Good Humor on the Right

A couple of years ago, a family member sent me a video of a ‘millenial’ talking about how she graduated from Harvard earlier in the week, got a job, showed up late the first day due to partying, and was fired, and proceeded to tell the ‘white man’ boss that she was to be respected.  It was portrayed as a first hand account, and clearly supposed to be taken seriously, and when I responded with “um… this seems fake, she’s at least my age” (technically a millenial, but I’m in my thirties so the graduating from Harvard and going out partying the night before a job didn’t ring true in the slightest) “I think this is just to spark outrage,” the response I got was “no shit Sherlock, it’s called satire.  That’s why it’s funny.”

But here’s the thing, it wasn’t funny, and I don’t mean “I didn’t like the angle” so it wasn’t funny, it was just objectively poorly executed and not funny.  There is a real political satire/humor deficit between the two sides.  The left has so many funny people that the unfunny are washed out, and so it seems to further intensify the ‘quality’ of the humor, and refines the tastes of those in agreement, but the right really has so little.  Dennis Miller, I’m told is pretty funny, I’ve enjoyed the little that I’ve seen of his stuff, but I’m not aware of where to find more (contemporary) stuff from him.  So when you get someone who you agree with, and they’re making fun of the other guys, you tend to find that funny if you have nothing else.

So where am I going with this?  Steven Crowder.  Now, I’ve talked about how I think Milo Yiannopoulos is entertaining, and occasionally he’s funny, but Steven Crowder is the first person, that I’m aware of, who is definitely on the right (Joe Rogan is in a kind of nebulous non-affiliated place, that’s why I’m not including him) who is pretty consistently funny.

Crowder’s impression of Young Turks’ creator Cenk Uygur is hilarious, and let me just say, I mostly like what I see from Cenk, but Crowder’s impersonation is spot on, and he finds the naturally exaggerated parts and mimics them perfectly.  “OF COURSE!”

What’s really impressive about Crowder, in addition to his ability to be funny, is that he is coherent while being funny, and he’s researched.  The first time I watched a “Change My Mind” segment, I was amazed at how deep he’d dove into the subject matter ahead of time.

The “Change My Mind” segment is also a good example of something that he’s doing, that I’m not aware of anyone else, left or right doing, and that is consistently airing unedited these pieces.  That’s not to say that there is an inherent fairness, ultimately whether it’s him, or Sasha Baron Cohen, or The Daily Show, the ‘house’ has the advantage, by going in prepared, but by not editing them, he shows his own confidence in his points, and he does tend to come out looking pretty good.

Now, I disagree on at least 50% of everything I’ve ever heard him say, but I do think he’s a really interesting voice in our political satire/commentary culture, and importantly he’s funny.  So, here’s the thing, that is both a good thing for conservatives, because humor can definitely make your points stronger.  I want to see the smartest, and funniest people on both sides making their points.  I think we only improve by getting the best people, with the best minds on both sides.  I don’t want dumb, or unfunny right leaning people to represent the right, because both sides can motivate each other to be better, but only if they’re on equal footing.

But, the right actually having a legitimately funny (and intelligent) voice is also a bad thing, for all of the unfunny conservatives who’ve been getting the default laughter of people who just happen to agree with them.  He’s raised the bar, and hopefully we’ll see more come out, because disagreeing with someone doesn’t inherently upset me, but thinking they’re unfunny, when they clearly think they are funny, upsets me more.  We need good comedy, and I hope we continue to get it.

An Honest Discussion

I would like to try to start an honest discussion, about why we as country/society don’t seem to be able to have an honest discussion anymore.  Now, as you’re probably aware, yesterday there was another notable mass shooting.  I’m using the word notable, because I’m not sure we’re hearing about all of them individually, or if we’re only hearing about ones with certain death counts.  Of course, along with that shooting, came the obligatory “nothing is going come out of this” discussion that you’re probably seeing on the news, or Facebook or whatever.

Whether you’re on the right, or on the left, you’re probably frustrated with these conversations because nothing ever happens one way or the other.  I’ve narrowed it down to two main issues, (I suppose there’s a third if we want to introduce the financial system corrupting the political) with why we can’t seem to have an honest conversation.

Now, these two reasons, in my opinion, apply to at least most of the ‘hot button’ issues of our time, certainly it applies to abortion, and really to anything sex related.  The two problems are “the no true Scotsman” nature of these debates, as well as a fundamental misunderstanding or purposeful misuse of language.

