Comedy Is Not Pretty, and Nowadays It Isn’t Even Funny

With sanctimony having replaced humor, the only thing left to laugh at is the farce of politics itself.

.. watching on YouTube the comedian Bill Maher talk about Donald Trump’s marriage. If you don’t share Mr. Maher’s politics, you are likely to find him an odious, even loathsome character, for he doesn’t really exist outside politics. His standard tone is mockery, his modus operandi to lacerate his targets with obscenities, flash a nervous smile, and then bask in applause from his audience.

.. Yet to have taken what I think of as the Trumpian option in their comedy has rendered these comedians charmless while strikingly limiting their audiences to those who share their politics.

.. I asked a great many people to name five persons in public life they thought charming. No one could do it.

.. That the late-night talk-show hosts are ready to give up a large share of the audience to indulge their politics is something new in American comedy.

.. when Bob Hope found himself, because of his support for the Vietnam War, aligned with Richard Nixon, many of his most steadfast fans deserted him.

.. Enough people must share the views of these hosts to keep the careers of Maher, Colbert, Kimmel & Co. afloat, which is to say to keep their ratings high enough to be commercially viable. Yet these insufficiently funny comedians, with their crude political humor, do little more than add to the sad divisiveness that is rending the country. Something, surely, has been lost if one can no longer turn to comedy as a relief from the general woes of life and the greater farce that has for some years now been playing out in our everyday politics.

How “Fox & Friends” Rewrites Trump’s Reality

The thin fourth wall between the President and his TV.

..Once, while riffing about a Scandinavian scientific study, he shared his opinion that “the Swedes have pure genes,” unlike Americans, who “keep marrying other species and other ethnics.”

..  On cable, where the audiences are smaller and more ideologically segmented, morning hosts are free to be more opinionated; on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” for example, Trump is compared to an autocrat, a thug, or worse. “Fox & Friends” mashes these two genres together, resulting in some whiplash-inducing segues. A few minutes of misty-eyed Christmas nostalgia leads immediately—“meanwhile, switching gears”—to a conspiracy theory about Benghazi. A weather report gives way to a warning about the dangers of chain migration, with little adjustment in tone.

.. However, Earhardt noted buoyantly, “Republican candidate Roy Moore has President Trump on his side.” Trump had just recorded a robocall for the Moore campaign.

.. Turning to a person on the ground named Diane, he said, “So, ultimately, a vote for Roy Moore is a vote for President Trump?”

“Correct,” Diane said.

Hegseth ended the segment and then directed viewers back to his colleagues, the pundits in New York City.

Moore lost. The following morning, both “Fox & Friends” and its No. 1 fan were busy rewriting the immediate past. “The President had said that Roy Moore couldn’t win, and, as it turns out, he was right,” Doocy said.

.. Earhardt, speaking “as a female,” summed up her view: “I think this is a referendum on Harvey Weinstein, not on President Trump.” She delivered the line twice more, with slight variations, at the top of each hour. Earhardt is clearly the brainiest of the three co-hosts, if only because she can get through a broadcast without any notable malapropisms or endorsements of eugenics. Still, inevitably, she plays the role of the down-to-earth Southern gal, asking only the softest of softball questions. (Earhardt, to Ivanka Trump, in July of 2016: “Were you a tractor girl, or were you, like me, the pink Barbie Jeep?” Ivanka: “I was that combination.”)

.. Earhardt, speaking “as a female,” summed up her view: “I think this is a referendum on Harvey Weinstein, not on President Trump.” She delivered the line twice more, with slight variations, at the top of each hour. Earhardt is clearly the brainiest of the three co-hosts, if only because she can get through a broadcast without any notable malapropisms or endorsements of eugenics. Still, inevitably, she plays the role of the down-to-earth Southern gal, asking only the softest of softball questions. (Earhardt, to Ivanka Trump, in July of 2016: “Were you a tractor girl, or were you, like me, the pink Barbie Jeep?” Ivanka: “I was that combination.”)

.. At one point, using some mind-bending rhetorical dark magic, he managed to imply that the real loser in Alabama was neither Trump nor Moore but Hillary Clinton.

.. The Bush Administration was mendacious, but at least it was predictable—the co-hosts had to work hard to build a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but they didn’t have to worry that they’d wake up one morning to find that the Administration was now blaming the attack on Sudan. These days, hosting “Fox & Friends” is like cheerleading for a player who misses an open shot on goal, then doubles back to score on his own goalie, then storms off in a fit of petulance, complaining that the ref is a loser.

