Category: Arts & Letters (Page 1 of 4)

One Year Later: Reflections on #MeToo

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

Social movements, like revolutions, tend to follow a similar cycle in the process of rewiring certain beliefs and norms of behavior. This was perhaps best diagramed by Crane Brinton in his book The Anatomy of Revolution (1938), a study of the English, American, French and Russian revolutions, respectively––and how all of these revolutions (with the American being the perennial outlier) echoed one another in their stages of development. The same pattern can be mapped onto intellectual life during any period of cultural change; for moments of cultural upheaval are themselves soft revolutions, in a way, smaller in the order of magnitude than revolutions that demand a renovation of state power. This cycle goes as follows: right-to-centre, centre-to-left, left-to-far left, back to centre, back to right. Or, put differently: exposure of tyranny, modest demands, modest demands not good enough, rise of the radical left, reign of terror, reaction to the terror. What happens after that can vary.

We’ll come back to that in a bit though. At the moment, the #MeToo movement has reached its first anniversary: the Harvey Weinstein exposé turned one-year-old this past weekend, Bill Cosby has been through a court of law and will see the inside of a jail cell in this life, and the Preminger-esque drama that was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh has come to a close (we’ll return to that soon as well). Even as we are living in this, the second year of his highness, Donald J. Trump the first, the #MeToo phenomenon has been arguably the most journalistically exhausted subject in the Anglosphere, with scarcely a side of its episodic saga gone unexamined. (I say this because at the moment I am living in central Europe, and talk of it here has been, so far as I can tell, peripheral.) Thus, one’s proverbial two cents feel even less asked for than usual, but a few things are still discoverable, and need to be pointed out.

In relation to the cycle sketched above, the #MeToo movement continues to tarry (one hopes for not much longer) in the Terror phase. If you think that sounds hyperbolic, or unduly harsh, try to come up with another word that describes a) the vigilance with which accusers are rooted out and brought forward, b) the limpid motivation to destroy careers and eliminate transgressors from public life, and c) the fear (however unfounded) that men may have about their pasts and their behavior in the future. This is not to say there can’t be legitimate and just censure of sexual assault and misconduct during the Terror phase. The Kavanaugh case is certainly one of them. One more disclaimer (just in case): I support the #MeToo movement and believe it is long overdue. The reason I add this disclaimer is precisely that a feature of the Terror is the way in which even a modicum of criticism is perceived as opposition or treachery––the discourse at this point having all the nuance of a cudgel.

If #MeToo has followed the revolutionary cycle, then the first two phases (exposure of tyranny and modest demands) were short-lived. Signs of unthinking started to appear as early as December 2017, when Matt Damon reasonably suggested there is, “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation,” and that both, while reproachable, should not be conflated. The response to this was what you would expect: You don’t respect women’s pain. What gives you, a man, the right to say that? You simply can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman. Really? Seriously? Seriously?
Yes, seriously.

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Senator Orrin Hatch Time Travelling to 1851

Mission to Correct America’s Timeline by Changing the Past

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – In a surprising turn of events, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has announced that he is retiring from the 115th U.S. Congress and is time travelling back to 1851.  Once there, he will run for Congress again.

The 84-year old Senator feels that this move will do him and the country some good.  “1851 certainly lines up more with my ideals and vision for what this great Country should stand for.  Too many people have rights in 2018.  Too many of them insist on being treated fairly and, frankly, it’s become rather disgusting,” said Hatch.

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On the Strange Agreement Between Artists and Trump Administration: Doubts About the International Criminal Court

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris
In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe, analyze, and influence contemporary politics.

In a rare case of agreement, politicians and artists alike are casting doubts on the viability of the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.). In a statement last week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the U.S. might sanction the I.C.C. because it is considering prosecuting Americans for war crimes in Afghanistan. This stance is also one of the major concerns that underlines Milo Rau’s performance and film work “Congo Tribunal,” and Chris Weitz’s recent film “Operation Finale,” both of which question the potency of the I.C.C.

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New Study Indicates that Childhood Vaccinations May Increase the Risk of Dying from Natural Causes Several Decades Later

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Atlanta GA. – A recent public health study conducted at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that children who are exposed to a routine battery of vaccinations in childhood are at an increased risk of dying from natural causes, several decades later.

