Mass Media Retrospective: The First Presidential Debate of 2016

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The tyrannical television will determine the outcome of this interminable presidential election, but for all of the awesome power it wields, it cannot convince a significant percentage of the American electorate to witness its presidential debates. Even in a time of ubiquitous unemployment, when a disturbingly large number of people really have nothing better to do than watch an allegedly “major television event”, still it proves an uncommonly arduous task to persuade them to sit on the couch and listen to two oligarchs mumble and mutter for a couple of hours. I lost the ability to tolerate it sober some time last year, but only when watching live television. I still have an honest interest in the televised debates of previous election cycles—the older, the better, but we are finally beginning to move far enough away from the psychological culture of 2016 that the televised debates of that period are gradually acquiring their own clarity. They are seeking out their place within a historical context.

Needless to say, we are not far enough removed to settle that context, but we are more than capable of overcoming the contemporary hysteria. In other words, we can recognize the election of Donald Trump as an inevitability, as a natural reflex performed by a moribund political body. For all of its visceral horror, perhaps even its unfathomability, there was simply no other plausible behavior for this body, at least not at that point in time. The political culture in the United States had undergone a decadent, maladaptive process across a span of several decades, at least, and has slowly effected the conditions under which the election of Trump is not a likely, but the likeliest, course of action. We do not travel by teleportation; we take an incalculable number of steps before we reach the end of our journey. The neoliberal media is in the business of scolding the public for its failure to turn left at the last minute, ignoring every move that was made previously and neglecting to notice that, in any case, we are still traveling on the same street.

We will leave them to scold Jill Stein and those who voted for her, and we will wish them luck in overcoming their unfortunate myopia. Our analytical work is more ambitious. While the bourgeois neoliberals prepare for tomorrow night’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, dogmatic in their confidence that the fate of our species hangs in the balance, but never considering that the electorate have already made their choice, we will turn our attention to the first presidential debate of 2016, staged almost exactly four years ago. We remember almost nothing from that debate, save for one or two of Trump’s trademark ripostes, and we’ll remember little from tomorrow’s debate, as well. Nevertheless, the debate of yesteryear illustrates clearly the argument for Trump, one that ought to be of interest to the supposedly omniscient Democrats.

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Training the Public for Bloodshed: Election 2020

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Barton Gellman has written an article for The Atlantic, one which asks a rather threadbare question: “What if Trump refuses to concede the election?” Although this piece wasn’t meant to be published until November, it has been made available to readers “because of its urgency”, a justification that ought to be of interest to those who have condemned Julian Assange for his alleged partiality. It is remarkably apropos, released only hours after a reporter asked Trump to “commit … to a peaceful transferal of power after the election”. What this reporter, a reporter unnamed in all of the articles I have read on this story, really wished to know was how Trump would respond if he were to lose in the general election. Seemingly every journalist in Trump’s vicinity has asked him this question or some derivative, though none, to my knowledge, have asked the same of Joe Biden, even after Hillary Clinton publicly exhorted him to refuse to concede the race, regardless of the final tally of the votes.

To repurpose one of Ralph Nader’s observations, the question is politically bigoted, reflecting the inquirer’s dogmatic confidence in Trump’s inevitable defeat as well as Biden’s irresistible success. While the Democrats have tempered this presupposition, incurably traumatized as they are by their surreal disappointment in 2016, still they cannot fathom, still they struggle to accept, the possibility of Trump winning re-election. Their compulsive, though by no means unenthusiastic, indulgence in nightmarish fantasies wherein Trump refuses to concede the election proves that, in their view, Biden’s victory is a fait accompli and Trump can maintain power only dishonestly or illegitimately. On a personal level, this behavior permits them to pleasurably reassure themselves of their moral superiority; in a broader context, it prepares the public to accept a scenario wherein the Democrats claim they won the election, despite the contrary conclusion of the official results.

