Dangerously close to empathizing with Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham, millionaire

Lena Dunham: She’s the worst. I’m not exaggerating, either; I’m curating. I spend hours each day thinking about the people, things and concepts I don’t like, and Dunham is the sandwich that brings them all together. A wealthy Oberlin graduate famous for making works of art about young people who struggle to complete works of art, she got her own HBO series at age 23. Girls is about the experience of being a young woman in New York: not having a job but living in the good part of Park Slope as you learn to accept yourself and struggle to complete works of art. Hanna doesn’t know how she’ll pay the rent after impulsively quitting her internship, so she goes to a party and cries. Hanna isn’t sure whether the new Darth Vader likes her, because he’s so handsome and she’s the protagonist/star/writer/producer. Dunham sucks, is what I’m saying here, and she sucks at the intersection of several broad trends in how society sucks now.

I also heard she was racist. I’ll be saying that at parties for the next 40 years, but today I will add that I heard it specifically from Zinzi Clemmons. The author and former contributor to Lenny Letter said she will no longer work for Dunham and urged other writers of color to do the same. Zinzi identifies a pattern of “hipster racism” among Dunham’s friends when their social circles overlapped in college. “She and her friends are racist” seems like an unfalsifiable statement, but let me give some advice to any white people who may be reading this: don’t say what’s racist and what’s not. Leave that to someone darker than you. You get to say what’s what in nearly every other area of society, but this is a situation where you will not be rewarded for speaking outside your expertise.

Clemmons says Dunham is racist and I believe her. It’s a matter of policy. You know who does not respect that policy? Lena Dunham. I quote the Washington Post:

A quick refresher on what, exactly, Dunham did: Last week, she and Lenny Letter co-founder Jenni Konner issued a statement defending “Girls” writer and executive producer Murray Miller after actress Aurora Perrineau accused him of raping her in 2012, when Perrineau was 17 years old. (In a statement given to The Wrap, Miller’s attorney, Matthew Walerstein, said he “categorically and vehemently denies Ms. Perrineau’s outrageous claims.”) Dunham and Konner stood by Miller, and instead questioned Perrineau’s credibility:  “Insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year,” they said in their statement.

First of all, let me call the crisis center so they can get started on a plaque to thank you for reminding everyone what percentage of assaults didn’t actually happen. I’m sure no one will use that statistic to cast doubt on accusers, as you are doing now. If you adopt the policy “believe victims,” subclauses “believe women” and “believe people of color,” then it’s clear that Dunham’s defense of Miller is bad. She implies that Perrineau is mistaken to accuse Miller of rape—not just because her account of events is wrong, but because any report of assault could be wrong. That strikes a dissonant note given the tone of the editorial she wrote for the Times last month.

So it’s a clear-cut violation of the believe victims policy. At the same time, you can see how she got there. Miller is her friend and coworker. She doesn’t want him to be a rapist, so she doesn’t believe it. She also doesn’t want to imply that other rape claims are false, maybe because that would be brand suicide but probably because she, too, believes women. I bet Dunham regularly reminds people that the rate of false sexual assault allegations is miniscule. So in her statement, she makes sure to emphasize that only three percent are misreported. As she’s writing, it feels like she’s defending her friend while reminding people that this situation comes along very rarely. To the reader, of course, she comes off as casting blanket doubt on claims of sexual assault.

Why doesn’t she see that? Because she sucks! Stupid Lena Dunham can’t write well enough to agree with her own opinions, almost as though she had spent her whole life being rewarded for effortful mediocrity. The thing that sucks the most about her, though, is that she can’t help it. I have no evidence and I disdain her with the cool of a thousand dead suns, but I believe she got caught up trying to defend her friend. Her brain looked for a way this whole situation could be a misunderstanding, and her simpering garbage talent did the rest. The problem with the believe women policy is that you can’t control what you believe. I suspect she is an awful person, and I don’t doubt Clemmons’s assessment of her, but I believe Dunham is at the mercy of her biases as much or more than anyone else.

