Tag Archives: politics

The Immigration-Obsessed, Polarized, Garbage-Fire Election of 1800

A. Roger Ekirch | American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution | Pantheon | February 2017 | 33 minutes (8,149 words) 

Below is an excerpt from American Sanctuary, by A. Roger Ekirch.

For background, it is important to know that a seaman named Jonathan Robbins participated in a mutiny on the HMS Hermione in 1797, the bloodiest mutiny in British naval history. Afterward, he joined the American navy, but he was eventually recognized and jailed. To justify his actions, Robbins claimed he was an American citizen who had been impressed—that is, captured and forced into servitude—by the British navy. However, his American citizenship was disputed. The British sought his extradition, which the president, the Federalist John Adams, granted—an action which had disastrous political consequences for his party. Robbins was found guilty by a British naval court and hanged from the yardarm of the HMS Acasta in 1799.

This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky. Read more…

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Sam Kriss, in a post he calls his “magnum opus” at The Outline, explores the age-old warning “Don’t stare directly at the sun.” Sure, there are medical reasons not to—but might there also be political ones? Do we have a moral duty to stare directly at the sun, and everything it represents?

Plato famously wanted a totalitarian society run by philosophers, in which ordinary people would live under the firm, rational, condescending guidance of those who had learned to see by the light of the Good. There’s always a kind of authoritarian undercurrent to rationalistic philosophy—take, for instance, Immanuel Kant. In What Is Enlightenment?, he argued that enlightened autocrats such as Frederick the Great of Prussia ought not to restrict the freedom of thought of his subjects, and that “freedom need not cause the least worry concerning public order or the unity of the community.” But this isn’t out of any respect for differences of opinion; instead, Kant takes it as axiomatic that Frederick’s rule is rational and that anyone sensibly using their freedom of thought will inevitably end up supporting it. Reason comes from the sun, and so does the king, and if there’s only one sun, neither can disagree with the other. Kant’s reason allows for only one right answer, and it happens to agree with political power. As he puts it: “Argue as much as you like, and about what you like—but obey!”

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MAWA! The Christian Alt-Right Wants to Make America White Again

In an exploration in The New Republic of how American Evangelicals came to embrace the Trump campaign, Sarah Posner introduces some of the main players in “alt-right Christianity,” like Nathanael Strickland.

Strickland recently told me that alt-right Christians see “racial differences” as “real, biological, and positive,” a view he insists is “merely a reaffirmation of traditional historical Christianity.” He argues that many on the alt-right who consider themselves atheists or pagans only lost their faith in Christianity “due to the antiwhite hatred and Marxist dogma held by the modern church.”

Strickland considers himself a “kinist,” part of the new white supremacist movement that, according to the Anti-Defamation League, “uses the Bible as one of the main texts for its beliefs,” offering a powerful validation to white supremacists for their racism and anti-Semitism. Strickland sees kinism as a successor to Christian Reconstructionism, a theocratic movement dating back to the 1960s that played a key role in the rise of Christian homeschooling. The movement’s primary goal was to implement biblical law—including public stonings—in every facet of American life.

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Who’s Been Seeding the Alt-Right? Follow the Money to Robert Mercer

stacks of united states $10 bills

Jane Mayer profiles hedge fund manager, alt-right supporter, and political funder Robert Mercer in the New Yorker. He’s the man who brought us Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and eventually, Donald Trump, and his worldview may sound particularly familiar to anyone who’s been reading up on Bannon.

Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”

Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

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Godwin’s Law, Trump’s Era

Game Over, Bilbao 2014 by Denis Bocquet

There’s an internet adage — Godwin’s Law — stating that once you’ve made a Nazi analogy you’ve lost the argument. This short post on The Nib gathers the work of five Jewish cartoonists who address the validity of Nazi analogies in our current political climate.

Godwin's Law by cartoonist Matt Lubchansky

Godwin’s Law by cartoonist Matt Lubchansky

I’d argue that when we invoke Godwin’s Law, we all lose.

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I’m on a Boat, Y’all! (With Canada’s Hyper-Conservatives)

In The Walrus, Canadian writer Peter Norman spends a week with followers of Canada’s fear-mongering conspiratorial conservative Ezra Levant to explore how Trump’s nationalistic fervor has taken hold across the border, and what it portends.

How does an ordinary Canadian become a Rebel? During my week at sea, I began to classify Rebels according to the issues that made them angriest—the ones that had originally brought them into Levant’s orbit. Fear of Islam and a distrust of mainstream climate-change science were the most prevalent. Rebels might start out as temperate conservatives, centrists, or even leftists (Faith Goldy said that her conservatism had emerged from the ashes of a youthful hard-left zeal). But at some point, a gateway issue draws them in.

