Where Louis CK is right

I was, and indeed am, a fan of Louis CK. I also don’t think Louis CK is a person I would care to meet. This does not stem from his past controversy in where he would expose himself to women before embarking of a cruise of self pleasure before them. My lack of care for CK as a person is from looking at his material and surmising that he comes off as someone I’d probably not share a lot in common.

For instance, simply leaving his rental car at the airport terminal for the rental car company to collect.

Sure, it’s not the most earth-shattering of attitudes, and of all the moral crimes he could perform, this would rank next to “backing into another persons car and driving off” or “playing Bjork in a multi-storey apartment complex at 3am”. It’s inconsiderate.

But I feel it does reveal a certain personality trait that I would likely not get along with.

When it was eventually revealed that CK held some proclivities toward exposing himself to women, my reaction wasn’t one of shock, but rather of “yeah, that strikes me as something he’d do.”

This isn’t to suggest his actions rank on the same scale as the “inconsiderate”, but rather is an example of his attitude writ large. If someone has no qualms about inconveniencing others in a mild setting, then how would this manifest in its worst possible fashion? And for that question, CK had an emphatic answer, and it is one for which has cost him “millions and millions“, according to an excerpt in his latest performance.

Which is a performance that seems to have outraged the internet, which is no surprise. Outrage is now the natural behaviour for the internet.

I only mention CK here, because there is much right about this performance that needs to be taken on by more people. Not what he’s saying, per se, but rather the cavalier up-yours to those who would seek to destroy others for crimes that in the past would not have played out so publicly.

By attacking the taboo, as has been CK’s modus operandi for the better part of his career, CK challenges the outrage mob, effectively saying, “do your worst.”

And it is this method that will defeat the outrage mob, by revealing them to be the paper tigers they truly are. I understand that businesses are typically shy of controversy, usually doing whatever they can to put PR messes behind them. This usually involves a mea-culpa and some self-flaggelation, while the outrage mob sings and dances in triumph at yet another scalp they’ve beaten into submission.

Except, online outrage mobs, I contend, only exist online. For the most part, I don’t think these mobs are paying customers, and I don’t think businesses would suffer any loss of income by having an online mob vowing to never use their services again. Apologising to the mob only serves to embolden the mob, legitimising their tactics and giving them power where they ought to have none.

So CK is displaying the more dramatic actions that businesses, and indeed even politicians, should take when faced with a howling mob: stare them down and tell them “no”. Sure, it might be easier to appease them and throw them an empty apology, but in taking steps to stand up to them, showing how ultimately pitiful their outrage is, and how turning them away has no impact on the bottom line, it would send an example to future targets of the mob’s ire.

This extends to employers and their employees. Should an employee fall afoul of the online mob, an employer should clarify the actions of the employee and deal with the matter in-house. Publicly firing and shaming an employee again emboldens the crowd, thereby increasing this culture in where attacking peoples’ sources of income is a legitimate and celebrated tactic.

Employers should tell the mob to mind their own business and go away.

It would be most scary to do, facing what appears to be hundreds of thousands of angry people and hoisting the middle finger. But upon realising that many of the people are just angry Twitter users with an illusion of power, suddenly the mob must surely appear less intimidating.

I am hopeful that CK sticks to this method of pointing at the folly of the activist culture today, and poking today’s sacred cows without receding with an apology to placate those he supposedly offended. I maintain that many of those offended aren’t actually offended as much as their using a faux-offence to attack their political adversaries.

I have liked, and still like, CK’s work, and I still maintain that he isn’t someone I’d care to meet (and I am doubly sure the feeling would be reciprocated), but one can like the art and still be ambivalent on the artist. I have not changed my perspective on him as a result of the performance linked above, as I don’t want to be someone who flip-flops on someone as they flip-flop their attitudes.

So, take heed, future victims of online outrage mobs; stare them down, tell them to go away. They will.

Take heed, employers of targets of online outrage mobs; tell the mob to go away, that you will deal with the matter internally, and move on. Caution your employee, but know that firing them will only make matters worse.

Louis CK is right to ignore the consequences of outrage, because he reveals the pitiful illusion of power the online mobs have. Those emperors have no clothes.

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All that’s needed is an excuse

In my previous post, I addressed the matter of “Whataboutism” and how there seems to be a set of rules to follow, but only for one side of the aisle. I loathe to say that this is a Left versus Right thing, as I don’t think it necessarily is (and I may do a post on that later), but rather an Us versus Them. I think these two criteria knows no political divide.