No one has written speculative commentary on that hypothetical, even though it is of a far greater likelihood. Instead, we read and hear exclusively of the dreadful situation foreseen by Gellman, in which Trump declares the rule of fiat and assumes indefinite, autocratic control. There is a market for inherently unsubstantiated material on this as-yet unrealized event (Gellman cites a number of books written on this fictional subject), though it is of interest only to Trump’s critics, who, I would imagine, do not like to contemplate it. Why, then, have they revisited this theme more frequently with each passing month of his presidency? Perhaps it is time for us to acknowledge the sadomasochistic element of this peculiar conduct and to recognize it as the single most salient symptom of Trump Derangement Syndrome. At the end of this decade, several years after Trump has vacated the Oval Office, the bourgeois left will complain of recurring night terrors in which Trump returns to Washington to distress them again.

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Traitors of Journalism: Lindsey Max, Vote Shamer Extraordinaire

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To Lindsey Max:

I am new to your writing, having encountered it for the first time today in someone’s response to a tweet written by an irascible political commentator known as Brooklyn Dad. This morning, Mr. Dad helpfully informed the world, including his six hundred and seventy thousand followers, that if one is “voting for Trump, the Green Party, or not at all”, then one is a “selfish, stupid asshole” whom he does not “ever want to know”. Presumably, he posted this while in agitated anticipation of President Trump’s impending nomination of a Supreme Court justice. Presumably, too, he was speaking contemptibly of people like me: even though I have every intention of voting, I expect to cast my ballot for Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who is legally ineligible to run for, never mind to be elected as, President of the United States.

As stated previously, I am largely unfamiliar with your body of work, and therefore, I cannot say for certain if you are a defender of Mr. Assange. I am, however, comfortable in assuming that you are not. This assumption is based on the article linked in the aforementioned response to Mr. Dad: “Progressives Must Vote for Biden” is its title, which reminds me of one of my own op-eds, “The Oligarchs Must Support Joe Biden”, the link to which is included here. Whereas my piece was an anticipation, one which has subsequently been confirmed, that the many institutions of American corporate power would eventually support Biden’s presidential campaign, yours endeavors to craft a moral argument, not so much in defense of the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, but in disdain of a species of political animal known as “Bernie Bros” who, in your esteemed estimation, shall determine the outcome of the present presidential race.

You begin by quoting Molly Hodgdon, another person I have never heard of before, who tweeted four long and bitter years ago: “Voting third party is a good way to let marginalized groups know that your abstract principles are more important than their very real lives.” She doesn’t strike me as an admirer of Plato, nor as a regular reader of your work: after finishing the piece from which I am quoting, I took a look at another essay of yours, “Dump Trump Lovers”, in which you instruct people of “morality and ethics” (by which, I imagine, you mean yourself and like-minded people) to terminate their relationships, “be they romantic or platonic … with others who support Trump”. The reasons of these others for supporting Trump is irrelevant, in your view, and you quote Sa’iyda Shabazz, another writer with whom I’m unfamiliar, who said to Trump’s supporters: “You’re not voting for someone based on one thing. By supporting that one thing about them you do like, you’re also supporting the things you may not like.”

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Assange Contra Ginsburg

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Journalistic malpractice has always been lucrative, regardless of the political climate in which it is performed. Comforting though it may be to convince ourselves that admass and agitprop came into vogue only recently, perhaps no sooner than the moment Donald Trump descended from his golden escalator, we ought not forget that the omnipotent, omnipresent electronic media gave rise to him, and not the other way around. The information apparatus, inherently dangerous even in the absence of a malevolent actor, came into existence long before Trump decided to take advantage of it. His distinctive work has been, not to assemble this machinery, but to expand it, to develop additional layers of the platform—or, at the very least, to encourage this industrial activity. In the Trumpish Age, quite literally any person, no matter how unlearned or crude, can create a digital soapbox and command the attention of the masses of consumers. Predictably, this fecund ecosystem has given birth to every manner of mountebank, propagandist, and political partisan, and it is in these robust times that the freedom of expression is most seriously imperiled, vis-à-vis the fascist prosecution of Julian Assange.

