We Have Reached Peak PC

On the internet you can pretty much say whatever you want. Any idiot can get themselves a social media account and some free space on Tumblr and spew empty brain farts out into the ether at will. To read something really crazy on, say, Twitter isn’t a big shock because expressing yourself on Twitter requires no writing skill or social graces. Put simply, there are plenty of places you can go if you want to rage pointlessly or read someone raging pointlessly (this column, for example).

Slate, however, isn’t Tumblr or some other site that exists solely to aggregate the various “feelz” of  melodramatic 19-year-olds. Slate is, for all intents and purposes, a serious politics and culture outlet. True, there have been times over the past couple of years when, along with Salon at its nadir, the site has felt like its goal is to troll sane people. Overall though, Slate still has a stable of excellent writers creating thought-provoking content and taking stands that can’t always be politically pigeonholed. In the past it’s even called out internet outrage, in one of the most sweeping indictments of the phenomenon ever published, and it’s featured highly critical examinations of the campus rape and revived Woody Allen controversies.

You’d think that if you put these two things together (that any idiot can write something stupid online but that Slate isn’t a stupid outlet), that Bryan Lowder’s piece decrying “spooning” as problematically sexist wouldn’t exist. At least not as it was published at Slate.

Lowder, who reportedly writes and edits for “Outward,” the site’s generally good LGBT issues section, posted the column that is without a doubt one of the most painfully absurd descents into self-important cultural criticism and general internet madness ever conceived by a seemingly sentient being. Lowder’s thesis is that spooning, the act of curling up directly against your lover from behind in bed and holding that person or being curled up against and held, is a “terrible idea” that’s “fraught both physically and ideologically.”

At first it seems like Lowder just might, hope against hope, be joking. But then comes this kind of thing:

Big spoons are manly and will take care of you (provided you let them use you to take care of themselves); little spoons are fragile, passive creatures that need to be held and kept safe. This, of course, is fundamentally a sexist arrangement, one that casts the big spoon as ‘the man’ and the little spoon as ‘the woman.’ To say that this power imbalance is built into all acts of spooning — whichever the sexes engaged — is not, I think, an overstatement. Indeed, I would argue that spooning is always already a power play, a perverse strategy by which we nightly enact the unjust relations of ‘big’ and ‘little’ privilege that plague our society on every level.

Hey, remember when it was the liberal position to not concern yourself with what consenting adults do in private? Those were the days. Look, keeping religious fundamentalists out of my bedroom is already a full-time job, I don’t need to also box-out glorified Tumblr snowflakes.

Lowder, needless to say, has an alternative to spooning at the ready that he would rather you do in the privacy of your bedroom:

What we need is conscious cuddling, cuddling that takes into account the realities of our bodies, so easily taxed, and the pressures of a fallen social system that unnecessarily sorts us into limiting categories of big and little. Luckily, there’s a solution at the ready: Cuddle sitting up. It’s bracingly simple, I know, but it is the balm we need. Vertical cuddling—whether with an arm loosely paced around the neck, or a head freely reclined on a shoulder, or just sitting cozily side-by-side—removes much of the risk of physical discomfort and all of the semiotic violence that spooning conveys. It also allows for intimacy we actually experience because we are, you know, awake.

The internet has allowed anybody to post whatever he or she wants, no matter how far up their own ass but Slate has editors, ones you’d hope would be in a higher position than the delicate snowflake that is Bryan Lowder. You would also hope that those editors would read something like this and send it back to Lowder with a series of laughter emojis emblazoned across the top and the words, “No, seriously, what are you writing today?” typed underneath.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that this lunatic nonsense, literally telling people how to sleep, is designed merely to troll, but if that’s the case you get the impression it’s Slate doing it. Bryan Lowder seems pretty sincere in his quixotic fight against the villainy of spooning (between straights, gays, or anything in between or beyond).

If Slate is genuinely trying to cultivate and continue its reputation as a relatively serious site, it has it’s work cut out for it if continues to let Lowder (or anyone) write ridiculous horseshit like this.

As for the rest of us, one day we’ll all look back on this period in our culture and laugh.

Six Degrees of Benghazi

It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that Fox News has an earth-shaking conspiracy theory about the timing of Joe Biden’s announcement yesterday that he won’t be running for president in the 2016 election.

