Friday links! New Year’s retribution edition

The first A. Ron Galbraith of 2015

The first A. Ron Galbraith of 2015

It’s not easy to make out, but the Post-It on the wall in that picture says “reserved for future parties.” That should be the official slogan of New Year’s Eve, assuming “it’s not easy to make out” has already been taken. I’m just joshing; the real theme is hope. Hope, of course, is the belief that the future will be good by virtue of not including everything that has already happened. Could we repudiate human experience any more cheerfully? Probably, if we had some goddamn Gatorade, but I will content myself with assuming I’ll have some later. Today is Friday, and I am a husk of my future self. Won’t you blow away into the weekend with me?

First, the good news: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise didn’t speak to a white supremacist group after all. He spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was taking place at the same hotel on the same night, two hours after the EURO meeting—and we have this from no less an authority than Kenny Knight, a longtime political advisor to David Duke. Granted, Scalise has already apologized for speaking to EURO, but Fox News is always up for a little hagiography.

It’s almost as if News Corp, the Republican Party, and various white supremacist organizations were fundamentally authoritarian and sided with whatever faction of society they perceive to be winning. Another News Corp property, the New York Post, is gleefully cheering the NYPD’s “virtual work stoppage.” You may remember when Mayor Bill DeBlasio remarked that the Daniel Pantaleo grand jury decision was something “many in our city did not want,” thereby betraying the New York Police Department and encouraging people to kill cops. Now the NYPD is showing the mayor’s office that getting away with murder is not enough; they demand unconditional deference from the other branches of city government, as well.

It’s an odd kind of protest, as Matt Taibbi points out in Rolling Stone. Dramatically reduced enforcement of quality-of-life violations is what many New Yorkers—including DiBlasio’s constituency—have been demanding for a long time. It was in enforcing such a violation that Officer Pantaleo killed Eric Garner. Taibbi argues that in a discourse less determined by the narrative of “culture war,” people besides Matt Taibbi might talk about these ironies. I submit that a Taibbi less determined by the prose style of Hunter Thompson would not describe everything as “surreal.” We’re both right.

An idée fixe is a powerful thing. With each passing day, the internet and I become more obsessed with the rhetoric of privilege. White privilege is a real thing and a useful concept. But “privilege” is also a word you can use to impugn anyone who is not actively disadvantaged by whatever phenomenon you’re discussing. For example: when Facebook automated their Year In Review function, which aggregates your most commented-on posts, it inadvertently made people who had lost loved ones very sad. That’s privilege, according to internet sanctimon1 Jeffrey Zeldman:

[W]hen you put together teams of largely homogenous people of the same class and background, and pay them a lot of money, and when most of those people are under 30, it stands to reason that when someone in the room says, “Let’s do ‘your year in review, and front-load it with visuals,’” most folks in the room will imagine photos of skiing trips, parties, and awards shows—not photos of dead spouses, parents, and children.

Can you imagine the unexamined privilege of a person who encourages others to look back on 2014 without considering that many people had awful years? It’s a good thing Zeldman recognized and drew attention to this privilege in retrospect.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only morally sound position is to not do anything, plus evaluate the actions of others. Granted, it is possible to do something wrong that does not relate to your status. For example, you can go to a sporting event with your guy on the side and then appear on the Jumbotron:

That’s the unexamined privilege of an attractive person, right there. #HotPrivilege means not even thinking about how often you’re on TV.

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  1. I’ll read any post with the sexy, sexy Galbraith as clickbait. But if I remember correctly, it’s really, really easy to make out on New Year’s Eve in America, and even more so when that charmer’s around. What happened? Is it difficult now? Is my memory faulty? Either way, we’re old, old men…

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