Apr 11, 2017

Another Reminder That Corporations Are Bad

It's been a great week to hate corporations.

First Pepsi releases a ridiculously tone-deaf ad, and now United violently forcing a passenger off of a plane he paid money to get home in. And so violently forcing him off, that is, to the point in which the passenger was bloody.

Any take that attempts to defend either United or the law enforcement officers involved in this incident is a bad one. And what it says in the terms and conditions of the plane ticket really shouldn't matter: it is a moral disaster when a human being is battered in the way that the man on that flight was.

It took way too long, but United did eventually apologize for what happened. But even if they had apologized sooner, it wouldn't have made any difference. It's absurd to think that United, a ginormous corporation, has feelings whatsoever, and nonetheless "feels" sorry about any of this. Corporations are not people, no matter how much they would like for you to believe otherwise, and thus they cannot feel things. It's simple.

All that matters to a corporation is profit. This incident shines a light on that very basic truth. Rather than treat a human being with dignity and respect, United decided to forcibly remove a paying passenger in an incredibly violent manner. Neither the man's feelings or physical well-being was taken into account: for United to continue making a profit, what had to be done was done.

Clearly, there is also the glaring issue of law enforcement serving as the agent of capital. That's a whole different issue deserving of it's own post.

It's nearly impossible to hold United accountable for this considering that airlines have formed an oligopoly. And in the age of Trump, where consumer protection regulations are continually assaulted, things look especially grim. But if anything, this is a painful reminder that corporations, in addition to being bad, are also not your friend whatsoever.

Apr 4, 2017

That Horrible Pepsi Ad

A real bad look for Pepsi.
(There was a video here, but Pepsi has removed the source.)

By now you've probably seen that really, really bad Pepsi commercial. If you haven't, or if you don't want to (I super can't blame you for this), here's a run-down of what happens: there's a large march through some city streets with lots of people carrying vague signs telling us to 'join the conversation,' and 'peace.' The march comes to a police blockade, and there seems to be frustration. Luckily for the activists, Kendall Jenner emerges from the mob and hands a police officer a can of Pepsi. He takes it, drinks it, smiles, and the crowd erupts in celebration.
This commercial is problematic. Not only is it an explicit celebration of white privilege, but it also trivializes and appropriates the struggle of marginalized peoples.
What better way to shine a light on white privilege than to send uber-wealthy white woman Kendall Jenner up to a line of police officers and offering them a gift? Perhaps the only good thing about this ad is the realism of this particular situation: in the real world, if a person of color had done the same thing, they would have immediately been knocked down and arrested, if not worse. 
Iesha Evans comes to mind, the black woman who was peacefully protesting in Baton Rouge last year, only to be surrounded by police in riot gear and detained for 24 hours.
What's worse is that this ad appropriates the imagery of movements that attempt to bring equality and justice to marginalized people. You should see protest signs and rallying crowds at a demonstration, not in an advertisement for far-below-subpar soda. With this advertisement, Pepsi is directly taking the images and tones associated with movements for equality and justice and using them to sell a product and thus profit. 
But that's not all. This ad also trivializes the difficult struggle that marginalized people face everyday. To imply that all injustices can be overcome by simply handing a cop a can of soda minimizes the magnitude of the systematic problems that keep marginalized people subordinate. 
In short, this ad reinforces white privilege while attempting to profit off of the aesthetics of genuine movements for justice and equality. 
We should never expect much from a corporation, but with this ad, Pepsi sinks down to a whole new level. 

Apr 2, 2017

Reading Righteous Indignation: Chapter 1 -- From Little ACORNS Grow...

My bookshelf is pretty diverse; it includes books ranging from Burroughs' The Soft Machine to Eric Cantor/Kevin McCarthy/Paul Ryan's Young Guns. A few weeks ago, I was sorting through the shelf and came across the late Andrew Breitbart's New York Times Bestseller, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World.

