Not Funny

This is a never ending problem, isn’t it?

Around 200 people walked out of Amy Schumer‘s show in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday when she called Donald Trump a “orange, sexual-assaulting, fake-college-starting monster,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The paper claimed Schumer was met with loud booing about halfway through the show when her jokes switched from raunchy topics to more topical matters, including gun control and the upcoming presidential election.

Artists, actors, writers, comedians – and I use those terms charitably – of a left-wing bent cannot resist the temptation to use their popularity as a platform to sound off on politics.  The result is usually tedious in the extreme.  Take this by way of example:

During her show, she asked a Trump supporter to join her up on stage so he could explain why he was voting for the GOP candidate. The audience member responded that he was voting for Trump mainly because he didn’t trust his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

People paid money to go to a comedy show and found themselves in a political Q&A session.  No wonder there was booing.

This comes from living in a bubble.  I am sure Schumer’s hilarious jokes about Trump go down a storm among some audiences, i.e. those who share her politics to the letter.  They then take their show to the wider world and find nobody is laughing.  I remember when Chris Rock first burst onto the scene with Bring the Pain, which was fresh, pithy, and hilariously funny mainly because he was providing an insight into black American culture that had never been described in such terms before.  Fast forward a few years and he’s on stage saying “Barack Obama!  Barack Obama!” and his audience is going wild.  This isn’t comedy it’s politics, and it only works if your audience shares your political view.

Not that you can’t make money out of it.  John Oliver seems to do extremely well out of telling sophisticated, educated Europeans and Democrat-voting Americans how thick Americans are.  But he’s preaching to the converted: they’re not laughing because he’s funny, they’re laughing because he is telling them what they want to hear and allows them to feel smugly superior.  A decent joke shouldn’t depend on who you want to win an election.

I don’t know if right-wing comedians do the same.  I expect they do, but they don’t get allotted the same airtime on the likes of the BBC and regular columns in newspapers.  I also expect right-wing comedians would be hounded out of the studio by a baying mob of the Permanently Outraged if they broached any subject which was even remotely controversial, i.e. immigration.  I suspect a lot of this has to do with state funding, with any budding artist or comedian needing to pass a strict political test before being commissioned.

If this keeps up, the arts in the west is going to look like that of Enver Hoxha’s Albania after a decade or two.


After Twitter dropped all pretence to impartiality by banning prominent right-wingers while giving free reign to those whose politics they approved of, a new service launched itself called Gab which hopes to be the same thing only with no censorship.

I never joined Twitter mainly because I couldn’t for the life of me see why anyone would want to write something in 140 characters instead of penning War and Peace on a blog, but there you go.  I also signed up only to find “desertsun” was already taken as a username, and so threw my toys out of the pram.

Anyway, I’ve signed up with Gab mainly to get the username I wanted on Twitter.  Maybe Twitter will collapse or disappear up its own arse and Gab will take over, I don’t know.  I won’t be writing anything substantial over there, but I might make comments on other’s posts.  So if anyone is interested, I am here.

Changing My Mind

In the comments of this post reader Duffy asks the following wholly reasonable question:

Can I ask, what was the last Big Thing you changed your mind about after doing some research?

He went on:

I ask because in my experience most people decide first and rationalize afterwards. Whatever facts don’t fit the preconceived idea are discarded in favor of confirmation bias.

I had to think about this for a while, but I thought Duffy deserved a proper answer.  The best example I can think of is the role of the US military around the world, and specifically what changed after the Iraq War.

There were some very reasonable arguments opposing the US and its allies’ decision to launch the Iraq War, and there were some incredibly stupid ones as well.  One of those that fell somewhere in the middle is one I have changed my mind about.  Before the invasion took place there was a school of thought that went something like this:

These brown folk are primitive.  They don’t know how to get along with one another, they need a strongman like Saddam Hussein to keep them in line.  They’re not ready for democracy, it doesn’t work for the likes of them.