You or I may have watched Biden speak in the Rose Garden and taken it at face value that he did what he thought was best for himself, his family, and the Democratic Party by staying out of the race. You or I may have assumed he meant what he said simply because we’re (mostly) sane individuals.

Andrea Tantaros, however, isn’t having any of that shit:

“But when you look at the two scandals that we’re facing, that all eyes are going to be on tomorrow, Benghazi, and the email scandal — these are administration-wide scandals. All three of them, President Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton were there that night, this is their scandal as well. This email scandal is their email scandal as well. There is no way, there is no chance, that Joe Biden, and President Obama, and their national security team did not know that she was using a private server, breaking the law. There is no way, this is why this is an administration-wide scandal that they are covering up, they are all in on this, and they are circling the wagons, I cannot stress this enough. This goes all the way to the west wing, both Benghazi, and both the email scandal, and you’re watching it play out exactly today. The timing is not a coincidence!”

Fox News must use Benghazi as some kind of party game, like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. “I can connect Alan Cumming in Son of the Mask to Benghazi in just three moves!”

Andrea Tantaros really is the best running gag at Fox News right now. She doesn’t have the practiced finesse of Bill O’Reilly or Megyn Kelly so she comes off as more of a mean troll whenever she uses the couch on Outnumbered as her personal soapbox, which she does with astonishing regularity.

This makes sense given that she seems to be jockeying for a promotion so hard that she may as well move out of her apartment and take up residence in Roger Ailes’s asshole. I doubt the old pervert would mind.

Ben Carson Goes Full Hitler

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, famous for being the first person to give himself a lobotomy, will not stop talking about the Nazis. Pretty much everyone in the political world wants him to shut up about the Nazis and focus on the non-Hitler parts of his campaign platform, but Carson is a man obsessed.

He dropped by CNN last week and tried explaining to Wolf Blizter that the Holocaust might not have happened had someone with a gun had just stood up to Adolf Hitler.

This was an elaboration of an argument Carson laid out in his new book, “A More Perfect Union”:

German citizens were disarmed by their government in the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s Hitler’s regime had mercilessly slaughtered six million Jews and numerous others whom they considered inferior… Through a combination of removing guns and disseminating deceitful propaganda, the Nazis were able to carry out their evil intentions with relatively little resistance.

As can be expected coming from a Republican presidential candidate, Carson’s version of history is exactly backwards. Gun access in Germany was tightly restricted by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, however the restrictions were loosened in 1928 and 1938 (for non-Jews). Also,  there  were in fact instances of organized armed resistance to the Nazis, like the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising, which was crushed by the better-armed and better-trained forces of the Third Reich.

If there was one thing the Nazis were really good at, it was using violence to their advantage. The fact of the matter is that it took the most powerful armies in the world half a decade to dislodge Hitler and the Nazis from power. And Ben Carson expects us to believe that the German citizenry could have thwarted Hitler and his fanatical, militarized regime with lugers and hunting rifles?

But Carson insists that he is in the right, he keeps returning to the Hitler example because he thinks it provides a powerful cautionary tale that bolsters the increasingly mainstream conservative view that gun ownership serves as the ultimate check against a tyrannical federal government.

Despite his apparent belief to the contrary, all this Nazi talk is bad for Carson. Instead of talking about what Ben Carson plans to do as president, he has us talking about Hitler. He’s the Hitler guy in the 2016 campaign.

Generally speaking you don’t want to be the Hitler guy.

 

The Battle of Texas

It appears that the right wing in this country has become downright hostile to the one government institution they previously have defended with every fiber of their being: The military. This week, members of the conservative fringe have apparently convinced themselves that the army is holding a large training exercise in the American southwest in order to lay the groundwork for a federal government invasion of Texas:

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” Bastrop resident Bob Wells told the Statesman after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now, I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

Yes Bob, you are a conspiracy theorist.

Here’s what the U.S. military says it is actually doing with this so-called exercise:

 Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities. In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise.

