ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM and the rise of trump

Trump is the last psycho standing in the Republican primary (since all the other psychos are bowing to him). And it’s way past time to overreact. Unfortunately not yet enough of us are as traumatized by this as we should be. How did we get here? Neoliberalism. Fear. A Magic Bullet. Whatever the reasons, I’m not interested in tracing a history;[1] I’m interested in what this reveals to us about our present situation, and what it means for tomorrow. The fact that Trump and the fate of the world are so intertwined reveals the chaos that forms the unsustainable foundation of our society, or in larger context, modernity itself. To be clear, Trump is not representative of some absolute Evil, no; what I’m suggesting is that the rise of Trump’s global-political influence represents the fruition of our very way of life- and we are totally complicit in this. What enables Trump’s ascendancy is simply put- stupidity, or in less trumped-up language- anti-intellectualism.

“Freedom” of Speech

Trump’s popularity has been built upon a ‘freedom of speech’ platform that wages war against ‘political correctness’- the man speaks his mind, and people are drawn to this. However, ‘freedom of speech’ in an age of anti-intellectualism is nothing more than the freedom of sounds to endlessly bounce around in an echo chamber. When I think ‘freedom of speech’ I immediately think of freedom of the press, and the freedom to dissent, to conscientiously object to one’s own government- y’kno the concepts of accountability and open dialogue to guard against tyranny. But this is not how ‘freedom of speech’ manifests itself today; it means something more like the freedom from guilt to empower oneself to speak out in a tyrannical and bigoted way. “I’m exercising my freedom of speech” sounds more and more like “I’m justifying my stubborn inability to empathize or engage in reasonable debate with a differing opinion” or it’s simply the shamelessly proud broadcasting of one’s tribal affinity- “Go Yanks!” is affectively no different from “black lives matter!” or “vote Trump!” Freedom of speech, within the context of advanced capitalism, has become the freedom to advertise one’s personal brand- it is self-serving (Trump, along with his followers, have perfected this business/campaign model). And the marketplace is flooded with products made out of shit and not built to last. None of this is sustainable. Freedom of speech should be something that builds constructive dialogue towards fairer governance and guarding against bigotry and tyranny; rather it tends towards inundating the public sphere with ‘gossip’ and misinformation in the service of tyranny. Why?

There are different reasons for this but for now I’d like to focus on just one: anti-intellectualism. Anti-intellectualism is the condition whereby freedom is transformed into tyranny- where we are seduced into desiring our own enslavement. I’ve traveled the world quite a bit and nowhere has anti-intellectualism been more pronounced, or even a concern at all, than in the US. Trump’s candidacy has been won without recourse to anything resembling a reasonable democratic process- debate, consistent arguments, facts- I think on this we could all agree. He’s gotten to where he is because something extra-political about him appeals to the neoliberal kind of humanism that has become the norm- he speaks his mind, and changes it as need be. To be clear, Trump does not represent anarchical ideology, or the absolute absence of any guiding principles. There is an arkhê to his madness, and he traces it back to himself (I’ll return to this concept of arkhê below). He’s his own man, proud in his self-made brand and identity. Something everyone can either relate to or aspires to. Question is, have you been seduced? Perhaps the degree to which people have entertained supporting a Trump presidency is proportional to how anti-intellectual they are. By anti-intellectualism, I don’t mean uneducated, as if there were an elitist undertone accompanying the critical use of the term. So what exactly is it?

Anti-Intellectualism & Artificial-Intelligence

When I consider the ramifications of anti-intellectualism (AI) I immediately think of the war on Iraq and the ‘war on facts’ that accompanied it.[2] The Bush regime somehow pulled off an unjust war while riding the wave of hyper patriotic emotions that came out of 9/11. It’s widely accepted now among the Intelligence communtiy that the Iraq War was criminal; we straight up invaded another country. So how is it that so many seemingly ‘smart’ people supported it (Hillary Clinton)? I submit to you the argument that AI is not merely represented by ignorant people who support Trump because they think he’s amusing. It’s the condition of being caught in a matrix of power relations where one’s ability to think becomes completely dependent upon something other than the self. Meaning, we conflate what thinks for us, with our own thinking. ‘What thinks for us’ are the institutions that manufacture information- media, the sciences- and police and enforce norms; or in Marxist terms, these so-called ‘experts’ control the means of producing information. Mind you- I say information, and not knowledge, because knowledge is clearly a rare endangered thing none of us recognize anymore, whereas information is ubiquitous. And that’s the anti-intellectual context- the inundation of information that floods the public sphere to keep people from what would threaten the hegemony of the oligarchy: knowledge. They do this by controlling and suppressing our desire- to wonder in the way a child has an unregulated and insatiable curiosity for the world- and replaces our genuine desires with legal forms of addiction; we have stronger desires to learn about the latest trends in fashion, business and technology than we do for our neighbors or our politicians and the current state of international politics. AI is the condition brought about by living in a system that manufactures your desires and thoughts for you- this system is capitalism.

