Awful poem will not, in fact, be read at Trump’s inauguration

Lyric poet Joseph Charles McKenzie

When I first read “Pibroch of the Domhnall,” a lyric poem celebrating the presidency of Donald Trump, it was in the context of an Independent story that made it sound like the poem would be read at Trump’s inauguration. It won’t. Although “Pibroch of the Domhnall” is an occasional poem Joseph Charles McKenzie wrote for Trump’s inauguration, it is not his inaugural poem. Snopes makes that clear, and in so doing throws a little shade at the Independent for sharing the story on social media with the tagline “Donald Trump to pay tribute to British heritage at inauguration with poem about Scotland.”

That formulation crosses the line between misleading and untrue. Instead of calling “Pibroch of the Domhnall” a Trump inauguration poem and letting the reader conclude it’s the inauguration poem, this version explicitly says the poem will happen at the inauguration. But it’s not the headline; it’s a social media post. Should the Independent apply to its Facebook posts the same standards of fact it applies to news stories?

The knee-jerk answer is yes. The newspaper relies on its reputation for accuracy, and that reputation attaches to its name on Facebook as readily as it does in print. But do we therefore expect them to fact-check every tweet? Must they respond to every @ with the same ethics that guide the sports page? Or do we kind of expect from social media a modicum of just sayin’ stuff?

We probably agree the social-media portrayal of how this poem relates to Trump’s inauguration is dishonest and therefore bad. But I suspect we also agree that it’s not as bad as if they did it in the newspaper. If this is true, and we expect more scrupulous accuracy in the news, then it follows that we expect the amount of dishonesty on social media to be greater than zero.

Finally, society has developed a system of mass communication less trustworthy than the newspaper. That we would not only welcome this advancement but also hold it to a lower standard of truth than other media—even as we panic over “fake news”—suggests that truth is not our number-one priority when it comes to information.

We want to know the truth, of course. But we want to know the truth already; we want the truth to support our existing views. The “truth” that Trump’s inaugural poem is rhyming doggerel about how Barack Obama was a tyrant confirms our view of the new president as a classless boor. It matters that it’s not his official inauguration poem, but it doesn’t really matter. The theme of that untrue story is true.

My favorite stanza is the one that celebrates the defeat of academia:

Academe now lies dead, the old order rots,
No longer policing our words and our thoughts;
Its ignorant hirelings pretending to teach
Are backward in vision, sophomoric in speech.

I’m so sick of college policing my thoughts. This poem really captures something about the marriage between smug populism and conservative opportunism that gave us President Trump. They really ought to read it at his inauguration. But we ought not to spread that untrue story on social media, even though it’s what we want to do. Perhaps some of that old, thought-policing order is good for us.

Circumstances in which I would eat a Naked Chicken Chalupa

A Naked Chicken Chalupa, available in Taco Bells nationwide January 26th

In response to demand for not just more food but more foods, Taco Bell has invented the Naked Chicken Chalupa, a taco whose shell is made of fried chicken. It’s a genius idea, when you think about it quickly. “The shell is the chicken,” the press release explains. “The chicken is the shell.” To wit:

Taco Bell is coming un-shelled with its latest food innovation, coming in the form of the first taco shell made entirely of marinated, all-white crispy chicken. The Naked Chicken Chalupa will bare all nationwide on January 26, clucking the trend of traditional fried chicken.

“Be sure to get the word ‘coming’ in there twice,” said the scientist who invented moldable chicken extrusion, after he was promoted to CEO of Taco Bell. Also, “clucking the trend” is a pun; it plays on the phrase “fucking the trend of traditional fried chicken.” Anyway, here are some circumstances under which I would eat a Naked Chicken Chalupa.

