Michael Wolff Did What Every Other White House Reporter Is Too Cowardly to Do
Everyone around Donald Trump is too polite to Donald Trump. Democrats, foreign dignitaries, underlings… all of them. And the White House press is perhaps the worst offender. From the media pool playing along with Sarah Sanders during press conferences—conferences where Sanders openly lies and pisses on democracy—to access merchants like Maggie Haberman doling out Trump gossip like so many bread crumbs, too many reporters have been far too deferential to an administration that is brazenly racist, dysfunctional, and corrupt. And for what purpose? It’s clear to me that Haberman and the like aren’t saving up their chits for just the EXACT right time to bring this Administration down. No, the only end goal of their access is continued access, to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off. They are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.
But Wolff didn’t do that. He did not engage in some endless bullshit access tango. No, Wolff actually USED his access, and extended zero courtesy to Trump on the process, and it’s going to pay off for him not just from a book sales standpoint, but from a real journalistic impact. I am utterly sick to death of hearing anonymous reports about people inside the White House “concerned” about the madman currently in charge of everything. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of discretion. They don’t deserve to dictate the terms of coverage to people. They deserve to be torched.
To reiterate: that quote is about a middle-aged coffee guy.
“I think he watched too many Guns and Roses road documentaries. That type of lifestyle just doesn’t happen,” Schrader said. “It was a misunderstanding of the employee-manager dynamic.”
Tayler Mehit, a former employee who worked for Four Barrel between May 2013 and April 2017, said the company’s reputation was common knowledge within the industry. “Other folks within specialty coffee companies certainly know about Jeremy and the general sexist atmosphere at Four Barrel.”
In 2017, political grifters, trolls, and hackers took advantage of algorithmic flaws and moderator complacency to wage elaborate social influence campaigns. Across chat platforms like Discord, teenagers and pro-Trump supporters plotted and executed elaborate trolling campaigns against media outlets and anti-Trumpers, creating caustic hashtags and bespoke shock memes. And politically minded engineers like Microchip, a pro-Trump figure who's notorious on Twitter, orchestrated automated networks of Twitter accounts to help push trending topics and advance narratives. A new media narrative emerged: Our online reality was being gamed and manipulated by nefarious bots — part of what the New York Times called a “terrifying scourge on democracy.” Still, the Great Bot Crisis paled in comparison to the human media machine — operated by a new class of vocal, influential, and controversial Twitter pundits — bent on pushing a pro-Trump narrative and trolling its opponents at all costs.
They’ll be putting out nearly two new movies a week next year.
And I see a movie a night, so it’s perfect.
You’re their target audience!
I’ll be there, 1 o’clock in the morning … click. It’s a bedtime story! I love the advent of Netflix and what it means to people like me. It suits me down to the ground. I’d love to do a ten-hour mini-series myself, personally. [David] Fincher’s got the best show on the air right now.
Yeah. Fincher’s a bit like me, very anal, compulsive. But he’s very good, and that proves that audiences want good. They don’t want shit; they want good.
Errol Morris, writing in The New Yorker, in appreciation of NATHAN FOR YOU.
Before Fielder became a professional comedian, he graduated from a Canadian business school. In a typical “Nathan for You” episode, he plays (is?) a consultant helping to save failing businesses, except that his fixes always involve excursions into Swiftian absurdity. How can a struggling café get around a Starbucks copyright? Turn it into a parody of Starbucks. How can a hotel owner attract vacationing families? Introduce a soundproof box where children can go while their parents have sex. It could be argued that many of Fielder’s attempts are mean-spirited. It is unclear whether he has really helped or done harm by, say, staging a viral video for a petting zoo that helps promote “Nathan for You” but makes little or no reference to the zoo itself. This has been a “problem” with “Nathan for You.” This feeling of discomfort. Should I be watching this? Does it make me into a less-nice person? What are Nathan’s intentions? Fielder will stop at nothing. No barrier of good taste, no fear of the irrational, no prohibitions against the ridiculous. What makes “Nathan for You” so heretical is that all of his projects are based on misrepresentation and lying; and yet, not accidentally, they capture something of the essence of American business.
Everyone knows that George Clooney is literally the perfect movie star. He’s charming, sexy, and talented…and did we say sexy? Here are seven of the many reasons why George Clooney is the greatest Hollywood star ever, although if he ever says anything racist, use the sliders to turn this list into seven reasons why George Clooney is a repulsive piece of shit who needs to crawl into the ocean and die.
