As many of you might have noticed by now- Trump’s 2016 election victory has had some interesting, and highly entertaining, effects on establishment “liberals”. Hardly a day goes by without some rich “liberal” celebrity saying, tweeting or posting a melodramatic rant about Trump. Curiously, only a minority of these rants are about something real- like all the bad decisions made by his administration since January 20, 2017. Instead, these rich “liberal” celebrities spend most of their bandwidth hyping dubious allegations about collusion between ‘Trump and Putin’ and generally demeaning people who voted for Trump (or did not vote for HRC).
While the anti-Trump rants of most “liberal celebrities (including some famous presstitutes) are secondary to their career, a few have made a living out of it or used it to boost their public visibility. While the demand for anti-Trump agitprop by partisan democratic voters has created a cottage industry of minor celebrities ranting against him, a few stand out- largely because of their public visibility and hypocrisy. I am specifically talking about three minor “liberal” celebrities with their own comedy shows on cable TV who used to be on previous incarnation of “The Daily Show”.
But before I skewer the fake “liberalism” of John Oliver, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee, let us talk a bit about why Jon Stewart’s version of that show was so successful and influential. As some of you might remember, Jon Stewart was not the first host of “The Daily Show”. Nor was his version an instant hit. In fact, in its first two years, the show was largely a combination of clever but fairly mild mockery of public figures (especially politicians) with a short studio interview of some celebrity at the end. In other words, it was sufficiently different enough from traditional late-night shows to get some attention but not bold enough to be a trendsetter.
Then a series of events made that show far more relevant than in its first two years. The disputed presidential election of 2000 and the events of 9/11 were unique in the recent history of USA as far as their scale and impact was concerned. But perhaps more importantly, commentary on those two events could not be packaged within the narrative space of traditional late-night shows which largely shunned any serious political discussions. Jon Stewart’s show, on the other hand, was ideally equipped to deal with politically oriented satire- something that was non-existent on basic cable TV at that time.
The disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a really large number of bad or stupid decisions by the Bush43 administration created a gold mine of opportunity for political satire. Jon Stewart’s ability and willingness to mock the Bush43 administration was in sharp contrast with the spineless deference to them by rest of MSM. In other words, he had no serious competition for his product on cable TV between 2003-2008. I should also point out that this occurred in the era before widespread penetration of social media platforms, video streaming services and alternative news sites.
To make a long story short, this led to his show (and all those associated with it) becoming media celebrities- especially among viewers of a vaguely liberal mindset. I, however, always saw that show as somewhat disingenuous because it was about promoting impotent and smug ridicule of ‘those people’ for ratings. Now.. I am not exactly a fan of CONservatives or people who vote for republicans- but it was obvious that democrats and establishment ‘liberals’ were not better. Neither wanted to push for single payer healthcare with universal coverage. Neither wanted to do anything about the looming financial crisis in the 2004-2008 span. Neither wanted to really not invade Iraq under false pretense or get out of there once it became obvious that occupation of Iraq was a failure.
My point is that establishment republicans were not really different from their democratic counterparts. Yet, night after night, that show would try to portray democrats as being much better than republicans. So how could they do that? Well.. as it turns out, the superiority of democrats was largely based on them being less openly bigoted than their republican counterparts. Yes.. I am saying that the biggest difference between democrats and republicans, as portrayed on that show, was that the former were more image conscious and careful about what they said than the later. Yet, the show tried to portray this as proof of fundamental superiority of neoliberal democrats over neoconservative republicans.
After eight shitty years under Bush43, the nation got tired of republicans and elected Obama in November 2008. Suddenly, that show (and other like it) could not stop praising the newly elected president. This uncritical praise of Obama continued even after he revealed his neoliberal colors by bailing out big banks, screwing over mortgage holders, passing an insipid republican healthcare plan and not fulfilling the vast majority of his campaign promises. So what happened? Why did that show, and others like it, stop holding Obama accountable like they tried to do this predecessor. To be fair, Bush43 was a bigger fuckup than Obama44. My point, however, still stands. That show spent infinitely more time fawning over him than holding him to account for breaking his many promises.
