Hell is Hope Hicks

As you may already be aware, the NY Times just published an Maggie Haberman essay on Hope Hicks’ most recent dilemma: should she break the law (again) or should she obey the requirements of a congressional subpoena?

The NY Times and Haberman advertised the article on twitter this way:

Now, some took issue with the glamour photo shoot that the Times commissioned for this piece. To the extent that criticism has any validity, it’s not about merely displaying a photo of Hope Hicks, it’s about the fact that they clearly spent significant resources in order to craft an artificial image that comports with Haberman’s editorial depiction of this former Trump aide (and those critiques that mentioned the photo without including this more detailed objection run the risk of communicating an anti-feminist message that what is important in media coverage of women is the photo shot editors choose to run). The lavishing of resources emphasizes the PR function of this effort; it is, in short, not a news story.

And yet, this wasn’t featured in the Times’ lifestyle section. It was featured in “Politics” which, when it is not overt opinion (which should be confined to the OP/ED pages anyway), is supposed to be news. So what is the news story here?

That leads us to the other criticism that many have already made: choosing to comply or not comply with a legal order is not an existential question any more than choosing to print up a few million dollars’ worth of counterfeit bills. Both lawyers and philosophers (mainly ethicists) took issue with this ridiculous and inaccurate description, so it’s not surprise that I, too, found it risible. The philosophers mainly focussed on the misuse of “existential questions” in a way that Sartre would have found condemnably ignorant even if it did tend to validate his assertion, “Hell is other people.” The lawyers had a different take, not so much emphasizing the “existential” part, but focussing rather more on the “question” part. One lawyer, Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly), put it this way:

Most existential questions have no clear answer. What is my purpose in life? What happens after I die? Is there a higher power guiding my destiny? Does my dog have a soul?

Other “existential questions,” however, are answered by 2 U.S.C. §§ 192 & 194. Compliance is mandatory.

Yet, despite my laughter when I read that and my sympathy to those who would call out the Times for bad philosophy and bad law, my most significant problem with this story and the promotional tweet is neither of those. Instead, read this tweet from Sam Wang @SamWangPhd:

“Should a federal employee obey a lawful order, or stay loyal to an individual? Here at @nytpolitics, we can’t say. It’s just all a partisan game! We’re not going to make a value judgment! We have great portrait photographers though.”

The NY Times isn’t doing something new in this story. They are treating compliance with the law as entirely optional for the rich and well connected even as other stories, say, stories about a famous woman who went to jail for defying a subpoena, don’t include the same PR efforts or gosh, who can say whether it’s fair that someone obey a subpoena support for lawlessness as the Hope Hicks profile.

The Times is doing what the times always does: it’s opposing accountability for the rich and powerful who have the most motive and opportunity to destroy US democracy, while insisting on strict accountability for those who break the law in a principled stand on behalf of what they believe to be a necessary resistance to the subversion or destruction of democracy. Thoreau-like, I can believe that Manning subscribes to the maxim

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.”

But the proper response for those of us on the outside is not to scream, “Yeah, lock her up!” at democracy’s defenders and, “Let’s all sympathize with the lawless,” as they attack that democracy. Believing that we have reached the point where the true place for a just trans person is in prison is not to believe we have accomplished something wonderful that must be perpetuated.

The anti-democratic limits on acceptable discourse accepted and propounded by the Times must be opposed. The Times and Haberman and her editors are not worthless and thus irrelevant. The magnitude of this mess is only appreciated by accepting that the Times has an impact on the policies and practices of justice (and other things) and have great value to those that benefit from advancing the Times’ skewed view of proper accountability. Ignoring the Times is not a principled and logical and effective way to deal with their anti-democratic trolling. Instead, the Times must be countered each and every time they embrace the ideology of an accountability-free elite. We must never forget that the Times isn’t portraying the Trump administration as wise and sympathetic philosophers because they are working honestly or even diligently to divine the best possible response to problems of Gordian convolution and unsolvability. The upper ranks of the Times (including Haberman and her editors) are portraying the Trump administration as wise and sympathetic philosophers because they, too, believe themselves better off in a world without accountability for the US elite.

