A Year in Reading: Lydia Kiesling

December 17, 2016 | 15 books mentioned 50 6 min read

My dad lives in Greece and this September we took the baby who is no longer a baby there for a visit. I was vaguely dreading the trip, even though I love Greece and miss it dearly when I’m not there, which is most of the time. I didn’t want to be so callous — or to appear to be so callous — as to go on vacation to a country experiencing a refugee crisis with the express intention of avoiding the crisis. “We are visiting family,” I told people preemptively.

covercoverWhen we arrived I was surprised to see that everything looked eerily normal in my old Athenian haunts and on the island where we spent most of the trip. But while we were there, this article came out, and I was reminded that if you are not seeing the bad thing it is because someone doesn’t want you to see it, whether that someone is yourself or a group of politicians and others with whom you willingly or unwillingly collude. So we colluded, and had a nice time, and sat on a beach watching Italian package tourists doing group calisthenics, and the men we saw selling plastic clips and doodads on the beach were not refugees, or not new ones  — perhaps they were born elsewhere; now they spoke with one another in perfect Greek. During naptime I read Fates and Furies and Swing Time and Transit, and it felt like a sin to enjoy them all like I did.

coverLater I read Exit West, Mohsin Hamid’s forthcoming novel about the refugee crisis — a novel the surreal elements of which are only as surreal as the things people are facing in Syria and Iraq and Greece and points beyond. It’s a haunting yet spare and somehow efficient book that describes how quickly the conditions of ordinary people can change, and how few reasonable options those people have once events are in motion. I read the novel months after reading this unsparing article about the people who have been preparing for the (increasingly unlikely) day when Bashar al-Assad might be called to account. On Twitter, I see pictures of mortar-blasted infants and bloodied strollers on the ruined streets of Aleppo.

coverI have been thinking about collusion, and bubbles, and things seen and unseen. After Greece I read Negroland, in which Margo Jefferson describes upper-middle class black families whose class bubble was insufficient defense against the effects of whiteness:

Caucasian privilege lounged and sauntered, draped itself casually about, turned vigilant and commanding, then cunning and devious. We marveled at its tonal range, its variety, its largess in letting its humble share the pleasures of caste with its mighty.

I read about her relatives who took the course of abdicating and living as white people, functionally erasing whole parts of their lives: “When Uncle Lucious stopped being white, my parents invited him to dinner,” Jefferson writes.

coverAfter the election I read a series of astute tweets I wish I could find now about how liberal white Americans approach their lives with the same unfortunate tactics as illiberal ones; that is, they create their own enclaves and wall themselves off from elements they find unsavory. My deceased grandparents lived in a California county with a population of two people per square mile, and 71 percent of those people voted for Donald Trump. The last time we drove the hours and hours to get there I saw a huge “Kafir” flag on a lonely homestead, someone’s warning to would-be jihadists who might find themselves in the goddamned middle of nowhere, U.S.A. I try to picture life there now and experience a failure of imagination. I read Where I Was From, Joan Didion’s great California book on the “vexed issue” of “a birthright squandered, a paradise lost,” the illusion of which seems to animate so much of the white American psyche. (Even her investigation stops a few hundred miles short of that high-desert plain.)

covercovercoverSince coming aboard The Millions I feel like I know the titles of more books than ever before, while actually reading fewer books. I hate this. Partly it’s because I no longer have a commute with a daily designated hour for reading, but really it’s because I stare too long at my phone. Nonetheless, sometimes conditions and moods and books coincided to make memorable reading experiences. Before I quit my job I read Grief Is the Thing with Feathers over a single day’s commute and wept into my jacket on the train. Over Thanksgiving, while talking heads brayed horribly from the television in my in-laws’ kitchen, I read a new edition of The Haunting of Hill House with Laura Miller’s introduction. I have the best couch in the world; on it I read Here Comes the Sun and The Last Samurai and Queen Sugar and Housekeeping and Void Star and Gold Fame Citrus over the course of precious, orgiastic pig-in-a-blanket afternoons. My husband found me bawling as I read the final page of the latter — in addition to being a warning for the planet, I can’t think of a novel that better captures the bruising horror of loving small children.

coverEvery year I seem to read about bereaved parents. I read this beautiful essay about a random, preventable disaster, and I read this article about an inevitable one. I’ve fixated cruelly on the family in the second piece. I tell myself Jesus doesn’t want me to politicize the death of a child, but everything is inflected by politics lately, and the rancor of a walled-off elite like myself for my non-elite white brethren is at its zenith. The rancor extends both ways, obviously; I read this heartbreaking article, and subsequently learned there are benighted people who believe it’s part of a vast liberal hoax. After watching Alton Sterling’s son weep next to his mother onscreen I read Citizen — its cover an homage to another dead child — aware that I was showing up late and unprepared, more colluding.

I felt late and unprepared again after the U.S. election, and I read this essay by Uday Jain, his reminder that “there is no single…story where if we just do this, this, and this, things will be fine.” I have been thinking about Jain’s lovely formulation:

When one gives up on being a Rawlsian, absolutely transparent to oneself, perfectly good in one’s own life, autonomous liberal subject — one gains the Platonic, the feminist, the Marxist sense of a self as constituted essentially by interdependence. I am not an individual. I am the voices and affects and legacies and bodies of everyone I’ve ever read, talked to, befriended, and loved; their parents and grandparents; the dead. Solidarity consists in this refusal of individuality — and simultaneously the maintenance of difference that makes interdependence possible.

coverI have wondered how to reconcile my interest in literature and my sense of it as a fundamentally bourgeois chronicle of individual concerns — my Of Human Bondage, my The Sea, the Sea — with the solidarity Jain describes. I don’t understand exactly how literature works with politics; perhaps the answer for now is simply that literature is one of the most pleasing and enduring ways of capturing those voices and affects and legacies. Currently I’m reading Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life; I dog-eared the page where she writes “Every word one writes, every dream and fear and hope and despair one reveals to others and to oneself — they all end up like chicks refusing to be returned to the eggshell.” (The chicks she mentions are dead, so it’s not super-hopeful, but what a line.)

coverI can’t stop worrying all these things between my teeth. My mom says I have to log off and tune out and I snarl at her, as though everything is her fault. I feel calm when I reread A Dance to the Music of Time. In volume one I found a torn-out poem from The New Yorker by Adam Zagajewski — “Erinna from Telos.” (I like the Claire Cavanagh translation that ends with “grasshopper” and not the one on Google Books that ends with “cricket.”) The poem is about death and art and history; my mother, Miss Cheer-Up-Charlie, is the one who tore it out of the magazine (she, by the way, exclusively reads morose novels by Eastern-European intellectuals). But I wonder if she has a point when she chastises me: if there is any value in feeling sad, any point wallowing in rancor, if you are not going to be good. If you are going to know about those bloody strollers and continue to go about your business.

Because I am going about my business, in spite of reading all these miserable things.  The day after the election, I saw the faintest of faint lines on a pregnancy test; it disappeared within a few days, as though the egg, while trying to settle in, had been warned off by troubled vibes.  This was less demoralizing than it might have been if I didn’t have a small child to parent. She just turned two, and she says, “Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy,” and I answer, “Yes Yes Yes Yes.” She loves our cats, and she pets them and kisses them until they scratch her, and she says “scratchoo” and begs me to put a “benden” on the wound. From her I learned about that thing that Zadie Smith calls “joy” in something else I read this year:

Occasionally the child, too, is a pleasure, though mostly she is a joy, which means in fact she gives us not much pleasure at all, but rather that strange admixture of terror, pain, and delight that I have come to recognize as joy, and now must find some way to live with daily. This is a new problem.

Once you feel joy you can’t unfeel it; I’m fiending helplessly for more. The polar ice is melting, but I want to hold another baby.  I feel like the grasshopper who sang all summer.

More from A Year in Reading 2016

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is the editor of The Millions and the author of The Golden State, a novel forthcoming from FSG/MCD. She is on Twitter at @lydiakiesling. You can read more of her writing at www.lydiakiesling.com.

50 comments:

  1. “everything is inflected by politics lately, and the rancor of a walled-off elite like myself for my non-elite white brethren is at its zenith.”

    Lydia, I can’t really believe you believe it’s acceptable to write such a thing as the site’s editor in chief. Also, I’m curious as to how you define “elite”.

  2. Also, regarding that link to the New Yorker’s shamefully blatant pro-war propaganda about Syria: it would be quite good to listen to what the astonishingly brave journalist, Eva Bartlett, reports from Syria about all that (from about 24:30 until 32:00)… less than ten minutes of your time! Well worth it for a little exposure to the largely suppressed, and very honest, anti-war voices coming out of Syria:

    https://youtu.be/ebE3GJfGhfA?t=1469

  3. But, Steve, she’s beating herself up for being a “walled off elite” whilst bemoaning the very rancor she feels for all those who allegedly elected Trump. She’s not proud of this — she’s checking her privilege, as the kids say.

    And, based on all the post-mortems, we “elite” liberals arrogantly dismissed the white working classes in tiny, non-coastal towns, the salt of the earth in their red American caps who dot the hinterlands and rust belt, the benighted faithful who couldn’t wait to wave the confederate flag, to “not be politically correct,” to build the wall, to save Xmas from the infidel and Starbucks, to save marriage and the unborn, to assign proper bathrooms, and on and on. That’s the narrative we are fed, at any rate — we didn’t give these real Americans enough respect, and now we must pay with our democracy.

    (The fact that big money sourced both campaigns is usually left out of this version, as is the plight of many fine people who are out of work, and, yes, forgotten in this economy. I don’t hate middle America — just the ugliness that oozed out with the very real issues.)

