We are living in Future Shock

Americans lived through a frightening week last week. Bombs were sent to prominent Democratic politicians and supporters. Thankfully, none of these exploded. The FBI apprehended a suspect, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc. Yesterday something far worse happened: eleven people were killed and six injured in an obvious hate crime at a synagogue near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Robert Bowers was quickly arrested for these crimes.

Both Sayoc and Bowers fit the usual pattern for these criminals today: right wing domestic terrorists and big Trump supporters, although Bowers had some criticisms of Trump. Sayoc’s van was famously festooned with right wing invectives and pictures on almost every window (which restricted visibility so much it was probably illegal). Both Sayoc and Bowers used social media, in Bowers case to basically announce his attack on Jews was imminent. Bowers’ crime might have been prevented if someone had bothered to notice it or if we did not allow people like him to have guns in the first place.

It’s not surprising that most of these incidents are by right-wing domestic terrorists. Statistically these people cause 71% of these domestic terrorism incidents, with just 25% domestically by actual Muslim terrorists. This Anti-Defamation League (ADL) heat map makes abundantly clear who’s most likely to trigger these incidents and they tend to be male, white, Republican, conservative and loners. With yesterday’s latest incident in Pittsburgh, the right wing can now claim 74% of the victims of these incidents. From their social media postings, it’s clear that Trump inspired both Sayoc and Bowers. Trump of course with his advanced case of malignant narcissism disclaims any association with these perpetrators. With a case as bad as his, of course you are going to praise a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who body slammed a reporter as “my kind of guy” and feel no remorse. His narcissism would not be malignant if he felt remorse.

What’s harder for most people to see is that horrendous incidents like these are entirely predictable. What’s new is that we have Donald Trump as a prominent catalyst; no president has ever incited people to violence before. This gives these incidents explicit sanction. To an extent we are all players of this game because we are awash in a world undergoing great change. Certain personality types though are more likely to “go postal” than others: those groups who feel the most threatened. Conservatives at least in theory like things the way they were (and in most cases they weren’t actually the way they were) so are more likely to engage in these crimes, as borne out by the ADL’s heat map.

Trump of course is a master bully. My own personal theory is that he is empowering other former bullies to be bullies again. Curiously, many of these actions actually amount to cowardice of some form. Sayoc’s alleged actions mailing pipe bombs allow him to hurt other people without necessarily being discovered. (He was a particularly inept criminal, leaving fingerprints on his explosives. His crazy van was certainly a red flag and doubtless helped authorities track him down.) Bowers showed up in person with a number of armaments including an assault rifle. When Trump tells people at his rallies that it’s okay to beat up reporters at the rally and he’ll pay their legal expenses, he’s obviously giving explicit sanction to others to act as his proxies. A legal case could be made that Trump is guilty of inciting terrorism.

Change is an inevitable consequence of living. We’ve been plunging headlong into the future at rates that obviously make a lot of people uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable with it too. Ironically, conservatives are causing much of the change they are fighting against. For example, if you say that businesses should be able to create any product they want because they are innovators and capitalism is great but not consider the consequences, you end up with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that show us only content that meets our own biases. To deal with their cognitive dissonance, Trump has labeled anything he doesn’t agree with as “fake news” and it’s clear that the supporters at his rallies largely agree.

They are obviously wrong. My mother-in-law, a lifelong smoker, never agreed that smoking causes lung cancer, even though the research was overwhelming and she died a painful and somewhat premature death from lung cancer. Climate deniers, principally right-wingers, are doing the same thing. It’s like the lobster getting out of the pot and turning up the heat then jumping back into the pot. It’s counterproductive and makes no sense. And we know it’s only a matter of time, should we live so long, when they will be proven wrong. Our species might die off as a result, but to them this is just more fake news.

Liberals are not entirely blame free either. How much freedom can we promote when many of the consequences of freedom also contribute to these problems? For example, if we want a higher standard of living for everyone without figuring out a way to do it in a sustainable way, we contribute to the destruction of our planet. We can’t always be sure our proposals will actually solve the problem, or fit the circumstances.

I believe that there are larger forces at work. Most of us will carry the values we learn from our parents and pass them on to our children, so it takes generations to change most of these values if they change at all. We also unconsciously carry many of our parents’ issues and anxieties. Unfortunately, we don’t have generations to get it right. Anxiety is actually a rational reaction to a rapidly changing world, but paralysis is not. Unfortunately for conservatives, we can’t go back to the way things were. And unfortunately for liberals, we don’t have the luxury of trying many approaches until we find the right combination. We have only the fierce urgency of now that none of us can escape, with many of us lacking the wisdom for making an informed choice. I hope November 6 proves me wrong.

(For those of you wondering, this blog is not completely dead. I’m feeling the need to continue at least through post 2000, as it seems a good closure point. Ideally I’ll get there on our before December 12, 2018, the end of sixteen years of blogging.)

Four liberals you can do without

In today’s news, we learn that the late conservative “journalist” Andrew Brietbart, who broke a phony ACORN scandal and exposed the sophomoric Craigslist shenanigans of ex Congressman Anthony Weiner, died of heart failure. He already had heart disease when he collapsed walking his dog in Brentwood, California. Some part of me wonders if he had to die because he basically had no heart. I would say he was the epitome of an angry white guy, but there are so many more like him, most recently ex-rocker Ted Nugent, who may wish President Obama dead but after a recent Secret Service interview confessed he didn’t plan to act on his wishes.

