The sign in figure 1 is not exceptional. I have white passengers get in my car wearing tee shirts that say, “We don’t call 9-1-1,” and that depict guns. Signs with a similar message may declare that property is “protected by the second amendment.” When you see enough of these signs, and enough of these tee shirts, and enough of these messages; when you see enough guns gratuitously displayed, ostensibly to honor veterans, but especially around certain neighborhoods; when you see the gun nuttery in the state legislature; and when you see gun stores treated as essential businesses during a pandemic, they just don’t seem to be joking anymore.
If I seem to be waffling on the question of moving out of Pittsburgh, it’s because the racism, white supremacism, and politics are, on one hand, so abysmal, and the natural beauty of the place is, on the other, really quite spectacular. Every time I drive up a lane with woods on both sides, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. Every time I see a Confederate flag, a Trump flag, yet another gun store, or a sign like the one in figure 1, I am so appalled I can’t imagine staying.
It’s been a hot and dry few days. But as I’m about to hit publish here, look what just appeared to our west (in eastern Ohio):
Don’t know that it will come our way and suspect it won’t change the pattern much, but there it is.
George Monbiot conflates the situations of the U.S. and the U.K., declines to call that conflation fascism, and distinguishes this conflation from fascism on specious grounds. I’m beginning to sense a pattern: It is not intellectually fashionable to invoke the f-word (“fascism”), so people bend over backwards to explain how our situation is different so they can still style themselves ‘intellectuals.’
I call what is happening in the U.S. fascism because, crucially, it seeks to build political support through violence, whether structural or physical, against subaltern groups, especially nonwhites and the poor, that enables further violence against those groups. That’s different from what Monbiot says is happening in the U.K., but Monbiot is criticizing anti-intellectualism in both countries and this is how he grounds his conflation.
I’m not prepared to call intellectuals a subaltern group in either country, though I certainly feel a temptation. Whether I would call the U.K. fascist depends on its treatment of subaltern groups and, while I’m not prepared to excuse that treatment, I’m also not prepared to say that that treatment is part of a feedback loop. Here is my previous definition of fascism from the previous update on May 16:
Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.
If, on the other hand, I am to consider intellectuals a subaltern group, it cannot be all intellectuals. Some, like economists who enable an intellectually utterly discredited neoliberalism and those who support the political class in other ways, are often richly rewarded. Professors who cling to tenure hardly seem subaltern to me. So I would need a way to distinguish between outcast intellectuals, those who are not sycophants for the ruling class, and those who are.
That’s not as easy as it sounds. It can’t simply be that intellectuals who agree with me are subaltern, but ideological sycophancy might be one distinguishing feature of non-subaltern intellectuals. There are books on my shelf I haven’t gotten to that might help with this and Sergio Caldarella criticizes ideological conformity. There may also be economic considerations: What if the surplus of Ph.D. holders functions, intentionally or not, to undermine intellectuals’ leverage in the marketplace, and therefore intellectualism at large?
For now, I just don’t know. A group I might more easily include as subaltern is that of dissidents. Monbiot criticizes the elite response to intellectual dissent in the U.S. and the U.K., but what if the real objection authoritarian populists and elites have with those Monbiot calls intellectuals isn’t to their intellectualism but rather to their ideas?
So here is how I am further refining my definition:
Fascism is an ideology that seeks to institutionalize structural and physical violence against some or many subaltern groups on the grounds of bigotry and to increase its own public support through the exploitation of such violence and bigotry. This bigotry may take several forms including the repression of dissent or the promotion of nationalism, scapegoating, sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. To the extent that it succeeds, it acts as a self-reinforcing feedback as public support enables further and more extreme violence.
I’m betting that participants will not in fact socially distance and will not in fact wear face masks. They will spread the novel coronavirus among each other and then to vulnerable people, who will require hospitalization. They will not be paying the costs of that hospitalization.
How can I be so confident? Mask-wearing has become politicized—Democrats, who are unlikely to participate in the Trump Boat Parade, wear masks much more frequently than Republicans, and men who object to wearing masks often do so because they perceive that their masculinity is threatened.
I don’t want to fucking hear it. If you don’t wear a mask, you should be taken to a psychiatric hospital prison and left there as a psychopath, unfit ever for release into society again. Because at this point, you’re just making this shit up.
