Why the mask?

So, earlier PZ posted a picture that has been widely shared around the internet, this one, from a Michigan protest:

Michigan Ohio protest photo, with protestor wearing Guy Fawkes mask in the 2nd rank of persons pushing at the door of the Michigan Ohio capitol building.

While I was over reading Wonkette (where I first encountered this photo) someone asked a question to people generally about why such a protestor would wear a Guy Fawkes mask unknown in the United States until the movie V for Vendetta, especially given the peculiar situation in the fictional setting was so different from that of the present day United States. (For later clarity, the movie was referred to as the “normal context” of the Guy Fawkes mask for Americans by the person asking the question).  I actually took some time to think about and respond to it, and thought people here might be interested in reading what I wrote over there…

I think it’s like this: the “normal context” of that mask in the USA doesn’t come from Guy Fawkes Day celebrations, but rather from the movie (no, not the comic book) V for Vendetta. In the movie, V is portrayed as a superhero, a Batman-like figure. He is immune to pain because of damage previously done to him. He’s smart as a Batman. He has effectively infinite resources, gadgets, money, etc. And, finally, he has his secret V-Cave.

But V doesn’t set himself to clearing the streets of common criminals, no. The streets are already cleared of them by the fascist government that enforces curfew. V is after the fascist government itself. By attacking secret policemen and other targets of special privilege inside the government V (again, like Batman) inspires fear in the people who make up the government.

Now, we could take a turn here and talk about how the disease in the movie is caused by the government and the crisis is then used to impose fascism. We could point out that even in the movie the quarantine wasn’t the problem but that the government used the time of the quarantine to achieve its fascist ends. And, of course, we could point out that the governors are only doing the quarantining, and it’s Trump who is actually using fear of disease to increase his own power in myriad ways, from stealing states’ own supplies to asserting infinite executive power including the power to (temporarily) dissolve a Congress.

But ignore all that for a moment, because we want to know why this idiot wears the mask, not what motivates the protest more generally (which the idiot could attend without a mask).

In the movie, only V is superhuman, but because he wears a mask that is already well-known and mass-produced, anyone can get hold of V’s costume, and if they walk down the street wearing that costume, the government officials terrorized by V will be equally terrified by the random wearer of V’s costume … at least until someone shoots the normal person and they don’t go all super-human fascist-stomper.

So from the point of view of a random normal person in the movie who dons Guy Fawkes’ face, the point of wearing the mask is to cause someone else to be afraid.

And I think for this person the most important point is exactly the same. Though also I think the idiot thinks that wearing the mask somehow makes the wearer “cool”. But that’s secondary. Lots of things could make you cool. This mask is intended to make others afraid.

In the movie, V tried to target the fear, but there’s no denying that the average Security Bear in the final scene was very afraid. To make V heroic they had to play up the fear of the most powerful and play down the fears of every day contributors to the functioning of the government. How could the unemployment clerk know that V wouldn’t target the unemployment office? The clerk couldn’t. V, even if bringing down the fascist fictional Brittain was a good goal, acted like a terrorist. He acted deliberately to inspire fear, to terrorize. And the movie made that seem cool, because in fiction land we don’t have to deal with unintended, undesired consequences. The writers just skip that part and move on.

And so… V for Vendetta, in the midst of a post-9/11 world that appears to uniformly condemn terrorism, provides seemingly the only cultural reference that permits the possibility of the good-guy terrorist, the cool terrorist. There is a reason why the right wing calls every mildly-left wing proposal tyranny. They were raised with the KKK as heroes, able to kill others just for wanting to vote while the wrong race or the wrong party. They’re nursed on dreams of ethnic cleansing and genocide, looking forward to the time when they reestablish a permanent theocracy or permanent white ethno-state. But denying people the right to vote isn’t cool anymore. The right to murder racial others no longer inheres to white skin.

Some of them tone down their dreams. They gerrymander. They call vote-by-mail corrupt. They pass new voter ID laws during a fucking pandemic when the DMV isn’t open to provide new IDs.

But predictably, some of them yearn for the days when terrorizing others was cool. In a time when the USA has gone out of its way to erase distinctions between freedom fighters resisting occupiers and “aggressive” terrorists who launch violence from behind a wall of privilege, when the USA itself denies that bombing weddings and fruit-pickers on siesta might have a terrorizing effect since it was done while wearing the flag, V for Vendetta is the only model the alt-right has of the popular terrorist.