Maybe a sudden spike in a tax bill is what enrages them, or they lose their job. It could be a workplace incident in which they’re accused of exhibiting some stigmatized trait—racism, sexism, transphobia—that they don’t believe they possess. Or, watching the news, they are overcome by the horror of an Isis terrorist attack.

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What Does the Women’s Strike Mean?

Women's March, Seattle

What makes a strike work? Large crowds, a focused goal, and inclusion. The evolution of the Womxn’s March on January 21, 2017, had a bumpy start, but evolved to have a focused, intersectional mission. Similar questions face the strike; who’s it for, who gets to go, and what’s its purpose?

Women’s strikes have typically succeeded when they have some clear idea of what women’s work is, some obvious problem that will become clear through women’s strategic withdrawal—for example, a French strike in which women left work early (to symbolize the time of day they stopped getting paid, as compared to men with the same job). Without a specific, labor-related point, after all, a “strike” is just a particularly righteous personal day.

In Elle, Sady Doyle looks at the history of women’s strikes and the complexity of who they serve even while finding praise for the current movement.

It’s also worth noting that the Women’s March itself was initially criticized for the fuzziness and non-specificity of its goals, and it still became the most successful protest in U.S. history.

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16 Documentaries by Steve Bannon

Partially filled movie theater

Sean Nelson at The Stranger watched them all so we don’t have to.

It will surprise no one that the cinema of Steve Bannon consists entirely of conservative nationalist propaganda tracts designed to advance the values of the Tea Party movement, unacknowledged contradictions and all: small government, low taxes, militarism, isolationism, Christianity, self-interest, patriotism, contempt for America, everyone who disagrees with you is an elitist, immigrants are a threat, outsiders are the only real heroes, free-market capitalism is essential, regulation is tyranny, society is too permissive, Wall Street is corrupt, Democrats are hypocrites, liberals are fascists, Barack Obama is a fraud, and Bill and Hillary Clinton are worse than a thousand Hitlers. But above all, liberty. Always liberty.

Pro tip: Stop at the concession stand and get some Skittles before you start your film festival.

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The Ban, the Wall: Bearing Witness

Reports say there is going to be another travel ban soon, perhaps even today. And so, standing on the precipice of our next great catastrophe, I have decided to take stock, as far as I can, of this thing we have wrought, which I can only describe as the new American carnage. Moreover (sorry about this) I would like to put forth my own obnoxious “all else is a distraction” theory:

In my opinion, this is the greatest story of the moment, and all else is a distraction. Think-piece-ologists have recently argued that the “real story” is the dismantling of our administrative state, or the lock-out of the free press from the halls of power, or the Russian oligarchy’s new influence on the Republican party, or so on. But, when the people of the future look back at us now, it seems to me that they will “little note, nor long remember” the exact form of our bureaucracy, or whether we took seriously our own promises to ourselves about freedom of the press, or whether Michael Flynn was actually colluding with the Russian ambassador rather than just wishing him a very very merry Christmas. These things will all be seen as incidental: goings-on as curious and inconsequential as Rudolf Hess in a biplane or Marat in a bathtub. I submit that, for the people of the future, all these stories will be incidental to the story of why we allowed our neighbors to be terrorized and rounded up.

So, I am making a small attempt to bear witness.

I am asking six questions.

Who has been detained?
Who has been denied entry?
Who has been rounded up?
Who has been deported?
Who has fled as a refugee from my country?
Who has been killed here? Read more…

You’re Fired! The Unemployable Trump Administration

At the one-month mark, we now have a working theory of what makes an employee fireable (or not even hireable) in the Trump administration. There are two main types.

Fireable Offense Type #1: Be Drop Dead Scandalous

1. In December, Jason Miller, who was tapped to be the White House communications director, quit after another transition official, A.J. Delgado, tweeted her jilted love at him. Miller and his wife were expecting a new baby, so, via Twitter, “Delgado congratulated ‘the baby-daddy’ on his promotion,” ominously adding: “The 2016 version of John Edwards.”

“When people need to resign graciously and refuse to, it’s a bit … spooky,” Delgado then wrote. When an old law school friend asked on Twitter to whom she was referring, Delgado replied: “Jason Miller. Who needed to resign … yesterday.”

Delgado then deleted her Twitter account and, after Politico reported on the rumored affair, privately disclosed the details of the relationship to the transition team.

If you reach back into the deep part of yourself where you catalog other people’s misbehavior, you may even recall that Page Six reported back in October that, the night before the last presidential debate, Delgado and Miller, along with several journalists, were spotted together at the world’s largest strip club. Read more…