    Either way, many or most of these Trump voters were white, yes? and considerations of race and elitism seem central to any discussion of this –or any– American election. Are you upset that race was mentioned at all? That she cops to being elite — c’mon, you know you are, too, oh prolix man of many words. I can usually follow your leaps but am stymied – -please, help me to understand!

  4. @Priskill

    “But, Steve, she’s beating herself up for being a “walled off elite” whilst bemoaning the very rancor she feels for all those who allegedly elected Trump. She’s not proud of this — she’s checking her privilege, as the kids say.”

    But Priskill, it appears that what Lydia is doing here is mentioning her privilege, then indulging in precisely the anti-non-elite-white stereotyping her privilege allows.

    Does Lydia belong to an elite that’s smarter, more moral and better at raising kids than the non-elites? How is this elite defined? It can’t be a material definition, because, for example, the vulgarian Trump is by orders of magnitude wealthier than Lydia (we presume), and I doubt either Trump or Lydia would allow the other into his/her club.

    So, is this elite Lydia belongs to an elite of advanced degrees? And does this mean to imply that whites with advanced degrees don’t own guns? Or is this elite specifically the whites who have advanced degrees and don’t own guns? If so: do these non-gun-owning white people with advanced degrees tend to be better parents than their inferiors? Or are elites with bad parenting skills less likely to make the “news”?

    My point is that this kind of talk of an “elite” and its implied higher attributes is an extension of Liberal Propaganda; it’s a fantasy designed to flatter and reassure the fantasy’s target while sharpening a sense of some Other’s awful difference. I’ve known rich people and I’ve known poor people and I’ve known an equal proportion of fools in each group. Likewise do I know the super-educated and the education-starved and good and bad parents are fairly evenly distributed between the categories.

    A distant ex is an Ueber- Liberal who married an Internet Service Provider mogul and she shocked my a while back by posting, on her Faceborg, a picture of some rifle-bearing hunter mocking the poor corpse of a huge deer she’d had shot on her (considerable) property because the deer are, to her, “large rats”. This was in the heart of the bluest state. It fits no profile. It is Sloppy Reality. No particular group is mostly right and good (except for the cross-category collection of individuals who are right and good).

    I used to have debates about religion in my distant youth and often I’d say, “Isn’t it amazing that out of all the world’s religions, YOU were born into the one that happens to be right!?” Very few people got that joke.

    And, Priskill, with my closing hug I have to tell you: I’m no member of any “elite”. I am a Serf, born so and destined to die so. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    @Nat West

    Of course the very powerful and extensive propaganda machine that’s owned and operated by the war machine responsible for wrecking SO many lives and countries, in fewer than a twenty years, attack Eva Bartlet, Nat. How could we expect anything else? Especially now that we’ve entered this Neo-McCarthyist Red Scare (which I promise, most of us: we’ll be embarrassed about it in twenty years; taking a page from the Right Wing playbook is never a good look for Liberals).

    Bartlett effectively rebuts those spurious attempts at a take-down (and, btw: Snopes is nothing more than an ideologically-slanted website run by a couple in California, Dave and Babs Mikkelson, and they aren’t in possession of magical Google-powers).

    But before we get to brave Eva Bartlett’s rebuttal (this is one woman against a War Machine) I’d like to get you to consider this Weird New Norm you seem to have accepted, Nat: NATO gets a mandate to bomb countries with governments “we” don’t like from where, exactly? JHVH? Even if Assad is as corrupt as the Clintons (I doubt it), that’s a matter for Syria itself to deal with. Bombing and Destabilizing a country to “save it” has become a favorite NeoCon trick (brilliant: hide behind “humanitarian interventions” while achieving geopolitical goals). Did they invade South Africa when it was under Apartheid, Nat? Did they intervene in Rwanda? Nah: it wouldn’t have served their purposes to do so.

    Here is what Eva Bartlett says in response to those War Machine claims against her:

    https://off-guardian.org/2016/12/16/eva-bartlett-on-syria-responding-to-buzzfeed/

  5. Hey Steve,

    I’ve just got ask: an un-credentialed freelancer with remarkable access to otherwise inaccessible sites, UN envoys, and…hm…Moscow, doesn’t even merit a twinge out of your skeptical lobe? We have “Eva Bartlett” in eastern Ukraine, too: his name is Graham Phillips. Granted, he’s not quite as camera-friendly as Eva the freelancer, and being a rough-and-tumble working class Brit, he’s not got Eva’s round vowels nor her Canadian sincerity and quasi-credibility as a “concerned neighbo(u)r of America”, but oddly, they both draw a paycheck from RT, aka, the Vova Putin and Seriozha Lavrov Variety Hour. And they both – back to Eva & Graham – love vocabulary lifted right out of the Che Guevara playbook.

    Two Brief Taxonomies, and I’ll sign off:
    1)
    Are the statistics (introduced and swiftly dispensed with to discourage closer scrutiny) from Aleppo, etc. hyperbolic? Are a range of geo-political aims baldly apparent in the enactment of violence in Syria? Is Taleb’s celebrated “principle of minority rule” completely ignored by careerist State Department (pick your country) officials, cause, heck, it’s hard to understand and heeding it might lead to squandered opportunities for access to budgetary millions?

    2)
    Are those Russian Su-25 Frogfoot bombers or American A-10 Warthog hitting Aleppo? Are those Russian tanks in Eastern Ukraine or American? Is America the Great Satan or might there be others? Am I a liberal, a conservative, or a post-structuralist obfuscationist? (I may have given that last one away.)

    For an infidel, your credulity is beaming brightly on this one.

    EPILOGUE: Just this, Lydia is good people. And, as if she needed my help, this is a conscience piece, and it – and the sensibility it reflects, illustrated well in the reading she’s done and recommends – deserves a chance to ferment.

  6. Il’ja, old chum!

    1) “EPILOGUE: Just this, Lydia is good people.”

    Lydia is good people who is eerily blind, I think, to her powerful (and obvious) biases. While I appreciate the fact that she chides herself for letting her patience (with her white trash inferiors) falter during these troubling times, don’t you think Lydia could work a little harder at cross-examining the stereotypes before she commits them to editorial print? I mean, after two or three months of 80% of The Millions staff beating the same effigy, how about a postmortem? Not for the effigy, but for the spirit of Lit qua Lit … at The Millions.

    And, re: Lydia’s “Year of Reading” reference to Syria:

    This is how Propaganda works, I’m sure you know: it isn’t a funny poster or a nasty catchphrase, it’s an horizon-to-horizon immersion in a twisted version of the truth.

    War Economies rely heavily on Propaganda because people don’t naturally vote for War… they need to be persuaded. And Propaganda States aren’t in the habit of allowing countervailing (is this a “prolix” word-choice?) voices to rise to prominence. Ensuring horizon-to-horizon homogeneity of worldview. Which produces weird effects like Liberals and Conservatives alike having little to say that’s substantively critical of the mind-boggling epic of American Military Adventurism of the post-9/11 era.

    Or even weirder effects like HRC (the corporate butler and warmonger) a “hero” while Eva Bartlett (one brave woman against a War Machine) is worthy of your disdain? If you’re worried about Bartlett’s funding, how about Clinton’s funding? Being funded by the people who fund ISIS (the Saudis and Qatar) … that’s better than a check from RT?

    2) Il’ja, I’m afraid your Syria questions are jumping the queue ahead of the simple question I can’t seem to get answered around here: what is the US Military doing in Syria/ Iraq? Why isn’t the Assad Presidency, whatever its attributes, an internal Syrian matter?

    If you want to blame the Russians for being invited to Syria, that’s fine… as long as you blame the Americans for preceding them there.

    Again: what are these Superpowers doing Bombing The Fuck out of Syria, killing Syrians and (on the NATO side) unleashing ISIS on them…? I’m sure you understand that “Humanitarian Bombings” is an oxymoronic joke of Kubrickian blackness.

    Some background details before you answer:

    “Between August 8, 2014 and November 30, 2015, the U.S. spent 5.36 billion dollars on military intervention in Syria. This includes deploying 3,550 troops to Iraq to aid Iraqi soldiers in regaining control of cities such as Ramadi, as well as airstrikes with drones in Syria. These efforts have resulted in the estimated deaths of 15,000 ISIL militants. However, they have also come at the cost of 17,282 civilians killed in Iraq with 3 million more displaced. In Syria, 200,000 civilians have been killed, and 9 million more displaced.”

    Again. Please. Make it clear for us, Il’ja: why is/was the US Military in Syria/ Iraq/ Afghanistan/ Libya/ Somalia/ Yemen….?

  7. Steven, I always appreciate your comments. Untrammelled gun rights form a pillar of the right-wing political platform, as does the rhetoric of “law and order” and the nameless but powerful specter of bad guys invoked both in the article (quoted below) and in the debates preceding the election. The election has also been analyzed at length as reflective of a divide between coastal city-dwellers and so-called real Americans who live anywhere else, lacking in nuance as that assessment may be. The demographic stereotypes are careless but they are potent, and I thought the timing of the article (December 1) and some of its passages were written almost as to inflame them; as you suggest, that probably says more about my own susceptibility to them. Again, I value your insights (and your legitimite scepticism, expressed elsewhere on the site, about what would have been my preferred electoral outcome).

    “She’s more scared of not having one. She still has a child to raise, and what if there’s an intruder, and that intruder has a gun, and she doesn’t? How would she recover from that? How could she live knowing she could have protected Jaxon but had decided she was too afraid to have a gun?

  8. @Steve –okay, i get what you are saying. We libs can be annoying and holier-than-thou — just like every other group along the political spectrum. And, of course, “No particular group is mostly right and good “– we are all operating from our base of assumptions. Absolutely.

