Author Archives: Mike Moats

America This is Quite Serious: The Witches

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This Halloween, just over a week before election day, I call forth the recent writings of two women who invoke history to update our understanding of the anger directed toward Hillary Clinton and, more broadly, women.

Stacy Schiff frames the vitriol aimed at Clinton with a look at the historical fear of witches. Schiff, the author of last year’s The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem, digs into the fascination with witches through the ages and why, as she says, “The idea may have evolved; the animus remains.”

Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless: They offer the blessed relief of assigning blame; they allow us to distill spite, that heady brew of vindication and humiliation.

It would be nice if the connection to the 2016 election was only metaphorical, but it seems there is at least one right-wing “thought” leader — Trump supporter and fucking maniac Alex Jones — who thinks that Hillary is possessed by demons.

If that kind of thing sounds familiar to you, then it’s probably because of the history documented by Susan Faludi in “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan.”

One of the mysteries of 2016 is the degree to which Hillary Clinton is reviled. Not just rationally opposed but viscerally and instinctively hated… she’s cast not just as a political combatant but as a demon who, in the imaginings of Republicans like Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Representative Trent Franks, would create an America “where passion — the very stuff of life — is extinguished” (the former) and where fetuses would be destroyed “limb from limb” (the latter).

Faludi notes the long history of this thinking, which started in the early 1990s, for reasons that appear to be an animating energy of today’s rage:

The 1990s produced a generation of men who felt (and still feel) left behind by a society redefining power and success in terms of ornament and celebrity and demoting the value of industry and brawn, while simultaneously challenging men’s value as family providers. Though women weren’t the source of men’s pain, the antagonist conjured up by aggrieved men I talked with in those years had a feminine face, and very often that face was Hillary’s.

Or as someone once said, “Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless.” That resentment gave rise to an entire industry of anger, led by talk radio bullshit from the likes of human foot rash Rush Limbaugh. Today, it is made manifest in Donald Trump a liar, con man and abuser who is supposed to Make America Great Again because that what it says on the hat he uses to cover his freakish comb-over.

Hillary’s biggest detractors may call her a witch, but they’re the ones who are under a spell.

America, this is quite serious, and “Witchcraft on the Campaign Trail” and “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan” are worth a read.

Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

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America This is Quite Serious: Rough Trade

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Yesterday, the New York Times declared that “The phase of globalization that began with the ending of World War II is essentially over.”

At one time, interest in a story bearing this news would have been limited to a small circle of wonks and activists, people who use terms like “hegemony” and have strong feelings about the G8. Over the years there has been the occasional meaningful populist uproar over NAFTA, and I spent a brief period in college refusing to buy certain brands because of their overseas factory conditions, but for the most part, most Americans have had little to no opinion on globalization over the past 30 years. It’s not that anyone really loves it, but most people seem pretty ¯_(ツ)_/¯ about where their stuff is made. Consumers have not indicated on a large scale that they will pay more for U.S. made goods when they can pay less for the same gear made in China, Mexico, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Vietnam, etc. and so on.

But that was all before the 2016 presidential election. Continue reading

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HOT TAKES: Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

When it comes to the awarding of something so prestigious as the Nobel Prize for Literature, there is no better source of commentary and reaction than Twitter. Here are the hottest takes on the hottest award of the year:

There was lots of speculation on who might win this year. Dylan was a longshot, to say the least. As one of the most comprehensive analyses of the field put it, “Bob Dylan 100 percent is not going to win. Stop saying Bob Dylan should win the Nobel Prize.”

But the answer my friend, came in from Sweden. The answer came in from Sweden:

Dylan was recognized for “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Some speculated on other contenders:  Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: Humans of America

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There have been many, many offenses of this election cycle. But despite all the “locker room talk,” the most toxic and lasting harm comes from the growing hostility and dehumanization of the people we disagree with. It’s hard for things not to get this way, when coverage tends to focus on Whites Without a College Degree saying awful things about Latino Immigrants, or Millennials calling for the fall of Elites, or what Suburban Moms think of the whole thing.

I know we once all hoped that “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. …There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America” But I think it’s time to look hard at where we are. And hopefully, recognizing that we are in fact all those things will help us realize that we are in fact all those things.

That is what Bloomberg Businessweek* has attempted with “America Divided,” an entire issue dedicated to the election. As usual, their electronic presentation is stunning. It’s worth checking out for the design alone. Starting with numbers, “America Divided” dives headfirst into the human stories behind our microtargeted voter profiles.

It is a special issue in every sense of the word Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: Did You Hear? Bon Iver “22, A Million”

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Forget the election. Forget conservative media, liberal bias. False equivalence. Forget how pundits spin, how voters react. Establishment. Elites. Forget them. You’re wasting time. It might be over soon:

America this is quite serious, and Bon Iver’s new album “22, A Million” is out today and worth a listen. That’s the opening track up there.

Read more in our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

-Michael Moats

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America This is Quite Serious: Get Thee Behind Me, White Christian Voters

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“What makes white people tick?” It’s a hell of a question. And one that FiveThirtyEight tackled this week, in its FiveThirtyEight way, with a statistical analysis of census data and voting preferences. The full breakdown is worth a read, but the main points are these: Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no clear evidence that economic anxiety points to voter preferences: “Despite the myth that Trump’s base is poor whites, income is the least predictive of white voter support among the seven demographic variables tracked by the poll.”

The most predictive variable, it turns out, was whether a white voter had a high rate of “Religious attendance.” Those who said they never went to church were 71 percent for Clinton, while only 31 percent of people who went weekly supported her. These results are not surprising. But shouldn’t they be?

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“…politics can distort and invert Christianity, turning a faith that at its core is about grace, reconciliation and redemption into one that is characterized by bitterness, recriminations and lack of charity.”

The nexus of faith and politics is a God damned mess. Probably literally. Continue reading

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