived and exploited as a political liability by his opponent. Old jokes from decades-old Playboy essays were dredged up, context-less, and used in attack ads. The fact of the matter is that comedic writing, with its bizarre mix of irony and truth, is the polar opposite of political speech, which relies on obfuscation and flowery language. A comedian going into politics is like training a cat to be a horse.
Let me be clear: I’m not making excuses for Al. There are those that might call this a witch hunt, a hit job, or some fabrication. But the saying goes that a picture speaks a thousand words and that particular picture of Al Franken mock-squeezing a sleeping soldier’s breast would follow him screaming for the rest of his career and our collective awareness. Accountability needs to exist on both sides and progressives can continue to bitch about Roy Moore and Republican shittiness but that does not give us an excuse lower our own standards. We cannot tolerate a conservative President that jokes openly about grabbing women by the pussy in the same way that we cannot tolerate a liberal Senator that has a number of allegations against him, including photographic evidence of him sexually humiliating a member of our armed fucking forces like come the fuck on guys how did you think that was going to play in the long term?
I often bemoan the constant liberal pattern of undermining and self-policing but this is a situation where I truly believe it necessary that we sacrifice our own for the greater good.
There’s a point in which politics and personal feelings have to be left behind if a movement is really going to gain ground. The whole point of #MeToo and the current unmasking of abusive figures in business, politics, and entertainment is ridding the system of the patriarchal abuse from which it’s been exploited for countless decades. That’s not just a policy shift. That’s reprogramming and requires a change in the way we think of the people we put in charge of our world and democracy. That means holding evangelical creeps like Roy Moore culpable in the court of public opinion just as much as we hold former beloved celebrities like Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby. We cannot shield our heroes or allied politicians. We must put the movement before ourselves and our perceptions.
Bottom line: Sexual assault, coercion, and harassment is not fucking okay. That includes images of our goddamn leaders doing it. If we’re going to get anything from this shit-covered, orange-stained year it should be maybe that one lesson. Progress happens by baby steps and this is one of those big-baby steps we must take as a society if we have any hope of salvaging our national reputation once the Trump Years are over. We owe it to ourselves for surviving it all.
And to those partisan hacks that are bemoaning the loss of a star Democratic politician to a movement that is no longer politically convenient for them: Suck it up, buttercup.
I feel as if we have all aged dramatically since January 20th. Babies born during that time have probably started high school this week. There’s no need to recount the number of scandals, mini-scandals, outrages, missteps, controversies, and sensations that have arisen in the last seven months. To do so would be exhausting for the reader and for your humble writer. We’ve already been through foreign conspiracies, bureaucratic infighting, corruption, threats of nuclear war, and most recently Nazis. If this trend follows, I expect there to be aliens on the White House lawn by next February. Once the Trump Administration finally ends, I hope that David Lynch is the one to get the film rights. Only Mr. Lynch could correctly emulate the surreal, disjointed mess that has characterized The Greatest Show On Earth. Kyle MacLachlan can play Trump. It will be great.
There is no pattern to Trump. His actions don’t have a unified objective. There is no rhyme or reason to much of anything that this administration does. The worst part is that we’re all doomed to this long-form surreal piece of performance art until 2020 (god willing) or Trump’s resignation when he finally gets bored with his own circus. By far, my biggest sympathies have to go out to my friends on the left who still believe that Trump’s impeachment or removal from office is simply a matter of time. Like your worthless fuck-up cousin, Trump continues to walk from disaster to disaster without falling directly into the void. The latest narrative is that Trump will not be able to survive the backlash of his comments about Charlottesville and his departure from office is imminent. Just as it was imminent last month and the month before that. And the monthsbeforethose.
I dislike Trump as much as the next person, but the constant hyperbolic assertions that THIS is the thing that will bring down Trump or THAT will be the thing that will make his supporters see the light is delusional by this point. Sure, his approval ratings are in the toilet, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot of anything. Both Truman and Bush II had approval ratings that dipped below 25% and they finished their administrations in full. Also keep in mind one of them nuked Japan twice and the other is responsible for fucking the entire geopolitical sphere going into the 21st century. I’m just working with the examples I have, yo.
All this noise is just meant to distract us all from the real bullshit. The de-regulation of environmental agencies, the extension of our endless military involvement in Afghanistan, the crackdown on illegal immigrants, these are all things that have become background noise while the talking heads on CNN and House Democrats speculate about pee tapes and hidden Russian agendas. And yes, I place heavy blame on the media and Democratic politicians who continually take the bait and jump from controversy to controversy like a dog following a laser pointer.
On a tangential note, has anyone else noticed that Bernie Sanders is now the designated attack dog for the Democratic Party? When Trump does a boo-boo, you can always bet that Bernie will be the first one out with a vicious quotation perfect for some clickbait. This is apparently his consolation prize for the primary election while Hillary spends the next four years watching How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Obviously, they’re trying to keep their young talent like Cory Booker as untouched and sterile as possible going into the next election cycle. It’s still annoying and cowardly as shit. But we’ll leave that for another post. I digress.
The only thing that remains consistent about this chaotic administration is the cycle of outrage and scandal that surrounds it. We had about a week of peace and quiet and normalcy, then Trump announced the travel ban, Pandora opened the box, and all Hell broke loose. Thus, the Trump Outrage Cycle was born.
