August 5, 2018 in 2,664 words

Why Fascism Has the Power to Seduce the Broken

The Promise of Spiritual Rebirth and Symbolic Immortality


I suppose many people — maybe even you — thought I meant it as kind of a black joke. But I was lethally serious when I used to say: the rise of fascism would be the defining event of our lives so far. And here we are: if we look around the world today, neofascism is on an explosive rise — Trump, Erdogan, Orban. In just a handful of years, it’s overturned the liberal order.

That’s shocking enough. But what’s more curious is that fascism seems to make people lose their minds. Quite literally — we say they’re “mindless”, that they’re “out of their minds”, “they’ve gone nuts”, and so on. Yet what’s even more still is that many people seem to want to lose their minds.

Why? Don’t you think that’s odd? Striking? Dangerous? In this essay, I’m going to offer a very different narrative of fascism and liberalism than the ones we’re used to, which answers that question — so the first thing I’ll ask you to do is put your preconceptions aside. We’re not going to use economics much — but psychology.

Let’s start with the idea of rootedness. It’s the forgotten hinge of social order. Rootedness means what you intuitively think it does — a sense of really intrinsically belonging, to a social order, to a place, to a world. You can call it culture, heritage, customs, ways, if you like. “I belong to this. I am part of this.” But it also means now something will outlast you. And in that way, rootedness is vital, because it lets us master our death anxieties. “Yes, I will die. I can bear it a little better now. Part of me will go on living. My town, my beliefs, my customs, my ways. They will outlive me.” In other words, rootedness gives us a kind of symbolic immortality.

(It’s true that we mostly don’t consciously think the thoughts above. They’re usually unconscious thoughts. But for that reason, they’re all the more powerful. When you feel rooted, don’t you feel less anxious, more secure, safer? — though you can’t say precisely why? It’s because your death anxiety is now a little more bearable. There is a kind of immortality that you can have, after all — a symbolic one. To be part of a world, a place, an order, a way, which will outlive you.)

Now. Liberalism today means neoliberalism, and neoliberalism just means capitalism, and so now we have predatory capitalism in every last aspect of life — healthcare, childcare, elderly care, education, finance, housing. But capitalism uproots us, it doesn’t root us more firmly. It eviscerates community. It destroys belonging — even your own body doesn’t belong to you. Towns and cities, and the bonds in them, are abandoned. There’s no higher purpose to life, or to you — just profit. Everything is fractured, broken, split apart, empty, hollow.


The Right Way to Talk About Impeaching Donald Trump

Kaniela Ing wants Democrats to understand that impeachment is necessary to end the chaos and focus on the issues that matter.


US President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress inside the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, January 30, 2018.

Make a note of August 1, 2018, the day when President Trump tweeted: “This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”

The president is urging the Attorney General of the United States, who more than a year ago recused himself from involvement with the investigation of allegations of wrongdoing by the Trump campaign and the Trump White House, to extend and amplify the aggressive obstruction of justice that began with the May, 2017, firing of FBI director James Comey. If any serious attempt to remove Mueller is made, the August 1 tantrum by an increasingly desperate president would necessarily figure in an impeachment inquiry. Even Republicans who profess their loyalty to Trump tell us that the unwarranted firing of the special counsel could be an impeachable offense. As Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, says: “To stop [the Mueller-led] investigation without cause, I think, would be a constitutional crisis.”

But the firing of Mueller is not required to justify an impeachment inquiry. Trump’s lawless presidency—with its repeated obstructions of justice, its disregard for the emoluments clause, and its open disdain for the freedom of the press protections outlined in the First Amendment to the founding document—has already crossed the lines that call for a constitutional remedy. The problem is that most members of Congress, no matter what their partisanship, no matter what their ideology, do not know how to talk about impeachment.

This is a particular problem for congressional Democrats, the opposition party that should take the lead when it comes to holding the president to account. Democratic voters want their representatives to act; 65 percent of Democrats say that if their party wins control of the House of Representatives in 2018, it should begin the impeachment process. The idea is most popular among women, people under the age of 35, and people of color—precisely the potential voters that Democrats must mobilize this fall. Yet, House Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer keep saying they want to keep the issue off the table.

That’s one of the many reasons why Congress needs new blood.


Midterm ‘Mini-Me’: is copying Trump a winning strategy for rightwingers?

