This happened today...
Trump Strips LGBT People of Workplace Protections, Then Erases Them from Census
Is it impeachment and/or prison time yet?
Make no mistake, the timing of this awfulness is not an accident. Trump and the GOP were humiliated by failure to repeal Obamacare. They must be kicking themselves for spending so much time smearing Obama's name over the ACA without realizing that a lot of their own base benefited from it, even if they didn't like the guy who made it happen. Yesterday's blitz of insanely evil executive orders is the desperate move of an administration trapped in a room that is getting smaller by the day. Like a cornered animal, the Trump Administration lashes out, trying to do enough damage to convince you to leave them alone.
The Russia thing isn't going away. The cover up always makes the initial offense worse. Politicians so much better than brighter than the Trump clown car have played this game and still lost..."bigly".
It's the same pattern that happened after President Manbaby was embarrassed by his dismal inauguration, or by the courts smacking down his Gestapo-esque Muslim ban. Every time he gets embarrassed, he doubles down on appealing to his hateful support base. He inflicts hurt on people the MRA's, Neo-Nazi's and Alt-Right assholes who make up his die hard base don't like because that's the only way they know how to show strength is through harming others.
As someone much smarter than I put it: "fascism is a loser ideology". Not only because it is doomed to fail, but it also appeals strictly to LOSERS.
Fascism is unsustainable as an ideology. It is a hungry beast that constantly requires new scapegoats to be offered up, even if you think you're in a safe group...eventually it will come for you once they run out of groups you don't care about.
It is a loser ideology in a second, more important way. It appeals strictly to LOSERS (using one of Trump's favourite schoolyard insults). Fragile, privileged little shits who cannot fathom the idea that if not for the systems set up to explicitly favor them, they wouldn't be able to compete on an even playing field with those "other" kinds of people they derisively sneer at. Losers who would rather take the lazy route of blaming minorities than address the real reasons they are being left behind by a changing society. As all loser fascists do, rather than adapt, grow or change with the times, they choose to destroy and erase those they see as a threat. Rather than try and coexist with the "other", they would just rather remove them from the situation all together.
Yesterday was a pretty dark day.
A narcissistic, compulsive liar, sexual predator, Russian conspirator was sworn in to the most powerful office in the world. Reports on the ground of his inauguration crowd read like the worst combination of a convention of gamergaters, MRA's, Neo-Nazis and delusional desperate people clinging to the hope that their red hatted messiah will help save them from the scary foreign boogeymen that they are eager to blame for their misfortunes.
Immediately, the words "climate change", "LGBT rights", "Civil Rights" were scrubbed from the whitehouse.gov website, letting us know exactly where this new administration almost exclusively run by straight white men for straight white men stands. In his first executive order as President, Donald Trump has made clear his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act while having no idea of what to replace it with.
30 million Americans will lose their health insurance, all so the Republican Party can take a petty, vindictive swipe at the man who spent 8 years trying to fix what they had destroyed over the previous 30.
Very rarely do we stand on the precipice of history, knowing full well that the world is going to change tomorrow. I tend to be a optimist when it comes to the progress we are capable of in a short period of time. I always hope that tomorrow will be the day that the next big scientific discovery is made, or the next positive step to a more inclusive and diverse society. Yesterday, however, I had the inescapable feeling that the world was about to change for the worse.
So, that's all pretty terrible.
Then I woke up this morning to a twitter feed filled with pictures of hundreds of thousands of people marching in the streets of Washington for the Women's March. Making minuscule by comparison the sad, angry, ghost town that was the Inauguration (which will forever eat away at the new thin skinned President, that he couldn't even get half the audience that Obama did). The images yesterday of empty bleachers juxtaposed with images of packed city streets today give me hope. Millions more are marching around the world in solidarity. As the pictures came in, not just in American cities like Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Lexington, Austin, Los Angeles, NYC but also in far flung places like Dublin Ireland, Cape Town South Africa and even an exploring expedition in Antarctica. So many places, it's hard to keep up.
Donald Trump and his sad little cult of followers do present a real threat to the progress that has been made in the past century. An angry, bitter group of resentful bigots have managed to to find their way into the White House. Amoral, sociopathic, bought and paid for Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell (I'm ashamed to share a first name with that owl faced asshole) present a real threat. A supreme court seat sits open due to the GOP's pettiness. The incoming Trump administration is chock full of conflicts of interests, conspiracy nuts, ethical violations, white supremacists and cronies who bought their way in so they could re-write the rules in their favour.
The next 4 years are not going to be easy, but today gave me hope that they will not be easy for the forces or regression and intolerance.
We've made too much progress to go backwards. Time moves ahead. Old ideas die out and many tomorrows from now I hope we look back on today as the turning point when we stood up to forces of fascism and said "Never again."
PS: Seeing Neo-Nazi prick Richard Spencer get punched yesterday made the day slightly better.
... AKA "How Marvel Comics Pulled Off The Greatest Pop Culture Magic Trick In Recent History, And More Importantly, Why They Did It"
So...Captain America's a Nazi huh?
This is a position taken up by a great many comic fans, many of whose opinions I greatly respect. I feel this is worth emphasizing up front because I'm going to get into some contentious stuff. That said, I can’t help but feel this whole Captain America situation is being somewhat misinterpreted, not just on a surface narrative level, but also on a wider socio-political level. Some of the arguments against it are a tad misguided. (Translation: "Oh God! Please don't hurt me!")
That’s the opening paragraph of a man whose every fibre is wincing in anticipation of the white hot torrent of hate he is no doubt about to unleash by saying something unpopular.
So here goes...
I think the latest Captain America/Hydra twist is a bold artistic choice, and I think its critics are missing the point entirely because they don't want to think about the ugly truths the writer is trying to address.
It’s also worth emphasizing right off the top that I don’t have any problems with a consumer deciding that a particular story isn’t for them and opting out. That's not what this is about. I washed my hands of the Walking Dead after the last season finale and the cliffhanger bait and switch ending. Y’all can go on without me. Enjoy your show. I'm not gonna stop you, but I'm jumping off the train. That's the adult, mature way to decide you have better things to do with your time than consume a particular piece of art.
I support the right of consumers to vote with their wallets. I might think they are jumping the gun a bit, but it’s their right to bail if the story isn't of interest. Much like me and the Walking Dead, there’s nothing saying they can’t jump back on if the story turns out to be better than first thought (I imagine there will be a lot of fans walking back their vitriol once the actual story is revealed).
Where I do have some issues are: A) accusations that such a narrative turn is anti-Semitic due to the creators being Jewish, B) the idea that this story has no artistic worth and is only for shock value, C) the idea that this turn fundamentally undermines Captain America's "legacy, and D) the idea that because a section of the audience finds an idea offensive, that it isn't worth exploring.
The last one is particularly glaring for me because it puts the current outrage machine in the same bucket as the Catholic protesters who threatened Kevin Smith's life for making "Dogma", and then just quietly went away when the movie came out and they realized that a movie with a rubber poop monster in it wasn't a threat to Catholicism.
I guess the lesson is, maybe wait an see if the thing is actually what it initially appears to be, before sending your death threats.
NOTE: I'll start by addressing the "Why they did it" of this situation and then I'll move on to the "How they did it" further down.
For those unaware of the controversy...(how’s the weather under that rock?) Marvel Comics recently stirred up a bit of an ol' shitstorm by ending their issue of Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 with all American good guy Steve Rogers kicking D-List hero Jack Flag out of a plane and saying the words “Hail Hydra”. It was a shocking twist, made even more so by the creators insistence that Captain America has indeed been a Hydra double agent all along.
The implication is this iconic symbol of Americana has been revealed to be a part of a group so evil, the Nazi’s wanted nothing to do with them/didn’t know they existed depending on which version of Hydra we’re talking about. To see Captain America essentially giving a comic book equivalent of a "Seig Heil" is pretty shocking and outrageous, which is kind of the point. It becomes less so when you consider that Jack Kirby himself did a story where a brainwashed Captain America was shown actually giving a Nazi salute and pledging his allegiance to Hitler.
Hence, why I'm a little dismissive of the anti-Semitism argument. Captain America's own creators did worse things with Cap during the war they were fighting.
The internet reaction to this twist has been a fascinating and nuanced discussion of what the symbolism means and where the creators may be going with - nah just kidding! People lost their fucking minds and immediately started threatening death and calling anybody who defended it an Antisemite. They also wished that James Gunn’s pets would be fed into a wood chipper, which is the type of oddly specific threat that tends to come from someone who probably just really wants to do that thing and sees an opportunity to say it out loud. The attitude from this corner of the internet has very much been “I don’t like the premise of this story, therefore - kill it with fire”.
NOTE: Don’t even get me started on the baffling concept of people destroying stuff they bought in protest. Not only are they burning books, which is the most un-Captain America thing possible, but they're also saying "I'm burning a thing I paid money for, this will show them!" Yeah, it'll show them that you can't be trusted with your allowance, now go clean your room mister! And no hot pockets until you take out the trash.