At the beginning of the year, I theorized what a model of this cycle would look like and I’m proud to say that it has held quite firm. I have refined it slightly in light of reality. Since it is the most recent and outrageous, we will use Charlottesville as the model.
Step 1: Trump does/says a Thing. It is bad.
After taking his sweet ass time, Donald Trump issues a statement after the violence at Charlottesville, blaming both sides.
Step 2: Media and people speculate the implications of Trump Thing and whether it could result in impeachment/war/unrest/Armageddon.
The media and others use the President’s soft language and lack of timely response as proof that he may sympathize with Nazis or white supremacists, thus steering the conversation away from America’s deep-rooted, complicated race problem and back toward our Celebrity King President.
Step 3: Trump doubles down on Trump Thing in response to negative reactions.
Trump goes “off script” during a press conference and lays blame for the violence on the counter-protestors says there were “very fine people” on the side of the Nazis. Everyone in the administration puts on their best “shocked” faces. People tweet John Kelly’s facial expressions.
Step 4: More people react. More articles are written. More pundits hyperventilate. “Action” is taken.
Chaos ensues. Mass hysteria. The President has verbally thrown his hat in with Nazis and white supremacists. His business council finally gets tired of the charade and leaves. Steve Bannon leaves. Some Confederate mounments leave. Nothing of actual substance is accomplished.
Step 5: Trump does/says a New Thing. It is also bad. Repeat Steps 2-4.
Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Restart the film.
This model applies to Russia, our clashes with North Korea, his responses to global terrorism, transgender policy in the military, and pretty much everything else that has been in our national headlines up to this point.
Most typically it repeats itself in 2-3 day cycles. In the case of something extreme like Charlottesville or the firing of James Comey, it can go up to two weeks before being replaced by the new, sexy scandal. Already, the storm of Charlottesville has subsided with the exorcism dismissal of Steven Bannon and the removal of some shitty Confederate statues. Meanwhile the cannons are being reloaded for the new outrage.
Admittedly, these superficial actions are still good things in the sense that popping a zit is a good thing. But removing Confederate monuments does nothing to address the economic and social problems faced by minorities in this country. Removing Steve Bannon from his position does not make the Trump administration anymore sane or stable. It just means that the White House staff fridge will finally stop running out of Mountain Dew. It’s a public relations Band-Aid at best and pageantry at worst.
So what’s the point of all this?
The point is to not get distracted. Our leaders have always hidden behind a facade. Dubya was a good ol’ boy from Texas who just happened to be a politician. He was also a crony to big oil and a tool for the religious right. Obama was the social media savvy, inspirational city leader in whom we could invest our trust. He is also responsible for stepping up our drone program that has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians worldwide. Donald Trump’s facade, apparently, is that of a rich, bloated, fuck-up machine. True to life as it may be, it’s important that we recognize that these scandals are an exhaustion tactic. Like a primetime TV show that’s losing steam, it’s just throwing garbage upon garbage on to see how far we’re willing to drop our standards.
By the time Trump leaves office, we’ll be so shell shocked and worn down that our only criteria to be a statesman in this country will be “not being explicitly racist” or “capable of stringing three coherent thoughts together”. Good standards, to be sure, but certainly not high ones. We need to ask more of our politicians and media. I’m not talking about Trump anymore. I’m talking about how we perceive politicians and the issues in a post-Trump world. We cannot stay continually vigilant only when and where the media tells us. We cannot sensationalize and hyperbolize. We must ignore the words of the pundits and instead watch the actions of our politicians. That’s the only way to hold them all accountable in 2018 and 2020. Because the first step to getting the bad guys out is identifying who the good guys are.
It’s June baby! You know what that means! It’s time to unleash those beach bodies, hit the highways with the top down, and bear direct witness to the very fabric of our democracy melting like a Hershey’s kiss in a sumo wrestler’s ass crack.
Welcome to the Cruel Summer 2017.
What a time to be alive. We’ll surely be telling our kids about these tumultuous times in the decades to come, provided we are not annihilated in a nuclear holocaust/murdered by domestic militia/underwater. I knew upon Trump’s election that we would soon be living in Bizarro Circus Reality, but I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole would take us.
Writing a humorous, politically-minded blog has been a rough sell for your boy since January. It’s hard to digest all of the absurd, outrageous, unbelievable shit that’s taken place since the inauguration and somehow make it funnier. It’s an exercise in redundancy. Like trying to tell a funny story about a friend at a party, only to have him steal the attention from you by lip syncing “Despacito” in drag while twirling a fidget spinner on his dick. Useless. What’s the use of pissing on something that is so proudly Shit Mountain?
It reminds me of the end of the Bush Administration when it wasn’t a question of whether you hated the president, but how much you hated him. The major difference between Bush II and Trump lies in its dramatic arc. Bush had the classic story of a man going from generally tolerated (the highest aspiration of any American politician) to being nationally despised to the point where his own party members would not seek his endorsement. It was kinda like King Lear with less sibling rivalry and more Karl Rove.