    But — I still don’t think that Lydia exposed blind bias — quite the opposite, she exposes pain and awareness in the manner of a self-reflective think-piece. Nobody is as hard on her as she is herself. I went back and read each of the linked articles and was struck by how alike each grieving family was, regardless of circumstance. And the gut punch of a Sandy Hook — or an accidental sibling murder or chance death by municipal neglect — all of these, to a parent of a young child, a possibly pregnant parent, are hugely disorienting. This is a piece meant to shake off the memento mori, that dread sense of the world as a giant missile aimed at your heart.

    I don’t think she’s blind at all — just sharing what she believes to be right and correct vs. how she feels in a vulnerable moment. And that internal dialectic is what made this piece click for me. And willingness to argue with herself. That’s very different, I think, from blithely assuming “the other’s awful difference”– yes, I do not love Sandy Hook deniers and the rabid gun rights movement but I was made to feel (as I think Lydia intended) tremendous empathy for every family that loses a child, maybe even especially the poor family whose gun enthusiasms resulted in the death of their daughter. Seriously, is there a better description of hell than the grandmother trying to drown out the Greek chorus of “Guns don’t kill people — people do” that echoes through her poor daughter’s insistence that, yes, it was her three year old chorus to her daughter’s insistence that, yes, it was in fact her 3 year old who killed her daughter, not the gun. I — well, no words, just tremendous sadness for everyone involved.

    Oh, and as for “elite” “class” and other vague concepts like “soul” and “spirit” –I’m never really sure what to make of them. I guess if you look up middle class middle-aged white woman, there I am, smiling nervously and worrying if i did/thought/wrote/said the right thing. For me, “elite” refers to the habits of mind, not bank account, university, neighborhood, etc. I just assume everyone reading and writing here is, perforce, a member of that elite, regardless of background.

    And prolix was really a cheeky back-handed compliment. Thanks for answering my question — cheers, Steve!

  9. Lydia!

    When I was still on Facebook, I watched in bemused horror as adult friends with responsible jobs circulated, for example, that “Baby bear in Chinese Bile Farm Cries “Mama!” and Mother Bear Mercy-Kills it!” (I’m not making that up) meme…. blatant anti-Chinese Propaganda… almost every day there was new Utter Nonsense to confront and it worked. People gobbled it up. I had to quit Facebook: it was forcing my opinions of old friends too low.

    Go back to articles from 2003 and look at the “serious” coverage of the run-up to Gulf War 2: read Remnick in the New Yorker: “The United States has been wrong, politically and morally, about Iraq more than once in the past; Washington has supported Saddam against Iran and overlooked some of his bloodiest adventures. The price of being wrong yet again could be incalculable.” Hawkish but with a circumspect veneer, eh? Utter nonsense.

    Is Remnick a stupid man? Clearly not. Can he have missed the point that the original excuse for hankering to invade Iraq was 9/11, although no one with a brain and a tenth grade education thought Iraq had anything to do with 9/11? Clearly not. Therefore: Remnick could only have been a cynical manipulator of the truth on the topic of Iraq, in 2003… plainly put: a liar. Though, over at Lithub, recently, I read: “Yesterday afternoon, David Remnick, the man swiftly emerging as our nation’s moral center…”

    Remnick wasn’t the only liar in 2003; there was precious little content in the MSM that *wasn’t* supporting the deafening national howl for blood, despite the fact (again) that no one with a brain and a little education fell for the Cheney/Rumsfeld ploy of connecting 9/11 to Saddam Hussein with catch-phrases and pretzel logic. So we invaded, Saddam was hanged, Iraq was flattened, many died, no WMD or connections to 9/11 were found… Bush shrugged. The conversation changed.

    Pattern repeated in Libya. Lies told, sovereign murdered, nation flattened… conversation changed.

    And now: Syria. We know the drill. The MSM beats the drums of Propaganda. You link to the New Yorker article. Very few ask: what RIGHT do we have to drop bombs on that country? Why are we there?

    At what point do we become morally culpable for being so easily fooled by our cynically manipulative idols and owners?

    When Dubya was King, he could do no wrong among his voters/ fan base… his only critics were among the people who hadn’t voted for him. Well, Ditto with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George Senior and Ronald Reagan. Ditto with Trump. That’s how it works, no? 50% hate the POTUS, 50% love the POTUS, neither side seems to be able to transcend the trance-inducing partisan ping pong, when they get their turn to be the “winning side”, in order to make objective, fact-based, ideology-free judgments regarding actual conditions.

    Donald Trump deserves lots of spit and fist-shaking. But so, clearly, do Hillary and Barack, both of whom having gone on the *mainstream* record as committing War Crimes… it’s just that we don’t describe them as “War Crimes” any more. I mean, Lydia, what have we become? I’ve read lots of love-letters to both HRC and BHO at The Millions and I’m wondering how such bright people can be so… drugged?

    We know BHO signs off, weekly, on the deaths of targets who have not had their rights read to them, have not been tried and sentenced… signs off also on the inevitable deaths of people (civilians) we are neither trying to kill nor going out of our way to avoid killing. Life is cheap over there, no? Beloved POTUS signs off on these deaths… children are incinerated/ decapitated in their beds and strollers… he sings a song, appears on Kimmel (or whatever) we LOVE him. Vulgar Trump we hate, the charming drone-killer we LOVE.

    Lydia, you are understandably upset by the story of the little boy who found the gun and shot his sister to death. What about the stories of the babies/ grandmas/ brothers and drones? What about the story of the 500,000 starved-to-death kids under Clintons/ Albright? How can one accidental gun death enrage/devastate you while 500,000 incidental starvation deaths have so little impact that you LONG for the governance of one of the women who presided (with her husband) *carelessly* over these absolutely painful and pointless deaths?

    I was raised to think of books (good books/ great books… not the lame/ crappy stuff) as Heroic. I became obsessed at an early age; had collected a library of a few hundred (mostly second hand pulp and book club! laugh) books by the time I was thirteen. I got and get closer and closer to all kinds of Truth by reading Great Texts carefully, an act I consider to be the perfect opposite of falling for badly-written Propaganda. Just as great writers (as Great Writers and not necessarily the beings channeling the Art) are the opposite, in their goals, methods and impact, of these blatantly lying, venal, unempathetic and opportunistic Shits who appear to be running things. I would have assumed such a distinction would be written in NEON at a venerable Lit Site. ULYSSES is not propaganda; THE SEA; THE SEA is not propaganda. Propaganda is, at heart, Idiotic. It delivers an idiotic message with a persuasive tone and the trappings of Authority. Fifteen minutes of careful thought (or close reading) usually rumbles it!

    For me, it’s a nearly- painful cognitive dissonance to come to a Lit site hoping for a detailed discussion of Jenny Diski or Harold Brodkey and to read longing paeans to a banal (probably evil) War Criminal instead. But: again: we no longer seem to define War Crime the way many Progressives/Liberals did c. Vietnam. It’s not a subjective matter. There is Denial happening, Lydia. That’s why I feel compelled to comment. The public record is easily accessed.

    “The demographic stereotypes are careless but they are potent…”

    Isn’t that why we should treat them like loaded guns?

    I’d prefer chatting with one honest, polite, humble, even-keeled and clear-minded member of the White Trash (and I’ve done the very thing) than play along with any self-described (“soi disant” in the language of the prolix) member of any “elite”.

    And so would you, I suspect, Lydia. Precisely because you are, as Il’ja puts it, Good People, I think

  10. Hey, Steven

    not sure what you’re asking. Am I unconvinced that American foreign policy is not disproportionately applied to military intervention? And that this intervention is disproportionately focused on matters in the Middle East? You know the answer to these things. I’ll make it practical: Crimea gets annexed, Eastern Ukraine gets occupied by Russia and the US State Department plays mind-fart regarding the Budapest Memorandum. Maybe democracy IS getting stale, got that old man smell, senile, CRS Syndrome to the max. Because the US State Department flushed the pooch down the shitter when it came to keeping its promises (1992 is so long ago, I know) re Ukrainian sovereignty.

    And now your “invited” pal, Vova Putin, is waging a two-front war, and all the world (and apparently, you) seem to notice is that “brown people are dying”.

    All victims are equal.

    US Policy has committed – opting to some professional lingo from days gone by – one sin of commission and one sin of omission. It “cared too much” in Syria, but “cared not at all” in Ukraine. Our stats aren’t so flashy – 1.8 million refugees, 12,000 war dead, a shattered economy – come to think of it, “they” don’t even let us USE the WORD “refugee”, since, after all the bombs that landed on the houses of all those non-POC folks didn’t send them all the way to Germany – yet – to find a new roof. Orwell trying to sit up and say “YES!” but thumping his forehead on his coffin lid.

    (Not your fault. The grotesque [and crypto-grotesque] displays of bigotry in evidence on the “relevant” thread over there has me irritated beyond levels of prudence.)

    But there is this: NONE of this is Lydia’s fault. This is something I can’t seem to get across – have got to find other words. What powermongers are after and how the rank and file are manipulated to assent to those goals are fundamentally two distinct issues. Morally, ethically, epistemologically, and categorically. We largely agree on your serf vs ruling shitlord paradigm. So much to discuss here, but yet this:

    Lydia (with help) makes this place happen. A place where incremental change happens in the level of understanding, engagement and action of a million distinct entities, aka, people, aka hearts & minds. Her level of engagement, complicity, or whatever the implication is – penitence? – isn’t my call. Nor yours. “Good people” isn’t metaphor for “good people on a contingency basis.” Just “good”. I’m a country boy, all that fancy Berlin sidestepping has got me shaking my head.

