Introduction

This is a backup blog/archive for my medium account.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Why Vox (and Everyone Else) Pretends to Hate Elites

No one in the political elite actually hates the concept of elites not even Vox in one of their videos called Why Tucker Carlson Pretends to Hate Elites. The central thesis is that popular Fox News commentator, Tucker Carlson, is a false prophet leading the poor working class away from the real party of the people, the Democrats, away to the corporate capitalist Republican oligarchs. While yes Tucker Carlson is rich, so is Noam Chomsky for that matter, and so is Vice too. In fact Vice just got $200 million dollars from Comcast:

To wit: Vox Media announced Wednesday a $200 million round of funding from NBC Universal. Vox had previously raised $100 million in funding, including from the venture arm of NBC Universal’s parent company, Comcast (CMCSA, -1.25%). Other Vox investors include Accel Partners, Allen & Company, General Atlantic, Khosla Ventures and Ted Leonsis, the former AOL executive. Its most recent round was a $46.5 million raise last fall at a reported valuation of $380 million.

The latest round values Washington, D.C.-based Vox Media at $850 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Including the venture funding, Vox Media now is officially a startup “unicorn” worth more than $1 billion.

In other news popular left wing media outlet Vice also just got:

The company’s new debt financing was led by 23 Capital, a financing firm focused exclusively on sports, music and entertainment sectors, with participation by Soros Fund Management, Fortress Investment Group and Monroe Capital, as first reported by the Wall Street JournalFriday.

With this capital investment, Vice’s growth plans can be accelerated, allowing us to execute our new leadership’s strategic vision for the company,” a Vice rep said in a statement… he Brooklyn-based youth-culture company, launched 25 years ago as a punk-culture magazine in Montreal, was valued at $5.7 billion less than two years ago. Since then, its valuation has dropped: Disney disclosed a $157 million write-down on its Vice equity stake last year. Vice previously raised about $1.4 billion from investors including TPG Capital, which plowed $450 million into the company in the summer of 2017.

This is odd; why are Vox and Vice, the real speaker of the people, raising billions of dollars from elite capitalist investors? Also what about this George Soros guy? With $250 million dollars to blow he must be rich, but I mean a rich guy like that surely can’t be a supporter of the party of the people. Lets take a look at his website:

George Soros has been a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years. His philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations, supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries.

If you scroll down a little further you see this interesting article called A Worldwide Movement for Domestic Workers:

Despite the profession’s growing ranks, millions of domestic workers — 80 percent of whom are women — remain impoverished and exploited. In many countries, in fact, legal norms don’t provide domestic workers with the same rights and protections that other workers already enjoy.

Thankfully, more domestic workers than ever — including people like Phobsuk “Dang” Gasing, a Thai domestic worker and union leader in Hong Kong, who is featured in this video — are coming together and forming unions.

It’s a global movement, too: Gasing’s union is part of the International Domestic Workers Federation, a collective which boasts more than 500,000 members in 54 countries. The federation has helped ratify international labor standards for domestic workers in more than 28 countries.

Interesting, here we have an elite rich man claiming to be the voice of the people, and a media outlet of the people that is worth $1 billion dollars. Why is it then, that when Tucker Carlson claims to be speaking for the common man he is implanting “false consciousness”, but when George Soros and Vox do it they are legitimate? Is it because they claim to support the common man? Well Tucker Carlson also claims to support the common man, so that doesn’t help much. Maybe it has something to do with the parties they support? So what if George Soros and Vice are “elites” they support the Democrats, the party of the people, why would real elites support the party of the people? Lets look at some of the Democratic candidates then.

Here is an Obama campaign video, a video on the Hillary Clinton campaign, and an official Bernie Sanders campaign video contrast it with this video on Bernie Sanders.

What are these candidates of the people doing be supported by major celebrity elites? Well maybe these are good elites, and there are lots of bad elites supporting the Republican party. Lets look at Republican candidates then.

Here’s a list of celebrities who support Trump, but here’s celebrities bashing Trump at one of the biggest award shows of the year. Here’s a list of celebrities who support Ted Cruz, but here a bunch of celebrities cheering for his opponent, Beto. Here’s a list of celebrities that supported Ron Paul in his run, but that support didn’t travel to his son, Rand Paul.

