Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fauxvolutionary Tech-Talk and Purity Cabaret

That so many people who have expressed appreciation of my critiques of anti-democratic tech-talk also seem so to despise my engagement in partisan progressive politics that they have unfollowed and muted me for them is utterly demoralizing. It has made me more than a little nervous that so many who have affirmed my anti-futurological work over the years have been privileged white folks -- in fairness, even as a precarious adjunct and queer, I am one myself -- but that the number of people indulging in "symbolic" protests of the status quo through utterly (and thankfully) doomed candidacies like Bernie Sanders' and Jill Stein's are also thronged with privileged white folks has turned out to be a pretty devastating overlap in my readership, it seems to me, although maybe some of this is just another playing out of the tired theory versus practice tension.

Neoliberal tech-talk and what I have been disdaining throughout this primary season as "purity cabaret" (preening in the context of inherently compromised partisan politics about refusing "lesser evils" while enabling thereby greater evils when one is insulated by privilege from many of the consequences of such a stance) actually have a lot in common: both fancy themselves or at any rate peddle themselves as revolutionary while at once disdaining quite a lot of the practical substance of the social struggle such transformations demand, whether as a matter of long, heartbreaking, compromised progressive reform and problem solving amidst diversity or translating error-prone, costly, risky, qualified empirical results into safe, sustainable, equitable technoscientific benefits. It has been encouraging to see how marginal the fauxvolutionary party-crashers and bern-it-downers turned out to be given the level of noise they generated throughout the primary contest, but it is discouraging to think those who see through the fauxvolutionary hype of corporate-military futurological marketing and ideology and robocultic fandom as I do might be comparably marginal.

I do think both of these tendencies -- tech-talk and purity cabaret, let us say -- are a threat to progressive democratization in a country the diversification, secularization, and planetization of which is (and has increasingly already been over the course of the Obama years) otherwise very promising to the politics of sustainable equity-in-diversity. There is at least a superficial similarity in both of these tendencies -- the insistent anti-pragmatism of the loser-left fauxvolutionaries and the reductionism/instrumentalization of progress by the futurological fauxvolutionaries conjoined to a displacement of policy deliberation by sub-cultural signaling via celebrity fandoms for implausible unqualified DreamPrez candidates like Bernie Sanders or comic book refigurations of tech-CEOs like Elon Musk. Taken together self-righteous anti-pragmatism, technological determinism, reductive characterizations of historical change, and celebrity fandom all contribute to an anti-politicisms in the service of reactionary politics peddled with explicit appeals to "progressive" imagery and language.

I have long argued that pragmatic progressive partisan politics -- this means in the United States Democratic Party politics against the GOP (and I have also repeatedly pointed out that there are other important forms of politics than these, that these are indispensable but absolutely inadequate on their own) -- is profoundly susceptible to undermining via both of these routes, and it really does seem as though people who manage not to fall for one are depressingly prone to fall for the other. But I don't know if these similarities really matter more than more specific social/cultural vicissitudes playing out in the moment, I haven't really given much thought to it all, and anyway I am rather distressed and saddened and these days more than occasionally enraged by the whole topic.


Anonymous said...

Dude, Trump IS the lesser evil...

Dale Carrico said...

Serious people of good will and good sense will prevail and continue working toward a better world from which you too will benefit in spite of your nonsense.

jimf said...

> > Dude, Trump IS the lesser evil...
> Serious people of good will and good sense will prevail. . .
Worthy of Our Contempt
Paul Krugman
AUG. 1, 2016

. . .

[T]he great majority of. . . not-crazy Republicans are still
supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right
to ask why.

True, a Clinton victory would mean a continuation of the
center-left governance we’ve had under Barack Obama, which
would be a big disappointment for those who want a turn
to the right. And many people have convinced themselves that
ideology aside, Mrs. Clinton would be a bad president.
Obviously I disagree on the ideology, and while we won’t
know about a Clinton presidency until or unless it happens,
I find much to admire in the real Hillary, who is nothing
like the caricature. But never mind: even if you’re a
conservative who really dislikes the Democratic candidate,
how can you justify choosing Donald Trump?. . .

