Safespacing AF (thoughts on Jonathan Pie)

Dear Mr. Pie. I realise that in writing this I’m addressing a fictional character or at the very least an on-stage persona, but since this is the post-truth era, what difference does it make, right?

Angry Jonathan Pie is Angry (source)

In your post-US elections video (below) you want the audience (in this case, me) to engage you. So I am. And while I enjoyed your delivery I should probably start by calling it what – in my opinion at least – it is. A very clickable load of bullshit. Well, not all of it, you make some very good points but on the whole it’s not unlike the Hillary Clinton campaign. Well-produced, highly compressed hot air. Not unlike this blog, which is why I’d like to think I can relate. Swear words included. So here goes.

First of all – Bernie Sanders? Why wasn’t he on the ticket? Because he lost the fucking primary, that’s why. I mean for all the fire of the Sandernistas and all the talk of the revolution the guy lost the vote by every measure. And if Hillary is such a shit candidate (and you’re right, she should have done better) and can still get more votes than Bernie…. well, you do the math.

So why did she lose? Should she have been a better candidate? Yes, absolutely. What is especially dumbfounding is how she made virtually the same mistake that cost her the victory in 2007/2008 primary against Barack Obama. Back then she ignored smaller states and concentrated on those that provided large delegate haul. Ultimately that wasn’t enough. And yet, this time around she made the same miscalculation, costing her some 50,000 votes that could have flipped Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and by that the entire election.

Also, she did not represent change (of whatever sort). It is, as you rightly point out, hard to figure out what she represented at all. She had about a zillion policies, most of them made sense, but no underlying message. No story. George Lakoff pointed out the dangers of that just after the conventions. His warnings went mostly unheeded.

On the other hand: public and private persona? Sure, it looks bad, but tell me she’s not right. It’s just that when a Clinton and a woman says that it’s somehow worse. It reminds me of an old joke where the guys who sleeps with five women is a player whereas a woman who sleeps with five men is a slut.

So yes, sexism played a part. Of course it did. She was, I think you’ll agree, held to a much higher standard than her opponent. Clinton was required to be near-perfect to be competitive whereas Trump only needed not to screw up too much. And that includes getting a pass for hurling abuse at Megyn Kelly, Pussygate and all the other cases of him being accused of groping and sexually assaulting women. That’s sexism, right there.

Emails? Puh-lease. Yes, not really sporty, but – as the FBI said, twice, nothing illegal. Trump on the other hand lied through his teeth regarding his taxes, was (and still is) on trial for swindling people out of their money with Trump university, was accused of not paying people for services rendered and flip-flopped on virtually every issue of importance, sometimes several times a day and it still didn’t matter. Clinton, on the other hand, changed her position once on the Pacific Trade Deal and got banged on the head forever.

In cahoots with them banksters? Maybe. But Steve Bannon is an ex-banker (as is Nigel Farage, by the way) and – nothing.

So yes, she wasn’t a stellar candidate. But neither was Trump. The difference being that he wasn’t a Clinton and he wasn’t a woman. Who’s to blame, then? Somehow you seem to believe it’s the Left and the media. Well, in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar: It’s a trap!

My working theory, however pedestrian it may sound is that Trump was elected by … drum-roll, please… the Republicans. In between your publishing the video and my writing this it has transpired that Hillary actually won the popular vote. By a fucking million votes. Had the Brexit vote (which you likewise blame on the Left and the media)  broken the same way, we’d still be “Prime minister Cameron” this, “Chancelor Osborne” that and your creator Tom Walker would get to keep the bits about both of them last June.

In the end it turned out that demographic groups that usually go Republican, well, went Republican. What is more, the demographic breakdown goes well along the lines of previous elections. The lower-income classes went for Clinton (surprised?) and suburban women went for Trump. It was a close election (at least I got that part right). The electoral college doesn’t show it, but there.

Basket of deplorables? Didn’t help, but didn’t matter, either. The irony is that by calling out his sexism, racism and misogyny, Clinton may have well emboldened the said element of Trump’s vote. As this thread notes, there is a breed of people, mostly young men who took to heart the image of 1950s America, segregated by class and colour, where everyone knew their place. But those votes would have gone to Trump, regardless.

What did Clinton do wrong? Paradoxically, it was the fact that she tried to talk to moderate Republicans, especially suburban women which were thought to be her “hidden votes”. No matter how hard she tried to appeal to their gender, their role in the society, their values even in the end none of that mattered. Class trumps gender. Pun very much intended.

So, talking. Talk to people who don’t agree with you, you say. You’ve no idea how much I agree. Safe spaces. Bob, what an abhorrent concept. Especially in the academia. Surely, issues need to be debated and conflicting view points heard. And yes, sometimes arguments get heated. A civilised and open society should be able to handle that. Admittedly, there are, in my opinion, grades to it, depending on clout and access available, but the basic principle holds. You can, however, talk as much as you like, if no-one wants to hear what you’ve to say, you lose. Case in point, again, suburban women. Or Jo Cox. Remember her? She tried to talk to people. About Brexit. We all know how that ended.