“I Love You, Daddy,” Louis C.K.’s Cancelled Movie, Reeks of Impunity

The film, which centers on the sexual machinations of powerful men, reeks of impunity. Like so many of Louis’s standup jokes that purport to skewer the grossness of men, it could only have been made by a person confident that he would never have to answer for the repulsive things he’s long been rumored to have done, let alone be caught

.. Before China can take his advice, she is noticed by Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), a famous director in his late sixties whose taste for very young women is as legendary as his movies.

.. The only generous way to read “I Love You, Daddy” is as a portrait of male cowardice. What kind of man would be so shamefully pathetic as to avoid confronting the famous geezer who may or may not be screwing his underage daughter because that geezer has offered to read his latest script?

.. Louis .. likes to play losers who are at the mercy of others. Often, those others are women. It’s hard not to wonder, in the wake of Thursday’s revelations, to what extent Louis has used this persona to shield his reputation.

.. “Doesn’t society have to protect her?” .. . “Society?” she responds. “You mean you?”

.. Leslie is a stand-in of sorts for Woody Allen, and the movie, which was shot (shoddily, it must be said) on black-and-white 35-mm. film, is a pastiche of Allen’s “Manhattan” style

.. Must we believe the terrible things we hear about artists we admire? Louis is asking. And, if we do believe them, must we do something about it?

.. young women are more likely than not to be careless and foolish, and to bring trouble and disgrace on themselves—China has to be an empty vessel, an absolute airhead with no sense of self and no mind of her own. Her attraction to Leslie wouldn’t be remotely plausible otherwise; she would see him for what he is—ridiculous—and laugh him out of the room. In the end, it is China who makes herself absurd. She is the one who throws herself at Leslie, not the other way around, and so it is she who ends up rejected and humiliated. Leslie glides away in his Moroccan slippers with his integrity intact.

.. the film’s final point where women are concerned: stop flirting and mooching and get to work, because, if you don’t have to depend on men for money, they can’t control you, or harm you, or fuck you over.

.. The women in Louis’s film come in three flavors: the

  1. Shrew (Helen Hunt, her mouth pursed into a furious line, as Glen’s bitter ex-wife); the
  2. Seductress (Grace, with China in training); and, saddest of all, the
  3. Supporter (Edie Falco, as Glen’s long-suffering producer, and Pamela Adlon, as Glen’s tough-talking ex, a supporter in denial).

.. He wants them to work for a living, just like he has. Like so many Fathers of Daughters, I guess, he’s counting on them not running into dudes like him on the job.

.. the antidote to “I Love You, Daddy” is Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” a movie about teen-age girls that is actually interested in them as people.

How to get members of any open source community to be interested in helping you

There’s an old “ha ha, only serious” joke. If you go to a Linux forum and ask for help fixing your WiFi driver, everyone will ignore you. If, instead, you say “Linux sucks, you can’t even get a f*&$ing WiFi driver working!” thousands of people will solve the problem for you.

This story is a great example of manipulating people, but it’s obviously a negative take on it. I’d like to share some thoughts on this from a much more positive standpoint, which will help you get people to pay more attention, be more helpful, and—perhaps most importantly—create a healthier open source community over all.

Where microaggressions really come from: A sociological account

.. We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

.. Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim.

 

.. The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.

 

.. We argue that the social conditions that promote complaints of oppression and victimization overlap with those that promote case-building attempts to attract third parties. When such social conditions are all present in high degrees, the result is a culture of victimhood in which individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance. [See DeScioli & Kurzban for more on the urgency of appealing to third parties] We contrast the culture of victimhood with cultures of honor and cultures of dignity.[p.695]

.. Indeed, the core of much modern activism, from protest rallies to leaflet campaigns to publicizing offenses on websites, appears to be concerned with rallying enough public support to convince authorities to act. [p.698]

 

.. A second notable feature of microaggression websites is that they do not merely call attention to a single offense, but seek to document a series of offenses that, taken together, are more severe than any individual incident. As the term “micro” implies, the slights and insults are acts that many would consider to be only minor offenses and that others might not deem offensive at all. As noted on the Oberlin Microaggressions site, for example, its purpose is to show that acts of “racist, heterosexist/ homophobic, anti-Semitic, classist, ableists, sexist/cissexist speech etc.” are “not simply isolated incidents, but rather part of structural inequalities” (Oberlin Microaggressions 2013). These sites hope to mobilize and sustain support for a moral crusade against such injustice by showing that the injustices are more severe than observers might realize.