It seems both the Republicans and Democrats have elite support, but there is a certain disparity in that support. It seems less notable celebrities support the Republicans (in fact some nerds like Paul Ryan can’t even make one single friend), while the elite of the elite support the Democrats, but again this proves nothing. Celebrities are elites, but they got to where they are through skill and hard work. They aren’t like those evil capitalist businessmen who exploit the common man to become elites, so if we are following Vox’s thesis this must mean capitalist businessmen support the republicans. Here is the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, saying the minimum wage should be raised to $15 dollars an hour:

Still, in a country with a federal minimum hourly pay of $7.25, Amazon’s actions can be considered progressive.

“Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage,” Bezos writes. “Do it! Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”

Why would the richest man in the world be supportive of progressive policy? This other line in the article illuminates a little:

Amazon moved to a $15 minimum wage in the United States at the end of last year — though it did so with cuts to benefits and stock grants that meant some employees would end up being paid less, which then led Amazon to announce a further boost in pay to rectify the situation.

You can put two and two together. Yet again, this proves nothing though. Jeff Bezos is probably just pretending to be progressive to hide his companies horrible working conditions. Let’s look at some other companies then.

Here’s an article titled It’s True: Tech Workers Overwhelmingly Support Democrats in 2018:

WIRED analyzed more than 125,000 contributions made to federal candidates in 2018 by employees of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, using data from the US Federal Election Commission. Our not-shocking finding: Tech workers overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates. As you can see below, just over 1 percent of the $15 million sent to candidates went to Republicans, while 23 percent of the funds went to Democrats…The largest recipient, ActBlue, a fundraising platform for progressive candidates, has collected nearly $1 billion for the 2018 election season, according to the Center for Responsive Politics; that money has gone to campaigns for individual candidates, Democratic party fundraising committees, and progressive groups like Emily’s List.

This is not to let Republicans off the hook though; I mean $15 million is nothing to scoff out, but an interesting pattern is emerging. According to Open Secrets in 2016:

We the Democrats universally raised more money then the Republicans, but these numbers seem surprisingly close if one side was the side of the common and the other of the elites.

Compare this to 2018:

The Republicans raised more then the Democrats, but again these numbers are surprisingly close. Who is party of the people of the people then? Both of these seem like parties of the elite with slightly newer elites leaning blue. The thing is though none of this matters.

Vox talked a lot about a cute little Marxist term known as false consciousness. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica it means:

False consciousness, in philosophy, particularly within critical theory and other Marxist schools and movements, the notion that members of the proletariat unwittingly misperceive their real position in society and systematically misunderstand their genuine interests within the social relations of production under capitalism. False consciousness denotes people’s inability to recognize inequality, oppression, and exploitation in a capitalist society because of the prevalence within it of views that naturalize and legitimize the existence of social classes.

In simpler terms it is simply that the evil capitalist trick the proletariat into thinking capitalism is good for them; usually by blaming capitalism’s failures on other issues. The irony of Vox using this term should be obvious. Despite my dislike of communism I think false consciousness is exactly what Vox is doing. Throughout the video they repeatedly suggest the Republicans are the party of the elite while the Democrats are the party of the people, which I’ve shown is entirely false.

The whole purpose of “elite baiting” is to stop you from thinking critically. Instead of actually considering things like for instance Republican supply side economics vs. Democrat demand side economics, or any other policy for that matter. Instead you are told that the Republicans are evil elites so nothing they say is of value and if they say anything reasonable it is just elite lies. The exact same thing can be said of Tucker Carlson and his rants about the elite. Why is this? Elites are probably smart and who knows maybe they say something correct every once and a while, or maybe they don’t. You can’t know until your educate yourself.

This “elite baiting” is prefaced on the illusion that one side of America is for the people while the other is for the elites, but for every George Soros there is the Koch brothers and for every Tucker Carlson there is a Noam Chomsky. If elites are telling you to fight other elites; your probably going to end up a dog to them. Your either being told by the elite elite to destroy the lesser elites to secure the elite elite homogeneous power (High-low vs the middle) or your being told by lesser elite to destroy the elite elite so the lesser elite can gain power (Low-middle vs the high).

Next time someone starts telling you not to listen to X side because it is full elites just listen to them anyway. Develop your own opinion by listening to all sides and remember most political movements are lead by some faction of elites; “grassroots” activism is just a rhetorical strategy to divert the discussion away from actual ideas.