Patreon has been a good method for content creators to source an income from their fan base, allowing individuals to tap directly into their audience and be rewarded in a manner that let’s the individual put a value on the content they consume. It is – or at least was – a nice principle. Democratic. Equal. Fair.

In an interview with Dave Rubin, Jack Conte of Patreon explained that the site only monitors behaviour in that particular community, and on content the individual The crowd sourcing site even saw fit to mention that they don’t take action against users for their behaviour off-site.

In spite of this assertion, Patreon has seen fit to remove Carl Benjamin – aka Sargon of Akkad – from their site, thereby removing a not-insignificant portion of his income. His transgression? Using politically incorrect language when featured on a podcast that isn’t his own. While the comments he made, when considered bereft of context, heinous and foolish (and Benjamin has a pattern of saying rash and foolish things), it is deeply troubling that Patreon would pull a certain bait-and-switch like this.

Today, it’s for remarks on a podcast. How about for discovering comments made in public that were surreptitiously recorded? While some may moan of the slippery-slope fallacy, slippery slopes can and do exist regardless.

Because the reaction to Benjamin’s removal from Patreon has garnered great attention from major creators who decry the deplatforming, while others celebrate the purging of wrongthink from the Internet. Because make no mistake, while Benjamin’s comments were careless and foolish, if it wasn’t this transgression that resulted in his punishment, then they would have eventually found one.

They didn’t ban Benjamin for his comments, at least not directly. The comments were a convenient excuse to do what they had always planned to do. It speaks of a Sword of Damocles in where certain voices are only given superficial tolerance, while the blade hovers overhead, just waiting for the right moment when it can deliver that fatal, but palatable explainable blow.

In this case, Benjamin gave them their excuse, despite it not violating Patreon’s Terms of Service. However, had people uncovered footage of him in the past where he made an off-colour comment, Patreon would have enacted this ban. They were always going to ban him – they just needed a reason.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m being hyperbolic when I posit that the opposition to counter voices – or, at an extension, Trump’s actions? Think I’m being dramatic by suggesting that people will comb through someone’s history to find a problem that will result in the destruction of an individual?

Read Kevin Hart, where decade-old jokes were enough to rob him of the privilege of hosting the Oscars.

Read the saga of Brett Kavanaugh where it was sought to deny someone the highest honour of their chosen vocation, a profession for which they had dedicated their entire working lives, on the mere allegation of a crime that occurred thirty years ago. Three. Decades. Ago.

Yet Bill Maher keeps his high-profile television show after using similar language. Why? Because he’s on the Correct Side. Yes, I understand that what Patreon does is different to what a television network does, but it speaks of the nature of activists and tech companies who will condemn language on one part, while they shrug and saunter past transgressors who just happen to be accepted.

In their actions, Patreon have identified themselves as enemies of free speech, and it speaks of a broader climate where dissenting voices are given an illusion of freedom. Because, the moment the activists and authoritarians (within tech and politics) find something incriminating, something that they can easily spin as justification for the removal of a freedom, they will use it.

I had previously signed up for Patreon, but have since deleted my account. It didn’t have any traffic, so it’s no great sacrifice for me, but I will find alternative methods to fund any content creation that I do.

The War on Whataboutism

Political discussion is a minefield these days, and there are so many rules about what tactics are employed in debates. There’s the matter of tone policing, or gas-lighting, or interpretations on whether people are arguing in good faith.

But of the most egregious is the idea of “whataboutism” and the rush to denigrate the argument of pointing out someone’s hypocrisy. Naturally the google search results point to the usual suspects of Wikipedia and John fucking Oliver. Oh how much I loathe the idea of treating comedians as the bastions of truth.

Typically Whataboutism would be a problem in discussions, because it would be an attempt to distract or deflect the argument away from the target. Whataboutism means that the charge being argued isn’t being addressed, but instead devolves into a tit-for-tat arm wrestle.

Typically I would agree that Whataboutism is unproductive and reduces debate to incoherent babble. However, it needs to be recognised that the times we’re in are not normal.

While this is a blog for my opinion, and my opinion alone, I feel that I should probably stress the below is said as my belief. This probably should be stressed because what I am about to say is difficult to substantiate, even though it appears completely obvious to me.

The Obama years in the White House, upon retrospect, seem to have been a cavalcade of media running defence for an administration to which they sympathised. How else could a President stand in front of a nation of hundreds of millions, in the wake of Benghazi, Fast and Furious, examples of an unethical Department of Justice and the weaponisation of the IRS, and state that he ran a scandal-free Presidency?

Yet the media didn’t hold Obama’s feet to the fire on the claim, with the Washington Post granting the fact check a very charitable “Needs context.”