I first read Righteous Indignation (emphasis on RIGHTeous indigNATION) back in 2013. It was an interesting read back then, but the events of the past year or so have made it even more interesting and perhaps even relevant. If you're surprised that there is such a hatred and disgust towards the media today, this book is here to show you that this is simply business as usual for the grassroots Right. It is in Righteous Indignation that Breitbart recalls his rise recognition as an insurgent actively working against what he labels the 'Democrat-Media Complex. And it is in this book that he reveals what he believes to be the formula that will bring the Right to power.

In the mess that is 2017, this book seems relevant. Although it is poorly written and, to be quite honest, outright terrible, it does give some valuable insight into the minds of the people that are heralding us into a new political climate.

I decided to reread it, as well as make a blogpost for each chapter of the book. You can follow along by following the Reading Righteous Indignation tag. Here is chapter one: "From Little ACORNs Grow...

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Andrew Breitbart begins his book with the story of how him and James O'Keefe (no relation to myself) went on to take down ACORN back in 2009. This was the true beginning of Breitbart, for it is with this operation that the precursor to breitbart.com, BigGovernment.com, launched with. A year later, ACORN was defunded by Congress; Breitbard describes this as a life changing moment, one that propelled him to launch a total war on traditional media. 

Breitbart had a huge grudge towards the traditional media, which he dubs the 'Old Media.' He saw the Old Media as an institution that existed for the sole purpose of not only protecting, but also promoting the Democratic Party. Therefore, in the mind of Andrew Breitbart, the Old Media was a bastion of PC culture and social and economic justice. 

What was most striking to me about this chapter was the emphasis that Breitbart places on culture. The chapter poignantly ends with the sentence: "I am a reluctant cultural warrior." Like many pundits, journalists, and politicians today, Breitbart saw politics as a product of culture. "The constellation of AM talk radio, the Internet (Drudge Report, plus countless bloggers), and Fox News represents the successful, better-late-than-never counterattack against the left's unchallenged control of the culture of a center-right nation," Breitbart says, summing up the main thesis of the chapter. For Andrew Breitbart, the the Old Media launched leftist attacks on the culture of the United States, which Breitbart claims is inherently center-right. 

This is a belief that prevails into the current day. It's the idea behind Sean Hannity's demands for politicians to call terrorism 'radical Islamic terrorism.' It's all about fighting against the culture that the Left wants and the PC culture that comes with it.

To think that politics is cultural is incorrect, and the Left would make a mistake to fall into this trap. What does matter, however, is economics. I refuse to believe that working class Americans care more about what Sean Hannity labels terrorism happening in Europe. Working class Americans care more about that which affects their everyday life, things like money, their relationships to their bosses, and how they are going to pay for their healthcare. 

The Right cannot appeal to the working class on these fronts. Andrew Breitbart knew this, and that is why the Right has been so focused on realigning politics on a cultural narrative, on things that really do not matter all that significantly at the end of the day. The Left should be focusing on things that matter, like how people are going to be able to get healthcare and pay their bills, not silly faux culture wars. Because unlike in terms of economics, the Right actually has a chance at winning the cultural wars -- look no further than November 2016.

Some other highlights from chapter one: 

  • A good amount of drug metaphors, such as "my dual afflictions -- addiction to the Internet and addiction to breaking stories -- constitute a New Media addiction. And as a New Media addict I am both junkie and supplier." The New Media wasn't the only drug Breitbart was a junkie for.
  • The reason Breitbart gives for writing the book: "And I must do so because I have to write this book. I feel it is a moral imperative and a patriotic duty."
  • This sentence that didn't age too well: "... Fox News and its visionary creator Roger Ailes are relentlessly attacked by the same forces--not because Fox News reports the other side of the story, but because it showed that the other side of the story reflects the point of view of more people than CNN."
  • The assertion that Matt Drudge will be remembered as "the Internet's true media visionary."
and...

  • Reviews from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, DailyCaller.com, and Washington Times. Prestigious. 
  • A dedication to Breitbart's father and Clarence Thomas.
  • A sticker excitedly proclaiming that this particular edition includes a "new chapter on the 'Weinergate' scandal."

Feb 21, 2017

Rough Thoughts On Violence etc.