The bottom line is that even if you don’t like Mrs. Clinton
or what she stands for, it’s hard to see how you could
view her possible victory with horror. And it’s hard to
see how you could view Mr. Trump’s possible victory any
other way.

How, then, can rational Republicans justify supporting Mr. Trump,
or even remaining neutral, which is in effect giving him half a vote?

For rank-and-file Republicans, it’s presumably about feelings.
Having spent so many years denouncing Democrats in general and
Mrs. Clinton in particular, they have a hard time admitting that
someone else could be much, much worse. But democracy isn’t
about making a statement, it’s about exercising responsibility.
And indulging your feelings at a time like this amounts to
dereliction of your duty as a citizen. . .

jimf said...

> Worthy of Our Contempt
> Paul Krugman
> The great majority of. . . not-crazy Republicans are still
> supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right
> to ask why.

Here's one possible answer. The not-crazy Republicans realize
that Trump is a fool, but they think it won't matter all
that much. Wiser heads behind the scenes -- staff members,
advisers, cabinet members, handlers -- people who Trump
himself will no doubt think of as mere "flunkies" -- will be
guiding his hands and preventing the worst possible damage while
he gets to posture and preen and bloviate in public.
He's probably used to running things that way -- letting
the flunkies take care of the messy details.

Meanwhile, the not-crazy Republicans also realize that it's
**desperately** important not to let the Democrats get
their hands on that (or any further) Supreme Court vacancies.

They think it's worth taking a chance on Trump to make sure
the Supreme Court remains tilted to the right.

jimf said...

Voting for Trump: the Supreme sacrifice.
The Opinion Pages - Letters
With Donald Trump as Nominee, What’s a Troubled Republican to Do?
AUG. 2, 2016

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman wonders how a rational Republican can support
Donald Trump for president. Many may be motivated by the
specter of a liberal Supreme Court after decades of conservative
domination. They are willing to bet that Mr. Trump will
not do permanent damage to the country while giving them
the judiciary they prefer.

It’s a risky bet, to be sure, but not devoid of rationality.


New York

Also in today's _Times_:
Stop Indulging Trump
Frank Bruni
AUG. 2, 2016

. . .

Trump isn’t slouching toward gravitas. He’s having a tantrum,
and to threaten him with timeouts that never come only encourages it.
Spare the rod, spoil the Donald.

This isn’t a normal presidential election, he isn’t a normal
political candidate. . .

We throw around terms like demagogue and fascist, but I’m not sure
he’s coherent, consistent or weighty enough for either.

We label him anti-establishment, and that’s a howler. He grew up
affluent. Went to an Ivy League college. Sent his kids to posh
boarding schools. Mingled with Bill and Hillary Clinton at his
(third) wedding. He **is** the power elite, albeit an ostentatiously
gold-tufted version of it. . .

[W]e haven’t seen,. . . in my lifetime,. . . a major-party
nominee who is such an unabashed and unrepentant fabulist,
with so little control over his temper and a worldview shaped
entirely by what and who flatter him.

Never has a nominee pouted with his grandeur. Never has one
bragged with his abandon.

He’s best described not in political terms but in developmental
ones. He’s a toddler. I’d say “infant” but infants are pre-verbal,
and he has a **few** words, most of them monosyllabic. . .

I appreciate that for many conservatives, a Supreme Court shaped
by Hillary Clinton would be an abomination. But can they really
elevate that concern above national security and entrust the
country to a tyrant-loving, Putin-flirting, NATO-dissing novice?

I understand that renouncing him means abetting her, which hurts,
given her considerable flaws and their genuine qualms.

But there are bigger things at stake. . .

jimf said...