Republican candidates are nicknaming opponents and tweeting insults in hopes of riding the president’s coattails to victory.


Copycat tactics ahead of November’s midterm elections include flaunting political incorrectness, courting controversy for its own sake, and railing against “fake news’.

He rails against illegal immigration and bad trade deals, dismisses the Russia investigation as “a witch-hunt”, uses Twitter to hurl insults at his opponent and defends white people’s right to fly the Confederate flag.

No, not Donald Trump. This is Corey Stewart, Republican candidate for the US Senate in Virginia and among a generation of what might be called “mini-Trumps” – politicians who are embracing not only the president’s populist agenda but his wrecking-ball style in the hope of repeating his success at the ballot box.

Copycat tactics ahead of November’s midterm elections include flaunting political incorrectness, courting controversy for its own sake, blasting out inflammatory tweets in upper case, railing against “fake news” in local media, never backing down or saying sorry, trafficking in conspiracy theories and denigrating rivals with tags evocative of “Crooked” Hillary.

“Since Trump currently has 88% approval among Republicans (stronger than any modern president of either party except Bush right after 9/11) it makes sense for candidates in his party to emulate him,” Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and a prominent Trump supporter, said via email. “If Republicans are willing to fight toe to toe with the left they will win a shocking victory this fall. If they try to appease the media and the elites, they will lose the House.”

The elections offer the first comprehensive test of whether Trump is sui generis or his winning formula can be replicated without his celebrity and wealth.


6 Huge Fortunes People Discovered In The Dumbest Ways

For most of us, stumbling across a dollar or a half-eaten corn dog on the street would be a huge freaking deal. The people on this list farted their way into fortunes that even the yarn-spinnin’est hobo on the rails would find implausible.

6. A Jackson Pollock Worth $15 Million Turned Up In An Arizona Garage


When a Scottsdale, Arizona man was selling his house to move into a retirement home, he contacted an appraiser to assess the value of his most prized possession: a signed LA Lakers poster sitting in his garage. When the appraiser came to look at the poster, he estimated its worth at around $300, but he found also something considerably more interesting in the garage: a painting that looked an awful lot like a Jackson Pollock.

Either a famous painting or another Lakers poster that got super waterlogged.

Even though the style seemed unmistakable — Pollock is neck-and-neck with Monet in the famed “easy to point out from a distance to feel smart at a museum” art movement — the likelihood of an authentic Pollock making its way to the Southwestern U.S. without anyone knowing seemed like a stupid plot twist for real life. The appraiser, Josh Levine, spent 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars investigating the painting’s history.

Levine discovered that the owner had a half-sister named Jenifer Gordon Cosgriff, who’d been a New York socialite earlier in the century. After some digging, he managed to link Gordon Cosgriff to a specific showing where she could’ve reasonably acquired the painting. When Gordon Cosgriff had died, the Arizona man had collected her belongings and stored them in his garage for decades. Levine then had forensics experts analyze the physical painting itself, and they confirmed that it was likely one of Pollock’s missing “gouaches” from 1945-1949, a specific style of painting that combined water with a binding agent.

Success!!! Looks like this cold case had been returned to room temperature. (That’s the closing line of every Cold Case episode.)

Levine still plans to auction the painting, and estimates its worth at between $10 million and $15 million, which is decent compensation for the embarrassment of having a seven-figure painting in your garage for a quarter of a century without knowing it.

And there was an even more unbelievable twist: That Lakers poster? Genuine Da Vinci. Unreal.


The big picture: going nowhere in New York’s ‘outer boroughs’

The glamour of Manhattan is a distant dream in Evelyn Hofer’s evocative shot of 1960s Queens.


Queensboro Bridge, New York, 1964.

Poised in a state of perfect equilibrium, the young man with the bike is going nowhere. To explain his predicament and his dejected air, just look at his location. He is standing in Queens, across the river from Manhattan; although the Queensboro Bridge connects the factories and taxi garages of Long Island City with the penthouses and roof gardens of the Upper East Side, he remains stranded in what snooty Manhattanites call “the outer boroughs”.