But what does any of this have to with the fake ‘liberalism’ of John Oliver, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee? Why is a brief history of ‘The Daily Show’ relevant to my critique of them? And what is fake ‘liberalism’?
Let us consider the last question first. Fake ‘liberalism’ is just another word for neoliberalism. People who believe in, and promote, this ideology espouse a number of causes which at first glance appear progressive or liberal. For example- they support a number of “progressive” causes such as LGBT rights after the causes have already become safe to support. They never tire talking about how they support “diversity”, “empowerment” and similar nice-sounding but empty ideas. They will however never want to confront large systemic issues such as class, race, rent-seeking, economic inequality etc
To put it another way, they have no interest in real socio-economic reform. Indeed, they want to keep the status quo going on for as long as possible since they greatly benefit from it. They just want to find and promote new ideas that help legitimize their parasitism. As I wrote in a previous post, the vast majority of the public actions and behavior of these establishment “liberals” and celebrities are about virtue signalling and trying to create a moral justification for their ill-gotten wealth and power.
So how do John Oliver, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee fit into all this? The short answer is- very well. The somewhat longer answer is that their entire career is based on promoting this fake “liberalism” while pretending to be progressive. Here is a person-by-person breakdown.
John Oliver: Though he pretends to be of middle-class upbringing, even a quick look at his background suggests that he came from a pretty connected background. OK, so he is not exactly upper class, but he is what you might call solidly upper-middle class. Note that he was able to move from performing in comedy festivals in UK to being hired by the Daily Show within a few years. Now I am not saying that he was incompetent or undeserving, but it is clear that he always moved in the right circles to be ‘discovered’ for big-time gigs. And this brings me to an odd question- why would you hire a guy from UK for a show about the minutiae of american society and politics? As an outsider with a fresh perspective? Perhaps.. but there is a much better explanation.
In my opinion, he was hired by that show to play a particular archetype. To be more specific- he played the role of a witty, oxbridge educated englishman to comment on american society and politics while still being accessible enough to generate ratings. And that is his shtick, his only shtick. Sure.. since he got his own show on HBO, he has devoted many shows to obvious critiques of the many flaws and problems in american society. Also, his critiques are, by and large, factually correct and accurate. But all of his critiques almost always miss the source of the problems he claims to be exposing. As an example- his show about predatory lending barely touched on the central role of low minimum wages in USA in creating that problem in the first place. Another example- his segment on police accountability treats the issue of police brutality as a fault of the system rather than as its central feature.
In other words, his principal shtick is to sell outrage at various symptom of the underlying rot rather than directing attention to the cause. So why he do that? Well.. because it is popular and profitable. People like him derive their livelihood from being the secular equivalents of “revolutionary” religious preachers of old who were largely in it for public adulation, money and power. Like their secular equivalents today, those preachers had no interest in actual reform which would improve the lives of others. Similarly, most of their promoters and audience went their sermons to feel good about themselves and morally superior to those not in attendance. Also, it helped give their audience the illusion of righteous action.
Trevor Noah: When he took over as the host of ‘The Daily Show’ after Jon Stewart retired, many wondered as to why Jon chose a South-African comedian over, say, somebody from USA. The official answer was that he had the most potential of those who were available (and willing) to fill that spot. Once again, I am not going to say that he is incompetent and undeserving of the position- because there is no evidence for those assertions. In fact, Trevor is a pretty decent all-round comedian. However, I do think that his ancestry had a worthwhile effect on his selection for that job. In my opinion, It really helped that Trevor (like John Oliver) can convey a particular archetype. Specifically that of a sharp, competent, confident black comedian who is still culturally white enough to retain the core viewership of the show. It also helps that he was born in apartheid-era South Africa and therefore serves as an example of somebody who is achieving the American Dream.
