Three new pieces of writing up in the past week or so. I humbly submit them for your Friday afternoon reads.

First, a longer piece at Jacobin on the Anti-Rent War of 1840. This is the kind of stuff I really love doing: bringing attention to a relatively obscure part of history and making it relevant to today. I know the audience for this kind of stuff is always going to be limited – long reads and historical arcana being niche markets – but I'm glad there are outlets that still do it.

On Thursday, Rolling Stone ran a look at the new tax proposal that considers the unfathomable possibility that the Republican Party may be in such disarray that it can't pass tax cuts. Tax cuts are supposed to be the one thing they all agree on, an absolute slam-dunk of an issue for them. And yet…

Today The Week ran a piece aimed at bringing attention to an important new piece of political science research that studies what people mean when they express support for fake news and baseless rumors. Do people who say "I agree" to the statement, "Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim" believe it is literally true, or does expressing agreement simply reflect that they do not like Obama? Well, let's just say the results are not encouraging.


27 thoughts on “NPF: ROYAL SAMPLER”

  • I've been thinking about resubscribing to The Week, and your publishing there will probably be the deciding factor (in a good way!).

    It is sad, I have a friend who's a fiscal conservative but pretty liberal otherwise, but definitely in the Republican tribe. Didn't vote for Trump but couldn't vote for Hillary because "the Clintons looted the White House." 2 minutes of googling debunked the claim, but we seem to be disposed to believe the worse of those we don't like.

    I sometimes wonder if I'm the same way regarding Trump, until I remember his own words and tweets are disgusting enough, no need to gin up any stories about him.

  • Ed, FWIW, it's fan-fucking-tastic to see your paid writing career taking off! It's about damn time the world became more familiar with your writing. Congrats!

  • Any chance you can provide a little more detail on the expressive responding paper? You write "The bad news is that Berinsky's research offers persuasive evidence that expressive responses are rare," but I'm not clear on the specifics of the research, and the paper is behind a paywall.

    I tend to believe Pizzagate is a prime example of people not truly believing in the bullshit they espouse. I don't want to praise the guy who invaded Comet Ping Pong by any stretch, but he is the one guy who did what you can argue one should do if one really believed the rumors. If you TRULY believed a child prostitution ring was being run out of a business, and the authorities knew but wouldn't touch it, why wouldn't you take all them guns and lead a raid on the place? They couldn't arrest you, you'd be a hero leading those poor children out of the basement!

    And of course people don't do that because they know it's not freaking true and they'd be arrested & charged at best. Much more entertaining and safe to spout crap on the internet and make harassing phone calls than try to actually rescue "children" who are in "danger."

    But if there's research that points otherwise, I'd welcome hearing about it.

  • The Rolling Stone piece is … what's the word nowadays? Dope? nah. Awesome? nah Primo? dude, please.

    Help me out here, hepcats.

  • I have nothing to back this up,but i am beginning to believe that the standard beliefs of the RWNJs is akin to the mindset of criminals who kills themselves with Suicide By Cop.

    What i mean is that the SBC criminals do not see a future, but can't bring themselves to kill themselves. So they force someone else to do it. Do you think it's possible that the RWNJs started out believing that Clinton was a rapist, and just stayed on board the RWNJ train past the point of any reasonable points to disembark, and now they feel trapped?

    They can't bring themselves to admit they fell for the lies, especially the obviously-false Obama lies, and now they are just spouting off whatever will finally get the rest of us to pull the trigger and put them out of their misery, only politically.

    Do you think they feel that the stupider and crazier the lies, the greater chance they will finally cross the line once and for all, and they will be struck down and cast out of power, so they can go back to being the underdogs and the oppressed minority politically?

    They are obviously not holding their preferred politicians to any promises, or even any standards of behavior. They don't want to govern. Is this all just a way of forcing us to put them down?

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Ain't it grand to get paid for doing what you love!

    I loved acting in plays – and was considered one of the best actors in the area – but I could never break into professional theatre companies, usually because I worked full-time and couldn't get to auditions, which were usually in NY City – about 2 hours away.

    But, even without pay, I continued acting because I loved it.
    Money would have been nice (grand, even!), but acting was 'my drug of choice.' So, I continued on doing what I loved for free.

    But congrat's Ed, for finding paying gigs.
    Hopefully, more to follow!

  • Do they really pay? Enough to live on? Not likely. But that's not really the point for Ed, I'd bet. (Congrats Ed.)

  • I wonder whether the concept of belief is too crude and imprecise to capture what goes on in people's heads when they "commit" to factually false claims. Some ideas are perhaps accepted as weapons, rather than as facts,so to speak. It isn't that people dislike someone, so they accept falsehoods about that person, but rather they pick up falsehoods without caring whether they are true or not, simply because they give them a means to "win" debates or even shut them down entirely. Then of course there's the issue of what true/false even means when people build their world views on such very different bases. Finally, it seems to me that a substantial slice of the population can only function by closing off all internal as well as external debate – and facts that are inconvenient simply have to be discarded because the alternative is a screaming breakdown. I imagine most of us have had the experience of trying to discuss matters with someone who, at a certain point, just can't handle the idea that they might be wrong and reacts with rage/yelling/insults/refusing to talk further/threats etc.

