Events in Boston last week illustrate how technology shapes our personal identity. And how little we understand the process. Boston shows us a foretaste of the new tribalism that relies on ephemeral situations and adrenalin to create a sense of belonging. It will change what it means to be an American.
What Is The New Tribalism?
First, the definitions. We’ll start with new tribalism is an individual’s sense of self, belonging and loyalty. That sense of self is defined by participating in communal activity responding to an ad hoc event or crisis. Here, it’s a new tribe following a terrorist bombing. This new ‘tribe’ is interesting because its values can supplement traditional ones, at least temporarily.
Doubtlessly you are already asking, ‘So is it really new’? In the past, rallies and concerts might be seen as the forerunners to today’s phenomenon. Certainly true of the Party rallies in the 1930s, for example. And the various ideologies of the now trite ‘happenings’ and ‘sit ins’ in the 1960s, as well as mass spectacles of Woodstock, etc.
We’ve been talking to alienated political professionals lately. They’re either no longer welcome by their hyper-meme-soaked bases or alienated by them. Either way, they’re largely watching the football game from the stands. Their more practical (cynical?) colleagues join a team and bury their cognitive dissonance.
Politicians Must Stop Hiding Behind Process And Practice Politics
Why do marginalized political figures in the stands choose to sit there? The obvious excuse? Contemporary politics makes rational, empirical choice impossible. It’s true. But outcome determinative. A politician’s task is to change circumstances as much as adapt to them.
Alienated ‘moderate’ political figures and operatives, like Obama, elect to abandon actual politics. Thus no organized political activity to reclaim the Republican Party from the Movement. (Obama as incumbent has his party in a bind). Instead, the alienated political figures embrace the pose of process reform. Easier to appear on Morning Joe and blame congressional failure on needed rule changes or deficit reduction. Reasonable people like Mika after all prefer process. And process leads to the Avalon of compromise.
What would actual politics look like? Let’s stipulate the Movement various strands’ are virulent, vindictive and irrational. Taking them on a daunting personal and professional challenge. Yet it’s not excuse. It’s been done successfully before. And we don’t mean post-1964.
American History Shows How Intellectual Movements Gain Influence
Before the Scopes trial, before The Organization Man, there was the Brandeis Brief. That Brief, which introduced science and empiricism into American law, itself rode the crest of a societal immersion in the scientific method, and Taylorism in manufacturing from the 1880s and 1890s. The sociology for how empirical thought gained widespread embrace is rich and detailed.
The Movement’s multiple successes infiltrating the Republican Party, mainstreaming itself and eventually devouring its institutional host yet another instructive model. Whether empiricism’s rise post-Civil War or the Movement today, neither advanced their cause by claiming process as the answer. Process served the political truth. To argue otherwise is to be another Wilkerson claiming if only the NSC had better paper flow he and General Jello could have beaten Cheney.
Could the current band of sidelined ‘moderate’ politicians and operatives carry a renewed empirical torch through a meme-drenched world? As the current process pose suggests, their political skills may be out of phase. Second, oligarchy collectively may prefer to withhold money, gaming further unravelling until a future, rump stabilization. Recent unsuccessful primary candidates do point to their failures as proof no one wants the message.
Yet it’s a duty to at least try. American history shows political movements culminate after decades of investment. It’s more than 1 or 2 election cycles. Or individual personalities.
To remain on the Acela to MSNBC, sigh, and lament the lack of procedural reform is cowardice.
We know no one energized by either campaign. We doubt you do, either.
Our simulacrum of ostensible politics doesn’t conceal any truths. The truth is that there isn’t any. We are stupefied by the brutal collage of jittering, meaningless sensation. That’s the truth. All of which we’ve discussed together here at length before.
That’s not embracing moral or even situational relativism. Our professional conservative friends echo what you, Dear Reader, noted long ago: a Romney ‘victory’ would be a poisoned chalice in any event. Few believe his capacity to govern or control an emboldened Movement.
In the end we happen to be optimists in one narrow sense. We believe a significant number of people yearn for — even if unrecognized — the return of actual Meaning to our culture, our politics and our lives. That we collectively both reject and embrace those rejecting substitution of the false, the symbology, the AutoTuned, the ‘meme’.
