Sunday, February 5, 2017

Grey Isn't White, But Neither Is It Black

Trump may finally have waded into shit so deep even his toupee is going to disappear. In an interview with Bill O'Reilly set to air during the Super Bowl pregame, he's going to draw a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia
O'Reilly pressed on, declaring to the president that “Putin is a killer.”

Unfazed, Trump didn't back away, but rather compared Putin's reputation for extrajudicial killings with the United States'.

“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
Some people are  seeing this as an almost Chomsky like argument--America is a corrupt country that has no business criticizing others. However, this misses a couple points.

First of all, the pure Chomskyite argument is one of moral outrage--throughout its history, the US has committed a number of atrocities (slavery, genocide and ethnic cleansing against natives, wars of imperialism, supporting dictators over democracy whenever it benefits American business interests), and we have to do better, and until we do, our criticisms of foreign governments are hypocritical. That's the exact opposite of Trump's argument here. He's shrugging off our evils and saying, "Hey, let's embrace this. If we've done bad shit, why shouldn't we pal around with dictatorships? Let's be badasses together. Fuck yeah!"

But that's the second key difference. The more nuanced argument isn't that America is evil, but rather that we're not good.

Look at WWII, the classic example where America likes to pretend we were the White Hats striding in to kick Nazi ass and make the world safe for democracy. Sure, we had to align ourselves with the Soviets, but that was an alliance of convenience that we repudiated almost immediately after the war. And yes, the British Empire wasn't the most noble enterprise in history, but we used Lend-Lease, the Atlantic Charter, Bretton Woods and the Marshall Plan to push the Brits towards dissolving the empire. So, go us.

Critics, however, point out that the truth is more complicated. The United States forced racial minorities to live in ghettos, and we put the Japanese into concentration camps. The Nazi eugenics program was an industrialized version of programs at work in the United States -- programs that lasted all the way to 1980 in some cases. There were individual US bombing raids that killed more civilians than the entire Blitz. And that's not even touching on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 Conservatives often take umbrage at such comparisons. They tend to have a binary worldview--everything must be black or white, and if you're arguing that America wasn't wearing a white hat, you must think we were bad guys no different than Nazis. But that's ridiculous. Morality exists in shades of grey. No one is pure white or pure black (though the Nazis were about as close as you can get). Out of all the powers in WWII, the US was the lightest grey, but to deny that we were grey is to rewrite history.

But when you look at Trump's comment, he's not making an argument about shades of grey. He's adopting the conservative binary view of morality and saying, "Well, we're not white hats, so we might as well embrace villainy."

And in doing so he's papering over the major differences between the US and Russia. No, we aren't morally pure here. Some of our Eastern European allies are less than democratic. Pushing NATO right onto Russia's doorstep is provocative and we should've found a better way to secure Eastern Europe's security. But our excesses these days (at least until a couple weeks ago) are in foreign policy. Domestically, there's no comparison. No American president within living memory has ordered the murder of a domestic political opponent or critic--the fact that Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh are alive is proof of that; if Nixon didn't do it, no one did. The US hasn't locked up homosexuals in decades. Political dissent is not punished. Is America perfect? No, far from it. Our foreign policy in particular could use some serious revision. But less than perfect is a far cry from being wicked. We get things wrong, but we strive to become better; Putin embraces what he is, and now Trump wants America to do the same.

Anyone who takes pride in all that the US has accomplished, flawed though it might be, should be aghast at what Trump is suggesting about us.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Let Americans Become the Devils Who Torture Mike Pence's Soul

Mike Pence and Paul Ryan both claim to be good Christians and patriotic Americans. Both have stated in the past that they oppose Trump's Muslim ban, and yet today they stand behind the administration in it's offensive action. Perhaps America should remind them that they once had a conscience.

Print out these two tweets, write across the top of each, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," and mail them to Pence and Ryan.


Addresses:

Vice President Mike Pence
The White House.
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20500


Congressman Paul Ryan
1233 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515


 And make sure you tell your friends to do the same. The goal here is to recreate that scene at the end of Miracle on 34th Street when the mail carriers come in with sack-loads of letters addressed to Santa, but every one full of these tweets to remind Ryan and Pence of what they claim they stand for.