The reason why I didn’t subscribe to this view was I thought it would be a massive injustice to an oppressed and brutalised population to just assume that the person who was standing on their necks was doing so for their own good and they’d be worse off without him.  I couldn’t think of anything worse than living under such conditions myself and the people who could do something about it telling me that I was incapable of running my own affairs.

I supported the Iraq War for several reasons, one of which was I thought the Iraqis deserved the chance to be free of Saddam Hussein and run their country without him.  I genuinely thought they would seize the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Arabic people are not incompatible with democracy and, so thankful that Saddam Hussein is gone, they would make a pretty decent effort to make things work.

Instead they tore each other apart and did everything they could to demonstrate that those who dismissed them as savages that needed a strongman to keep them in line were right all along.  I think this was probably the most depressing aspect of the whole shambolic affair.  I still think the Iraq War should have gone ahead because I believe it solved two security issues which I think the US would have found much harder to manage in future: the security of the Saudi oilfields and finding out for sure whether Saddam Hussein had chemical or biological weapons that could be used in a future conflict.  I’m also certain that had the Iraq War not happened a bloodbath would have occurred at some point anyway: either the Arab Spring would have been tried in Iraq, or it would have been dragged into Syria or another conflict with Iran.  Whatever might have happened, I don’t think an Iraq under another decade or two of Saddam Hussein & Sons would have been a stable, happy place.

But the one issue I changed my mind on was that the US (or British) military should no longer be brought to bear for altruistic or humanitarian reasons.  It is rather depressing, but I am now a firm believer in the premise that a population generally deserves the government it gets.  No longer would I support a war that is not prosecuted for clear strategic reasons that are indisputably in the national interest.  So all those suffering under the jackboot of oppression?  Sorry, you’re on your own.  We tried our best and look where it got us.

Yet More on Brexit

A namesake, fellow engineer, and former colleague/boss from my pre-expat days makes a welcome return to my comments section with this observation:

The brexit aftermath has been a clusterfuck of the highest order

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

I get asked a few questions about Brexit by overseas folk.  One of the common ones Europeans ask is “Why were they allowed to have a vote?  Ordinary people can’t make these sorts of decisions!”  Which is as compelling an argument for divorcing ourselves from Europeans as any I’ve seen put forward to date.  The answer, of course, is UKIP realised a lot of British people didn’t like being part of the EU (for whatever reason) and demanded a referendum.  The Tories, fearing they might lose seats otherwise, acquiesced to UKIP’s demand in their manifesto leading up to the 2015 General Election.  In other words, the people were denied a vote for decades and eventually got one when politicians thought they might lose their seats over the issue.  It’s the same reason why unemployment is so high in France: their population demands it.  Democracy in action!

I also get asked why Nigel Farage was “allowed” to resign and walk away from “this whole mess he created”.  Foreigners have this odd perception that being on the winning side of a referendum campaign entitles you to run the country.  Supposing I campaigned for an airport to be built on Skomer Island because I thought it was vital to Britain’s economy and long-term national interest.  I launched a website, whipped up local support, went on TV, and generated enough support that people were considering putting themselves forward for election on this single issue in Conservative safe seats, and the incumbents were worried.  A lot of people, it seems, really wanted this airport on Skomer.  Eventually the Conservative government, who were heading into a tricky General Election, decided it might be prudent to adopt this odd policy and put it to a popular vote, as is the custom with new airports on Skomer.  They did, the Conservatives won the election, and a referendum was held.  We won.  After twenty years of non-stop campaigning, I find my lifelong ambition has been achieved: Skomer will get its airport.  Now I can sit back and let the government’s Department of Airport Construction get on with building it.  I can’t wait to take a flight out of there and buy a toy puffin in duty free.  Except the next morning there’s a knock on the door.  There’s a mob outside, and they’re angry.

“Oy!,”  they say.  “Why are you still in your pajamas?  You need to get cracking on that airport!”

“Eh?”   I reply.