Friday links! Golden age of declinism

Carter Page and LL Cool J’s hat

A few years ago, when frankly things looked better than they do now, we started using the word “declinism” to describe the feeling that society was getting worse. There’s already a word for that: pejorism, but it sucks. In addition to sounding like a Victorian disorder, it does not do the important job of implying some recent peak. Anyone can think things are getting worse. A person who believes society is in decline must also believe it had a golden age. To embrace declinism, then, is to endorse the past. It is a patriot’s complaint, which probably explains why it’s so popular among old people. Today is Friday, and if any condition of society can be said to be better or worse than any other, it follows that society is at any moment on an upward- or downward-tending line. Won’t you experience confusion and fear at the new rap names with me?

Continue reading

Senate candidate blames “deep state” for hunting permit violations

Troy Downing and a fish

Troy Downing is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat Jon Tester for one of Montana’s seats in the US Senate. He is also responding to accusations that he illegally applied for resident hunting and fishing permits every year between 2011 and 2016—spiritedly. Last week, his campaign issued a statement saying that “It’s unfortunate the liberal Montana FWP deep state is on a witch hunt,” referring to the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as an instrument of secret anti-conservative government. That was a stretch. Normally, a candidate would just cop to this kind of violation and kill the story. Downing can’t do that, though, because the essence of FWP’s allegations is that he doesn’t really live here.

I would describe the evidence against him as comically substantial. According to FWP, Downing and his son Dylan used the same Montana driver’s license number to purchase resident hunting licenses within three minutes of each other. He filed Montana income taxes as a nonresident in 2013 and 2014. His property at the Yellowstone Club lists a San Diego post office box as its owner’s address. A 2013 profile in the Lone Peak Lookout describes him as a “part-time Yellowstone resident” who enjoys throwing grape-stomping parties at his vineyard in California. On his blog, he has written about returning from his vacation property in Montana to his home in California. And he is the CEO of a real-estate investment company based in San Diego.

Nevertheless, Downing insists the charges against him are political. So far, though, his campaign has avoided saying he was a resident of Montana all those years. They’ve pulled out all the stops otherwise, repeatedly citing his veteran status and calling the judge in his case a Democrat who released records to sabotage his campaign. Actually, the Gallatin County attorney ordered those records released. You may remember him as the Republican who refused to release Greg Gianforte’s mug shot until a court ordered him to do so.

The point is Troy Downing was framed. He’s a true resident of this state no matter where he quote-unquote “lives.” When you think about it, what’s more Montanan than using the money you made in California to buy a bunch of property here and run for public office? You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which I look past the surface conspiracy of the Big Wildlife deep state to uncover something even deeper, darker, and dumber. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, perhaps!

91 year-old has “great work ethic,” says governor turned celebrity

Work

Work: We all have to do it, except for rich people, who don’t. Even those people do a kind of work, though, by stewarding their family fortunes and encouraging the rest of us to cultivate strong work ethics. Sarah Palin participated in that second kind of work today, when she shared this story from usa.sarahpalinnews.com. I wish there were a news site that had my name and the name of my country right in the URL, but that’s beside the point. The point, in the words of USA Sarah Palin News, is INCREDIBLE! You’ve Got to See This 91 Year-Old’s Attitude About Working, It’s Perfect.

Elena Griffing is a patient relations coordinator at the Sutter Health Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. At age 91, she’s been working there 71 years—ever since she came in with a hemoglobin disorder at 19 and stayed four months, until a lab technician told her to “get to work.” She took a job as a secretary and has been at SHAB Summit ever since. In all that time, she’s only taken four sick days. It’s an inspiring story, especially if you are a human brand who went from local newscasting to executive government to vaguely monetized celebrity. If you are a person who has been working in medical billing for 40 years, on the other hand, it’s a glimpse of a nightmare from which you might never awake.

USA Sarah Palin News describes only taking four sick days in 71 years as the “perfect” attitude toward work. Perfect for whom? If you run a hospital, that’s exactly what you want from your workers. But if you work in the hospital, one day off for illness every 18 years does not describe your ideal working life. Yet the Yahoo piece from which this article was aggregated frames the relationship between Griffing and her employer in terms of ethical obligations on her side and her side only. Here’s the lede for their recurring feature, called Lifers:

In current culture, millennials move from job to job in order to climb the ladder. The average time spent at a company is just two years. For baby boomers and other generations, this was not the norm. Loyalty and dedication to a single company or career drove, and still drives, many of their careers.