Anti-intellectualism isn’t simply a disregard for facts or unwillingness to engage in reasoned debate, nor is it the blind embrace of sweeping emotions that burst forth from strong egos like vengeance, nationalism, or identity politics. Fact-checking or reasonable argumentation and debate has become denigrated in the public sphere as being ‘unpatriotic’, ‘cynical’, or even offensively elitist. “How dare you be better informed than I! I who have the power of the Internet at my fingertips!” Or perhaps a cleverer reaction- “That’s just your interpretation, not the truth!”[3]

My point is that the reliance on and unwavering faith in self-knowledge simultaneously undermines it. On the surface, anti-intellectualism reflects a negative attitude towards dialogue and diversity. It expresses a prideful stubbornness that doesn’t care if 5×0 could equal 5, “it’s always been 0, and that’s how it should remain.”[4] It’s the active annihilation of freedom, which I’ll define here as the ability to act and think in accord with one’s own capacity to be affected. In other words, anti-intellectualism is forsaking one’s capacity to be affected, and the full immersion of oneself into a collective consciousness, or should I say- one becomes artificial intelligence, utterly indifferent. Sure, artificial intelligence reflects technological progress, but it has also induced the decline of critical thinking, and the onset of anti-intellectualism.[5]

But it’s not only Trump’s campaign that exposes this rampant embrace of ignorance and stupidity infecting this country; Clinton’s supporters are not all that different. I wrote in my last post:

To be fair, this is something that baffles me. I have absolutely no substantive explanation for why there is so much minority support for the Clintons. I’m tempted to think that the electorate is simply misinformed, deceived and blindly buying into the Clinton brand very much like how Trump supporters have bought into his brand.

AI has become a form of authority that people refer to tacitly. When Trump or Clinton supporters are challenged they typically argue from the position of AI- they’ll point at numbers, ‘facts’, slogans and tweets; but as I pointed out in my last post, their information is twisted to dumb down discourse, and sell voters half-truths that appeal to their emotions. Capitalism aside, one has to wonder whether cynicism has fueled the infiltration of AI in everyday thought, and whether the lack of faith in our elected officials to ‘do the right thing’ has given way to a defeatist attitude of simply accepting what’s coming despite our best efforts to resist- like Clinton’s ‘inevitable’ presidential win. It is often said that cynicism has infected the youth, and that this is reflected in youth’s dismal voter turnout. Those who are jaded by politics tend not to vote, choose to tap out and not participate. But then these people have no business complaining about how shitty everything is. The very people, young people, who have the most potential power to effect change, are the same who rarely vote- and democracy doesn’t work if people choose to opt out of representing their own interests.[6] Of course, our country has laws that actively make it difficult for people to vote.[7] But, to change that, we gotta vote…while we still can. The ‘establishment’ is taking the mat out from under us, our civil liberties are being taken away from us and no one seems to care (except a very small number, those who feel the Bern). Sure, maybe youth are too busy being young, self-interested and preoccupied with making a life for themselves without the time to worry about ‘petty politics’. It still doesn’t refute the point that they’re the difference makers. Too bad we’re (the ‘grownups’) indifferent to them making a difference. And this reflects the AI sentiment, being indifferent to the life outside of one’s own that one nonetheless affects (global warming anyone?).

The Return of Fundamentalism: The Political Shift Towards the Right

Is it cynicism that fuels this anti-intellectualism, or vice versa? JFK’s assassination sparked an increase in fear and antagonism towards government. As distrust, fear, doubt, and contempt towards authority grows, so does cynicism and despair, which in turn only further alienates and disempowers people from the sphere of politics. In a word, we are disenchanted. What were we enchanted by before? The American Dream? The belief in ourselves to be able to do anything, to overcome any obstacle, and to succeed? Whatever it was, that spirit of the morals of yesteryear is in drastic decline. But it’s also of no use to attempt to return to those good ‘ol days- otherwise you’re no different from Trump, who wants to ‘make America great again.’ What version of America was great, and for who? This is why I’m always skeptical of trends in fashion, real estate, and pop culture in general that increasingly embrace a return to what is ‘vintage’- what exactly is it that we’re celebrating here or trying to make part of our identities? A return to the past is always an attempt at ‘reformation’, at cultural purification, intentional or otherwise- it is neo-fundamentalism, the return of a worldview that is incapable of coexisting among different worldviews within a pluralistic context. Fundamentalism is grounded in the absolute power/arkhe of being the ground of one’s own existence; meaning, there is no authority outside of one’s own absolute worldview or narrative.[8] And I should emphasize here, any authority outside my own worldview- Christians don’t get a free pass just because they recognize an authority outside themselves in the figure of ‘God’.  Fundamentalism is the notion that one could be the representative of Divine Power (ISIL).

This leads to another point- self-awareness, or the lack thereof. A characteristic of fundamentalists is their inability to be self-critical. There is no critical distance between themselves and their beliefs- to them, identity and belief are one and the same. This very phenomenon is spreading…everywhere. Why has there been a continual shift of politics towards the right?- because fundamentalism is re-establishing itself as the norm thanks to AI. Clinton is a fundamentalist because of her capitalism; consider all her political positions and you’ll come to the conclusion that she’s fundamentally incapable of adopting a worldview that doesn’t cater to corporate interests. The growing disparity between the Left and the Right, between the rich and poor, correlates with the inability our politicians to break from a worldview that is structured by capital- and this isn’t just paradigmatic of the West, ‘capital’ applies just as much to extreme fundamentalists of the terrorist variety.

