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!

Plausible Theory Wednesday: Donald Trump Sent Bombs To Political Enemies

I feel compelled to note that evidence has not yet ruled out the theory that Trump ordered close family members to send bombs to prominent elected democrats, democratic fundraisers, and media outlets Trump considers unfriendly. The theory that Trump did so in order to assassinate political opponents and usher in a permanent Presidential revolution must be the subject of investigation.

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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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NYTimes: Kavanaugh’s nomination would have been defeated if only some survivors stayed silent

So, the NY Times has a theory which is theirs: Julia Swetnick’s sworn statement is responsible for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. From the article:

The Republican senators got into a lengthy conversation about Mr. Avenatti and how he could not be trusted and concluded that Ms. Swetnick’s claims did not add up. Why would she as a college student repeatedly go to high school parties where young women were gang raped? No one came forward to corroborate the allegation, and news reports surfaced about past lawsuits in which Ms. Swetnick’s truthfulness was questioned.

“This was a turning point,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That allegation was so over the top, it created a moment that was scary, quite frankly. But that moment was quickly replaced by disgust.”

… One Republican congressional official called Mr. Avenatti’s involvement “manna from heaven.” From the other side, a Democratic congressional official called it “massively unhelpful.”

So there you have it: don’t go to the wrong parties, if you’re going to be raped, make sure that you have sympathetic witnesses, and if you hire the wrong lawyer, then when justice doesn’t happen, it’s your fault. Of course, they don’t actually identify even one yes vote by someone who would have voted against Kavanaugh if only Swetnick had shut up like a good girl, much less the two that would have been necessary to change the outcome. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is don’t speak up, unless you speak up a little bit, politely, about things that are appropriate dinner table conversation. Otherwise when injustice happens, it’s on you. Because goodness knows that if women were just encouraged to shut the fuck up a little bit harder, we wouldn’t have a perjurer and probable sexual assault perp sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

So if you’re thinking about speaking up about the assault that happened to you, think again: you’re probably just making things worse. Our newspaper of record has said so.

Bad Journalism 101: Perverted Motels Edition

Content Note: Child Sex Abuse

So, we here in my head are, as you might expect from the title of this blog, quite interested in both perverts and perversion. We believe that our blog name can and should be interpreted in 2 ways:

  1. Perverts deserve justice in the same way non-perverts deserve justice, and
  2. The course of justice must sometimes be perverted, that is redirected from what in the past had been considered the just outcome. After all, every major advance in justice has been denounced as a perversion of justice by someone.

But despite our interest in these topics, we never expected to have to defend motels from non-consensual obscene photography. Yet, apparently there is such a need. The following is an actual quote from Rawstory:

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Rush Limbaugh: Sharknado is Real!

I kid you not, Rush Limbaugh fell for a satire article about oncoming Hurricane Florence, discussing it on air (and retweeting it? – I can’t find the source on that) to let his followers know that sharks

are being lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm because it’s so strong it’s sucking them in there.

The longer version might be even more laughable:

In addition to the pig manure, in addition to the slop, in addition to the floods, in addition to the cars rolling around on the waters in front of your house, in addition to the mudslides and the landslides, now you might end up with a shark in your front yard. I’m telling you right — you think I’m making this up? This appeared somewhere!

Yes. It appeared in the prestigious Pulitzer Prize-winning media outlet, “somewhere”. Oh, Rush.

Bizarrely, after asserting the sharks might end up in your front yard, he later added:

Of course the only water that might contain sharks would be storm surge. It isn’t going to be raining sharks. And that’s — The predominant water source in a hurricane is rainfall.

How sharks are being “lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm” without ever leaving the oceanic waters is a conundrum, surely. But if anyone can find a way to make a dumb “Sharknado is real!” fake news story even dumber, rest assured that Rush is the one to accomplish that feat.

EnlightenmentLiberal Improved My Thinking and Writing

So just a few days ago I wrote a piece titled, “You are not the hero.” I thought I was pretty clear that the problem was that the author of the NYTimes anonymous op-ed about resisting Trump’s orders was being lionized by many in the media, including FtB-friend Ed Brayton (with whom I normally agree).

Enlightenment Liberal came along and wrote a comment to that post that made me uncomfortable. Where I thought I’d been clear, EL expressed disagreement that I should believe every Trump employee has a duty to resign. While we had a short back-and-forth and realized we were in agreement, I wondered why that wasn’t clear already and re-read my piece. There are many times when I write something long, but that includes definitive statement X, only to be told that I believe or assert Not-X. Since I’m pretty careful with my writing, I expected that probably I had been clear and that EL just misread a long-winded post.

But that’s not what I found. In addition to using a vague word “situation” to sum up a few things about the author and the media’s treatment of the author that really should have been spelled out, there was also something important yet entirely missing. Although I took it for granted that an important part of the context is that it’s actually been the Republicans who fetishize rule of law at the national level (and have done at least since Nixon), I realized on re-reading that I hadn’t included that bit of context anywhere in my original post and others wouldn’t take it for granted.

See, here’s the thing: although I would have been mildly irked with anyone of any party being lionized in this circumstance, the depth of my feeling, the true source of my outrage, was that someone who is clearly a powerful person in the Republican party is clearly going to the media to seek not only absolution but also praise for disobeying the law and the lawful orders of the President whose orders that person – if working in the Executive – is bound to follow.

My contempt for, e.g., the author’s co-optation of the term “resistance” in this particular political moment where resistance means something very different than supporting the caging of children but opposing withdrawal from a bi-lateral trade agreement with South Korea is an integral part of my perspective on the lionization of the op-ed author. Slacktivist author Fred Clark captured well the particular flavors of the editorial that were responsible for my reaction to the media’s lionization of the op-ed author:

All of which means that this op ed reads less like an indictment of the president than the feckless defense of some Vichy functionary desperately trying to save his neck by pretending after the fact that he’d been a subversive saboteur all along. (h/t to Jenora Feuer)

I do think that it would be good if every single person currently on the White House staff along with every single senate-confirmed appointee originally nominated by Trump turned in resignations in a rapidly cascading event that left Trump alone in the White House without even anyone to answer the phones or process paperwork to hire new staff. I think that would be glorious. Yet I also don’t think that everyone who needs a paycheck should be ethically required to quit their jobs.

There’s a clear focus to my opposition to the media treatment of this editorial, and it’s dependent on seeing the contradictions between the power to further policies within the government (which the author maintains and embraces, praising the majority of Trump’s agenda) and the powerlessness of a functionary to a mad king (which the author employs rhetorically to absolve, through the ambiguity of anonymity, every single not-President person working in the Executive Branch), as well as the contradictions between the fetishization of rule-of-law to the extent that the right demonizes people with the entirely legitimate view that the 2nd Amendment does not deny the government the power to prohibit private ownership of weapons unneeded for legitimate private purposes and frequently used dangerously or illegally (even murderously) and the editorial seeking praise specifically for violating the rule of law.

For whatever reason, the importance of these contradictions weren’t clear in my original post. Nor was this: rule of law is a very important value, but it’s not the only value. Keeping your job within Trump’s administration doesn’t make you a demon, but you’re still not a hero. And if you’re deluded enough to think you are or should be the hero of this story, deluded enough to write a NYTimes op-ed about your heroic efforts that names yourself, literally, the Resistance, then you absolutely deserve scorn.

But you – and everyone else – also deserve a more carefully worded post than I originally created.