Now, 10 years later, polarized Americans claw at each other to prove that the other side doesn't have the right information, destroying friendships and the fabric of our polity in the process. We live in Halperin's world, where we presume there is an inside to which a wise person must gain access in order to have anything to understand or to say. This is the antithesis of a democratic, free, and equal society. In truth, Halperin's purported "inside" only ever consisted of one person: Halperin himself.
When we take complaints about “PC culture” or “identity politics” at face value, we open up space for grievances about “white interests,” whether we want to or not. For years, fringe groups have embraced these victimhood ideas, and now those ideas are part of the mainstream discourse — despite the many documented disadvantages experienced by women and racial minorities.
At the intersection of novelty and victimhood, we find stories of Nazis going to Panera, their ideas largely stripped of history and context. Much has been said about the “normalization” of such ideas — that by portraying Nazis as average, even sympathetic, people, journalists run the risk of helping to integrate violent ideologies into the mainstream. The thing is that violent, racist ideologies have spent lots of time in the mainstream. They’ve proven very destructive. The imperative of the moment is not just to debate about how to keep them at the margins, but to remember out loud why they belong there.
He was joking, but if companies like ESPN want to corral the millions of young people who have cut cable cords, turned off “SportsCenter” and flocked to unfiltered and anarchic internet personalities, they will have to reckon with Jake Pauls and Dave Portnoys. The truth about ESPN’s supposed bias will not really matter: A lot of people, like Ives the intern, believe that the Worldwide Leader in Sports no longer speaks to them. Their grievances, like those of the angry men who fume over the female cast of “Ghostbusters” or ethics in video-game journalism, will seem absurdly petty, whether they’re complaining about the rare yet somehow oppressive sight of a female sportscaster or the unbearable burden placed upon their consciences by a two-minute conversation about Colin Kaepernick. But they will voice these grievances online with enough volume and vitriol to worry even the most reasonable media executive. And if that executive doesn’t bend to their will, they will seek out someone, anyone, who feels more authentic to their experience, whatever that may mean. For huge media conglomerates, this dynamic might matter only in the margins; ESPN surely has more immediate business concerns. But gains in media right now occur only in the margins. The market inefficiencies will not be ignored.
I keep coming back to these words: If our journalists are perceived as biased… that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom. Dean Baquet — who approved these words and made them law — doesn’t seem to realize that if the perception of critics can edit the actions of his staff then he has surrendered power to enemies of the Times, who will always perceive bias because it is basic to their interests to do so. This is part of a larger problem in mainstream journalism, which is unable to think politically because it is constantly accused of acting politically by hyper-partisan critics peddling fixed ideas.
Phrases like “be especially mindful of appearing to take sides” (emphasis on appearing) are paralyzing and stupid in an asymmetrically polarized climate where journalists are treated as a hate objects by the president of the United States and honest reporting is dismissed as fabrication by Trump and his supporters.
By the time Becca graduated from high school, she had been performing as Ryan for five years. She told me that she “was in so far that I didn’t know what were my thoughts and what were ‘his’ especially online.”
Magazines traffic in counterfeit authority. One of the things I keenly enjoyed in my GQ years was making up all of these completely arbitrary edicts for men’s grooming. I would sit in my tiny little nine-by-eleven room, and I would write things like, “Always shave in the shower, but never after 10 A.M.” I’d just make things up, and they took on a certain kind of spurious authority by virtue of appearing in print.
That kind of spurious authority is much lessened now. The good part is that we’re not intimidated by fake wisdom in the same way, but the bad part, of course, is that, as everyone says, you no longer have gatekeepers, or any authority at all. I remember when Time Magazine, for instance, published an editorial about Nixon in 1973 saying the president should resign—it was a real tremor, an earthquake. Now it’s impossible to imagine Time Magazine, or any magazine, being able to fundamentally shake the political world by saying anything.
Can’t tell if this is well-intentioned but still a bit hyperbolic alarmism, or further evidence of our Cronenbergian descent into VIDEODROME.
A friend who works in digital video described to me what it would take to make something like this: a small studio of people (half a dozen, maybe more) making high volumes of low quality content to reap ad revenue by tripping certain requirements of the system (length in particular seems to be a factor). According to my friend, online kids’ content is one of the few alternative ways of making money from 3D animation because the aesthetic standards are lower and independent production can profit through scale. It uses existing and easily available content (such as character models and motion-capture libraries) and it can be repeated and revised endlessly and mostly meaninglessly because the algorithms don’t discriminate — and neither do the kids.