    You know this. Or am I guilty of “whitesplaining”? Jesus.

    That Vova Putin’s style of leadership is what attracts Donald Trump cannot surprise you, can it? And that Trump’s ascendancy can frighten, offend, or spur to greater levels of engagement (a) person(s) as intelligent as Lydia, et al., including the contributors to a site with as much to offer as this one can surely only encourage you, no? Or is your conscience – as the apostle Paul shaped it – “cauterized”? (I know the answer to this, oh preparer of unsophisticated chili.)

    Demographic stereotypes are as dangerously potent as they are cumbersomely abstract (see other thread) and, as we’ve recently seen demonstrated, wickedly inaccurate. They become disproportionately potent when they are applied in the particular. QED. The only hope for overcoming their unwarranted influence lies in willing engagement that resists preconditions of any sort. (FWIW, I think you have spoken well, and clearly, on that other thread regarding this very point.)

    But when you describe “War Economies [that] rely on…horizon-to-horizon homogeneity of worldview” and its “weird effects”, you realize that you are describing MY world to a T. Or rather, to a TV.

    Because my TV is so great. No Bernie Sanders-style candidates, BLM, or stories about Congressmen doing prison time for groping an intern. No complications from pesky Gay Pride parades or 40% non-white population. If that gets boring, I head east for a bit. Role-Playing in Medieval NovoRossia! And every self-appointed commissar in those freshly minted fascist republics has Vlad P’s picture on his office wall. (Was he invited, I wonder?)

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. Territories the size of Massachusetts and New Jersey – gone. Their resources, industry and uppity populations, (aka, “people”) too. If this refugee crisis, unfashionable war and social breakdown aren’t sexy enough maybe the 700 Russian tanks 450 klicks east of me, pointed preliminarily (and provisionally) at Kyiv (Berlin, after), will get somebody’s attention. Europe’s largest nation on its one remaining knee is apparently insufficiently tragic to extract more than “statements of deep concern” in lands more sophisticated than my own.

    Still, I can’t help asking, what’s the point in guessing whose Satan is the real Satan, when we’ve got Lydia to figure out?

    “Tell me where is fancy bred
    Or in the heart or in the head?”

    This is the great swindle of all this information at our fingertips: despite appearances, we still don’t know shit. We’re working with smoke signals and the damn wind keeps shifting. The data we swallow is toxic before it passes our tongues, and yet that doesn’t release us from the obligation to digest it.

    One thing, however, that I can stomach with no ill effects is The Millions – its tone deliberate and engaged. It allows me the rare, rare luxury of hanging out for long stretches in “prudent man territory”, where I am allowed no speculation, just plenty of concentration, plenty of fuel to get the synapses firing on long walks among the potholes.

    All that to say this: I don’t see the purpose in begrudging anyone who submitted here the chance to vent, lament, or repent. “Begrudging” leads so readily to “restricting” and consequently to “outlawing”. Assad’s BFF #1 is singing that song all over Europe – in France, Poland, Czech & Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK, propagandizing (and funding directly) a mindset that advocates spicing up public policy with words like ‘miscegenation’, ‘perversion’ and ‘purity’.

    But, hey, he was invited, right? (No, I will NEVER let you live this down.)

    I don’t know that. Can’t. Neither can you, but we can know, and do, that Lydia is good people, and the Millions a good place that exists, and resists, despite all the noise.

    peace to you and yours,

    il’ja

  11. I want to echo Il’ja on this, and stress two points:

    1. Selective Propaganda. While I share Steven Augustine’s anger about American imperialism and the need for a more radical left in the United States, it’s impossible not to notice that Augustine relies to an exceptionally large degree on systematic, fraudulent propaganda from the Alt-Right and from Russia in making his points. I’m assuming that he believes it’s his job to counter Western power by any and all means, and that the use of intentionally falsified information is justified. I disagree with this. I can’t think of a time where it’s more important to defend the complexity and difficulty of factual accuracy against the simplicity and self-righteousness of propaganda. Western media sources have their biases, of course, and it’s important to criticize those biases. But you can’t pretend that there’s no difference between the Big Lies of the Alt-Right and Putin versus the fact-checking and journalistic practices of publications like Libe, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, and other publications that make a genuine effort to get their facts straight. Those of us who want a stronger and more radical left around the world shouldn’t be using propaganda from Breitbart and Russia to achieve our goals. We should be demanding stricter standards of accuracy, not looser ones, in making our arguments. My father used to say that if you have to lie to win an argument, you haven’t won the argument. We don’t need to lie to make the left stronger. The facts are on our side. We should be taking greater care to make that clear. If we surrender to the Putin-Breitbart view that everything is propaganda and all that matters is power, we’re giving the right too great an advantage. The obfuscationist approach that Il’ja has noted in Augustine’s arguments is a) unnecessary because the facts support us and b) damaging because it plays into the hands of the extreme right.

    2. Russian Aggression. This is a subset of the first point. Augustine’s arguments too often take the position that Western imperialist activities are uniquely evil and that no other imperialist or aggressive actions are worth admitting or considering. This again seems like an attempt to sacrifice facts to propaganda. Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Syria cannot be given a special pass just because you want to focus attention on Western misconduct. When we criticize Obama and his actions, it’s both unnecessary and factually inaccurate to argue that he’s worse than Putin and worse than George W. Bush. We’re all adults here. We’re capable of holding in our mind the complexity of a world where both the West and other parts of the world are capable of a complicated mix of good and bad actions. We can’t ignore the suffering that Putin has brought to Ukraine and Syria, for instance, just because we also want to bring out the suffering that some of Obama’s actions have caused. When I read writers who want to exaggerate Obama’s mistakes and equate them to Putin’s ruthless activities, I worry that a necessary sense of proportion and factual accuracy are being sacrificed. Again, the main sources that make these arguments (the Alt Right and the Russian media) are ones that are also explicitly devoted to falsifying facts in the name of propaganda.

  12. Guys:

    “Augustine’s arguments too often take the position that Western imperialist activities are uniquely evil and that no other imperialist or aggressive actions are worth admitting or considering.”

    This is an amazing lie. Why are you resorting to spinning my arguments? Not once in the history of my comments on this matter do I refer to Western Imperialist activities as “uniquely evil”. Neither have I *ever* said that other evil activities are not worth admitting. Is there something actually wrong with you, Nat? Are you a compulsive liar or a poor reader?

    And just because the Alt Right has access to the same cluster of on-the-record facts as the rest of us (which it can choose to distort how it will) … so what? What kind of childish “logic” is that? You mean you think facts are altered by the people who are in possession of them? You mean that if ISIS posted “E equals MC squared” it would no longer be true? You mean you think Hillary Rodham Clinton *didn’t* quip “We came, we saw, he died!” (giggle) over the illegal rape/murder of a foreign head of state, which she oversaw, because right wing wacko sites posted the video?

    Are you ten?

    My comments at The Millions have focused on the blatant War Crimes of NATO/ Washington because the pro-HRC/BHO Propaganda this site has been pumping out demands that specific corrective rebuttal.

    Please. Let’s stick to the essence of my argument.

    To say that it’s wrong for America to serially blitzkrieg a string of nations in the Middle East is not, at the same time, to praise or exculpate Putin. Why are you (willfully?) misreading me?

    The question is simple: is it okay to invade a bunch of countries, and kill lots of civilians?

    If you think it’s okay, please tell me why you think it is. Don’t tell me about other bad things as a way of distracting from the question… that’s an entry-level method for covering a flaw in your argument(s).

    Is committing what was determined at Nuremberg to be the supreme crime against humanity (a War of Aggression), not once but many times, okay?

    To say I’m outraged about America’s foreign policy is rather vague and missing the heart of my point. My point is that slaughtering people is still considered evil, is it not? The Bushes and Bill and HRC oversaw the slaughtering of people and BHO oversaw the slaughtering of people. Heroes, these leaders? Charming people? Psychopaths?

    Is The Millions not intellectually mature enough to recognize that lionizing War Criminals is bad form at best and functioning as War Machine Propaganda at worst?

    Lydia is upset that a little (Red State type) boy found a gun and accidentally murdered his sister. I want Lydia to face the fact that she can also be outraged/ sickened that little boys and girls are being burned to death/ dismembered/ smashed to a pulp as a matter of ongoing American policy. Perhaps at this very moment? Millions dead. Is that trivial?

    Why is it okay for America to do this? Why is it so hard for Liberals to call Liberal Politicians to account for their War Crimes? Why is it so hard for Conservatives to call Conservative Politicians to account for their War Crimes? Is Exceptionalism also a kind of mental illness?

    And how can such otherwise intelligent commenters be so confused by a simple question?

    Are people who kill, repeatedly, Bad People? Are such Bad People heroes to be idolized?

    Is that putting it clearly enough?

    Il’ja: toss in Vlad Putin right next to WJC and HRC and BHO and Bushes 1 & 2 in our docket of Global Deplorables who *should* be charged with War Crimes. I’m all for it. But claiming that Putin’s realpolitikal malevolence overshadows *all* of them is somewhat of a reach… but if you can’t see that, then, sure: make Vlad the Supreme Beast of Beasts if you must. ANYTHING to help you to FINALLY admit the others are culpable, too.

    And that The Millions should stick to promoting books, not War Criminals.

  13. Il’ja:

    “But when you describe “War Economies [that] rely on…horizon-to-horizon homogeneity of worldview” and its “weird effects”, you realize that you are describing MY world to a T. Or rather, to a TV.”

