Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia: 9.1.18

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

The EU
  • Don Quijones is not, it seems, the only harsh critic of the ECB. Click here for an article which contains the claims that: 1. The ECB is the most unaccountable and independent central bank in history, whose senior staff are international diplomats that cannot be arrested and whose documents cannot be accessed and audited by any court of audit or public prosecutor in the world – it is above the law. 2. It has consciously shrouded its entire operations and presentation to the public in misinformation; 3. The ECB has worked hard to exacerbate the crises and recessions, notably in Greece and Spain. And 4: The ECB is currently creating a significant property bubble in Germany. But what would you  expect from idealogue politicians dedicated to The Project, regardless of public opinion?
  • On that . . . More here on the little domestic problems Brussels is having with Eastern members.
  • Which reminds me . . December in that fine city was the least sunny in 80 years. A mere 5 hours. If I were a US evangelist, I'd surely see that as a sign from God. Even darker times ahead.
  • As I was hinting at yesterday . . . 
  1. From a female columnist, Melanie Philips: The hypocrisy is epic. Many actors expressing such outrage use sexual chemistry to attract the predatory male movie executives they then profess to despise. They habitually wear outfits that leave little to the imagination, split upwards or downwards or utterly transparent. What’s more, many of the movies and TV series in which they appear, some of them having forgotten to put on any clothes at all, have long crossed the line into soft porn.
  2. And from Kevin Maher: And the winner is . . . Hollywood! Yes, they’ve done it again. The greatest image manipulators on the planet have transformed a brutal, dark and scandal-rocked year of sexual harassment allegations into a celebratory night of hope and joy and optimism. No back was left unpatted, no tear unshed, as Tinseltown did what Tinseltown does best — it told itself that it was, you know, awesome.
Pass the sick bag.

The UK
  • Below is a nice article on how the internet has changed politics for the worse. Almost certainly not only in the UK and the USA. Taster: We now have a politics in which division, mistrust and dislike are no longer regarded as regrettable, but instead as essential to keeping the show on the road.
Nutters Corner
  • Here's what Ms Paltrow recommends you do with your coffee dregs . . .
  • The region's population fell even more in 2017 than it did in 2016 and this trend is forecast to continue over the next 15 years, resulting in a fall from 2.7 to 2.5m by 2031. Likewise, Spain's population will reduce from 46.4 to 45.9m.
  • A shrink I know here has caught the UK NHS bug; he's told the local media that there's no more efficient national health service than Spain's. I suspect the French, for one, might disagree with this. Possibly even some Brits!
  • A guy in India forged an ID card in the name of Omar Bin Laden, compete with a real foto. Why?? Well, one reason might be that his real name is . . . Saddam Hussein.
Today's Cartoons


In the internet age it pays to be offensive: Hugo Rifkind

Bannon and his hate-project disciples have understood that consensus is dead and the way to get ahead is to get an enemy

Shortly before Christmas, a chain of discount shops put out the most deliberately offensive online advertisement I have ever seen. I won’t tell you which chain, because they’d want me to and the resistance has to start somewhere. I’m also reluctant to describe the advert in too much detail, but let’s just say it featured an elf and a Barbie engaged in a sex act, and it wasn’t wholly clear that the Barbie was up for it.

If you were to ask me who I blame for this happening, apart from the shop and perhaps the elf, then I would say, “Donald Trump’s former White House chief strategist”. If you were then to look at me askance and say, “What, really?”, I would reply, quite firmly, “Yes”.

The former strategist in question was Steve Bannon, who left the White House last August. For a peerless example of what he did there and, by extension, how it turned out bad for Barbie, I would refer you to the passage in Michael Wolff’s Trump exposé Fire and Fury in which we hear about the first introduction of Trump’s attempted “Muslim ban” one Friday last January. For many in the White House, doing it on a Friday was indicative of his inexperience. Didn’t he realise it would cause maximum chaos at transit hubs and give protesters ample time to gather? “Er, that’s why,” replied Bannon, reportedly. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.”

Turn over the rock of the early Trump administration and Bannon was the distressing slug you’d find underneath. Even now he remains central to any understanding of whatever the hell is going on over there. His politics is fascinating or terrifying, depending on your perspective; a hotchpotch of libertarianism, apocalypticism and destiny-infused Wasp nationalism. If a 1980s Bond villain thinks it, so does he. If Bannon is to be remembered though, it ought to be less for his beliefs and more for his strategy for pursuing them.

An early discovery in internet psychology was the Streisand Effect, named after Barbra Streisand’s attempts to suppress aerial photographs of her home in Malibu. Try to suppress something online, she learnt to her cost, and far more people want to see it. Breitbart, the website Bannon ran before and after his stint in power, does the same sort of thing with politics. The more offence you cause, the more you are denounced. The more you are denounced, the more clicks you get from people desperate to see what the denunciation is all about. This brings you profit, in terms of selling adverts, but it also brings you reach. What Bannon understood, even before Trump’s candidacy, was that hate-reach wasn’t only as profitable as love-reach, but every bit as politically useful too.

At the heart of this great hate project was Bannon’s protégé Milo Yiannopoulos, a British pundit with a knack for turning out headlines such as “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy” and “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?”. Are there people who delight in reading things like this? Of course. Were they the point? Never. The point was their counterparts: the people who were so shocked this sort of thing was being said that they simply couldn’t shut up about it. Often, they were apt to get a little shrill. In a best-case scenario, they might begin to rail against the concept of free speech itself. Whereupon any neutral audience would see a bunch of calculating jokers on one side and a wild, censorious, rage-filled mob on the other. Of the two, maybe the latter would seem more alarming. “Oh lord,” as Voltaire put it, “make my enemies ridiculous.”

The question of whether Bannonism and Trumpism are the same thing remains open. Some will still insist that everything the president does, from his hair to his tweets, is cunning and calculated; perfectly pitched to provoke liberal derision, which spurs a passionate, tribal defence from his base. For me, he seems like more of an idiot savant in this regard, albeit with less of the savant part. Although maybe that’s just my liberal derision talking.

Our own politics is not immune from Bannonism. There is a strong smell of it in our ridiculous row over blue passports, which unfailingly triggers whole armies of supposedly tolerant progressives into losing their minds whenever it comes up, much to the glee of whoever has just brought it up for precisely this reason. The undead rump of Arron Banks’s Leave.EU is utterly Bannonite, just thankfully not very good at it. Likewise, the left-wing Breitbart clone The Canary, which has only the repeated, incredulous fury of moderates to thank for keeping it from obscurity. All this is a step on from mere cosy tribalism. It is a politics in which division, mistrust and dislike are no longer regarded as regrettable, but instead as essential to keeping the show on the road.

You might think it excessive to draw a direct link from any of the above to an elf molesting a Barbie. I don’t. The lesson learnt by campaigners online, whether they are doing the bidding of presidents or pound shops, is that aiming for consensus is a mug’s game. Find an enemy in the eternal roadhouse brawl of the internet and they’ll do half your work for you. While achieving consensus might be impossible, aiming for it is the difference between democracy and populism.

Put it all together and you have the great, stupid dilemma of the great, stupid internet age. Even when we are right to shout, and too often we are, we are still shouting our way towards something worse.

1 comment:

Sierra said...

The Spanish love of decimal places - revised parking fees in Lugo:

"...The first 92 minutes of stay cost 0.0297584 euros per minute and from 93 to 0.0198391 euros per minute. Thus, half an hour costs 0.89 euros, one hour 1.78 and two hours 4.48..."