On that note, have you heard about this “1984” book about how this guy works happily for a totalitarian, surveillance state and how great it is to not have freedom? I didn’t read beyond the first chapter, or consider any of the symbolism, or deeper themes but I'm gonna dig up this George Orwell guy and threaten his corpse for making me think about things! (Death threats have become so common place on the internet, I think next year they'll qualify as a distinct language in the census.) Of course I’m being facetious with this example, but is it any more reasonable to want to snuff out a Captain America story because you didn’t like the hook in the first chapter?
The general rule of storytelling is that the hook of every story is based on a “What If” question. “What If someone made a theme park with cloned dinosaurs?” “What if we’re living in a computer simulation?” “What If Shaquille O’Neal was a genie?”
You know…the classics.
It’s with some trepidation that I admit that the hook of “What If Captain America was Hydra all along?” is an intriguing idea. As with all ideas, it all depends on what you do with it.
Captain America is not just a product of another time, in terms of character, he was literally a product of another time. Captain America was created 75 years ago by Kirby and Simon as a means of a) subverting the Nazi Party’s Aryan superman archetype and b) to punch Adolph Hitler in his stupid face.
Believe it or not, this was a bold (and unpopular) move at the time from the duo. America at large was pretty burned out on war and was reluctant to join in until Pearl Harbor drew them into the conflict. Captain America provided a patriotic symbol to rally around and was a part of a greater movement of artists using their medium to convince the average American that this was a battle worth fighting.
That leads me to why this new twist on Captain America is the one we need now. It's a different world and different set of circumstances then it was in 1941. Nick Spencer could have taken the easy road. He could have had Captain America punch out Donald Trump, give a nice speech and called it a day. If he wanted to accomplish nothing and feel good about the way things are, that would have been a great way to do it. That have been completely useless, except making hateful zealots dig in their heels further. Ask yourself this: How many people change their minds based on being told they're wrong vs. being forced to question their beliefs? If you want the answer to that question, look at what happens every time Donald Trump is caught in a lie. His supporters only get whipped into a bigger frenzy because it feeds the "everybody's out to get me" mindset even more.
What if, instead confronting them, you could make them confront themselves? What if you could get them to question their beliefs by having a figure they respect take that same journey? What if you can show an American icon, (temporarily) indoctrinated into a system of hate, who realizes this and rebukes that indoctrination? What if you could explore the complicated roots of extremism and hate? What if you could illustrate the process of radicalization? What if you could communicate that there's a way out of that indoctrination?
Simply put, that is the kind of storytelling that causes real change. Nothing is gained by preaching to the choir. As an example, one of my favourite TV shows of all time was the early 2000's sitcom "Titus". The show did an episode called "Tommy's Not Gay" where they talked frankly about the evils of homophobia. In the DVD commentary, Christopher Titus explained his reasoning for doing the episode was that the audience for his show (which he referred to as a "Nascar audience" due to the heavy presence of hot rods and car culture in the show) was likely to include gay bashers just by attrition. He saw an opportunity to change some minds, because he had the audience that needed to change and he had the means to reach them. In his reasoning, nobody was going to change their mind regarding LGBT attitudes by watching "Will & Grace" because the homophobes weren't watching anyway.
In order to understand why Cap is the perfect hero to take this journey to the dark side, we must first acknowledge the propaganda roots of the character and how that syncs up with the "Make America Great Again" crowd. Up until the war was over (and he got his silver age continuity reboot), he was a tool of pro-war propaganda - Uncle Sam in spandex, wrapped in Old Glory. He had two jobs, to punch Nazis and chew bubble gum (and he was all out of gum). I know it sucks to admit while Chris Evans is charming it up on the big screen but Cap was a one dimensional, jingoistic, mascot. He wrapped himself in a flag and called himself Captain America for god's sake, because "Captain Hitler Punch" was too subtle. Plainly put, this appeals to the kind of empty patriotism crowd that sees a complex issue like immigration reform and thinks "build a wall" is a valid solution.
The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) in "Blazing Saddles" said it best...
You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.
What makes Cap the perfect character to explore America's dark side is he's the empty vessel that a creator can speak through, whose status carries weight. Every action Captain America takes has a wealth of meaning, subtext and symbolism behind it. Nick Spencer is obviously alarmed by America's white supremacy movement that has felt emboldened and galvanized by Donald Trump, and is using Captain America as a warning to try and halt the spread before it's too late.
He can do this, because Captain America doesn't exist. I don't mean that in a condescending "He's a fictional character" way. I mean there is no definitive depiction of him. Every writer and artist has created a version of him that is a completely unique flavour, just in a familiar wrapper. Just as Joe Johnson and Chris Evans took an antiquated symbol of propaganda and turned him into a box office draw. (The movies will be Hydra-less by the way, as they are too mainstream and expensive to take this kind of risk).
I feel like Nick Spencer has some interesting (if uncomfortable) things to say about the state of America and the slow slide into toxic populism we are currently witnessing. Shouldn't we wait to see where he's going before deciding if those ideas are offensive?
That's why I get a little bit annoyed when people trot out the Antisemitism accusations, or accusations of disrespecting the legacy of someone who exists only as an idea. What about real hate movements operating in the world today? What about the legacy of the real heroes who fought a genocidal madman, only to see America fall under the sway of a madman cribbing from the same playbook. The ugly truth is, America, if weaponized as a tool of hate, has a greater capacity for destruction and mass scale cruelty than any historical villain. That includes the Nazis that Cap was created as a response to. I understand that's a scary thought, that hits on a raw nerve for everyone who has studied the horrors of the Halocaust. It is serious self examination that is going to prevent history from repeating itself. Focusing on the symbolism of 75 years ago, while ignoring the very real threat of fascist white supremacy currently on America's doorstep is a case of shooting the messenger.
Sure, you can beat up on Nick Spencer for pointing out that America has some real, unresolved problems, or you can work on addressing those problems. One thing that is for damn sure, the undercurrent of American grown hate movements will not go away if you simply shout down anyone who tries to bring it up.
After all, isn't it preferable to have Captain America take this journey so that actual America won't?
I hate to pull back the curtain to spoil a story still in progress, but the big magic trick Marvel is pulling off (and has been setting up for a while now) is in service of trying to stem the tide of homegrown fascism before it’s too late. And they're doing it by showing us a dark reflection where America is the villain. Will it be successful? Who cares! It’s worth trying, because the alternative is sitting around ten to twenty years from now and saying "How did we let this happen?"
If you think, it cannot happen to America, that's a big part of the problem.
Let's all think for a moment about the message it sends that Marvel Comics chose to do this story inside of the main continuity. Do you really think a multi-billion dollar corporation like Disney/Marvel would allow a writer to turn a symbol of Americana into a pseudo-Nazi if they weren't going somewhere important with it? They could have easily siloed the story away safely out of continuity as an alternate reality thought experiment, like DC did with their "What if Superman worked for the Soviets?" storyline "Red Son". The fact that they didn't do that, speaks volumes about how important they feel this story is and how much faith they have in it. Would Marvel Comics really risk pissing so many people off, by having Captain America be Hydra forever if they didn't have a legit point to make? By saying that this is Captain America, in continuity, Marvel is forcing it's fans to confront this issue head on. No sweeping it under the rug, no sticking your head in the sand. It may be hard to watch, but Captain America will fall on the sword because heroes lead by example.
Also consider that the timing of this story, leading into the November election (and the 75th Anniversary of Captain America) is not a coincidence. This is using the medium of comic books to talk about some real important stuff. To raise some real, long term questions about not only what the 75 year legacy of Captain America really is, but what the next 75 years of America will be. Will America lead the world into a better future or a broken one?
The seeds Donald Trump has planted will not go away just because he loses this election. Trump is merely the fore shock, a warning that the big quake is on its way. What happens when someone comes along that isn’t a con artist or buffoon? Someone who isn’t an incompetent campaigner? Someone who is electable and intends on doing the things Donald Trump only claims to want to do (because it makes morons cheer louder for him)? What happens when the American people let their guards down when Trump is defeated? That’s why the old “punching Hitler in the face” method wouldn’t work. You can't punch a villain who hasn't revealed himself. Donald Trump isn’t likely to be America's Hitler, but America's Hitler is out there, somewhere, taking notes (that's assuming American Hitler has even been born yet and isn't still several decades down the road). The rise of white nationalism that Donald Trump has stirred in America won't go away when he does, unless America works to face its problems head on.
Cap was created in a different world for a different generation. Hitler was a monster on a level we hadn't seen before, except in the detached pages of history books. A disturbing number of so called “patriotic” Americans seem pretty ok with ignoring the lessons learned in WWII when it comes to treating entire groups of people as lesser than for their race, gender, religion, sexuality. How do Americans square themselves with that hypocrisy? How did "freedom loving" Americans go overseas to fight Hitler, only to come home to a country that still segregated it's population by race and locked up millions of Japanese Americans out of fear and paranoia? How do freedom loving Americans justify profiling Americans based on their race or religion and locking them away without trial? Call me cynical if you like, but addressing those hypocrisies seems kind of important.
Yes, even more important than Chris Evans biceps.
