Co-opted Point, Counterco-opted Point

From BBC Panorama’s “Secrets of Scientology”:

Ex-Scientologists: The technique is to push your buttons. People have emotional buttons, they have things that set them off, and [Scientologists] study you for that….watch you very carefully. [Scientologists] compare notes, [find your weakness and] push your button next time….[to the Interviewer, John Sweeney] Yours was “bigot,” right?

John Sweeney: I am not a bigot.

[Clips play of Scientologists calling Sweeney a bigot]

John Sweeney: Calling me a bigot annoys me because I am not a bigot.

Ex-Scientologists: I understand that.

John Sweeney: Hold on a second–

Ex-Scientologists: But if I keep cutting you off like this I will actually drive you nuts. [cuts off Sweeney again and again]…every time you start to say something I cut you off, it’s another way of getting you – so that you become emotionally upset. It builds up like a dam: all these things you want to originate keep getting cut off, it builds up like a dam and finally explodes –

John Sweeney: It’s annoying– [cut off] I want to say something —

Ex-Scientologists: No! [crosstalk] Bigots are not allowed to talk!

Here’s the vid; quoted passage above begins at about 17m50s:

It’s normal that he flinches at that word: as a bourgie, educated member of the media elite, John Sweeney has been trained to believe being a bigot is the worst thing one can be, a zillion times worse than exploiter, robber, plutocrat, Big Liar, election stealer, torturer, torture enthusiast, war criminal, mass murderer (basically anything horrible but sexual assaultist and rapist) – not only the worst thing morally, but also potentially the most damaging to one’s career. Sweeney is genuinely horrified to be so accused and is indignant because he suspects his accusers operate in bad faith.


It’s fashionable to say that the language and techniques of social justice have been co-opted by the right – in the example above, the religious right, kooky division – but I’ve been tweeting that it’s better to say they have been counterco-opted back from SJWs and therefore returned to their natural home. That social justice has been recently confirmed as corporate, and often cynical, neoliberal identitarianism, perhaps it’s now best however to say they’ve always been in the same illiberal home, moving as it were from room to room. Someone should burn it all down to the fucking ground.

…Limousine Riding, Jet Flying, Gimmick Stealing, Son of a Gun.

I tweeted early last fall that Trump was cutting Ric Flair promos. Lambert at NakedCapitalism noticed back in the winter that Trump was strategically breaking political kayfabe. Since then, I’ve been collecting tweets, stories, and anecdotes on Trump’s appropriation of wrestling, with an aim to write a big thing about it.

Alas, the project got way too big for me and I dithered too long; everyone gets it now and people much better and industrious have already written about it. Still, though I haven’t been following the news (or been on Twitter) since Bernie got cheated, I always look for relevant stuff on the Trump-wrestling connection on youtube.

Here’s one of my 1980s childhood favorites from Memphis CWA Wrestling, Dirty Dutch Mantell (aka WWE’s Zeb Colter, an anti-immigration, Vietnam War veteran, super-patriotic character) telling an interviewer his Trump story (at about 7m45s):

At Wrestlemania 29 I went out and did [my] promo…”We The People,” and [Trump] was there….he was in the [owner’s?] box. So later on I went back [to] sit in the viewing area, and [Trump] walked up to me – I saw him walk in with his two sons and Ivanka, his daughter – beautiful girl – and anyway, he saw me and he came over and he [extended his hand] and he said, “fantastic! fantastic. I loved your interview.” And then he walked away. But what he did [is] he watched it and he basically took “We The People” and is using it today…he just stole the gimmick. Gimmick infringement – a big case of it. Did you hear my name mentioned [in Cleveland at the RNC]? Noooo. He should have let me do the Ted Cruz [role], I would have endorsed him – I’m mad at him but I still would have endorsed him.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

Baseball trade deadline came and went when July turned to August; following the news and analysis (more than I should) meant going to that part of the internet, Saberland, where woke AF spergies reign and good writing is considered the ultimate in bad taste.[1]

I found this at Fangraphs:

Because of the superhuman circumference of his biceps and his generally muscular physique, Frazier is most often body-comped to Popeye the Sailor Man, a reference I hope doesn’t elude the youngest of our readers.

FFS. I hope there is a bit of sarcasm here but I doubt it (usually their sarcasm is aimed — and most vituperatively — at traditionalists who are the New Deal liberals to statheads’ neocons). More likely this is a straightforward, virtue signalling attempt to show inclusiveness but comes across as infantilizing – and more than a little paranoid that the reader will think the author old or possibly smug in the obscure reference-dropping hipster sense[2]. That statheads are the among the most insufferably smug people on earth is a nice irony; their arrogance plainly varies depending on which theater the culture war is being fought in. Anyway, Popeye’s pop culture heyday was several generations before the birth of the piece’s author (and my own; the Robin Williams bomb of a movie doesn’t count) but he knows it because — Popeye is not obscure.

