The George Bush chimp meme set off the meme wars, if only because he was president when Facebook took off in a big way. As soon as Obama was elected the Right–especially the Tea Party–went nuts with their own vicious memes. And now with Trump we return the favor. And it’ll keep happening because each side holds the other side to rules that they themselves do not abide by. Which is nothing new, the pamphlets and newspapers in the 18th and 19th century were incredibly offensive and insulting and just as low brow as anything you see on your iPhone today. And both sides back then raged the same way we are all raging now, mortally offended by what the other side posts and finding all sorts of excuses for posting their own. Calls for censorship abounded, like they abound now, though the First Amendment prevented that for the most part. Now, though, with Facebook and Twitter essentially privatizing communication in ways that Ronald Reagan never imagined, wholesale censorship is possible in social media because the internet is somehow not considered to exist in the same heady constitutional air as the airwaves. Funny seeing the conservative stance on the internet suddenly condemned by outraged conservatives bewildered by the First Amendment. And funny too watching progressives defend social media as privately owned and free from those First Amendment restrictions. Meanwhile memes are fading, replaced by furious bursts of words. Not particularly intelligent words, necessarily, but words nonetheless. We’re getting oddly literate in the Age of Trump, even as Trump himself can barely tweet a coherent sentence.
Just saw that Bergamont Station is being plowed under to make way for, you guessed it, another luxury hotel. As if Santa Monica has a desperate need for another luxury hotel. It’s nothing but luxury hotels. But the thing about luxury hotels is that they provide enormous tax revenue for a city, and so the more the GOP cuts the federal budget of funds that would eventually (mostly via the state) make their way down to cities to pay for services, the more cities are reliant on big businesses like luxury hotels to provide local tax revenue. And the more city services and urban planning a city engages in, the more it needs the revenue of things like luxury hotels. Quality of life is expensive, and quality of life in a place like Santa Monica is very expensive. People who live there expect the city to provide very nice things. Which means a city like Santa Monica needs to come up with lots of tax revenue. To the City of Santa Monica, Bergamont Station was a big hole that didn’t make bring in much tax revenue. Fill that hole with a luxury hotel and revenue comes pouring in. So some of the worst offenders of tearing down small businesses and replacing them with mega developments are often progressive cities like Santa Monica that provide a wide array of city and social services. I watched Glendale do the same thing, tearing down all these little mom and pop places and replacing them with the then highly profitable shopping malls. What happens now that shopping malls are closing down I do not know. Nor do I know what will happen when there are not enough tourists and business groups to fill luxury hotels. But in the meantime mom and pop businesses and creative spaces like Bergamont Station are seized by eminent domain and leveled to make way for rich people spending lots of money. The city can pay its bills, provide social services, fix streets, build libraries and put on summer concert series. We’ve come to accept all this as necessary. A lot of people get hurt. More people get helped. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. It’s all quite logical and very Vulcan. It’s a very mid-20th century sort of thinking that goes back to the New Deal, actually, the same sort of thinking that condemned whole neighborhoods and replaced them with shiny identical apartment towers with affordable rents. That is the justification for tearing down Bergamont Station, anyway. Leveling a popular art colony and cultural hang and replacing it with a hotel that can help Santa Monica pay its bills. But that need to tear it down, the reason that Santa Monica needs to tear beautiful spaces like Bergamont Station down and build a hotel is due to late 20th century Republican fiscal policy. Tax cutting Reaganomics. Cut taxes, cut the budget, reduce pay outs to state and local governments and voila, Santa Monica needs to find a revenue stream, quick. Every city in America, big and small, is facing the same problem. Combine New Deal social policy and Reaganomics fiscal policy and instead of affordable apartments you wind up with way too many luxury hotels none of us can afford to stay in. I wonder what Robert Moses would say. He might think Boss Tweed was running things again. He might be right.
It wasn’t so long ago that Bernie Sanders supporters hated the press, and Bernie held events that the press was barred from. Much of Bernie’s own stump speech railed against the media. He wanted reform. His first big event after conceding a discussion of how to change the nature of mass media in America. He said instead of a media like we have now–which he insisted was entirely corporate, all of it–we need to have a network run by the Democratic Party to promote a progressive agenda. He wanted a progressive Fox News. Trump wanted, and got, Breitbart. Both Bernie and Trump ran against the media. It’s just that Trump was elected. What you are seeing now is what happens when a campaign that ran on an anti-media platform wins the presidency. The antipathy toward the press in America is equally strong on both ends of the political spectrum. Most people prefer to read or hear only what they agree with, a tendency that has been reinforced by Facebook, where people do not like to see opinions they don’t agree with. Probably at least half the population of the U.S., perhaps a lot more, would support some sort of restrictions on the freedom of the press in this country. It’s just that since Trump is the one in the White House, progressives suddenly love the independent press again. But that creepy totalitarian streak when it comes to the news is not far beneath the American surface, and should another progressive candidate with so little regard for a free media come along like Bernie Sanders (left over from his hard left days, where Marxists cannot abide a free press), then you could have both Democrats and Republicans running against the media, and our tradition of a free press could be in serious jeopardy. Of course, that is a tradition that neither Trump and the alt-right nor most Progressives are particularly attached to.
I think when it comes to Donald Trump on the media, the progressives of America are looking at a hideous, distorted funhouse mirror reflection of their own attitudes toward the media and the First Amendment not too long ago.
There’s a lot of white people yelling burn baby burn on Facebook and Twitter tonight, nice white people living in nice white neighborhoods a thousand miles away. It’s always easy to demand violent action when it’s not in your own neighborhood. And it’s always easy to demand neighborhoods burn when you think that property isn’t worth that much anyway. As long as it’s those people. Those people. Someone even plays the stereo too loud in your neighborhood and you call the police. But this isn’t about you, is it? It’s about those people. Sure there’s a riot goin’ on–I’ve seen that a few times tonight on Facebook, quoting Sly–but it’s not in your neighborhood. It’s so exciting, isn’t it, being a keyboard revolutionary.
I didn’t hear Michael Brown’s parents yelling burn baby burn. But then this isn’t about them. It’s about nice white people living vicariously through someone else’s broken windows and busted heads.
I am utterly bewildered by the timing of this “Democracy Spring” movement. Shouldn’t these people be helping out Bernie Sanders right now instead of this? No one will pay much attention to them as everyone is focused on the election. This is beyond stupid, this is just baked. Which I’m sure too many of them are, to the eyeballs. Dude.
Of course, one of the things about social media is that it gives the illusion that you are having a huge impact on the real world when actually only your Facebook friends are paying any attention.
I’m amazed that the Ben and Jerry guys were in on this. I’d thought they were working for Bernie 24/7. Unless this is somehow supposed to be part of Bernie’s campaign? Is this the revolution? Hell, if Ben and Jerry hadn’t been arrested scarcely anyone would be paying attention to this at all. Meanwhile, as Bernie is fighting for his political life in Maryland and Pennsylvania hundreds of well meaning fools are getting themselves arrested on the Capitol steps for no useful purpose at all.
Democracy Spring–or Democracy Awakening, another group–might well be onto something. This might turn out to be huge. But not now. They have an incredibly bad sense of timing. Might not it be better to picket the Capitol when congress is actually in session? Or when Bernie is not running at the same time? How about when people will be paying attention? I suggest they take a hint from their name, in the Spring. By then they might even realize that protest means more than sitting around staring at your iPhones.