Is America really a beacon of freedom, or is that just a PR catchphrase? Does it really stand against oppression and injustice of all types, or only when the oppressed group fits into an acceptable mold that the so called "average American" (translation: middle class, straight, white, male) can muster sympathy for? You'll find no shortage of "patriots" keen to trot out WWII as an example of America's moral superiority, while turning a blind eye (or outright supporting) America's history of slavery, segregation, homegrown Antisemitism, treatment of Native populations, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-LGBT or anti-Muslim sentiment. How does the old saying go? We're all the hero of our own story.
The world is much more complex now than it was when the hero could just punch a bad guy in the face and take a victory lap. In the 75 years since Captain America was created, America has grappled with segregation, Nuclear arms proliferation, Japanese Internment, McCarthyism, Watergate, Vietnam, 9/11 not to mention the ongoing legacy of Eisenhower's warnings about the "military industrial complex" that went completely ignored.
As always, Captain America will lead by example, based on what is needed at the time, because he can survive it. That is his legacy. To be the means through which serious conversations can be had (like this one!).
That means, a heel turn is necessary. Like Hulk Hogan going to the dark side (maybe a poor example considering current events?), Captain America needs to show us his darker reflection before we can truly appreciate what he stands for. Otherwise, we just take his virtues for granted.
The Captain America created by Simon and Kirby was the one needed at the time. As a symbol, he led by example by smacking America across the teeth and saying, “Get off your ass and do something about Hitler!”
This Captain America is the one America needs right now. He’s the Ghost of Christmas Future, showing Ebenezer Scrooge his own headstone with the message of “Hey asshole! Get your house in order, or this is your future.” The question that remains to be answered is: is this a vision of things that will be, or things that may be?
America still has a chance to turn things around where Germany (the Jacob Marley of this Christmas Carol analogy) exists in hindsight to serve as a warning of what America might become if they wait until it’s too late to address their problems. It's still Christmas Day, we haven't missed it after all!
Captain America is a superweapon, much like America itself. Overpowered in comparison to all around it, but always keeping in mind that power without responsibility is tyranny. America is not immune to fascism. It has no inherent inoculation of righteousness that protects it from being corrupted and used for evil. A distressing notion (for the rest of us especially) considering if America turned heel there would be no military might on the planet that could match up to them. They would be a force the Nazi war machine could only dream of being...
...but it's not too late.
There is still hope and that’s what will come out of this story Marvel Comics is currently telling. Whether an alternate version of Cap confronts Hydra Cap (stay tuned for that explanation), or Hydra Cap rejects his indoctrination, hope will win out in the end because the alternative is everything falls apart. We may have to walk through Mordor, but we'll eventually make it back to the Shire, which will seem all the greener once we've seen the alternative.
Nick Spencer is going to take us on that journey.
How do I know that you may ask? How do I put so much faith in this story unfolding in this way? How do I know they aren't just using this as a cheap sales bump (they are trying to sell a product after all)?
It’s because Marvel Comics are in the middle of pulling off the narrative equivalent of a magic trick, and they’ve been leaving us clues in plain sight all along. That brings me to the "how" of it all.
It’s time for a segment I like to call…
"This Is The Part Where I Explain How The Magic Trick Is Done...Ruining It For Everybody Like An Asshole"
Anybody who has seen Christopher Nolan’s film “The Prestige” will recall the three acts of a magic trick outlined by Michael Caine's character as one of the core aspects of the film. I’ve included the full quote as follows...
“Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."
In order to pull off a big narrative "trick" (ie - a twist), a writer must follow the same structure in order to have the desired effect of creating that shock.
The Pledge is showing us Steve Rogers as Captain America. Everything looks normal. Everything seems normal. No extra Steve Rogers' tucked away up Nick Spencer's sleeve.
The Turn is Steve Rogers revealing that he has been Hydra all along. They’ve managed to make good guy Captain America disappear and swapped out Hydra Cap in his place. The audience gasps in shock.
The Prestige is bringing back the real Captain America and delivering a satisfying payoff to the audience can applaud and the trick concludes. That's the hardest part, and where the real meat of the story will be included. After all, the audience is primed with anticipation, meaning they're in a captive state and paying close attention now. Nick Spencer has our attention, and now has a chance to really do something with it. The fact that this conversation is even happening is an indication that the Turn was successful. People are wondering how he did it, and where the trick is.
The trouble with pulling off this type of magic trick in a storytelling sense, is if you don’t set up the trick, you get accused of cheating the audience. To put it in magic trick terms, you need to set up a mechanism to execute the trick. The magician has to build the trapdoor in order to disappear and then reappear later, otherwise the trick doesn’t work.
Ladies and gentlemen…I present the trapdoor.
That’s from the pages of Sam Wilson’s Captain America comic. There are two Captain America’s currently in the Marvel world Steve Rogers - the original and Sam Wilson formerly known as Falcon who took up the mantle when Steve was forced to retire. As Hobie Doyle would say…"it’s complicated"(would that it were so simple?). It’s a news broadcast talking about declassified S.H.I.E.L.D. documents which have revealed the existence of a top secret project called “Kobik” which is basically a sentient cosmic cube in the form of a little girl (think the Tesseract from the Marvel movies).
This particular cosmic cube has the power to “make changes in the very fabric of reality without public knowledge”. You don't say! That's nuts! Kind of like a longtime hero suddenly revealing himself to be an agent of the bad guys.
An “ethicist” (is that even a real job title bro?) goes on to say:
This means they could change anything about me, about you, about anyone or any group of us—enemies of the state, dissident groups, critics…
If this plan came to fruition, they could simply wipe any of these out of existence…
…and they would do so with no oversight or accountability. It’s terrifying!
There’s your trap door. The real Captain America is hiding under the stage somewhere, waiting for his cue. The rapdoor was there hiding in plain sight, we just didn’t know where to look. Somebody with a sinister agenda has messed with the fabric of reality and spliced out the old Cap with the new Hydra version who, yes, was technically “Hydra all along” but also is a completely different person meaning the Old Cap still exists on some level.
It's a bit of wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff, but it makes narrative sense because it isn't cheating.
The point is, the creators aren't lying when they say that Captain America has been Hydra all along because the current version of him has been. Captain America has always been Hydra because that's the current reality in the story Marvel is telling.
Think of it like this. You have a word document on your hard drive full of lovely poetry. Now imagine some nefarious person has come along, copied and pasted a similarly named document of filthy limericks (many containing the word "Nantucket") in the same folder, overwriting the original in the process. Is it the same file? Now imagine that instead of copying and pasting the new document over the old one, someone went in and changed the text of the original file. Is it still the same document it was before? After all, the day it was created is still the same, and it has the same name. That's basically the gist of what's going on in Cap's world these days. Someone swapped out the files without anyone noticing. Luckily, comics have ways of easily restoring the file to it's previous "Nantucket" free, version.
It's meta as hell because we, the audience, have been included among the "public" who had no knowledge of the shift in reality until it happened (just like the people in Cap's story). In order to tell this story, we have to temporarily adjust our perspective to one that says Captain America was dirty Hydra scum all along. It isn't a cheat because they already built in the trapdoor for the trick. It was there all along, we just didn't see it until it was time to make Cap disappear. Keyzer Soze was sitting on the couch, in front of us the whole time, we just weren't paying attention.
This isn't anything new. Game of Thrones fans will likely recognize the concept of creator double speak. Captain America has been Hydra all along in much the same winking way that Jon Snow was totally dead on Game of Thrones (for about one episode). The creators said something that was technically true at the time, but leaving themselves enough wiggle room so that when they revealed the Prestige part of the trick of bringing him back, it wasn't a cheat.
Is it duplicitous? Absolutely! Will we hold it against them when the story turns out fine? Probably not.
In closing, for those still unconvinced, keep in mind, this is still the middle stage of the trick. We still need the old Captain America to come back in spectacular fashion for the audience to applaud (probably by defeating his darker self or some other means of restoring the status quo). And now that they’ve built the trap door, once this Dark Captain America story has run it's course, the OG (Original Grandpa) Cap has a way back into the toy box, so the next artist can have a turn. We'll have some challenging story material that asks some tough-but-necessary questions, along the way, and that's ultimately what separates art from disposable entertainment. We'll journey through the darkness, to get to the light.
If the story plays out like I suspect it will, at the end we may even find some hardliners will have decided to reject their own indoctrination and go another way on the whole "embracing the rise of American fascism" thing?
Then Nick Spencer takes a bow, and the stage is reset for the next performance.
Yes the title of this post is a fart pun. I found that passing gas was a thematically appropriate pun title when it comes to the subject of Donald Trump since I'm pretty sure he's a brocolli and yogurt fart that has became self aware.
Donald Trump (which is what would happen if Ebenezer Scrooge, Archie Bunker and latter day Marlon Brando got stuck in the matter transporter from The Fly. Then at the last minute someone threw in a bad fright wig from the local community theater thinking it was a closet. The resulting exorbitantly wealthy, self obsessed, casually racist and gibberingly insane lump of sentient goo) has decided to run for President of the United States. His hair, being much smarter than its host, wants nothing to do with it and tries to make a break for it constantly.
It all came to a head over the last two days when the coup de grace to this whole farce was delivered. Donald Trump (or the three gremlins crammed into a skinsuit calling themselves Donald Trump) stood on the stage of the Republican primary debates (among several other skinsuits of various names) and was given a live microphone. It was punchline to a several month long joke and it was glorious.