Is he even aware or is he lost in his sea of confabulation and words, misdirection? To call it lying makes it simple. Lying is simple, in a way. When you say lying, you know what the truth is, presumably, and you’ve just made a decision, I’m going to tell someone something that is untrue. But there’s a really messy world out there of endless prevarication—I love all the words for lying too, by the way: tergiversation, prevarication, rat-faced lying, and it goes on and on and on and on. Do we even know when we’re lying? Is it some kind of weird performance? One of the things that endlessly fascinated me about Rumsfeld, I’m asking the question again, does he really have an understanding of what he’s saying? Is it just some kind of weird performance art?
Super pumped for WORMWOOD next month.
Having gotten the country drastically wrong, they have set out on well-meaning missions to bring the country together by increasing mutual understanding. They share Third Way’s basic assumption that mutual understanding is something Americans can agree to find desirable. But as hard as they try to open their minds to new perspectives, are they ready to have that basic assumption challenged?
The researchers I rode with had dived into the heart of America with the best of intentions and the openest of minds. They believed that their only goal was to emerge with a better understanding of their country. And yet the conclusions they drew from what they heard corresponded only roughly to what I heard. Instead, they seemed to revert to their preconceptions, squeezing their findings into the same old mold. It seems possible, if not likely, that all the other delegations of earnest listeners are returning with similarly comforting, selective lessons. If the aim of such tours is to find new ways to bring the country together, or new political messages for a changed electorate, the chances of success seem remote as long as even the sharpest researchers are only capable of seeing what they want to see.
In a separate email, Barber wrote that the commonplace phrase “all politics is identity politics” is a good description “of the state of the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party to a degree.”
He noted that a large corporate tax cut “isn’t really an ideological priority for much of the rank and file” of the Republican Party, but “if it means that their side has ‘won’, then they are in favor of it. More broadly, I think it shows us that teamsmanship is much more important than any particular policy agenda.”
On the train ride there, an older dad recounts how, back in the day, you’d go to a park to take your kid to play, and within six minutes, you’d find yourself surrounded by a group of suspicious moms, one of whom would say, “So, which one is yours?”
“I have a dark sense of humor, so I always wanted to joke, ‘I haven’t decided yet,’” he says. “But that wouldn’t have gone over well.”
“This is a real problem,” Sanford Levinson, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “Because more and more law requires genuine familiarity with the empirical world and, frankly, classical legal analysis isn’t a particularly good way of finding out how the empirical world operates.” But top-level law schools like Harvard — all nine current justices attended Harvard or Yale — emphasize exactly those traditional, classical legal skills, Levinson said.
In 1897, before he had taken his seat on the Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes delivered a famous speech at Boston University, advocating for empiricism over traditionalism: “For the rational study of the law … the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics. It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.” If we hadn’t made much progress in the 500 years between Henry IV and Holmes, neither have we made much progress in the 120 years between Holmes and today. “What Roberts is revealing is a professional pathology of legal education,” Levinson said. “John Roberts is very, very smart. But he has really a strong anti-intellectual streak in him.”
I have read more stories about would-be white supremacists over the last nine months than I’ve been able to comfortably stomach, and the similarity in their “origin stories” is truly astounding.
Gradually, he learned to insulate himself with jokes and insults. He was clever, and found strength in contrarianism. His ideology shifted over time, but his approach was always the same: exposing and attacking the flaws in commonplace arguments, often without any sense of proportion. Even when he agreed with someone’s opinion, he still loved to engage in rhetorical battle—not to advance any particular agenda, one of his relatives told me, but “to stir up resentment. He strikes me as someone without a core, who only knows how to oppose and who chooses his positions based on what will be most upsetting to people around him.”
Being post-print, Trump is also post-ideological. It’s not just that he doesn’t adhere to coherent principles; he doesn’t seem capable of grasping what constitutes coherent thought itself. Trump is truly “post-literate,” and his ascension to the White House speaks to the lingering power of television even in an era when viewership is falling. That decline is steepest among younger viewers—people over 50 are actually watching more TV in recent years—and thus is likely to continue. So Trump could also be the last TV president, but at the same time may be merely a precursor to a post-literate political age. To apply Postman’s analysis to the present: Television was a powerful motor for creating post-literate culture, but is now being supplanted by digital culture at large. Here, too, Trump is a pivotal figure since he is a prolific user of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which he marshaled to defeat a presidential rival with a much bigger advertising budget.