So when the very same media whip up the masses into a lather over the very real scandals that burble up within the Trump administration, it stands to reason to ask the question of the media, “Where were you between 2008 and 2016?”

But that’s whataboutism, I would hear the retort. This would wash better is the muck being thrown at Trump wasn’t dug up for the purposes of smearing rather than actual whistle-blowing of injustice.

The media, and those who would oppose Trump only care about the scandals because they want to damage Trump. They don’t actually care about the issues. Not the media. Not the anti-Trump activists. Don’t believe me? Where are the stories about Dreamers and DACA now? The migrant caravan? What about Christine Blasey-Ford? How about the story that Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, and supposed death knell for abortion in the US, Brett Kavanaugh recently voted against reviewing a ruling on Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood?

The media, and activists don’t care about these issues. If they were being honestly, they would admit that they just want to damage Trump ahead of elections. They will hold up photos of children suffering with cloudy eyes of crocodile tears, while spitting bile about the horrible creature that the population insisted should be in the White House – thereby using actual suffering as a prop to push their agenda. They want to ensure this little hiccup is drowned and that we install a Democrat President, as we should, as Was We Were Always Meant To Do.

So, in this climate, I don’t see the problem with “Whataboutism”. I say this as someone who doesn’t like Trump, and as someone who wants to see debate returned to a state of civility. I want politics to be boring, and not the propaganda shit-fest in where actors, singers and comedians all ordain their righteous beliefs from up above the plebs.

Whataboutism is needed, to highlight the media’s bias and to highlight the bad motivations of activists. This isn’t to say that I want CNN, MSNBC et al to overnight become impartial actors. I think they’re too far gone for that. I want them to at least be honest in their bias. Fox News has long been rightfully smeared as a partisan outlet, but I think it’s now time that the smear is spread to the other clearly-obvious perpetrators of partisan hackery as well.

Whataboutism isn’t a problem, because the media cannot do their job properly.

A roundabout maybe endorsement

It is not unusual for people, when attacked, to immediately defend themselves in a manner proportionate to the initial assault. When you are punched, you are likely to punch back.

Of course, when Trump lashes the media as being the “Enemy of the People”, it would be expected that the media return fire in kind.

Semantics would detail that Trump’s widespread blunderbuss of flotsam and debris targets the “Fake News” as such an enemy of the people, and not the media at large. However, that is incidental to that I am about to write.

Let’s never forget that the term “Fake News” was also initially mentioned by Clinton and the “impartial” media as one of the reason’s for Trump’s rise to power. For all the mockery of his constant “Fake News” refrain, I’ll never forget that Trump’s use of the term was a reversal of the media’s own weapon.

But, for all the talk of fake news, and the denouncement of the media news complex, there are now sounds being made that Trump’s lambasting is giving rise to the kind of clamp-downs on dissenting voices in North Korea, Phillipines and more recently the case of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

But while Trump openly and explicitly bashes the media, oftentimes for good reason (and othertimes for not), I am always reminded by the covert methods in which the Obama administration pursued whistleblowers and journalists. I feel that if you want to talk of other nations emboldened by rhetoric to silence dissenting voices (assuming that these other countries take their lead from the US and not, say, their own hubris and corruption), that the Obama administration would have been just as guilty.

For all the bluster about Trump’s fiery and loud relationship with CNN, Obama actively froze out Fox News, to quote:

“We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

  • Obama White House Communications Communications Director, Anita Dunn

Of course, many would scoff and cough at the Fox News being partisan outlets, however this would be turn a willing blind eye to the raging bias exhibited by CNN, MSNBC or other so-called “impartial” platforms.

The difference between Trump and Obama, in this case, is that the media hasn’t been running defense for all the scandals for the former, while they were happy to look away for the latter.

So, I disagree with the idea that it is Trump, and only Trump’s, attacks on the media that are a problem. The media can bleat all they like about being a major supportive beam of a functioning democracy, but until I see better quality reporting from everyone, I’m going to reserve my panic over the matter of a threatened media.

 

“Unbiased” media

I have been following much of the commentariat in the fallout of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Typical Conservative sites accept the result as a victory of due process, while the opposite side of aisle holds the result as proof of the vile system they have so vehemently opposed.

One thing has been raised, and it’s a topic that I often discuss here, is the role of the media in proceedings. From what I have observed, the media’s reporting has been accepting of the allegations toward Kavanaugh, seeming to condemn the new Justice without criticism of the claims.

However, the counter to my concern is that the media’s reporting has been impartial, carefully using language to ensure that the articles make no certain conclusions.