I've been thinking about violence a lot lately. It's been an increasing source of frustration for me -- people don't seem to understand that violence takes forms that are more than just physical.

For reasons that are quite obvious, it is subjective violence (physical violence that we can view directly and identify particular agents) that generates the strongest reactions from people. But subjective violence doesn't just come from nowhere. Subjective violence is the direct product of object violence, which takes two forms: symbolic violence and systematic violence.

Objective violence is something that we don't notice. It is inherent in the systems that make our normal lives normal. It's things like language, political structures, capitalism -- things that wouldn't flow smoothly without some sort of oppression taking place, thus producing violence.

And it is this objective violence that ultimately leads to the manifestation of violence in a subjective, physical way.

I find it interesting and extremely frustrating that when Milo Yiannopolous is being discussed, some object to the idea of Milo being a violent being. Surely it's those who are protesting and rioting that are the ones being violent, the logic follows.

It's Milo's speech that is violent. It's perhaps not his physical actions, but the strings of words that he puts together that produce symbolic violence. This can potentially lead to the manifestation of physical violence.

But it's very difficult to get people to consider this. It's difficult to see violence when it's not hurting people physically. And it's harder still when you yourself might be violent, but not realizing it. That's the way it goes for privilege too; people don't necessarily want to be in positions of privilege, and it can be difficult to come to terms with the concept.

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On a somewhat related note, I thought a lot about free speech today, because really who couldn't? 

Free speech doesn't guarantee you a book deal.

Free speech doesn't guarantee you an audience.

Free speech doesn't guarantee you a server to host your thoughts.

Free speech doesn't guarantee you a college tour.

Free speech simply protects you from persecution over things that you say. It's important to remember that in light of some recent events.

Feb 18, 2017

Unhappiness

I'm always stressed about something. It's rare for a day to go by without me thinking about how I am doomed to fail; if not right now, then certainly in my future. Everyday I think I'm not good enough, and that I never will be.

I hate feeling sorry for myself. This leads me to feel as though I'm overreacting about everything that I feel. I'm feeling sad? I have no reason to, I'm just a pathetic excuse of a person.

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On a recent episode of Chapo Trap House, Amber A'Lee Frost and Will Menaker discussed the life and ideas of the late Mark Fisher. They read excerpts from one of his pieces, entitled "Good for Nothing." This paragraph really stood out to me: 

My depression was always tied up with the conviction that I was literally good for nothing. I spent most of my life up to the age of thirty believing that I would never work. In my twenties I drifted between postgraduate study, periods of unemployment and temporary jobs. In each of these roles, I felt that I didn’t really belong – in postgraduate study, because I was a dilettante who had somehow faked his way through, not a proper scholar; in unemployment, because I wasn’t really unemployed, like those who were honestly seeking work, but a shirker; and in temporary jobs, because I felt I was performing incompetently, and in any case I didn’t really belong in these office or factory jobs, not because I was ‘too good’ for them, but – very much to the contrary – because I was over-educated and useless, taking the job of someone who needed and deserved it more than I did. Even when I was on a psychiatric ward, I felt I was not really depressed – I was only simulating the condition in order to avoid work, or in the infernally paradoxical logic of depression, I was simulating it in order to conceal the fact that I was not capable of working, and that there was no place at all for me in society.

Now, I have to say that I am not and never have been depressed to the extent that Fisher was. However, a lot of what he says in this piece, and especially this paragraph, really resonated with me. I think it's really common to feel like you're good for nothing, that nothing will ever become of you, that you will never have a job or be successful, especially in the context of late stage capitalism. This is how I've been feeling for a while now, and being in college -- a place in which I am supposed to make decisions about my future -- the feeling is stronger than ever. It's agonizing.

What really grabbed my attention was the line about how he felt as though he were simulating depression in order to avoid work. I always feel as though I am just really pathetic and making up silly excuses.

There are times where I get slight glimmers of hope -- I feel optimistic about my future, and I tell myself that I am smart and valuable. But it's nothing more than just a brief moment, and I feel like I'm never going to be good enough.

Feb 12, 2017

Best Interview Of All Time