Except the joke kept going...
During the course of the proceedings, Trump was called to account for some of the heinous things he has said about women in the past by moderator and Fox News personality Megyn Kelly, who seems to have been named by George R.R. Martin. Thus began a war of words between dumb and dumber raging on social media and in the news.
This was followed up by news breaking today that (the Homunculoid pile of clay and bird droppings dipped in crayon wax and tail swatted by a Porcupine now referred to as) Donald Trump's campaign adviser Roger Stone has resigned from the campaign after realizing he was trying to get Donald Trump elected President.
Roger Stone has been described as a "Nixon era dirty trickster" who claims credit for New York Governor Elliot Spitzer's fall from grace. Our hero ladies and gentlemen.
I say "our hero" because the social media sphere have already jumped on the Roger Stone bandwagon. Not that it should be a surprise. In modern culture, we have been conditioned to take sides in public battles, but I'm really stymied here. Sure (the burlap sack of giggling, masturbating, Chimpanzees known as) Donald Trump is annoying. Sure he's backward, ignorant, buffoonish, full of hot air and inexplicably successful despite his lack of anything resembling charisma, charm or talent. All things considered though, Trump really is the lesser of three evils in this equation.
Megyn of House Kelly has gleefully contributed to Fox News' platform of fearmongering, bigotry and complete disregard for anything resembling journalistic ethics. She followed in Fox News' long standing tactic of "throw a pretty blonde, white lady on television to say the most egregious things because it'll be more palatable to our audience". Megyn "The Truthslayer" Kelly found out pretty quick that in reactionary circles, women are prone to being elevated to pedestals until they stand up for themselves or other women. Then the same group of angry men who once idealized them when they were agreeable to the male agenda take great relish in tearing them down for stepping out of the kitchen and ceasing with the making of sammiches
I suppose the argument could be made that seeing the misogynistic leanings of Fox News' audience turned against her might be a "come to White Jesus...because Fox News thinks Jesus was white" moment for Ms. Kelly. Maybe there's an opportunity for redemption there? And maybe it's equally likely (the three grade schoolers operating) Donald Trump (like a full sized muppet) will simply be the hill Megyn was sent to die on for the good of the GOP (more on that later).
On that same note, maybe Roger Stone realized that spending fruitless years trying to elevate a power mad blowhard to the highest office in the land is not the smartest way to pad a resume? This guy thought that Richard "Enemies list" Nixon was A-OK and yet The Donald (who refers to himself as such because he likely sometimes forgets the surname his lizard people overlords gave him) caused Roger Stone to break the emergency glass and bail out with the parachute. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad seeing a terrible person running into a wall of stupid painted to look like Donald Trump, and who chose diving out of the moving car as his wisest option of escape.
Or maybe, as a lifelong political power broker, he simply knew that the (rotting Safeway bag of assorted chicken giblets named) Donald Trump train had run its course.
Not to beat a dead horse, (which incidentally is where Trump got his hair) but how much of a sleazebag do you have to be for Megyn Kelly to call you out on it on live television? How much of a (spunk filled prison mattress stuffed into a flesh coloured tent) liability do you have to be for Roger Stone to decide you aren't worth it?
I really don't know who to root for here so I guess I'll just makes some popcorn, sit back and enjoy two participants in a toxic system responsible for polarizing an entire nation and (a poorly assembled sex bot once purchased by Ayn Rand called) Donald Trump take pot shots at each other.
Hang on, I'm getting a breaking news bulletin. We go now to this update on the Great Hair Escape.
Ok, I'm back.
Let's get serious for a moment. Donald Trump will not be President.
He would be Nancy Kerrigan'd in the parking lot of the Republican Convention before that would be allowed to happen. (How they would find the knee of a being made completely out of dicks is something they'll have to figure out.)
The modern Republican Party is a lot of things. They are backwards. They have been co-opted by the extreme religious right. They are panderers to our worst natures. They are very good at dirty tricks and subterfuge.
One thing they are not is dumb enough to give (a congealed mass of metastasized toxic waste in a 3 piece suit named) Donald Trump the nomination.
Trump is not the future of the GOP (I think short for "Grumpy Old People" ) he's a guaranteed pain in the ass of the future of the GOP. He's the annoying guy that they invited to the party because they thought he wouldn't go and now he's loitering around the punchbowl threatening to spike it with Turbo Lax and won't leave no matter how many people he drives away.
This is a man who openly pledged to run as an independent if he doesn't get the nomination. He was the freakshow meant to distract from the clown car of ridiculous candidates the GOP has fielded. He was something to make the other candidates look good by comparison, but somewhere along the line the doughy mass of termites, Elmers glue and sawdust that collectively refers to itself as Donald Trump gained sentience and decided it was going to run anyway.
Much like Texas billionaire Ross Perot, Donald isn't someone who will just go away if he doesn't get the nod to run. He has the funds to finance his own campaign and he has the insanity and ego to follow through with that threat.
That's what I would say if winning the Presidency was his actual plan. Which it isn't. Donald Trump's chief income source is promoting his "brand" and milking the cult of greed for all it's worth. This isn't going to be a Presidential campaign, it's going to be a year long advertisement for the persona of (the shaved Sasquatch hiding in witness protection known as) Donald Trump.
The Republican Party has created a cult around convincing lower-middle class people to worship the uber wealthy (who actively work to widen the income gap further) and in the process have created a monster they cannot control.
Long story short, Hilary Clinton is the next President of the United States.
Oh what the hell, let's check in on that hair one more time.
In the wild a wacky world of pro wrestling, there's a term often used called "Hulking Up". It references the ritualistic late match comeback that Hulk Hogan would go through in his matches.
The heel (wrestling lingo for bad guy) would beat up on Hulk for most of the match and just when the nefarious baddie would hit his biggest move, Hogan would jolt up off the mat to his knees. He would puff out his cheeks, shake his head back and forth and then would stalk around the ring, pumping his fists, shaking his head and utterly impervious to any offense his opponent could provide. He would hit his trademark big boot followed by a leg drop, pin his opponent and the crowd would come unglued.
Pro wrestling has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. There's a tendency to look down on it due to it's carny roots and use of aggressively broad stereotypes (more on that later) so it's not something I talk about often. But even as a semi grown man, I believe that when it's done well it can be one of the most captivating forms of entertainment on the planet. It's one part athletics (regardless of the predetermined nature of the outcomes, the risks and danger to the wrestlers bodies is very real), one part soap opera (storylines and a continuous narrative that continues on with characters constantly rotating in and out, without any set beginning or end), and part live action comic book (larger than life heroes and villains, colorful gimmicks, costumes and big dramatic battles). As a form of performance art it is unique because in no other medium does the line between performer and character blur quite so much. (It's often said that the best wrestling characters occur when the performers take pieces of themselves and simply turn up the intensity.)
This is the unique environment, which has led to the heartbreak of fans everywhere upon learning that a tape of wrestling (an indeed, cultural) icon Hulk Hogan going on a racial tirade has surfaced during the discovery phase of his lawsuit against online tabloid Gawker for leaking a tape of him bumping uglies with his former best friend's wife. (My inner child is currently self immolating with his woodburning kit having to read that last sentence.) It's a tough thing to deal with when your heroes let you down (although, full disclosure, I was always more of a "Macho Man" Randy Savage fan, but he had his own set of problems).
For wrestling fans, Hulk Hogan has always been one of the more complex and flawed characters in a business that has seen it's share of complex and flawed characters (it seems to come with the territory, kind of like comedy, Hollywood or...*ahem* broadcasting). After all, you don't get into a business where getting whacked with folding chairs is listed in the job description without a need to fulfill some kind of need for attention or validation. In that business, Hulk Hogan breathes rarified air. Aside from Stone Cold Steve Austin (who also has a truckload of character flaws himself) and Dwayne "The Rock...and the best part of any movie you've seen recently" Johnson (who seems like a legit great guy minus "The Tooth Fairy") the Hulkster is the most recognizable icon of his industry and in the late 80's/early 90's few were as big in popular culture.
So with all that going for him, from an outsiders perspective, it will likely come as a surprise to hear that Hulk Hogan is also known as an insecure politicking schemer who exaggerates and flat out lies as freely as he...apparently drops the "N-Bomb". This is a man who tells the story of his epic moment at Wrestlemania III defeating Andre the Giant with Andre being heavier, the crowd being bigger and Andre dying sooner after the match (match was in 1987 Andre died in '93, long after we can rule out "death by bodyslam"). This is the man who inserted himself into the real life drama of The Montreal Screwjob (he was nowhere near it) like some kind of life photoshopper. This is a man who claimed he would have had the million dollar grill and not George Foreman if he had been home when the inventors called ("If only I had an answering machine brother...but I don't like being recorded") Seriously, throw "Hulk Hogan lies" into a google search . I'm just scratching the surface here.
What I'm getting at is that it's kind of impossible to pin down how Hulk Hogan actually views the world because he's been living in "Hulk Land" for so long that you can never be sure of exactly what his grasp on reality is. Trying to sift the real Terry Bollea out of all the Hulk Hogan bullshit is like trying to separate an egg after the yolk is broken.
