strange times (3)

Talking about the loss of America's "fictive kinship" and the war between the (let's call them) Trump-haters and Hillary-haters, a friend notes that market forces (global business, multinationals, unelected corporate "oligarchs") profit from these divisions. As long as the Trump-haters and Hillary-haters are arguing about topics such as "should a screaming baby be snatched from its mother's arms and put in a concentration camp [click 'yes' or 'no']," they are not finding common cause on issues such as their flat wages and diminishing social safety net. My friend "Harry" who was emailing about those babies and "civility" sort of gets this but can't abandon his Trump fixation. In an email I ventured that "the oligarchs are laughing while people argue about child-snatching"; in his reply Harry changed it to "the oligarchy and Trump": "Yes, the oligarchy and Trump have engineered increased polarization and division in the US and in the world. It aids them on their way to the bank and on their way to nearly unstoppable control. Pervasive, nonviolent responses are one way to fight it." By pervasive, nonviolent responses he meant refusing to serve Trump staffers. He implicitly compares himself to Martin Luther King, fighting the lonely fight one staffer at a time, and seems not to realize he has the entire "deep state" and Washington media apparatus on his side.

strange times (2)

As I talk to people in these strange times, not knowing who among friends or strangers will turn out to be a Pod Person screeching like Donald Sutherland, I have mentioned John Robb's theory that America is losing its "fictive kinship," that is, its traditional shared mores. Robb writes:

Over the last several weeks we've seen a rapid diminishment in the fictive kinship that unites us as Americans. In fact, many of us don't just disagree with other Americans. We see them as existential threats.

Here are the existential threat narratives:

"crypto-fascist science deniers demanding a return to the racism and misogyny of the 1950's, while stripping away the rights of immigrants, on the way to sending brown people, LGBTs, and muslims to concentration camps"

"crypto-Stalinist thought police demanding compliance with fake science and virtue-signaling identity performance from all, on the way to Gulag World with straight white males at the bottom. Ideally killing millions along the way"

Robb thinks this means civil war but it's not clear how that's supposed to play out with A and B above living right next to each other. Will it be like Rwanda, where suddenly one day people pick up machetes and start hacking their neighbors? More likely A or B above will gain control of the military and use it to quell civil disturbances on a more or less permanent basis (the Jack Womack "Dryco" scenario). The above divisions will make it easier to "support" or "not support" the military.


strange times

Pres. Trump keeps having friendly summits with nuclear-armed countries, so, naturally, disappointed Clinton voters are behaving frantically.
Two articles from RSS give the flavor of the moment:

US Media is Losing Its Mind Over Trump-Putin Press Conference (Consortium News)

Trump’s Treachery Makes Republicans ‘Sad’ When They Should Be Mad (Joe Conason)

Strange and awkward times. The "left" is pushing McCarthy Era 2.0 and nuclear armageddon; the "right" wants an unwinnable war with Iran. Trump is saber-rattling with Iran and making nice with the nuke powers.

Trump-derangement syndrome is turning former friends into numbskulls. "Harry" has been sending "Trump is a Russian spy" emails since Hillary Clinton first announced this talking point. He also sent an email about the "Red Hen" flap where a Dem refused service to a Trump staffer. I said it was hypocritical -- if a Repub had done the same thing to a Clinton staffer Harry would have been shrieking "Nazi!" Harry replied by sending me a Tom Tomorrow cartoon of a pompous Washington Post editorialist saying we needed "civility"; in the same email Harry compared himself to Martin Luther King. I honestly don't know if he missed the point about hypocrisy but he kept bludgeoning about civility until I asked him to please not send me any more emails. Were I still on his list, by now I'm certain I would have received one about the "treachery" of the Trump/Putin meeting.

All EFF'd UP

Surveillance Valley author Yasha Levine has a piece in the Baffler this week about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, titled All EFF'd Up. He wonders why this advocacy group has been largely silent regarding the Facebook (lack of) privacy scandal, which blew up after the so-called Cambridge Analytica revelations (so-called because everyone already knew Facebook was a privacy ogre). He concludes that EFF (i) isn't really an advocacy group but simply a Silicon Valley lobbyist and (ii) is more concerned with government bad behavior than corporate. He contrasts the zeal with which EFF pursued the SOPA/PIPA anti-copyright legislation (which threatened to hurt the business model of the big search and social companies) and its lackadaisical efforts re: consumer privacy. Noting that EFF is heavily funded by tech giants, he adds that:

[t]he reason for EFF’s silence on the Facebook surveillance and influence scandal goes deeper -- into the business model of the internet itself, which from the outset has framed user privacy as being threatened by ever-imminent government censorship, as opposed to the protection of users and their data from wanton commercial intrusion and exploitation. Put simply, the lords of the internet care very little about user privacy -- what they want to preserve, at the end of the day, is their own commercial license against the specter of government regulation of any kind.

EFF wasn't always silent on Facebook (lack of) privacy. See for example, an article on Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline. But that was eight years ago.

"social photography" blue chip-o-meter

Carriage Trade gallery is having its annual benefit, this year titled Social Photography VI. Cell phone photos, in editions of ten and printed with inkjet, are offered for sale at $75 per print.
A few years ago I wanted to buy an Olivier Mosset photo and all ten had been sold by the time I looked at the site.
Since I just received the press release today for the current installment, was morbidly curious to see who the top sellers were. Sorting the list by best-selling, here are the ones that are already gone [see update below]:

Dan Graham
Neil Jenney
Barbara Ess
Tracey Emin
Louise Lawler

It's only mentioned because "social" as exemplified by Instagram, et al, is supposed to be a leveler or equalizer, or, has its own hierarchies based on clicks, "SEO," and personal fame (exclusive of art background). In this case, the list of invited artists offers a snapshot, as seen by Carriage Trade, of art world players. This includes critics (Barry Schwabsky), theorists (Hal Foster), plus a couple of members of Sonic Youth.
(In the spirit of "extraneous reasons for art valuation," yrs truly bought a photograph by Stephen Lack, who in addition to being a dues-paying painter is legendary in the film world for playing the "good Scanner" in David Cronenberg's Scanners. Screenshot below.)

stephen lack

Update: Carriage Trade director Peter Scott sent a stern email objecting to my description of the early "best-sellers" in the show. He says that emails announcing the sales went out in advance of the one I received so I changed the wording of the post.