Trump is not King Lear. Trump’s closest Shakespearean archetype is Richard III: A hunchback that is so shamelessly evil that you almost end up rooting for him and his malevolent scheming (important distinction: Richard was an evil genius, Trump is a dolt). He came in pre-hated. You knew he was a turd before he was finished with his opening monologue. You spend the entire play waiting for the bastard to get his comeuppance. Sound familiar? These stories are timeless for a reason.
Trump’s presidency has done exactly what his election was intended to do and and has created a hurricane of media sensation so powerful that it’s impossible to discern fact from fiction. Truth itself has been obfuscated and corrupted to the point of meaninglessness. You almost have to respect his dedication to the craft. He’s a one-man primetime storyline machine. We’re not even settled in our chairs from the last crazy thing (pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement) before we’re jolted sideways by the next crazy thing (talking shit on the London mayor on Twitter after a terrorist attack). It’s like watching Jackass but instead of watching a guy let a donkey kick him in the balls, we’re watching Trump shove the PM of Montenegro.
Less than six months removed from the inauguration, and already we’ve hit the point where James Comey’s testimony in front of Congress tomorrow has become the Media Event Of The Year. CNN has rolled out the countdown timer that it only uses for special occasions, bars are being opened early so people can get bombed before noon while watching the hearing, and the major networks will show the hearing instead of their normal programming. It’s chaos and madness and so thoroughly American that I have to take quiet moments of patriotic pride during the day to appreciate how far we’ve come from a bunch of shivering, starvation-wracked puritans that couldn’t even figure out how to grow fucking corn to this lurching behemoth of excess and sensationalism that we all know and hate/love today.
Will Trump get impeached? Will he be absolved? Who is guilty? Who is innocent? Is Ivanka actually pregnant with Jared’s baby or is it actually Justin Trudeau’s? What is Steve Bannon really doing in the basement all the time? Is Jeff Sessions just a mystical forest elf that only Donald can see? WHERE ON EARTH IS MELANIA?! Tune in next week to find out on a new episode of AMERICA!
It’s clear by now that the question of whether Donald Trump is guilty of impeachable offenses is almost irrelevant. The Trump Administration will not end after the Comey testimony, nor will it end after any other bombshell leak to the media. The Trump Administration will end after every ounce of political capital and television-flavored controversy have been sucked from his body and he is finally forced to give his resignation speech while hidden under tiny dark robes and swaddled in the arms of Sean Spicer like Voldemort Baby.
The bubbling optimist in me that I have tried to murder with cynicism and punk rock truly hopes that something concrete and shattering comes out of the Comey hearing. Enough to single-handedly throw Trump, Pence, Sessions, Ryan, Preibus, McConnell, and the whole wacky gang in prison until Star Wars Episode XXXIV is released on hologram or Space Blu-Ray or whatever the fuck we’re using to watch shit by then. It would be a nice validation of the thought that this is a country built on justice and truth, rather than media narratives and keeping the public placated with political soap operas.
But I also know in my gut that this will largely do nothing but generate even more sexy media controversy. His testimony will be damning enough to keep the CNN Outragebots fueled for another month but ambiguous enough that the issue will remain a political football until the next major controversy or catastrophe happens. Or another plane goes missing.
And I wish that I could occupy an ethical high ground here and cast judgement on all these proceedings. But I can’t. Not only because I lack ethics but also because I buy into this shit just as hard as all of you. Probably more. Don’t get it twisted: Politics is the greatest show on Earth and we are its gawking spectators.
I hope you all tune in for the hearings tomorrow with snacks and your intoxicant of choice. It’s gonna be a long one.
PS: I solemnly swear to update more frequently. I forgot theatre life is grind life. Ciao boys and girls.
The Egyptians are notable for creating dozens of powerful images that have withstood the test of time. The Eye of Horus, the Ankh, the Scarab, not to mention their dozens of divine representations that have served as inspiration to countless ancient furries. Amongst their more obscure symbols, and the centerpiece of today’s diatribe, was the Ouroboros: A snake that eats its own tail.
Over the years, the Ouroboros has been used as a symbol by the Greeks, philosophers, alchemists, and psychiatrists as a symbol for eternity and the cyclical nature of material existence. It’s some deep shit. You’ll get it when you’re high.
Taken much more literally, I find the Ouroboros to be a very appropriate image for the American Left as it currently behaves: A constantly shifting organism whose only constant behavior is its desire to consume itself.
One of the constants of American politics, in addition to the exploitation of the poor and a two-party system based on identity politics, is the comical lack of ability of left-wingers in this country to collectively band together. Throughout our history, plutocrats have rarely had to flex their own muscles against socialist or populist movements because they generally collapse on their own like a soufflé at a Rob Zombie concert. See: Wall Street, Occupy.
As I said back in December, it’s fundamentally important that we, the noble and unwashed opposition, band together in the face of the teeth-gnashing Conservapocalypse that is nigh upon us. If we’ve learned anything from the election polling numbers (discounting all the illegals and dead folks), it’s that the Anti-Trump population in our country vastly outnumbers the Pro-Trump population. Surely this fact alone should be enough to motivate us all to band together, join hands, and Red Rover-guard the shit out of the oncoming onslaught on women’s rights, health care, the environment, and the dozen other things on our new Republican overlords’ hit list.
Last week we saw a stunning display of solidarity as hundreds of thousands of people gathered across our country to exercise our right to peacefully assemble, hold up traffic, and wear goofy fucking hats.