    That’s awful, too, isn’t it Il’ja? We’re all trapped in Huxwellian Propaganda Bubbles. But that’s also irrelevant to my critique of the propagandistic fantasia The Millions has indulged in for months now: HRC as anything but a War Criminal. Therefore, is your remark not a non sequitur in the context of this debate? Why do I need to prosecute Putin’s crimes in a thread about HRC’s crimes? Why not go after King Leopold while we’re at it…?

    I just don’t like seeing War Criminals up on plinths. I think it’s offensive. If The Millions was lauding a famous homophobic serial killer who had killed a dozen Gay men, I’m sure it would be easier to get more people to see my point. Lionizing American politicians responsible for millions of “Arab” deaths (though, even a dozen deaths would be pretty foul, no?) … that’s just not offensive to as many (American) people, strangely.

    I *promise* you that when/if The Millions starts promoting absurd propaganda putting Putin on a plinth (or lamenting loudly, in two dozen different Year in Reading posts, that he’ll never be our Glorious Leader), I’ll be right there with you, spitting at Vlad. Because I consider that to be the minimum requirement of any sort of comradeship.

  14. Nat:

    “I refer back to my earlier comments and to the history of Augustine’s comments on this site.”

    Har! Not so easy, buddy. Copy and paste the comments you claim I’ve made to the effect that America’s War Crimes are especially evil and that no other War Crimes matter.

    Or admit you were A) mistaken B) lying.

  15. “You mean you think Hillary Rodham Clinton *didn’t* quip “We came, we saw, he died!” (giggle) over the illegal rape/murder of a foreign head of state, which she oversaw, because right wing wacko sites posted the video?”

    Steve – Here’s a good example of your intellectual dishonesty. HRC did indeed make that statement. You could have left it at that. But no, you had a fabricate a rape to, I don’t know, make it more shocking? And you leave out the fact that this innocent head of state was a man who said his countrymen would be “hunted down street by street, house by house and wardrobe by wardrobe.” But, yeah, everyone else is a Propagandist, you’re just slinging Truth.

    So here’s my question to you: is it better, morally speaking, to stand by and watch a ruthless dictator murder and pillage his own people? Or to take out that dictator?

    I am no fan of American foreign policy post-WW2. The US has directly or indirectly supported many, many atrocities. I am not disputing that. And on principle, yes, I’m as much of a pacifist as you. But I’m also willing to allow that the president bears a huge burden, and I think the moral calculus of “intervene/don’t intervene” is far more complicated than you are willing to admit. Isn’t it at least possible that some (not all) US foreign policy in the past few decades was born of a genuine belief that by intervening the US was helping those suffering under the yoke of tyranny?

    Should the US not have intervened in Europe in WW2 to stop Hitler, since by doing so they killed thousands of enemy soldiers?

    You will accuse me of Deflection and Propaganda and all sorts of other scare-capitalized slanders, I know, but I’ve called you names in the past too, so let me have it.

  16. Toad:

    “But no, you had a fabricate a rape to (sic)”

    You need to work on your scholarship. Even the pro-NATO-propagandizing Guardian wrote:

    “A mob grew around Gaddafi as he was frog-marched through the sand. While he was being taken towards a group of rebel trucks, one fighter crouched in the dirt behind the frightened captive and sodomised him with a bayonet.”

    Maybe that’s not “rape” rape.

    “And you leave out the fact that this innocent head of state was a man who said his countrymen would be “hunted down street by street, house by house and wardrobe by wardrobe.”

    This is amusing, Toad, because the first time I saw this citation, it was attributed to Assad. What’s even more amusing is the fact that you have very carefully omitted the part admitting that Gaddafi was referring to the “rebels” in that announcement and the “rebels” themselves claim (or a commander of them did, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, as cited by The Telegraph) to be “affiliated” with al-Qaeda and many are jihadis who “fought against allied troops in Iraq “. Al-Qaeda/ ISIS who “we” created to fuck up the Russian occupation of Afghanistan (after Brzezinski connived to lure Moscow into that quagmire) if some theories are to be believed. Bush2 himself said, of these same “rebels” in an earlier iteration, “Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” Um… Bush didn’t mention wardrobes, I’ll admit. Also: think: would it make sense for any dictator to go on record saying that he/she would be hunting his/her own citizens down in their wardrobes for… being his/her citizens? Wha…?

    “But I’m also willing to allow that the president bears a huge burden, and I think the moral calculus of “intervene/don’t intervene” is far more complicated than you are willing to admit. ”

    No it isn’t. You’ve been brainwashed with amazing efficiency into accepting a morally repulsive alibi. We didn’t accept the notion that you had to obliterate a village, in order to save it from Communism, during the Vietnam “War” (those Vietcong aircraft carriers were formidable war machines, no?)… there’s no reason for you to accept, like some naive school boy, that obliterating one oil-rich nation after another, and killing millions of CIVILIANS (not troops), is in any way NOT evil.

    What have you become, Toad (great line in a movie)? What kind of apologist for blitzkrieg? What kind of “humanitarian effort” leaves more people dead in its wake than were “threatened” by the “Ebil Dictator” in the first place?

    Corrupt Regimes are Internal Matters first of all- Second of all, when/if the International community intervenes it’s with diplomatic means. Boycotts /Divestments next. What’s the diff between South Africa / Rwanda/ North Korea and Libya? Oil. Saudi Arabia: one of the biggest Human Rights violators on Earth, yes? But: ooops: our Allies! Laugh. No Humanitarian Blitzkrieg for Saudi Arabia!

    “Should the US not have intervened in Europe in WW2 to stop Hitler, since by doing so they killed thousands of enemy soldiers?”

    Toad, you need to brush up on your history. American Intelligence was aware VERY early on of the Death Camps in Europe. Dachau was inaugurated c. 1938.

    Yet: when and why did the US enter the war? I don’t blame you for not knowing these things. Because: Propaganda.

    “The US hoped to stay out, not taking part in WW2. Between 1935 and 1939 the US Congress passed a series of Neutrality Acts meant to prevent Americans becoming involved. President Harry S. Truman was quoted as saying by the New York Times in June 24, 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.”

    Not exactly heroic stuff.

    Listen, to be honest, I hate these drawn-on and epic comment wars. I thought my original comments were concise enough and expressed exactly what I wanted to express. If only my “attackers” could engage my actual points, bring FACTS/ HISTORY to the table and skip the ad hominems… things could have been streamlined. If I make a fact-based point, debate it on that level. If you come screaming in calling me a Right Winger or a Delusional Lefty etc, I have to respond to preserve the integrity of my initial arguments… wasting a HEAP of time.

    Refute my facts or don’t. Keep it simple. Stop pissing on my carefully-expressed arguments with sloppy attacks out of sheer anger.

    Now, re: HRC’s part in the destruction of Libya: please just Google “libya standard of living under gaddafi” and sift through the various entries. You may choose to reject what you find but the experience of sifting may broaden your outlook.

  17. Steve, as expected. I loved the part where you defended Gaddafi for killing people because they were rebels. So killing is okay if you disagree with the people you are killing. Got it. (Nat West – here’s a great example of Steve’s Some War Crimes Are Cool mantra)

    You failed to answer my central question (which I did not answer either, because I don’t know the answer):

    Is it better, morally speaking, to stand by and watch a ruthless dictator murder and pillage his own people? Or to take out that dictator?

    You suggest the US is at fault for not intervening earlier in WW2. Again, here is your inconsistency on display. (Another favorite: you despise America’s history of violence so much you pack up and move to…wait for it…Germany!) That’s why you continue to get called out on your Bullshit Rants. If you cared about the FACTS you are always screaming on about, you’d leave your politics at home. But you don’t, because you’re not interested in FACTS, you’re interested in ideology. And yelling. Which is fine, Steve – just have the decency to admit it. And stop clogging up these comment sections with your ideology. (And, to anticipate your response, no, I’m not trying to censor you, I’m asking as a courtesy to everyone who comes here to talk about books. I agree that the posts here have taken a very political turn of late, and there is a worthy discussion to be had about this phenomenon. But if it bothers you that much I’d offer that there are plenty of other places on the web more sympathetic to your views and to political discussions in general. There are so few places to talk about books that I’m asking you as a courtesy to consider keeping it that way. And for my part I pledge to quit with the attacks and do the same.)

  18. I’m with Toad. Tired of being hectored and sick of the Hillary-demonization and rants, as well as the clogging of the comment section with diatribe.

    Bad enough having to bite tongue at Mom’s house out of concern for her feelings (my choice) when the Trumper-from-next door arrives for Christmas pudding and razzleberry dressing!

    Moe Murph

  19. Steven,

    I’m a reasonable person who has benefited from a long absence from home in the U.S. Those benefits include what I hope is a clearer eye toward certain parochial cultural attitudes, an odd insularity, and a simplistic faith in exceptionalism that Americans caught up in the hurlyburly don’t recognize in themselves, neither singly nor collectively.

    That they have been coerced – and often compelled – mercilessly to participate in a Weltanschauung defined by consumption, debt, avarice, moral relativism, and hegemony is…well, MY word is “tragic”, because it has been a great nation. You will surely choose a different adjective.

    But I don’t care, because debate, despite your assertions to the contrary, doesn’t truly interest you. My conciliatory approach to these matters is contemptible by your lights. Which is too bad, because, like toad, like Nat West, and like Lydia, I, too, agree with you – the bloodshed is core-rattling. But I contend that all victims are equal, and that the violence is of a single source. Do you get this? No one among us – not even you – is capable of dealing with the full scope of it, but everybody deals with it in their own way, to the degree they’re capable.

    But that’s not enough for you. The Millions audience was required to be subject to an endless and tendentious harangue on the premise that the site is nothing but a cog in the propaganda machine that grants imprimatur to the slaughter. This is, at best, more than a little disingenuous on your part. Others might use harsher descriptors.