 Anarchy: The Origin of Authority

Trump’s ascendancy does not signal the collapse of civilization, it is in fact the opposite. The foundation or arkhê of western civilization has not collapsed; its foundations are as strong as ever actually. The logic of arkhê (Greek concept for rule or beginning) refers to the idea that there is a disposition or qualification specific to the exercise of power and authority. Except, if you think about it long and hard enough, you come to the disturbing conclusion that there is no justification for any exercise of authority. The assumption here is that authority needs to be justified; unjustified authority results in tyranny; hence, in a democracy what’s supposed to happen is we vote for our public officials, thereby justifying their authority to represent our interests (hah!). In other words, the concept of ‘authority’ or ‘foundation’ always has to derive from somewhere, and the problem has to do with this ‘somewhere’. What happens is like an infinite regress- whoever wields the ring of power rules Middle Earth; well, the power of the ring comes from the creator of that ring; well, the power of whoever created that ring comes from somewhere; and so on, until we reach a place that is like the big bang, we reach some absolute source of all power- this is why we’re obsessed with origins and where things come from (well, not as obsessed as we ought if none of us question the legitimacy of our government officials who hold power over us). This is also why patriarchy holds such a strong grip on the fundamental fabric of human civilization; it’s all about lineage, being able to trace roots, especially economic roots of financial wealth back to some mythical source of power (the virility of one’s seed…I mean- capital!). You see, there is an intimate link between power, authority, patriarchy, and capitalism. I would be remiss if I didn’t include a jab at the absurdity of Biblical language in this regard- “and X begat Y”- with rarely a mention of women, or how the Church traces its divine authority back to the apostle Peter and some shit about keys. Clearly, ‘power’ is too complex of an idea to treat properly in this post. But to return to my point- the foundations of our civilization has not collapsed. The Trump event reveals not the collapse of our most cherished ideals; rather, it is the fruition of the logic of arkhê- anarchy. The source of all authority is the complete lack thereof. I mean, this should be pretty obvious since ‘postmodernity’ characteristically embraces the absence of absolute authority in favor of multiple individual notions of self-autonomy; in other words, in a multi-cultural context, you can’t simply impose your values over others, you gotta communicate and work things out, negotiate, compromise and come to a consensus about how to coexist. This isn’t the Dark Ages anymore when power was viciously enforced with divine violence, or is it? The disturbing truth about ‘authority’ is that it is utterly anarchic- without a definite place of origin. And the underlying anarchy that our civilization is grounded upon is showing its true face in the person of Trump. (Religious folk will deflect the question of authority upon some imaginary notion of the Divine, conflating the imaginary with the real, but the problem remains, it only becomes displaced one step further. I could harp on this ad infinitum, but onto more pressing matters…)

AI’s Trojan Horse: Capitalism

It’s an interesting case where postmodern pluralism and its emphasis on freedom- and the proliferation of diversity and a multiplicity of different worldviews- simultaneously breeds an indifference to this freedom. What I mean is- the celebration of diversity has empowered individuals to pursue their own forms of self-expression; however, this freedom of self-expression has regressed to a narcissistic form of individualism that dismisses worldviews that don’t conform to one’s own. However, it is this very notion of dismissing other worldviews that has become the dominant umbrella ideology that people collectively share in- again, this is AI. Dismissal of all worldviews as a fundamental worldview then introduces the possibility for a tyrant to come along and manipulate this AI to his or her advantage. This dismissal doesn’t have to be intentional, it can very much be enforced through coercion on a subconscious level. For example, capitalism is the perfect Trojan horse for AI- as we consume, make purchases, and participate in the market, we simultaneously and unconsciously create a self-brand- “we are what we buy”; but this identity building is not something uniquely our own, rather it is an identity manufactured and sold to us by corporations that profit off of our never-ending need to self-express or discover ourselves. You can’t deny that what, where, when, how and why one buys is a pretty accurate indicator of one’s values, or at the least one’s own sense of identity.[9] As we consume, we fortify the illusion that we are expressing our freedom of self-creation, which taps into the gravitational seduction of a fundamental view of the self; we seduce ourselves into believing the ‘I’ that is constructed via purchases is an autonomous being expressing individualism because it was constructed from free-market choices. Hence, fundamentalism of the individual is brought about- “I” constitute my own absolute authority because I am self-bought, I am the accumulation of what I have accumulated. I could also talk about this in reference to how we relate to our memories, that self-identity is an accumulation of fetishized/commodified memories. All to say- while pluralism and diversity is something that we celebrate and encourage, we really have no idea how to relate to it in a way that doesn’t involve commodification- of others or ourselves. An excess of ‘freedom’ in a capitalistic context results in the enslavement of oneself to this freedom-to-accumulate, but clearly “this isn’t freedom, it’s fear.”[10]

(I know a bunch of you read my last post. I’d really appreciate and comments, thoughts, or arguments. Thanks!)