Now, let me explain the first issue, in case you’re not familiar.  Basically, as I understand it, and as it happens in our societal discussion, there is an idea that “how I feel about something, is the exact right answer,” so that any variation no matter how reasonable or nuanced is a deviation too far.  I’ll use sex as an example.  If I’ve had sex with 5 people, anyone else who’s had sex with 5 people is normal; anyone who’s had sex with 6 is a slut, whore, player, etc.; while anyone who’s had sex with 4 people is a prude, or loser, etc.  This applies with guns in that, if I believe you have the right to bear any and all arms except for nuclear weapons, anyone who believes you may also have nuclear weapons is a “gun nut;” while anyone who believes you should be able to own all weapons except for nuclear weapons and bazookas is a “gun-control advocate.”  This example seems extreme, but for all intents and purposes is a fair representation.  With abortion, most of us argue upon when life begins, and so that’s the starting point.

In this ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy, we’re able to discredit all dissenting opinions regardless of merit, and we learn nothing, and we make no progress.  In truth, I’m aware of very few people who believe an individual should be able to own nuclear weapons, while on the other end of the spectrum, I know very few people who are opposed to gun ownership outright.  The vast majority of us exist in the middle some where.  I suspect Wayne LaPierre exists in the middle somewhere.  The only people I can think of not in the middle are, perhaps Kim Jong Un, and actually, that’s probably it.  But by seeing everyone as these unreasonable poles, we are able to do nothing, but get frustrated, even though, if we are willing to have an honest and open back and forth, we’d see that we’re mostly all in the same grey area, albeit on different ends.

The second issue plaguing honest discussion these days is language.  I watched a video the other day on YouTube, in which two men did a “Statler and Waldorf” style take down of The Young Turk’s Hasan Piker’s “Takedown of Ben Shapiro,” (you don’t need to watch the whole video).  In the video, Piker clearly states that the cells making up a fetus/baby are not “life” until they’re born from the mother. The two hecklers (correctly) point out that he’s full of shit.  What Piker probably means to say, is that he doesn’t consider it a human until birth, which is a distinction that is very open to debate, with solid points on both sides, but because he’s likely to be regurgitating talking points he’s heard before, he uses the wrong wording, and dismantles his own argument.  We can argue about what that life is, but it is life.  Many things that very few people have no problem with killing are life, even if we don’t care about them.  This is an incorrect argument.

This language issue is worse than just that.  There is a famous quote, that “gun control means being able to hit your target,” and whether or not you like the sentiment behind the quote, it is an example of a side understanding that just because we co-opt words into terms in order to create buzzwords for those who don’t think, doesn’t mean they get to own those terms.  Now with this one, I’m not sure which side misuses “gun control” more, because that quote is correct, and we now have this term that is a ‘dirty word’ on the right, and a badge of honor on the left, and really all it is is filler designed lead you to a conclusion without giving any real argument.

Another one of these ‘words’ that has been totally ruined by politics, is “assault.”  Many on the left want to ban all “assault” rifles, while many on the right will argue that “assault” rifles don’t really even exist beyond a vague description.  The term “assault rifle” has a definition on Google dictionary that is listed as “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use,” while the term “assault” by itself has a definition of “make a physical attack on (verb); or a physical attack (noun).”  The ‘rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic’ part is added to the term, and if we’re being realistic it is because many rifles that don’t meet that standard would be considered ‘assault’ rifles, but not ‘assault rifles.’  For example, the most talked about gun probably ever, the AR-15, is by many gun advocates considered to not be an ‘assault rifle,’ because it doesn’t qualify by the definition above, but certainly it’s not a hunting rifle.  Now, I’m not saying these guns that are ‘assault’ rifles but not ‘assault rifles’ need to be restricted, what I’m saying is that our society is purposely obfuscating facts in order to sell their own agendas (and that is the truth on both sides, remember that a zygote is a life, even if you don’t consider it a human).

So what can we do about these issues in our ability to have honest discussions? We need to stop being careless with our use of words, we need to begin putting more thought into our views, and not just repeating back something that sounded reasonable to us, and we need to attempt to understand what our dissenters intend.  We’re in a boat with a small whole, and both sides seem to be filling their bucket from outside the boat and pouring them in.  Let’s do better, and try to understand each other.  Ok?

My Fear of the Echo Chamber

Now, I’m going to write today about something that I think I am guilty of.  So if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ll possibly think “what the fuck is he talking about, he totally does that.”  I’m aware, but I’m trying not to.

I’m finding it harder and harder to not find myself in an echo chamber, in which I tend to watch, listen to, and read political stories that only reinforce my own viewpoints.  It hasn’t ever been my intention to do that, but I think that right now it’s so difficult not to end up in this very situation.