This ideology must be opposed wherever it presents itself.

 


Although I originally titled this “Hell is Hope Hicks” I later thought that perhaps it would be better titled, “Hell is the New York Times”. Ultimately I decided not to change it, though there are certainly reasonable critiques of making Hicks the focus of the title when the main critique is not of Hicks’ disdain for the law (which exists and is critiqued in passing), but instead the NY Times advocacy of disdain for the law – or at least advocacy for the idea that we must consider disdain for the law to be a reasonable position which might be reasonably held by reasonable people in a democracy.

Old News I Missed: Cops have placed the Punisher skull on patrol cars

This is from two years ago, though I didn’t see it at the time. Apparently the Blue Lives Matter movement created any number of mind-bogglingly awful logos and graphics, and at least some of them incorporated the stylized skull used as a personal symbol by the fictional Marvel comic and television character The Punisher.

If you don’t already know: The Punisher is not a good guy. He’s a former marine who now treats every crime as an act of war, and responds in kind. It never occurs to him that his wars might not make communities safer, that even if he targets bad guys war on the streets is bad for good guys and bad even for normal, non-noble but non-evil human beings. He is a man of blood and battle, a torturer and a murderer, and the embodiment of all the ideas that good is defined by its hatred of evil, that men are defined violently imposing their will over others, and, of course, that intent is magic. So, naturally, cops in the US think he’s the greatest.

Just check out those cars mentioned in the title:

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Do you have to know the constitution if you’re just a member of congress? Devin Nunes asks Hannity to hold his beer.

That’s rights, transfolks and boring people, it’s another post about everyone’s favorite lawsuit, Devin Nunes’ US$250 million defamation complaint against Twitter, Liz Mair, Devin Nunes’ Mother, and Devin Nunes’ Cow. One of the things I plan to dive into later is that US$250 million figure. It’s all compensatory damages, and it is a major violation of every bar association’s code of conduct to file anything with the court that a lawyer knows to be false. In certain circumstances it can also be a violation if a lawyer should have known something to be false. There’s a case to be made here that Nunes’ lawyer should have his license suspended or revoked.

But what if you’re not the lawyer. What if your day job is a mere member of congress? Should you really be expected to know the law as a member of congress? Probably not all the law, but maybe a bit of constitutional law? Is asking our legislators to know a bit about the constitution asking a wee bit too much?

Oh, probably. But I’m in an asking mood.

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Steve Bannon Engaged in Sex Robot Congress, But Pulls Out Early

I’m not sure which that headline evoked more: fun or emesis. Nonetheless, Bannon was engaged as a speaker for the 4th annual Sex & Love with Robots Congress or something like that. However, the notoriety of the event was costing Bannon other speaking gigs. Bannon will not now be speaking, and the entire “Congress” has been canceled. However, it has been suggested that Bannon pulled out even before the cancelation.

In any case, quite a number of people are now talking about this – frequently tittering as they do. One take is at RawStory.

Accountability Is The ONLY Radical Idea: Oh, and look what we have here!

I’ve been saying for years now that accountability is the only radical idea. You can propose single payer health care, you can propose shutting down entire federal agencies, you can propose a post-racial, post-sexual orientation society where everyone gets randomly assigned sex partners for 6 days before sex partners are randomly reassigned for the next 6 days, but nothing about any of those ideas is radical unless there are actual consequences for failing to implement them.

You can have the most hare-brained scheme proposed by the most hairy-eyed word-bomb thrower*1, but hare-brained schemes tend not to get actual implementation, and when things get hard, people will give up unless the consequences for giving up are worse than the consequences for moving forward.

