Not Yet Ready to Make Nice Open Thread: Trump’s Speech As Theater

Boy howdy, that was a quick 24 hours, wasn’t it?

This is worth reading, though — the Washington Post‘s pop-culture blogger, Alyssa Rosenberg, explains “Pundits are treating Trump like theater. They should learn from the real critics“:

On Wednesday, as a wave of positive headlines describing President Trump’s first address to Congress rolled in, Slate chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie tweeted in disgust, “This morning is a good reminder that so much of what passes for political analysis is just theater criticism.” On behalf of critics everywhere, I take a minor amount of umbrage: After all, we generally set higher standards for performances than “basic competence,” and we tend to address style as well as substance. But given that his real point is that the pundits who praised Trump seemed to be falling for mere optics, maybe political commentators could stand to take a few tips from those of us who practice criticism for a living.

1. When someone doesn’t tell the truth, the reason for the distortion matters as much as the distortion itself: One of the hot debates in pop culture criticism right now is what obligations fiction has to be historically accurate… The thing about identifying areas where pop culture diverges from the cultural record, or where a work of fiction embraces one school of historical interpretation over another, is that at the end of the day, it’s still fiction. So it’s generally more interesting to analyze what goals or ideas those diversions serve, rather than simply identifying that they exist. The president of the United States has a much, much higher obligation to tell the truth than movies and television do. But fact-checking is still a first step: Identifying what function Trump’s errors, distortions and outright lies perform in his presidency matters, too.

2. The presidency is a season of television, not an episode:… You don’t judge whether a television show as a whole is good or bad on whether the showrunners, writers, actors and directors can sustain what’s good about their work for an hour or two, the way you would judge a single episode of television. You judge it on whether they can do that for a season, and then for the majority of the show’s run. Political analysts need to approach a presidency the same way. The test of whether Trump has found a way to be presidential (if, in fact, you judge his performance last night as meeting that standard) is not whether he can do it for one night, but whether he can do it for years…

Or even, y’know, for a whole day, before getting derailed by his own minions?
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Monday Evening Open Thread: Quick Notes


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Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Tom Perez is off to a quick start, good for him…

One more thing to blame Lord Smallgloves (and his fussy little hand tics) for:



Today In Be Careful What You Wish For: Not So Strange Bedfellows Edition II

Shortly after the election the American Jewish Congress and the Islamic Society of North America formally entered into a civil rights protection and promotion and civil society defense agreement. Today, in response to yesterday’s violence and vandalism at St. Louis’s Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi have started a fundraising campaign to help repair the damage done.

You may remember Linda Sarsour, the Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, as one of the co-chairs for the Women’s March. Tarik El-Messidi is the founder of Celebrate Mercy, an educational outreach program intended to inform both Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammed.

So well done currently unknown dickheads and domestic terrorists – your stupidity has just drawn Muslim and Jewish Americans closer together. Give yourselves a round of applause for achieving exactly the opposite of what you intended to achieve: to scare Americans of different faiths and ethnicities in order to drive them apart and make them easier to prey upon in the future. Morons!

 



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Out of the Shadows

From the Washington Post, “For decades they hid Jefferson’s relationship with her. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings“:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The room where historians believe Sally Hemings slept was just steps away from Thomas Jefferson’s bedroom. But in 1941, the caretakers of Monticello turned it into a restroom.

The floor tiles and bathroom stalls covered over the story of the enslaved woman, who was owned by Jefferson and had a long-term relationship with him. Their involvement was a scandal during his life and was denied for decades by his descendants. But many historians now believe the third president of the United States was the father of her six children.

Time, and perhaps shame, erased all physical evidence of her presence at Jefferson’s home here, a building so famous that it is depicted on the back of the nickel.

Now the floor tiles have been pulled up and the room is under restoration — and Hemings’s life is poised to become a larger part of the story told at Monticello.

When the long-hidden space opens to the public next year, it will mark a dramatic shift in the way one of the nation’s most revered Founding Fathers is portrayed to the more than 440,000 visitors who tour this landmark annually.

It’s part of a $35 million restoration project that will bolster Monticello’s infrastructure but also reconstruct and showcase buildings where enslaved people lived and worked. The man who wrote the words “all men are created equal” in 1776 was master of a 5,000-acre working plantation who over the course of his life owned 607 slaves.

“Visitors will come up here and understand that there was no place on this mountaintop that slavery wasn’t,” said Christa Dierksheide, a Monticello historian. “Thomas Jefferson was surrounded by people, and the vast majority of those people were enslaved.”…

To pinpoint that room, historians relied on a description provided long ago by a Jefferson grandson, who placed it in the home’s south wing. Archaeologists are now peeling back layers in the 14 foot, 8 inch-by-13 foot, 2 inch room to reveal its original brick floor and plaster walls.

We don’t know how Hemings regarded her involvement with her owner. Historians do not know exactly how old she was when she lived there; and no portraits or photographs of her exist. But step into the brick room, the floor still covered in red dirt, and it is not hard to imagine her sitting in a chair, warming herself in front of the fireplace…

Monticello historians hope the restored room will humanize the image of Hemings, beyond the gossipy old accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “concubine.”

“Sally Hemings was better traveled than most Americans, so we want to tell a story about her that doesn’t limit her to Jefferson’s property,” said Gary Sandling, a vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and runs Monticello as a museum…

Much more at the link. Whatever the hard truths of Sally’s relationship with Mr. Jefferson, it’s good to know that she did have the minor luxury of a room of her own.
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What’s on the agenda for the new day?



Long Read: “4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump”

Well, it’s a useful explainer piece, although I think the author may overstate the self-awareness of his beloved /channers. At Medium, Dale Beran claims “Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him“:

Around 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. This new site I didn’t understand. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque. Counter intuitively, you had to hit “reply” to read a thread. Moreover, the content was bizarre nonsense.

The site, if you hadn’t guessed, was 4chan.org. It was an offshoot of a different message board which I also knew from my referral logs, “Something Awful”, at the time, an online community of a few hundred nerds who liked comics, video games, and well, nerds things. But unlike boards with similar content, Something Awful skewed toward dark jokes. I had an account at Something Awful, which I used sometimes to post in threads about my comic…

These days, 4chan appears in the news almost weekly. This past week, there were riots at Berkeley in the wake of the scheduled lecture by their most prominent supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos. The week before that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pointed to his 4chan inspired Pepe the Frog pin, about to explain the significance when an anti-fascist protester punched him in the face. The week before that, 4chan claimed (falsely) it had fabricated the so called Trump “Kompromat”. And the week before that, in the wake of the fire at Ghost Ship, 4chan decided to make war on “liberal safe spaces” and DIY venues across the country.

How did we get here? What is 4chan exactly? And how did a website about anime become the avant garde of the far right? Mixed up with fascist movements, international intrigue, and Trump iconography? How do we interpret it all?

At the very beginning, 4chan met once a year in only one place in the world: Baltimore, Maryland at the anime convention, Otakon. As a nerdy teen growing up in Baltimore in the 90s, I had wandered into Otakon much like I had later wandered into 4chan, just when it was starting. I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.
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Monday Morning Open Thread: Vintage Year

On a more serious topic, keep our Left-Coast friends & associates in your thoughts…


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Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the (holiday-for-some) day?