He thought awhile and then said, “Don’t push us too hard, because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”
This was a familiar refrain. Some of the American officials in Washington who are immersed in the problem of North Korea frequently mention the old Korean saying “Nuh jukgo, nah jukja!” It means “You die, I die!” It’s the expression you hear in a barroom fight, or from an exasperated spouse—the notion that one party will go over the cliff if it will take the other down, too. Krys Lee, a Korean-American author and translator, said, “My mother also used it on me!” Lee finds that it’s hard for Americans and Koreans to gauge each other’s precise emotions because Koreans tend to use “more abstract, dramatic, and sentimental language.” She has heard that many Korean literature students find Raymond Carver—the most laconic of American authors—“very dry, and that he didn’t translate well.”
Economists had struggled for 200 years with the question of how to place the values on which an otherwise commercial society is organised beyond mere self-interest and calculation. Knight, along with his colleagues Henry Simons and Jacob Viner, were holdouts against Franklin D Roosevelt and the market interventions of the New Deal, and they established the University of Chicago as the intellectually rigorous home of free-market economics that it remains to this day. However, Simons, Viner and Knight all started their careers before the unrivalled prestige of atomic physicists drew enormous sums of money into the university system and kicked off a postwar vogue for “hard” science. They did not worship equations or models, and they worried about non-scientific questions. Most explicitly, they worried about questions of value, where value was absolutely distinct from price.
It is not just that Simons, Viner and Knight were less dogmatic than Hayek, or more willing to pardon the state for taxing and spending. It is not the case that Hayek was their intellectual superior. But they acknowledged as a first principle that society was not the same thing as the market, and that price was not the same thing as value. This set them up to be swallowed whole by history.
It was Hayek who showed us how to get from the hopeless condition of human partiality to the majestic objectivity of science. Hayek’s Big Idea acts as the missing link between our subjective human nature, and nature itself. In so doing, it puts any value that cannot be expressed as a price – as the verdict of a market – on an equally unsure footing, as nothing more than opinion, preference, folklore or superstition.
An acute dissection of one of the most fascinating critics of his time. (And one of the most notable Paulettes.)
“My political consciousness is what separates me from other critics and what confounds other critics about me. Usually because they haven’t formed their own political consciousness,” he told me. Taking the long view of his often politically charged body of work, that’s almost convincing, but the real thread that emerges, from The City Sun to his last few reviews at New York Press, is his insistence that criticism is journalism. White’s best reviews rarely gesture at moving goalposts such as taste or sensibility. Like a discerning lawyer, he’s more attentive to context and precedent, circumstance and history. Criticism isn’t mere personal reaction or response, he’s insisted for years: it’s literacy, analysis, reporting. Armond White doesn’t review movies to uphold his Tomatometer score; he’s interested in how movies fit into larger cultural mechanisms, what they say about the human condition. This is why he tends to pit movies against each other. His reviews aren’t porous because he’s full of hot air: it’s because he refuses to seal movies off from the world into which they’re born. At his best, Armond White’s appeal is his audacity and his expertise—his perspective, not his consciousness.
What tarnishes White’s appeal is how calcified his expertise has become. No longer even nominally engaged with larger discourses, he writes with an embittered detachment, scoffing at an anonymous conglomerate of lesser writers and thinkers. White was always adversarial, but in his old columns, his rivals were named: Stanley Crouch, Greg Tate, Robert Christgau, Ann Powers—virtually anyone who ever wrote for the Village Voice. His tone was just as sardonic as it is now, but there was an air of community to all these callouts, a sense that he, and all critics, were participating in a grand commitment to art that necessitated disagreement and dialogue. White’s current reviews have no sense of any conversations beyond the ones in his own head. “Hollywood movies have become television at just the point when media shills are spreading the fake news that we’re experiencing a ‘new golden age’ of TV,” he writes emptily in his review of Baywatch, the shills, the movies, and the television shows unnamed. “Kong: Skull Island and Contemporary Color coexist because Millennial culture is at odds with itself,” he writes of those two movies, citing a mysterious conflict within a demographic group that no one can accurately define. Critics are expected to make loaded comparisons and to use their own inclinations as a wellspring for new perspectives, but since his expulsion from the NYFCC, White’s oppositional writing style has struggled. He brings the gusto of his past work, but he writes against criticism that doesn’t actually appear to exist, the silliest resistance.