Will it make a difference? Outwardly, probably not. But if these men are the Christians they claim to be, the rebuke will sting their conscience. It will trouble them in the small hours of the night as they try to sleep, knowing that they have sold their souls for a little bit of power on Earth. If they will not stand up for what is right, Americans must become their devils and torture their souls.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Here a Cuck, There a Cuck. Everywhere a Cuck-Cuck

As anyone who's ever read Shakespeare knows, our concept of cursing has changed over time. Ol' Bill's plays are full of quaint zingers like "zounds" and "'slid," themselves bowdlerizations of equally perplexing phrases like "God's wounds," and "God's eyelid."

Part of the issue is a natural erosion of what constitutes offensive language. As David Milch has said numerous times, if he'd made the characters in Deadwood talk like actual 19th Century roughnecks, they'd sound like Yosemite Sam. What shocked people back then is mild to us today. To make his characters feel as uncouth as they would've in their period, Milch and his writers had to upgrade "damnation" to "cocksucker".

But this also indicates a second, broader issue -- the categories which offend us change over time. From Shakespeare's day until the early 20th Century, profanity--taking God's name in vain and wishing people to Hell--was every bit as bad as vulgarity--the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television--but since the '60s, religious cursing has been majorly downgraded. Nowadays "go to Hell" is only offensive for the sentiment, while "oh my God," won't raise eyebrows from anyone but the most devout clergy members.

One way to think of it is to divide language into three classes--(A) that which can be used in polite company, (B) that which you can use around your friends but would never use at work or in front of your parents, and (C) that which is absolutely verboten. Back in the time of Deadwood, "God damn you," would've been in Class B, whereas telling someone to go fuck themselves would've earned you a broken nose at the very least. Most everything in Class C in the 19th Century is Class B today, and much of what would've been Class B back then is Class A today.

Some might argue that this is a sign of our enlightenment--that we've thrown off the shackles of Victorian prudery and are no longer beholden to the view that there are words that shouldn't be said; others would say the exact opposite--that our acceptance of such coarse language is a sign of modern depravity.

They're both wrong.

Just as one piston in a car never goes up unless another one comes down, so too growing acceptance of vulgarity has been accompanied by the establishment of new taboos. But whereas the old taboos focused on the sexual and excretory, the modern taboos focus on insults about someone's identity. Racial epithets are the most obvious, but derogatory terms about sexual orientation and gender are rapidly taking on the same stigma, as are terms like "retard" and "cripple" that a few decades ago could be thrown about in casual conversation, even in public.

Which brings us to the term "cuck". Those who've been following the emergence of the Alt-Right over the last few years have long since grown accustomed to the term, but it's started leaking into the mainstream this year thanks to our most esteemed and revered soon-to-be Maximum Leader. The word derives from "cuckold," one of those great SAT words that's teetered on the brink between obscurity and archaicness for decades, preserved mainly because authors like to throw it into their books despite the fact that nobody's used it in actual conversation since 1908. A "cuckold" is a man who's wife is cheating on him, and especially one whose wife has been impregnated by another. The term derives from cuckoos and their habit of laying eggs in some other bird's nest, thus absolving themselves of the responsibility of parenthood.

If that were all there was to it, "cuck" would make a great addition to our vocabulary, even if it did come out of neo-Fascism. It's short, begins and ends with harsh consonants, and its meaning is insulting without treading on taboo areas. Frankly, it's amazing Chaucer or Shakespeare didn't invent it.

But of course, nobody on the Alt-Right is even half as smart as Chaucer or Shakespeare. They didn't actually come up with the word. Instead, they stole it from porn. Cuck videos are more or less what you would expect--a woman has sex with one guy while her boyfriend watches (often forced to watch) or sits obliviously in the next room. But there's a wrinkle--most cuck videos are interracial, with a black dude stealing a white chick from a white dude. And if you listen to how the Alt-Right deploys the word, that racial connotation is absolutely intended. They use "cuck" in an almost sociological sense--a cuck isn't just a guy who's too wimpy to keep his girlfriend satisfied; he's a guy who's standing idly by as black men grab up all the white women, thus tacitly condoning "white genocide" (another favorite term from the Alt-Right). The implication, of course, is that if you don't want to be a cuck, you need to posse-up and ride out to serve justice on black men, like something out of Birth of a Nation.