So what makes him a promoter of fake “liberalism”? Well.. the simple answer is- who and what he promotes on his show. And yes, I am aware that he does not have full editorial control of the show. Since he started hosting the show, it has pretty much been a love-fest for establishment “liberals” and “conservatives”- much more so that when Jon Stewart hosted it. Also, during the 2016 election cycle- he was plugging establishment propaganda and tropes as if he was part of the establishment. You might have also noticed that the show now spends an inordinate amount of time of just plain mockery of all those ‘other people’ and SJW-type issues than on anything approaching an intelligent or clever critique. Of course, saying any of this in public or on social media will result in busy-bodies calling you a racist.
Samantha Bee: Another alumni of ‘The Daily Show’ whose main shtick can be largely summed up as- “I have a cunt, therefore, I must be respected and admired”. As some of you, in her previous jobs, she had pretty much one single specialty- make funny faces during interviews that were then edited to support whatever point she was trying to make. That is the exact same specialty as her husband. Nowadays, her secondary shtick is to support any cause that can be vaguely sold as feminist or “empowering to women”- which is something that is still in demand. Curiously, all of her public professions of support for the down-trodden, non-white, women and other “protected” groups does not seem to extend to her personal life. It is a matter of public record, that she and her husband, are opposed to integration of kids from lower-income families at the school which their kids attend. To put it another way, “diversity” is good for the ignorant masses but not for affluent “liberals” like us.
I should also point out that she uncritically supported and plugged HRC, both during the democratic primaries and the general election in 2016. It is noteworthy that she did that by repeatedly ignoring and dissing Bernie Sanders and his message of populist economic policies. In that respect, she is more openly neoliberal that John Oliver or Trevor Noah. Also, pointing out that she is not especially funny is evidence your ‘misogyny’ rather than your opinion about her competence. In her opinion, rubes like you are too stupid to appreciate the comedy of constantly swearing and screaming hysterically at the camera. Also, not appreciating the comedy of misleadingly edited interviews is a sign of your poor taste- rather than fatigue at seeing the same crap for almost a decade.
I am now going to stop adding to this post because it is already a bit too long. Might write a sequel later.
What do you think? Comments?
Here is an interesting YouTube channel that I have watched, on and off, for the previous few months. OK, to be more specific- I usually watch the reports by 2-3 of their journalists (Michael Tracey, Jordan Chariton and Emma Vigeland).
Here is the link to the channel: TYT Politics
And here are a couple of recent, and interesting, clips. The first one is about the interesting case of a journalist prone to confabulism (Kurt Eichenwald) pressing criminal charges against some guy sending him a flashing tweet which allegedly triggered an epileptic seizure. The second clip is about all those the Putin-Russia’ claims by establishment democrats and their most fervent supporters seem to be helping Trump rather than hurting him. It also makes the point focusing on these dubious and flimsy claims, at the expense of going after Trump for his many real and tangible problems, does not help the establishment democrats who are pushing this story.
Clip 1: Is A Tweet Now A “Deadly Weapon”?
Clip 2: Jordan and Michael Working For Russia?!
One of the common and peculiar explanations about why average life-expectancy in USA is about 3 years less than most other developed countries goes something like this: “It is because of ‘the Blacks’ who have lower life expectancy than Whites because of genetics”. The person who makes this argument will then, almost always, go on to make another related claim: “Whites in USA have the same life expectancy as Whites in other developed countries”. Well.. it just happens that the second claim is false, while the first one is demonstrably false.
But before we go there, here (below) is a map of average life-expectancy by state in USA. You will immediately notice that many states in the American South have rather low average life-expectancy compared to states on the north-east and west coast of USA. It turns out that average life-expectancy in southern and many mid-western states is below the national average of USA- which itself is about 3 years less than most other developed countries. But it gets worse. Many “far poorer countries” (as measured per-capita income in USD) such as Mexico have average life expectancy figures that are superior to most states in the American South.
