Dr. Dawg

Gaslighting media

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covingtons finest.jpg

“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently. “How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.” “Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” ~George Orwell

Revisionist history isn’t just denying the Holocaust. Sometimes it’s done on the fly—and the American media have just provided a ripe example of it.

The story, in brief: Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, already known for rape and blackface, sent a bevy of MAGA-hatted male teenagers to Washington to demonstrate against women’s reproductive rights. Whilst there, they harassed a few women for the hell of it, and at the end of the day, waiting at the Lincoln Memorial for transportation home, they got into it with a small group of cultists (four in all) calling themselves Black Hebrew Israelites.

The latter seems to have been an all-purpose insult machine, throwing provocative comments at the youths, vilely insulting the one Black student in their ranks, and—for good measure—mocking a small group of Native American protesters who were approaching. The students reacted by engaging in chants to drown them out. The Native Americans, led by elder Nathan Philips, walked between them, Philips beating a ceremonial drum and singing.

There’s your wider context. Does it change anything about the photo? The smirking, entitled white teen facing down a Native elder?

I’ve seen that superior smile before. So have you.

But the liberal media and their punditocracy got cold feet. Gosh, maybe they overreacted. They’re sorry, so sorry. They didn’t have the whole story. Etc., ad nauseam.

The picture is worth more than a thousand words, in fact worth far more than the tens of thousands of words uttered by whinging liberals flagellating themselves for having been so foolish as to rush in to condemn rich white kids for being snotty racist punks.

Anyway, I’m with Deadspin. Just believe your own damn eyes.

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Capture.JPGThe Gillette corporation recently released one of those warm and fuzzy prosocial lifestyle ads. It was an innocuous little string of inspirational skits, a bit of virtue-signalling whose message, basically, is “Don’t Be A Dick”. It’s a #MeToo update of those nice vignettes from the Church of Latter Day Saints that used to make you either tear up or retch.

Well, it certainly got the Breitbart/PJ Media set bristling. One headline declared the ad “A War on Trump”. Given that the message was “Don’t Be Dick”, it’s hard to disagree.

But my favourite response came from an apoplectic Ezra Levant, who decided to beard Gillette in their very den. He points out indignantly that Gillette hired a “feminist woman” (!!!) to direct the commercial. This astonishes Ezra. “Imagine having a middle aged male direct an ad for tampons,” he marvels. “Why would you do that?”

Well, between 8% and 11% of film and video directors, from commercials to industrials to features, are women. That means that since the invention of television advertising, there’s a strong likelihood that almost all ads for tampons have been directed by (and probably shot by, lit by, edited by, and even written by) men.

Given that Ezra once freaked about a curriculum because it included the word “vagina” (you should have seen him speaking “the word” - he looked as though he were chewing garlic-flavoured glass shards), his peculiar notion that men couldn’t possible direct a tampon commercial (“Does anyone on the set know what the heck these things are for, anyway?”), and his apparent unawareness that women actually use razors, one really has to wonder about the state of things in the Levant family manor.

Bottom line: Gillette has cannily and cynically associated itself with a popular movement, avoiding Pepsi’s astonishingly clumsy failure to do the same two years ago. But only by a whisker.

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ISIS flag.jpg

It’s an overworked phrase, and too often the stuff of conspiracy theories, but—this one’s real. And once again the Usual Suspects either fell for it—or were part of the unfunny joke.

Canadian Islamic Party, eh? If you figured it was too ripe to be true, your instincts were sound. Unlike those of the Usual Suspects.

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Dr. Dawg

Birth of a year

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birth of 2019.jpg

A belated happy and secure New Year everyone. First, an apology.

Life has been stressful recently, to put it mildly—family matters—and I seem to have hit a wall of writer’s block. So I have not been assiduous about posting articles here.

Yet it’s a good, cheap, even therapeutic way of keeping my grip on things. I love words, and everything they do. My first New Year’s resolution is to get this blog back up to speed. My second one—but I haven’t kept it—was to get the hell off Twitter. For the second time, having relapsed a few months back. It’s genuinely addictive. It’s a time-waster if ever there was one. It serves little useful purpose, other than to get ahead of breaking news stories. It’s Usenet v.2.0, with all of the latter’s flaws, encouraging laziness, self-indulgence and incivility. I like it.