[1] Since doing so would be awfully patriarchal, which is lame.

[2] There was really no connection between 9/11 attacks and Sadaam’s regime, but thanks to the invasion of Iraq, we now have ISIL. Malcolm Nance, world’s foremost expert in counter terrorism, said that the war on Iraq was as if the US invaded Mexico after Pearl Harbor. Yea…

[3] To echo Foucault, ‘truth’ isn’t something to be found in the content of one’s speech. Truth reveals itself in the conditions in which one speak; more specifically, under the condition of risk. Hence we differentiate between truth and facts, between what facts tell us at face-value, and what the truth of the facts are, or whether there is any truth to be found in said facts. With AI, one never need feel risk.

[4] If you have five of anything, say five chairs…and you multiple those five chairs, zero times…you’d still have five chairs. Multiplication by ‘nothing’ does not negate the existence of those five chairs. Math is abstract and our adherence to its ‘laws’ makes us stupid precisely because we cease thinking for ourselves; we let laws, rules, and the notion of ‘this is how it’s always been’ do the thinking for us. This is precisely what AI induces- not merely stupidity, but faithfulness. We become enslaved to concepts with histories we have no idea about. After all, who has the time to examine every presupposition one has? And that’s what capitalism and its advertising aids want to supply for us- information. Knowledge, excuse me, information is something humans no longer create; rather, it is something we consume.

[5] Neil Postman rolling in his grave.

[6] Of course, we can argue whether or not voting actually ‘represents’ anything or whether representation is at all possible.

[7] Voter registration laws, closed ballots, party affiliation, redistricting maps, etc.

[8] And for the religious, one’s ‘god’.

[9] However, factors like where one lives, access to points of commerce, marketplace diversity, etc determine the limits of one’s capacity to construct an identity.

[10] Which is why there is so much money in risk management and prevention. Also, quote from Captain America.

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Hillary Clinton in Context

What it Means to be Progressive

The premise behind the HBO show ‘Newsroom’ is that a well-informed electorate is vital to a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, not many of us are as informed as we should be. Between Trump hijacking headlines and major news outlets’ tendency to report on spectacle, quality reporting of the news and relevant information is hard to come by for the everyday voter. And if you’re like most people who work overtime or multiple jobs to make ends meet…who has the time to do their own research on the news? This is where I hope to help out and do the work of sorting through the bullshit for you. Many people read, hear, or watch and passively absorb the news without analyzing it. Without analysis, the news can become dangerously close to propaganda aimed at appealing to and taking advantage of people’s fleeting emotions. So let’s be smart about this, because, y’kno, choosing a good president is kind of a big deal.

I’ll start by being transparent. If I were asked what the most important election issue is to me, my immediate response would likely be: the environment. But in truth, there isn’t a single most important issue because they’re all important. I’m not trying to sound corny or pretentious. When I say every issue is equally important what I mean is that all the issues are deeply interconnected. If you support environmental preservation then you simultaneously care for the sustainability of our communities, which is directly related to challenging corporate interests, and promoting minority rights. I hope the connections between seemingly disparate campaign issues becomes clearer as I proceed to tease out the relevant information about Clinton and Sanders. Also, it concerns me how most Clinton supporters have been fed misinformation from the Clinton campaign about Sanders, and I intend to clarify some of these obfuscations. If the below feels heavily slanted against Clinton I hope it becomes obvious why. The thought central to my inquiry into ‘Clinton vs. Sanders’ is this: which candidate can we entrust the future to. I’m in no way concerned with my own welfare and how any of these issues affect ME; rather, I’m concerned with how these issues affect humanity as a whole, with the understanding that the Earth is the only home we have. So that’s where I’m coming from.

 Historical-Environmental Context

For years now our Earth has continuously gotten warmer, and this year climate change has contributed to the hottest temperatures ever since we started keeping track.

The next president will come into office with their back up against the climate wall. Put simply, we are just plain out of time…everything is moving faster than the scientific modeling has prepared us for. The ice is melting faster. The oceans are rising faster.[1]

You may not be convinced by the apocalyptic degree of danger that the Earth is in- which is fine, since a lot of people also didn’t think the earth was round or that it revolved around a sun at one point either- but you may be convinced that environmental care corresponds directly with impacting our economy, social welfare, and all things progressive. Taking care of the environment and reducing CO2 emissions, for example, have direct ramifications on big businesses, the most powerful of which are entrenched in the fossil-fuel industry, which in turn affects international relations and human rights. Addressing climate change means challenging the hegemony of the two most wealthy and powerful forces on the planet- fossil-fuel corporations and the banks that finance them. So which candidate is best equipped to go toe-to-toe against the unstoppable wave of capitalistic forces and redirect the course of history? (If you’d like to learn more about the environmental crisis we face I highly recommend this entertaining and easily digestible 9-episode Showtime series: Years of Living Dangerously)