But it is the effect of residency by state AND race on average life expectancy that is truly amazing- for some people, at least. You can get the long-form of the data here or the wikipedia version here.
It turns out that Blacks in many coastal states live longer than Whites in many southern states. In eight southern states (Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi) the average life expectancy for Whites is below 77 years. Curiously, there are six states (Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Washington, Oregon) in which average life expectancy for Blacks is over 77 years. Given that over 90% of people with Black ancestry in USA can trace their origins in this country to the pre-1810 era, it is certainly odd that Blacks living in certain states today live upto 8 years longer than their equivalents in some other states.
The state of residence, then, has a large impact on average life-expectancy than race in USA.
But it gets even more interesting. The gap between the numbers for White and Black average life expectancy pales in comparison to that between Hispanics and Whites. Hispanics, you see, appear to live years longer than their White counterparts- even in populous and relatively affluent states such as California, Massachusetts and New York. I should note that this is true in spite of the fact that Hispanics typically tend to be less affluent than Whites. People of Asian ancestry, of course, have the longest life-expectancy of any racial group in USA- but that statistic has a significant competent of higher social class and levels of education.
On another note, the gap between White and Black average life expectancy is highest in mid-western states such as Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is the lowest in states such as Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Nevada. Curiously, the gap between White and Black life expectancy is only moderate in the American South- which is another way of saying that it is bad for both of them in those states. I am sure that many of my readers will have a lot more to say about this post and the data in the reports which it was derived from.
What do you think? Comments?
A few months ago, I came across an interesting videogame related channel. While it contains recorded footage from a number of video games, the channel seems to specialize in Half-Life and Half Life 2 mods. I would go so far as to say that I have not seen any other YouTube with such an extensive collection of HL and HL2 mods. As some of you might know, the HL series of videogames happens to be one of my all time favorites.
Here is link to the YouTube channel – Bolloxed
Please note that both example clips (shown below) are long and best enjoyed by opening in new browser tabs.
Clip 1– Half-Life 2: PROSPEKT – Year 1 Update
Clip 2 – Half-Life 2: Sprucecape – Full Walkthrough
Here is a really funny montage of establishment democrats telling you, somewhat unintentionally, why the democratic party in its current form has no real future. Came across it on YouTube channel of TYT Politics. While I certainly do not agree with everybody on that channel or TYT (especially some democratic establishment apologists), their content is generally superior to the outright corporatist crap you see on TV news channels like CNN, MSNBC, Fox etc.
“They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing”― popularly attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
Note: Once again, please read this post in its entirety before you comment on it.
Here are my definitions for terms used in this post: Elite = people who are rich and powerful because they (or their parents) got lucky; “e-Liberals” = credentialed people who are part of the establishment; Neoliberalism = relentless exploitation of the majority dressed up with pretty sounding but empty words and ideas; identity-based politics = exploiting social issues to facilitate “legal” exploitation of people on both sides of those issues.
Before we start, a quick clarification. I strongly believe that no person or institution has any right to tell or enforce how another person should live their life or who they should have sex with- as long as it does not involve animals or children. Also, it is abundantly clear that sexual orientation and attraction are based in biology. In other words, what occurs between two or more sexually mature people is their own damn business.
Having said that, let us turn to the topic of this post. So what inspired me to write this post in the first place? The short answer is- a set of observations about the nature of public discourse in USA over the last few years. The somewhat longer answer is that I have noticed a peculiar trend among the supposedly “liberal” establishment class (both elites and their cronies) in many western countries, especially the USA over the previous 15 or so years.
