April 2017 Archives

Captain Hydra?

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So, is anyone familiar with this Captain America cover from a few years back?

20170423-captainamerica.jpg
(Paolo Rivera, 2013)

The current series Captain America: Steve Rogers has taken flak for a plot twist where Cap reveals a secret allegiance to the fascistic organization Hydra. I happened to find a brutally sarcastic comment addressed to writer Nick Spencer:

Thanks a lot, Nick Spencer. You turned captain America into the new symbol of nazism.

I don't care if he's trying to "make a commentary" or some shit like that, he turned an icon that represented hope and what's good about the US, an icon created by JEWISH writers and artists and turned him into a symbol of hatred.

Good. Fucking. Job.

The post contains a disturbing image [no, I'm not going to post it here] wherein some douchenozzle/twatwaffle/Nazi-sympathizing-fucktard on DeviantArt decided to desecrate Cap's iconography from the cover above by replacing the US flag with one from Nazi Germany, and the stars on his uniform and shield with swastikas. It's some really lazy, low-rent bullshit appropriation that's completely inimical to Cap's Nazi-punching origin:

20131030-captainamerica.jpg

[See my posts here and here about Cap's decidedly anti-fascist liberalism--as if there were any other kind!]

In explaining how Bill O'Reilly ruined the news, Sophia A. McClennen notes "the firing of O'Reilly, which follows the departure of Fox News founder Roger Ailes" and asks, "what will these shifts at Fox News really mean? Are we really rid of these two vile characters?"

It's not likely and here's why: While there is much-needed and valuable attention now being paid to their predatory sexism, that behavior was only one part of a much larger diabolical worldview. Ailes and O'Reilly were of a piece, cut from the same cloth.

She continues by observing that "allegations of O'Reilly's sexism, misogyny and predatory behavior are literally the tip of the iceberg." In addition to chestnuts such as "Punditry over journalism," "Polarization," "Mainstreaming of misogyny, racism and bigotry," and "Hubris disguised as patriotism," her list includes:

2. Fake news

PolitiFact has reported that only 10 percent of O'Reilly's comments on his show were true and 53 percent were mostly false or bold-faced lies.

But it isn't just the lying that makes fake news powerful. It is the packaging of the lie within a sense of outrage. O'Reilly literally perfected the use of fake news to get viewers to freak out.

5. Fear over reason

The O'Reilly approach to covering current issues was to hype fear and foster anxiety, a practice that has spilled into much news media and a constant staple of alt-right reporting. Scholars of democracy know that citizens can't make rational decisions when they are busy freaking out, but that approach can be very successful in keeping viewers tuned to their TVs.

6. Loyal viewers

The fear-based nature of O'Reilly's show logically led to a highly loyal viewership. Because O'Reilly consistently demonized the "left media," he managed to convince his viewers that he and only he could be trusted. This is one reason why his show had such a loyal viewer base.

7. Dumbing down viewers

The O'Reilly approach to news was not about informing members of his audience; it was about getting them riled up and angry at the left, [which] explains why its viewers consistently poll as the least informed in the nation.

9. Crying victim while bullying

Much in the same way that Trump suggests protesters against him must be paid operatives, O'Reilly always cries victim while he bullies his opponents. [...] Rather than address the substance of the accusations, O'Reilly cries foul and suggests that he is the subject of a witch hunt. This strategy makes it virtually impossible to discredit him to his loyal subjects who will all agree that their hero has been falsely accused.

10. Making it all "an act"

This is an echo of the defense of Limbaugh and others of being "just an entertainer" when caught in yet another lie. As McClennen writes,

The [left-wing] comedians just kept the rest of us sane and better informed while the so-called news offered by Fox and friends divided the nation and dumbed us down.

Henry Giroux discusses how we are thus being prepared for American-style authoritarianism:

It is impossible to imagine the damage Trump and his white nationalists, economic fundamentalists, and white supremacists friends will do to civil liberties, the social contract, the planet, and life itself in the next few years.

Rather than address climate change, the threat of nuclear war, galloping inequality, the elimination of public goods, Trump and his vicious acolytes have accelerated the threats faced by these growing dangers. Moreover, the authoritarian steam roller just keeps bulldozing through every social protection and policy put in place, however insufficient, in the last few years in order to benefit the poor, vulnerable, and the environment.

"As the Trump regime continues to hollow out the welfare state," he continues, "it builds on Obama's efforts to expand the surveillance state but with a new and deadly twist:"

This is particularly clear given the Congressional Republicans' decision to advance a bill that would overturn privacy protections for Internet users, allow corporations to monitor, sell, and use everything that users put on the Internet, including their browsing history, app usage and financial and medical information.

This is the Orwellian side of Trump's administration, which not only makes it easier for the surveillance state to access information, but also sells out the American public to corporate demagogues who view everything in terms of markets and the accumulation of capital.