 

.. Rather, such forms as microaggression complaints and protest demonstrations appear to flourish among the relatively educated and affluent populations of American colleges and universities

 

.. Microaggression complaints are largely about changes in stratification. They document actions said to increase the level of inequality in a social relationship – actions Black refers to as “overstratification.” Overstratification offenses occur whenever anyone rises above or falls below others in status. [Therefore…] a morality that privileges equality and condemns oppression is most likely to arise precisely in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality

.. [In other words, as progress is made toward a more equal and humane society, it takes a smaller and smaller offense to trigger a high level of outrage. The goalposts shift, allowing participants to maintain a constant level of anger and constant level of perceived victimization.]

..  It is in egalitarian and diverse settings – such as at modern American universities – that equality and diversity are most valued, and it is in these settings that perceived offenses against these values are most deviant. [p.707]. [Again, the paradox: places that make the most progress toward equality and diversity can expect to have the “lowest bar” for what counts as an offense against equality and inclusivity. Some colleges have lowered the bar so far that an innocent question, motivated by curiosity, such as “where are you from” is now branded as an act of aggression.]

.. Honor is a kind of status attached to physical bravery and the unwillingness to be dominated by anyone. Honor in this sense is a status that depends on the evaluations of others, and members of honor societies are expected to display their bravery by engaging in violent retaliation against those who offend them (Cooney 1998:108–109; Leung and Cohen 2011). Accordingly, those who engage in such violence often say that the opinions of others left them no choice at all…. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so” 

.. Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights (Cohen et al. 1996; Cooney 1998:115–119; Leung and Cohen 2011)… Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack

.. The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others

..  Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor (Leung and Cohen 2011:509). People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails.

.. Unlike the honorable, the dignified approve of appeals to third parties and condemn those who “take the law into their own hands.” For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame. But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries…. The ideal in dignity cultures is thus to use the courts as quickly, quietly, and rarely as possible.

 

.. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.

 

.. But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well. For instance, hate crime hoaxes do not all come from the left. [gives examples] … Naturally, whenever victimhood (or honor, or anything else) confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it.

.. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to “assert that they are a victim as well.” Thus, “men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization.”[p.715] [In this way, victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood.

.. What we are seeing in these controversies is the clash between dignity and victimhood, much as in earlier times there was a clash between honor and dignity…. At universities and many other environments within modern America and, increasingly, other Western nations, the clash between dignity and victimhood engenders a similar kind of moral confusion

.. Add to this mix modern communication technologies that make it easy to publicize grievances, and the result, as we have seen, is the rise of a victimhood culture.

The Photos the U.S. and Saudi Arabia Don’t Want You to See

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly concluded that many Saudi airstrikes were probable war crimes and that the U.S. shares responsibility because it provides the Saudis with air-to-air refueling and intelligence used for airstrikes, as well as with much of the weaponry.

 .. Yet victims like Buthaina aren’t on our television screens and rarely make the news pages, in part because Saudi Arabia is successfully blocking foreign journalists from the rebel-held areas.
.. But Saudi military jets control this airspace and ban any flight if there’s a journalist onboard.
.. “More than 20 million Yemenis are in need of emergency assistance, and a child dies every five minutes. Yet few Americans know about the daily bloodshed, near-famine conditions and a raging cholera epidemic.”
.. But it’s our side that appears to be responsible for the most deaths: A draft U.N. report says that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for 65 percent more deaths of children than the Houthis and their allies, and it’s the Saudis who have imposed the blockade that is leading to starvation.
.. 5,000 Yemenis are infected with cholera each day.
.. “U.S. policy is being driven by its pro-Saudi proclivities and its own desire to contain Iran. But by enabling Riyadh, it’s only making an already fraught situation worse.”
.. A remarkable 47 senators in June voted to block a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia, largely because of qualms about Saudi conduct in Yemen.
.. We Americans have sometimes wondered how Russia can possibly be so Machiavellian as to support its Syrian government allies as they bomb and starve civilians. Yet we’re doing the same thing with Saudi Arabia, and it’s just as unconscionable when we’re the ones complicit in war crimes.

