Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Second Dimension

Since the election, I've looked in on Breitbart News now and then, the alt-right site previously run by Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's Senior Counsellor. Partly because I want to understand the perspective of people who buy into Trump's propaganda, partly because I simply want to know what page they're on. For example, when Trump's people say he won't release his tax returns because "people don't care," that seems pretty credible if all you were looking at was Breitbart which apparently doesn't deem it worthy of mention. The top story when I looked on the site this morning was this one: "Director Joss Whedon Calls Ivanka Trump a Dog". The article refers this photo tweeted by Whedon:

Whedon's caption reads:

"Hey, keep your eyes on this fucking prize too. He's a Voldemort in training, & unlike the Pekingese he married under, can play the long game"

The article, at least as of now and at the time I first read it, makes no mention of the possibility that the "Pekingese" Whedon refers to is Donald and not Ivanka. Which one looks more like a Pekingese to you?

Considering the picture Whedon posted shows only Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, and Whedon says "married under", I would have assumed he was referring to Donald Trump. But okay, this is par for the course in tabloid media. Huffington Post is often enough guilty of this kind of flimsy, deliberate slant. One of the major differences, though, is that such Huffington Post articles are usually filled with comments arguing with or just pointing out the error. Not one commenter, last I checked, seems to have understood Whedon was talking about Donald Trump, it's just a series of comments calling Whedon a cuckold, his wife a man, and asserting that Ivanka is hot.

One of the most ironic things about it is that a lot of the rhetoric on the site is about how Social Justice Warriors are too sensitive and take things out of context. I also noticed the site tends to focus on things that don't seem especially newsworthy to right or left, like this one about a random radio station in Texas banning Madonna because of comments she made during the women's march:

"Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything."

I copied this quote in full from the article. Despite that it seems clearly to be Madonna saying that blowing up the White House is a bad idea, the story has since been picked up by other media and Madonna has had to respond. I would have thought Madonna being banned from a radio station in Texas was old news twenty years ago but supposedly it's important to-day.

I mentioned the story to someone I know who likes the alt-right and he said usually Trump supporters are the ones who get banned, like Milo. "Who's Milo?" I asked and he was surprised. I guess Milo Yiannopoulos, who it turns out is a Greek/British contributor to Breitbart, is something of a celebrity amongst alt-righters for getting banned from Twitter following his harassment of Leslie Jones. He's openly gay so is a walking counterargument to those who say the alt-right are inherently homophobic or anti-gay. I think this comes from a naivete from many who identify as alt-right without wanting to be associated with the Nazis who also use the term. Looking through articles like the one on Whedon, I was often reminded of working as a teaching assistant in a lower division rhetoric class last year and being surprised at how dimly many of the students understood layers of meaning and intention in articles. There was often a tendency to accept things on face value.

Deciding to have a look at some of Yiannopoulos' writing, I looked through articles he'd written for Breitbart, trying to find one that told me why he's well regarded, trying to find one where he really shows his skill at showing up the deficiencies of liberals. And I'm certainly not one to argue myself for the flawlessness of liberals. I know some Social Justice Warriors--and I use the term knowing they use it themselves--and while I'd generally rather be on their side than someone who thinks a wall on the U.S./Mexican border is a sensible idea, they can show lapses in judgement, like one who claimed Benjamin Franklin's endorsement of moderation was part of a Puritan conspiracy against fat people. Still, no Social Justice Warrior I've met has suggested censoring scientists.

But Yiannopoulos' articles, while they do throw out jabs at the left, generally seem to be about himself. Several of his recent articles begin with a caption: "My name is Milo Yiannopoulos, the supervillain of the Internet." You'd think I'd have heard of him. He has several posts where he just rehashes fan mail and his jabs at the left tend not to have any citations or links. In this post where he discusses the fake news of the left, he posts an image of a tweet from Nancy Sinatra replying to a CNN tweet. CNN's tweet says that Sinatra was not happy with Trump using her father's song at his inauguration, to which she replies "That's not true. I never said that. Why do you lie, CNN?" What Yiannopoulos does not mention is the reason he had to use his screenshot rather than linking directly to the tweet--Sinatra had deleted it after CNN posted this article that quotes another tweet of hers after she was asked what she thought of "My Way" being performed at the inauguration; "Just remember the first line of the song." The first line being, "And now the end is near."

Ironically, Yiannopoulos follows up his screenshot with a commentary on the focus on fake news:

"What could be more delicious than the media’s decision, when trust in their institution was at an all-time low, to make 'Fake News' the narrative of the day after Trump’s election? I mean, what did they think was going to happen? Throughout the campaign, the media threw lie after lie and smear after smear at Donald Trump, blissfully unaware that with every outrageous story they ran, public trust in their profession sank a little lower."

Yiannopoulos himself demonstrates how apparently easy it is to garner trust while sacrificing integrity. He also seems unable to quote any of these lies or evidence that they are lies. But I guess people don't care about Trump's tax returns.

Twitter Sonnet #956

The tapered pressure seen in tunnel towns
Compacts the moving brains they've clustered on
The cable roads entwined to cancel clowns
Whose signals strained of tannin dry and gone
To calcified imploding crops the wheat
In choking spoons aligns along the roads,
A grid of barren scalps of earth too fleet
Too roiled static now to move, it goads
A brainless toad, its blinking eyes pull in
The rain that comes in sideways sparks for weeks
Of colder seeds, the growing petal moon tin
Alights in forms resembling Grace who sneaks
Across a grassy vault, o'erflowing slugs,
The ears receive the echos of their bugs.

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