Clinton Money Complicit in Climate Change

When challenged that her campaign was in part being funded by fossil-fuel companies, Clinton supporters- ranging from California Senator Barbara Boxer to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to NYT columnist Paul Krugman[2]- all came out of the woodwork attempting to silence a supposed non-issue, denouncing the fossil-fuel allegations as lies. Greenpeace calculates that $4.5 million of the Clinton campaign has received money from fossil-fuel connected donors. But there’s more. Among Clinton’s benefactors is one Warren Buffet who is “up to his eyeballs in coal, including coal transportation and some of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the country.” Exxon, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron have all contributed to the Clinton Foundation in recent years. Including Enbridge lobbyists- and it should be highlighted that as Secretary of State, Clinton signed off on the Enbridge pipeline (alternative to Keystone XL pipeline) to be constructed to transport crude oil from Alaska to Wisconsin despite the negative impact it will have on climate change.[3] I read the friggin court case and it just screams abuse of power and an agenda that is clearly pro-corporate interests and antithetical to environmental ethics.[4] Three lobbyists from Enbridge, the company responsible for building the pipeline, are contributing to Clinton’s campaign. From fossil-fuel companies to its lobbyists to businesses directly tied to fossil fuel interests, Clinton’s campaign is buried deep in an ideology that is fundamentally opposed to environmental care. And it doesn’t end there.

On the issue of fracking, she has promoted and sold the idea around the globe. ‘Fracking’, for those unfamiliar, is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture hard to reach rocks to extract the gas inside. It takes 400 tanker trucks to carry a total of 1-8 million gallons of water, chemicals and supplies to the site. Of the 600 chemicals used in fracking fluid, more than a few are carcinogenic and toxic: lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, methanol, hydrochloric acid, just to name a few. 500k active gas wells in the U.S. x 8m gallons of water per frack x 18 times a well can be fracked= 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals needed to run the wells. During this process methane gas and toxic chemicals are leaked out into nearby groundwater, 17x higher than in normal wells, water which is used for drinking in nearby towns and cities. Waste fluid is then left to evaporate releasing harmful compounds into the atmosphere adding to the concentration of all the shit already trapped up there.[5]

In 2011 Bulgaria signed a 5year $68m deal with Chevron granting millions of acres in shale gas concessions. This deal outraged Bulgarians and the government responded by passing a fracking ban. Clinton then intervened on behalf of Chevron -who conveniently financially supports Clinton- and weeks later Bulgaria’s parliament eased its moratorium on fracking.[6] (Which coincidentally also influenced neighboring country Romania to reverse its ban on fracking.) This is just one small episode in a much larger and insidious narrative of promoting fracking for political interests that are antithetical to fighting climate change.

OK, so Clinton is clearly not qualified to lead the charge to save our environment. Likewise, she is unqualified to lead the charge in economic reform considering how closely climate change and big business is related. But she has ‘experience’. This misconceived belief in Clinton’s experience has led her supporters to arrive at the conclusion that she ‘gets things done’- but what kind of things?

The Clinton Experience

Sure, Clinton might be great at warring against Republicans, and has more experience in office, but what good is said experience if it just results in more of the same? Well-meaning voters pay lip service to this concept of ‘experience’ but what does it really mean other than feeling at home in a system that has become comfortable with zero accountability. The kind of ‘experience’ that Clinton embodies is not the kind that brings about change; to lean on this concept of experience is not progressive, it is being beholden to a concept of value correlated with accumulated and fetishized moments of time. The ‘experience’ of someone with a corporate ideology is the experience that her supporters are blindly referring to- the kind that votes for the Iraq war, that votes for the Monsanto protection act, that has promoted fracking around the globe, that has catered to fossil fuel and big business interests. Someone mired in the experience of this cesspool of power is not suited to the task of implementing or sustaining any notion of progressive change.

The Clinton Foundation since its inception has operated under the belief that any problem can be solved by partnering with the wealthy and putting their loose change to good use- so one shouldn’t be surprised by what powerful influences shape her policies. Her so-called ‘solutions’ always come packaged as market-friendly, appeasing the interests of the powerful and rich while giving the illusion of being progressive among voters. Such as the Bulgaria/Chevron incident above. How it looked on the surface was: providing affordable fuel, but underneath this supposed ‘win’ lurks the acceleration of global warming and the increase of a major corporation’s power, a corporation that helps fund her campaign. Scenarios like this have become the norm with the Clintons’ win-win ways. But this give and take, while on the surface seems effective, has been the very ideology that has brought our environment (both natural and economic) into the crisis it faces today.

Sanders and his supporters understand something critical: It won’t all be win-win. For any of this to happen, fossil-fuel companies, which have made obscene profits for many decades, will have to start losing. And losing more than just the tax breaks and subsidies that Clinton is promising to cut. They will also have to lose the new drilling and mining leases they want; they’ll have to be denied permits for the pipelines and export terminals they very much want to build. They will have to leave trillions of dollars’ worth of proven fossil-fuel reserves in the ground.