“”C’mon!” they say.  “It was your idea!  So we need to know where the runway will go, how many passengers we can expect in the first few years, how much concrete is needed for the terminal building, where the batch plant will go, what potted plants go in the departure lounge!  There’s a lot to do, sunshine.”

“But what about the government’s Department of Airport Construction?” I ask.  “What are they doing?  What did they do when Gatwick got built?”

“Oh, they never wanted this airport in the first place, so they’ve decided not to get involved.  Yeah, that’s the way it works apparently.  So, about that access road, my friend has a pub nearby and he’s worried that…”

You get the point.  Nigel Farage was not permitted to assume the role of government of the United Kingdom because he lead a successful campaign for Brexit.  This simply isn’t how Britain works.  The elected government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is responsible for running the country and they were responsible for implementing the outcome of this referendum – not Nigel Farage or anyone else.

David Cameron must take the lion’s share of the blame for this.  He ought to have put in place a plan of action in the event of a Leave vote winning.  I fully understand that he didn’t want to be Prime Minister in such an eventuality, but his resignation ought to have formed part of this plan.  This should all have been thrashed out by the Conservatives and possibly even put to the public before the vote.  Instead, our political classes assumed the Remain vote would win and everything would carry on as before.  Only things didn’t go according to plan and they got caught with their pants down.  Cameron – who was the man responsible for running the country regardless of the result – just threw his hands in the air and walked away.  He makes the captain of the Costa Concordia look like Chesty Puller.

Since that moment it has been a complete mess.  The Tories are making an utter hash of the whole thing because they have been caught totally unprepared.  You can blame Farage and those who voted to leave all you like, but the Tories are the ones who put themselves forward to run the damned country – and that includes managing every eventuality, not just the ones they like (such as telling us how much sugar we should be putting in desserts).  The Remainers are all over social media lamenting that Labour is in such disarray and the country needs a competent opposition.  Oh yeah?  What would Labour do?  Simply repeat the complaints of the losing 48% in the hope that things will improve?  Or would they just ignore the wishes of the winning 52% and dismiss them as racist thickos?  In other words, do exactly what they did when in power for 13 years.  Yeah, that’ll work.

The problem is the political classes are useless.  This is the reason why Brexit is a clusterfuck, because our current crop of politicians – from any party – would make a clusterfuck out of just about anything.  They couldn’t empty water from a welly boot if the instructions were written on the bottom.

Take a look at the mess that is the British railway system.  I have neither the knowledge to comment authoritatively on this nor the desire to acquire it, but it went from an awful state-run British Rail to an awful mess of private and quasi-private operators who seemed to be caught in a veritable thicket of regulations and bizarre incentives which has resulted in misery for the travelling public but doesn’t prevent the company executives from doing very nicely out of it.  And the taxpayer is still footing the bill.  The Lefties in Britain who get misty-eyed when thinking about giant factories belching smoke and producing substandard goods in grim towns oop narth think this is evidence that the railways should never have been privatised.  In other words, because the political classes have screwed something up we ought to leave it in the safe hands of the political classes.  Uh-huh.

The scenario where doing something sensible (e.g. getting rid of British Rail) and demanding it is done it competently seems as alien to British minds as a house without a minuscule patch of rough concrete they call a “garden”.  Which is why, despite my free-market ideology, I think privatising the NHS would be an absolute disaster.  It would be exactly the same as the railways: a cosy stitch-up between politicians, civil servants, and private “service providers” where conflicts of interest and back-handers abound and the result is a conspiracy against the public who will see worse outcomes and bigger bills.

That politicians have demonstrated time and again that they make a clusterfuck out of everything they touch is a strong argument in favour of severely limiting their remit.  The political process is simply not a good instrument for handling more than a select few issues, and there are an awful lot more that it is manifestly unsuitable for.  Yet the supposedly cleverest people in our society – the self-declared experts – think that expanding the remit of politicians and continuing in a supra-national, continent-wide political regime that determines power limits for our kettles is a good idea.

