Friday links! Triumph of theory edition

The cat fits in the box.

Japanese cat celebrity Maru fits in the box.

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, some people see things as they are and ask why; others see things as they never were and ask why the media is lying. The world of theory is invariably preferable to the world of, you know, the world. We derive our broad principles from the specific around us, but explicit language feels more concrete and understandable—more true—than the details. So after we extrapolate our theories and take them to heart, we return to the real and identify the places where it doesn’t match theory as flaws. Today is Friday, or at least it should be, and anyone who tells me otherwise has screwed up the progression of days. Won’t you demand that the flesh be made word with me?

Speaking of progressions of days, Tuesday marked a historic event: Paul Ryan submitted his last budget as head of the House Budget Committee. I should have typed “histrionic event,” as Ryan’s budget is for show only. In addition to repealing the Affordable Care Act and privatizing Medicare, the Ryan budget reduces the top tax rate to 25%. That would cut the income tax burden of the wealthiest Americans by nearly a third, but don’t worry. Despite this massive loss of revenue, Ryan’s plan will still balance the budget by 2025, thanks to a line labeled “macroeconomic fiscal impact”—$76 billion in unexpected revenues that emerge from his budget’s vitalizing effect on the economy. Prove it doesn’t work, jerks: adopt these budget priorities for the next ten years.

Don’t worry about losing your precious public television and health insurance, though. Ryan’s plan won’t pass the Senate. Nothing ever passes the Senate, as newly minted Montana Democratic senator John Walsh learned yesterday. His bill to prevent mineral development along the north fork of the Flathead River got blocked by America’s favorite lawgiver, Ted Cruz, along with two other guys who are not as funny. I was about to claim that everybody wants to ban mineral development along the Flathead, but that is obviously not true or Walsh’s move for unanimous consent wouldn’t have failed. Almost everybody wants to do that, including Montana’s recently-declared most conservative Representative in history, Steve Daines. Damn you, Cruz! Shutting down the federal government is one thing, but if you mess with my ability to float the river…

Don’t worry: I know that floating the river is something lots of people like to do, so I only do it ironically. I am fully committed to Normcore, which is either A) a fashion trend among people who identify people similar to them as hipsters or B) a trendy joke among the people mentioned in item (B). The only thing we know for sure is that Times style reporter Alex Williams includes “wallet chains” in his list of “street-style clichés of the last decade,” which I find discomfiting. The important thing is that hipsters are ironically dressing the same way as everybody else now, finally freeing trend reporters from the last obligation to treat the word as if it had some kind of definition. Here’s a fun thought experiment: name any youth culture trend of the last 15 years that has not been called “hipster.” It’s a derogatory term for millennials.

You know what’s super hipster? Spewing theory with as much regard for sense as a sprinkler has for the paths of rivers. Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this interview with #CancelColbert originator Suey Park, in which she reveals that she’s a Colbert fan who never wanted to see the show canceled, and that “it’s not about understanding context, it’s never about understanding nuance and complexity of a white man’s joke, when a woman of color is always read as literal, when to me it was never a literal hashtag.” It’s kind of unfair to transcribe everything Park says in a telephone conversation, where a statements like “I reject the respectability politics, I reject being tone-policed, I think we need to do away with this idea that these structures are … that the prisons can undergo reform and somehow do less violence as a structure,” is immediately followed by “Wait, can you ask that question again, I got distracted real quick, there was a bird outside my window.” But dear lord, Suey Park is not making a lot of sense. She’s like a parrot that was raised inside a postcolonial studies classroom.

But it’s important that she believes the right ideas, even if she can’t apply or even describe them coherently. It’s a revolution of consciousness. Everybody just seize an idea and express it, accuracy and meaning be damned. Like so:


I’m pretty sure Madison Rising is evil, but what kind? I can either accept that what they’re doing is okay or that previously articulated theories of evil are inadequate. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the study with a Bible and a pencil.

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  1. She makes a little more sense to someone versed in the language of difference, power, and discrimination. She might seem like she’s parroting, but you could walk into a high level discussion at the American Economics Association Conference and not understand the implications of “hyperinflation” or “quantitative easing.”

    I quite enjoy this Reagan song:

  2. I see another subtext to the CHING CHONG DING DONG scandal. The subtext is that whites can’t make fun of blacks with OTAY BUCKWHEAT I GO GET SOME FRIED CHIKKIN AND ARANGE DRANK or Muslims with DIRKA DIRKA JIHAD because they will actually kill you for that. Whites feel safer making fun of Asians with CHING CHONG DING DONG. I actually hope some Asians really do kill some racist-ass fucking cracker-ass whiteboys for this racist shit sometime. Whites are loved and feared. Blacks and Muslims are only feared. Asians are neither loved nor feared. I think it’s time to change that.

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