Thursday 7 January, 2021

There are times when facial-recognition might come in useful. This is one of them.

Quote of the Day

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

Thanks to Quentin

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Schubert Ensemble | Schubert “Trout” Quintet | 4th Movement


This is a morning for something peaceful.

Yesterday in Washington DC

After watching what was going on for a while I could barely sleep. So here, in no particular order, are the thoughts that came to what is loosely called my mind.

  1. The mob was overwhelmingly white and male. If they had been predominately black, you can guess what would have ensued. Racism runs though American society like the slogan in sticks of Blackpool rock.

  2. Why didn’t people — media and security — see it coming? Clearly they don’t log into Parler  where, as Buzzfeed pointed out, this half-assed ‘insurrection’ was enthusiastically planned. The journalists covering the events were particularly pathetic. It’s clear that few of them have ever been outside of Washington, never covered war-zones, never been to autocratically-governed countries or places where dysentery and warlords come with the job. Their faux-shock-and-horror was nauseating. They have been covering Trump for four years, and they are still shocked by the stuff he gets up to.

  3. Why weren’t there any proper state-security and police preparations for an event that had been billed for weeks? It’s not so long ago since the BLM demonstrators in Lafayette Square were brutally cleared away to make space for Trump’s upside-down Bible-waving stunt. (A stunt to which he was shamefully accompanied by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the most senior military officer in America.) And the Department of Justice that day was ‘protected’ by heavily armed and kitted out Federal security agents whose official identity was cloaked.

  4. The answer to that question is, I think, obvious. Because the ‘event’ was the Commander-in-Chief’s gig. And calling out the National Security fuzz to keep it under control would have been seen as a bad career move in the Federal government.

  5. Facebook and Twitter eventually did the right thing — to deny Trump his megaphone. But ponder the implications of that: who elected the creeps who run these platforms?

  6. On the morning after as some kind of normality returned and people breathed easier, the most disturbing thoughts were: (a) nearly half the US electorate voted for Trump, in full knowledge (after four years) of what he was like and what he was capable of; and (b) — and more worryingly — an opinion poll found that 70% of Republican voters approved of the attack on the Capitol!

  7. And a raft of elected Republican Senators and Representatives tried to have the result of the election overturned in the House and the Senate.

  8. Finally — and returning to the aghast journalism of the night — it has seemingly never occurred to these hacks that democracy has never been the default condition of human societies. Autocracy or worse is the default (as Adam Gopnik, to his credit, acknowledged in a New Yorker piece). The truth is that the post-war democracy we have enjoyed until recently is an improbable, fragile accident — a blip in the history of the human race. It was a way of people who disagreed with one another managing to live together without killing one another. What we were seeing last night was not a new normal, but an ancient one.

  9. It was, as Rebecca Solnit put it in a memorable piece in this morning’s Guardian,

a long time coming, building up for years with white rage, especially white male rage fuelled by everyone from Trump himself to the National Rifle Association, Fox News and the various rightwing pundits, the Republican party, the various faces of white supremacy, and far-right groups such as the Proud Boys. It is a rage against the fact that other people might be equal under the law, that women and people of color might also govern as power begins to be distributed more equally, the same rage that attempted to delegitimize a black president with birtherism and obstruction. It is a rage against equality.

Democracy is a set of agreements to make decisions together and respect the outcome whether you like them or not. The kind of violence we saw on Capitol Hill is authoritarian, a way to try to force other people to submit to the will of the perpetrators. This violence comes from the white men who were long the only people with power in this country imagining themselves as marginalized and oppressed outsiders because others might also have power and a voice. We saw these kind of men last summer, when they invaded the Michigan capital while carrying semiautomatic rifles and saw them again when a handful of them were arrested for a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. We saw them in racist shootings from the Texas border to a Pennsylvania synagogue.

So, although, mercifully, the system worked eventually and Biden was confirmed this morning, the problem remains. The US is broken.

Other, hopefully interesting, links

  • Italian court rules that Deliveroo used a ‘Discriminatory’ Algorithm.Of course it did. That’s what platform capitalism is all about. Big news, nevertheless, because it provides a useful precedent. Link
  • The Pro-Trump Movement Was Always Headed Here. For years, professional grifters, trolls, true believers and political opportunists have sowed conspiratorial lies. We are now witnessing the reaping. Charlie Warzel in the NYT

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