You see where I’m headed with this, right? Both sides in this argument (and for the sake of it, let us pretend there are only two sides in this argument) increasingly live in their own alternate realities. More and more we follow and propagate stories that strengthen our preconceptions rather than the ones that challenge them. Hence all the shouting (including yours) because no-one wants to hear otherwise.

But then again, isn’t accusing someone of retreating to safe-space a form of safe-space in itself? I mean, how can it be that “Killary Clinton” or “Trump that bitch!” is OK while “Fuckface von Clownstick” or “Groper-in-chief” is not? And while we’re on the issue, how is it that being called a “corporate stooge shilling for Hillary” or “libtard/leftard” (often both at the same time) constitutes free speech while calling someone a bigot over a bigoted statement constitutes hurling an insult? It takes an effort to break out of the bubble. And when you do, few people even acknowledge it. Because you’re not suppose to do that. Neither alt-right nor the alt-left want you to. They don’t really want you to talk to them.

They do want you to keep trying, though (cue Admiral Ackbar). Because spending your time and energy over-analysing yourself means less time and energy to do actual journalism. Or keeping the government to account. Or calling out lies and manipulations.

You see, mainstream media, for all their faults, performed quite admirably in this election cycle. OK, so maybe not all of them, since there was quite a difference between the TV networks which more or less served as Trump enablers at least throughout the primaries, but most certainly by the newspapers.

As Dave Pell notes here, the plight of the white working class was well documented in the mainstream US media over the years. The frosty relationship between the New York Times and the Clintons is a matter of public record. Sure, they got the polls wrong, but nearly everyone got the polls wrong. Whether the screw-up is with the media or with the pollsters still remains to be seen, but there is no denying there was some sort of Bradley effect going on. But as shown above, had a few thousand votes gone the other way, everyone would be bragging about just how fucking awesome their statistical model is.

That said, there is also talk about how quote-unquote mainstream media don’t really mater any-more. And there’s plenty of evidence to that effect. Expose Trump’s tax machinations? No dice. Pussygate? Likewise. Endorsements? Don’t make me laugh. Now, if the media don’t matter, just how exactly could they (we?) have caused this? You’re employing a bit of a double standard here, aren’t you?

And yet, the breitbarts of this world, both left and right would like you to believe that the mainstream media hold this enormous power which enables them to select the next president. And yet, evidence shows they can’t as much as they may think otherwise. But when that happens the fringe media will, for example say that Trump was elected in spite of mainstream media and in the next four years every time something won’t go according to his plans it will me the mainstream media’s fault.

Look. Both Brexit and President Trump are to a large extent protest votes by the people who lost out most over the last thirty to forty years. You could well make the case that the people at the bottom of Branko Milanovic’s Elephant Curve helped elect Trump and kick the UK out of the EU. But at the same time both were major political blunders and miscalculations by veteran politicians who chose to be too relaxed and to sure of themselves at a particularly wrong time.

It is, as you say. The moment you think he can’t do it is the moment he wins. But ultimately, at least in the case of US presidential elections it was the fact that the Democrats didn’t even bother to vote.

Which means that President Trump, just like Brexit is neither on the Left nor on the media. It is on the assholes who couldn’t be bothered to haul their asses to the voting booth and cast a vote. Period.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

13 thoughts on “Safespacing AF (thoughts on Jonathan Pie)”

  1. Well, isnt’ this convinient? We did nothing wrong, except loose againt the worst candidate in history. We just gave you compromized candidate and now are very dissapinted in all you voters, who didt’t want to settle for lesser evil. That is how disconnected elites talk. Even if Hillay would have won, the paroblem would stay the same.

  2. Nobody said anything about being disappointed in voters. The fact it that seven million Democrats stayed at home compared to 2012. For whatever reasons. Maybe they weren’t happy with Clinton. Maybe they held a grudge over Sanders. Maybe they thought she would win anyhow and didn’t bother.

    If you missed it, I did specifically agree with Pie’s statement that she should have been a better candidate. But the point I was trying to make, if it’s not clear is that it wasn’t the media and/or the Left in general that caused Trump to win but rather a combination of very mundane political and operational reasons on both sides in the contest and a clear case of double standards.