It is the combination of corporate and governmental power that is most dangerous:

The supine response of the mainstream press and the general public to ongoing acts of state and corporate violence is a flagrant and horrifying indication of the extent to which the United States government has merged the corporate state with the military state to create a regime of brutality, sadism, aggression, and cruelty. State sovereignty has been replaced by corporate sovereignty. All the while, militarized ignorance expands a culture awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat making it all the more difficult to recognizes how authoritarianism appears in new forms.

The established political parties and politicians are nothing more than crude lobbyists and shock troops for the financial elite who believe everything is for sale.

"Trump's brand of authoritarianism," he continues, "is a combination of the savagery of neoliberalism and civic illiteracy on steroids:"

This legacy of neo-fascism represents more than a crisis of civic literacy and courage, it is a crisis of civic culture, if not politics itself. As civic culture wanes, a market based ideology increases its grip on the American public. This militant ideology of sadism and cruelty is all too familiar and is marked by unbridled individualism, a disdain for the welfare state, the elevation of unchecked self-interest to an organizing principle of society, the glorification of militarism, and a systemic erosion of any viable notion of citizenship.

Giroux stresses the difficulty of "both educating people and creating broad-based social movements dedicated not merely to reforms but transforming the ideological, economic, and political structures of the existing society:"

A formidable resistance movement must work hard to create a formative culture that empowers and brings together the most vulnerable along with those who inhabit single issues movement. [...]

A moral political coma now drives an authoritarian society that embraces greed, racism, hatred, inequality, stupidity, disposability, and lawlessness, all of which are celebrated as national virtues.

Can we overcome the Fox fascists in time? Let's turn to the towers of academia, where David Masciotra explains the truth about campus free-speech wars:

Many right-wing paranoiacs accuse the professorate of attempting to "indoctrinate" the student body according to a Marxist agenda of critical race theory and intersectionality. I would settle for someone raising his hand and saying, "I liked the Hemingway story."

Far from feeling under threat from students who enforce their increasingly sensitive and hostile ideology on their surroundings, the only complaints I have received are grade protests.

"My struggle is not to engineer a worldwide revolt against the interlocking matrix of oppression but to enjoy a simpler achievement," he writes, "that all the students in my class follow the instructions about how to write their papers:"

There is an unbreachable distance between the debates professional commentators initiate and maintain -- and the real lives of most Americans. An observation on the gap in comprehension that separates what mass media staffers understand from ordinary citizens' experience might seem banal, but that simple truth almost always evades the countless Twitter feeds, podcasts and websites devoted to running in the opposite direction toward the newest flashing light of invented or exaggerated discord.

"Conservative pundits and liberal polemicists run laps around a track they have designed and built," he writes, "rather than exploring the world outside"--something that he calls the "Outrage Olympics:"

The paid pundit suffers under no greater fear or anxiety than the threat of irrelevance. When factual data emerges with the capacity to destroy the pundit's acumen, it quickly finds itself in the incinerator, discarded and forever ignored.

Then down the Memory Hole it must go...

The cacophony of shrieking over would-be tyrants plotting hostile takeovers of universities from their dorm rooms silenced the revelatory survey from the National Coalition Against Censorship, demonstrating that of 800 university professors, only a handful ever used "trigger warnings" or reported students asking them to use trigger warnings.

As far as the fear of universities teeming with student activists, Masciotra busts that myth as well, noting that "only 9 percent of them expressed interest in even attending a campus protest:"

Eighteen-year-old coeds as oppressors in training with diabolical schemes to transform classrooms into Maoist re-education centers make for exciting villains in a melodramatic made-for-TV movie, but the problem with their appearance in newspapers, magazines and internet journals is that they are a species as rare as trigger warnings.

science march

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Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic on how the science march found its voice:

Scientists are not a group to whom activism comes easily or familiarly. Most have traditionally stayed out of the political sphere, preferring to stick to their research. But for many, this historical detachment ended with the election of Donald Trump.

His administration has denied the reality of climate change, courted anti-vaccine campaigners, repeatedly stated easily disproven falsehoods, attempted to gag government scientists, proposed enormous budget cuts that would "set off a lost generation of American science," and pushed for legislation that would roll back environmental and public health protections, pave the way for genetic discrimination, and displace scientific evidence from the policy-making process. Sensing an assault on many fronts--to their jobs, funds, and to the value of empiricism itself--scientists are grappling with politics to an unprecedented extent.

Politicus USA points out that the science march out-drew Trump's inauguration, noting that "Millions of people are marching today for science" in cities ranging from New York City to Philadelphia to St. Paul, Minnesota--in addition to the main march in DC.

Yong also comments on the "55 consecutive speakers [...] who rallied the crowd behind a smorgasbord of causes." This criticism is often made of liberal protests, but it is unjustified--being under stack on many fronts means that defense must be aimed in many directions. He notes with approval the "610 satellite events taking place around the world" that accompanied the main march in Washington DC, comments on the pun-heavy signage, but also expresses some concern:

The risk that the march would further polarize America's view of science, portraying it as a liberal endeavor and diminishing its objectivity, has plagued the event since its inception.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2017 listed from newest to oldest.

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