So, where does that put "cuck" on the continuum of acceptable language? The plain meaning is no worse than "bastard," and it's not something any television network would censor, though the similarity to other, harsher words might get you funny looks if you used it in public. But that racial tinge suggests we should treat it the same way we would n----r, s--c or k--e. The problem is that most people aren't aware of the baggage the word carries. To them, it just appeared in conversation one day, de novo. Americans are horrible at understanding coded racism--there are still people who don't see anything wrong with "welfare mother"--and explaining how "cuck" relates to white supremacy is going to end in rolled eyes and mutters about "hypersensitive liberals".

There's also the temptation to turn the word around and use it against the Alt-Right--to say, "Who's the cuck now, huh?" every time Trump sells them out. If they're not going to abide by civilized discourse, why should we?

Well, there is the fact that we're the ones fighting for the maintenance of civility. We don't want to be like the soldier in Vietnam who said, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." If your enemy attacks you with mustard gas and small pox, you don't respond with your own CBW weapons--you prepare a war crimes tribunal. Convincing people that "cuck" should be a taboo term might be a bridge too far at this point, but we can still fight its normalization. Instead of trying to declare cuck beyond the pale, we treat it as the ad hominem insult it is, and mock those who use it for resorting to childish name calling. Remember, Internet arguments are a spectator sport; the point isn't to convince your opponent that he's wrong, but to convince those who are watching the argument unfold. If you treat "cuck" as a stupid, immature insult, even without explaining why, the people around you will get the idea, and they'll look askance anytime they encounter an Alt-Righter using the word.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump Proposes Anime Tariff

Japanese newspapers are reporting details on Trump's meeting with Prime Minister Abe, and it bodes ill for the anime industry. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Trump is deeply disturbed at the way Asian animation companies have been taking work away from Americans. He specifically singled out South Korean sweatshop studios, but he also noted the disturbing increase in the number of Americans who are turning to Japanese shows for their entertainment needs. "In order to make Hanna-Barbera and Filmation great again, we're going to have to impose a 25% tax on anime licensing fees," Trump reportedly told Abe (this was translated from a Japanese translation of Trump's remarks, so something may've been lost).

Crunchyroll and Funimation released a joint response calling Trump's proposal "an unmitigated attack on localization companies that provide hundreds of jobs" to Americans.

More to come as the story develops.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Niemoeller Instinct

It's already started.

Whether you turn on TV, read the paper, or go online, you're sure to hear it. The muttering of people who don't want to acknowledge that they're living in a nightmare. "Well, maybe Trump won't be that bad," they say. "Maybe we should give him a chance." "Some of his domestic policies are kinda liberal."

"Maybe it won't be that bad."

This is the wishful thinking of people in denial, people who can't admit that America as it's existed for the last 240 years is dead. They want Trump to take off his mask and show that the last eighteen months were just an act. They'll take any twitch of his eyes as a sign of conciliation. They gush about his speech last night and say, "He's right. We've got to bring the nation together."

They want everything to go back to normal.

It's not going to.

It will never be normal again.

The only mask that came off last night is the one that hid middle America's white nationalism, the contempt large parts of this country feel towards immigrants, people of color, women, sexual minorities, and non-Christians. That is something we can never walk back. Pretending otherwise is like being the woman who says, "Well sure, he just punched me, but he was angry. He's not really like that." By the time the evidence piles up that, yes, actually, he really is like that, it's too late.

During the 1930s, the German minister Martin Niemoeller felt the same way. He watched as Hitler consolidated his power and lashed out against his enemies, but Niemoeller did nothing about it. Later he wrote,


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


That's how fascism works. One enemy at the time, starting with the smallest and least popular.

But the problem here is that people don't believe Trump is fascist. The word's been abused for so many years that it's lost its power. People -- even those who should know better -- reflexively flinch when you use it to describe anyone in a major political party, especially the leader of a party.

But Trump is a fascist. What he represents is a fascist movement.

The term is notoriously hard to define -- in no small part because the manifestos written on the subject are mostly incoherent gibberish. But one of the best definitions comes from the Italian scholar Umberto Eco, who actually grew up in Italy under Mussolini. He laid out fourteen points of what he calls "Ur-Fascism," or "Eternal Fascism," and Trumpism hits every single one.