Obviously, I applaud each and every person that came out to these marches. It does a career cynic like myself good to see that kind of cooperation on a massive scale without any kind of major incident to discredit the movement. Look no further than the co-opting by conservative pundits of the beating of a mentally challenged Trump supporter by four black youths as an indicator of the “violent” American Left.
But we don’t need pundits, the police, or Donald Trump to attack our cause. We’ve got well-meaning liberal douchebags on our own side to undermine the whole fucking thing for us.
It did not take long after the march for the thinkpieces and social media screeds to roll in from members of our own opposition decrying the movement for not being “inclusive enough” to members of the trans community or to people of color. They’ve already begun sewing the seeds of shame (the neoprogressive weapon of choice) for the people that marched last week, derisively asking what they hope to accomplish after the march now that it’s over. Never mind the fact that it was the largest gathering of protestors in American history. Never mind the fact that it all started as a largely spontaneous and hastily-thrown together event on social media. Never mind the fact that our actual fucking enemies are in power as we speak. Never mind any of those things. THERE’S SHAMING TO BE DONE ON SOCIAL MEDIA DAMNIT! GIVE ME MORE LIKES AND SHARES!
I am perhaps expressing an unpopular opinion here, but I am sick to fucking death of the holier-than-thou horseshit attitude that has pervaded progressive politics. It’s a goddamn cancer that will devour us from the inside. Actually advancing an agenda or crafting a unified community has taken a backseat to an ever-building need to assert the moral high ground over one another. Feel like the rally wasn’t inclusive enough? Cool. Host your own fucking rally then. Call it the “One Billion Strong Trans-Queer-Straight-Colored-Mexo-Indigenous-Albino-Female-Male-1940’s-Fighter-Jet -Alliance March”. Call it the Super Bowl. Call it Wrestlemania. Invite all your friends, your friends’ friends, and their friends too. But until then, shut the ever loving fuck up and stop criticizing every goddamn thing because it doesn’t fit into your halcyon Eden hallucination of what a liberal movement in our country should be.
The above picture is a perfect manifestation of what I’m talking about. Let me be clear and say that I don’t disagree with Angela Peoples’ presence at the march or her right to carry that sign around. However, I do believe that this is the exact rhetoric that needs to go away in order to move forward with a progressive movement. Exploiting the already-tired statistic that 53% of white women voted for Trump does nothing but create further division and antagonism between marginalized communities. It’s obvious that none of the women present at the march voted for Trump, so why use a sign that’s obviously intended to condemn or shame an entire group of people? Does that not defeat the entire purpose of “inclusion” or am I just taking crazy pills here?
Angela Peoples’ later gave an interview about the sign, saying that it was intended to make white women aware of their privilege and benefit to the pre-existing patriarchy and white supremacy culture that gave us Donald Trump to begin with. This is a fair point to make. There’s no question the turnout for the march was overwhelmingly white and upper-class. But that sign didn’t come with a footnote at the bottom that explained that shit. Instead it was just more incendiary rhetoric that superficially divides us all on color lines. Couldn’t there have been something written that communicated the same point to allies and potential allies without being so damn antagonistic?
This brings us full circle (*rimshot*) to the image of the Ouroboros. Last week’s gathering proved we have more than enough people to form a core opposition. Believe it or not, we still live in a democracy. There’s been a lot of talk since the election of people being “scared” or “helpless”. We seem to have forgotten that this is still our country. Not Trump’s country. Not Congress’ country. Not Russia’s country. We still possess the power to rise up and alter the direction of our country. This has been demonstrated countless times in our nation’s history. Our biggest enemy is ourselves and those that seek to undermine and sew dissent in our own ranks. We must stop eating ourselves.
It’s a big fat cliché, but the time has come to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. This is no longer the time to nitpick the progressive movement in our country. That ship sailed on November 8th when Hillary lost and the Republicans got a free reign to do whatever the hell they want in Congress for the next two years. We need two things right now: A set of objectives and a leader. We already have the numbers.
The 2016 presidential election was finished and called before midnight on November 8th, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines this month. We’re almost three weeks removed from Trump’s inauguration and the nation is still balls-deep in election related controversy. In attempts to make sense of Trump’s upset victory, we’ve had to endure a cacophony of narratives and faux-intellectual explanations to account for the abject failure of the Democratic Party to win a presidential election (again). In no particular order, I’ve seen blame placed on Bernie supporters, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, voters who stayed home, fake news, millennials, racism, sexism, voter suppression, the electoral college, James Comey, Mercury being in retrograde, Frank Underwood, the Jews, the lost city of Atlantis, and Loki the Trickster God.
After a few weeks however, a clear villain and culprit finally emerged: Those damn vodka-chugging, tracksuit-wearing, steroid-injecting Russians. At some point this year, we collectively agreed to pass the American Boogeyman Baton from ISIS back over to Russia. This might have something to do with the fact that it’s very difficult to be afraid of a blood-and-gore-covered crater in the middle of Mosul. Thanks Peshmerga!
Not to say that Russia is a cuddly care bear on the international stage. It doesn’t require a strong degree in Google-Fu to find evidence of Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchy engaging in systemic oppression of its own people, media suppression, threatening the sovereignty of neighboring countries, and just general dickishness. Just ask the people of Aleppo.