This past year, the remains of which we’re still scraping off our shoes, has seen the metastatic progression of a disease that seems to have infected the entire world. It could well be fatal. Its symptoms have been many: a large orange pustule, delirious monomaniacal raving, recurrent fever, sores that will not heal, partial necrosis. It’s hard to be hopeful at this stage.

No doubt my fading optimism is partly age talking. I get impatient too easily, which was a virtue in my youth, but may now be a vice. But things have gone much too far ever to be restored to factory settings.

In any case, here are some random notes on the year we have just put behind us.

  • The (perhaps welcome) shoddification of political discourse.

Diefenbaker was a bit of a windbag, Stanfield was a gentleman who dropped a football, and Mulroney was an oily fellow indeed, but they operated within Parliamentary convention and civil bounds. Harper did not, and was found in contempt of Parliament—a first in the Commonwealth—but he was not a grinning caricature of a Conservative. Harper was the tragedy; Andrew Scheer is the farce. The same might be said of Mike Harris and the oaf who currently squats at Queen’s Park, respectively. Today too much political utterance is obvious bullshit, expressed moronically, without pretence.

Then there is the leader of the free world. They broke the mould before they made him.

Social media is not to blame, although they can be counted upon to hasten the discursive drop. It’s more a loss of facade—that curtain of politesse and formal courtesies that has masked (for example) murderous geopolitics, accelerating global warming, increasing poverty, job losses, and a bleak future, especially for millennials.

Everyone remembers Obama with fondness, even though he executed American citizens without trial, unleashed drone warfare, and deported more people than Trump. I offer that as only one example of facade politics. If Trump ever did anything good in his life, perhaps tearing down the screen between reality and its polite and fake portrayal is the one ironically positive thing he has accomplished. Trump is raw, unmediated politics. Maybe not “as usual,” but not far away from it either. And (for all the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way, but still) he’s made more people critical of the “objective” media.

So yes, political discourse is now mostly grunts and flung dung, and sometimes we old folks yearn for polite, nuanced discussions with friendly antagonists, but that’s never been what politics is about. Political words should match political acts, and at last they appear to be doing so.

  • Politics and tapu

Sometime we can gain insight from the practices and beliefs of far different societies than our own. The South Pacific notion of tapu is a case in point. Tapu is a complex notion involving the binding, ordering, or containing of the sacred life-force/spirit of mana. What is tapu is both sacred and forbidden; it involves a maze of rules and restrictions. For Māori, for instance, you don’t tread upon wahi tapu (a place that is tapu), you don’t touch a person’s head unless invited to do so, you don’t inhabit a new building until its tapu has been ceremonially lifted, you watch your words in various contexts (using different vocabulary if you are snaring birds, for example), you don’t just blunder onto a marae, and so on.

Let me refer, then, to the case of Marc Lamont Hill, who lost his CNN side-hustle and came within a whisker of losing his gig at Temple University. He had called for freedom and equality for all in Israel and the occupied territories, using the phrase “from the river to the sea.”

Israel, as concept and country, is effectively tapu. It is a sacred “space” where one does not lightly tread. The foolhardy ones who ignore the tapu face retribution. Certain words must not be spoken, certain things must not be done.

Patrick O’Connor, the chairman of Temple University’s Board of Trustees, accused Hill—with a completely straight face—of “unnecessarily blackening” the image of the school. Ponder the resonances of that. In the event, Hill kept his job, but the tapu he conveyed by his presence at the university had to be lifted, in the form of a คาสิโนไทยdisparaging official statement from Temple.

Whano, whano,
Haramai te toki,
Haumi ē!

  • Normalization of the abnormal.

Even in its day, Nazism was an abnormal, depraved politics. After its defeat in 1945, the notion of white supremacy, which had been around since the “Age of Discovery,” was melded in some murky quarters with the Hitlerian project. It remained on the fringes of society until relatively recently, with the ascent to the Presidency of the US of white supremacist Donald Trump, who counted developed “alt-right” ideologues in his entourage (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka). The encouragement that this sharp turn to the far-right gave to the dregs of society, not only in the US but in Canada as well, will only get worse. But. more importantly, it has mainstreamed what used to be confined to Klaverns and seamy compounds in the woods.