Now, I have tried to not jump on the bandwagon, and not get too dead behind the eyes when it comes to following my side politically, often pointing out when a piece that is on the left goes too far, or is nit-picking, or is preemptively pissed off.  I’ve been pretty vocal about that when I see it, unfortunately that ends up being something that only my liberal friends see, and so my conservative friends still think I’m too far gone.  I totally get that, and I want to fix that.

Lately, something that I’ve been trying to do, something I’ve been focusing on, which is something that helps me feel as if I’m not just listening to my own opinions bounced back at me, is looking at an issue as it’s being discussed, and say to myself “what’s the best argument for this side (the same side as the article is written from),” and then comparing and contrasting between what the argument that would best explain the side is saying, vs what the article/story/etc. is putting forward as their argument.  What I’ve found is that very often, on both sides, people are not good at arguing their points.

As kind of a secondary tier of this concept, I’ve tried to listen to vast array of opinions from each side.  I want to give three examples from the right, and explain what I’ve learned from them.  So, I’ve listened to Tomi Lahren on a number of different issues, and almost every single time, find her to be completely wrong.  On no issue that I’ve heard her touch upon, (Black Lives Matter, Trump supporting, NFL Kneeling, gun rights) is there a lack of reasonable arguments, however I’ve never heard her present one.  When I listen to her speak, I hear someone who has been briefed with talking points, who knows that outrage is her best weapon, and repeats blindly, she appears unable to have any kind of exchange, because she is so focused on the talking points, which is a huge crutch that people on both sides keep using.  Now not being able to think, and counter, and adjust, and compromise with a discussion don’t make you bad, or even stupid necessarily, but they make you unqualified to be the mouthpiece for a side, or a movement.  To me, Tomi seems unqualified.

The second conservative whom I’ve been listening to different interviews with, is Milo Yiannopoulos.  Now Milo, if you’re not aware, is something of liberal boogie man, being uninvited from some speaking engagements, and being attacked as a champion for the Alt-Right.  I haven’t heard much that justifies some of the outrage people have with him, but I kind of get it, because he is purposely a provocateur.  This is something he admits, and honestly, it would be hard for him to deny.  He says insulting, outlandish things in almost every interview I’ve seen him in, but he does so in a way that seems much less sinister, and much more indicative of someone working to get attention.  Now, I bring up Milo, because there are moments in each interview in which he stops the camera mugging and the insulting asides, and makes points, and if I’m being honest, I don’t know if I’ve disagreed with one of his points I’ve heard.  That doesn’t mean I buy into his side of the argument, but he’s not wrong.  I wrote about a couple weeks ago about how Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein both seemed to try to press liberal buttons to get their awful behavior to be forgiven, and luckily it didn’t work.  A large part of that post, was based on an interview in which Milo pointed out what they were doing, and he’s not wrong.  They tried to say “hey I’m untouchable because…”.  Milo was also very upfront about admitting that it didn’t work, even though it was shocking to him.  He was right, and often is on individual pieces.  I just don’t agree with his overall outlook.  Listening to him, I hear that he understands the issues he’s talking about, and he is intelligent, and capable of thinking and reacting, he just doesn’t do it the way I do.  Much better than Tomi Lahren.

The third, and last conservative personality is Ben Shapiro.  Now, admittedly, I’ve listened the least to Ben Shapiro, and that’s because he is the most recent for me to learn about, and he is also the least ‘entertaining’ to watch or listen to.  So, I don’t know how much I agree or disagree with him, nearly to the level of Tomi or Milo, but from the little that I’ve listened to Ben, I disagree with his conclusions, but again like Milo his points seem to some extent to be valid.  Unlike Milo, he doesn’t appear to be a provocateur; unlike Tomi, he doesn’t seem like an outragist.  Ben, seems like a very intelligent, and learned man whom I disagree with.  But when I hear him talking, I think the reason I disagree is a matter of perspective, and experience.  I think that he is making great arguments for someone who believes the way he does, but happens to have lived a life in which A, B, and C make natural and logical sense, whereas I have lived a life in which D, E, and F make natural logical sense.

My point in bringing up these three, is this: The person you’re most likely to have heard of, is Tomi Lahren.  She is for a large portion of people the face of young conservatism, and she seems totally and utterly unqualified for that position.  If you disagree with her, you won’t even be able to hear her points, because they don’t make sense.  She will not stimulate you to consider her side.

The second person you’re most likely to have heard of is Milo Yiannopolous, and while he makes some great points, and is intelligent and capable, he is in no way diplomatic, and much of his ‘antics’ will undercut the ability to converse on topics.