And they yearn, they yearn existentially both to create fear in their enemies and to be popular, not the pathetic and fringe movement that they are.

So idiots like this wear the mask, not to fight fascism. They don’t know what that is, and don’t oppose fascism itself anyway.

Idiots like this wear the mask to be the bully, to be king of the elementary school again for just a moment, to inspire fear and worship. In a word, to be awesome.

Idiots like this wear the mask because they are terrorists.

Edited Above: Corrected erroneous protest location, replacing mentions of Michigan’s capital with Ohio’s.

Presented (Almost) Without Comment: Wonkette’s Warren Wonketeer Has An Idea

Go. Read the whole thing. But if you are thinking that maybe you don’t really want to travel all the way over there, uphill, in the snow, read this much here:

imagine if the antisocial friends we have online decided to stop being antisocial. What if, and I mean this very seriously, the Chapo boys decided to put on their Little Lord Fauntleroy breeches, and discover their inner Eddie Haskells, and began to check themselves for “politeness” before they addressed a Warren person — or a Bidener, or a Klobucharerer, or a Mayor Pete fan (name people in their movement have been really gross about Mayor Pete) — and began asking themselves, “DOES THIS HELP MY MOVEMENT? COULD I PERSUADE SOME SQUARES WITH SEXY NICENESS?”

Because for all you sneer that “oh mean words matter more than people dying from lack of healthcare?” well, what matters more to you: Getting to say mean words, or people dying from lack of healthcare?

You don’t even have to mean it. You can secretly wish that we all die or get raped or whatever (I hope you don’t wish that, but some of y’all seem to), but out loud, you police yourself and your brothers and sisters: Does. this. help. our movement?

Anyway, that is my idea, and I mean it, and I hope you guys decide to be heroes for your guy, and sacrifice a little of the bile it feels so wonderful to vent. I understand about bile! I promise!

You could give it a stupid name, like the one I came up with already: Grander for Sanders. Find a Warren supporter. Grab her by the arm and help her across the street, metaphorically. I don’t know, offer to wash her lawn or mow her cat.

Because the nihilism is keeping you at a 30 percent ceiling. Chasing off new people is keeping you at a 30 percent ceiling. Coming in hot like Lt. Calley is keeping you at a 30 percent ceiling. Sheeit, shitting on fellow travelers like the fucking democratic socialists at Wonkette is keeping you at a 30 percent ceiling. I know lots of one-time Berners considering a Biden vote, because Biden’s people aren’t emotional terrorists.

And once you start faking niceness, you might find you like it.

It’s a choice! You could make it!

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Let’s Trash Sanders for Not Being Perfect, Just For A Minute

So Mano Singham has a post up celebrating Bernie Sanders’ recent interview answer on Medicare for All. I agree it’s good, and I agree folks should head over to Mano’s blog and watch it.

But I can’t help wishing it was even better. I want a politics that stirs my soul. There are reasons why The West Wing included only short snippets of fictional president Bartlett’s political speeches. It’s because there must be information communicated. There must be exposition. It cannot all be rousing climax. We need Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, my two favorite candidates, and the others running for the Democratic nomination to talk about Lancet studies and age limits, coverage categories and copays, bills and billions. But we also desperately need leaders to raise our hopes, to show us that they cherish our dreams as much as we do ourselves.

Sanders was asked a question about an actor’s guild member. I have some small idea of how tough it is to qualify for the union, to qualify for guild membership because I actually acquired a couple equity points decades ago. I worked hard on a number of shows, and I was never close to joining the union. So I’m no actor, but I can sympathize with the person who asked the question recognizing that M4A is good for the uninsured but wanting some recognition that some people had fought hard to get their coverage and wanting to know what M4A would do for them.

Watching Sanders give his answer, I wish he would have said something about the Actor’s journey to get health insurance.

I wish he would have asked the actor, “Do you know anyone who had to take a non-acting job for the health benefits?” The answer would certainly be yes. Then Sanders could have said,

Everyone recognizes that our scattershot, private insurance system costs a lot of dollars, but have you factored in the cost of giving up your dreams? What if you had gotten sick shortly before gaining enough equity points to join your union? How many people can’t afford to try to reach the heights to which they’re capable of climbing if only they were free to do so? I can tell you how many dollars our current system costs and how many dollars we will save with Medicare For All – and I’ll get to those numbers in a minute – but what is the cost in dreams abandoned? You think we’re a great country now? You just wait until we free the people of the united states to pursue their happiness, to pursue their dreams. The value we will create cannot be counted.