The question, then, is what protest is for. Srnicek and Williams, even after all their criticism, aren’t ready to let it go—they describe it as “necessary but insufficient.” Yet they strain to say just how it fits with the idea of class struggle in a postindustrial, smartphone-linked world. “If there is no workplace to disrupt, what can be done?” they wonder. Possibly their telescope is pointing the wrong way round. Much of their book attempts to match the challenges of current life—a shrinking manufacturing sphere, a global labor surplus, a mire of race-inflected socioeconomic traps—with Marx’s quite specific precepts about the nineteenth-century European economy. They define the proletariat as “that group of people who must sell their labor powers to live.” It must be noted that this group—now comprising Olive Garden waiters, coders based in Bangalore, janitors, YouTube stars, twenty-two-year-olds at Goldman Sachs—is really very broad. A truly modern left, one cannot help but think, would be at liberty to shed a manufacturing-era, deterministic framework like Marxism, allegorized and hyperextended far beyond its time. Still, to date no better paradigm for labor economics and uprising has emerged.
What comes undone here is the dream of protest as an expression of personal politics. Those of us whose days are filled with chores and meetings may be deluding ourselves to think that we can rise as “revolutionaries-for-a-weekend”—Norman Mailer’s phrase for his own bizarre foray, in 1967, as described in “The Armies of the Night.” Yet that’s not to say the twenty-four-year-old who quits his job and sleeps in a tent to affirm his commitment does more. The recent studies make it clear that protest results don’t follow the laws of life: eighty per cent isn’t just showing up. Instead, logistics reign and then constrain. Outcomes rely on how you coördinate your efforts, and on the skill with which you use existing influence as help
One might note that Robert E. Lee took up arms against the United States government, the one that George Washington put his life on the line to build. It is true that our history is full of figures who are flawed, but endure. Lee, though, is not a symbol of our values whose life does not match the ideals he is purported to embody; he is a symbol of the betrayal of those ideals. He is our worse self. And if there is not a constant conversation challenging our idols—an effort to look for our better angels, to borrow Lincoln’s phrase—if statues never come down, or new ones stop going up, then we have, in some way, stopped trying to be a more perfect Union. The organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville had not gathered out of some architectural-preservationist urge: they were there for ideological reasons.
Assange often describes himself in simple terms—as a fearless activist—but his character is complicated, and hard to reconcile with his considerable power. He is not merely the kind of person who will wear socks with holes; he is the kind of person who will wear socks with holes and rain fury upon anyone who mentions the holes in public. He can be mistrustful to the point of paranoia, but he can be recklessly frank. He tends to view human behavior as self-interested, driven by a Nietzschean will to power, but he runs an organization founded on the idea that individuals can be selflessly courageous. He is a seeker of hard, objective truths who often appears to be unable to see past his own realities. He can be quick in the moment, an impressive tactician, and he is often fairly blind to the long arcs of strategy.
That's the really striking thing. His reaction to this event is to say that everyone is at fault, and we should all hold together. That's not the reaction that one would expect from the president of the United States. But it is consistent with what I've been trying to get across for the past few months. It's consistent with Trump and Steven Bannon's attempt to do away with the part of the American story that celebrates entering and winning the Second World War. It's consistent with their attempt to do away with the part of the American identity that has to do with being anti-fascist, or anti-Nazi. It's consistent with their botching the Holocaust Remembrance Day in January. It's consistent with the utterly bizarre way that Sean Spicer talked about the Holocaust, when he said Hitler didn't kill his own people. It's consistent with Trump being the first major American politician in recent memory to skip visiting the Ghetto Memorial when he came to Warsaw in August.
And above all, it's consistent with his “America First” slogan. This is what America First means. America First means an America where a Nazi Germany was not the enemy. So that's the broad historical circle. We have an administration which has "America First." What "America First" meant when it was used during the WWII era was that we should not resist Nazi Germany. Mr. Trump's remarks on Saturday are totally consistent with that.
This is who and what the administration has been from the very beginning.
Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats. It means that we accept that people may be different from us, in their customs, in their behavior, in their dress, in their sex lives, and that if this doesn’t directly affect our lives, it is none of our business. But the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.