This is a long way to go to say, I don't really care if Hulk is a racist, because I didn't have much respect for him to lose to begin with so this is really just gilding the lily. I could spend all day trying to figure out if in his own warped perspective he actually knew that what he was saying was wrong and still get nowhere because it's impossible to put yourself in his shoes unless you've spent several decades being told how great and important you are and built your own mythology to support that. I feel there's a much more interesting area to explore regarding the reaction to his rant.
WARNING! DIGRESSION TIME!!! To explain what I mean about "Hulk Land", Kevin Smith once told a story about pop music icon Prince and how difficult the reclusive singer was to work with on a documentary project (that never saw the light of day). The whole story is great but the section that is relevant here was Prince's assistant telling Kevin when he got frustrated and wanted to leave: "Kevin let me explain something to you about Prince. I've been working with Prince for many years now. I can't go in there and tell him that you don't want to shoot this documentary...Prince doesn't comprehend things the way you and I do...Prince has been living in Prince World for quite some time now. Prince will come to us periodically and say things like "It's 3 in the morning in Minnesota, I really need a camel. Go get it." And then we finally explain it to him like "Prince, it's 3 o clock in the morning in Minnesota, and it's January and you want a camel. That is not physically or psychologically possible." ...he's not being malicious when he does it. He just doesn't understand why he can't get exactly what he wants. He doesn't understand why someone can't process a simple request like a camel at 3 in the morning in Minnesota."
I guess the moral here is the more you know about your heroes, the less you want to know about them.
The more interesting subject to me is the reaction of the WWE upon learning of the news. This is where this particular case becomes a microcosm for the rest of society. Hogan's name was wiped from their website, he's been removed from the upcoming WWE 2K16 videogame, his name has been removed from Hall of Fame listings (although it's likely his induction will not be revoked) and he's been released from his Legends contract. To put it in perspective, the last time the company reacted this way involved a murder-suicide (which is part of the reason I think this is just a teaser for more to come out later). The scorched Earth approach they have taken has drawn the ire of many fans who feel it is an overreaction in an attempt to keep the heat off of themselves for their own past issues racism, homophobia, sexism and xenophobia.
After all, the company still works with Michael P.S. Hayes (who was briefly suspended after a history of making racial remarks), Steve Austin (who has past issues with domestic violence and racial remarks), Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (who is currently under grand jury investigation for the mysterious death of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in 1983), John "Bradshaw" Layfield who has a history of bullying and abuse, not to mention a little over a year ago the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the Hall of Fame after having said some truly despicable things that make Hulk's rant look tame in comparison (WWE later created an award named in his honour following his sudden death shortly after Wrestlemania 30).
That's just the personal stuff. It doesn't even include the bevy of broad stereotypes the company has relied on in the past which could keep me going all day here.
The point I want to get at is that even if the company's reaction to Hogan's use of racial slurs was motivated out of cynical self preservation, it's still a positive sign of progress. It means they recognize the damage that associating with a racist can do to their brand, which sends a big message regardless of the motivation behind it. In their modern attempts to transform from carny trash sideshow to global entertainment industry, they have legitimately been making the effort to clean up their product and this was the worst time for something like this to come out.
On an episode of the Cracked Podcast discussing racial privilege, an interesting point was made regarding signs of progress. Cracker writer and author David Wong brought up how it's a good thing that we can look back at old Warner Brothers cartoons and recognize how racist they were. By extension, it's a good thing that we can look at the fact that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon once dropped the N-word in a backstage skit ten years ago (although fans thought it was stupid then too) to recognize that it is something that would not fly today. The company taking swift action indicates that even if the individual views of the Hulk Hogans out there haven't progressed, the rest of society has. And that's an effect that bleeds over because eventually a new generation takes over and the process repeats. One generation's progressive will be the next generation's bigoted dinosaur because the truth is, we can always do better.
You need points of reference to see when progress is being made. Any time you see someone complaining about political correctness ruining things, keep in mind that it's simply the function of progress being made within our lifetimes. When you can't say the same things today that could get away with even a few years ago, it means times are changing and we, as a society are being more conscious of the language we use and the prejudices behind that language.
When I was a kid, Eddie Murphy was at his height as a comedian. He was also unabashedly homophobic, saying some absolutely hateful things. Murphy would later publicly acknowledge this and apologize indicating that he had grown as a person. Once again, you can read into it as either genuine or cynical, but the issue remains that his past views were no longer acceptable to the general public. That's progress, that I can chart in my lifetime.
For an example from the other direction. Jurassic World left a very sour impression with me because it has a lot of outdated, sexist ideas that stuck out for a movie from 2015 and frankly, only served to highlight how progressive the original JP was in that regard. Again, progress that I can track in my lifetime because I have a signpost to compare it to. (I have a lot more to say about Jurassic World, but that's an article for another time.)
Beyond popular culture, think back, dear reader to conversations you've had in the past that would make you cringe if you heard someone say those things today. We've all got things that were said during less enlightened times or in times of darkness or stress, but most of us have the benefit of not having them captured on tape. (There's another article to be written regarding "call out culture" and crowd shaming.)
Part of the reason I was hesitant to outright call Hulk Hogan a racist (beyond some twitter jokes about his frequent use of the word "brother") is this same principal of personal growth. Is he not allowed to grow as a person, or is he forever tied to the ugly things he said in the past? By that same token, we cannot just brush off the things he said, because as we saw in Charleston SC, there are real world consequences to those racial attitudes and they do need to be a part of a larger conversation.
As for Hulk Hogan. I guess time will tell if he'll "Hulk Up" out of this one or not...
Author's Note: I promise, one of these days I will set out to write something short and to the point and actually do that. Hopefully you were able to get something of value out if this.
Another Author's Note: I hope you all appreciate how hard it was not avoid mentioning Hulk Hogan's hairline.
Another Another Author's Note: I don't want anyone to think I've forgotten about Gawker and how terrible they are. That'll be a topic for another day. When Gawker vs Hulk takes place in court, it'll be a heel vs heel match.
Kevin Smith's Prince Story (Language warning...it is Kevin Smith after all)
Cracked Podcast episode: "The Horrible 90's Hit Song Song That Explains The Modern World" (Language warning: They use hip hop music as bookends and ad breaks, which use some of the language we're talking about today)
You wanna know something funny I found out over my hiatus? I often tag my posts with "Spongebob Erotica" as a running joke (to date I have not penned any sponge smut...yet) and in checking my site stats, I found out that somebody found my site by specifically searching for those two words.
The first thought that hit me was the sad realization that that was the only search term that brought people here. The second thought was how disappointed they must have been when they got here. I know that Rule 34 of the internet (if it exists, there is porn of it) says that I couldn't be the only person putting those two concepts together, but it's gotta be a pretty rare itch to scratch. I just imagine the poor guy or girl (who are we kidding...probably guy) getting here and the dejected Charlie Brown walk of shame as he realizes he has been tricked. Well to you, dear pervert, I humbly apologize.
Anyway, I thought I should probably catch all ten of you up on the last four months. Took a new job at work, hurt my back, started exercising too soon after hurting my back, hurt my back again, set up a Facebook page for the site, learned to wash my hands thoroughly after applying Icey Hot gel to sore back, washed my eyes out after mistakenly rubbing eyes after applying Icey Hot gel, and I wrote a thing about the spineless suits at Reddit providing a subsidized platform for hate groups earlier today. I guess that brings us up to speed.
Oh and I saw some movies. I should talk about those.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
I think for better and for worse, Age of Ultron shows the by products of building a connected universe. For the most part, I really liked AOU but it also suffered from serving too many masters, rather than telling a contained story. I'll avoid my whole "Avengers: Infinity War will be the beginning of the end for shared universes" theory for now, since it really deserves it's own post. For now, I'll just stick to this movie. While it was fun, it was ultimately transitional. Part of this is due to the fact that we already know that this movie was just a stop over on the way to a much bigger movie several years from now.
While some were down on the pairing of Black Widow (her characterization left a lot to be desired in general) and Bruce Banner, I felt that Johannson and Ruffalo had enough chemistry to pull it off.
The movie went a long way to setting up Captain America: Civil War (which looks to be shaping up to be another hero packed team up movie) and the two leads of that movie are so dialed into Iron Man and Cap that it'll be fun to see them pitted against each other.
Overall, I really liked AOU. It introduced some new characters to mixed results. Paul Bettany is great in his limited screentime and Elizabeth Olsen is one of my favourite current actresses, despite a spotty accent. Aaron Taylor Johnson doesn't add much but they can't all be home runs.
Mad Max Fury Road
What more can be said about this movie? Hands down the best movie of this summer. It could possibly be my favourite of the year. If you had told me six months ago that my favourite movie of the summer would be a Mad Max movie, I'd have clubbed you over the head with Immortan Joe's big fake muscled chestplate. Then I'd wonder "What the hell is this thing?" because I wouldn't have seen the movie yet.
What's fun about this movie is how sparse it is in terms of exposition. We get dropped right into this world with little set up. Admittedly, for someone like me with minimal knowledge of the Mad Max series, it can be a little jarring. The nice thing is that the movie's simplicity doesn't require much setup. Once the movie puts a foot on the gas pedal it doesn't let up.