 

The Media Are Useless Teaser: Steve Adler

i want to write about some quotes that Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and the Guardian US (GUS) collected from US journalism movers and shakers. The quotes are supposed to be about what the media did wrong in their 2016 election (especially presidential election) coverage. In practice, most of them aren’t about that. It’s sad, really, that communication professionals can’t even stick to the topic. Yet other aspects of what they said was far worse than merely undisciplined topic-wandering.

As I was writing about the larger series of quotes, I found myself writing a huge amount about just one. It’s far too much for a piece that analyzes trends throughout the quotes – it would bias the feel of the piece, making it feel less a piece about trends and more a piece about that one guy and some peripheral junk. So I’m dropping this preview of the other piece where I’m just shoving everything I wrote about that one guy: Steve Adler, the Editor In Chief of Reuters. Allow this to whet your appetite for the later piece.


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The libs who cried wolf: a cautionary tail

Unreasonable libs: “Wolf!”

Reasonable centrist: “Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. But he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. Give it time”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf, but he ran on being an outsider and disclosing code-word intelligence to the Russians and hiring a literal, actual foreign agent as National Security Advisor, well, that’s pretty outsider-stuff. No insider would do that. But it’s still the first 100 days, give him a chance to become presidential.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. And it is bad for the country and bad for democracy when he calls innocent people traitors, labels the press “enemies of the people” and makes himself synonymous with the country and, by extension, his personal interests synonymous with the country’s interests. But he told us he’s not the usual politician, so he’s just being true to his nature. No need to get worked up.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. He’s racked up a history of dishonesty unparalleled in US political history. But with that canine brain I don’t think he even actually understands that he’s lying. He just says he’s grandma to get a better chance to eat you, or because his wolf-nature doesn’t understand normal human communication and social reality. We can’t hold that against him, can we? It’s not like he’s maliciously lying.”

“Wolf!”

“Yeah, you’re right. He’s definitely a wolf. He’s definitely abused his office and committed offenses that are surely comparable to those that sparked Nixon’s impeachment, but I got to tell you, you never learned the lesson of that story, ‘The boy who cried wolf’ did you? We would have been able to remove him from office if you hadn’t gone and sacrificed your credibility crying ‘Wolf!’ repeatedly for three years.”

 

 

For the Billionaires Bad at Math

As others have noted, Bill Gates had a bit of a minor freakout about Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax, admitting that he doesn’t know how much he would have to pay and seemingly begrudged having to do the math.

Well, never let it be said that Warren is not the billionaire’s friend. She has subsequently released a tax calculator for billionaires. The results are beauteous to behold.

It starts in the obvious way:

Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax calculator starts with the obvious question: Are you a billionaire?

Step one: Are you a billionaire?

Go! Now! Make up a net worth and see how much you would be taxed.

They Satirize Themselves

From the blog of a (seemingly) genuine gun-fondler and Trump devotee:

Pooh & Piglet Find The Best in the US Constitution

Seriously: there’s no reason to buy the guns except that they’re allowed? Joining the NRA when we know that they most probably broke laws on a massive scale to let Russians help determine the outcome of a US election?  It’s hard to believe this is serious, and yet the original blogger certainly seemed sincere.

 

 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wins

A while back Mano posted about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a younger woman running against an establishment Democrat (also the 20-year incumbent) in the NY-14th’s primary. For a number of reasons her candidacy was considered a minor referendum on the DNC’s willingness to run away from its base in selecting and supporting candidates.

Ocasio-Cortez was given little chance of winning, but win she did. The real questions now are, will the DNC take any lesson away from the loss of Rep. Joseph Crowley in this primary, and if so, what will they learn? Vox’s commentary on the race concludes with this bit:

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Holy Freuding Freud, Alabama: Your Court Elections Are Partisan?

First off, have I mentioned that I love The Root generally, and Michael Harriot specifically? Well, it and he have a new article up about the man republicans have nominated to run for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

The focus?

The man who could replace Roy Moore as the next chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court is a lot like Moore—only more racist and homophobic.

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