Nowhere on the Monopoly box does it say, “It is forbidden for the players to use guns to force a trade.” It doesn’t have to; sitting down to play Monopoly implies that you have already understood that. The Constitution does not say, in its preamble, “it is important to respect laws,” because it assumes that no one would, or could, seek power who did not share that assumption. Standing up to play the game of government implies good faith in it. Values and premises and principles are not codified because if you had to codify them you couldn’t have a code at all.
Going over a passage describing the Western landscape, he suddenly looked up and said, “I’m sorry I can’t take you there.” I just smiled, for somehow he had already done just that. Without a word, eyes closed, we tramped through the American desert that rolled out a carpet of many colors—saffron dust, then russet, even the color of green glass, golden greens, and then, suddenly, an almost inhuman blue. Blue sand, I said, filled with wonder. Blue everything, he said, and the songs we sang had a color of their own.
Victories in the culture wars of the past decade seemed to come so easily to liberals that they created a measure of complacency, as if those wars had been won with little cost. In actuality, the losers seethed. If the Democrats intend to win elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond, they require a hardheaded realism about the country that they have recently lacked—about the perils of income stagnation, the difficulties of moving the country to a multicultural future, the prevalence of unreason and ire. For a Democratic majority to ultimately emerge, the party needs to come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t yet arrived.
If your theory of strategy cannot explain the way in which my roommate played computer games, it is probably not going to live up to its full explanatory potential in terms of providing insight about how nations fight wars, businesses dominate the market, or social movements make lasting change.
Cillizza engages with his critics with his signature brand of Cillizza fun. When someone on Twitter made fun of his hiring at CNN, writing, “gonna pay someone to hit me in the head with a brick and then just wait to be offered a six-figure media talker job.” Cillizza replied that he was actually earning eight figures.
Mick Jagger wrote “Wild Horses” after misidentifying some gorillas: Jagger penned the iconic line “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” during his first visit to Africa in 1970, after witnessing a troop of gorillas carrying a Buick full of screaming tourists into the jungle. “Growing up in Britain, I only ever encountered three or so different types of animals, and I had never seen the likes of the wildlife they’ve got in Africa,” he later recounted. “So when I saw those big, hairy brutes running off with that Buick, I thought, ‘Well, they ain’t rabbits and they ain’t birds, so I gather they must be horses.’ I only learnt what gorillas were years later at a party at Bowie’s, when he got one on loan from the Bronx Zoo and we all took turns giving it hashish.”
Sean Illing's interviews have been terrific lately, and this one more to add to the list.
You use the phrase “Tumblr left” to describe the part of the online left that has made a religion of demonstrating its “wokeness.” What’s your criticism of this corner of the web?
I think that you cannot take the left out of the picture and make any sense of what's going on, because particularly in these very online younger forms of politics, there was a battle of the subcultures going on online and then it spilled over into campus stuff as that generation of teenagers went to college.
People on the left were annoyed with me because they thought I portrayed a very small subculture on the left as representative of the left in general, but I don’t think that’s the case. I had to describe the online left accurately as I saw it, and the right was in an absolute state of panic about the fact that they were seeing all of these things happening on college campuses: speakers being shut down, platforms being denied, large groups of people ganging up on dissident voices.
What have your critics on the left got wrong?
I think parts of the left have conflated my attempt to criticize this identity-based internet subculture with all of identity politics, and that's simply not true. Identity politics gave us the women's rights movement, the gay rights movement, the civil rights movement, and so on. It would be absurd to conflate that entire radical history with this small internet subculture.
What I criticized wasn’t identity politics in general but a specific version of identity politics that was about performative wokeness, and in particular the reason I didn't like it was because it was very inclined to censor and it was very inclined to gang up on people. I hate that, and I think it deserves to be criticized.
They are looking for jurors who not only have no viewpoints on the case, but also little exposure to the subject matter, who don’t follow the news, haven’t traveled to the places discussed at trial and have pastimes as innocuous as possible.
I agree with every syllable of this paragraph.
It's weird to watch something so monumentally great in real time; I feel like I'm simultaneously having my mind blown AND not fully appreciating the object in front of me. The greatness of the new TWIN PEAKS is so thorough and so obvious that it makes all other television shows look small by comparison.
No other series takes as many chances as Twin Peaks: The Return, in story, image, sound, and presentation. No other series feels as strange, new, and confounding. Certainly none are capable of indulging in a nearly hour-long sound-and-light show that expands its own mythology and advances its main plot while also offering a surreal alternative history of World War II and the consequences of playing God with the atom bomb, as Twin Peaks: The Return did in its eighth episode. That hour alone makes the rest of narrative television seem imaginatively impoverished. It is so completely unlike anything ever conceived by anyone working in television at any point in its 70-year history as a commercial medium that even if the ten remaining episodes of this show consisted of a black screen with a timecode at the bottom, it still would have won this award.