I have another plan.  Start hanging politicians at random and when the screaming reaches a crescendo tell them the fun’s over and their remit’s been reduced.  They can start by keeping the streets clean and the bins empty and we’ll see how they’re doing after a couple of months and take it from there.

It’s not about Trump

I’m going to weigh in on the US Presidential elections again, and I’ll stop doing so when I think I’ve run out of stuff to say.

I read three blog posts this morning that I thought, when combined, illustrate the point which I think the vast majority of the world has missed by a mile, including the supposedly enlightened, educated middle-classes.

The first is from the ZMan:

One of the many things that has been exposed by the Trump campaign is that America does not have a two-party political system. It has a 1.3 party system.

The truth is that about a third of elected Republicans would prefer to be Democrats…There is another third or more of the party that is not interested in rocking the boat. They just like the good life and generally think the status quo is pretty good, at least for them. In another age, many would have been seat warmers in the Democrat Party, but time and circumstance put them in the GOP.

The portion of the country that self-identifies as liberal is around 20% and the portion that identifies as conservative sticks around 40%. The rest are low-tax liberals and conservatives that live in liberal states. In all probability, this group of “moderates” breaks 2-to-1 to traditional American conservatism.

The math suggests that about half the country has no party representing their interests. At best they have a third of one party, which happens to be controlled by the other party. The other 5/6ths of the political class speaks loudly and aggressively for the 20% of the public that identifies as liberal…The House leadership has made it clear that the troublesome right wingers are to remain quiet and out of the way or else.

In other words, the Republicans no longer represent those who used to vote Republican (in much the same way Britain’s Labour party abandoned their core supporters years ago and relied upon hatred of The Other and family habits to keep them voting).  This is a point most people fail to realise: those moderate, reasonable, smart Republicans didn’t win the nomination because they are Republicans in name only and have no intention of looking after the interests of those Americans who identify as Republicans.  As the ZMan says, they are basically Democrats (with the grand irony being that Trump is also a Democrat).  Why Europeans should not only understand this point but also take note of it is because it is highly likely the same situation applies in their own countries.  It is absolutely the case in Britain.

The second is this one over at Cracked, which is not generally known for its right-wing outlook, which explains the vast cultural divide between rural America and its cities:

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs –small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” Let’s say you’re a smart kid making $8 an hour at Walgreen’s and aspire to greater things. Fine, get ready to move yourself and your new baby into a 700-square-foot apartment for $1,200 a month, and to then pay double what you’re paying now for utilities, groceries, and babysitters.

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege.

It really does feel like the worst of both worlds: all the ravages of poverty, but none of the sympathy. “Blacks burn police cars, and those liberal elites say it’s not their fault because they’re poor. My son gets jailed and fired over a baggie of meth, and those same elites make jokes about his missing teeth!” You’re everyone’s punching bag, one of society’s last remaining safe comedy targets.

They take it hard. These are people who come from a long line of folks who took pride in looking after themselves. Where I’m from, you weren’t a real man unless you could repair a car, patch a roof, hunt your own meat, and defend your home from an intruder. It was a source of shame to be dependent on anyone — especially the government. You mowed your own lawn and fixed your own pipes when they leaked, you hauled your own firewood in your own pickup truck.

Not like those hipsters in their tiny apartments, or “those people” in their public housing projects, waiting for the landlord any time something breaks, knowing if things get too bad they can just pick up and move. When you don’t own anything, it’s all somebody else’s problem. “They probably don’t pay taxes, either! Just treating America itself as a subsidized apartment they can trash!”

Read in conjunction with the ZMan’s post, who is representing these people in rural America who make up about half the population and have seen their way of life disappear due to forces way beyond their control?  Or more importantly, who was representing them?  The Republican party?  Nope, they’re wannabe Democrats and they despise rural, conservative Americans as much as the inner-city Democrats do?  Nobody was representing them, and they have been derided, ignored, and insulted for a generation or more and finally they’ve had enough:

So yes, they vote for the guy promising to put things back the way they were, the guy who’d be a wake-up call to the blue islands. They voted for the brick through the window.