Video Games, Capitalism, and Corporations

I just saw an interesting YouTube video called: DOOM Eternal, Counterculture, and How We Talk About Labor. The thesis was quite simple, the original Doom was counterculture while Doom 2016 (and by extension modern triple A gaming) are little more then disposable, sanitized corporate products. Rather then being the passion product of a small dedicated team modern games are the soulless husks made by corporate interests forcing workers to slave away. Let’s just ignore the fact that one of these games can be programmed on a calculator and one is a large complex blockbuster that requires a range of diverse skill sets to complete.

Ti-83 a real gaming beast

While there are many other aspects of the video that I could talk about: like his weird rant on the sheeple gamers for cheering at new Doom trailer or how he complains that Doom Eternal is just Doom 2016 with more stuff; exactly what the original Doom 2 was. I’m more interested in how the central thesis — the original Doom was good because it was a passion project; Doom 2016 was less good as it was corporate product — and how this relates to how we view art under capitalism.

1993 vs 2016

First we need to ask what makes the original Doom more artistic or “punk” the Doom 2016. Both games have the same gory satanic aesthetic, both games are high octane first person shooters (with the kind of game play changes you’d expect from a game over 20 years ago), and both games are unrelentingly hyper violent. The first difference brought up is the reception both games received. The original Doom was a mass phenomena it was one of the best selling (it has basically been released on almost every game console) and most influential games of all time. It was also met with controversy during the height of its popularity due to the ongoing fear of video game violence on the youth; this lead to the game having an edgy, underground vibe Doom 2016 couldn’t generate. However this has nothing to do with the actual content of the games themselves, Doom 2016 was just as if not more violent then the original. I guarantee if Jack Thompson still had cultural influence the game would have been just as controversial as the original. The issue here isn’t the actual content of the game but a changing societal consensus in violence.

The creator also brings up the argument is that in the original Doom you could you feel the creative finger print of all the designers but in Doom 2016 you couldn’t. Which makes sense when you consider having a team as large Doom 2016, as if everyone left their fingerprints on the game it would leave the game feeling aimless and conflicted. Leaving the creative direction in the hands of a few people then seems like the best decision so the game can maintain a cohesive creative vision, but the truth is none of these arguments actually matter.

The real difference between the original Doom and Doom 2016, the one that actually matters to the creator, is that one was produced by a large company while one was made by a small team. If Doom 2016 was the exact same game but made by a smaller studio he would have liked it more, and if Doom 2016 had been made exactly like the original Doom he would have disliked it by virtue of being made by a corporation.

What matters here is not the actual content of the game but who makes it; which is to say what is perceived as authority. Nothing about the original Doom makes it more countercultural then Doom 2016 other then that one was made by “authority”. Some may object and point out that ethos does really matter to an argument. A corporation saying fuck capitalism comes off as kitsch and disingenuous while a group of young revolutionaries saying the same thing comes off as bold and brave, so while authority may be able to dress itself in the image of counter culture it can’t recreate the fundamental feelings of the movement. I again however, point out that this doesn’t fundamentally alter the content of both messages being said. If said corporation wrote a well thought out and well argued critique of capitalism would it truly be worse then some random revolutionary yelling “fuck the system” by the simple vice of lacking authenticity?

The actual discussion of labor and capitalism in this video makes up a very small portion of the video because it doesn’t matter. The focus is primarily on the nostalgia the creator has for the original Doom. Doom then was a controversial, violent, and mysterious phenomenon, but do to years of media desensitization Doom 2016 would lack that same edge. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future someone makes a video on how Doom 2016 was real Counter culture while Doom 2023 is just corporate trash.

What we see is not the attack of corporations on art but the attack of time on nostalgia. Doom 2016 could never live up the original Doom because I doubt anything even could. After years of violent media nothing could match up to the original sense of wonder the original held for many who played it. Capitalism simply serves as a easy explanation because it offers a solution to the problem. All the problems could be solved if got rid of those bad corporations and consumerism then video games could be truly good again like the good old days of the original doom. What matters here is not the structure of capitalism itself, but of any power structure to serve as a convenient scapegoat. If Doom 2016 had been made by the government ministry of video games the complaint would be that socialist bureaucracy was ruing video games.

One last interesting thing about this video comes near the end, where Michael Saba describes that he is less interested in bland blockbuster games while thumbing down the highly praised God of War on Ps4. I actually agree with that sentiment as God of War was a dull, oscarified blockbuster “experience” that is just smart enough to seem deep but isn’t complex or edgy enough to not have mass appeal. The issue here however, isn’t corporations dumbing down art for a wide audience, but the audience wanting to seem smart.