One person told me half in jest that the best way to get voters to approve new funding would be to blame everything on a lack of support by Denver élites: a tax increase in the guise of rugged self-reliance. “It’s about creating an us-versus-them victim narrative,” he said. He was being cynical, but he was also acknowledging the power of perspective and feeling. This seems to be the weakness of the Democratic Party, which often gives people the impression that they are being informed of their logical best interests. On the other side, people feel ignored or insulted—this was why they responded so strongly to Clinton’s use of the term “deplorables.” “What she said was, ‘If you don’t vote for me, you’re morally unworthy to talk to, to take seriously,’ ” Patterson told me.
People hate when you make an answer sound so simple, but this is what it is: There was a time when only a handful of people seemed to write politically about music, so that was interesting. Now everybody does, so it’s never interesting. Now, to see someone only write about the music itself is refreshing. It’s not that I don’t think music writing should have a political aspect to it, but when it just becomes a way that everyone does something, you see a lot of people forcing ideas upon art that actually detracts from the appreciation of that art. It’s never been worse than it is now. It’s impossible to write about anything without putting it through this prism of what it means in Trump’s America. I do wonder if in 15 years if people are going to look back at the art from this specific period and almost discover it in a completely new way because they’ll actually be consuming the content as opposed to figuring out how it could be made into a political idea. The question is: Is this just a trend or is this how it’s going to be going forward, forever. Is this what criticism is now?
With social media, it is now arguably easier for us to criticize each other—to lodge a valid, or invalid, complaint in a public forum—than ever before. So why is the culture growing less and less capable of absorbing criticism without retribution?
Fairly or not, I often catch myself suspecting that work that’s been unilaterally praised is either boring (what kind of art is so innocent and uncomplicated as to bestir only gracious titters of approval, like a child’s finger painting?) or provocative in such a way that critics are paralyzed, terrified to dissect it for fear of being seen as unsophisticated or boorish. Mostly, though, I think of what a weird and tedious trajectory it would be for an artist never to have someone consider her work seriously enough to question its motives and its successes.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
Trolls often justify their offensive behavior by insisting that they are simply doing it for “the lulz”—the laughs—and that they use offensive language as sticks to jab into the soft spots in our culture. I used to believe that such a detached approach was possible. The adherents of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, which emerged from the same message boards that would later feed into The_Donald, were fond of homophobic and sexist language even as they supported political goals generally in line with liberal values of equality and social justice. These days, though, when I think of the lulz, I think of the notorious troll Andrew (Weev) Auernheimer. In the early twenty-tens, Aurenheimer was hailed as a geek hero for embarrassing technology companies such as A.T. & T. and LiveJournal by exposing security vulnerabilities with a trollish bravado. He also said a lot of racist and anti-Semitic things, but his many liberal supporters wrote these off. He was just trolling, they thought. Over time, however, his statements became more extreme. Today, he is a very sincere neo-Nazi and a frequent contributor to the white-supremacist blogosphere. After CNN announced that it had discovered HanAssholeSolo’s identity (the network chose not to publish his name), Auernnheimer called for a harassment campaign against CNN employees and staffers. “We are going to track down your spouses,” he said. “We are going to track down your children.”
Take a look at almost any comment section on the internet and you are guaranteed to find at least one pedant raging about a minor perceived inaccuracy, throwing out the good with the bad. While ignorance and misinformation are certainly not laudable, neither is an obsession with perfection.
Like heuristics, models work as a consequence of the fact they are usually helpful in most situations, not because they are always helpful in a small number of situations.
Models can assist us in making predictions and forecasting the future. Forecasts are never guaranteed, yet they provide us with a degree of preparedness and comprehension of the future. For example, a weather forecast which claims it will rain today may get that wrong. Still, it's correct often enough to enable us to plan appropriately and bring an umbrella.
Soucie said that Winslow, like many people who falsely confess, had “greater anxiety confronting authority than dealing with whatever punishment that authority imposes.”