The Cult of Tradition

The key tenet of any fascist movement is the myth of a lost Golden Age which has been stolen from us, and which only The Leader can bring back. Hitler had the mythical Wagnerian Age of the great Nordic heroes, and the First Reich of the Holy Roman Empire, which had been undone by Those People. Trump has MAGA -- the hazily defined period when the United States was totally awesome, Americans all worked in factories producing actual stuff, and Those People knew their place. Like the Wagnerian Age, this period never existed. It's based upon schoolbook history which elides all the bad bits and exaggerates America's accomplishments. (Note Trump's constant invocation of Patton, as though Old Blood and Guts actually won WWII instead of the overwhelming power of the Red Army.)

Rejection of Modernism

As Eco notes, Fascists certainly embrace all the shiny chrome of the modern world, but the ideals of the Enlightenment are trash to them. Even before Trump, the Alt-Right was fighting against feminism and multiculturalism for the ways they "destroy" science fiction and video games by opening them up to different perspectives. Our modern world is built upon the idea of embracing the Other; Trumpkins consider this an existential threat to our culture.

Action for Action's Sake

In 1990 Trump gave an interview with Playboy that's highly illustrative of his views on government power:

What were your other impressions of the Soviet Union?

I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; The signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That's my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.

You mean firm hand as in China?

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world—

Why is Gorbachev not firm enough?

I predict he will be overthrown, because he has shown extraordinary weakness. Suddenly, for the first time ever, there are coal-miner strikes and brush fires everywhere—which will all ultimately lead to a violent revolution. Yet Gorbachev is getting credit for being a wonderful leader and we should continue giving him credit, because he's destroying the Soviet Union. But his giving an inch is going to end up costing him and all his friends what they most cherish—their jobs.
He doesn't view any of these events through a moral lens -- all he cares about is whether a leader was strong or weak, with strength being defined in the simplistic terms of General Ursus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes: "The only thing that counts in the end is power! Naked merciless force!"

But Eco's point here is more nuanced.

Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes.

Every time Trump has been pressed about policy specifics, he's brushed them off as unimportant. When pushed by advisers to prepare for the debates, he brushed them off and made fun of Clinton for actually making the effort.  To him, leadership is about making snap decisions, doesn't matter if they're informed decisions. Doing something is important, not doing it right.

Eco goes on to identify fascism with, "such expressions as 'degenerate intellectuals,' 'eggheads,' 'effete snobs,' and 'universities are nests of reds.'" To this we can add, "elites," "social justice warriors," and, of course, "cuckservative".

Disagreement is Treason

True culture is monolithic and any crack in its facade is intolerable. The suggestion that a multiplicity of ideas brings strength is heretical. There is one solution, it is obvious, and anyone who disagrees is a cuck. Trump supporters are upset that the cosmopolitan elites embrace the multiplicity -- different genders, different sexual orientations, different cultures, different religions. These guys from New York City (Trump excepted, of course) are an alien influence within the United States.

Fear of Difference

The monolithic culture is also fragile and cannot withstand differences from without, either. The Outsider must be shunned, for anything that is different -- Muslims and Mexicans, let's say -- is a threat to the monolith.


Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class 

Though in the case of Trumpism, it's not so much the middle class as a privileged racial caste having its power challenged, but the phenomenon remains the same one Eco describes: "a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups."

Obsession with a Plot

Fascism preys upon the minds of its followers by presenting them with a narrative -- everything wrong with their lives isn't a product of uncaring, impersonal forces that can only be fixed through broad systemic changes. It's a conspiracy. Those People are out to get you, and you can only stop them if you get them first.

Trump embraces conspiracy mongers like Alex Jones and then spins their fantasies as his own. Why is ISIS ascendant? Why is the US letting Muslim refugees into the country? Could it be because Barack Hussein Obama is secretly on their side? Maybe. I dunno. But it could be. And why is he doing that? Does it have anything to do with gay marriage? Black Lives Matter? Sure, why not. Trump's approach is scattershot, and he'll never spell out what he believes (if, indeed, he believes any of this). Instead, he throws out hunks for people to grab onto and make up their own narratives. The only thing that matters is his followers believe there's some plot to keep them down, and only he can save them.

Humiliation by the Wealth and Force of the Enemy

If we used to be great but we no longer are, naturally somebody else must've taken our place (Fascism requires a belief that the world is zero-sum). Their existence is a humiliation to us. We have a natural right to be the best in the world. (Remember, because we're a monolithic culture, considering the other side's point of view is not allowed.) China, they're eating our lunch. Iran is hoodwinking us. They're getting together behind our backs and laughing at us for not wearing the right brand of tennis shoes. Of course, because we're naturally great, it'll be easy to stomp them into the ground, if only we had the right leader who didn't kowtow to them and deal with them as equals. Someone who'll come along and say, "This deal is no longer applicable. We want to renegotiate everything, and we're going to get the better half of the bargain."