There are also annoying liberals out there, liberals so annoying that most of the time I tune them out and I hope most other liberals do as well. I cannot recall a case of a liberal stooping to Andrew Brietbart’s level, who had no problem carefully editing footage to give the false impression that senior Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod was a black racist. However, being annoying is nonpartisan trait. Four annoying liberals come to mind to me today, and generally I tune them out.

Cenk Uygur first made a name for himself on mainstream media by landing a show on MSNBC. He established himself on YouTube under the channel The Young Turks. His show was part talk and part lecture but one thing it surely was, was mostly about Cenk and Cenk’s views, which were definitely ultraliberal, and often loopy, if not loony. He was frequently factually incorrect. There is left and then there is so far left of stage you are not just off the stage, but outside the theater in the parking lot. Opinionated is okay, but bombastic makes the hair on my scalp stand up. He is the left’s equivalent of Rush Limbaugh with little in the way of self-censorship between his brain and his audience. Apparently he proved a little too much for MSNBC, who put Al Sharpton in his timeslot, presumably because Al was more level headed. That’s how strange Cenk was on MSNBC, but he also comes across as one of those yapping dogs who loves to chew on strangers’ ankles. Cenk has a new gig on Current TV and looks like he may now be getting a distemper shot. I hope this is right and that he has reformed. For right now, I can’t take the chance and anyhow, Current TV is not on my channel list. I plan to give him wide berth regardless.

I used to like Keith Olbermann. This was before I spent a lot of time regularly watching him. Keith does have a certain style and charisma, and he looks great in a suit. Olbermann though is at heart a prima donna. He expects star treatment, even though most of the time he doesn’t deserve it. When after being abruptly fired by MSNBC, Keith moved to Current TV I knew he wouldn’t last there long. For Keith hasn’t yet learned that the world does not revolve around him. He is a man whose passion and ego cannot be repressed for very long. It’s not MSNBC or Current TV that is the root of his problem; it’s Keith. Just why does he go from one job to the next, and is inevitably fired pretty quickly? Is it because “they” are all bad? Or is it because his petulance, pompousness and irritable nature simply become more than any network can bear, and they realize they are better without him? For a start, Keith could use a prescription of Valium, and I suspect it would be a drug he would stay on for life. Rachel Maddow has learned to walk the fine line between being assertive and obnoxious. So can Keith if he ever does the self-examination to realize the problem is not everyone else. I hope instead of pressing lawsuits he has little chance of winning with Current TV, he uses his spare time and piles of cash on a good therapist instead.

Bill Maher also has me reaching to change channels. I realize he is a comedian, but he gives atheists everywhere a bad name. Most atheists I know are actually much kinder, gentler and compassionate people than the so-called Christians I know. Bill gives Christians plenty of reasons to wish atheists to burn in Hell. Mostly Bill is smarmy, and about as much fun to watch as it is to wear a wool sweater without an undershirt. Smarmy though does not begin to describe just how smarmy he actually comes across. Granted, being on HBO gives him the opportunity to exercise his considerable potty mouth. Frankly, I would be embarrassed to be part of his panel. I am hardly a puritan and I can on occasion cuss like a sailor. But I can’t imagine doing it on national television, or with anyone I consider polite company. I assume Bill is not trying to influence those he is chastising. There is no chance of that, of course, but with his constant brilliant professor attitude wherein he deigns to throw a few sarcastic bullets of his great wisdom, he smears the whole left with a taint we do not deserve. Mostly after watching Bill, I want to take a shower using a lot of Ivory soap.

Lastly, and perhaps most of all, I loathe Arianna Huffington. It wasn’t until she was divorced that she decided it was okay to be liberal, but she turned on a dime and gave it all of her time and energy. She used her considerable number of friends, many in Hollywood and the media, to put the Huffington Post online, then proceeded to make it something like the New York Daily News of the online world. It is a largely tawdry place, but its liberal opinions is something of a sideshow now, with stories mostly coming from rebroadcasting articles found elsewhere dressed up with lurid titles and photos. As an entrepreneur, my hat is off to her, for finding a saucy brand that is making her a ton of money. What it is not making is a ton of money for the bloggers who post there, many of who could use a steady income and should be paid for their content. This should be natural if she were a true liberal, which is why I think she is not. Instead her bloggers get paid in exposure and Facebook likes. I never believed Arianna became a true liberal and I doubt she is one now. I think she saw an emerging market and believed that with her alimony and connections she could milk it for all it was worth. This turned out to be a considerable amount, providing you shaft so many of your friends in the online world in the process. I don’t think she is particularly liberal or conservative, but she is pro-Arianna, enjoys having the Arianna brand and gets her thrills from exposure on political talk shows. Mostly, my bullshit detector says she is a phony so I should stay away, which I do. Huff Post is likely to forever stay off my reading list.

What we need are more good guys to offset these four, and there are plenty who deserve more exposure including Ezra Klein, Paul Krugman, Rachel Maddow, Fahreed Zakaria, Bill Moyers, Andrew Sullivan and Kevin Drum. Right now the Keith Olbermanns and Bill Mahers of the left are giving the whole apple barrel a bad stench. I wish more liberals like me would just chuck them.