The contempt of artists for critics is, of course, understandable. To create an artwork is to give the world a kind of gift, and no one likes having a gift rejected, or even inspected too carefully. In a sense, artists who condemn criticism are relying on the old idea that “it’s the thought that counts”: Because the intention of the giver is generous and pure, any carping about the gift is cruelly small-minded. Yet as anyone who has received an ill-fitting or unsuitable present knows, the thought is not the only thing that counts. Once a work of art emerges from its creator’s study or studio, it becomes the possession of anyone who interacts with it, and therefore it is open to judgment: Do I actually derive pleasure and enlightenment from it?
And it’s not just the selling point for some faceless, nameless, ignorant heavy breathers out there, though it would be much simpler if this were so. The audience isn’t divided into cavemen who watch movies for the sole purpose of objectifying hot people and the more enlightened among us, who know to privilege other aspects of the cinema. But progressive-minded writers have become so uncomfortable talking about physicality that nearly the only way we discuss it is when it is framed as an injustice, a misogynist boondoggle—the beautiful woman who was forced to get horrendous plastic surgery by the Hollywood machine, the gorgeous woman stuck with the dweeby guy but never the other way around—as opposed to when it’s merely a turn on.
One effect of this body squeamishness is that we’re not writing as much about acting as we used to. Acting is so tied up in physicality, in beauty, a slouch, a smile, a bicep, a gam—and that is a very fraught thing for critics to analyze on the internet in 2017. Directing, writing, ideas: We’re good on that. But when we assess movie performances, we tend to focus euphemistically on the actors’ naturalness or charisma even when the physicality, that smile or that bicep, is what stays with us. It’s not a surprise that the writers who feel most comfortable loudly exclaiming their desire, no matter how squicky, are the same demographic that feels most comfortable doing everything else. Here’s to critics of all genders and orientations letting our own libidos write so freely.
Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.
I would distill Ailes’s genius down to the following formula: There is a person at a great distance from you who, simply by existing, insults your existence; therefore, that person does not have a right to exist. Ailes did more to degrade the tone of public life in America than anyone since Joseph McCarthy, and, even the day after his death, it is a struggle to write about him without borrowing from that tone.
Regardless, it became clear early in the first hour that this wasn’t going to be the sort of show you can half-watch while doing other things, nor was it the sort of show that rewards certified public accountant–style fanboy viewing, where you add up all the clues and then announce on Reddit that you’ve “figured it out.” It still seems a dark miracle that Lynch was ever popular, but it’s worth acknowledging that for artists like Lynch, “popularity” is relative. His brief window as a phenomenon lasted from approximately 1986, when Blue Velvet came out, through 1991, when the original Twin Peaks was canceled. His most popular feature films, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive, made, respectively, $26 million, $8.6 million, and $20 million at the box office. Those are impressive numbers for surrealist/expressionist movies driven by images and sounds (often dreamlike or aggressively unpleasant ones) and that seem uninterested in being liked, but they aren’t totals that made studios write blank checks (a scenario that has happened only twice in Lynch’s career, on Dune and Twin Peaks: The Return). There’s a reason why Lynch has been nominated three times for a Best Director Oscar, but only once for Best Picture (36 years ago for The Elephant Man): His colleagues can’t help being impressed, maybe awed, at the extremes to which he pushes the medium, but it’s less a case of Lynch’s peers clapping him on the back and saying “attaboy” than something more akin to them periodically dropping a gold statue into the maw of a volcano as tribute to a dark sorcerer whose powers and motives they can’t comprehend.
As a Lynch-crazed buddy of mine said last week, “Everybody thinks they’re ready for more David Lynch, but are they ready for pure, uncut, post–Mulholland Drive, mind-fucking, T.S. Eliot-I-will-show-you-fear-in-a-handful-of-dust David Lynch?”
Maybe he won’t give us that because he knows most of us can’t handle it.
But I bet he will.
Somehow, despite not having made a hit film in over 30 years, Lynch convinced a major entertainment conglomerate to pay for 18 hours of new material by David Lynch, at the budget he needed, and with complete creative control. He hasn’t had this kind of financial support since he made Dune in 1984.
Nothing like this has ever happened before — not with an American artist as uncompromising and instinctual and fundamentally unknowable as Lynch, and certainly not at a point in the artist’s career where he’s traveled further away from the commercial beaten path than any director of comparable stature.
To imagine a similarly unlikely development, you have to envision, say, Starz giving Terrence Malick the budget for an 18-hour series after releasing To the Wonder and Knight of Cups.
Only the brand recognition conjured by the words Twin and Peaks made this scenario possible.