This isn’t as much the lack of depth but the lack of encoded depth. Rather then having complex themes encoded within metaphors and cultural mimetic imagery; themes are laid bare and made to be as consumable as possible. This gives the illusion of depth as the themes are obvious after one or two views rather then requiring lots of thought to truly understand. I call this process “realism” as Lyotard describes in The Postmodern Condition:

The challenge lay essentially in that photographic and cinematographic processes can accomplish better, faster, and with a circulation a hundred thousand times larger than narrative or pictorial realism, the task which academicism had assigned to realism : to preserve various consciousnesses from doubt. Industrial photography and cinema will be superior to painting and the novel whenever the objective is to stabilize the referent, to arrange it according to a point of view which endows it with a recognizable meaning, to reproduce the syntax and vocabulary which enable the addressee to decipher images and sequences quickly , and so to arrive easily at the consciousness of his own identity as well as the approval which he thereby receives from others- since such structures of images and sequences constitute a communication code among all of them. This is the way the effects of reality, or if one prefers, the fantasies of realism, multiply. (Pg.74)

…Realism, whose only definition is that it intends to avoid the question of reality implicated in that of art, always stands somewhere between academicism and kitsch. When power assumes the name of a party, realism and its neoclassical complement triumph over the experimental avant-garde by slandering and banning it-that is, provided the “correct” images, the “correct” narratives, the “correct’’ forms which the party requests, selects, and propagates can find a public to desire them as the appropriate remedy for the anxiety and depression that public experiences. The demand for reality — that is, for unity, simplicity, communicability, etc.-did not have the same intensity nor the same continuity in German society between the two world wars and in Russian society after the Revolution : this provides a basis for a distinction between Nazi and Stalinist realism. What is clear, however, is that when it is launched by the political apparatus, the attack on artistic experimentation is specifically reactonary : aesthetic judgment would only be required to decide whether such or such work is in conformity with the established rules of the beautiful. (Pg. 75)

So here we see “realism” defined as a desire for clarity, communicability, and familiarity in theme. Rather then corporations dumbing down it is actually the phillistinian pseudo-intellectual desire for “realism” that has caused the stagnation of art in games; something that can be seen in both the the indie and triple a market.

The thing most of these “capitalism kill art” arguments forget is too separate capitalism from the emergence of a mass consumer market. While companies may pander to pop culture there is no guarantee that the fundamental tastes of people would change if consumerism or capitalism were removed. The consumer tastes may very well stay the same, so the socialist ministry of media may just keep giving them what they want. It is not like work will stop and people will always want something to take their minds of the universal struggles humanity faces.

Punked: Discourse in America

While browsing the internet I came across an interesting old blog called The Last Psychiatrist and one post particularly stood out: Fox & Friends Punked by Obama Supporter. The video itself is nothing special; a man just spouts nonsense during a Fox News interviews and reveals later he’s an Obama supporter in an interview:

the man who pranked Fox News said he’s always believed “Fox News is a fake news organization,” and explained that he wanted to shame the conservative television channel for being “stupid” and looking for interview subjects as if they were “casting a part in a show.

A real joker

The whole “prank” itself is quite unremarkable and is only really interesting in it’s childishness. It is simply antagonism for the sake of antagonism.

Yet besides this point I think this video is an interesting sign of things to come. Anyone that has spent any extended time on YouTube will probably have been recommended a video in the “Rekted” genre of political videos. These videos typically feature one or many short clips of various political opponents getting corrected or “roasted” by someone: usually a popular political pundit.

The videos started in 2015 and exploded in 2016 with titles like: “(REKT) Best of Ben Shapiro! Ben Shapiro TRIGGERS Feminists, Liberals, SJW, Snowflakes! Mic Drop 2017”, “Feminist Cringe Compilation #2”, or “feminists get destroyed by one man”. In recent years the subject matter the subject matter has expanded into videos like: “Dumb Republicans Compilation”, “Anti-SJW Cringe Compilation”, and “Libertarian Cringe Compilation (the end will make your eyes bleed)”.

Very rational

The content of these videos are all almost identical in that no point is actually made in any of videos. Rather then being a two sided debate or discussion they serve as a purely one sided afar where one side is assumed to be right and therefore must use “logic” to destroy all opponents. In this quick culture the actual discussion or debate between two ideologies is replaced by a quick slap down culture where nitpicks and insults replace understanding.