A white supremacist who hangs with Nazis and recites the “Fourteen Words” ran for Mayor of Toronto: a Toronto Sun columnist called her a “good kid” and the Premier of Ontario had his picture taken with her. That same “newspaper” gleefully publishes bigoted commentary, including the memorable “refugees slaughtering goats in a hotel” story. The Munk Debates recently hosted Steve Bannon, giving this fascist unprecedented respectability. The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada flirts with the far-right and includes three of them in his inner circle.

On American television, white supremacists like Tucker Carlson rule the airwaves. Good old-fashioned anti-Semitism is making a comeback, too, not only in the form of one-man pogroms as in Pittsburgh, but in regular public commentary. It has always been present, of course, but is now openly expressed, if in somewhat coded form, by mainstream commentators, who use “Soros” and “globalism” as the stand-in words for “international Jewish Conspiracy.”

The most alarming thing about this political teratogenesis is its rapid infiltration into normal political commentary. There is a gawping, slack-jawed tendency by the mainstream media to see fascism, racism and other forms of bigotry as just more ideas to be taken down, stenographer-style, and passed on to the public without critique—or presented as one of two “sides” in that inimitably lazy practice that marks today’s “journalism.” Here’s a ripe example of the latter. It never occurred to the writer that going to Obama’s house to see for himself might settle the matter.

How does the obscenely abnormal become normalized? By being embraced, either out of design or carelessness.

  • Nationalism, populism and the honing of hatred

Canada being a civic state, not an ethnic one, it is hard for some people to grasp the blunt appeal of nationalism, which is always more about who doesn’t belong than who does. Attempts to make this ugly form of populism a force in the country do not seem overly promising at the grassroots level yet, although the death threats and yokel-daft accusations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a traitor are worrying. What is more of a concern is that the Official Opposition is borrowing far-right anti-immigration rhetoric from some sketchy European far-right movements, as well as from the Trump administration, and playing directly to this fringe.

Don’t let Maxime Bernier’s attempt to summon the spirit of Réal Caouette fool you—that’s just the Overton Window being shifted. Andrew Scheer’s party is doing not badly in the polls. He has lauded a far-right anti-immigration activist, and proceeded to disingenuously misrepresent a UN declaration on migrants. The federal election this year promises to be an ugly one, with this kind of calculated pandering to the bigots, and we’re likely to see more of it.

  • Is democracy wasted on the people?

And this brings me to my last point, in the form of a question that I was tempted simply to leave here. For better or worse, the people will and must decide how history is made. But as I’ve said before, if vox populi, vox dei, the Lord surely does work in mysterious ways, at least on occasion. There was the overwhelming majority decision in BC to vote against representative democracy. There was the election of a genocidal fascist in Brazil, and several far-right governments in Europe. There was the recent elevation almost to sainthood of a Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, to wild applause and celebration in that republic.

These stories and others give one pause, encouraging us to reflect upon the nature of democracy, its imperfect forms, its obvious limitations in our own society and in others, and the tools and capacities required to make it work better, however “it” is defined.

That’s a discussion that may be highlighted in the coming year, which indeed promises to force us all back to the basics. Commentary, as always, is welcome.

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I have to vent this somewhere

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I always pronounced “Hebrides” as “He-brides” and imagined it as the island headquarters of the Drag Queen International.

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“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~1984

A few days ago, I lost a Facebook friend who (as it turns out) is rather partial to Donald Trump, and thinks the “leftist” media are in cahoots to make this rain-averse President look bad. She was convinced that the now-infamous exchanges between #45 and CNN’s peppery Jim Acosta had included “violence against women” when a Trump staffer tried to snatch away Acosta’s microphone. I put up the clip and asked her what she saw.

She was adamant. Acosta attacked the young female intern. She believed not only the White House version (Sarah Huckabee-Sanders hadn’t distributed the doctored version of the clip at that point), but her own lying eyes.

Fascinated, I reviewed the clip half a dozen times. Could I have missed something?

Well, no, I don’t think so. In my corner, by the way, is a former Breitbart journo, so I shall plead innocent of any stubborn ideological blindness of my own here.

The Orwell quotation at the beginning of this article can be found all over the Internet addressing just this matter. It’s important to underline that the Party’s command would not always require months of torture to prevail—at some point in the future, the Party would control the present, and we would see, hear and remember what we were told to at any moment. We are even now meeting the avatars of that model citizenry.

There is no “Party” today, of course, but there is the crazed ideology of Trumpism in which the President, not the media (“Fake News”), and not even the senses (fallible and sometimes disturbingly off-narrative), defines the reality of his adherents.