In the hazy distance, the skyscrapers of midtown Manhattan are out of reach and almost out of sight. Under the bridge’s anchorage there is another barrier – the ruins of the asylums, quarantine hospitals and penitentiaries on Roosevelt Island, a sliver of rock in the East River where New York once confined those it considered insane, infectious or unrespectable. In the 1920s Mae West was briefly locked up there as punishment for being too sexy (though she revenged herself by romancing the prison warden). Half a century after Evelyn Hofer took the photograph, the exclusion zone has widened. That grassy verge has been privatised: the Queens shoreline is now occupied by a glazed rampart of forbiddingly expensive apartment towers. Roosevelt Island too is a dormitory for the rich, with a park that ironically commemorates the American freedoms extolled by President Franklin D Roosevelt – elusive ideals, still not available to all.


A Mysterious, Powerful Force Is Flinging Radio Waves at Us from Deep Space


Canada’s CHIME radio telescope (seen at night here) recently detected a rare, low-frequency burst of energy from deep in the universe. Astronomers are eagerly searching for an explanation.

Our universe is teeming with invisible light. Beyond the visible spectrum, space is a colorful mess of radio signals and microwaves fired off by flaring “suns,” collapsing stars, crackling magnetic fields, roiling dust clouds and seething black holes.

Then, there’s the light nobody understands — mysterious, ultrastrong sparks of energy zipping billions of light-years across the universe from unknown origins, for unknown reasons.

Puzzling pulses like these are sometimes called fast radio bursts (FRBs), because they may last just a few milliseconds. On the morning of July 25, one such burst of mysterious energy whizzed past a new array of radio telescopes nestled in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, registering one of the rarest radio frequencies ever detected.

According to a statement released in The Astronomer’s Telegram (a bulletin board of astronomical observations posted by accredited scientists), the mystery signal — named FRB 180725A after the year, month and day it was detected — transmitted in frequencies as low as 580 megahertz, nearly 200 MHz lower than any other FRBs ever detected.

“These events have occurred during both the day and night, and their arrival times are not correlated with known on-site activities or other known sources,” wrote Patrick Boyle, author of the Astronomer’s Telegram report and a project manager for the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) — the radio telescope that detected the strange new signature.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

“We live, at the moment, in a country where basic rights are really being violated,” Yvette Alberdingk Thijm told The Atlantic at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival. Thijm is the Executive Director of WITNESS, a global team of activists that empowers citizens to use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. Thijm argues that bystander videos are a powerful addition to criminal processes across the world. “There’s a real need to understand how video can help people prove what happened,” she said. “You have a right to film.”


Despite enduring constant abuse from President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has still managed to pursue a whole range of extremist and discriminatory policies.


Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul describes what it’s like to be on Vladimir Putin’s bad side and explains why Donald Trump shouldn’t take Putin at his word.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.


Bunny rabbits are adorable enough when they’re just sitting there twitching their pink noses or lapping water up from their little bottles, but when they’re hopping over brightly colored fences like tiny, long-eared horses while their super-enthusiastic trainers cheer from the sidelines, it makes you wonder why rabbit show jumping isn’t on TV all the time. We recently spent the day at the Rabbit Grand National in Harrogate in Yorkshire, England, to witness this space-time-bending level of cuteness for ourselves. Show jumping tests bunnies’ speed and agility as they race down the course, dreaming of winning the big trophy or at least of getting treats when they finish. We met a two-and-a-half-year-old bunny named Cherie. Her trainer, Magdelena, says Cherie’s favorite things in the world are jumping, hay, and carrots (and probably fucking a whole bunch, if we know anything about rabbits). Cherie annihilated the competition, finishing the race in just 12.5 seconds! Way to go, Cherie!

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.


やる気ないフクロウ Motivated owl.


FINALLY . . .

What if Consciousness is Not What Drives the Human Mind?

Everyone knows what it feels like to have consciousness: it’s that self-evident sense of personal awareness, which gives us a feeling of ownership and control over the thoughts, emotions and experiences that we have every day.

Most experts think that consciousness can be divided into two parts: the experience of consciousness (or personal awareness), and the contents of consciousness, which include things such as thoughts, beliefs, sensations, perceptions, intentions, memories and emotions.

It’s easy to assume that these contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a new research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, we argue that this is a mistake.

We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions. Instead, the contents of consciousness are generated “behind the scenes” by fast, efficient, non-conscious systems in our brains. All this happens without any interference from our personal awareness, which sits passively in the passenger seat while these processes occur.

Put simply, we don’t consciously choose our thoughts or our feelings – we become aware of them.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?