Fascism creep continues taking over everything. Kavanaugh was confirmed today, but that was a foregone conclusion. The front page of Salon.com right now is like, “Kavanaugh, the patriarchy strikes back.” Reactionary backlash. News at 11. Of course that’s there.
If you scroll down a bit further, you’ll come across this monstrosity, a tremendously bad omen: “28 reasons why the left must alter its strategy if it wants to win in 2020.” The author is David Shields. I wasn’t familiar with him, but I cringed at Wikipedia’s description of the major themes of his best-known work.
Shields also discusses, at length, the distinction between memoir and fiction-a distinction that, Shields argues, is mostly imaginary. Because writers of fiction implement a great deal of material directly from their lives, and because writers of memoir must rely on memories that don’t necessarily reflect the truth of what occurred, it would seem absurd to hold the two different kinds of writer to such different standards. “Anything processed by memory is fiction,” Shields writes, indicating that anything written by a writer supposedly doing memoir has necessarily already been fictionalized; thus, determining whether certain events in the book actually happened or not is not the correct way to determine the book’s value. The scandal surrounding James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces figures largely in one chapter, as Shields argues that Frey’s mistake was not lying in his so-called memoir but apologizing about it afterwards. “I’m disappointed not that Frey is a liar but that he isn’t a better one,” Shields writes. “He should have said, ‘Everyone who writes about himself is a liar. I created a person meaner, funnier, more filled with life than I could ever be’. . . Instead, he showed up for his whipping.”
Of course! What the world needs right now is more and more blending of fiction and reality. What a wonderful development it’s been for the left! This same guy wrote a book called “Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season,” which describes itself like this:
The National Basketball Association is a place where white fans and black players enact virtually every racial issue and tension in U.S. culture. Following the Seattle SuperSonics for an entire season, David Shields explores how, in a predominantly black sport, white fans—including especially himself—think about and talk about black heroes, black scapegoats, and black bodies.
I thought this was the most helpful Amazon review:
I decided to slog thru this and finish it, though it was painful. The author idolizes athletes to the point that he imagines — not kidding – that he is Sonics point guard Gary “The Glove” Payton during sex with his wife. He admits this. He writes about it. It’s embarrassing as hell. But that’s not all. He analyzes the calls to sports radio call-in shows for the subtext of racial innuendo on the part of callers and hosts. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, it’s tiresome, and it’s again, damn embarrassing. The author could find a racial subtext in a frog’s fart.
On a personal note, I was disappointed that there was so little here on the man Payton was dishing to, Shawn Kemp. The ups and downs of his should-have-been HoF career deserved more than the paltry 2 mentions he gets in the book. To put it in perspective, Detlef Schrempf gets more ink.
I don’t normally write amazon reviews, but this book really bothered me. It’s supremely awkward.
Of course he thinks about big black cocks during sex. It’s been part of the white male psyche since lynching times, at least.
This is the man Salon.com presents as having much-needed corrective advice. This is the entire preface of the list:
With Midterms around the corner, it’s also time to start thinking about the Presidential Election in 2020. Throughout this Trump term, there has been increased frustration and unrest throughout many communities in the country. As 2020 approaches, the Left must start to strategize for the election and begin to analyze the newfound needs of the country. Read on to find out why the Left must alter it’s strategy to win 2020
I have said this a million times: the main feature of propaganda is that you treat your most controversial claims as taken-for-granted, self-evident assumptions and never actually justify them. That’s how you embed them in people’s minds. Something’s already weird from the first entry:
1. In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote, “Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realized by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.”
What’s his point? I need a little help seeing the implications for “the left’s” electoral strategy. He starts by quoting a white guy as an authority on slavery, who implies that niggers were too stupid to understand that their benevolent owners were exploiting them. Then, for reasons that don’t follow, the reader is supposed to have a general suspicion of anyone with good intentions. How wise and worldly that must make you feel!
2.“If everything’s racist,” a Latino policeman said to me, “nothing’s racist.”
Of course not everything is racist, but damned near everything is racist. It’s a lot to wrap your head around at first, how deeply racism explains things. I mean, also in Salon, Amanda Marcotte is just realizing Republicans actually hate women deep down, and how straightforwardly misogyny explains things. It’s similar for race. We shouldn’t discourage people from seeing racism everywhere when it really is everywhere. Especially not because a white guy found a token minority sock puppet.
3. “Trump is to politics what KISS is to rock ‘n’ roll,” someone says. Someone else does a parody of Andrew Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World,” turning it into “Donald’s World.” This is virtue-signaling, whose effect is less than zero.
4. An Australian sex educator suggests that parents ask their babies for their consent before changing their diaper.
Illustrating just how badly Salon.com failed in their due diligence, Snopes.com even has an entry about this. This is what the person said:
Yes, just about how to set up a culture of consent in their homes so “I’m going to change your nappy now, is that OK?” Of course a baby is not going to respond “yes, mum, that’s awesome, I’d love to have my nappy changed.”
But if you leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye contact then you’re letting that child know that their response matters.
Some obvious, reasonable shit, which has been used by misogynist trolls to foment opposition to the idea that people shouldn’t be forced to do things against their will. How tone deaf belittling the idea of consent during this particular week? Everybody knows professors in MFA programs like David Shields are the authority on keeping it real.
5. There is now a school of animal obedience training that eschews punishment.
Man, isn’t that telling? David Shields likes punishment, probably sexually. It’s just supposed to be obvious that this is wrong, in an ignorant dickish way.