Existing politics, however diffuse, can not lead. And may not be able to follow, focus groups and micro-targeted opinion research aside. People craving granular truth are similar to what Apple once said about its customers and market research: they didn’t do any. Because people often don’t know what they want until they see it.
That choice doesn’t exist now. Whatever happens in the Fall of 2012, the synthetic will still be entrenched. Readers here noted that change may not necessarily (or even likely) arrive as a democratic one. The real question is whether anyone would notice.
P.S. Jaime at Blood & Treasure concisely deconstructs Romney, foreign policy, Israel, Palestine, imperialism, China, Thomas Kinkade paintings and the Corporal.
What’s most bothersome about this invitation [from the Hirshhorn Museum] is the statement about members: “Members get in free and have access to VIP area.” You can see that line for yourself in the picture at left.
“A VIP area”? At a public museum, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution? . . . And now, the Hirshhorn — no doubt in an effort to raise money (the lowest level of membership costs $100 to $249 a year ) — is creating a VIP lounge within an already questionable activity? After Hours seems to involve gallery tours as well as “music and live performances on the plaza.” Guess which is the draw?
As a subsequent press release said:
From his infamous dance parties (RAW, MIXTAPE) to his guest spots at numerous DC nightlife events, audience favorite DJ Shea Van Horn sheds his drag alter ego, Summer Camp, and returns to After Hours to stir up the dance floor and leave a trail of exhausted revelers in his wake.
We’ve been left behind in steerage for some time. It’s the little details that speak volumes. It’s tempting to see this through the prism of elitist art, etc. — in fact, precisely how the Movement assaults ‘wealthy’ union families earning $49,000 a year. Or perhaps some well-intentioned if clueless ‘Yes we can!’ believer thought a rave party at the Hirshhorn would improve visibility, attendance and promote art (somehow).
We agree the larger, more important issue the symbolic: the non-chalant acceptance of class privileges in public spaces.
Just to have the opportunity to be invited to Davos, you must be invited to be a member of the World Economic Forum, a Swiss nonprofit that was founded by Klaus Schwab, a German-born academic who managed to build a global conference in the snow.
There are several levels of membership: the basic level, which will get you one invitation to Davos, costs 50,000 Swiss francs, or about $52,000. The ticket itself is another 18,000 Swiss francs ($19,000), plus tax, bringing the total cost of membership and entrance fee to $71,000.
But that fee just gets you in the door with the masses at Davos, with entry to all the general sessions. If you want to be invited behind the velvet rope to participate in private sessions among your industry’s peers, you need to step up to the “Industry Associate” level. That costs $137,000, plus the price of the ticket, bringing the total to about $156,000.
Of course, most C.E.O.’s don’t like going anywhere alone, so they might ask a colleague along. Well, the World Economic Forum doesn’t just let you buy an additional ticket for $19,000. Instead, you need to upgrade your annual membership to the “Industry Partner” level. That will set you back about $263,000, plus the cost of two tickets, bringing the total to $301,000.
And if you want to take an entourage, say, five people? Now you’re talking about the “Strategic Partner” level. The price tag: $527,000. (That’s just the annual membership entitling you to as many as five invitations. Each invitation is still $19,000 each, so if five people come, that’s $95,000, making the total $622,000.) This year, all “Strategic Partners” are required to invite at least one woman along as part of an effort to diversify the attendee list.
As part of the strategic partner level, you get access to the private sessions as well as special conference rooms to hold meetings. And perhaps the biggest perk of all, your car and driver are given a sticker allowing door-to-door pick up service.
At the moment, the forum says they are not accepting applications to become “strategic partners” unless the company is from China or India and must be one of the 250 largest companies in the world.
To truly understand the enduring (if fading) appeal of the World Economic Forum, you have to go back to high school. One thing we learn in high school is that human beings, like wolves and fish and most other lower life forms, travel in packs. We also learn that there is a pecking order to those packs. And in every high school there is a group of cool kids who enhance their status simply by hanging out with one another. In my school, we hung out each morning along a certain wall in the front hall. (Yes, I was a cool kid in high school. Of a sort. The nerdy, artsy sort with an Isro.)
Rothkopf then notes Davos is fading because it can’t deliver the networking goods. It costs too much. The new cool kidz, the Chinese, aren’t part of it, and it’s too big. He closes with a Steve Case quote that neatly sums up Case himself in a sentence and rescues Rothkopf’s high school metaphor. Amazing that Rothkopf only gets it now.