    There I go again, trying to be nice about it. Here’s the fact: you have persisted in the problematic claim that US foreign policy evils are uniquely, perniciously malignant and worthy of opprobrium. Yes, perception IS reality and I am not the only one who perceives things, i.e., your tone, this way. You are in possession of a zero sum mania that would make a card-carrying Marxist wince. The original thrill of every post including “rampaging bully”, “terrorist”, and “slaughter” has worn thin.

    For my part, it becomes especially tiresome when countered with a description of Russian atrocities “by invitation”, citing their State-sponsored propaganda to cement your point. Your newfound insistence that Russia and its – factually, centuries-long, and unparalleled – record of military and political aggression are irrelevant to a discussion on global violence is just bizarre. And, for what it matters, don’t twist my words – show me where I put Putin at the top of the bad guy chain. I, too, am dealing with violence on a local level. Dealing with it. Do you GET that, Steven?

    But you minimize it. Dismiss it. Disparage its relevance. So, here’s my invitation: Come East. I’ll be your fixer. Keep you safe. Show you what violence looks like without the aid of a screen or news filter. Because the violence is all one. One demonic urge. Come east and I’ll let you come up with your own adjectives. I’m betting a good Kyiv lager that “irrelevant” won’t be among them.

    Finally this and I’m done, because have real work to do – some of it for this site. The folks who read and write here aren’t as dim as you contend. Are they scared? Confused? Worn down? Can they be strident? Hyperbolic? Defensive? Well, damn their eyes for being human. They’re dealing with what they can. The world isn’t pop, Steven, it’s acid jazz. It’s Miles going electric. It’s confusing in its best moments and we, the benighted, are dealing with it – the parts that force themselves on us – as best we can.

    What fails in the abstract is guaranteed to fail in the particular. Like I said, I’m done addressing this. We got a damn fine essay up above and 10,000 milligrams of testosterone as a reaction to it. The hell with this.

    Thanks for the essay, Lydia. It made me kinda sick – in a good way – and you are a fine writer.

    And Steven, thanks for the dust-up. A useful thing once a leap year or so.

  20. Il’ja:

    Well, at the risk of blocking (with a clog) all those comments clamoring to get back to the book chat (that’s only 50%-80% ideologically unilateral propaganda):

    “The Millions audience was required to be subject to an endless and tendentious harangue on the premise that the site is nothing but a cog in the propaganda machine that grants imprimatur to the slaughter. ”

    Correction: It’s harangue and counter-harangue, Il’ja. You seem to think that anything you or your (variable in quality) confreres throw at me is so good and right that I should shrug and accept the wagon-circling abuse. At the head of this thread I remarked to Lydia that I thought that indulging in anti- “white trash” stereotyping was beneath her. I did so with a few sentences.

    That “we are the elite and they are ugh” attitude is part of the greater NeoLiberal, pro-HRC propaganda this site hoses the audience with (drum roll) so liberally. You entered the harangue-cycle of your own free will. Take responsibility for your portion of the word count, eh? Be a mensch.

    I have to say: you are now consistently disappointing me with transparently demagogic tactics, chief (and cheapest) of which being the straw man. Second only to your various melodramatic appeals to the sensibilities of the peanut gallery.

    Again (again): I don’t think (nor have I claimed ANYWHERE in these threads) that American War Crimes are uniquely Evil. I don’t think (nor claim) that other Nation States and/ or Trans-National Corporate Interests aren’t indulging in parallel Evils. I never claimed that I seriously entertain the notion that V. Putin has never killed, or ordered that people be killed.

    “And, for what it matters, don’t twist my words – show me where I put Putin at the top of the bad guy chain…”

    If you don’t think (as I imply you think) that Putin is guilty of War Crimes more extensive (while being no more or less Evil) than the others I list, then put your cards on the table, stop dancing around the matter, and tell us who *you* think is higher than Putin on the War Crimes ladder? I only care to the extent that you highlight this quibble. Sorry if I misread your feelings about Putin, but it’s a little difficult to nail you to a concrete position on HRC/ BHO. Why is that?

    Putin’s crimes ARE irrelevant to the harangue I’ve been subjecting The Millions to. You keep dragging them back. Why? Do they refute HRC’s crimes, somehow? Explain your reasoning.

    Putin is not my target here because pro-Putin propaganda is not what The Millions is dishing up. Right? It’s dishing up pro-HRC/ BHO propaganda. That is my target.

    “I, too, am dealing with violence on a local level.”

    Il’ja: what does that have to do anything? Specifically: with my problem with TM lionizing HRC/BHO? You’re beginning to remind me of someone who brings up their experience of child abuse whenever any argument gets heated. It’s valid, yes… but not always relevant. It’s not a Get Out Of Logical Argument Free card.

    I think it’s morally/ethically OFF (to say the least) when a site supposedly devoted to BOOK CHAT uses the platform to present an extremely one-sided worldview which happens to entail idealizing War Criminals.

    You have a problem with that. I get that. You have such a problem with that that you don’t actually care to engage with my actual points (did HRC/BHO do the things I claim or not? Yes or No?)… you’re blasting me with melodramatic music instead. It’s much better than the music the others are blasting me with, agreed. But it’s still, at heart, utterly schmaltzy bullshit. And I know you’re too smart not to know that.

    “But you minimize it. Dismiss it. Disparage its relevance. So, here’s my invitation: Come East. I’ll be your fixer. Keep you safe. Show you what violence looks like without the aid of a screen or news filter. Because the violence is all one. One demonic urge. Come east and I’ll let you come up with your own adjectives. I’m betting a good Kyiv lager that “irrelevant” won’t be among them.”

    Il’ja: WTF are you *talking* about? How is your own situation the topic, suddenly? Yes, non-“Arabs” are suffering geopolitical abuses of power, too… who’s claiming they aren’t?

    “The folks who read and write here aren’t as dim as you contend.”

    Good one, Il’ja. More points for you, there. People like that kind of thing.

    “Are they scared? Confused? Worn down? Can they be strident? Hyperbolic? Defensive? Well, damn their eyes for being human. They’re dealing with what they can. The world isn’t pop, Steven, it’s acid jazz. It’s Miles going electric. It’s confusing in its best moments and we, the benighted, are dealing with it – the parts that force themselves on us – as best we can.”

    Great speech, Il’ja… (ovation). Ooops, wait: you forgot to answer my question: is HRC worthy of idealization or not? Should the Millions be idealizing her or not? Everyone’s unequivocal opinions on those questions are all I ask. Is BHO’s drone program killing kids or not? Yes or No?

    “We got a damn fine essay up above and 10,000 milligrams of testosterone as a reaction to it.”

    Il’ja, is there a Liberal-Demagogue Hot Button you managed to miss in this pass? If so, just include it the next run-through. (Accuse me of fat-shaming or something: that always works).

    So: as I was saying: a Red State Deplorable shoots his sister to death by accident and Lydia writes something moving on the topic. But this Red State death is worse than (The Millions fave) BHO’s long list of victims… how?

  21. Hmmm..

    I’m either a hacker or a fictional character. Jesus H. Christ, Augustine, you hover over this site like an old beer fart. I can imagine you grumbling into your clay tablet about the elitism of The Epic of Gilgamesh.

    Who died and made you Imperial World Arbiter of Objective Truth, anyway? No, never mind, I don’t need another 10,000-word thesis.

    Moe Murph
    (AKA “Emmanuel Goldstein”)

  22. @NatWest

    Re: “Selective Propaganda. While I share Steven Augustine’s anger about American imperialism and the need for a more radical left in the United States, it’s impossible not to notice that Augustine relies to an exceptionally large degree on systematic, fraudulent propaganda from the Alt-Right and from Russia in making his points. I’m assuming that he believes it’s his job to counter Western power by any and all means, and that the use of intentionally falsified information is justified.”

    Ah! THIS was what turned me off so much several weeks ago. I sensed in the barrage of verbiage an undercurrent of joy at the prospect of American pain and dissolution in the communication of “steven augustine,” which has led me to keep my distance.

    Maureen Murphy

  23. “I’m assuming that he believes it’s his job to counter Western power by any and all means, and that the use of intentionally falsified information is justified.”

    Each and everyone of you ideological schizophrenics are free to assume whatever keeps you comfortable with yourselves, but if you want to know what I actually believe, why not read what I’ve actually said? Which boils down to:

    I think it’s unethical of The Millions staff/writers to use the venerable Book Chat site as a delivery system for extremely one-sided, (neo) Liberal Propaganda… especially in light of all these hilarious calls to “keep politics out of the comment section”.

    In *this* thread, I merely attempted to point out that there’s a striking disconnect between Lydia’s deft job of demonizing The Deplorables (Red State boy shoots his sister to death with a found gun), plus her moving grief over the girl’s death… and the discordant fact that she heaps direct/indirect praise on a guy who signs off on a murderous drone program that kills children (and others) all the time. Direct and indirect praise also for a woman (HRC) who shares responsibility for the starvation deaths of 500,000 kids. Facts, folks… not “ALT RIGHT” propaganda. If you care to watch the video of Madeline Albright (former Secretary of State under Billary) saying she thought those 500,000 deaths were “worth it”, go to your Red State or Blue State YouTube.

    I have seen some people tie themselves up in some truly bizarre rhetorical knots over my attempt to get ONE (neo) Liberal Propaganda Target to address the simple (and verifiable) facts I bring to my accusation that The Millions is committing an inordinate amount of print to deifying War Criminals.