In behavioral neuroscience grad school, my advisor and another well-respected brain scientist were having a conversation. They agreed that “there is no such thing as aversively motivated instrumental behavior.” In other words, you actually can’t teach something constructive just by punishing when the subject fucks up. That’s not how learning works, physiologically. Dopamine in the basal ganglia. Blah blah blah. But this writer guy thinks it’s stupid not to create unpleasant experiences for the pet he supposedly loves.
Anyway, he turns it up a notch with #6:
6. Tim Parks emails me: “Liberals don’t get how much Trump is their child. Trapping us up for so long in their correctness, their can’t-offend, their sense of guilt, they created their monstrous opposite. The #metoo movement is an exacerbation of the same spiral. All men suddenly feel they have to apologize for being men, all whites for being whites, etc. And suddenly people love an appalling guy who won’t apologize and champions whites.”
Salon.com just reproduces this without commentary, as if it’s self-evident. Of course participants in racism and the patriarchy shouldn’t feel guilty for participating! Outrageous!
7. Interviewed by the Guardian, English documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux says, “For all Trump’s awfulness, I can’t help but admire his shamelessness, in an odd way. Or maybe not admire but be fascinated by it and maybe envy it. In a shame culture, he seems to have figured out that if you refuse to be shamed, it gives you enormous power.”
That’s a character flaw of Louis Theroux. It’s one of those things so stupid only an intellectual could believe it (Orwell). As if Donald Trump has a fascinating character and ever figured out anything except how to be a bully.
The next 3 points aren’t super interesting. Blah blah safe spaces and disingenuous support for radical feminist Linda Bellos, for having unpopular opinions about trans politics.
THEN SALON.COM ACTUALLY QUOTES RICHARD SPENCER AT LENGTH AS A SOURCE OF ADVICE FOR “THE LEFT”:
11. Richard Spencer says, “In the current year , one’s career can be ruined and one’s life destroyed if you express anything other than admiration for a man who wants to cut off his genitals and say he’s a woman. In the current year, a white who takes pride in his ancestors’ accomplishments is evil, but a white who refuses to accept guilt for his ancestors’ sins is also evil, maybe even more so. In the current year, white families work their whole lives to send their children to universities where they will be told just how despicable they are. In the current year, the powerless lecture the powerful about how they don’t recognize their privilege. In the current year, a wealthy Jewish celebrity [Seth Myers?] bragging about the ‘end of white men’ is the one speaking truth to power. In the current year, if you are physically strong, you are fragile; black is beautiful, but whiteness is toxic; government doesn’t stop crime but subsidizes it; white privilege is very real, but race is just a social construct; and if facts are too disturbing, you can always retreat into the ‘safe space’ of box juice, teddy bears, and endless empathy where reality doesn’t have to matter anymore.”
When even the liberals are openly Nazis, it’s over. They’re going to round me up and kill me one day for this blog, the way things are going.
Why doesn’t Salon.com do something useful, like explain how to refute these bullshit talking points?
He’s not even halfway through the list. I’m not going to quote every single thing, but it continues…
12. UC Berkeley lists the use of the phrase “America is the land of opportunity” as a micro-aggression.
That’s because it’s something angry white men say in arguments when they want to obfuscate the ways that white people keep black people impoverished on purpose.
13. I receive a memo that reads, “Dear English Department, We have received a public records request that requires us to help [the university] ‘provide a list of all trigger warnings for potentially upsetting or distressing content’ that any of us may have issued in the course of our job responsibilities. The request does not define ‘trigger warning.’ The College has, however, provided the attached syllabus as an example of what a ‘responsive record’ documenting a ‘trigger warning’ might look like. . . . Syllabi and course descriptions are the likeliest places to find ‘trigger warnings.’”
This relies on the reader’s unfamiliarity with university bureaucracy. Surely most people have forgotten that the Freedom of Information Act was brought to us by Ralph Nader, on the principle that government transparency is good. As a public institution, the University of Washington where he teaches is subject to government transparency laws. He received that memo because a conservative activist made the public records request looking for material to help construct propaganda. He would’ve gotten the same memo whether or not this is even a problem.
He has no sense of irony about giving this advice right next to stuff about out-of-touch liberal elites:
18. In Vimi Bajaj’s essay on V.S. Naipaul in the “Writer’s Chronicle,” she argues that he was a great writer only early on, when he was compassionate, and is now no longer of interest, because he hates most of humanity; such a formulation would eliminate everything from Petronius’s “The Satyricon” (1st Century A.D.) to Michel Houellebecq’s “Submission” (2015).
That couldn’t be more ivory tower if it tried.
21. Trying to write a screenplay with a Tinder addict, the project collapses, because the Tinder addict has zero comprehension that his perspective (that of a straight, white, handsome, late-30s hipster with the perfect job and the perfect dog) matters to absolutely no one anymore.
The tastes of upper middle class white men are of no importance to anyone, it’s true.
The lack of self-awareness is astounding:
23. The three principal NYT theater critics — Alexis Soloski, Jesse Green, and Ben Brantley — conduct a symposium on the state of American theater in the age of Trump. All are sublimely oblivious of the extent to which they each embody everything that drove five million Obama voters to Trump.
I don’t think Trump voters are making fine distinctions between NYT theater critics and people who opine about them in Salon.com.
28. The cable TV installer complains about the difficulty of finding a parking space, the convoluted and ineffective process by which Xfinity processes work orders, the clueless customer call service center in the Philippines, his earnest Latina co-worker who wins the bonus trip to Vegas every year. Only after he leaves do I realize he was angling for a tip (bonding between white guys), which I forgot to provide and which will provide for him further ammo.
What’s with this performance of self-awareness at the end? This is really just a sophisticated, writerly version of the way a bullying white guy is “just joking” when confronted.