I’m not talking common-or-garden self-delusion here—God knows we’re all guilty of that from time to time, and in the political sphere it appears to operate almost in plain sight as both a virtue and a vice. This Trump thing goes exponentially further—pretty nearly at the “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston” level. If he says “three,” it is utterly irrelevant to his cult following how many are actually in the air. And, frankly, to him as well.

The question is left, then: how is political discourse possible with the 40% or so of Americans prepared to follow their Leader through fire and ice if he asks? And the answer is: it is not. We might just as well attempt to converse with the gentleman who won his election to the Nevada legislature without, at least in the three weeks preceding his victory, being able to engage in any dialogue at all.

(“I’m fine with him being dead and winning,” said a woman of her Nevadan representative. She had been violently raped by him. “I know a lot of people who were going to vote Democrat if he were alive, but will now vote Republican because he’s dead.” There is a logic there, of course, but this does sum up, in one splendid metaphorical thunderclap, everything that is maddening about current American politics.)

The great political divide, in any case, has now progressed well beyond mere questions of civility: we are talking about nothing less than two incommensurable ontologies. And in such a case, where each side’s words are but empty sounds signifying nothing to the other, all that is left to us is an increasingly brutal struggle for dominance. Get ready, folks, because here they come. And they’re in no mood to talk.

UPDATE: (November 12) A similar if less apocalyptic คาสิโนไทยtake:

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Dr. Dawg

The bitch is in heat again

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If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

~Bertolt Brecht, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”

Viktor Orbán. Jaros?aw Kaczyński. Matteo Salvini. Donald Trump. Jair Bolsonaro.

Mass murders of Muslims, Blacks and Jews, here in North America.

Fascism is winning. We can no longer deny the obvious, counsel politesse and non-violence in the face of savagery, and play semantic games. Resistance is mandatory. Our “democratic” institutions are not proving equal to the task. We must either replace them or abandon them and take the fight to the streets.

Seem extreme? Not to anyone with an awareness of history. Fascism didn’t just leap full-grown from its foul womb. It was conceived, birthed, nurtured and coddled until it grew spectacularly monstrous, at which point nervous grown-ups attempted to make deals and compromises, offering concessions that merely fed the beast-child. It didn’t work, of course. Only force worked, by the time we got around to it, and it was at an unprecedented cost.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but, as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, it often rhymes. We should stop the vain search for superficial differences and concentrate on the glaring similarities: violent racism and its associated hatreds (misogyny, homophobia), strongman government, conservative and liberal acquiescence (Conrad Black’s paean of praise for the fascist mayoral candidate Faith Goldy, for example, or the attempted platforming of that reprobate in the name of “free speech”), and a complaisant or even actively complicit media (eg, the “goats slaughtered in hotels” Toronto Sun, Canada’s very own V?lkischer Beobachter).

Of course there is resistance, but it’s fragmented and generally ineffectual. The Left has other things on its mind. Faced with a full-frontal attack on the most vulnerable by a brutish government that clearly relishes its own cruelty, the leader of the labour movement in Ontario, Chris Buckley, deplores the breaking of a window in a Minister’s office. In this he is joined by the leader of the social-democratic “alternative,” Andrea Horwath. Calls for “civility” are the norm, in the teeth of the gale. (Civility, if I might point out the obvious, didn’t save a single Jew from the gas chambers.)

Fascism is armed, mobilized, and is heading our way. But we seem to be stuck at the Neville Chamberlain stage, appeasing rather than mobilizing ourselves. If we don’t want to hear it rhyme, we’d better do something about the history being made in front of our eyes. By any means necessary.

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Overton Window.jpg

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Sadopolitics cheering PCs.jpg

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. The photo above is of the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government of Ontario cheering and applauding as they repeal an increase in the minimum wage slated for next year, junk two days of paid sick leave for Ontario workers, and do away with salary equity for part-time, temporary and casual employees.

This is clearly a high moment for these people—they just can’t contain themselves. Their sheer pleasure at punishing our lowest-paid, most vulnerable workers is on full display.

Some are connecting this outburst with the times we live in, when normal behavioural restraints and common decency are being squeezed out of politics. I beg to differ. Conservative sado-political tendencies have always been easy to detect.