 Meanwhile, if solar panels proliferate on rooftops, big power utilities will lose a significant portion of their profits, since their former customers will be in the energy-generation business. This would create opportunities for a more level economy and, ultimately, for lower utility bills—but once again, some powerful interests will have to lose (which is why Warren Buffett’s coal-fired utility in Nevada has gone to war against solar).[7]

There exists a deeper underlying problem beneath the superficial critique of Clinton’s ties to corporate funding and influence: it’s not simply the money, it’s her fundamental worldview that cannot admit that the ties to corporate cash is a problem to begin with. Clinton is so deeply embedded in corporate relations that she is incapable of parsing the difference between problem and solution. Her solutions are simultaneously the problems, new and old.  Care for the environment is simultaneously the care for humans that inhabit this environment. But our economics has created an environment in which we treat the other as competitor, not as fellow participant and co-sharer in a world that no one can rightfully claim as their own. The legacy of control and domination over nature directly affects how we treat other humans.

When so much of Clinton’s policies are shaped by corporate interests antithetical to environmental preservation how can she possibly be seen as progressive, let alone a ‘democratic’ candidate with people’s best interest at heart? What Hillary represents is the inhuman corporate machine of capitalistic and anthropocentric interests that has forever paraded itself about as being concerned with the everyday man but this is simply not the case. This is the kind of experience that her supporters are so proud of? This is her stellar track record of getting things done? For who?

Clinton Politicks- Gun Control and Minority Supprt

Give the Clinton campaign credit. They are great at politicking. They are great at spinning and distorting headlines to avoid the truth of issues. Here are just two examples that keep coming up during the primaries: the minority support for Clinton, and Sanders’ support of gun manufacturers. Both issues, when analyzed exposes just how deceptive the Clinton camp can be.

Clinton tweeted: @BernieSanders prioritized gun manufacturers’ rights over the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook. This tweet is entirely misleading but the way in which it is worded does its job: it appeals to voters’ emotions by using a false analogy. Basically, Sanders is on the progressive side of the gun control debate. He has voted to ban assault rifles, to expand background checks on gun buyers, and supports closing down the loopholes that allow people to illegally buy guns. Furthermore, he understands that the fundamental problem to gun violence is not the guns themselves or the gun manufacturers, it is the inability of our healthcare system to adequately take care of those who suffer from mental health issues. Basically, the problem is systemic. Sanders understands that to deal with gun violence one needs to address infrastructure such as education and healthcare. When a drunk person gets into a car and runs someone over with it, you do not sue the car manufacturer. It is the person using the car irresponsibly who is at fault. This is just one reason why the Clinton tweet is insidious in its intent and flat out false in its suggestion. The other reason is very simple: during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the U.S. made twice as much in arms sales to foreign countries (most with sketch human rights records) than the Bush regime did in total. Many countries whose governments donated directly to the Clinton Foundation! Clinton is flat out hypocritical here in her stance against gun violence. She pays lip service to it while profiting from arms sales to corrupt regimes elsewhere in the world.[8] Oh yea, she supports drones too. You can’t make this shit up.

The Clinton campaign prides itself on the overwhelming support it gets from minorities. During primary debates you’ll hear about how Clinton won all the states in the ‘deep south’ with large numbers of minority voters. To be fair, this is something that baffles me. I have absolutely no substantive explanation for why there is so much minority support for the Clintons. I’m tempted to think that the electorate is simply misinformed, deceived and blindly buying into the Clinton brand very much like how Trump supporters have bought into his brand. Or, as Sanders argues- they are simply incredibly conservative in the South.

The idea that Clinton is the candidate for minorities makes no sense. When you’re this deep in corporate influence and this complicit in climate change you are fundamentally opposed to ‘minoritarian’ values[9]. Trickle down economics simply does not work. The notion of a sustainable future is at the heart of the youth and green movements. Environmental ethics go hand-in-hand with racial ethics. The present is one ruled by the wealthy and powerful. The future is promised to the poor and disenfranchised, to the structural ‘other’ of the white property-owning straight male. To challenge things like income disparity, an issue close to the heart of many minorities, is to challenge corporatocracy, which is simultaneously to be pro-sustainability and pro-environment. Clinton is none of these things and clearly does not represent ‘minority interests’.

Nate Silver published a blog piece addressing this very issue titled: “Clinton is Winning the States That Look Like the Democratic Party.”[10] Using statistical analysis Silver shows how all the states won by Clinton have somehow been more ‘democratic’ than states Sanders has won. Well, what exactly does the ‘democratic party’ look like? According to Silver, the larger the percentage of racial minorities, the more aesthetically democratic a thing looks. The very premise behind his article is faulty. Why? Because it suggests that a ‘democrat’ is directly equated with a certain racial makeup. It’s classic white-man power politics- the reduction of any complex issue to identity politics. This in turn becomes a tacit way of policing the democratic party, and what it ‘ought’ to look like. ‘Democrats’ are identified by more than just racial profiles, there’s stuff like, ykno, ideology involved too- justice, equality, ethics, etc. Masquerading itself as scientific evidence of Clinton’s minority support, it’s shit like this that every voter is up against when trying to sort through all the bullshit in the news. The suggestion that Clinton is the minority’s candidate is asinine. Ted Kennedy once said the last thing we need is a second republican party. Which leads me to my last major point of analysis.

Sanders the Outsider

“Ok, so maybe Clinton’s experience and policies have been sketch…but what has Sanders done?”