It was a vote of desperation.

To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. “Are you assholes listening now?

It doesn’t matter that Trump isn’t going to solve any of this, just like it didn’t matter that the people who took over African countries turned out to be false prophets when the colonial powers pulled out, or were kicked out.  When the nice, moderate, polite, guys just take sides with those who are standing on your neck you vote for the first and biggest asshole who will at least appear to be on your side.  Charges of misogyny, groping, and all the rest don’t matter one jot at this point.  The educated classes who haven’t figured this out, and continue to show bewilderment at Trump’s popularity and mock those who support him as racist thickos, make Marie Antoinette look like a girl down wiv the masses and her finger on the pulse.

The third post, from Outlander Systems, I found via Bayou Renaissance Man, and makes this point in colourful fashion, so I’ll quote just the end:

Ultimately this isn’t about Trump.

It’s never been about Trump.

And that’s exactly it.  It has never been about Trump as a person since he started leading in the Republican primaries.  It is about what Trump represents, and what he represents is something that two thirds of Republican politicians, the Democratic Party, the American media, and millions upon millions of supposedly smart, insightful, educated people all over the world have got disastrously wrong.  Trump doesn’t represent boorish oafs who grope women, he represents those who are absolutely sick of the cosy stitch-up the establishment classes have imposed on ordinary Americans without a shred of shame or decency.  Trump as a person is an irrelevance, he is merely a conduit for the raging anger of millions of Americans.

As I said in my previous post on Trump, the forces which have brought him this close to the Presidency won’t go away if and when he is defeated.  There seems to be this delusion that if Hillary wins, the movement that has carried Trump will vanish having been shown the error of its ways by a tsunami of Schadenfreude from right-thinking people on Twitter and Facebook.  That simply won’t happen.

Hillary is going to find it hard enough to govern as it is, even supposing her health problems are a right-wing fabrication.  Barack Obama has effectively thrown his hands in the air and walked away from the clusterfuck he’s made in Syria, leaving American forces sat in the desert with no clear objective facing off against Russians whose mission is crystal clear and who have all the political backing they need.  Obamacare is fast unravelling with insurance companies pulling out of the programme and people’s premiums skyrocketting (boo-hoo).  The Black Lives Matter movement is growing in confidence and black men will continue to be shot by policemen, meaning we can look forward to another series of riots in US cities in 2017. Areas which were supposedly gentrifying are going to ungentrify as the police – branded as racist to a man by Obama and his gang – pull back and let Lord of the Flies play itself out on primetime news.  The legislature and courts are going to tie themselves in knots trying to figure out whether feminists have the right to their own toilets or transsexuals can barge on in.

And to whom is who is she going to turn to implement the business end of her foreign policy decisions, quell the uprisings in America’s cities, and enforce the law?  Why, those same ordinary Americans that her and the rest of the establishment absolutely despise.  If Clinton wins and continues with Obama’s policies of gutting America’s institutions – particularly the military, DoJ, FBI, police, and Supreme Court – she might find parts of the country become ungovernable before her first term is out.

As the Zman says:

Popular government cannot work when it is not popular.

This will not end well.

(See also this from Duffy in the comments.)

Reluctant Defence

One of the most frustrating things about living in Russia between 2006 and 2010, and thus having somewhat of a clue about things over there, was getting into arguments with people outside Russia in which I found myself defending Vladimir Putin.  My views on Putin are fairly well explained on this blog: I thought he did a pretty decent job between 1999 and 2007, although the bar was set ludicrously low (which his why his actions in Chechnya and elsewhere get overlooked).  And I thought he should have stepped aside in 2008 and ridden off into the sunset rather than flipping to Prime Minister and back to President again four years later.  I’ve explained why here.  Since 2008 I think Putin has taken Russia in very much the wrong direction and continues to do so, and you couldn’t possibly count me as one of his supporters.