On December 3, 1998, widows, terminally-ill workers and cancer survivors from “Chemical Valley” in Sarnia, Ontario, attended the Visitors Gallery in the Ontario Legislature, when Mike Harris was in charge. Asbestos dust in Sarnia used to be so thick that traffic would sometimes be halted. Holmes Insulation and Caposite, both Sarnia companies, created a massive death toll of workers from rare cancers such as mesothelioma, by refusing to clean up their sites. Even families of the workers, affected by the poisons in their clothing, suffered abnormally high rates of various cancers.

In 1995, the Harris government had slashed inspectors, closed down occupational health and safety labs, and abolished a committee about to issue regulations on workplace toxins.

The NDP labour critic introduced the widows and dying workers to the Legislature. Immediately, the Conservatives jeered them, cracking jokes and laughing, catcalling and mocking them. One of the worst hecklers was Janet Ecker, then the Minister responsible for Community and Social Services, and presently a Senior Fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute. One widow wrote to Mike Harris conveying her anguish at her husband’s death being found funny by the Tories. The letter was never answered.

Yes, fascism is on a roll these days, there are cheerleaders aplenty, and Trump has set the tone from on high. But the sheer joy in human suffering that emotionally-ill conservatives are now emboldened to share with the world on an everyday basis didn’t start with #45, and it will not end with him. Cruelty for its own sake is baked into the current conservative/neoliberal ideology. Our best instincts must be invoked to rise up and resist the people, the institutions and the governments that celebrate it.

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Dr. Dawg


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Here’s one person who inhaled in his youth and beyond who will admit feeling uncomfortable about the legalization of cannabis, at least the way it’s being done, thought about and celebrated.

I’m a child of the ‘sixties, back when a single seed in a pocket put a friend of mine behind bars, and when traces of cannabis smoke in facial hair or clothes could get you convicted of “possession.” Police would go undercover, try to sell you a small amount of dope, and then bust you if you paid. Passing a joint to someone could be considered “trafficking.”

Make no mistake, I’m glad to see those days gone forever. Lives were ruined. But to put an end to that oppression, why did we have to make things so damned complicated?

We could have decriminalized cannabis in small amounts—say an ounce or so. We could have expunged the criminal records of those whose lives were wrecked by the justice system for the “crime” of simple possession.

But this is Canada. We “legalized,” rather than decriminalized—meaning that there are more ways for a smoker of weed to stay illegal than you can shake a spliff at. Legalizing has brought with it the usual Canadian thicket of differing regulations, laws and policies at every level of government.

Where can you get it? It depends where you live. In Ontario, you can only get pot on-line. In the Northwest Territories, it’s being retailed through liquor outlets. Elsewhere, there’s a mix of private and government sellers. Grow your own? Well, the limit is four plants (except in Quebec and Manitoba, where they’re illegal), they must be grown from seed, and they must be kept entirely from public view—forget putting them by the window to get some sun. Can you buy it in edible form? Nope. Can you purchase hashish or kif or vape concentrates? Nope.

Be sure of one thing, though: a new government revenue stream has been created. Which is probably the whole point, come to think of it.

As for enjoying cannabis once you obtain it, tread carefully. Not in a boat, not in a car, not in a park (depends where you are), not in a pub, not on a beach, not near a school, not on the street….

An army of bureaucrats will ride this monster. Former anti-cannabis politicians and familiar names in policing circles are already wetting their beaks). “I was addressing a different era at that time,” says Julian Fantino, the former Toronto police chief who once compared the legalization of marijuana to legalizing murder. Ah, yes: that was then, but this is now, and there’s good coin to be made.

What of those carrying criminal records for purchasing what various ex-politicians and cops are now selling? The Trudeau government will be offering expedited, fee-free pardons, which seems reasonable enough, except for the fact that for jobs and housing, convicted dope-smokers will still have to note their criminal convictions on their applications.

Expungement, in which all records pertaining to the former offence are destroyed and the offence is deemed never to have been committed, makes more sense. There is currently a Bill in Parliament that proposes just that, but there is no indication that the government will support it. Partisan politics being what they are these days, don’t hold your breath.

This vast, trundling, defective behemoth of “legalised cannabis” is now loose upon the country, and I, for one, am not celebrating. It’s a dinosaur designed by a committee.

Why not just stop arresting and charging people for possession? Nah, too simple. Too simple by half. This is Canada, after all.

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