The medical community is hailing this research as a definitive argument in the fight against the anti-vaccination movement that has swept the country in recent decades. In 1998, a fraudulent research paper in the journal Lancet claimed a link between the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccination and autism, which created a stir that is still having a negative impact on the public’s health.

“Finally, we have proof that when children receive these safe, non-autism causing vaccinations, they live long enough to die from other things,” said a spokesman for the CDC. “This should settle the argument over the importance of receiving childhood vaccinations once and for all.”

Members of the anti-vaccination movement, however, remain troubled by the findings that getting vaccinations will increase the risk of death in the distant future. “Have you ever seen an elderly person die from natural causes?” asked a concerned parent whose children have not received vaccinations. “It’s horrible.”

Bob Rondell, another anti-vaccination advocate stated, “It’s terribly disconcerting to watch a loved one die in old age from absolutely nothing, and after having lived a full and rich life. I’m not sure that sort of thing is in the best interest of my children.”

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Populism: The Long Con

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

Some time ago, likely in a moment of procrastination over some more important task, I found myself browsing through a cache of old interviews from The Daily Show (the Jon Stewart era). One such interview was with Mike Huckabee (2015), which I’d remembered watching live years earlier. Huckabee was promoting his apologia, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy–– another puritanical installation in the great conflict between the provincial interior and the cosmopolitan coasts. After likening Beyoncé to a stripper and mocking the Harvard faculty, Huckabee posed a question: “If your car breaks down in the middle of the night on a country road, who do you want coming by? An MBA in a Beemer, or do you want a couple of good ol’ boys in a pickup truck, with a toolbox in the back?”

These “would you rather” scenarios are a common trope in the culture war. The most famous is probably William F. Buckley’s claim that he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the phonebook than by the Harvard University faculty. Huckabee, who grew up in Arkansas and was educated at a Baptist University, might be able to claim membership in the heartland, but Buckley (a Yale man) certainly couldn’t have, no more than most Republicans in the House of Representatives can today.

With decades of this stuff piled high in the American consciousness, the mental conditions required to give rise to a populist like Trump should have been obvious. These kinds of sentiments, aside from being very stupid, are also very insidious, and highly corrosive to the idea of an informed society. For populism’s great peril is in its mawkish insistence on normalcy as a kind of authenticity––on there being a “real America.” And more still, that this authenticity is somehow measured by, say, how much gravy one has coursing through one’s veins. It also produces rip currents of anti-intellectualism and vulgarity (and by vulgarity I don’t mean profane, but simply that which is “of the common people”). The apotheosis of this has been reached (one hopes) with the 45th president of the United States, who is less a portrait of someone with an anti-intellectual posture than someone living an anti-intellectual existence.

Populism is an old trick. It’s been around since the earliest democracies. Plato, Aristotle and all the classical thinkers wrote about it and rightly condemned it, understanding that it would naturally end with a demagogue. And it should come as no surprise that they regarded the most threatening aspect of this kind of politics to be its disdain for the educated. One of the best dramatizations of this in the ancient world is Aristophanes’ The Clouds. Written during a lull in the Peloponnesian War, it’s considered one of the playwright’s lighter, apolitical comedies.

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Russia Interested in Interrogating Rocky Balboa

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – According to sources within the White House, the President is seriously considering sending Rocky Balboa to Russia to be interrogated for his role in defeating Ivan Drago on Christmas Day, back in 1985. If true, this could send a terrible message abroad regarding America’s standing as a world power, and might seriously jeopardize the possibility of any further Rocky films.

Balboa, as could be expected, is quite concerned about this potential turn of events. “Hey, yo, I don’t know, you know?” he remarked to journalists, “I, uh, like it here in Philly, and, uh, I, you know, don’t want to leave.”

In an interview with Fox News, Trump indicated that he would be amenable to this request, should Putin urge it. “Drago was a tremendous athlete. Tremendous,” he said, “Frankly, I don’t see how Balboa would’ve defeated Drago.”

When confronted with the growing outrage over his anti-American sentiment, President Trump indicated that he misspoke: “In fact, I meant to say, ‘I don’t see how Balboa wouldn’t have defeated Drago.’”