A response to that criticism requires context. I will start by alluding to a statement I made above, that bad news reporting such as Silver’s functions as a way to police what the democratic party ought to look like. And Sanders does not fit this corporate media profile. Bernie hasn’t been able to get ‘much done’, as his critics are apt to point out, because he works in an environment where he is constantly the minority position. Being anti-establishment within the establishment doesn’t win you many allies. His critics are quick to point out, his ’marginal status in congress [has resulted in him having] done nothing’.[11] Stop to consider that this ‘nothing’ has everything to do with not supporting bad legislation after bad legislation, that this ‘nothing’ is the wisdom to withhold action, when said action panders to all that he stands against. The critic’s response then is that Bernie is too ‘extreme’, too far to the left- a place one cannot govern from because it does not represent a majority of ‘Americans’- to get along with the rest of the kids in the playground. So then the argument shifts towards the notion of compromise. But this is just not Sanders’ modus operandi. It is compromise after compromise, the slippery slope of working with big business, etc that has brought us to the dire situation we are in today. The question then becomes: would you rather a president that repeats much of the same that has created our current conditions, but sells the illusion of work and progress, or would you rather a president that may not be able to get much done, but will be able to stop our present collision course, and at the least inhibit the neofascist republicans and the ever shifting right-wards democrats from digging ourselves into a deeper hole? Shall I quote Teddy K again?

The Progressive’s Responsibility towards the Future

The idea of ‘progressiveness’ is constantly paraded about by campaigners, and with it, the notion of ‘liberalism’ is usually not too far behind. But the use of the term by politicians adds oxygen to their fires of moronity- it’s oxymoronic. Progression implies a movement of change, not the continuation of the status quo. While a lot can be said to paint politics as something that is fundamentally opposed to progress (especially in the context of late-capitalism and neo-liberalism where the only notion of ‘change’ has to do with regime turnover. In other words, power remains the same), the intention behind this section is to compare Bernie and Clinton on this notion of ‘progressiveness’, and highlight the disparity between therein.

I’ll start by saying that there can be no concept of the progressive without the embraced recognition of youth movements. What typically comes with adulthood is resistance to change; in other words, the older we get, the more we become set in our ways. This is in-part a function of an inadequate way of how we tend to relate to our memories- we tend to mistake memories of personal experiences as ‘true’ or reflective of reality, but not just any reality, my reality, and in this way it becomes difficult to break free from a narcissistic and egocentric worldview the older one gets. Other phenomena are simultaneously at play of course- habit, routine, tradition, upbringing, social context, etc. Adults don’t have the free time at their disposal to play, hence they stop exploring or learning and relating to their world in a way that is not instrumental, or a means to an end. Adults tend to relate to their world in terms of utility, a place that they can manipulate and maneuver around to fit their needs. Children who, by virtue of having not lived as long, and hence not having been repeatedly beat in the head by socializing influences, are not ‘in’ the world, they are ‘with’ the world. Their sense of self is as yet amorphous and elastic, everything is affective, nothing is yet hierarchical, values are not judged relative to their instrumental worth but rather to the capacity to free the imagination. Hence a stick and wheel may be of more value than a bar of gold. All to say, youth are constantly relating to and reimagining the world in different ways that are creative and not bound to the static laws and standards that adults have become habitualized and medicated into.

Exit polls show that Clinton holds a large majority of voters over 45, while Sanders inversely has the large majority of the youth vote, especially of those under 30.  The interpretation of this demographic divide typically dismisses youth as being idealistic and naïve. Again, the underlying assumption of ‘experience’ looms large here. Just as they will appeal to Clinton’s political experience, older voters will similarly appeal to their own experience of being ‘veteran voters’; which, by some leap of entitled logic leads them to conclude that their judgment on what constitutes ‘good politics’ trumps the naiveté of the twitter generation. But what is unique about having voted after the fallout of the ‘60s through the cold war to now is that there forms a gravitational pull away from a sense of empowerment, or ‘hope’, and towards fear instead. What I’m suggesting is that fear seems to be a driving influence behind Clinton supporters who, despite recognizing Sanders’ progressive platform, base their vote on who will more handedly defeat whatever clown the Far-Right throws into the ring. And of course the repeated majority of the ‘fear vote’ has led to the ever-rightward shift of the political spectrum towards authoritarianism and ‘national security’ (i.e. imperialism and enforcing national interests abroad). The force of such gravity is great and difficult to withstand. As I stated above in my introduction, what concerns me in my decision to vote is not my own interest; rather, I’m trying to take in a holistic view and understand how it is precisely this logic of private interests that have co-opted the political process. I think this is a concept that a lot of young people are plugged into. Especially those of us dealing with high rent prices and unsustainable living conditions in urban areas, those of us who grew up listening to ‘Fuck tha Police’ and who realize that nothing has changed, those of us who’ve inherited this world of economic shambles and environmental decay. All these disparate issues that the older generations are able to so easily compartmentalize and seemingly so eager to dump onto youth are recognized by the youth as interconnected problems for which solutions need to be ‘revolutionary’.