A lot has been said about this film's feminist leanings and it's true, the movie focuses most of the attention on Charleze Theron's impossibly cool named Imperator Furiosa. Her story is the one we are ultimately following and Max plays the reluctant hero, who gets drawn into a conflict he has no real interest in. What's interesting is that while this film is considered remarkably progressive, it never comes across as preachy. George Miller just presents it as, this is the way it is.
In that way, while Fury Road deals with some dark subject matter, it is ultimately an optimistic film. Even in the direst circumstances, the movie never gives in to the cynicism, or misery tourism that permeates many post apocalyptic stories. Fury Road is fun. Insane, off the wall, bonkers, bug nuts, wackadoodle, pure brain candy.
This movie features a guy playing a giant flaming double guitar while tethered to the top of a moving "war rig" (which features a series of other War Boys drumming on empty oil drums in the back). That is the essence of my review.
NOTE: For background in this piece, put "Reddit" into a google news search and it'll all make more sense.
We here at Headplaces have been contacted by an anonymous source at the Bureaucracy of Better Businessmaking. They have supplied us a sampling of complaints filed against the Reddit Heights chain of apartment complexes. In order to protect the identities of our sources, we will be redacting all identifying information.
We will also be looking at cat pictures while we type this out.
Hello, my name is [REDACTED]. I would like to file a complaint against Reddit Heights Apartments. I have been living in the building since just after it was built. Lately, something changed, I started noticing more and more hate groups moving in. Any time I would bring it up to the manager [REDACTED], he would brush it off by saying they have a right to free speech and I should just ignore them.
This all came to a head recently, when members of a certain floor, mostly populated by young, angry, white men found out I was employed as a [Job related to tech industry]. They started following me around the halls any time I would step outside of my door yelling nasty names at me. A male friend of mine told some of them to knock it off and they called him a "white knight beta cuck mangina" as though those words mean anything and then keyed "SJW" into the side of his car. They gave out my personal information and now the SWAT team has been called to my apartment several times. I get death and rape threats stuck to my door regularly. Eventually I had to leave because nothing was being done about them and then they just followed me to my new community. I can literally hear them mouth breathing outside my apartment door right now and complaining about the feminazi conspiracy. Don't they have anything better to do?
Reddit Heights was complicit in all of this. Every time I confronted the manager about it, all he kept saying was "free speech".
I hope you are able in some way to help clean up the Reddit Heights community, because it really was an ok place to be with some great people in it. Now it has become a hostile place to be and management just pays lip service to stopping harassment.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this to file a complaint against Reddit Heights. My name is [REDACTED] and I am a [Occupation]. I was initially drawn to Reddit Heights by their varied sub-communities. There were groups who liked to discuss music, popular culture, science and technology, as well as cute animals. I also quite enjoyed the informal Q&A sessions they would host regularly (which they called "AMA"s). Overall, I found their community to be very welcoming.
Then I learned something that shocked to my core. There were Nazis in the basement. I'm not trying to be cute here, there was a concentrated group of actual white supremacists congregating in the basement. I heard about it from another community member.
When I confronted the building manager about it, he confirmed it as if I had asked him where the washroom was! "Oh yeah, down the hall to the right and watch out for the Nazis." He said our building was the largest hub of Neo-Nazis second only to the Stormfront Trailer Park across town. They occupied several levels in the basement, in sections given names such as [portmanteau of "racial slur for person of African decent" + "smaller than a city but larger than a village"] where they would gather to talk about how much they hated people of colour. When a white man walked into a black church and shot 9 people, you could hear the cheering from the basement all the way up most of the other floors. To say it was disturbing to find this out would be an understatement.
I asked him why they were here and the manager said that they hadn't actively committed a crime so kicking them out would be a violation of their free speech rights. I explained that freedom of speech does not mean a private company has an obligation to provide hate groups with a platform and that he was well within his rights to evict them. He explained that recently, certain "objectionable" communities were "reclassified" into a new two-tier system.
The manager told me the objectionable communities would be kept to their own floors, with a separate entrance and the entrance would be hidden so passers by could not see them. He didn't seem to understand why I had a problem with providing a hate group a special, private place to meet up, invisible to the outside world and unencumbered by a need to abide by the rules, after all, he had already created a separate set of rules just for them. Needless to say, I got pretty upset and asked him how he could justify filling his pockets off of hate. The manager told me, part of the new system meant that Reddit Heights couldn't be seen making money from them, so they were living there free of charge.
That meant that the rest of us who were putting up with advertisements in the hallways and following the rules of civil discourse were subsidizing the Nazis in the basement who were living there on Reddit Heights dime without any oversight or enforcement.
He tried to tell me that I would hardly notice them, but I left the office before he could finish. As I was leaving, in a panic he meekly squealed "FREE SPEECH!" as the door closed behind me.
How can I continue to contribute to a system that not only allows, but incentivizes hate? A system that rewards do-nothing management who are afraid to piss off the ignorant, the unstable and the uncivilized.
I guess it wasn't always this way. Reddit Heights used to have a no tolerance policy on hate speech. Management used to take an active role in creating a welcoming community but not allowing toxic elements in. Somewhere along the line, they allowed the inmates to run the asylum. Now, they can lock the place down, they can flout the rules, and they can basically enforce whatever standards they want to because management is so detached. A once lively and vibrant hub of discussion and, yes, debate is now a playpen full of tantruming children who will not hesitate to fling their crap on the walls at a moments notice. Now it's become a safe haven for every racist, misogynist, anti semite, homophobe and conspiracy nut.
It comes to a point where cute animal pictures just aren't worth it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Thank you to our anonymous tipster for forwarding these. The BBB has indicated it won't do anything, because it's largely a useless organization bought and paid for by big companies and it's power is mostly symbolic anyway. So...thanks for that I guess.
It really is a shame about Reddit Heights. It seems like it could have been a nice place to hang out.
Yeah, I know the title mixes a metaphor in a most awful way. Deal with it.
I spent my Saturday evening like most of the people who have a Netflix subscription and a roaring social life, burning through House of Cards 3rd season until 4am.
I've gotta say...I think I'm kinda done with this show. FYI - I will be discussing events in season 3 so if you haven't seen it yet, turn back now. I'll be here when you get back. We'll be heading into serious spoiler territory.
I absolutely loved the first season. It delivered the complex drama I had hoped for and left me wanting more with some great cliffhangers. That's as good a place as any to start with my problems with the series.
Now that we're 3 seasons in, there are some definite narrative tricks at play that get harder to ignore. The biggest one being the recurring pattern of the show setting up a huge game changing cliffhanger ending of one season, only to render that cliffhanger completely irrelevant in the first episode of the next.
Season one ends with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) essentially reaching his moral event horizon when he murders recovering alcoholic congressman Peter Russo. The season ends with Kate Mara's ambitious reporter character Zoey Barnes (whom Frank had been engaging in quid pro quo information/bodily fluid exchanges) getting wise to Russo's murder and setting up that she's going to try to take Frank...aaaand Frank just pushes her in front of a train in the first episode of season 2. Her death is ruled a suicide and anybody suspecting otherwise is neatly gotten rid of.
So much for that.
Season 2 ends with Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly) Frank's "fixer" and closest advisor (aside from his wife Claire) getting clubbed over the head with a rock by the prostitute Peter Russo had been seeing. It was a shocking moment that would really bring the scrutiny down on Frank...aaaand he survives, recovers, starts to grow as a person and inevitably ends up right back to where he was before as Frank's lap dog Chief of Staff. The show takes us on an interesting emotional journey with Doug only to wave it all away and wind up right back at square one.
At this point, the big cliffhanger of season 3, that Claire tells Frank she's leaving him (possibly to run against him in the election)...I have no expectation that it will actually lead to anything meaningful.
At the rate they're going, they'll kill her off before the opening credits of season 4.
While I'm on the subject of Claire Underwood, she's a shining example of my problem with the writing on this show. The writers want to have it both ways in regards to the audience's perception of the Underwoods.
When Frank killed Peter Russo, that was a point of no return. He became the villain, and ultimately the show now becomes a story about his downfall. That's a story that should have been wrapped up by the end of season 3. For comparison sake, Walter White (this will be the first of many Breaking Bad comparisons, I'm sure) becoming Meth King of Albuquerque heralded the start of his fall. He was dead within one season.
Once the scheming, morally bankrupt anti-hero get what they want, the end is nigh. Otherwise, we just end up watching a rotten son of a bitch get away with everything and that gets old pretty quick.
House of Cards basically blew it's wad by having Frank Underwood scheme his way into the oval office by the end of season 2. Unless season 3 involved him overturning the constitution and declaring himself King of America, there wasn't another hill for him to climb.
