Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

George Will Just Seems Extra-Insufferable Lately

I've commented on George Will before, but usually having to do with climate change--his denialism, for a supposedly smart person, is tiresome in its sheer repetitive belief that science somehow works like politics does. But to be pretty honest, on any forum he's been on, he has a habit of talking down as if he's a guy who knows things, so listen to his plausible bullshit, okay?

I think of it as "Willsplaining" for obvious reasons.

So I shrugged off his kind of "Hey, kid president, get off my White House lawn"  column of a few weeks back because--why yes, I did think it was pretty insulting to basically call the president childish, but on the other hand, I don't yet know what it's like to have a president who is younger than me, and I guess that might feel weird, huh? I mean, if Marco Rubio became president, he'd still be a whole year and a half older than me.  Maybe that is kind of a mindscrew. Who is this punk who uses the slang and has smoked the marijuana and thinks he is the boss of the country anyway, the whippersnapper? It's a generation gap thing. Maybe Will can't, like, relate.

But this thing here about putting down hashtag activism is pretty awkward in more than a few ways:

CHRIS WALLACE: I want to turn back to the kidnapping, the terrible kidnapping of these Nigerian schoolgirls in the little bit of time we have left in this segment. Because this week Michelle Obama and Malala Yousafzai joined the Bring Back Our Girls movement. More than 2 million people have now tweeted the hash tag. And George, I'm just curious. Because I'm not saying I was that familiar with this phenomenon. It's even got a name, #activism. And I'm curious what you make of it. Do you think that this is significant and helpful? And can make progress? Or do you think it's really about helping the people who tweet the hash tag feel better about themselves? 

GEORGE WILL: Exactly that. It's an exercise in self-esteem. I do not know how adults stand there facing a camera and say, bring back our girls. Are these barbarians in the wild of Nigeria are supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, oh, Michelle Obama is very crossed with us, we better change our behavior. 

WALLACE: It's trending on Twitter. 

WILL: Power is the ability to achieve intended effects. And this is not intended to have any effect on the real world. It's a little bit like environmentalism has become. But the incandescent light bulb becomes the enemy. It has no effect whatever on the planet, but it makes people feel good about themselves.

I'm just going to start with "barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria" if you don't mind--WTF?  I get that he is calling Boko Haram barbarians and not the average Nigerian, but, I hate to break it to Will, over the last two decades, the cell phone has kind of become a thing. It's internet-capable and people all over the world have used them to stage demonstrations and plan things. Yes, I think they are aware of Twitter. No, I don't think hashtag activism necessarily influences what they will do, but it might inspire heads of state and legislators who do have power to act. Because in a functioning democracy, citizens petition their representatives with their concerns. It isn't about "feeling good"--activism doesn't always get one the desired goal and there are only so many things regular people can do. But is is better than nothing. And what does he think about "letters to the editor" or "writing one's congressperson" or "signing a petition" (many of which are basically about mailing-list trolling anyway)? Could it be hashtag activism is such a waste of time in his estimation because he has no concept of the technology, and maybe it's about "self-esteem" because (shaking fist) "these kids these days think they're so hot"?

But comparing sympathizing and wanting to do something about these children who are in a terrifying situation and light bulbs is a special kind of assholery. Okay, we get it. Old Grumpy Grampy Wills doesn't care for the tree-hugging hippies who are trying to take his old reliable Edison-era volt-hogs away. And there is probably some overlap between folks who love the new-fangled lower-energy devices and also think girls should not be stolen from their families and sold. But I would very much like to think the default setting on our morality should be that we do not like the idea of girls being kidnapped and sold and whether we care for new-fangled things like the Twitter-box or those swirly-bulbs is besides the point. Because pompously putting people down for giving a basic human shit about other people is kind of awful.

So I'm saying George Will is awful, and I do not know how one as an adult gets in front of a camera and compares kidnapped children to light bulbs.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm not sure I can agree with "lately."

I grew up in D.C., reading the Washington Post.

He has ALWAYS been an insufferable and dishonest asshole.

Alicia said...

Vixen, I was following you fine until the last part. George Will compared light bulbs with the effectiveness of twitter trends, not with either the kidnapped girls or wanting to help those girls.