Back to the Future

The concept of ‘future’ is often alluded to during election campaigns. ‘A better tomorrow’ is always the goal. Building a sustainable present for future generations. If this is so then climate change needs to be front and center of our election discussions since there is nothing threatening the very existence of tomorrow more than global warming. I’m pretty sure no one is gonna deny the importance of the future, which is why our policies in the here and now need to change and cannot be about legacy dedicated to buttressing outdated ideologies (i.e. Clinton Foundation). Environmental ethics is, to me, the most important political issue of our time because it directly affects all facets of social life.

To be able to move forward in a progressive way demands transparency. Secrets of the past continue to mire Clinton in shadow politics while Sanders is as transparent and honest as can be. Take for example how Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs have yet to be released to the public; which just adds ammunition to the critique that Clinton and corporate America are bedfellows. And then there’s Sander’s courageous stand for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

This is why Sanders is more progressive than Clinton, and why Clinton has increasingly become difficult to distinguish from a Republican (see following chart). While it is extremely important, the topic of climate change isn’t simply about environmental ethics; it is also about economic policy and corporate influence, and ultimately about a philosophy and worldview that treats minoritarian values with respect. To be pro-environment is to be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist. Sustainability is directly correlated with corporate responsibility, which economically impacts the poor.

(courtesy of politicalcompass.org)

“But Hillary has this thing in the bag. She will win.” In a world where we show our absolute fear and hostility towards an uncertain future in our unwavering faith in risk analysis and risk management, ykno- the statistical revolution- the concept of the future or tomorrow has been negated in favor of a predetermined and manufactured ‘land of tomorrow’. But who creates this vision of the future? The statistics show that the outcome of the primary race is all but assured. The force of mathematical trend is absolute and undeniable. While there is a fundamental and deeply concerning flaw to such uber conservative logic- making decisions, living life based on the best odds- even if we could look into the future and see that Clinton indeed does win, how would one vote regardless? And this comes down to what it means to vote. Does one vote to be part of the winning team? To be able to say, I made the ‘right’ decision…conflating ‘rightness’ with ‘majority outcome’? That’s just one side of the problem with election rhetoric- that there must be a winner and loser. In reality there is neither. We only declare winners and losers when all is said and done, but the end is never reached. If one does not vote to have made the ‘right’ prediction, then does one vote to have their voice be heard? Voting in the face of inevitable loss is a vastly different experience from voting in the face of certain victory. The former shows courage. Kinda like the way Sanders continues to campaign despite all indications that he is fighting a losing battle.

This election season is the rare occurrence where those that feel beaten down and completely disempowered and incapable of actively doing something to effect change…can actually do something about it. Places of power are VIP access only. You and I have very little influence to affect the kinda change necessary to curb the tides of war and destruction our politics are so drawn to. So the opportunity to be a part of placing a representative of actual progressive interests in a seat of power is not an opportunity to be wasted or taken for granted. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as cynical as they come. Even if the ideal candidate in an imaginary scenario winds up in the White House I’d still think ‘we’re all screwed’. But the Clinton corporate machine and all its bullshit was just too much for me to ignore. Even if Sanders loses (which is likely), the hope is he’ll have pulled Clinton back towards the left some.


[1] http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/

[2] Krugman published a morally induced and moronically self-righteous piece in the NYT lecturing the Sanders campaign on ‘guidelines for good behavior’. Just another example of the waning influence and authority of the NYT in general. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/feel-the-math/?_r=0

[4] https://casetext.com/case/sierra-club-v-clinton

[5] http://www.dangersoffracking.com/

[6] http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/hillary-clinton-fracking-shale-state-department-chevron

[7] http://www.thenation.com/article/the-problem-with-hillary-clinton-isnt-just-her-corporate-cash-its-her-corporate-worldview/

[8] http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

[9] I use the term ‘minority’ here with great unease, but for practical purposes since everyday voters will equate ‘minority’ issues with poor, urban, issues related to income equality and racial justice. But make no mistake about it, the very use of the term ‘minority’ already structurally fixes non-whites in a position of disenfranchisement.

[10] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/clinton-is-winning-the-states-that-look-like-the-democratic-party/

[11] http://www.democracynow.org/2016/4/15/robert_scheer_v_torie_osborn_a

1 comment

Dave - Feeling the Bern, huh?

on intellectual responsibility

“intellectuals should make public use of the professional knowledge that they possess, on their own initiative and without being commissioned by anyone to do so. they need not be neutral and eschew partisanship, but they should be aware of their own fallibility. they should limit themselves to relevant issues; in other words, they should endeavor to improve the deplorable discursive level of public debates. intellectuals must walk a difficult tightrope in other respects as well. they should not use the influence they acquire through their words as a means to gain power, thus confusing influence with authority tied to positions in party organization or government. intellectuals cease to be intellectuals once they assume public office [one ceases to reflect and critique in freedom once tethered to the expected adherence to some prevailing ideology]. if there is one thing intellectuals- a species that has so often attacked its own kind and pronounced its demise- cannot allow themselves, then it is to become cynical.” (paraphrased from Between Naturalism and Religion x Habermas, pp. 22-23)

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