So think about it: which would produce more screaming about radical change, a US president saying that they’re working on a proposal to tighten the laws and increase the penalties for white collar crimes, or a US president restructuring the justice department’s priorities so that no laws are changed, no new crimes are created, but every time a company is found to have committed a crime, the justice department actually sends the people that run the company to jail for conspiracy to commit that crime? ShearsonLehman defrauds investors and profits to the tune of US$12 billion, then negotiates with the feds to reduce the financial penalty down to US$250 million? Okay. That sucks. We’re incentivizing lawbreaking right? But if the top 200 corporate officers each spend a minimum of 12 years in prison, that’s a fuck of a lot more incentive for ShearsonLehman not to break the law going forward than the profit is an incentive to break the law. Also, when fucking EVERYONE involved in the conspiracy goes to jail, you get a fuckload more whistleblowers because they don’t want to be the least powerful person in the conspiracy, with no way to stop the fraud from getting too brazen, but with just as much criminal culpability as the persons at the very top of the corporation. The net result is a hell of a lot more effective than adding new penalties to some dusty book of laws without ever providing a credible threat than any executives will face any consequences at all.

Accountability, then, is the ultimate – and ultimately the only – radical idea. This is also why accountability is as rare as a mountain-dwelling tree wearing a tricorn and denying the existence of the FSM in front of CNN’s cameras on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

But wouldn’t you know it, while NBC isn’t willing to create actual structures of accountability, it appears that they’re actually going ahead with a little accountability mimicry. And not just NBC, but apparently at least one talent agency as well. “What’s that?” you ask. “What is our fair Crip Dyke on about?” It is just this: Megyn Kelly has been mutually dumped by her current talent-rep agency, and while apparently there has been a movement towards separation for a while now, the agency that Kelly was courting for her next monagentous relationship called off the engagement. You want more? Kelly’s ultimate boss, NBC News Chair Andy Lack, has made it clear he’s kicking her to the curb.

“But accountability mimicry?” you say. “Dear Crip Dyke, wouldn’t this be actual accountability?” I understand the inclination to think so, but that’s not exactly likely. If you read the article, NBC has been upset with Kelly about ratings, they’ve been upset about her insensitivity pissing off her guests in ways that created bad publicity for the show, and most of all they’ve been upset because – with notable exceptions during discussions of Kavanaugh and the guys to whom she wants to show actual favoritism – she repeatedly returns to the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace and expresses the opinion that guys should get fired for that shit. Of particular note, she has criticized NBC personalities and the NBC brass – including, yes, Andy Lack – for an environment in which sexual harassment is allowed to flourish. Andy Lack might be particularly upset about that last one because it comes across as actually being true, given all the evidence and shit.

So now when Megyn Kelly decides to rant about how blackface is just a jolly-happy-funtime and can’t we all just agree to let a little racism slide between whites, the outrage among many people around the country is certainly genuine, and the outrage among prominent Black presenters on NBC is probably genuine, but there are good reasons to question whether consequences imposed by management are actually motivated by her racism. This may not be accountability so much as backstabbing, revenge, and an effort to secure impunity for sexual harassers and the managers who enable them.

Nonetheless, I say celebrate. Break open that juice box and take a good, hard suck at that straw, because when people get fired on the pretext of their racism, sooner or later the 300 million people who aren’t following inside politics at the big media companies are going to think that racism is an actual fireable offense. This is a classic example of the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon unintentional performativity. Performativity is a concept most frequently associated with feminist Judith Butler, and is intended to describe acts that create the truths they portray. Someone who has no wife, but who tells your friendly, neighborhood Crip Dyke, “I take you as my wife,” may very well (if certain preconditions are met) actually gain a wife by saying those words. Performativity is especially important in the Butlerian analysis of gender where a person say, “I am a woman,” far less frequently using actual language as such a person might do by brushing on some eye shadow or donning a dress. And, in performing gender in this way, one may very well become a woman at least for the purposes of how others will treat you on that day. But here’s the thing, if one does that often enough, then one gets treated as a woman with regularity, and in being treated as a woman with regularity, the psychological and sociological traits that adhere to women eventually adhere to the person performing womanhood. At that point, one might be said to have become a woman through performing womanhood and the performativity cycle, though much longer than even a wedding, is finally complete.

In the case of unintentional performativity, one can accidentally initiate this cycle. Of course, it’s not actually peformativity if the performance does not eventually create the reality, so unintentional performativity is not a one-off. It must actually begin or continue a pattern that eventually creates the reality it depicts.