. . . 99ers are organizing and beginning to look a lot like the Tea Party did so many moons ago.
In case the new Congress doesn’t fully understand this, being unemployed is not like some giant line at Shake Shack, where you get in the back and, eventually after a lot of waiting, you get your burger. The irony of not having a job for nearly two years is that it becomes increasingly difficult to find a job the longer one is unemployed. Department of Labor data shows that people who have been unemployed fewer than five weeks face a re-employment rate of 31 percent. Unemployed for more than a year? There’s just a 9 percent chance you’ll find work. Of course, part of the reason for this is that not all jobs and employees are equal, with, say, construction workers being out of work longer and thus faced with a more difficult work search. (All the more reason for promoting employment training along with a benefits extension.)
Another insulting reality of being a 99er is that your very existence was erased after the 99th week. Only beginning Jan. 1 did the Bureau of Labor Statistics begin counting the unemployed whose benefits have expired. The BLS site explains “Starting with data for January 2011, respondents will be able to report unemployment durations of up to 5 years,” adding, one assumes dryly, “This change will likely affect estimates of average (mean) duration of unemployment . . .
It might also behoove the politicians involved to remember that, despite common misconceptions, homeless people can vote. And if there is an answer to the political power, and camera-friendly anger, of the Tea Party, it may be the 99ers. Many in this population have already begun to loosely organize, mostly online, but also off line. The American 99ers Union already boasts a host of Tea-Party-like badges growing under its umbrella, including 99ersUnited, The Layoff List, Jobless Unite, Unemployed Workers Action Group, United, Angry, Voters and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, amongst others. In their grassroots amateurishness, stars and stripes iconography, anti-DC posturing and angry American rhetoric, the sites look exactly like their Tea Party counterparts.
The movement already has a snappy, media-friendly name.
Unfortunately, we think Sauer overestimates their chances. Under oligarchical social structures, the average subject er, citizen doesn’t have multi-million dollar astro-turf entities standing by to fund, support and create meme currency for attention-deficit-disorder America.
After two years of this Administration, it’s frighteningly clear to the Non-Gilded/Non-Security State Nomenklatura: we’re all on our own.
Napoleon Obama Administration: Write a letter to the DNC. Right now and tell them that, what time do you think it is? March 2010? Good. Write and tell them after the year long health care effort, we broke the Movement. Tell them that we won the war 2010 mid terms! We won the war the 2010 mid terms!
WellingtonMitch McConnell: It appears we’re losing the war. Give me more fillibusters, or give me Marshal Blucher Tea Party turnout!
NapoleonObama Administration: McConnell is beaten. He’s bled to death. Now, now the Old Guard unleash Brand Obama and on to the Dream Act!
WellingtonMcConnell: I am abandoning my scruples. I want what is left of us here! Every Republican says NO! If the Fox Nation and Tea Party don’t turn out now, they’ll break every bone in my body.
UxbridgeSam Brownback: Good policy, Wellington, McConnell.
WellingtonMcConnell: If there is anything in this world about which I positively know nothing, it is responsible governance.
Non-Rightists: Yo Obama Administration, Blucher the Movement is in the woods. Look out! The Movement is in the woods!
NapoleonObama Administration: I made one mistake in my life. I should have watered down the agenda even more!
Blucher: De Mint Raise high the black flag my children, no pity, no prisoners. I will shoot any man I see with pity in him. On, on my children!
WellingtonMcConnell: Now Ailes, now is your time !!
Democratic base and Independents: It’s the Movement, run!
NapoleonObama Administration: Why do you all stand there like frightened children? You call yourself hope and change? The Movement is too late. Too late. The Old Politics are beaten, don’t you understand? Where is your faith? The Old Politics are beaten! I’ve been in this position before with Hillary during the primaries. I lost New Hampshire to Clinton and won the battle back again in South Carolina!
Marshal NeyDavid Axelrod: Stand with me !!! Are you the non-professional Left? Stand with me! Are you believers in Brand Obama? Don’t you know me? I am David Axelrod. Axelrod, ineffective spokesperson for the Obama inner circle !!
DNC Operatives: The Movement intensity is here !!! The Obama Brand has broken!