You're definitely onto something with the generation gap. I'm elderly like Will, and I admit that my own first reaction to the First Lady's sign was puzzlement, because it seemed so weak for a message from a famous face of the world's main center of power.

Many of us old people associate Twitter with adolescents and the celebrities they adore or love to hate; we associate Twitter trends with the image of a ferry's passengers rushing from one side of the boat to the other to look at the emotional equivalent of Miley Cyrus or whale pods or zombies.

So we would expect the First Lady to make a short, impassioned, eloquent statement about getting the Nigerian girls back to their homes safely, and in turn that would be trended on Twitter by others. Instead we see what seems to be sadness and fear in a hashtag photo for Twitter, just like any helpless, confused, worried mom with no recourse. She's just a civilian, of course, but I would have expected her to convey the implication of what her husband can command.

On a positive note about the origination of the hashtag in Nigeria -- years ago I read Keith B Richburg's book Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa, and was dismayed to read of his discovery that in Africa nowhere did they count their dead, whereas in the West, not only were the dead counted, but their names and ages were demanded by journalists and the public.

Nigerian participation in the Twitter hashtag is a comforting reminder that cultures can change for the better and perhaps have in some places. The girls are not dead, but they matter in a way not recognized in Africa not so long ago.

Vixen Strangely said...

I think your perspective might be fairer to Will, Formerly Amherst. You know, this conversation smacks of McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message".

From Will's perspective, Twitter may just be a more frivolous medium--kind of the way folks drag out Warhol's 15 minutes of fame 140 characters at a time. It's kind of a "small d" democratizing media tool, though, in that the weight of the message desseminates it more rapidly--a successful meme, if you will. To my eyes, the use of Twitter for Michelle Obama was just a show of solidarity, it was giving a signal-boost to the non-Twitter community by giving the weekly presidential radio & internet address. To someone unused to Twitter, use of the social media was the anomaly. or her, it was a way to acknowledge the Nigerian mothers whose Twitter campaign first really brought this to world attention.

The medium kind of being the message can work both ways, though. I used to think that as a medium became more familiar--I recall McLuhan was mostly talking about tv, and I grew up in front of a color tv set--well, you just didn't think about the medium used as much. But come to think of it, from the prize punditry spot of a Sunday chat show, it is possible what Will said would seem more elitist to me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vixen, you have me confused. I am not Alicia. You are half right, however. The beautiful and radiant Alicia is Mrs. Formerly Amherst.

Like any liberated husband, I do not tell her where to post, what to say, or when to do it. And she has gotten kind of interested in your site because of my own exchange with you.

I promise you, she smells better than I do, looks better, and went to a better university. She is not an active poster, but does have something to say once in a while. Although she has read Out of America, I never have. My reading takes other directions. She has talked a lot about this business of the writer discovering that Africans don't name their dead. It's a kind of powerful metaphor for her, in some way defining the different sensibilities between African and the United States.

Whoa! McLuhan. It takes me back. I once saw him and even exchanged a few words. My friend asked him if he was a "puncil sharpener." McLuhan thought that was funny because of his great scholarship of James Joyce.

Picking up where my wife left off, I would have to wonder then, why the First Lady would choose a cold medium rather than a hot one if she regarded the subject with great importance.

You will recall that McLuhan said that the pictures on TV sets were composed of dots. And as it required a human mind to put these dots together into a picture, the viewer was the screen on which the media played. And this is why the eye became the ear (what in a tribal society would be conveyed mouth to ear) and therefore one was back to the tribal village. And also this was why TV was a hot medium. You will remember all that business about a movie having a projector behind the viewer and therefore being a colder medium, since the mind of the viewer had fewer requirements as part of a participation mystique with the television.

It seems to me that the tweets would once again be a cold medium. But of course people weren't doing tweets when McLuhan was alive.

I was struck by my wife's insight into the perception of tweeting relative to the different generations. I had not thought of it, but I completely agree with her. At least half of the population is too old to take tweeting seriously if they do not happen to be in an industry that causes them to be avant garde.

As to what "Alicia" thinks of all this, I will leave up to her to decide whether she wishes to pursue the matter further.

--Formerly Amherst

Vixen Strangely said...

My apologies to the Mrs and yourself--I think I am only used to having so many regular commenters...