  3. Sorry, but I did understood “the assholes who couldn’t be bothered” as disappointment in those people. We should be asking why left failed to get them to vote and there are some good answers out there. The fact that Hillary lost to worst candidate ever, when it should’t even be close, demands serious introspection.
    Definitively I’m not buying misogyny argument. Racism and misogyny exist, but are not as prevalent as imagined. Obama managed to demonstrate that twice. Accusing Trump supporters of sexism (and racism,…) is convenient shortcut that alienates voters and misses serious discussion about issues. I’m actually proud of the fact that left/liberal side was, since always, held to higher standard on the truth and reason. But lately, as Pie pointed out, we are seeing some disturbing changes and people are not buying it.

  4. Never mistake your opinion for a fact. If Hillary were the worst candidate ever she would have never made it past the primaries. She was a good candidate but she should have been a better one. As for people who don’t vote, they’re assholes in my book. And it’s not as if there weren’t other candidates to choose from. These people simply stayed at home. Don’t vote, but don’t complain, either.

    As for the bigotry and double standards it is precisely the opposite of what you say: this is not skirting the issue, this *is* the issue. One of many, but an issue nevertheless. Why should it be ignored? If it were Bernie Sanders on the ticket and the Trump folk would hurl anti-Semitic remarks at him, would you still brush it off saying it doesn’t really matter and that we should debate the issues? Truth should not be a higher standard. Truth should be basic standard, which should apply to all contestants. But as it were, one of them got a pass after a pass while the other one was under constant pressure with her every move carefully examined. And the truth is that Hillary was deemed more capable in the area of economy and won the support of the lower-income classes. It’s in the text. So she definitely hit a chord with an important demographic. But there was a trade-off. Check out Milanović’s Elephant Curve. It’s in the text, too. But that’s not the entire electorate. It’s only a specific part of it, which may or may not have been crucial.

  5. I agree Hillary was better, maybe even good, candidate, but she lost to worst candidate ever (which in Trump). As I said, it should’t even be close. She should win easily. The fact that she didn’t, should make us all think long and hard, about everything that went wrong. I’m sure there are few easy answers and there are many factors at play. I just consider Pie’s contribution to debate very valuable.

  6. I understand. A lot of people feel like you do. And as I said, he has some good points. About 1/3 of them are valid, I said on Twitter. The rest are there just to fill time an the anger-factor.

    (EDIT) As for the elex being close: The basic premise of US presidential elections is that candidates of both major parties will get 40-45 percent of the vote even if the parties nominate a cardboard cut-out, such is the partisanship in the country. And anything above a 5% difference in a national vote is considered a blow-out. So this was always going to be close, regardless.

  7. You are forgetting that a lot of the DNC primaries were actually closed primaries where only registered democrats were allowed to vote. Also, there were a lot of irregularities in their organization, that’s why Debbie Schultz was criticized so much and lost her job. If everyone was actually allowed to vote on the primaries, Bernie would have won with a landslide.

  8. Well, since it *was* a Democratic primary it sort of makes sense that only Democrats get to vote, no? I mean, they were selecting a nominee for the party, right? Debbie Schulz (rightfuly) lost her job because she wasn’t impartial and oftentimes sided with Clinton (a lifelong Democrat) as not with Bernie who joined the party only months before the primaries. These are, in any case, handled by each state’s party and not by the central HQ. Also, rules were known in advance and complaining about the primaries after Bernie lost is the same as some Democratic supporters now complaining about how supposedly unfair the Electoral College is. Those were the rules and they were observed. Period. Any changes will be valid for the next electoral cycle.

  9. For once I disagree with you across the board, Peng. Faced with the choice the US population was provided with during this election, I doubt I would have been able to swallow the bile and bring myself to vote for Clinton. Guess that would put me in your sexist asshole category, which is convenient, but ultimately serves no purpose as regards understanding what went wrong and how to right it in future. Also, let us not forget to mention that Clinton and the DNC actively colluded to ensure Sanders wouldn’t win the primary.

  10. Actually, it would have put you in “just assholes” category for not voting, so that’s not so bad 😉

    I’d like to believe that I pointed out what went wrong and that Clinton and her campaign are far from blameless. But to be dismissive of sexism in this campaign (in general, not just directed at her) is to ignore the elephant in the room.

    As for Sanders: Yes, HRC and DNC colluded. Unnecesarily, in my opinion. And I still maintain that The Bern would get beaten by a larger margin. Because demographics.

    P.S.: Extremely good to hear from you. You have been missed 🙂

  11. Everyone’s invoking the sexism argument, it’s hardly the elephant in the room. Sure sexism abounds, but is it that much stronger than racism? If Clinton had been a better (change) female candidate with the same powerful machinery behind her would she still have lost? How did Obama win?

    Not sure what you mean by “because demographics” either – many polls claim otherwise (not that those matter any more, but the argument is just as strong as “because demographics”). I’m not claiming Bernie would have won; all I’m saying is that he didn’t lose the primary – it’s more accurate to say that he wasn’t allowed to win it, so your argument on this point is a tad dishonest.

    PS: good to be back. Life gets in the way.

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