It hasn’t helped matters that Donald Trump has his fair share of direct and indirect connections with our rivals from the East. This can be seen through his possible financial ties with Russian investors, a budding internet romance with Putin, and the very apparent connections between Moscow and his future Secretary of State/Exxon CEO/90’s movie villain Rex Tillerson.
All of these factors make Russia a very convenient culprit and scapegoat for the election’s result. I remain skeptical for a few reasons, if you haven’t guessed by now. For example, I’m not sure how those hackers were able to convince Hillary to avoid campaigning in the Rust Belt, but I guess that shows how much I know about computers.
There’s a lot of misinformation and general hysteria surrounding the whole affair so I would like to do my part by demystifying all the techno jargon and booga-booga rhetoric that has gone around in the last few days, especially in light of Obama’s recent “aggressive” actions against the Kremlin that are already filling people with visions of WW3 and mushroom clouds on the horizon. As if this year couldn’t get more stressful.
So: What the hell happened exactly?
The thesis of Obama, the DNC, and the mainstream media’s narrative has been that the Russians “hacked” the election to give Trump the winning edge. Although technically true, it also reeks of political doublespeak. Using the term “hacker” immediately brings to mind dozens of Russian blackhats that possibly look like Chris Hemsworth hunkered down in a bunker somewhere creating fake votes for Trump and deleting legitimate Hillary votes in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obviously if that were the case then we would be in for some major shit as a country. It would also kinda takes the piss out of that allegedly über-powerful NSA that Edward Snowden (remember him?) warned us about back in 2013. I mean, if we’re doing some Dark Knight level surveillance on our entire country then surely we would be able to catch something like that, right?
The truth, as usual, is a little less sensational and sexy.
That’s because the root of the entire hack was the leak of the DNC emails in July that essentially revealed the institutional bias against the Bernie Sanders campaign and the various ways in which establishment Democrats were more concerned with giving out party favors to big money donors than actually advancing the will of the people. This was probably not a shock to anyone paying attention (including Bernie Sanders), but it certainly didn’t do the Hillary campaign any favors in changing her reputation as a stooge for Wall Street.
I’m going to make a bold assertion when I say that these revelations may have been detrimental to the Clinton campaign, but they were hardly the deciding factor. It’s very important to remember that there’s nothing new about these “revelations” of interference in the election. Media outlets were reporting the alleged Russian connection all the way back in July.Of course, it might be easy to forget that fact considering the smorgasbord of pussy-grabbing-emails-nasty-woman-wall-building journalistic insanity that characterized the election cycle. Remember my hydra analogy from my last post? Same principle.
It wasn’t until the election was over and we needed someone to blame for the loss that suddenly we became concerned about those damned Russians again. The Kremlin has been denying involvement in the hacks, but Putin also claimed that there was no direct Russian involvement in the annexation of the Crimea so I’ll take that with the same healthy cynicism that I would for a toddler who blames the broken vase on the family dog.
Now, this begs the question, how did the hacks happen in the first place?
Once again, the truth is somewhat boring and conventional. In conjunction with Obama’s actions against Russia yesterday, the FBI and CIA helpfully released a document that illustrates exactly how the Russians were able to worm their way into our tip-top-super-duper-secret-DNC information. In classic form though, the truth is buried in so much techno jargon and HTML speak that it looks like a cross between a laptop’s user manual and your old Myspace layout.
Luckily for you, reader, I’ve studied Shakespeare so I’m hella good at taking archaic terms and reducing them into dumb human speak. Which is exactly what I will do here:
Corbin Reads The CIA Report So You Don’t Have To
The first thing to appreciate about the document is that the case is codenamed “GRIZZLY STEPPE” which adds an extra layer of menace to the entire affair. Not only are these hackers vicious Chris-Hemsworth-lookalikes-in-bunkers, but in my mind they also ride bears down the sides of mountains in their free time.
The first page essentially gives a Sparknotes of the entire document. It can be summed up in the following points.
This is the first time that the CIA/FBI (their own shorthand is JAR for joint-analysis-report) has officially labeled a cyber-attack as sourced from another national entity (i.e. Russia).
There are numerous technical indicators that these hackers are Russian in origin.
The hacks were conducted via a “phishing” campaign which led to a theft of information (i.e. the DNC emails) from government entities.
Cyber-attacks were also conducted against other various foreign nations.
Hackers posed as third parties to disguise their identities.
This means that the Tinderbot that is telling you all about her sexy webcam is probably a Russian hacker. Be warned, fellas.
“So wait, Corbin!”, you might be saying, “does this mean that someone in our government fell for a dumb phishing scam and this is how we’re in this mess?”
That’s exactly what I’m saying.
Pages 2 + 3
The next two pages go into the details of how these hackers were able to extrapolate their data and do their evil hacking thing. The report names two specific groups as responsible parties. I will forgo their official names (APT29 and APT28) because they sound like Aphex Twin track titles. Instead we will call them “Happy Gilmore” and “Little Nicky” because this is my website and I can call them whatever the hell I want. According to the document, we were first aware of Happy Gilmore back in 2015 and Little Nicky in 2016.