The Fangraphs post above wouldn’t be worth bitching about on its own but at about the same time I came across this post titled ‘Crop Rotation’ at Viva El Birdos, which took my breath away:

My preference to sell, though, is actually not about the Cardinals’ record, and how they’ve put themselves in a hole with shoddy play thus far in 2016. Rather, it’s a larger matter I’ve had on my mind for a while now, and it relates to agriculture.

I don’t know the backgrounds of most of the readers of this site. I can make some assumptions, based on the fact we’re all fans of a Midwestern baseball team, that the majority are probably from a region similar to that from which I hail, but that’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. We have people from all over the country, a couple of Brits (at least a couple; I can actually think of three offhand, and there may be more for all I know), a couple readers from Asia, people from cities, people from rural areas, men and women, and I hope some decent amount of racial diversity. So I cannot assume common knowledge of things that are not baseball, and I will therefore explain briefly about crop rotation.

It takes another five paragraphs and over 500 words but, by God, he explains what crop rotation – a major component of farming, which is after all only the fucking basis of every civilization ever – is to his readers so they can understand his utterly obvious analogy before he goes back to baseball in the essay. Why use a hyperlink when 500+ words of virtue-signalling inclusiveness and writerly self-love will do?

The author is a purveyor of ever more complicated and specialized alphabet soup stats but assumes that crop rotation is so obscure it needs ploddingly over-explained to ignorant readers who might feel Othered by the reference. Nevermind that the more dark-skinned, more “Third World,” more poor the reader — the sort that woke AF people like the author are ostensibly reaching out to — the more likely they are to instantly understand the analogy and resent the patronizing, verbose explanation — even more so considering its precious tone. Even lifelong (multigenerational, too) urban people either have gardened themselves or knows someone who has; and if not, have the ability to look up such basic information in a book or on the internet — and enrich themselves.

Finish them, David Mitchell:

[1]. I am convinced their antipathy to ‘narrative’ isn’t merely a resistance to media-driven, “agreed-upon” explanations of events but real disgust with and distrust of the components of narratives, words, which of course can be ambiguous and are always under evolutionary pressure.

[2]. cf., the title of this post.

Orb and Specter

Legit? Looks like the flash of an exploding transformer when the grid is being wrecked by a tornado, but this is a constant flash and most disturbingly has an erratic movement. It also reminds me of V’ger’s “pure plasma” weapon in the first Star Trek movie.

For what it’s worth, I believe ball lightning is probably a real thing; I don’t believe in supernatural orbs. But anyway, when I saw this in my Instagram feed I was reminded of something I read on wikipedia years ago, a story related by Tsar Nicholas II about his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II:

Once my parents were away, and I was at the all-night vigil with my grandfather in the small church in Alexandria. During the service there was a powerful thunderstorm, streaks of lightning flashed one after the other, and it seemed as if the peals of thunder would shake even the church and the whole world to its foundations. Suddenly it became quite dark, a blast of wind from the open door blew out the flame of the candles which were lit in front of the iconostasis, there was a long clap of thunder, louder than before, and I suddenly saw a fiery ball flying from the window straight towards the head of the Emperor. The ball (it was of lightning) whirled around the floor, then passed the chandelier and flew out through the door into the park. My heart froze, I glanced at my grandfather – his face was completely calm. He crossed himself just as calmly as he had when the fiery ball had flown near us, and I felt that it was unseemly and not courageous to be frightened as I was. I felt that one had only to look at what was happening and believe in the mercy of God, as he, my grandfather, did. After the ball had passed through the whole church, and suddenly gone out through the door, I again looked at my grandfather. A faint smile was on his face, and he nodded his head at me. My panic disappeared, and from that time I had no more fear of storms.

The sangfroid was strong with that one. (NB: I got a little over halfway through a biography of Alexander II last year without coming across any mention of this story.) Of course, considering the source – Nicholas himself, supposedly; the Orthodox church, certainly – the implied basis for the Emperor’s remarkable composure is his piety, but I prefer to see it as his strength of character – a strength corroborated by his behavior during the events of his assassination. It’s a terrible tragedy that the Russian left murdered their country’s only progressive Tsar.

As crazy as this story is, I can see Bismarck and Lincoln – Alexander’s unifying and liberating contemporaries – behaving in the same chill way. In contrast, I can imagine Washington and Napoleon curiously confronting the orb, and as, as it were, farce to their tragedy, I can also imagine Alexander III and Theodore Roosevelt in their superbutch, try hard fashion, attacking the orb with blade and scepter, challenging it to a duel.

Nineteenth century men: they don’t make ’em like that anymore.