    Nat West started the useful lie that I’ve been claiming that NATO/Washington War Crimes are “uniquely evil” and that no other national entities are indulging in them. I refuted those lies and asked Nat for textual evidence (copy-and-paste the proof, Nat!). I got the beautifully Nixonian “I refer back to my earlier comments and to the history of Augustine’s comments on this site” instead of one shred of proof.

    The otherwise intelligent Il’ja writes the nonsenically evasive:

    “But I don’t care, because debate, despite your assertions to the contrary, doesn’t truly interest you. My conciliatory approach to these matters is contemptible by your lights. Which is too bad, because, like toad, like Nat West, and like Lydia, I, too, agree with you – the bloodshed is core-rattling. But I contend that all victims are equal, and that the violence is of a single source. Do you get this?”

    No, I don’t. To recap: “bloodshed is core-rattling” but… naming some of the people presiding over the bloodshed is even more core-rattling… especially if they’re our “heroes”? The violence is of a single source? Really? How would the criminal justice system function with this as its premise? “Humankind is fallen and murder is our patrimony! The defense rests, your Honor!”

    Il’ja, it’s clear you should have sat this one out. Anyone reading this with the requisite eye for detail can see how (professionally) compromised you are in this discussion. Also: one ass-kissing-aside per comment is probably enough, don’t you think? You got the gig.

    Toad wrote the Huxwellian:

    “I agree that the posts here have taken a very political turn of late, and there is a worthy discussion to be had about this phenomenon. But if it bothers you that much I’d offer that there are plenty of other places on the web more sympathetic to your views and to political discussions in general.”

    Toad agrees with me that there is “a worthy discussion” to be had on the topic, but, also, I should take it somewhere where they all already agree with me. Because that’s The Echo Chamber System so many of us have come to love, no?

    Moe Murphy, who keeps promising to ignore me (and is often found to be threatening to leave The Millions forever, especially when the articles get too sexy; she doesn’t like that sexy talk) can’t resist running back every couple of days to try to get a kick in. She always manages to toss in something which makes zero sense, I’ll give her that.

    Question for Moe: what was it about the comment in which I signed off “Love, Emmanuel Goldstein,” that inspired you to sign off, recently, with ‘Moe Murph
    (AKA “Emmanuel Goldstein’)”. Because, you know, in the context of the character, and the obvious reason I signed off with that name, how does it make a molecule of sense for you to sign off that way? Are you commenting-while-shit-faced? Making sense, honey, ain’t your strong suit.

    Not that you’re the only one in this comment thread with that problem.

  24. A typical dinner out with Steve:

    FRIEND 1: How’s the burger?
    FRIEND 2: Here, have a bite.
    FRIEND 1: Mm, that’s delicious.
    STEVE: YOU ONLY LIKE THAT BURGER BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN BRAINWASHED BY THE WESTERN PROPAGANDA MACHINE!
    FRIEND 1: Uh…
    FRIEND 2: Yeah, he does this.
    STEVE: HOW CAN YOU EAT WHEN HILLARY CLINTON SLAUGHTERED 3 MILLION CHILDREN USING MACHINE GUNS SHE BOUGHT FROM ISIS WITH ALLOWANCE MONEY SHE STOLE FROM ORPHANS?
    FRIEND 1: I don’t think that’s —
    STEVE: FACTS!!!! TRUTH!!! FACTS!!!
    FRIEND 1: Look, I don’t like Hillary either, but —
    STEVE: HOW CAN YOU LIONIZE A wAR cRIMINAL LIKE HER?
    FRIEND 1: I’m not. Like I just said —
    STEVE: GOOGLE “SWEDEN ISIS CLINTON LAUGHING RAPIST” IF YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF YOUR NEO-LIBERAL ECHO CHAMBER!
    FRIEND 2: He read “Clinton Cash”.
    FRIEND 1: Ah.
    STEVE: I AM THE TRUTH!!!!!! THIS RESTAURANT IS JUST A COG IN THE WAR PROPAGANDA MACHINE!
    FRIEND 1: How long does he usually go on?
    FRIEND 2: Oh, he’ll be going on long after we leave.
    STEVE: THE CIA PLANTED A MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ STORY PUBLISHED IN THE PARIS REVIEW TO STIR UP ANTI-ISLAM SENTIMENT!!! BUT YOU WON’T READ THAT IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA! FACTS!!!
    FRIEND 1: What the —
    FRIEND 2: I think he’s working out some guilt issues about fleeing America. Anyway how are the kids?
    FRIEND 1: Oh good, good, Sally is eight now…
    STEVE: WHY WON’T THIS CHEF TAKE A STANCE ON OBAMA’S BUTCHERY? INSTEAD SHE KEEPS SHOVELING OUT PROPAGANDA BURGERS TO NEO-LIBERAL SHEEP!!!
    FRIEND 2: They grow up so fast!
    FRIEND 1: Some do…

  25. @toad

    As usual, the pattern goes:
    Supposed Troll: “Here’s my thoughtful and logical argument. Yes, it is long. But I’m making a response and trying to unravel some complex stuff.
    Toad: “Troll! Troll who can’t shut up! Bet he can’t shut up in real life either. Probably also a racist.”

  26. @toad Hilarious and spot on. Can I please chew on my burger in peace, now?

    @Wjat! Supposed Troll: “Here’s my thoughtful and logical argument. Yes, it is long. But I’m making a response and trying to unravel some complex stuff.

    Now, isn’t that a bit incomplete? @frog made a good-faith suggestion a few comments up in this chain, agreeing to tone down the volume and return to, say, talking about books, and suggesting same of steve. But once again, the battering ram recommenced. Steve is not responding, he is haranguing and will brook no less than total acquiescence. Sorry, not buying it.

    Have seen pattern in “groups” before, over the years. Was in a community theatre production of “The Crucible” and the director’s husband was the “tech guy” for the show. For reasons I don’t remember now (I was 12 years old and playing Betty Parrish) “tech guy” gathered us all together for a “mandatory” meeting and spent 15 minutes haranguing the entire cast and crew. We all were staring at each other, wondering what the heck was wrong with this petty tyrant, when an urbane, bearded fellow, who was a marine biologist at nearby Woods Hole (we were in Falmouth on Cape Cod), gave a VERY ironic salute, and commented:

    “Well, all I can say is….’Sieeg Heeiiil.” Then the whole group laughed out loud and tech guy stormed off in a huff.

    Petty tyrants can be found from a tiny little post office grocery in East Nowhere, Kentucky to, soon, The White House. We don’t want to be ruled! We want to discuss books and writers!

    Over and out, pardon my “clog” of the comment section.

    Moe Murph

  27. @Wjat Troll Tactics 101:

    When sheer volume, word count and virtual “yelling” don’t work, move on to rather pathetic attempts to encourage one to go away, then insults (intelligence, “inanity” mental state).

    All that’s left now is the “H” word (i.e., hysteria, hysterical, all the other gynecological based terms used when folks disagree with you). And, of course, there’s always the “B” word and the “C” word.

    I’ve been a bit snarky, but I don’t mince words and don’t particularly care how “nice” I come across when the gauntlet has been thrown down.

    Moe Murph

  28. TROLL ANALYSIS FOR MY FELLOW MILLIONS COMMENT READERS:

    “Moe Murphy, who keeps promising to ignore me..”
    [MM: Narcissistic; pathetic illusions of grandeur]

    “is often found to be threatening to leave The Millions forever”
    [MM: “A girl can always change her mind.” Been around for five years and will be back whenever I darn well please]

    “Specially when the articles get too sexy; she doesn’t like that sexy talk”
    [ MM: Plain delusional…I don’t even know what he’s is talking about]

    “She always manages to toss in something which makes zero sense, I’ll give her that.”
    [MM: Gratuitous attack on intelligence]

    “Question for Moe: what was it about the comment in which I signed off “Love, Emmanuel Goldstein,” that inspired you to sign off, recently, with ‘Moe Murph
    (AKA “Emmanuel Goldstein’)”. Because, you know, in the context of the character, and the obvious reason I signed off with that name, how does it make a molecule of sense for you to sign off that way?”

    [MM: General rant and over-thinking the heck out of a Millions comment]

    “Are you commenting-while-shit-faced?”
    [MM: Gratuitous insult. Actually, I do not drink and never have, but may have made joke about alcohol at some point for lighthearted “fun,” which is what the Millions comment section USED to be about Is this related to my Irish name by any chance?]

    “Making sense, honey, ain’t your strong suit,:
    [Gratuitous attack on intelligence, patronizing, sexist]

    “Not that you’re the only one in this comment thread with that problem.”
    [Descent into general misanthropy]

    Moe Murph
    Skipping about the comment section with blithe abandon

  29. Valiant effort, SA, in attempting to chip away at the sheet ice of cog dis. Unfortunately you’re going to go through a few pickaxes.

    But uh, great skit there fellas, though you sort of forgot to address, let alone refute, any of Augustine’s points. Guess the death-rattle of your argument’s validity is hard to hear over your high fives.

  30. @Biblioplexy

    “Unfortunately you’re going to go through a few pickaxes.”

    Amazing, isn’t it? A clinical psychologist would have a field day with the level and complexity of Denial on display. And it’s not just the obvious nuts doing it… lots of the apparently well-adjusted, too… plus: (ominous music) it’s hardly restricted to this site.

    Oh well!

  31. @priskill (Hi there, by the way, how are you?)

    Final troll tidbit: Self-appointed arbiter of intelligence and sanity of others one has never met, based solely on internet comments. Arbiter of “reality” and “denial of reality.”

    The arrogance is hilarious!

    Moe Murph
    Possibly An Obvious Nut, If So, Hope I Am A Pistachio!