But nevertheless I found myself defending him, leading people to think I was some sort of shill, and this was infuriating.  Whatever Putin did or didn’t do, living standards for almost all Russians improved massively between the time he took office and 2008, and possibly beyond.  The wealth (if not necessarily the wages) of ordinary Russians increased several times over, allowing them firstly to buy a car, then renovate their apartments (starting with double glazing), then buy some half-decent clothes, then buy a non-Russian car, then go on foreign holidays, and in some cases buy a dacha or second apartment.  When I first went to Russia in 2004 I saw mainly Russian cars clogging up the roads in Moscow.  When I last went to Russia in 2012 Russian cars were very much in the minority in Saint Petersburg.  And nobody has lived in a Russian apartment block in the last ten or fifteen years without violently cursing the endless crashing and banging noises as yet another neighbour carries out a programme of remont on their property.  Albeit starting from a very low base, Putin’s initial term coincided with ordinary Russians becoming more prosperous than any time in the country’s history.  The wealth wasn’t just for the oligarchs.  I found myself having to make this point quite often to foreigners.

But more often I found myself defending Putin of the charge that he is a dictator, and I still do.  Nobody sensible denies that Putin crushes any potential opposition in its infancy, runs Russia like a personal fiefdom for he and his mates, and anybody who treads on his toes even slightly ends up in an icy prison cell or fleeing abroad with whatever cash they can carry in a suitcase.  He is authoritarian and has little respect for the democratic process and goes out of his way to subvert it, but this doesn’t make him a dictator.  The difference between him and the likes of Colonel Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro is that there are genuine elections in Russia and for the large part they are free and fair.  Yes, there is a lot of meddling and manipulation going on, and opposition parties are roughed up and chucked in jail before they can even come up with a name for themselves, but nobody denies that even without all this Putin and Yedina Rossiya – the ruling party – would not win hands down.  Indeed, the biggest mystery to me was why Putin thought it worth gaining a reputation of being anti-democratic by fiddling elections to win 90% of the vote when free and fair elections would have seen him win 75%.  My guess is old habits learned at KGB school die hard, and it’s in the nature of these guys to crush all opposition, even if it is pathetically feeble.  It’s hard to tell exactly how much without a functioning media and free elections, but Putin is undoubtedly popular among a majority of Russians and he rules – however badly – by popular consent.  My fview has always been that this needs to be acknowledged, and the reasons why properly understood, in order to deal effectively with Putin and Russia, and dismissing him as a dictator in the same vein as Bashar al-Assad or the Kims in North Korea is simply wrong and unhelpful.  So I end up jumping into arguments to defend him, which I’d really rather not do.

“Why is he rambling on about this, and when is he going to get to the point?” I hear my readers ask.  I’m getting to it.

During the second of the US Presidential debates that took place last Sunday night, one of the moderators repeatedly asked Trump whether he had ever kissed a woman without permission.  Trump initially just talked over the question and ignored it but the moderator asked again and again whether Trump had kissed a woman without permission, and persisted until Trump said “No, I have not”.  Several viewers picked up on this, with the one I follow being Ben Shapiro:

Ben Shapiro is no fan of Donald Trump (or of Hillary Clinton), but he – and others – could see that this was a deliberate set-up by the moderator to get Trump to deny something specific so that a media shit-storm would follow the next day when evidence miraculously emerges to the contrary.  And sure enough, that is exactly what has happened: the New York Times has led with a story about how Trump groped two women and now that’s all the media are talking about, including another allegation that he leered at a 10-year old girl.  Funny how quickly those intrepid reporters at the NYT managed to get these women on the phone and the story written a day or two after the debate, isn’t it?  It’s almost as if they had it prepared in advance.