Happy Gilmore is the shitty malware website generator (CONGRATULATIONS YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER) and Little Nicky is the nasty phisher that makes the “seems legit” websites based off Happy Gilmore’s intelligence that fool people into entering their card information/password/etc. This one-two punch allows them to harvest information from their targets.
In 2015, Happy Gilmore sent out a bogus email with booby-trapped websites that some unnamed dupes in the DNC fell for and ended up getting malware for Christmas. This information was used by Little Nicky a year later to further advance the con and get their marks to surrender their passwords and upgrade their access from “green belt” to “black belt”.
That’s where the information that made up the DNC leak was accessed.
The report goes on to state that Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky have still been conducting operations as recent as this November. Sleep tight.
Page 4 is notable in the sense that it gives a list of users whom the CIA suspect to be perpetrators of the hack. They might also be people who teabagged them in Halo online. It’s hard to tell. There are some pretty sick band names to be found in the list as well, including:
Crouching Yeti – Almost definitely a math-rock band.
HAMMERTOSS – Punk as fuck.
Powershell Backdoor – Grindcore.
CHOPSTICK – Probably some autotune guy with an 808 and a Casio keyboard.
SYNful Knock – 80’s hair metal revival band.
Take note, aspiring musicians.
Page 5 – 13
The rest of the report is basically a “how-to-not-get-phished-like-an-idiot” guide. You may want to take heed if you’re secretly holding some government secrets on your laptop, but otherwise it’s better off skipped.
In summation, yeah, America (or at least the DNC) got hacked. Was it the Russians? Probably, but it’s hard to tell. The problem is that this information is coming to us from the CIA, who has a fairly lengthy history of lying to the American people and fixing elections of their own. Don’t forget that banana republic was an invention of the United States before it was a mediocre mall fixture.
The main lesson to take away from this is that it’s all fun and games when we’re running around and manipulating foreign affairs, but we will call down all the fires of Hell if someone pulls that shit on us. Or at least some heavy sanctions, which is the closest that we really get to aggressive action anymore without calling in the drone patrol.
It’s been a hell of a ride, America. Remember last December when I posted my guide to the presidential primaries and everything seemed so light and innocent? We were all fresh-faced, filled with hope, and the biggest burning question on our minds was whether the new Star Wars movie would be any good or not (Also: Who is Jim Gilmore?). Boy, those sure were the days.
Then the Fire Nation attacked.
There’s no question that this has been a goddamn demoralizing year for a lot of us. We witnessed the deaths of too many cherished icons (Bowie, Prince, Jeb Bush’s political career), helplessly observed senseless tragedies far and wide, then there’s the small matter of our new commander-in-chief being a reality TV star of extremely dubious credentials. If 2016 were a movie I would probably walk out halfway through because I’d find it too unrealistic. Like, really, how could people care that much about a fucking gorilla.
But in all seriousness, the catastrophic amount of doom, gloom, and resignation amongst my peers and friends in light of the election has reached a peak saturation point. I can’t deal with this shit anymore, ya’ll. I could spend an hour listening to Morrissey read Joy Division lyrics to the musical accompaniment of Swans and leave in a better mood than I would after just ten minutes on an average Facebook feed. It’s time to put on our Big Progressive Diapers and stop mucking around our social media platform of choice in a self-perpetuating negative funk. You all sound like Denethor when Grond is about to break through the walls of Minis Tirith.
A rational person would say: “Corbin, get off the Internet. Delete your social media accounts. Go outside. Build a yurt somewhere in the mountains. Learn to tan hides and make artisanal honey. Save yourself.”
To that I say: Fuck you, coward. I’m here to fight for the collective unconsciousness. Now bring me my longsword or GTFO.
True: The world is garbage sauce and populated with human-shaped trash pieces. Our government and institutions are broken jokes on wheels. We will soon have a Twitter-addicted cartoon character as our fearless leader. Our mass media has morphed into an Orwellian nightmare. But to paraphrase Genesis (the cool one): This is the world we live in and this is the hand we get. So I hope you all pound those shots and break some shit in the next week and a half folks, because we got some fucking work to do in the coming years. Like Rihanna/Drake levels of work. Probably more.
I say “we” because I still consider myself a drum-pounding member of the progressive left wing. It’s been a little rough going these last couple months as we’ve begun eating our own in response to Trump’s election (more on that later), but I’m used to belonging to a group of self-hating losers. Comes with the territory of being a sports fan from the Midwest.
So where do we start? Simple. Stop sharing apocalyptic news items on your mini-feed as if that’s going to prevent the End Of Days. Stop getting into circular online slap fights with your friends’ Uncle Roy/Aunt Marie from Tulsa over gender binaries. Stop talking about fucking Russia or abolishing the electoral college. That’s the kind of stuff that creates the illusion of doing something about the situation. Let’s talk about real action and real solutions.
Understand kids, they want us scared. They want us demoralized. They want us fighting amongst ourselves. That’s how the shadowy greed cabal that actually runs this country has maintained power since our inception and the game still hasn’t changed. Let’s break the cycle and evolve.
I suppose we might as well begin this savage arrow to the heart of our cultural discourse by confronting the big fat orange elephant in the room.