  1. Some kids build a Naked Chicken Chalupa Cannon and surprise me.
  2. I get snowed in with only a can of dog food, a Labrador retriever, and a Naked Chicken Chalupa, and the dog won’t eat it.
  3. A genie changes all the world’s musical instruments into Naked Chicken Chalupas just as I start to practice my harmonica.
  4. I need to prove I’m American, and they’re like, “Show us your gun!” I tell them I don’t own a gun. “One of those, huh?” they say. “So eat this Naked Chicken Chalupa, ironically.” I eat the chalupa ironically.
  5. A bird drops a Naked Chicken Chalupa onto the handle of a rake, and I step on the rake.
  6. I’m falling off a building with my mouth wide open, and directly beneath me I see beloved essayist Annie Dillard. She is holding a Naked Chicken Chalupa, and I can fall a little to the left.
  7. A scenario like Speed, except instead of a bus it’s a Taco Bell, and instead of driving 50 miles per hour I have to eat Taco Bell. Instead of Sandra Bullock, beloved essayist Annie Dillard.
  8. A child is showing me a Naked Chicken Chalupa, pressing it toward my face, and I sneeze. “That was close,” I say, having nearly thrown my open mouth down onto the chalupa. The child’s eyes glow red as he lunges forward.
  9. I’m coaching a baseball team of underprivileged kids, and they dare me to eat a Naked Chicken Chalupa. When I refuse, they look really disappointed. It’s like I’ve let them down. “Now I don’t believe in anything,” the catcher says. The other disadvantaged kids nod glumly.
  10. My choice is between a Naked Chicken Chalupa and a Clothed Chicken Chalupa.
  11. I’m drunk.



Friday links! Near-total information awareness edition

The prospect of a corporate-state apparatus that knows exactly what you’re doing at every moment is the stuff of science fiction. Books like 1984 and We imagine a surveillance that has successfully penetrated every aspect of our lives. But what about the surveillance that has unsuccessfully penetrated our lives? We imagine the dangers of everyone else knowing what we’re doing, but we should probably be worried about the scenarios where total information awareness is mistaken. What happens when the security state confuses you with the previous tenant of your apartment? In our culture of surveillance, whither the Charles Monsons and Khalid Steve Mohammeds? Today is Friday, and the danger is not so much that the government will know everything about you as that it will think it does. Won’t you overlap with me?

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After voting to change land transfer rules, “Ryan Zinke’s position has not changed”


Last week, Montana’s sole delegate to the US House, Republican Ryan Zinke, voted to make transfers of federal lands to the states “budget neutral” for accounting purposes. This came as something of a surprise. Zinke has opposed land transfers throughout his career, going so far as to resign his position as a delegate to the Republican convention this summer in protest of support for transfers in the platform. Then, last week, he votes for item numero uno on the land transfer agenda. What gives?

Commander Zinke isn’t telling. He declined requests for interviews from the Indy, Montana Public Radio, and host of other outlets. Instead, his office released a six-word statement: “Ryan Zinke’s position has not changed.” I can think of two possible explanations:

  1. They actually said “Ryan Zinke’s position is UNCHAINED!” and the reporter hung up before she could hear the cheers and dance music as the congressman pounded a bottle of Goldschlager.
  2. They meant Zinke’s position in the federal government.

Right now, as I write this, he’s Representative Zinke. But five days from now, the Senate will likely confirm him as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. At that moment, his position will change substantially. He will move from the legislative branch to the executive, slipping the surly bonds of an electorate that holds land transfers in low regard. Zinke’s position has not yet changed, but in another week or so, he will be in a place where the regards of Montanans matter less. He will be in federal government, which this year will focus on dismantling federal government and selling its assets, cheap.

You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’m going to miss Commander Zinke and his tireless portrayal of himself. Unless my man EG-4 shocks the world, Montana’s next representative in Congress will not be such a strong persona. Probably, he or she will not have killed even one person, much less many people in a war. They won’t appear on Fox News as often, if at all.  And say what you like about Ryan Zinke’s policies, he doesn’t.

Russians probably do not have video of Trump paying hookers to pee

So close

Yesterday evening, the internet lit up with news that a former British intelligence operative claimed to have proof that Russian intelligence gathered kompromat on president-elect Donald Trump, in the form of both financial documents and a video of Trump in a hotel room watching two prostitutes urinate on each other. I think we can agree that is the greatest, most luxurious sex act in the world. Also, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “news” in the first sentence of this post. The memo describing this kompromat has been circulating in the intelligence community and among journalists for months. Yesterday afternoon, CNN reported that intelligence agencies had informed Trump that the Russians had compromising information on him. Their willingness to treat the kompromat story as legitimate seems to have inspired Buzzfeed, which released the two-page memo “so that Americans can make up their own minds.”

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