  32. @Biblioplexy. This is a lit website, not debate.

    (Is that you, steve…..?)

    Moe Murph
    Having Gamergate Fashbacks

  33. Now that I think about it, this thread is a fascinating microcosm of the election and our current state of politics in general.

    1. As Steve and others pointed out, a lot of the Year in Reading posts have featured a remarkably similar tone. Beyond disappointment or anger, it’s more like utter disbelief. Takeaway: writers need to get out of the NYC lit bubble.
    2. People really, really, really hate Hillary Clinton. Steve has railed on for thousands of words against the “pro-HRC and pro-BHO propaganda” and “lionizing” or “hero-worshipping” this site has been pumping out. In another thread he helpfully pointed out 10 instances of politics creeping into Year in Reading posts. Remarkably, not a single one of them contained a defense of Hillary Clinton. She was mentioned in passing in 2. There was one paean to Obama, to be fair. So Steve is conflating anti-Trump sentiment with pro-HRC sentiment. Several commenters have tried to explain the concept of “lesser of two evils”, but the hatred runs deep. (This reflects the awesome failure of the Democratic Party in nominating such a horrific candidate – but I digress)
    3. No matter the issue at hand, 50% of people are going to line up on one side, and 50% are going to line up on the other.
    4. Politics, particularly campaigns, are not battles of factual attrition. One side does not win by simply having more facts. The right understands this; the left does not. Emotion plays a huge role in the minds of voters. Look at Wjat and Biblioplexy above – they could not have read the entirety of the thread and come to the conclusion that nobody was addressing or refuting Steve’s points. But something about Steve’s approach spoke to them, so they sided with him.
    5. For all the talk about the new “post-fact” world we live in, Trump and the alt-right have really resorted to one of the oldest political strategies in the book: the end justifies the means. Steve seems to believe very deeply in his anti-American viewpoints and so if he has to utilize lies and propaganda to “win”, he will do that. And in the end Trump won. As much as liberals bemoan the tactics, politics always come down to winning. The alt-right is saying to the left: you keep your morals, we’ll take the presidency.
    6. Every now and then someone will make an appeal to really “have a discussion”, myself included, but when it comes to politics, nobody really wants to have a discussion, they just want to get their views across and “win”. I twice tried to shift Steve into a more philosophical discussion about the morality of intervening vs. standing by and watching, but then gave up and resorted to ridiculing him again.
    7. The Internet has given rise to what I’ll call passive activists: people who believe it is their job to educate any and all about the evils of the world and someone else’s job altogether to fix them. In Kevin Nguyen’s post he bemoans the lack of diversity at book readings, but when a bookseller asked him on Twitter if he had any ideas on how to improve that, his response was (paraphrasing): nope, you should figure it out yourself. This is a recent phenomenon, I think. And no matter what side we fall on here, I think we could all benefit from some thought over how productive we are when we’re lobbing bombs back and forth here, vs. doing something, anything IRL.
    8. Libs would be astute to note that Steve is not an idiot. He’s well-read, and on non-political topics often makes thoughtful, coherent, intelligent points. He cannot be consistently defined as right-wing, or left-, for that matter. This can be applied to Trump – his campaign was repugnant, but he won an election he had absolutely no business winning. If Democrats want to keep losing elections they should continue to dismiss their opponents out of hand and continue to take the moral high road to second place.
    9. I think everyone – right, left, middle – can benefit from reading, conversing, and exploring the world outside their comfort zone. No matter how strongly I loath Steve’s selective, passive outrage and the flippancy with which he taunted Americans post-election from the comfortable reserve of his German throne, he has forced me to revisit my own views on American foreign policy, which have always been and continue to be murky and morally complicated. And so for that I’m grateful.

    Given the above I’d like to make one more plea to return this site to the books. Politics are inevitable, sure, but there is enough passion and intelligence here to sustain good conversations around literature, certainly a more genteel art than politics, and one that is certainly worthy of our time.

  34. I’m amazed at your post, Toad. Nice. I think nothing else needs to be said after that post but definitely anti-Trump doesn’t mean pro-Hillary. I think many people were not happy with any of the candidates this year. When one person is given the power to interact with the rest of the world, that is a very big deal to be taken seriously. And some may not be happy with what Hillary did with her years in politics, but I’m very afraid if Trump is given as many years, it could result in a much much worse record. He is just a baby in politics, so who knows what might happen. To compare Trump and Hillary, we’ll just have to wait and see.
    Moe Murph – no need to point those things out. It’s seen.
    But back to the books!

  35. @Toad

    I like your last comment; I like the fact that it was ad hominem-free, I like the fact that you actually engaged with some of my arguments. I wish such a comment had come much earlier in this thread.

    At the risk of re-igniting the flame, but in the interest of clarification(s):

    1) Articles that lament Trump’s election so strongly or forecast an especially dire 4/8 years to come are pro-HRC by default. The “oh, what might have been!” tone is inappropriate given HRC’s record regarding both war/invasion and corporate shilling. Again: one of my biggest problems with the previous posts was the “Clinton Cash” meme. I can only guess that’s a site? Is it a video? No one has to see such (exaggerated? bizarre? I don’t know) content to know very disturbing things about HRC or WJC: mainstream news has reported bad things about them both, together and separately, for 25 years. Only the efficacy of Propaganda explains the apparent irrelevancy of this very disturbing Clinton record. I feel The Millions apparent sensibility is both affected by this Propaganda and recycles it.

    2) Anti-“White Trash” or “Deplorables” propaganda at The Millions is unseemly. It’s also nonsense. Referring (tacitly) to The Millions readership as an “Elite” because they’re (I assume) mostly anti-Trump is absurd. Both candidates were deeply problematic; how is one candidate’s voting base an “Elite” by default? This is so blatantly self-serving I can’t believe I have to point it out.

    3) Making use (as even Lydia admits) of one “Red State” child’s gun-death to score political (Propaganda) points strikes me as offensively “selective” in the context that we all (don’t we?) know that BHO’s drone program kills children. No one can say there’s no pro-BHO Propaganda at The Millions. How are the deaths he presides over irrelevant, moral or in any way necessary?

    My larger point: Propaganda has ruined our Moral and Ethical Antennae. So let’s examine and neutralize it.

    4) As I pointed out earlier: these kinds of contentious threads could be MUCH shorter, and make more sense, and be rewarding, actually, if people didn’t immediately reach for the ad hominems and, instead, engaged the actual arguments with some wit and circumspection. By being forced to defend myself against responses that A) misread (often, it struck me, on purpose) my arguments and B) were default smears (I am not a “troll”: I have an unpopular opinion to express); I was forced to repeat myself. By being forced to attend to attacks instead of reasoned responses, I lost respect for some of my attackers.

    5) Someone (was it you?) thinks the fact that I’m an Expat is already reasonable grounds for attacking me or undermining my argument. I think that’s a form of Jingoism, I also think it’s illogical.

    I lived in the US for 30 years; I left because there are MANY aspects of the culture I have a problem with. I am moderately qualified to compare and contrast: are you? Also: maybe you’re not getting as much coverage of the *many* undeclared US Wars as I’m getting (the coverage of the Balkan conflicts I watched from here was brutal and constant and largely without commentary) but I still find it rather striking that people who aren’t members of the Right, largely, have almost *nothing* to say about these Wars and the many civilian ongoing deaths. I’m not *pretending* that this is an issue for me in order to indulge in “trolling”. I’m saying: stop the Propaganda. Examine the Propaganda. Neutralize the Propaganda if possible. I’m not pro-Trump… I’m not partisan… I’m just anti-War and anti-Obliviousness.

    I’d prefer a Politics-free (or Politics-Lite) The Millions, too. But no double-standards, please. Same “rule” for the above-the-liners as for the commentariat.

    Thanks for your time, Toad!

  36. “Articles that lament Trump’s election so strongly or forecast an especially dire 4/8 years to come are pro-HRC by default.”

    Unless you mean the voters who voted “anyone but Clinton” and voted for Trump and the voters who voted by “anyone but Trump” and voted for Clinton, that statement is ridiculous. Seeing as how Clinton will probably not be in politics anymore, and Trump has NO HISTORY in politics, I think that is much more in the minds of many people. There is nothing to base the future on, especially when there are so many examples of him not being a rational person. Why is the Clinton/Trump issue even a thing at this point? Save your commenting for when Trump does much worse than Hillary Clinton could even dream.

    And because of your misinterpretation in number two (that is NOT what Lydia was saying at all) I’m refusing to read your comments anymore, Steven. You’re just twisting everything.

  37. @toad

    “…people who believe it is their job to educate any and all about the evils of the world and someone else’s job altogether to fix them…This is a recent phenomenon, I think.”

    Not at all, toad! Will Rogers used to tell the joke about how to get rid of the German U-Boats during the war. “Just heat up the ocean and all the u-boats will pop to the surface and then you can just pick ’em off. Now don’t ask me how one goes about heating up the ocean – I’m just the ideas man.” Or something like that.

    And this… “I think the moral calculus of “intervene/don’t intervene” is far more complicated than you are willing to admit.”

    …is right on the mark. It is also precisely the running conversation in every peace conference, security council session, and cabinet meeting for about the last decade.

    Thanks for your clarity.

  38. ““…people who believe it is their job to educate any and all about the evils of the world and someone else’s job altogether to fix them…This is a recent phenomenon, I think.”

    Whereas what I thought I was doing was complaining about Ideological Bias(es) at a Literary Site. Which is probably obvious to people without axes to grind or ideological biases to protect… or Red Scares to monetize. Reading skills help, too. Unless: Putin.

  39. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the editor of The Millions website considers herself one of “the elite”.

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