If I can help it, I’m planning to only use pictures of Donald Trump from his many appearances in pro wrestling on this blog. The reason for this is twofold. First: the lulz. Second: To remind everyone that Donald Trump is a celebrity-joke-puppet-bobblehead and not some fearsome authoritarian monolith to cower from. I never thought I would live in a universe where so many people were collectively shitting their pants over a man that once put on bib overalls to sing the Green Acres theme song with Megan Mullally on national television, yet here we are.
For the record, I did indeed vote for Hillary. It took a lot of self-convincing and exasperated sighs on my drive to the polling station, but I did the damn thing. No mistake, I was as shocked and non-plussed as the rest of us on Election Night. Until the day I die, I will always remember watching mass media melt down in real time as they realized the world was going off the script they had written for us years ago. I recall watching Stephen Colbert getting hammered on-camera while talking about his mom in stunned grief and thinking “this is fucking surreal”. That’s when I realized we were moving into a whole new paradigm as a country.
Whether the election was legitimate or not is completely tangential to our current situation. I will say that my fury at Hillary Clinton and the DNC for squandering the easiest fucking election in history is enough to drive my blood pressure through the roof, but I won’t dwell on it. Hindsight is not the focus here.
OK. I lied. I need to get this off my chest: Fuck Hillary, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and the DNC. Fuck them and their hubris and their focus groups and their lazy dickless campaign that took millennial/minority votes for granted. Fuck them to the ends of the Earth and back.
OK. Back to our scheduled deprogramming.
In the moment (defined as the immediate 72 hours after November 8th) it was hard to reconcile Trump’s victory with objective reality. After all, we successfully voted a black man into our highest office not once but twice. Gay marriage was finally approved by the Supreme Court. Weed got legalized in a few states. By all accounts, that should have meant social conservatism has been defeated once and for all, right?
Don’t believe the hype, friends. America is still a country very much invested in its old values and prejudices. Police brutality, racism, anti-LBGTQ sentiment, and systemic oppression of the lower class is still just as American as apple pie and just because Michelle Obama is dancing on Ellen and doing carpool karaoke on primetime TV doesn’t mean shit about fuck. You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.
Eight years of borderline-conservative-masquerading-as-progressive leadership with a few token concessions to socially liberal causes doesn’t mean we’ve turned any corners as a nation. Far from it. Donald Trump’s election proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Go ahead and drag out the statistics showing Hillary won two million votes more than Trump. Whoop-dee-doo. I’ll show you the electoral map to remind you that America is more than just California and New York. If you reject that logic because you blanket-paint all red states as a bunch of ignorant yodels that listen to country music while fucking their pickup trucks, then you’re part of the damn problem. It’s that smug bubble-enforced attitude that turned the Rust Belt off the Democratic Party in general and lost the election.
Or else you can try to convince me that Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania all became magically racist and bigoted in the last four years.
Trump’s election is a sobering and frightening next step in the direction that our country is heading in terms of how we view our politicians. When I did my guide to the Republican primaries, I wrote that Trump’s political advantage lies in the fact that he’s not beholden to the same code of ethics that other, normal politicians are bound to. When Trump calls an opponent a limp-dick and implies they wet the bed on weekends, his supporters see it as further confirmation that he’s a Real American Who Doesn’t Care What People Say. That’s how marketing works. And it worked well enough to get the man The Big Chair.
The disconnect, of course, lies in the fact that Trump is just as disingenuous as any other politician. His Cabinet appointments (a Suicide Squad hodgepodge of corporate cronies and establishment Republicans) are a good indication of that fact. Trump just sings a different song from the other members of the chorus line so he stands out. All the posturing and aggression and mean tweets and Putin fan-boying is just more red meat for his supporters.
It also creates a match made in heaven between the future Trump administration and the locust-like hobgoblins that make up the mass media. Behind every hysterical pundit and thinkpiece in the last two months is a group of people secretly celebrating a veritable fucking gold mine of material for the next four/eight years. Back in the Old Times (pre-2016) it used to be the game plan of the media to use celebrity and sensation to distract the public from the malfeasance going on in our federal government. With Trump in office we have cut out the foreplay entirely and CNN can now cover Trump’s behavior with the same kind of breathless fervor that they do whenever Kanye West does literally anything.
The three main food groups of the media are Fear, Sensation, and Confrontation. Trump, his cronies, and his message contain all these ingredients like some kind of hellish jambalaya. Just look at what happened when Mike Pence went to go see Hamilton on Broadway in a totally-not-contrived-move-at-all in the days following the election. The audience reacted in a totally predictable fashion (booing), which gave Team Trump the ammunition they needed to put out an incendiary tweet that caused even more hysteria which led to more reactions which led to more tweets which led to more hysteria and are you starting to see a pattern emerge yet?
I hope you’re all taking notes because this is going to be the song and dance for the next four years:
Step 1: Trump does/says a Thing.
Step 2: People react.
Step 3: One hundred breathless articles are written about the Trump Thing.
Step 4: Pundits spend all day talking about the Trump Thing.
Step 5: Trump doubles down on Trump Thing in response to reaction.
Step 6: More people react. More articles are written. More pundits hyperventilate.
Step 7: Trump does/says a New Thing.
Step 8: Repeat cycle until I shoot my television and throw my computer at moving cars.