By the way, the show presented Frank Underwood as the ultimate insider, who knew all of the ins and outs of power. The President really doesn't have that much power in the grand scheme of things. Just look at Obama trying to do anything more than requisition office supplies and see how much power that position carries. Why would Frank want the job? He's achieved everything based on operating behind the scenes so assuming the most public position on the planet would seem counter intuitive. Again, the writers want to play it both ways. Is he a sly manipulating schemer? Or is he an attention craving egomaniac? Those are two personality traits at odds with each other yet they tend to flip flop on them depending on what any particular moment calls for. I'm reminded of Lex Luthor (a villain also once played by Kevin Spacey) in the Justice League cartoon being asked by The Question if his end game was to become President. Luthor's response was "Do you realize how much power I would have to give up to be President". Maybe Frank should have spent less time playing Call of Duty (actually, a pretty fitting obsession for overcompensating hate mongers) and spent more time reading comic books.
Part of the fun in watching Breaking Bad was seeing the inventive ways Walter White would solve his problems. Even as terrible as Walter became, there was still a McGyver like streak of ingenuity to his plans. Sad to say, the creative minds behind House of Cards don't stretch much beyond resorting to some form of dumb luck, happenstance, or character stupidity. Or in the case of season 3, deus ex Doug Stamper.
Speaking of deus ex machina how about Claire Underwood's sudden moral opposition to Frank? I honestly believe that she and Frank were originally going to be brought down together, Bonnie and Clyde style (maybe without the bullets...maybe) but the show runners decided mid way through season 3 that she was going to be the next challenger and so they had to redeem her, frankly (ahem) irredeemable ways. The first two seasons, she was built up as Frank's Lady Macbeth. Complimenting Frank's swagger and bravado with cold, calculating, ruthlessness, Claire Underwood was built up as every bit as horrible as Frank, just in a nicer package.
Now we're expected to believe that she suddenly cares about the life of a man persecuted under Russia's draconian anti-gay laws? This was the same person who basically gave a "go get 'em champ" to Frank before he turned Zoey Barnes into subway bolognese, and now suddenly she cares about people. It's a left field character shift that's emblematic of the writers wanting to have it both ways. Claire will do something completely reprehensible ie - "I will allow your child to wither and die inside of you" but then they make a clumsy attempt to make us sympathize with her.
Overall, I just find that after 3 seasons, the series has just exhausted me beyond caring how anything turns out. Ultimately, this show feels like the writers started liking Frank so much, they forgot that they were supposed to be building toward his fall. At this rate, I wouldn't put it past them to have the show end with Frank walking up to the pearly gates, making a snide comment to camera and then becoming god.
I'm a huge Breaking Bad fan. I want to get my biases out of the way right up front.
I put it up at the top of the television mountain with "The Wire" as the two dramas that didn't overstay their welcome, didn't compromise their storytelling and embraced change as an integral part of their storytelling process. They treated their audiences like adults and rewarded us for paying attention. They elevated tv drama to art.
Not bad, when you consider I first had written off Breaking Bad as a farcical novelty show (the early ads presented it as a comedy with Bryan Cranston running around in his skivvies and the wacky premise of the high school chem teacher turned meth cook). It wasn't until I heard friends and co-workers talking about it that I gave the show a second look.
All of this is a lead up to say I was apprehensive about the prospect of a Breaking Bad spin off. Especially one centered around the goofy comic relief lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) who was effective as a supporting character, but could he carry a show himself? Would a more comedic show still work in this universe?
Oh me of little faith. The premier episode of BCS put to rest any apprehensions I had going in. Better Call Saul not only pays reverence to Breaking Bad, more importantly, the first episode immediately sets up the show as it's own entity. It has a tone all it's own and a much sharper comic tongue (not surprising considering Bob Odenkirk co created the criminally underrated HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show which you should totally go and watch right now) than it's fore-series. It makes a lot of sense considering that the biggest mistake this show could have made would have been to turn Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill, which I'll get too) into a Walter White clone.
The biggest surprise in Better Call Saul is the lack of a Saul. The character of Saul Goodman we met previously doesn't exist yet in this series. And indeed, the word "character" is entirely appropriate as Odenkirk gives a lot of interesting depth to conman/schyster Jimmy McGill by adding a layer of theatricality to Jimmy's personality that feels so right based on what we know about Saul Goodman. We are first introduced to Jimmy as he is going over his closing argument in a mensroom, rehearsing what he is going to say. The Jimmy we get to know in this first episode is a very different creature than Saul Goodman. He's a mutt trying to run with bigger dogs, and that has always been his appeal. Jimmy/Saul is always in over his head and while Walter White was at his best being two steps, I can see Jimmy always being two steps behind and running to catch up.
This does bring up one problem the show is going to have to overcome. Indeed the problem is that we know that ultimately Jimmy will survive to become Saul Goodman. Whether or not he survives the series in the time frame post-Bad is still up for grabs though. Without having the omnipresent threat of death that hung over Walter White's head, Saul will have to find other ways of creating tension. Let's just say, I wouldn't get too attached to the supporting cast.
Speaking of which, Michael Frickin' McKean is in this show and he is amazing. He plays Jimmy's brother Chuck, who is on an extended sabbatical from his law firm due to an unspecified medical issue. He is eccentric and suffers I can easily see Chuck becoming a central point of tension in the show. McKean is going to be the big revelation on this show. Chuck McGill is eccentric, good hearted, brilliant and has an aversion to electricity. He is also mentally ill, and harbours delusions that he will be able to return to work. This will be a career revitalizing role for McKean and watching he an Odenkirk together is a pleasure.
The most exciting part of discovering Breaking Bad was the revelation that the guy who played the doofus dad on Malcolm in the Middle capable of playing such a dark and complex character as Walter White. There's something truly amazing about watching an actor completely defy expectations. Seeing two comedic actors like Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean blow us away will be the real treat of BCS.
I'm specifically being vague with my descriptions of the episode to avoid spoilers. That said, I'll simply wrap up with some other stray observations.
-Much of the style of Breaking Bad remains intact. I always love the little incidental moments such as the court prosecutor slowly wheeling a tv stand into place, Jimmy's car antenna flopping around when he pulls his briefcase down from the roof and Jimmy nearly getting wiped out by skateboarders while telling the "Ginger Twins" about his shady past.
-There are wannabe con artist Ginger Twins and they are excellent. I'm really hoping they stick around because they are very entertaining.
-One of the parts of Breaking Bad I loved was the long scenes showing the processes of things. Of course, those processes were usually involving cooking meth and other criminal activities, but it's still interesting. This time we get a nice long scene of showing how cinnamon buns are made. At least's it's not meth.
-Without giving too much away, the two cameos run from "Hey! It's that guy!" to "Holy sh*t!"
-Jimmy's combative relationship with the tollbooth attendant (Breaking Bad return #1) promises to be fun going forward
"Now I'm on your speed dial. Right next to your weed dealer."
"You've gotta stop putting bacon on your list. It's like a trichinosis stew in there."
"The only way this car is worth $500 is if there's a $300 hooker sitting in it!"
"Chuck helped build one third of this place. There are are what...twelve chairs in here? Four of them are Chucks."
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing."
I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately. It has been often (though with some dispute) credited to Edmund Burke. Most of the time when I shamelessly ape it to sound more educated than I am, I tend to paraphrase to "good people" to make it more widely applicable. This time however, I feel that "good men" is more appropriate to what I want to talk about. That's because today I want to talk about "good men". To do that, I must first start by discussing some not so good men.
To begin with a bit of full disclosure, this is my fourth attempt at writing this piece. I was encouraged to get my thoughts regarding the Jian Ghomeshi situation all down in one place, since they have been scattered all over social media. The trouble I have found in doing so was that I couldn't find a way to talk about it that wasn't a) a self congratulatory circle jerk at recognizing a creep slightly sooner than others did, b) burying serious subject matter under seedy details and cheap punchlines or c) regurgitating known information without adding anything new and basically repeating myself.
I should also mention off the bat that I have no feelings about Jian Ghomeshi as a media personality. I had heard the name and was familiar with Q, but I was not a fan nor can I recall any time actually listening to him. And yet, I understand what his fans went through in this process (which I'll get to, and I'm sure will shock many of you as it did me). I understand what happens when someone you have admired turns out to be someone not worth admiring.
That said, the problem I have come down to is that, at this point Ghomeshi has become something of a soft target. There's no sense piling on someone who is already under a microscope. There's enough witnesses and damning testimony coming forward to ensure that he'll never be admired by any but the most hardcore of devotees. At least until he takes another page out of Rob Ford's playbook and finally says "Ok, you got me. I'm an abusive, egomaniacal, dirtbag. I've decided to seek counselling to make this all better" followed by "Hey everyone, I'm all cured! Now how about that comeback tour?" (Forgive me for planting a flag on that one. I just want to make sure people see it for what it is when it happens.) For now though, he has been exposed and he can't hurt anybody for the foreseeable future. It's as close as you get to a victory as you can't undo the damage done in assault cases and the legal system is notoriously easy to slip through.
That was when the quote at the top of this piece began flashing through my mind. A situation has come up that continues to have ramifications and could use a few good men doing something rather than taking on safe target Jian Ghomeshi.
It will likely come as no surprise to regular readers that I tend to hang out in feminist circles. I'm not sure when and where it happened, I just sort of ended up there. It was just the group I felt more comfortable in (I have an aversion to meatheads and alpha males so feminists seemed more enlightened). It certainly took quite some time before I became comfortable enough to own using the dreaded "F-word" in reference to myself.
