Matt Taibbi: Book Review and Thoughts on Anti-Populism

Author and reporter Matt Taibbi writes a book review of The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism by Thomas Frank. Mr. Taibbi talks about how Frank predicted our current culture war and declares that the left is unable to learn from their mistakes because they are deliberately blind to their mistakes, instead blaming their failures on racism and Christianity.

Thomas Frank is one of America’s more skillful writers, an expert practitioner of a genre one might call historical journalism – ironic, because no recent media figure has been more negatively affected by historical change. Frank became a star during a time of intense curiosity about the reasons behind our worsening culture war, and now publishes a terrific book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, at a time when people are mostly done thinking about what divides us, gearing up to fight instead.

Frank published What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004, at the height of the George W. Bush presidency. The Iraq War was already looking like a disaster, but the Democratic Party was helpless to take advantage, a fact the opinion-shaping class on the coasts found puzzling. Blue-staters felt sure they’d conquered the electoral failure problem in the nineties, when a combination of Bill Clinton’s Arkansas twang, policy pandering (a middle-class tax cut!) and a heavy dose of unsubtle race politics (e.g. ending welfare “as we know it”) appeared to cut the heart out of the Republican “Southern strategy.”

Yet Clinton’s chosen successor Al Gore flopped, the party’s latest Kennedy wannabe, John Kerry, did worse, and by the mid-2000s, Bushian conservatism was culturally ascendant, despite obvious failures. Every gathering of self-described liberals back then devolved into the same sad-faced anthropological speculation about Republicans: “Why do they vote against their own interests?”

Frank, a Midwesterner and one of the last exemplars of a media tradition that saw staying in touch with the thinking of the general population as a virtue, was not puzzled. What’s the Matter with Kansas? was framed as an effort to answer that liberal cocktail-party conundrum – “How could anyone who’s ever worked for someone vote Republican?” was the version Frank described hearing – and the answer, at least on the surface, was appealing to coastal intellectuals.

Frank explained the Republican voter had thrown support to the Republicans’ pro-corporate economic message in exchange for solidarity on cultural issues, as part of what he called the “Great Backlash”:

While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues—summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art—which it then marries to pro-business economic policies.

What’s the Matter with Kansas? was about more than that, but for the chattering classes, this thesis was enough. What they heard was that the electorally self-harming white Republican voter from poor regions like the High Plains was motivated not by reason, but by racial animus and Christian superstition.

For a certain kind of blue-state media consumer, and especially for Democratic Party politicians, this was a huge relief, the political version of Sean’s hug-it-out message to Will Hunting:

A reader looking back at that book will note Frank also predicted political disasters that would later befall Democrats, and outlined the thesis of his current book The People, No, which will probably suffer financially for being pretty much the opposite of “All this shit, it’s not your fault.”

The Kansas title alone spoke to one of Frank’s central observations: while red state voters might frame objections in terms of issues like abortion or busing, in a broader sense the Republican voter is recoiling from urban liberal condescension.

Continue reading “Matt Taibbi: Book Review and Thoughts on Anti-Populism”

Taibbi on Internet Censorship

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone Magazine has a decent article out titled Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship which makes some good points and is worth a read.

…Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.)

These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors…

Way back in 1996, when mastodons roamed the earth and people used dial-up to connect to the Internet, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. It contained the following landmark language:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Essentially this meant that Internet providers wouldn’t be treated like news organizations. In the eyes of the law, they were less like CBS or Random House than they were bookstores or newsstands.

The rule allowed platforms to grow exponentially without the same fear of litigation. Companies like Facebook and Google became all-powerful media distributors, and were able to profit from InfoWars-style programs without having to be liable for them.

This led to the flowering of so much obnoxious speech that the First Amendment acquired a reputation as a racist con, and online media distributors, instead of being sued themselves as publishers, began to be viewed as potential restorers of order, beneficent censors.

Now, at a moment of crisis and high political tension, the public seems unable to grasp the gravity of allowing the government or anyone else to use that power.

It is already a scandal that these de facto private media regulators have secret algorithmic processes that push down some news organizations in favor of others. Witness the complaints by outlets like Alternet, Truthdig and others that big platforms have been de-emphasizing alternative sites in the name of combating “fake news.”

But this week’s revelation is worse. When Facebook works with the government and wannabe star-chamber organizations like the Atlantic Council to delete sites on national security grounds, using secret methodology, it opens the door to nightmare possibilities that you’d find in dystopian novels.

The sheer market power of these companies over information flow has always been the real threat. This is why breaking them up should have long ago become an urgent national priority.

Instead, as was obvious during the Senate hearing with Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, politicians are more interested in using than curtailing the power of these companies. The platforms, for their part, will cave rather than be regulated. The endgame here couldn’t be clearer. This is how authoritarian marriages begin, and people should be very worried.

Click here to read the entire article at Rolling Stone.

Related:

K of Combat Studies Group – Censorship As A Political Weapon weighing in on means to avoid some of this if you are a content provider.

Either Gab.io and other sites similar in content will have to start shopping for another hosting option (takes time and lots of money and there is no guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again) or they will have to take that unconventional approach. And let’s not forget that under the Obama administration control of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers) was relinquished from the US to an international body…..what could go wrong?

So, whats to be done? I’ll tell you what I told Infowars years ago….begin moving to platforms that are outside of their opposition’s control.

Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg – Censorship Is What Happens When Powerful People Get Scared

Now that it’s been established that Facebook is in fact censoring based on advice provided by former spooks and other assorted establishment charlatans, let’s talk about what this means. I think there are two major takeaways.

First and foremost, the entire push to make arbitrary de-platforming by tech giants the new norm proves the establishment is scared to death. The very powerful folks accustomed to manipulating and shaping the world via narrative creation aren’t terrified about what Alex Jones says, they’re terrified that it’s popular. The establishment “elites” are in such denial about the consequences of the world they created, all they can do is spastically attack symptoms. Trump didn’t divide U.S. society and Alex Jones didn’t cause our widespread (and entirely justifiably) distrust in institutions; the status quo system did that via its spectacular failures. Trump’s election and Alex Jones’ popularity are merely symptoms of an incredibly corrupt and failed status quo paradigm, the stewards of which continually refuse to take a look in the mirror, accept blame and reform…

Paul Kersey of VDARE.com – Immigration Patriotism, Not Conspiracy Theories, Triggered Tech Totalitarians’ Purge Of INFOWARS’ Alex Jones

Alex Jones’  banning is clearly the precursor to the push to ban more and more Politically Incorrect patriot sites from social media…such as VDARE.com.  CNN let slip the goal when Pakistani journalist Rafia Zakaria [Tweet her] said: “The stripping of InfoWars from Facebook, Apple and other platforms is an important step in the recognition of nativist, nationalist and white supremacist hate speech as a form of terrorism.” [We need to talk about Alex Jones, CNN, August 10, 2018.

The Stream: So What is ‘Q’ … and Why is MSM Suddenly Targeting It?

Seemingly within minutes Wednesday, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, The Hill and several other of the usual suspects all ran stories attempting to explain — and by explain I mean “mock/dismiss/deride” — an internet phenomenon known as Q or QAnon.

Here’s a good tip: Any time the news establishment in sudden unison jumps up and screams at the top of their lungs, “Nothing to see here! Nonsense, nonsense! Nothing to see!” it’s a good time to pay attention.