  • Also, because too good not to share:

    Pussy Riot‏Verified account

    dot dot dot.. also, I don't have to learn English anymore, I already know more words than your president does

  • @ Just Russ:

    People who are social "Liberals", fiscal "Conservatives" and hate Obama are people who are "Liberals" as long as they see year over year tax reductions for the rich people that they hope to someday become. IOW, liars.

  • I've been accused, many times over the last 50+ years (Mr. Reardon's, "National Problems" HS civics class) of being a wooly-headed LIBERALL who never questions DNC cant or party orthodoxy (absolutely false) and wants to give the country away to armed-up porch monkeys and furriners who will guzzle Cristal while riding around in their welfare limos, rounding up and raping our wimmenz!

    Meanwhile, each and every RefucKKKliKKKlansmen admin since at least Eisenhower has ratcheted up "Conservative" warmongering; the bullying of our smaller weaker neighbors to the south (which hasn't worked particularly well) and in the mid-east and other spots (which seems to have had a severely deleterious effect); run up the national debt while screeching about a "balanced budget"; worked hard on privatizing corporate profit and socializing their "externalities" (wars for resources and pollution being the most notable of those); shredded the social safety net; enabled clinically insane motherfuckers to pass socially insane leglislation in the name of "freedom"–shit, I'm runnin' out of steam here, feel free to jump in–. Anyway, you get the idea.

    Both sides DON'T do it. The G.O.P.O.S. controlled Congress has done everything possible to make the playing field vertical.

  • @NickT: "they pick up falsehoods without caring whether they are true or not, simply because they give them a means to "win" debates or even shut them down entirely"

    I can think of where most of them learned that approach: church. I don't think it's an accident that there's a lot of overlap between the Trumpists and the "prosperity gospel" megachurchers.

  • @Matt

    I think the people who talk about post-truth politics are not quite getting the whole picture. What we have are post-reason politics – because truth only matters if you care about making a coherent argument. I think you are exactly right to point to the overlap between content-free faith and Trumpism.

  • @Matt; I agree with you about the prosperity gospel/Trump overlap. I live in the land of the megachurch, and all the people I know who attend those places also are raging Trumpanzees. The Mormons I know are also Trumpanzees. Maybe it has something to do with the cognitive dissonance and self-deception needed to believe the religious things that bleeds over into politics? Just a few days ago, I heard a call-in talk show on NPR where one of the callers was literally in tears keening about how persecuted Trump has been and how he's single-handedly erased the country's debt through his superior businessman skills. The megachurch folk about a mile from my house have given equally delusional and impassioned screeds lately about Halloween and how allowing homeowners to put up cheap craft store decorations and painted pumpkins on their own porches is calling forth Satan. (Yes, the megachurch believes it can dictate to random neighborhoods how they should or should not behave.)

  • I'm too cheap to pay $10 to read Berinsky's paper on expressive responding (and find myself wrong), but I've held for years that one glue that holds the right-wing tribe together isn't so much their political positions, but their use of language to convey emotion rather than fact– arguably a cognitive dysfunction. Political positions are just the price of admission to the tribe. Trump and his followers don't understand why people call him a liar; his words are an accurate expression of their feelings. I find that less disturbing, sort of, than the idea that a third of the population is so fucking stupid. Sort of a real-life version of the Star Trek TNG episode "Darmok", where language was all metaphor.

  • Andrew Farrell says:

    @Jado I suspect that the furthest-out views are being pushed by subconsciously averting guilt – we elected this terrible human, so if we are not to feel guilt, then the human we didn't elect must be even worse! That's pushed people even further out as the human elected gets worse and worse and worse.

    To the point, I don't think that Pizzagate has culminated – there are a number of people still getting excited about that, and the appearance of someone claiming to be a high-level anonymous source on 4chan has whipped them up (together with the Saudi news over the weekend) – they think there will be high level arrests over the next few days* and I wouldn't be surprised if someone does take things into their own hands once that doesn't happen.

    * there are always high-level arrests due "in the next few days", but this LARPer has given specific dates.

  • If we were right-wingers we would start the conspiracy that Trump and Manafort had Biden’s son assasinated to keep him out of the presidential race.


    Telling other people how to run their private lives is all those people do.

  • The Palace Cat says:

    An additional note on the tax piece in Rolling Stone: the tax bill would force an immediate $25bn cut to Medicare due to the Paygo law passed in 2010. From Vox:

    “Cuts to Medicare are capped at 4 percent, about $25 billion per year, meaning cuts to the other mandatory spending programs would have to make up the difference. Based on Republicans’ current plans to pass a $1.5 trillion tax cut, the CBO calculates that would be about $111 billion in cuts across the board, in addition to the $25 billion cut to Medicare. OMB can’t pick and choose which programs to cut.

    Because OMB is limited in which programs it can cut from, the CBO estimates this would actually result in $85 billion to $90 billion in cuts.”
    I suspect the AARP is going to be up some grills about this, and they’re almost as scary as the NRA.

  • "I suspect the AARP is going to be up some grills about this, and they’re almost as scary as the NRA."

    Let's hope that they're a little more effective than they were in the Medicare Part D giveaway.

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