“What are words for?,” the pretty lady who never got enough credit wearily asked. As usual, the cynical and correct answer is deception, for wealth and power. A fart by any other name should smell just as rancid but our ADHD addled species overvalues novelty, and so old poisons are rebranded as new elixirs and old problems are rebranded as new solutions – and people passively believe the lie or worse, have become so apathetic they no longer care that they’re being lied to. Blame? “Name”! Game. A paradox: empty, disposable words, full of fraud and menace; Big Lies, ever bolder and louder, falling on an ever more deaf and distracted populace. Blah blah blah. What were you saying? Nevermind. Cf.

Jonathan Meades, ‘On the Brandwagon’:

[Regeneration is] the greatest of contemporary gravy trains; it’s a bandwagon. The bandwagon has been rebranded; the bandwagon is now a brandwagon. Rebranding is a euphemism – for ‘euphemism.’ Call this [holds shovel] a hallmark diversifier and it becomes something entirely different.

Regeneration is an ad hoc-ulation of enterprises, of PFIs, of blusty thinking, traction triggers, helicopter views, round ovalling, meme trepanning, brain swoffing, crisis tablet alerts.

Anyone can jump aboard the brandwagon; clothes designers, record producers, pop singers are all busily regenerating themselves through regeneration.

Babylon 5 Season 3 Episode 4 “Voices of Authority”:

[Nightwatch Commissar Julie Musante]: “All right, so you have some concerns. But there are ways of expressing these concerns which won’t cause problems for our leaders back home…
[Captain Sheridan]: “Lurkers are our version of the homeless. In many ways we have the same problem Earth does.”
[Musante]: “Earth doesn’t have homeless.”
[Sheridan]: “Excuse me?”
[Musante]: “We don’t have the problem. Yes, there are some displaced people, here and there, but they’ve chosen to be in that position. They’re either lazy or they’re criminal or they’re mentally unstable.”
[Sheridan]: “They can’t get a job.”
[Musante]: “Earth Gov has promised a job to anyone that wants one. So, if someone doesn’t have a job, they must not want one.”
[Sheridan]: “Poverty?”
[Musante]: “It’s the same.”
[Sheridan]: “Crime.”
[Musante}: “Yes, there is some but it’s all caused by the mentally unstable. And we’ve just instituted correctional centers to filter them out at an early age.”
[Sheridan]: “Prejudice?”
[Musante]: “Hmm? No, we’re just one happy planet….Well, all right, there’s the Marsies but that won’t change until they stop fighting the Earth rule.”
[Sheridan]: “And when exactly did all this happen?”
[Musante]: “When we rewrote the dictionary. Captain, you’re a good man, you’re a fine soldier, a leader. You understand that sometimes, before you can deal with the problem you have to…redefine it.”
[Sheridan]: “But you can’t deal with problems by pretending they don’t exist.”
[Musante]: “There’s no need to embarrass our leaders by pointing out the flaws in our society that they’re aware of and dealing with in their own way. Some people just enjoy finding fault with our leaders – they’re anarchists, they’re troublemakers, or they’re simply just unpatriotic – none of which describes you, now do you want other people thinking otherwise? These are the areas I want to help you with. I want to feel like I’m needed, that I’m doing my part to help bring the Earth gov back in to the hands of the decent, hard working people that created it. I am here to protect you. I admire your honesty and your record and your attitude and I don’t want to see anyone use those things against you…”

The power to name or rename is the power to do anything but create; it is the power to own or, at least, to lord over, to subdue, transfer, consume:

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field[.]

Thomas Szasz:

The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as troublesome or mentally sick?… [the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed.

Deadliest Wrestling Move

…is the acromegalic poop splash, to my knowledge only performed once in history, by Andre the Giant on Bad News Brown and Bam Bam Bigelow.

BNB describes the experience in this video:

And BBB describes it in this one (beginning at 8m 30s):

The secret ingredients were tequila and clamato juice. The move is eventually fatal, as all things ultimately are; Andre died in 1993 and the others died in early 2007.

Zizek On Smug Liberalism

I appreciate Bernie Sanders…because I’m so sick and tired of this upper middle class white political correctness where, you know, they don’t really have any contact with black people, with poor people; often their political correctness even has a clear class edge. You know, when an American liberal talks about how, in some circles, women have no rights, they are mistreated, quite often they mean Latino-American and black families and so on.

Bernie Sanders…in Vermont…was very careful to avoid this upper middle class elitist politics. The key of his success is that he doesn’t dismiss ordinary farmers, all those who are usually part of even the populist racist moral majority. He kept a dialog with them. So he is a living proof that the left should abandon this arrogance of ‘oh middle class workers, they are just half proper fascists and so on, we can’t maintain contact with them.’

— From the recent Guardian discussion video, which has been taken down from YouTube.