What this means for us, the lowly proletariat on the ground, is that we need to detach from this endless cycle of outrage/tweet/outrage because it will soon obfuscate the entire conversation. That means we need to begin analyzing the news with a critical eye and be able to discern what’s worthy of our attention and outrage. Imagine the Trump-backed media like a many-headed hydra. Every time one outrage is sorted out, three more appear in its place. If we keep trying to respond to every single little thing the man does, we’re going to wear ourselves out and look like dumb Chicken Littles in the process.
Understand: The President is not God-King-Xerxes. We fought a whole war against England to buck that kind of leadership. Just because Trump tweets something negative about SNL doesn’t mean that he’s going to use his Evil Presidential Powers to shut down NBC. Trump making a statement about building up our nuclear arsenal does not automatically spawn 1,000 more Hellfire missiles pointed at China. There’s still a Congress full of ineffectual politicians that are still bound by the traditional rules of engagement that he has to work through in order to make any of these things come to pass. For once, we can take pride and solace in our government’s twisted bureaucracy.
There’s been a lot of talk post-election comparing Trump’s rise to power to Hitler’s rise to power. Superficially, I can see the similarities in the same way I can see how A New Hope and The Force Awakens are similar. It’s a basic example of taking a logical, arguable premise (Trump is a not-good person) and pushing it into absurd territory (Trump is definitely Mecha-Hitler). It is in fact possible to oppose somebody and their views without resorting to Godwin’s Law.
I’m not telling you to go back to bed. Far from it. Obviously we should be worried and ill-at-ease. These are troubling times. It’s a time of great instability and uncertainty in our world and we’ve elected an empty suit con-man at best and a bigoted authoritarian at worst. But shitting our pants and losing our minds over every little thing will do nothing but drive up our blood pressure and leave us all dead (inside) of heart attacks by the time we get to the end of 2017. And that’s when they’ve actually won.
So what now?
We get involved. We get engaged. We get action. We stick together. This is the great test of our generation, guys and gals. The time for apathy and half-hearted engagements is over. We can’t look to Bernie Sanders, the Obamas, Elizabeth Warren, or any other figures of the establishment as our allies. Inspiration, surely. But if we’ve learned anything from this election, it’s that our politicians and system have failed us. We’ve spent our entire lives believing that our agency has been surrendered to these people, but the fact is that we are the ones with the power. The fact that Trump was able to defeat a billion dollar campaign with the backing of nearly every major establishment politician, celebrity, and media institution in our country is an indication of that fact. If the Illuminati is real then they fucking suck at their job. Bunch of goat-worshipping slackers if you ask me.
But we have to, have to, have to stick together and get on the same page. And that means putting aside our petty human desire to be right and correct and polite all the damn time. Immediately after Trump’s election, there was a whole wave of suggestions that we begin wearing safety pins on our person to communicate to others that we are allies to groups that might be oppressed by a newly-emboldened aggro-conservative population. It’s a cute, simple idea that there’s nothing objectively wrong with. Right?
Apparently not. It didn’t take long before social justice warriors began declaring war on one another and mounting a shame campaign against those that chose to don the safety pin, citing “white guilt” or some other “No-True-Scotsman” horseshit. The message was obvious: I’m a better activist than you and this is why. It makes me sick on a spiritual level that even in this dark time of national uncertainty, there’s still people on the left that feel the need to assert their faux-moral superiority over others, even when it’s something as simple as wearing a fucking safety pin. Really, are you that goddamn insecure?
It’s my professional opinion as a human being that you are free to go about your activism in whatever way you see fit. If it means wearing a safety pin, wear a safety pin. If it means wearing some goofy hat, wear a goofy hat. Chase your bliss. At the very least it’s a fucking start. What I cannot stand is watching us get into these absolutely petty conflicts that bring fucking nothing to the table except shame and silence. Some people are being turned on and engaged to our social movements for the first (and possibly only) time in their lives and you’re shutting them out because they’re not a Social Awareness Level 10 with a secret decoder ring and badge? And you call the other side fascist? Please.
So can we agree to not be douchebags to one another since we’re all on the same team? Yeah? We cool? Great. Moving on.
Going further, it’s important that we continue to engage with our fellow citizens and our community. That means getting out of our safety bubble and interacting with our big ugly world. It can mean attending city council meetings, supporting local artists and musicians, or just getting to know the yodel next to you on the bus. If it turns out that person is a Trump supporter or has otherwise opposing views from you, don’t go on the attack. Find out why they feel that way. Earnestly engage them. Approach them from a position of human-interacting-with-humans, rather than somebody with a personal axe to grind. As a liberal that grew up in the same Rust Belt that elected Trump, it’s a skill I’m very familiar with. Knowing the mindset of the opposition is essential. I’m not saying you need to love your enemy, but you can learn their name at the very least. Remember, knowledge is power.
What we cannot do, however, is either lull ourselves back into complacency or fear ourselves into paralysis. That’s how we lose. I’ll be doing my part by putting this little piece of online real estate back to work at dispensing rage and social criticism with corresponding dick jokes and pop culture references. I’m sure there will be no shortage of material in the coming months and years as we enter our Brave New World.
Have a happy holiday season, stay vigilant, listen to the new Run the Jewels album because it’s dope as fuck, and pour one out for Harambe.
I’ll see you all in the New Year. Clean, mean, and ready to fuck shit up.