I remember my once-favorite professor talking about a media bias in favor of investors, making a point that job market statistics come out once a month (this claim is imprecise), while we have stock market statistics daily. Writing yesterday, of today’s unemployment statistics, Greg Ip effectively points to that very flaw: “In any case, the jobs data are a snapshot of the second week of June, and since then, hiring appears to have slowed.” What we hear today, therefore, will seem more optimistic or less pessimistic than what has likely happened since. As it turns out, the headline unemployment rate fell officially to 11.1 percent. Due to misclassification, 12.1 percent would probably be closer.
But the spike in COVID-19 cases has largely appeared since then, leading businesses that had reopened to shut back down. And we really don’t know how much of an effect that’s had. Pretty sure it isn’t good.
An Uber driver claims, and the company denies, that he was fired because he refused riders who weren’t wearing masks. Drivers are indeed required to take selfies proving they are wearing masks, but the same is not true of riders, who are asked but not required to prove compliance.
Since the recent spike in cases, both locally and nationally, and especially since Allegheny County ordered a halt to on-site drinking in bars, I’m noticing much greater compliance among Uber riders.
I’d been told that “Pittsburgh is a drinking town with a football problem;” it might be that taking away their booze does indeed get their attention, although as I was driving home this evening, I was stopped at a red light next to an ice cream shop with people lined up outside. I could see the young ladies working the counter were wearing masks. But despite a newly issued order, taking effect immediately, requiring everyone to wear masks in public, not one customer was, and a lot of them were not social distancing while in line.
If passengers ask, I will tell them that they should wear a mask and, in my experience, they generally comply. But otherwise, I won’t say anything. I won’t argue. That was likely that now-former Uber driver’s mistake. But I’m now giving them a lower rating and specifically tagging that they weren’t wearing a mask. That might be the severest threat of all.
So I've been wondering what, with all the flag waving, veteran-worshipping, gratuitous gun-displaying, #Pittsburgh folks might be compensating for, and given the ample evidence of #WhiteSupremacism around here, concluded it was the Civil War. https://t.co/rDTQT5E33T
It appears there was a campaign on TikTok to reserve tickets for Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa that would never be used. The campaign, reported by CNN in a story that appears to be several days older than the dateline (judging from the URL, it would have been June 16), was not expected to succeed as it is routine that many more “RSVP” for these events than can actually attend and the rallies usually fill arenas anyway. I do not and suspect I will never have the pieces put together to say that this campaign was indeed the cause of Trump’s disappointment but the TikTok users, joined by Korean pop music fans, are claiming success.
Yashar Ali has what I think is a very useful analysis of Donald Trump’s rally failure, which I have included in an update to my new blog entry (from the 10:25 am update).
Atlanta police have responded to a murder charge against the officer who killed Rayshard Brooks with various labor actions, including a sick-out and refusals to leave their precincts. This underscores a point I have previously made that police refuse accountability and so cannot be trusted with weapons. I would say now that they cannot be trusted with authority over others, period.
We can now identify four essential features of policing as currently practiced:
A unique license to use even lethal force against other human beings;
the use of this license to enforce laws passed by mostly wealthy white men against other human beings;
a nearly-unanimous refusal of accountability for the use of this force;
and that this license colors any other tactics police may use, effectively reducing them to the potential for even lethal force.
In sum, all this amounts to is a response to so-called ‘disorder’ (as understood by mostly wealthy white men) with effectively unregulated violence in which the perpetrators, both at the legislative and enforcement levels, generally refuse to recognize there is a problem.
I have updated a recent blog post accordingly and, as well, to account for Zak Cheney-Rice’s article, which I had not seen before writing that post.
I would advise caution against reading too much into @realDonaldTrump’s disappointing turnout.
That said, he has politicized science in a way that should have led his followers to disregard the risks of attending the event. He should have been able to fill the seats. He didn’t. https://t.co/pIIG7XsiAM
Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).↩
Though the data is “proprietary” (really? for a government health agency?), it appears that Pennsylvania is making some progress against the pandemic. The trouble here is that nobody has hermetically sealed borders. The rise in other states remains a serious threat.
Even my loyal readers hadn’t read my most recent blog post and I realized the argument could be made stronger. I have revised it and changed the publication date. This affects the URL. It has been updated here.
June 15, 9:50 am:
There has been yet another police shooting of yet another Black man. That blog post has been revised further.
It would seem that some folks just aren’t buying into the whole concept of “lesser of two evils” anymore. That’s probably a bigger problem for Democrats than it is Republicans. They were warned. I warned them but they were also warned by a whole bunch of people besides me all this year.
But of course, that assumes the Democrats even want to win. Which, to me, isn’t at all clear.