Damn you, current culture! Another way to look at the statistical differences in employment length between millennials and baby boomers is in terms of what employers are offering. Compared to older generations, millennials are much less likely to find jobs that offer benefits or even a living wage. You can see their propensity to move from job to job as a failure of “loyalty and dedication to a single company,” or you can read it as a failure of those companies to give them reasons to stay. Millennials change jobs because the jobs available to them suck. Maybe that’s because nice old ladies refuse to retire, perhaps because the same economy that forces young people to move from job to job also forces older people to work until they’re dead.

But that would require us to think that businesses owe something to their workers. Businesses owe nothing to anyone; their sole obligation is to make money, and the rest of us should thank them for what jobs they create in the process. USA Sarah Palin News skirts the question of why Griffing didn’t work for the same company for five decades instead of seven and then enjoy a posh retirement. Instead, they hit us with some statistics about how unreliable millennials are. Quote:

According to the most recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, American workers often changed their employment after just 4.2 years, but one 91-year-old woman looks to blow that average out of the water as she is celebrating 71 years working for the same company. The employee tenure saw a noticeable difference between age groups, with workers ages 25 to 34 years staying with the same company for 2.8 years, workers ages 55 to 64 stayed 10.1 years on average.

Yeah, it is bullshit that the average 25 year-old hasn’t been working at the same company since they were fifteen. It’s a rare editor who looks at these numbers and does not point out that people who have been working four times as long stayed with their companies, on average, four times as long. That’s the kind of ace USA Sarah Palin News is hiring, though, and I assume they’re getting great pension plans.

They shoot Keurigs, don’t they?

Still from the “Where Are They Now?” montage at the end of American Psycho

Here’s how a scandal works in 21st-century America. First, a series of women came forward to say that senate candidate and hairless southern cowboy Roy Moore tried to mess with them when they were teenagers. Then Sean Hannity said they were probably in it for the money, or Democrats. Then Keurig, maker of coffee machines for Air BnBs, stoped advertising on Hannity. This led certain conservatives to boycott Keurig, or do whatever the version of a boycott is where you have already bought the product and simply destroy it.

This is like when Martin Luther King bought thousands of Montgomery city bus passes and then burned them to protest racism. All funning aside, though, it’s a classic example of backlash to backlash. Hannity the conservative icon said something most people found disagreeable; a brand punished him for it, and that brand became an icon of people who find conservatism disagreeable. Enter the iconoclasts, because if contemporary conservatism is about anything, it’s about gleefully defying people who disagree with conservatism.

Maybe that’s why this video of a man throwing a Keurig off a balcony is packaged the way it is. “Liberals are offended by this video of a Keurig being thrown off a building,” young Colin Rugg says. “Please retweet to offend a liberal.” I question how many liberals would describe this video of a man dropping his coffee machine of a balcony as “offensive.” I’m no scientific pollster, but I think you’d get “baffling” and “badass” first. Rugg is sure these liberals have followed the Moore/Hannity/Keurig news as closely as he has, though, and this video has them twitching. He includes “politically incorrect” in his Twitter bio, so the idea that liberals are scandalized by what he does seems like an important component in his sense of himself.

That’s the thing about conservatism today: it feels so self-conscious. Maybe that’s just because we see it through the lens of social media, where everyone performs themselves. Yet lifestyle conservatives consciously identify with particular signifiers—guns, trucks, uniformed service, that goddamned frog—in ways that lifestyle liberals do not. Liberals may be known for their organic diets, effete childrearing, and fuel-efficeint cars, but that’s not how they think of themselves. These signifiers are ascribed to them from outside—not embraced as public expressions of their liberality, as things they do to drive the conservatives nuts. I guess what I’m saying is that liberals don’t have a persecution complex.

Maybe they do, and I don’t see it because their politics is closer to mine. But when was the last time you saw liberals defying conservatism by smashing things? They burned one limo in Washington, and they’re still fretting about it. I don’t see the analog to Keurig-destruction videos on the left. Maybe liberals aren’t doing that because they’re winning, and they feel no need to perform their defiance. Or maybe there’s something antisocial about contemporary conservatism.