Life is Permanent Warfare, and Pacifism is Trafficking with the Enemy

Why are we negotiating with Iran when we should be stomping the shit out of them? Why did we leave Iraq without stealing the oil? That's weak. Weak is bad. Life is struggle and struggle is life. In everything there is a winner and loser -- thus has Trump defined his entire life.

Contempt for the Weak
 If you've ever had the mispleasure of dealing with Trump's Alt-Right supporters online, this should be familiar to you. Any complaint about the social structure of our country is met with reflexive jokes about "safe spaces" and "drinking your tears." Men who side with feminism are "cucks" who stand aside and let their girlfriends get fucked by black dudes. Fascists are weak, therefore they must believe they are stronger than someone. And doubly so for The Leader, who validates his manhood by the fact that everyone bows down before him. Listen to the stories about how Trump treated Christie -- and Christie accepted it all because he wanted Trump to make him strong.

The Cult of Heroes

Heroism isn't just something to be respected in others -- not being a hero yourself is a failing. We've seen this repeatedly with Trump and his attempts to make his draft-dodging heroic -- avoiding STDs was his "personal Vietnam," and spending money to pay employees was his personal sacrifice. Even he realizes he's wanting in the grand scale of things and has to build himself up with bravado while tearing down real heroes like John McCain.

The Ur-Fascist Transfers His will to Power to Sexual Matters

Does this one need any explication? We've all seen the Access Hollywood video.

Selective Populism

Sayeth Eco,

For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

 Hey, did I mention Eco wrote this in 1995?

In Trump's world, the voice of his followers (which echoes his own, naturally) is the only legitimate populism -- Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, feminism, and other social movements are illegitimate intrusions of the Outsider. The Vox Populi is that which supports Trump, and everything else can safely be ignored.

For now this echo chamber is limited to Fox News, Breitbart and the like, but we already see signs of it encroaching on CNN with their inclusion of Lewandowski and his ilk on panels. Add to that Trump's veiled threats against the Washington Post and the strong likelihood that he'll limit press access to his White House and you can see the shadow of a monolithic media environment.

Ur-Fascism Speaks Newspeak

Eco isn't talking here about individual euphemistic phrases, but more broadly of Orwell's original conception -- a language stripped bare of the vocabulary for dissent. Much has been made of Trump's simplistic language, and how he barely speaks at a fifth grade level. Without nuance, his ideas sound plausible to those who are ignorant of the subject. The complex arguments necessary to refute him are too long and detailed, and they end up sounding like flimflammery next to Trump's straightforward rhetoric.

We see this, too, in his followers. A phrase like "social justice warrior" reduces a slew of complex issues to a simple, pejorative phrase. Once somebody calls you an "SJW," the conversation is over. The merits of your argument don't matter -- it's SJW logic, and SJW logic is wrong by definition. Shut up and go away.

The goal of Trumpkins and the Alt-Right is to illegitimate opposing ideas. In the next few years we can expect the basic premises of modern, pluralistic society to not only come under attack, but to be declared incoherent due to their complexity.

This is what we face over the next few years. Trumpism is not merely an alternate political view. It is an assault on the very fabric of post-Enlightenment civil society. Pluralism, multiculturalism, even religious liberty outside mainline Christianity are all going to come under assault as Republicans gain control of all three branches of government, and Trump gains control of the Republicans.

America is already over. All that's left is the screaming.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Manafort Destiny: Earth S2016 E33

Once more real life takes a toll on the plot. As we've all heard by now, the actor playing Paul Manafort had a little issue with driving into a lamp post while drunk off his ass, and the producers dumped his ass like an empty candy wrapper. This has happened  numerous times throughout the show's history, most notoriously back in Season 1963 when the actor playing JFK got caught with a couple underage girls. But the people writing Earth in season 2016 don't have a twentieth of the talent of the writers from 1963, which is arguably the last great season the show ever produced. Oh, the current writers clearly adore S1963. We can see it all over recent episodes with the resurgent Russia and the return of high-stakes spy shenanigans. But suddenly outing Manafort as a Russian agent and having like five news organizations make major revelations about him in a single episode ... I mean, come on. (Yes, I know there was some foreshadowing of Manafort's foreign ties before this, but the way it was revealed was as subtle of a sledgehammer).