As many of you know- for a few decades after ww2, liberalism (in the west) was associated with changes and movements meant to improve the economic and social conditions of everyone in those countries. But somewhere along the way (between 1970s-1990s depending on the country) liberalism stopped being associated with improvements in economic conditions for the majority. Instead it became an ideology devoted to retaining power, for its own sake, through the division of people along various lines of their identity- racial, sexual, educational etc.
To be fair, living in the pre-1990 era as an openly gay or non-white person (in the west) meant that you were always seen and treated as a second-class citizen or worse. Therefore any elite or institutional support for movements which strove to improve the treatment of sexual and racial minorities in those countries should be seen as a good thing. Except that it seldom occurred during that era.
A bit confused by what I just said? Let me explain it in a bit more detail. See.. prior to the late-1990s or even the very early-2000s, movements dedicated to improving the status of sexual and racial minorities had basically no elite or institutional support. Indeed, elites and “e-liberals” in those eras saw such movements and the people they represented with disdain and contempt. As late as the mid-1990s, these supposed “pillars of western society” still openly talked about gay or non-white people as if they were second-class human beings.
So what changed? How come the elite and “e-liberals” of today cannot stop talking about how much they like people who are gay or of alternative sexual orientation? Why can’t they stop talking about how much they love non-whites and promoting diversity? What accounts for their fairly abrupt shift in public attitudes towards groups they were previously complicit in marginalizing? And what does any of this have to do with neoliberalism?
Let me explain..
1] Contemporary elite and “e-liberal” support for a number of progressive causes has almost nothing to do with the extent of their belief in those causes. A significant part of their motivation for doing so comes down to virtue signalling to themselves, their peers and all those underneath them. Such signalling serves many purposes- from feeling good about themselves and making sure that they fit in with their peers to feeling morally superior than those underneath them. Therefore, their support of certain socially progressive causes is not dissimilar from some of them adopting a token Chinese or African orphan. It is about the public optics and gaining small temporary status increases in their circle of peers.
2] Perhaps more relevantly, it serves to perpetuate the idea (at least in their minds) that they are somehow more moral and deserving of their ill-gotten wealth and power. Supporting such social issues also enables the elites and “e-liberals” to partially deflect attention from how they keep on exploiting and robbing everybody else. You may have noticed that elites and “e-liberals” go to considerable lengths to avoid talking about socio-economic issues that affect the majority. However they never tire of telling everybody within earshot about how they like gays, lesbians, non-whites and pretty much every social minority identity that they can invent.
3] Which brings me to why so many elites and “e-liberals”, nowadays, take every opportunity to express their support for people who are, or feel, transgender. Newsflash- It has nothing to do with elites and “e-liberals” feeling any real solidarity with people in those social groups. But it has a lot to do with signalling that they are morally superior to ‘all those other people below us’. Therefore, all of their current support for legislation to improve the legal status of that group is largely self-serving. As far as the elite and “e-liberals” are concerned, expressing public support for transgender people is just the latest cause to become fashionable. Sorta like supporting gay rights was during the early 2000s or adopting non-white babies was during the late-2000s.
4] It should be noted that the hard work on securing equal legal rights for gay people was largely done by gays themselves. Similarly adopting non-white children from non-western countries became mainstream because of ordinary people who wanted to adopt children. However, in both cases the elite and “e-liberals” adopted what was becoming mainstream and promoted it as if they came up with the ideas and did all the hard work. Luckily, both those ideas had become mainstream enough to not be tarnished by their association with the elites and “e-liberals”. The same is not true with transgender rights and the way it is being supported by elites and “e-liberals”. They got on this cause at a much earlier stage and have rightly or wrongly become associated with that movement in the public mind- to its detriment.
There is, therefore, a real risk that their association with that cause will damage its public image. This is especially so in an era where the general public is fed up with the abuse, exploitation and hypocrisy heaped upon them by elites and “e-liberals”. Of course, this is not going to stop those morons from using that cause as another example of their moral superiority and indirect justification for their ill-gotten wealth.
What do you think? Comments?