UxbridgeSam Brownback: My God, I’ve given up my Senate seat and am now governor of Kansas.
WellingtonMcConnell: My God, Sir, so you have.
Beltway Conventional Wisdom Obama, you must water down your policies more! You have to triangulate. You must agree with McConnell. You must move to the Right!
Sergei Bondarchuk’s stunning Waterloo. Spectacle made real before the brittle cheats of CGI. When Bondarchuk filmed, he commanded the 7th largest army in the world at the time. Plus Orson Welles as a sardonic Louis XVIII. Highly recommended — regardless of your views on 2010.
Our initial post on WikiLeaks generated thoughtful responses from many readers. We highlight two here. (Elsewhere it’s called ‘Diary Rescue’). The goal is two part. First, to help current and future readers search for and find this conversation. Second, Hunter, Tbilisi and the others offer considered, structural observations about America today, and how we got here.
Each comment follows separately below. Other comments in the link supra helped develop these two as well. We recommend, for example, AnxiousModernMan’s initial synthesis and summary.
Here’s a question for you, Dear Reader, about the road ahead. Over the years together we’ve explored and explained much of the American experience under Christian Socialist Authoritarianism 2001-2008. Sadly, we also assessed Obama correctly in 2007 and warned of recent events. So, what now?
Our lengthy joint conversation remains (begun before YouTube, when Arianna was still swanning for fleeting TV camera glimpses behind Arnold in California). Sure, some (many?) of the posts were hit or miss. But together we did lay down more than a few good ones. Those remain just as relevant today.
We watch with dismay ‘informed’ Democratic thinkers post-election smugly intoning that smart Democrats need to accommodate the Movement even more. Obama’s 2 year ineffective political disengagement will suddenly morph into Clinton’s adroit, intensely engaged political counterpunching? Boehner will be as psychologically fragile as Newt? Or is it some fundamental Democratic compulsion to commit ‘suicide by Movement’?
One is reminded of the apocryphal person determined to drown. One can offer help while remaining careful not to get ensnared and pulled down, too.
Because one thing is for sure: Democrats won’t learn a thing. Again.
Watching BP’s Hayward’s defiantly vacant turn before the Duma, interrupted by his vassal Barton’s apology to his liege for the uncouth locals, we thought not so much about BP but rather the diminished stature of Congress and the nation. That we live under a plutocratic oligarchy? A matter of facts: socio-economic and demographics. The plebes are left with the vapid distractions of consumerism, ‘celebrity’-golems, and the charades of elections, ‘unprecedented reforms’, etc.
Once in a while, a member of the plutocracy has the bad form to pull the curtain back on socio-economic realities and its covering political mascara. Such blunderer must be brought into the coliseum and throw the bread up into the crowd. There are almost never any real consequences – the most painful element is enduring the jeers of people who earn less than their personal driver.
Has the oligarchy paid any meaningful consequences for their staggering malfeasance, misjudgments and outright misrepresentations? Any bank CEO? Big Pharma? Hell, the White House gave Billy Tauzin a Lewinsky. Toyota? Even a ferriner spent only a few scant moments in the 15 minute news cycle penalty box.
True, Hayward’s optics are worse: dying animals and continued spewage. His ineptitude also dragged mandarins from the other Families oil companies before Congress. While they shared penalty box time with BP they obeyed the social contract and solidarity with class strata. Their displeasure at BP subtle and akin to neighbor on the Hamptons caught with inappropriate entertainment drawing the PoPo to look at the whole block.
But what of BP’s commitment of $20 billion? Non-trivial but still a gesture. It’s a large tip for the doorman for hitting his leg with a briefcase. Didn’t Barton retract his fealty?
Architecturally, under these circumstances, no Potemkin government can take decisive action that will change the actual tectonics. Its masters will not allow it. Of course, this particular Administration finds contentment in obedience to form. It doesn’t even try to step beyond the veil of pretense into the real. Like Congress, they get their role; government minions are permitted to strut and bark (within limits).
The lesson for the rest of the oligarchs? Keep it meaningless and intangible. Avoid siphoning wealth and vitality from the American demotic goo with something tangible like oil, cars. More with Hollywood futures trading. Warren Buffett is texting that as we speak doubtlessly. How our oligarchs must be laughing. They think “What if CDOs were as black and obvious?”