I have a personal philosophy of always trying to surround myself with people smarter than I am, and in general it takes a pretty sharp and determined mind to handle the grind of the struggle towards progress, through the swamp of oppressive bullshit. The status quo is the easy, lazy way and there are no shortage of dullards, dipshits and doorknobs willing to shout you down for advocating change because change means that group will lose power and privilege.
Just ask Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu about that.
For those unfamiliar with the GamerGate issue, it's a campaign of harassment and misogyny being waged under the false canopy of "ethics in gaming journalism" (which has become a punchline among those of us with functioning brain stems). The Cliff Notes version is video game developer Zoe Quinn's ex boyfriend posted a long winded scorned ex rant on the internet airing dirty laundry on her sex life and accusing her of sleeping her way to success (yeah success in selling her...free game?) by sleeping with a journalist (who never actually reviewed her...free game) and the misogynists came out of the woodwork and organized a character assassination campaign against her. Epically misguided actor Adam Baldwin coined the term GamerGate and it was off to the races. The targeted campaign of hate began and it proponents only grow more hardlined as it goes on. Eventually, the list of targets grew to include feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian and game developer Brianna Wu.
I should mention, I already had issues with the hardcore gaming community before this happened. To my perspective, it's basically the same group comprised of emotionally stunted, sexually frustrated, racist, sexist, homophobic shit-flinging sub primates who keep me away from online gaming in general. A subculture of (white, straight, male) video gamers who have forgotten somewhere along the way that games are supposed to be fun, and see any attempts to appeal to groups other than them (or address harmful, sexist or racist narratives within the industry) as trying to take away their games (for an example, see the backlash against Mass Effect creator BioWare for including same sex romance options in ME3). They use what is meant to be an entertainment medium that should be for everyone as an avenue to bully and harass. It's a hate group masquerading as a consumer ethics movement (either way it's fucking stupid). The difference is, they now had real life targets to fling their shit at for the "crime" of having lady parts and/or criticizing the rampant misogyny in the gaming industry (Anita Sarkeesian's site "Feminist Frequency" contains some fascinating studies of gender tropes in video games. This is what made her a target of GamerGate.)
These three women were driven from their homes, threatened with death and rape, and had their names and reputations slandered. And people wondered why the women accusing a powerful man like Jian Ghomeshi of violence wished to remain anonymous.
Yet, after all this, Zoe, Anita and Brianna remain unbroken and undeterred.
It takes absolutely no guts to join a mob. No guts to sit on the sidelines and watch. It takes a truckload (inside of a boatload, inside of a "holy shit that's way too many guts") to defy the mob and still carry on.
As a grown ass man (admittedly, wearing a Muppets t-shirt) I have been typing this piece in the type of sphincter clenched, white knuckled, dripping, flop sweat tension that normally precedes the question "Do I cut the red wire or the blue wire?" in anticipation of the blowback that'll hit once I press the post button. This is how women feel every day? Wondering which mentally unstable manchild is going to lash out? I don't know how they do it.
I'm part of the second group listed above by the way. The one that sits on the sidelines when things get too hot or only stands up when it's safe to do so. Sure, I shared a few articles and made some commentary about GamerGate, but always within the safety of my facebook circle or through retweeting other people's words.
I finally realized it came down to the fact that I had the privilege of not getting into the fight.
That is privilege in a nutshell. I have the privilege to not worry about death or rape threats, the privilege to speak up without being marginalized, the privilege to have my concerns taken seriously, the privilege to not be barraged with snide comments about my appearance or speculation about my sex life because I dare to speak out. I have the privilege to choose not to be involved. For those in minority groups, there is no choice.
We so often use the word "privilege" in a negative context (ie - "check your privilege") that I think we sometimes forget that there are positive things that can be done with that power. Spider-Man's mantra "With great power, comes great responsibility" applies not just to wall crawling superheros who fire metaphoric semen out of their wrists, it also applies to the rest of us who don't do that. As a non marginalized (despite what Sun and Fox News would have you to believe) group of white, straight men, we sit atop a veritable stockpile of privilege. Our voices carry farther and they have a power to change the tone of the conversation. GamerGate has shown the negative power which can be wielded by those sitting in a position of privilege. However, we have also seen the opposite in play. Jackson Katz TEDTalk "Violence is a Men's Issue" is a good example of using that privilege to speak to the groups that need to hear the message the most. Men who are respected in the community such as Adam Savage and Joss Whedon have power to change attitudes by speaking out against this kind of behavior.
The turning point in the Jian Ghomeshi case was when musician Owen Pallet also lent his voice to support the accusers. It helped solidify credibility and dissolve the code of silence shared by many victims. Suddenly the conversation changed because a man believed the accusers. The national conversation changed and women started coming forward and telling their stories of being sexually assaulted. One little gesture empowered victims to not be afraid (certainly I'm not taking anything away from the brave women who came forward). With great privilege comes great responsibility.
I now interrupt this longwinded entry to bring you a news story that will probably break your heart and make you never want Jello Puddin Pops ever again.
Go ahead and give it a read, I'll be here when you get back.
It shocked me too. Some of you will refuse to believe any part of it is true. Just remember that people thought that way about Jian Ghomeshi too at one point or another. Fame, power and image can be strong shields.
Remember how I mentioned that I know what it's like to be hit with a realization that someone you once admired now disgusts you? This situation was brought to my attention via comedians Hannibal Buress and Christopher Titus on Twitter.
In a situation shockingly similar to Jian Ghomeshi, when Hannibal Buress got up on stage and called Bill Cosby a rapist a few weeks ago, many refused to believe it. Until he reminded everyone that 13 women had filed a lawsuit against "American's Favourite Dad" accusing him of drugging them and then having sex with them when they were incapable of consent. Cosby settled the lawsuit quietly rather than go to court and the whole thing was swept under the rug.
While I have no dog in the fight (I just realized that must be a dogfighting reference. Gross.) when it comes to Jian Ghomeshi, I was crushed by the news of Cosby's past. Growing up, I wore out a VHS tape of one of his stand up shows to the point where I had learned all of the routines off by heart (still couldn't remember my multiplication tables...priorities man!). It's pretty easy to see how people were able to justify looking the other way when it was old, doddering, goofy Bill Cosby. Forgetting, that this was a public image consciously created he was hiding behind. He wore the sweaters and hocked Jello Puddin' Pops for chrissakes! He couldn't possibly have done it!
All the same excuses and deflections that have been used to shield powerful people before were trotted out. The women (13 women!) were lying. (False reporting rates are around 2%.) They were just after money. (He was the one who settled out of court. They were prepared to testify at trial.) It was their own fault. They took the pills. NO!!!! WRONG!!! If someone is drunk, passed out or otherwise incapacitated it is not ok to violate them. If you condemn Ghomeshi while giving Cosby a pass, you are perpetuating the cycle because you're picking and choosing who you believe.
The story remained hidden, until a larger dialog regarding consent began, when the story finally found traction. It quietly was swept under the rug just like those stories people in and around the Toronto music scene had heard about Jian. Until someone with power within the accused's own community (in this case a male comedian) stood in opposition, the story was buried. Christopher Titus spoke out against homophobia in his sitcom because he knew he had power within his audience, and he could reach them. There is power in privilege.
It's pretty easy to extrapolate that had it not been two men investigating Jian Ghomeshi and staking their own reputations on the story, it likely would never have seen the light of day. Swept under the rug just like it had been for some 20+ years before the allegations came to light. A dirty little secret people were afraid to talk about but everybody knew, just like Cosby. Someone too big, too powerful to take on.
That is the larger issue we need to be talking about. Why is it that four women have to speak under conditions of anonymity for something to get done? Why is our default position that the accuser is lying? Why are women being harassed and driven from their homes seemingly with complete impunity for their tormentors? Why aren't more good men speaking up about this?
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is when good men do nothing."
My hope is for the good men who may be reading this to come to the same realization I did. Your actions have power to make the world better, the same way your (in)actions have the power to make it worse. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came from a position of privilege and used that to try to make things just a little bit better for everyone. Abraham Lincoln used his position of privilege to advocate for those who had no voice. You have the power to shape the world your sons and daughters will inherit.
That can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, that means you will have to confront your own misconceptions, biases and prejudices. Sometimes that means you will be challenged in an attempt to shut you up. I've had my motivations questioned for speaking up about this. I've been accused of "White Knighting" or being an "SJW" (Social Justice Warrior), as though standing up for others or fighting oppressive systems is a character flaw.
As far as I'm concerned, being a White Knight or a Social Justice Warrior sounds pretty fucking badass. I'm more than happy to own both titles.
I'd rather be that, than an asshole.
Links to stuff:
Feminist Frequency - Anita Sarkeesian hosts "Tropes vs Women" a web series examining issues of misogyny in video game culture
The Toronto Sun's Timeline of the Ghomeshi scandal - For those who need a quick recap of events to know what I'm talking about
We Hunted The Mammoth - A brilliant site that exposes and mocks the New (internet age) Misogyny
NY Times Article on GamerGate - Goes much more in depth than I was able to without throwing my computer across the room
Hi, my name is Mitch and I write things sometimes.