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Potential Television Project Planned for May Sweeps on Fox: Reality Series Aims to Destroy National Park

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – If the rumors are true, President Trump’s first major project after leaving office will be a return to his television roots.  This time, however, there will be a political twist.

According to our sources, President Trump is currently in negotiations with Fox Studios to produce a reality television series starring the former Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke.

Based on the information we have obtained, these two distinguished politicians will be placed within an undetermined National Park, where they will face off against each other in a desperate attempt to completely devastate the scenic beauty that surrounds them.  Whoever can destroy the Park first will win $500,000 and a timeshare at Trump’s first lunar colony, opening in the Spring of 2021.

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“Make America Great Again”: Regina Jose Galindo’s Performance Art Illustrates the Struggles of Immigration

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris
In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe, analyze, and influence contemporary politics.

In May of 2018, Guatemalan national Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez was shot at the US-Mexico border by patrols. The previous month, former Guatemalan military dictator and human rights criminal, Efrain Rios Montt died at the age of 91. Considering these two events together illustrates the struggle that Central Americans face as they deliberate between staying in countries with high levels of violence or risking immigration into the United States. Guatemalan artist Regina Jose Galindo has spent much of her career bringing international visibility to the very issues that these people deal with at home. Her performances are often brutal physical actions that reimagine environments that portray the social, political, and economic instability of many countries in Central America.

Galindo has had a special focus on Montt, exemplified by her performance “Quien Puede Borrar Las Huellas,” (“Who Can Trace These Tears”). The artist was outspoken when the former military leader ran for president of Guatemala in 2003. Early on election day morning, she went to a medical lab and purchased human blood. She poured it into a white basin and then, clothed in black, started a 45-minute walk that began outside the Constitutional Court in Guatemala City. It ended at the front steps of the National Palace. With each step she dipped her feet in the basin, leaving a trail of bloody prints behind her. As she faced security guards at the end of her pilgrimage, she left two final footprints and the basin as the final documentation of the work.

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House of Representatives Votes to Make Every Season in America Summer

Measure Intended to Curb School Shooting Epidemic

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – The landmark legislation, passed strictly by the GOP along partisan lines, is intended to appease both the National Rifle Association and concerned parents.  All 248 GOP members of Congress celebrated the legislation, though some were secretly expressing concern that this bill would lend credence to the Democratic claim that climate change is real, and that the rising sea level is not because rocks are falling into our oceans.  Opting to fortify the NRA over the climate-change-is-a-hoax wing of the party, despite the two being wholly intertwined, the bill was celebrated by the GOP through a series of ignominious tweets.

“Thoughts and prayers definitely weren’t working, which was surprising because they always worked in the past,” said Texas Congressman Ted Cruz.  “It feels good to finally take action against this blight on society.”

“The American people deserve the right to feel safe and have an opportunity to better their lives, and the best way to do that is to make sure schools never open again,” said Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks.  “Kids love summer, and we love our kids.  We also like guns so when you factor all of that in, this is a no-brainer.  Besides, we never really have winter in Alabama anyway.”

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Crooner Michael Bolton’s Introductory Press Conference as National Security Advisor

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

April 16th, 2018, Washington D.C. – In an attempt to increase his numbers in national polls, President Trump has appointed singer Michael Bolton to be the new National Security Advisor, replacing former NSA advisor, John Bolton. John Bolton, you may recall, briefly replaced H.R. McMaster, who briefly replaced acting advisor Keith Kellogg (who had served for about a week), who replaced embattled advisor Michael Flynn, who briefly filled the role before he was forced to begrudgingly step down by President Trump.

In his introductory press conference, Mr. Bolton reassured a worried public that a powerful balladeer from the 1980s and 90s would be able to bring a sense of calm and professionalism to the position.

Jim Acosta, CNN:
Mr. Bolton, have you had a chance to speak with the outgoing advisor, the other Mr. Bolton?

Michael Bolton: 
Hello, DC! I told Mr. Bolton that I could hardly believe the news today.
Are you leaving John, leaving me blue?
Sadly, so sadly, I found out that it’s true.

Jim Acosta, CNN:
Why do you take long pauses to gaze into the cameras with sensual eyes and pouty lips? Is that a singer’s trick to get people to listen to you?

Michael Bolton: 
When the National Security Advisor loves a country, can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll fight the whole world to keep the good thing he’s found.

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