Assange’s relationship to the information apparatus is convoluted and contradictory, much like the apparatus itself. The apparatus, which is the manifestation of a system of cerebral control, cannot function without the involuntary patronage of human beings, who, by their nature, cannot function in a state of servitude, whether it be physical or intellectual. Assange is the apparatus’s antithesis, sublimation, and catastrophic byproduct. We remember the Architect’s description of Neo in The Matrix Reloaded: “You are the eventuality of an anomaly which, despite my sincerest efforts, I’ve been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision.” One must begin with an imprisoning culture of compulsion, compliance, and conformity if one is to discover a rebellious mind, a mind that, in its incompatibility, is immediately loathsome to the homogenous masses.

The masses are loyalists to the information apparatus and the authoritarian philosophy it serves. In consequence, they recognize the rebellious, liberated mind as an existential threat; not incorrectly, for they have merged with the governing system and become its host, although they may come to be the parasite in time. In any event, Assange is the antidote to the sickness exchanged, and for the bloodsucker, to cure is to kill. As a preventive measure, the parasite must discard the medicine and deliver to the doctor a terminal disease; namely, incarceration within the bowels of the system. For years, the information apparatus persuaded the masses that it was absolutely necessary to swallow him up and ensure that he never endeavored to treat this infection again, but as soon as the jaws of the state seized him on April 11th, 2019, no popular interest was expressed in the digestive process. Wasn’t this at odds with the supposed urgency and pertinence of his arrest? If the public welfare depended on his imprisonment, then shouldn’t our collective energy be directed toward the surety of his imprisonment?

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Revolution, BLM, and Biden’s NBA and NFL Endorsements

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Perhaps the revolution will not be televised, and it probably will not be livestreamed, either, but it certainly won’t be authorized by the ruling class. The implacable ruling class, typically defined by glacial apathy, is furiously nimble in its resistance to any credible threat against its power—which is to say, against its very existence. We mourn Bernie Sanders and his failed democratic revolution, but lest we choke on our tears, shouldn’t we gag on this gibberish we speak? What is a “democratic revolution” if not a contradiction in terms, one which should be struck with brutal cruelty from the lips of a political novice? “Democratic revolution” . . . Do you really believe that “the revolution”, which is meaningless unless it is the lethal termination of the ruling class and the total demolition of their authoritative structures, will take place in the form of an election, an event that is permitted, encouraged, respected, sanctioned, and finally accepted by the ruling class? You are speaking not of revolution but of masochism, which might reveal an awful lot about you, but which takes us no closer toward an understanding of the sadistic elite.

Every authentic democratic exercise is peaceful in its nature, which is its appeal. It is also useless in its nature, which is also its appeal: the electorate believe that they have acted in the moral right and the ruling class maintain their power apparatus. Revolution, on the other hand, is necessarily violent: the ruling class will not capitulate without the threat of bloodshed, at the very least. Even if a democratic exercise could eliminate the power of the ruling class, it would only be through the enforcement of the will expressed thereby that the victory of the electorate is secured; indeed, there is no persuasive rebuttal to the libertarian’s diagnosis of the necessity of force in the nature of the state. Accordingly, the ruling class must resist, through their own forceful means, every attempted revolution, democratic or otherwise, of the ruled. It cannot be a coincidence, then, that those ruled are taught to synonymize democracy and revolution, the former being under the exclusive control of the ruling class.

Until we consider the practical requirements of revolution, until we acknowledge the need for the possibility of violence, we will be incapable of overcoming and overthrowing the ruling class. The ruling class employs every violent method at its disposal to suppress the uprising of the masses, of which the deployment of the militarized police is only the most conspicuous example. Because we are contending with a violent opponent, we cannot afford to deny ourselves every violent resource. We cannot dismiss violence out of hand, and indeed, no sensible person does, lest the right to self-defense be dismissed, as well. This is the argument proposed by Frantz Fanon in his forgotten little book, The Wretched of the Earth, which I have had the good fortune to read for the past few weeks. Fanon, who appears to have been forgotten, too, was a Marxist revolutionary who wrote in support of Algeria’s War of Independence, a subject that should be of some interest to those who champion the Black Lives Matter phenomenon.

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