Of course the sudden change of course left the producers scrambling to find a new campaign manager for the Trump campaign. Personally, I wish they'd bring Lewandowski back. His odd-couple relationship with Trump and the wacky shit Trump said at his assistance was the highlight of the last season. But instead they bring in the Breitbart guy, and Roger Ailes, and Sean Hannity, which, again, heavyhanded. By the time we get to the election, Trump and his staff are going to be goosestepping around in Nazi uniforms. Lewandowski at least kept everything farcical. The current direction of the show seems to indicate that we're supposed to take Trump seriously as a villain, which ... no. I'm sorry, the guy playing Trump isn't nearly a good enough actor to convince me that he has fanatical followers. (The actors playing his followers aren't much better. I mean that scene with the lawyer on CNN demanding "What polls?" was painful. I can believe these twits would follow an idiot like Trump, but I can't believe that Trump is in the position he's in when these are the best followers he's got.)

And to top it off, the end of the episode doesn't even make sense. If you're going to bring in these crazy whackjob characters to run Trump's campaign, you can't go and have him suddenly start acting reasonable and apologizing for hurting people's feelings and walking back his position on immigration. It's one or the other -- he's going to go more extreme, or he's going to start playing at being a real candidate (and it's about twenty episodes too late for that). Having him do both at the same time is nonsensical writing.

And in the middle of all this, we have the conclusion of the Olympics arc. I'm glad they pushed it down to a B-pot this week and didn't focus on any stupid sports, but the subplot where the athletes break a door and lie about it and get arrested ... were the writers trying to be funny? That's the only thing I can think of. If they wanted to be dramatic, surely they could come up with a better crime (though I suppose having one of the athletes get into a drunk driving accident was off limits due to the Manafort business). Having Brazil arrest the guys over something so minor is a real eyerolling moment.

NEXT WEEK: A Clinton scandal. Exactly what nobody in the viewing audience wants.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gold Record: Earth S2016 E32

I hate sports episodes. Let's just get that out of the way up front.

I hate the annual Super Bowl episode. I hate the March Madness arc. I hate the World Cup storyline. They all bore me.

But above all, I hate the Olympics. It's always the same storylines over and over. Oh look, somebody broke a world record. Again. Then in the next episode it's going to turn out at least one of the record breakers was doping, and it'll be a huge scandal and blah-blah-blah. We've seen it all before. Writers, it's time to move on. Come up with a different plot line.

I mean, it wasn't always like this. Used to be the Olympics were world shaking events -- remember season 1936 when they were set against the backdrop of the Hitler arc, and Jesse Owens humiliated the Nazis in the heart of their empire? That was great writing. Or remember the Olympic boycotts and how they came just as the Cold War arc was at its most exciting?

That's how you do something like this.

But the last few years, it's all been lackluster. The 2014 arc could've been something, coming right at the start of the Ukraine storyline, with Putin cracking down on political dissidents in the background, but the writers completely blew it. And this year, the big plotline they came up with was the Olympics taking place in a city with shitty water -- literally. And it hasn't even played a part in the plotline.

But my big problem with the Olympics is the writers' stupid insistence on making them coincide with the American Presidential elections. This was a dumb move from the get-go, but it's become more so in the last few seasons as the American election arcs go on longer and longer. Here we are at the most exciting point in the story, and we're taking time away for a two part sports story.

The writers had a chance to fix things when they decided to stagger the Summer and Winter Olympics. The smart thing to do would've been to move the summer games, since those are the ones that occur right before the election climax, but instead they shifted the Winter Olympics, which used to take place right before the primaries. So we're stuck with the Olympics reducing the American elections to a B-story.

And what a lame B-story. I don't think the writers were even trying this week. Trump's statements are getting more and more ridiculous -- rants about rigged elections and suggestions that someone should shoot Hillary -- but we're still supposed to believe that Ryan, Priebus and McConnell are supporting him? No rational politician would stick by this guy, especially with his polls tanking. There better be a revelation coming that he has pictures of the Republican leadership committing sex crimes, because the current direction this story is taking has broken by suspension of disbelief.