Then thirdly, Ben Shapiro, who is extremely intelligent, and is less inflammatory, perhaps is most likely to be able to start a conversation, to get dissenters to think about his side of things, but most liberals are unlikely to have heard of him.

They’re examples of the reason we have an echo chamber society.  It’s really easy for me to say “well Tomi Lahren is…” any number of bad things, because she’s managed to rise in notoriety due to being physically attractive, young, and loud.  Where as if we all thought of Ben Shapiro as the ‘face’ of young conservatism, we might not think of it as being as ridiculous, unfortunately he’s fairly plain in appearance and dress, and even-tempered in his speech, and frankly less ‘entertaining.’

Another issue that comes with this structure, is that it is hard for us to be able to determine the unqualified mouthpieces on our own sides.  It took me a long time, and while I think they make some good points, I think The Young Turks are often sensationalist in their methods to a point which undercuts them.  I think they might be best compared as an analog of Milo.  I really like Keith Olbermann, but I suspect that he ends up in the same place roughly.  I guess the Huffington Post would be the closest thing to Tomi Lahren.  They’re always outraged and seem to be rarely accurate.  That’s the best I can do on that one.

So what I want to ask you all, is who do you think are good political commentators based on facts (liberal or conservative) and who do you think don’t sound nearly as intelligent as they might appear if they aren’t echoing your own views back at you?

Hemorrhaging the Moral High Ground

I have actively tried to keep this blog away from political posts for the last several months, but today I want to talk about something political.  Something that I think does need to be discussed.

While it is in the news everyday that there are major party problems on the right with Republicans, it seems to me the left is facing a similar (smaller-scale) crisis.  The problem that we’re facing is the what the party is in the eyes of everyday people supporting it, and those of power within it.  It’s two different perceptions that are causing a rift.

Milo Yiannopolous last week in an interview, talked about how Kevin Spacey’s “coming out” amidst allegations of being a sexual predator, and he said that Spacey used his homosexuality to become “untouchable” and part of a “victim class,” which liberals will not attack. I think Milo is right (I should note that I’m aware he’s made some really controversial statements in the past and carries with him a whole bunch of specific connotation, but still I think on this he’s right).  I don’t think that liberals seem to have fallen for the bait, but clearly that’s what Spacey was hoping to do.

Last month, when all of the Harvey Weinstein news was breaking, there were reports that Weinstein explained that he was going to use his money to go after the NRA, in a sort of ploy to not face the consequences with the liberals holding much of his ‘fate’ in their hands.  Again, fortunately, it seems as if they didn’t take his bait.

The fact liberals (I don’t want to say Democrats as that’s a party and more of an identity and not necessarily in line with what these people might consider themselves) aren’t taking the bait, is a good sign.  Unfortunately, it’s clear that there is some reason why they feel there is a possibility of these tactics working, and if it weren’t for a preponderance of claims, I’m not sure their diversions would not have worked.  People have continued to work with Roman Polanski despite being a convicted rapist, and Woody Allen despite allegations that don’t seem unfounded, so I think there is some reason to think “hey if I say this buzzword/phrase this will blow over.”

After those two incidents, comes the Donna Brazile story, about how the Hilary Clinton campaign overstepped what she considers the ethical bounds when it comes to the DNC, and how they were basically allowed to take over the party early in exchange for financial solvency.  I think some of Brazile’s story seems logical and honest, although I am suspicious of her own complacency at the time, and whether or not coming out with this now is a way of distancing herself.

So the DNC didn’t operate as they were supposed to based on their own guidelines and rules (technically if they so chose they could have changed the rules to nominate anyone they wanted, but in doing so risk alienating the base).  The DNC went along in order to ensure financial stability, and many of the American people went along because they wanted to defeat “the boogie man.”  Hilary, and the party thought they knew what was best for us, and decided that she was the anointed one sent down from on high to defeat Donald Trump, and well, we know how that ended.

The problem was, they assumed they’d know how we thought, and even worse, they tried to make us think that way when many of us told them we didn’t.  The Democratic party in many ways this past election cycle neglected democracy, and unfortunately lost itself in the process.

You may think that this is justified that “well Trump is the boogie man,” but perhaps you should consider that when thinking about people who didn’t Trump but voted to keep Clinton out of office.  This was a tale of two “boogie people” and while each side thinks the other is obviously worse, we need to stop judging each other on these ideas, and start realizing that ultimately we’re the ones who suffer.