The Rise of the Violent Left

Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?

.. The alliance said it didn’t object to the Multnomah GOP itself, but to “fascists” who planned to infiltrate its ranks. Yet it also denounced marchers with “Trump flags” and “red maga hats” who could “normalize support for an orange man who bragged about sexually harassing women and who is waging a war of hate, racism and prejudice.”

A second group, Oregon Students Empowered, created a Facebook page called “Shut down fascism! No nazis in Portland!”

.. Next, the parade’s organizers received an anonymous email warning that if “Trump supporters” and others who promote “hateful rhetoric” marched, “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.”

..  But in the country at large, some militant leftists are offering a very different answer.

  1. On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer.
  2. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart.com editor.
  3. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont.

.. these activists appear to be linked to a movement called “antifa,” which is short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action.  .. how the rest of the activist left responds will help define its moral character in the Trump age.

 .. In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism.
.. some American activists had adopted the name antifa
.. To most left-wing activists during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama years, deregulated global capitalism seemed like a greater threat than fascism.
.. Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. “Suddenly,” noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, “anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, ‘you’ve been right all along.’ ” An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”
.. Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action:
  1. They pressure venues to deny white supremacists space to meet.
  2. They pressure employers to fire them and landlords to evict them.
  3. And when people they deem racists and fascists manage to assemble, antifa’s partisans try to break up their gatherings, including by force.

.. Such tactics have elicited substantial support from the mainstream left. When the masked antifa activist was filmed assaulting Spencer on Inauguration Day, another piece in The Nation described his punch as an act of “kinetic beauty.” Slate ran an approving article about a humorous piano ballad that glorified the assault. Twitter was inundated with viral versions of the video set to different songs, prompting the former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau to tweet, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

.. The violence is not directed only at avowed racists like Spencer: In June of last year, demonstrators—at least some of whom were associated with antifa—punched and threw eggs at people exiting a Trump rally in San Jose, California. An article in It’s Going Down celebrated the “righteous beatings.”

.. Antifascists call such actions defensive. Hate speech against vulnerable minorities, they argue, leads to violence against vulnerable minorities. But Trump supporters and white nationalists see antifa’s attacks as an assault on their right to freely assemble, which they in turn seek to reassert.

.. At that rally, a 41-year-old man named Kyle Chapman, who was wearing a baseball helmet, ski goggles, shin guards, and a mask, smashed an antifa activist over the head with a wooden post.

.. A politicized fight culture is emerging, fueled by cheerleaders on both sides. As James Anderson, an editor at It’s Going Down, told Vice, “This shit is fun.”

.. The Pacific Northwest has long attracted white supremacists, who have seen it as a haven from America’s multiracial East and South.

.. Now, in the Trump era, Portland has become a bastion of antifascist militancy.

.. A local paper said the ensuing melee resembled a mosh pit.

.. Trump supporters hosted another Portland rally, this one featuring Chapman, who had gained fame with his assault on the antifascist in Berkeley. Antifa activists threw bricks until the police dispersed them with stun grenades and tear gas.

 .. What’s eroding in Portland is the quality Max Weber considered essential to a functioning state: a monopoly on legitimate violence. As members of a largely anarchist movement, antifascists don’t want the government to stop white supremacists from gathering. They want to do so themselves, rendering the government impotent
.. Demonstrators have interrupted so many city-council meetings that in February, the council met behind locked doors.
.. activists protesting police violence and the city’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline hounded Mayor Ted Wheeler so persistently at his home that he took refuge in a hotel. The fateful email to parade organizers warned, “The police cannot stop us from shutting down roads.”All of this fuels the fears of Trump supporters, who suspect that liberal bastions are refusing to protect their right to free speech.

.. Joey Gibson, a Trump supporter who organized the June 4 Portland rally, told me that his “biggest pet peeve is when mayors have police stand down … They don’t want conservatives to be coming together and speaking.” To provide security at the rally, Gibson brought in a far-right militia called the Oath Keepers.

In late June, James Buchal, the chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party, announced that it too would use militia members for security, because “volunteers don’t feel safe on the streets of Portland.”
 .. Antifa believes it is pursuing the opposite of authoritarianism. Many of its activists oppose the very notion of a centralized state. But in the name of protecting the vulnerable, antifascists have granted themselves the authority to decide which Americans may publicly assemble and which may not. That authority rests on no democratic foundation.
.. Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.
.. Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.