For some reason, right wingers read that and came away with the idea that these Special Forces personnel were secretly infiltrating their towns, schools and businesses across the region. Take this frightened citizen’s reaction:

The idea that training among small towns in the USA is supposed to provide “realism” for operating in Afghanistan or Iraq is utterly absurd. For one thing, small towns in America don’t have teams of local rebels setting up roadside IEDs to destroy humvees and their occupants. Special Forces operatives are more likely to encounter people hurrying their way to Starbucks than trying to run any sort of armed resistance actions. No, military training on the streets of America isn’t “realistic” training for fighting wars overseas. It’s only “realistic” for military action that takes place on the streets of America itself.

Others, like this gentleman from the ironically named “Common Sense Show,” have become convinced that this is far more insidious even than practice for the day the U.S. military institutes martial law throughout Texas:

In recent days, I have learned that the reason that we are seeing Jade Helm activity in so many areas and we are also witnessing the prepositioning of massive military equipment, is because Jade Helm forces will isolate certain geographic areas, thus trapping a segment of the population and keep them from fleeing to other areas. The second part of Phase III of the Jade Helm operation will be the insertion of Special Forces death squads among the civilian population which will target key dissident leaders.

Yes, they believe the U.S. military is inserting Special Forces Death Squads among the civilian population of the southwest in order to assassinate American citizens. And who might those “dissent leaders” be? Good, God-fearing Patriots, that’s who:

“Patriot groups across the country are preparing to launch a ‘Counter Jade Helm’ operation to keep tabs on a controversial U.S. military exercise that some fear is part of preparations to train troops for civil unrest and martial law”. Among those protesting the Jade Helm 15 drills are former Special Operations forces as well as many veterans groups. Along these lines, I am beginning to receive invitations to speak about Jade Helm to various groups including the Oath Keepers.

This person links to Alex Jones’s conspiracy website InfoWars, which (as usual) seems to be the primary source for all of this “inside information” about the Jade Helm exercise. He also cites the Oath Keepers, who are very agitated about this “infiltration” as well. Oath Keepers are former and current members of the military who take an oath to disobey orders which violate the constitution.

Who decides what the constitution actually says in these matters is apparently left up to Alex Jones and the Duck Dynasty guys.

The last time we heard from the Oath Keepers, they were “supporting” the National Guard and the police in Ferguson by stationing themselves on top of buildings armed to the teeth with the intention of “protecting the businesses.” You may recall that in one of the odder side stories from that period, one of the Ferguson police commanders was revealed to have given a speech before an Oath Keepers meeting in which he said, among other shocking things:

“Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill won’t even talk to me — they say ‘You’re an extremist.’ I say amen. OK. And I’m real good with a rifle. My best shot is at 1,875 meters. I got me a gold star on that one. That’s a fact. You run from me you will die tired. I’m dead serious, folks.”

Oath Keepers didn’t claim him as a member, although his speech seemed to be very well received.

As much as I would love to see a bunch or redneck weekend warriors actually got toe-to-toe with U.S. special forces, all of this can probably be chalked up to the usual conspiracy-minded fringe nonsense. The best they could really hope for would be a Bundy-style standoff, which seems unlikely since the military claims they have standing agreements in place to use private and public lands for their simulations. Still, considering that there are ongoing disputes about what constitutes ‘public’ and ‘private’ land, it’s not totally beyond the realm of possibility. The government assassinating members of patriot groups with Special Forces death squads probably is however.

Unfortunately, this is not confined to the farthest corner of the conspiratorial fever swamps. Yesterday, the AP reported this amazing development:

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday asked the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise dubbed “Jade Helm 15″ amid Internet-fueled suspicions that the war simulation is really a hostile military takeover…

“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”

There are many legitimate reasons to criticize the U.S. Government, the military and even the policies of assassinating U.S. citizens (which has happened, of course, but abroad). But this is pretty ridiculous. There have been many, many exercises carried out on U.S. soil by the military. Where else are they supposed to train? And just because the simulation map calls Texas “hostile” for the purpose of the exercise doesn’t mean the military is really considering Texans to be enemies of the state. It’s only a war game, people.

In his 2009 book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, David Neiwert traced the origins of much of contemporary right wing discourse back to the far right fringe. It’s now made it fully into the mainstream. The Governor of one of the 50 states ordered his national guard forces to “monitor” the U.S. Military to insure they are not planning to invade Texas and turn it into Nazi Germany. This is, by the way, the same U.S. Military which already has 15 bases in the state of Texas.