I know that to some extent, Spacey and Weinstein seem far removed from Clinton and the DNC, but the cause is the same.  These people did what they wanted, gave some feeble attempt at manipulating us into accepting those actions, and ended up losing what they saw as preordained.  Will this slap in the face teach anyone in power any real lesson so they become better?  I’m personally not sure it will.

Hopefully an Apt Metaphor

What would you rather be: broke or in debt?  Think about it long and hard, and don’t get into the ‘well is it good debt or bad debt’ debate.  It’s debt, it may be necessary, but it’s really never good.  Right?

Now think about what that means on a number level.  Broke means you have $0 (or pretty damn close).  Debt means you owe money, which means you’re negative.  Are we all set on this?

Ok, so the reason I bring up debt vs broke, is that I’ve been seeing a lot of stupid shit about “privilege” all over the internet.  Whether it’s “white privilege” or “male privilege” there are a lot of people who think these aren’t things.

“Nothing was given to me!”  “I had no advantages because I was white!”  We’ve heard all of these, and at face value, they can make sense.  The problem is, that these arguments really only hold up when there isn’t an opposing argument.  Just like being broke sounds bad, until you realize at least you don’t owe money.

“Privilege” is essentially being born broke.  You don’t necessarily have any property/money/political power or anything that will help you to succeed in life, you are starting from nothing.  So it seems natural to say “I had no advantages,” but what you didn’t have was disadvantages, and this is where the other side fills in the rest of the picture.

Being born without “privilege” is essentially being born into debt.  Not literally obviously, hopefully no one is being born into an actual place of debt, but the point is that there are specific disadvantages that come with birth for certain groups of people.  If you’re African American you’re more likely to be incarcerated, to be suspected of crime, followed in stores, the list unfortunately goes on.  If you’re a woman, you’re more likely to be harassed, or assaulted, or condescended to, or not be taken seriously in the work place.  There are disadvantages that come with being part of the LGBTQ community, or non-Christian, other races or ethnicities.  Those disadvantages are the equivalent of debt in this metaphor.  They have to work harder to get to “broke.”

I’m sure some will read this, and think those disadvantages I listed are incorrect, or inflated, or exaggerated.  Specifically the ideas of incarceration rates have been pointed out “well, if you do something wrong, you go to jail,” and other similar statements have been said to me, and my question is this: “how many times have you broken laws?”  Because I have broken laws, and I’ve never gone to jail.  Hell, I’ve been confronted by police while breaking laws, and never gone to jail.  It’s one of my least favorite things about people is that everyone wants law and order, but they like to steal movies, or do recreational drugs, or drive at excessive speeds.  There are very few people whom, I meet, who if they tell me they don’t break the law, I actually believe.  Yet we’re always ok with someone else paying the price for their actions.  This is a form of privilege.

The same idea kind of goes for the other examples that I gave of disadvantages, except that I feel like we’ve all heard the arguments against them.  We know that if a woman is assertive she’s called a bitch, and if a man’s assertive he’s respected for it.  We know if a woman sleeps with multiple people she’s called a slut, and a man is “sewing his wild oats” or whatever bullshit you want to call it.  We all know that the people telling gay people they shouldn’t be able to get married because of the “sanctity of marriage” tend to be on their third sacred marriage.  Or that the people who protest most about the deviance of homosexuality, or transgender identity tend to be significantly deviant.  Despite doing very little to actually discredit these things, or to make positive change, we all seem to know this stuff, that’s why I go into more depth on the “well if you break the law you should be punished” argument.

So which would you rather be?  Broke or in debt?  Be honest now.

This Whole Thing Got Away From Me

When I started this site, I intended for it to be a place for me to post short stories, essays, maybe the occasional poem, somewhere in the mix, I started blogging (which I consider really to be a less formal type of essay).  The real problem is, that I wanted it to be a non-political place.  When I wrote my first political post, What to remember after this election, my intention was to write something commenting on politics itself, and not to throw this site into those politics.  As each political related post went up, I started to become more and more political, and slip further and further in.

That wasn’t my intention, and so I’m going to be making a renewed effort to steer this site away from the political.  I don’t know that I can ever fully stay apolitical, but I will at least try not to use this platform as a soapbox to rant from.

In the coming days and weeks, it is my intention to write something much more lighthearted and fun on her, not to make it escapist necessarily, but to avoid topics like the one’s where I’m not contributing any new thought, and I’m just reiterating points like “Nazi’s are bad” and things that are absurdly obvious.

Thank you all for continuing to read, and I hope that I’ll be able to bring it back to a place of thoughtful entertainment, and not just me yelling into a keyboard.