The short length of the clips also helps to facilitate the narrative that the side in question is the “right” one. It doesn’t matter if you utter botched most of a debate when one five minute clip of you correcting an opponent with facts is what goes viral. With this style of smackdown a short length is preferred as it allows you to take a potshot before running away. If the kid in the “Fox and Friends PUNKED” video had actually stayed on the program who knows what other points he could make to the reporter besides “Haha I’m actually an Obama supporter”. As TLP points out:

Imagine Gretchen Carlson doing what she should have done if she was smart: kept the interview going longer. “Oh, I’m sorry, Max, we must all be dummies here at Fox because when you told us you were pro-Romney we… just believed it. We do that with the Bible and pre-war intelligence, too, gosh golly. Well, you have a Columbia education and I’m giving you a national platform, why don’t you tell us why we’re all stupid here for supporting Romney? Why should we want Obama for a second term? Please, no soundbites you got from twitter.” As the kid’s head melts like he was staring into the Ark of the Covenant we’d see clearly that he isn’t an Obama supporter at all. He may be voting for Obama, I have no idea, but he wasn’t there for Obama, he was there for himself under the pretense antagonizing Fox, which is why his main argument was “s’up.” Advice for aspiring comics like Max: if you get to go on TV, you should probably prepare some material.

This strange trend represents one fundamental truth about politics which is that antagonism is more important then agreement or understanding. The best thing a politician can do is simply get you to hate the other side; it’s quite telling that most political ads are attack ads rather then telling you why you should vote for them. As TLP points out:

Note, however, that the key antagonism here isn’t between Romney’s ideas and Obama’s ideas, or even Romney and Obama, but Romney supporters and Obama supporters. This is textbook contemporary political debate: attack people you hate. The college kid doesn’t like Obama, he just hates Romney supporters. And Gretchen Carlson doesn’t like Romney, she hates Obama supporters. The debate isn’t the point — indeed, you are not supposed to see how similar they are — the hate is the point. The candidates themselves are interchangeable.

This is best represented in the culture war narrative that has been peddled recently that America is trapped in some civil war between two radical factions. However this narrative is just that a narrative. As political scientist Morris Fiorina has pointed out our country is just as divided as it usually is; which is not much. Most people agree on moderate policies and 40% of Americans identify as independent a far cry for the supposed radical majority that we hear about. Instead what see is that parties themselves and the political class have become sorted. The democratic party is now homogeneously liberal and the Republicans are homogeneously conservative. This goes for other members of the political class: activists, donors, and partisan reporters. A more optimistic commentator may simply view this narrative as the result of the political class unintentional projecting their beliefs onto the general population. While a more cynical one may see this as a deliberate way to stroke fear and hatred.

Not as polarized as it may appear

This “culture war” narrative is exactly what pushes these kind of “rekted” videos with the assumption that one side is becoming more radical while the other is sane and rational. In these videos radical members of the political class are paraded around as the norm when in reality they are a minority. Most liberals aren’t blue haired gun-snatching socialist radical feminists and most conservatives aren’t evangelical gun-toting free-market crypto-fascists, but if you believe the other side to be nothing but radicals then you have to do everything in you power to stop them; even if it means voting for someone considered the “lesser of two evils”.

Who cares what a politician is doing besides the fact that oppose the bad guys? If you can convince people that your opponents are radical beyond reason then all you have to do is make yourself seem slightly less radical in comparison. This also produces a cycle of violence and fear. If you think America is being over run by Nazis well then you’d want to protest and “Make Nazis Afraid Again”, so you start preforming increasingly violent protests in order to counter single the growing radicalism. This then catches notice of other right wing commentators who then exaggerate the radical protesters in order to make their base feel the need to counter signal with increasing intensity in order to fight their perceive radical threat, and thus the cycle continues.

Divided we fall

Politicians and the people who support them know that fear can be used to shield themselves from criticism while turning public outrage too their opponent. If you can convince people that some irrational threat exists they will support anyone who opposed that threat without question. There were people who supported Trump just to “trigger the libs” and third parties and independents have been scolded consistently for letting the “fascist Trump” win. Once you’ve been convinced the other side is irrational beyond repair you’ve already bitten the bait and have started playing the game.

When people are people are afraid of ideas they become afraid of people. People who are afraid are divided and pitted against one and another. We can lie to ourselves and say it’s just that others are just garbage human beings; we can pretend that we are morally superior and more intellectual then everyone who disagrees with, but when we pit ourselves against our fellow man who is really being punked?