And for this claim, there is a point. However, it does miss the modus operandi I observe in the media, and it’s one that has affected me personally. The media may report the facts, but there is always an underlying drama that is quite often heavily implied.

A news outlet will report the facts, but that is only secondary to how the article makes you feel.

Whenever covering matters of Government, the media knows that what draws attention is the idea of malfeasance on part of the powers. It’s one thing to say where a Government might have erred, but if the media can indirectly imply malice on part of the error, then all the better. Moreover, if the media can further imply potential corruption – for example, that their policies seek to enrich a buddy or vested interest – then that’s a further whammy on the media drum.

But let’s talk about portrayal for a moment, because it lends to this implicit bias theory. Look at this article from Australian News Corp outlet, news.com.au.

I haven’t regarded the text in this article so much, because I am sure that nothing is written that could be construed as libellous, but note the photographs selected, particularly those of Justice Kavanaugh and Doctor Ford. The former has a look of aggression or even guilt, while the latter is either sad or noble.

Remember also that in the wake of the testimony, Kavanaugh admitted to still enjoying beer, while also passionately decrying the allegations, and for that he was painted as someone with anger and alcohol issues.

This is propaganda. Simply put.

While the words might be balanced, it’s the whole picture that can frame how the audience feels about the topic. A story might cover its rear with careful words, don’t be blind by what they’re trying to make you think.

The Democrat Judgement game

The ongoing saga of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, at the time of writing, is now being drawn out for another agonising week while the United States achingly waddles to the mid-term elections. The process of confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court must now be subject to another FBI probe to check on 36-year old allegations of sexual assault.

I have read and heard reams of commentary that focusses upon the veracity of the claim being made by the alleged victim, a matter that appears to be the fulcrum of the issue, where the weights of “Believe Victims” and “Due Process” fight over the prominent heights. I do not wish to weigh into this aspect of the debate, however choosing to focus upon the behaviours observed by the interested parties.

I have written before about the current tactic of using issues as ammunition, and I think it fair to raise it again here. Because it appears here that Democrats, in waiting until the 11th hour to raise the matter of Kavanaugh’s alleged malfeasance, has sought to deploy and weaponise the #MeToo movement – not for genuine justice, but for their own gain.

And like the previous issue of DACA recipients, I fully expect Democrats to completely discard the alleged victim, Doctor Christine Blasey Ford, the moment her political fuel has been spent.

Dr Ford is just as much a victim of this process as anyone else who is in this crosshairs – particularly that of Kavanaugh, and his family, who at this point seem to be guilty only of having been nominated to the Supreme Court.

To repeat the timeline, Senator Dianne Feinstein received advice from Dr Ford in July 2018 about the alleged incident with Judge Kavanaugh in 1982. Since then, Feinstein had not referred the matter to the FBI, had not discussed the matter with her Democrat colleagues, had not questioned Kavanaugh during any hearings on the matter, and only saw fit to finally reveal her hand in the final week of deliberations of Kavanaugh’s appointment.

And let’s not forget to mention that Feinstein has denied leaking Dr Ford’s identity to the press, an assertion that clangs as hollow as an empty tin.

Does her sitting on the allegation for literally weeks sound like the behaviour of someone who was genuinely concerned about victims of assault? That Feinstein deployed the allegation at the last possible moment in order to delay Kavanaugh’s certain confirmation sounds only of political gamesmanship – the aim being to delay filling the seat on the Supreme Court until after the mid-term elections, after which Democrats hope to obtain control of the Senate, and keep the seat unoccupied until after the next General Election.

And by using their media – all of whom cannot claim any kind of impartiality at this point in time – will attempt to oust Trump.

This is the lowest of the low. To use someone’s pain for political gain is the absolute gutter level of politics of which I would have hoped that any civil society dispensed ages ago. As much of the debate centre’s on whether the incident occurred in 1982 as per Dr Ford’s recollection, it is the sheer cynicism on display from the Democrats.

I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Democrats care for victims of sexual assault when they only elect to address the matter at a time that is most politically beneficial. And, with the media in tow, they lambast the accused for daring to deny the allegation with the passion of someone who might have felt just a little but slighted at having their name besmirched by an allegation only.

This is the Democrats – and their media lackeys – pulling out all the stops to prevent the Supreme Court seat from being occupied. However, as I have mentioned before, the tactics they employ today are the tactics they must welcome in return. If anyone accuses one of their party of improper or criminal behaviour, the victim simply must be believed on the allegation alone, with no corroborating evidence. To not is simply hypocrisy.