Let me be clear: I do not think that NBC is getting rid of Kelly because of her racism. However, taking advantage of her racism to fire someone that NBC dislikes for other reasons requires making the case that it is reasonable to fire someone for their racism. Moreover, Kelly has a contract which is guaranteed unless she is fired for a sufficiently serious cause. So if NBC really wants to keep their money, and/or if they really want to hurt Kelly (the latter being the more likely motive), they have to make the case that it is not only reasonable to fire someone for a defense of blackface, but that it is unreasonable not to fire someone for such statements.

NBC, then, while clearly anti-accountability judging by the tolerance they showed to Matt Lauer and others, is going to be making the public case that those who use prominent media positions to spread racism must always be fired. We may suspect that an institution like NBC with its history of tolerating sexism and racism has other motives, but in portraying racism as a fireable offense, NBC is making racism a fireable offense.

Make no mistake, this is a feud between different members of the wealthy and powerful, and none of those directly involved actually want accountability for the wealthy and powerful. And yet, what today begins as mere consequence will someday become the outcome of accountability.

Today is a very, very good day.


*1: One of my favorite commenting pseudonyms in the ever!

This Is Your Megyn Kelly On Blackface

Truly political correctness has gone amok!

says Megyn Kelly, political savant terrible hosting NBC’s Today show. What is the great calamity this time? Well, universities’ fascist policing of student behavior, of course!

Okay, but what, precisely, today, is so much more fascist than universities’ behavior on other days? Megyn Kelly lets us know:

There are strict rules on what you may and may not wear issued by someone who thinks they’re the boss of you.

Oh, joy, this sounds fun! What are the rules? Who are the horrible victims here? Could it be white people? Why, yes! Yes it could!

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Ah, Easter Eggs Almost Make Jesus Worth It

So I’m watching the second season of Jessica Jones last night – for various reasons I didn’t watch it when it came out – and I finish the first episode and have time so I dive into the 2nd. As is her gig, Jones is investigating something. She gets hold of someone else’s computer (or tablet or whatever – I think it was a touch screen + a keyboard & I’m not sure what that is anymore) and is scrolling through the comments they’ve left on a site. When she focuses in on one, you can see the comment immediately above it, indented and obviously on a different topic. In that comment, redleader is responding to AliasJewel. That’s fun enough. But the actual body of the comment was

Douglas Adams is underrated as a philosopher IMO!

I had to giggle.

 

Okay, who watched the Doctor Who premiere?

I will not provide direct spoilers in this post, but I assume that anyone commenting will be people who have watched DWs11e01, so consider this your spoiler warning for every single comment in this thread and also considered yourself hint-warned, if not spoiler-warned, for the rest of the body of this post.

Right. Allons-y!

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Whittaker. There’s a bit of the crazy that Tennant brought to the role, but it’s toned down a bit, so it’s not as if I’m looking forward to a Doctor with quite the same manic energy. On the other hand, adding more detail to the tinkerer/ inventor aspects of the Doctor seemed to be something within reach of the character, but perhaps not as emphasized in the past. That could be something unique brought to Whittaker’s Doctor. In the meantime, the Dramatic Monologue™ in the Big Dramatic Moment™ seemed a transparent restatement of what the creators of the new series hope to bring to the show. I also can’t decide putting those words in the Doctor’s mouth was really, really cool, or just too meta.

Grace is a complete delight. The train scene was fantastic, and obviously she has many qualities that make her someone to admire, respect, or just fantasize about being when you grow up.

I like Grandpa/Graham – they had to work a white guy into the show, and I’m pleased with this iteration. Of course, like all the characters, he still needs some fleshing out, but that’s fine. We’ve got a whole season (series for your Brits) ahead of us.

Yaz is my favorite new character, at least so far, even though I think that the producers seem to be expecting Ryan to be our empathetic entree into the world of the Doctor (I say that based on narration that occurred at the beginning & end of the episode).

Anyway, who else saw the episode, and what did you think?