Another Twitter user, Luke Thompson, gets it right I think (read from bottom to top):


The second from top is the clincher: nobody is assessing the stories.  The whole point is to get an allegation out there and run it so many times that it becomes the established truth.  I make no excuses for Trump’s behaviour, and I am sure that some or most of it is true and he did engage in groping, kissing, and other stuff that some or most women might not have wanted.  He’s going to have to defend himself on that score.

What I object to is the blatant, coordinated mission by the media and whoever is encouraging them to set up a Presidential candidate in such a manner using a supposedly disinterested “moderator” in the debate as a key actor in the process.  It is an absolute disgrace, not so much for what they are doing but the brazenness with which they are doing it.  The establishment figures that are behind this – Democrats, the media, wet Republicans – clearly hold the population in such utter contempt that they think they can wheel out half a dozen allegations of assault – some of which supposedly took place 30 years ago –  at this stage in the campaign using such tactics and everyone will be fooled by it.

I think this is going to backfire badly.  As I said in a previous post, you don’t need to be a Trump supporter to be concerned about this, and I believe a goodly number of decent America are already reluctantly defending Trump and prepared to vote for him just to ensure this kind of condescending stitch-up by the political and media establishments doesn’t pay off.  A lot of Americans have realised that if they allow this sort of behaviour to go unpunished in the polls it will be deployed against any future, decent Republican candidate who threatens the cosy status quo the elites have built for themselves.

I think this is the first election in which social media is properly laying bare the corruption which lies at the heart of American Presidential elections.  Via Bayou Renaissance Man I came across this post at Conservative Tree House about Hillary’s polling figures.  Short version: the company which ran the poll is a paid-up member of the Clinton election campaign.  Whether this is true or not – and I have no reason to think it isn’t from what I have read – the fact that it is not only believable but wholly unsurprising that makes it so bad.  If a blogger with a couple of hours to spare can reveal such manipulation, it means the people behind it aren’t even trying to cover their tracks.  They assume the people are too stupid to notice, or if they do they are powerless to do anything about it.  The contempt is staggering.

Right from the start of the primaries for the party nominations this election campaign has seen no end of these sorts of shenanigans (remember the coin tosses?).  The Russians will have been following events with a keen interest, and now they have all the ammunition they need to defend themselves against charges that the ruling elites control the media and force them to do their bidding.  Comparisons between Russia and America are often silly, but it is going to be increasingly difficult after this election for the US to criticise Russia in regards of their treatment of the media and their own election irregularities.

I am sure millions of ordinary Americans are watching this with absolute horror, disgusted at the way their institutions are being corrupted in order to maintain the ruling elite’s grip on power.  Like me defending Putin when I feel it is necessary, I think there will be a lot of Americans who find themselves in the unenviable position of defending Trump when they’d really prefer that they didn’t have to.

Russia and the USA: Converging in the S-Bend

In the comments of my most recent post on Trump, regular commenter and fellow blogger Alex K. spots an interesting similarity between Russia and the USA:

In the late 1990s, people who posted about the Clintons deserving pink (prison issue) undies and the MSM being leftwing through and through sounded like boring whiners unloading their loserdom into cyberspace. Losers or not, apparently some of them were right, but it only became obvious to me during this campaign how incredibly corrupt HRC always was and how the US media is capable of lying. They are catching up with Putin’s state media the way they play fast and loose with facts and work up fits of hysteria.

I noted this partly because I came across another unsavoury similarity between the two nations, also in a blog comment, over at David Thompson’s:

It doesn’t matter what you do. You are the object, not the subject. Consistency on the side of the rule-makers is not only not required, it would get in their way.
I knew we were doomed back about 1980 when I heard an account of a small meat-packer who got in trouble with OSHA (US Federal Occupational Health And Safety). Their inspector noticed the removable cleaning hatch on the packaging line, and told them the presence of the hole in the machine was a violation. Shop owner replies that the Cal-OSHA (California state equivalent) inspector had insisted on the hatch. Too bad, violation, pay up and weld it closed. “But what about Cal-OSHA? They’ll fine me and make me re-install it.” “Not our problem.”