But when you have the media running defence for your party, Democratic bold hypocrisy is not a surprise.

Now, it must be also mentioned that Republicans stymied the appointment of Judge Merrick Garland during the last nine months of Obama’s presidency. Was this political gamesmanship, with Republicans holding up the process for their own political gain? Undoubtedly. They had control and they used their power to prevent someone from a lifelong Supreme Court appointment.

But their reasoning was that, according to the Wikipedia entry, they:

“… would not consider any nominee put forth by Obama, and that a Supreme Court nomination should be left to the next President of the United States.”

There is currently no precedent in place to say when or whenever a President should be able to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. The rationale here could be considered dirty and dishonest, and I would certainly agree with the sentiment. However, Merrick Garland did not have to face down serious allegations of a crime that would serve to sully his name, and muddy his entire career for actions he (allegedly) performed while in High School.

Disagree with Republicans on their rationale with Garland, sure. It was dirty, but at least the reasoning was perhaps worthy of debate. But if the counter from the Democrats is to unearth decades-old (alleged) felonies, and ruin the name of an entire family and a life-long public servant because they were nominated, then I am not on board.

This is rich people laughing, and to not recognise the giant temper tantrum that the Democrat party is throwing is sheer unadulterated blindness. The willingness to destroy someone for the simple act of being promoted is the kind of psychopathic coldness that needs to leave politics. It is as vicious as it is open and naked, for all to see.

Mid-terms are going to be interesting, at least in terms of whether the public are seeing the cold, naked viciousness that I am seeing.

The headline versus the story

I often find that there can be a disparity between what a headline says, and what the contents are within the story. In some cases, this is referred to as “burying the lede”, in where the headline information is either burying deep within a distant paragraph, or in some cases, including information that refutes the headline as a castaway sentence.

However, there is this other thing I find in where a story’s headline seems to be secondary to the actual story that is important. Take, for instance, the recent address by United States President Donald Trump to the UN General Assembly, in where he was openly laughed at.

If you were to read the headline, you’d sigh and resign yourself to the known fact that Trump is a buffoon and has somehow, yet again, self-flagellated on the world stage. The story itself is littered with descriptions of how the world seemingly mocked him, along with Reactions From Twitter that reinforced this notion.

But, there are some aspects to his speech that warrant some discussion, and even would suggest that he didn’t completely muff the entire thing up. Please note that I write this as someone who actually hasn’t viewed the President’s routine in front of the UN, and the story I linked certainly doesn’t compel me to watch.

Consider some excerpts posted in the article:

He also talked up his administration’s relationship with North Korea and its progress towards denuclearisation.

“I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps that he’s taken — though more work remains to be done,” Mr Trump said, noting existing “sanctions will remain in place until denuclearisation occurs.”

So, aside from acknowledging a despot, isn’t the continued pressure to denuclearise the Korean peninsula a good thing?

Mr Trump declared that the “bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have been driven out of the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria,” and he called for a “political solution” in the latter country that reflects “the will of the Syrian people.”

Seeing as the insurgence of ISIS is what created the refugee crisis with people fleeing Syria, isn’t progress to nullify the influence of the known terror group another success? Certainly refugees fleeing would like to see that their homeland has loosened the grip of the problem that caused their initial flee in the first place?

And he delivered a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the United States “will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.”

Right, so we mock someone who is stating that there are severe repercussions for, you know, perpetrating a war crime?

Mr Trump said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take a “hard look” at US foreign assistance, saying that the US is the world’s largest donor of foreign aid “but few give anything to us.”

He said the review will examine what is working and what is not working and whether countries that receive US aid “have our interests at heart.”

Didn’t Trump go to an election on a platform of “America First”? Look back a decade, and I distinctly remember much tut-tutting over a United States that considered itself a World Police, and meddling in affairs of other sovereign nations, yet now we laugh because the President wants to be insular?

But no, let’s publish the intellectual waste that gets posted on Twitter and call that news.

Twitter being snarky is not news. In fact, it is such a passe notion, I’m surprised it ever get reported at all. But I guess having major news sources pull quotes from Twitter only serves to fuel Twitter users into trying to make the snarkiest snark and the belly-aching gotcha.

I’m sure I’ve said it before on this blog, but the media really need to step up their game. they need to do better. the issues, it appears, are being missed in favour of entertainment. If the media don’t want to be seen as untrustworthy hacks, then perhaps they’d better try being a little more trustworthy, rather than reporting tweets.

Because, at the moment, I’m pretty sure if a nuclear holocaust suddenly broke out, the news would report that Twitter collectively pointed at the bombs and lolled.