On YouTube, apparently the Manosphere is also the Trumposphere.
Acquiring Masculinity in a Fatherless Environment
Mar 25, 2016


The American Revolutionary War was a bunch of rednecks. . .
a bunch of wild, Bible-thumping, highly-opinionated,
stubborn, masculine [guys]. . .

[They were born Englishmen who had spent enough time
away from the influence of the British Crown]. . .
the Crown, a.k.a. the scissors used to chop the nuts
off the culture. . . How did these revolutionaries
respond to the King? Look at the Declaration of Independence.
A smartass, John Hancock, signs it big. He signed his
name extra big because he wanted King George to be able
to read it without his spectacles. Now that's a masculine
asshole, is what that is. Motherfucker, you will **not**
tell me what to do; in fact, I'll mock you when you try.
Now there is. . . that's Trump! That's exactly what
Trump is doing to these people. OK, I'm going to leave
it at that. . .
May 17, 2016


And all this time my man Donald Trump has been really,
frankly, making history. I've wanted to chime in on the
subject, not because I'm trying to proselytize -- I'm mean
obviously I'm a Donald Trump supporter -- but. . . I'm not
under the impression that making a video would persuade
anyone to vote Trump. . . But I think there's a lot of
relevant subject matter to a manosphere, or. . . even a
MGTOW conversation. I mean, you're seeing a **man**. And
you're seeing a single person exert **balls**. Masculinity.
Where we've seen literally for decades Republican and
conservative candidates have had to tiptoe around this
wide array of subject matter like it's kryptonite. And
Trump just stomps right down the middle of all of it.
It's really quite amazing how he's done this. And it's
genius, frankly. Whether you're on the right or the left
or whatever, if you're just interested in politics you
have to at least acknowledge how unorthodox it all is,
and how impressive it is. . .

Trump has basically inoculated himself against all of these
hot-button issues that would normally be kryptonite for
a conservative or a Republican candidate. . . So all these accusations
just fall to the wayside, that would normally stick to a candidate like
Donald Trump. Now look at it on the other side. Hillary
cannot really do anything new as a politician. There's no
new information that can come out about her. There's no new
plan, there's no new solution, there's no new grand idea. . .
The public already knows her, and they've already made their
mind up about her, which is why she's having such a hard
time closing the deal with Bernie, even though he's a crazy
old man that wants full-on socialism. He can't use a calculator,
apparently. . .

They kept saying all the way through the primaries that Trump
would lose against Hillary in the general. No, they're about
even right now. . . Trump is just slowly beginning to turn his
attention towards the general, and he's already almost even
with her. He's going to completely surpass her. . . Trump is
already President of the United States. Now that's wishful
thinking on my part being a political supporter of Trump, but
I was just as realistic about Obama. . . Hillary cannot beat
him. She cannot beat him. He's smarter than she is. He's
more successful than she is. He can neutralize just about
every tactic that she has. And -- she's done, OK? . . .

Well, we'll see. ;->

jimf said...
This is just 24 hours of political campaigning by Trump. I’m impressed. . .

This is a whole new level of incompetence. And he’s got three
months more to top it!


3 August 2016 at 12:46 pm

Even more worrisome are the reports that are starting to
come out about a national security briefing held for Trump
where he asked, three times no less, “If we have nuclear
weapons, why can’t we use them?”. Former CIA director Hayden
has stated he can’t see how he could vote from Trump and,
when asked who is advising Trump on national security,
he said no one.

This man is truly as serious danger to this country and
the world. He must not be allowed to get his hands on the
nuclear keys.
“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump,”
[MSNBC anchor Joe] Scarborough said. “And three times he asked about the
use of nuclear weapons — three times he asked. At one point, ‘If we have
them, why can’t we use them?’”. . .

Trump’s presidential campaign said the anecdote is false.

“There is no truth to this,” spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Hill
in an email. . .