There is a paragraph near the end of John Mole’s I was a Potato Oligarch where the Moscow police department orders him to install bars in the window of his restaurant’s kitchen as a security measure, only for the fire department to fine him for those very same bars.  Of course in Russia this was a deliberate scam to keep the income via bribes or fines flowing and in the USA it is simply bureaucratic incompetence paired with callousness, but the result is the same for the end user.

It’s hard to see how either country is moving in the right direction.

Virtue Signalling in Disguise

I’ve noticed recently that something keeps happening to me that perhaps didn’t happen so much before.

I get asked my opinion on something and the person asking me doesn’t much like the answer I give.  Usually the question is on a topic which is controversial – Brexit, Donald Trump, the Iraq War, George W. Bush, Gun Control, Barack Obama – but only in the global sense.  What I mean by that is within a certain demographic – European, middle-class, degree educated – these topics are not controversial at all, and everyone is in lock-step agreement on each.

Which is where I think I’m surprising people.  I get asked my opinion on Brexit (let’s use that as an example) and I basically say what I said here: I would have been happy enough with a Remain victory for personal reasons, but on principle I am not unhappy to have seen the Leave campaign win because I think major reforms of the EU are long overdue and these would never happen without some cataclysmic event like Brexit forcing the issue.  This is hardly an extreme view but it causes a shock reaction nonetheless.

The immediate effect is for the person to challenge what I’ve said using the first response that comes into their head (“But the British economy will collapse, all the banks will move to Frankfurt!”).  My response in turn is to refute them using the same information, statistics, facts, and arguments I’ve seen presented elsewhere to the same objection.  The thing is, what my interlocutor has not realised, quite understandably, is that I take a keen interest in certain things and read and re-read dozens of lengthy arguments on these subjects which take place on the Internet.  I also have copious amounts of time on my hands.  A lot of the time I then post my own opinions on this here blog, having taken the time to consider each angle and argument carefully so that my stance can be both clearly presented and defended if necessary.  So when I am challenged on my opinion my responses are effectively prepared in advance and rehearsed, and for somebody who has just dipped their toe into the subject without such preparation they find themselves neck deep in an argument they stand almost no chance of winning.

Which makes me appear a bit of an asshole.  I have been accused of being defensive, aggressive, unfriendly, argumentative, and a whole load of other things basically because I can defend a slightly controversial opinion with quick-fire, eloquent responses which I’ve thought through in advance.  And also, probably, because I am a bit of an asshole.

For a while I thought about softening my stance, but I’ve decided against it.  The reason for this is because I figured out a lot of people who ask my opinion on such matters are not asking my opinion at all, they are looking to confirm their own.  As I said earlier in the post, the educated, European, middle-classes agree almost wholeheartedly on these issues: Brexit is bad and Britain’s economy will be fucked and the people who campaigned for it are stupid cowards and the people who voted for it are thick racists.  If you stated that over lunch in any European white-collar office not a single peep of protest would result.

Unless I was sat there.  Okay sure, I like an argument.  I’d start an argument in a coffin, as somebody once said.  But I get annoyed when people ask my opinion only for the purposes of confirming their own, which would allow them to say that they are informed on current affairs without making the effort to hear solid counter-arguments which challenged their own preconceptions and forced them to perhaps modify their views.  I wouldn’t mind if somebody wants a proper discussion on an issue, but most of the time they want a quick agreement of their own position, not a discussion.  And this is nothing more than cheap virtue signalling, and I hate that in any form.

So my advice is:

1. Don’t ask for somebody’s opinion on something if he writes about it on a blog unless you are prepared to hear something you might not like.

2. When you hear an opinion you don’t like from somebody who writes about it on a blog, be prepared for a pretty robust argument should you challenge it.

3. Pay particular attention to points 1 and 2 if the person writing the blog happens to be a bit of an asshole who likes arguing.