Friday links! Grifters in a gilded age edition

A turn-of-the century cartoon published by the American Federation of Labor

The big historical misconception of the Gilded Age is that it was an age of great wealth, when really it was an age of widespread poverty. Between 1870 and 1900, growing industrialization and the sudden interconnection of markets by rail made a small number of American industrialists insanely rich. The Gilded Age produced the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie fortunes. It also impoverished millions of ordinary Americans, who went from self-employment as small farmers and independent craftsmen to working in mills and on railroads—often for sprawling trusts, usually with little control over hours or conditions, and invariably for low wages in an economy driven by industrial-strength inflation. The Gilded Age made a few people rich at the expense of everyone else. It is named for the 1873 novel by Mark Twain, and the whole point of “gilded” is that the gold only covered the surface. Beneath it lay something base that the wealthy wanted to cover up. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m thinking about this in the 21st century, during our second industrial revolution. I guess I’m just savoring the fact that nothing like that could happen now. Today is Friday, and our age remains totally un-gilded. Won’t you insist that everything is fine with me?

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New Ghostbusters provokes widespread psychological reactance, narrowly focused laughter

What if the ghost librarian looked cooler and slimed her right away? That would be funny.

A scene from the new Ghostbusters, which wisely makes everything look more badass.

“[Psychological reactance is] the feeling you get when people try to stop you from doing something you’ve been doing, and you perceive that they have no right or justification for stopping you. So you redouble your efforts and do it even more, just to show that you don’t accept their domination. Men, in particular, are concerned to show that they do not accept domination.”

Prof. Johnathan Haidt, describing the phenomenon of psychological reactance to Thomas Edsall in the Times. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link.

I have not seen the new Ghostbusters movie, so I cannot say if it is good or important. Judging by the trailer, the decision to cast women is the most interesting thing about it. I am not as interested in the promise of worse jokes but better effects, or in the decision to remake a hit from 30 years ago whose charms are not just fondly remembered but hard to explain. The first Ghostbusters should not have been good. I’m not sure lightning is going to strike that premise twice. Yet rather than not seeing the new Ghostbusters because it doesn’t look funny, large numbers of men are not seeing it because it’s “all women.” On Twitter, they are not seeing it so aggressively they sent threats and racist memes to Leslie Jones, who plays the black Ghostbuster who isn’t a scientist like the other three. After Twitter banned Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos for inciting the abuse, the hashtag #FreeMilo cast him as a victim of censorship. Clinical discussion of what makes people so awful after the jump.

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Searching for the elusive Bernie bro

Okay, those are bros.

Bros who love Bernie Sanders

Bernie bros are like raccoons. We know they’re out there, but we have a hard time actually laying hands on one. On Friday, Mashable ran a story headlined The bros who love Bernie Sanders have become a sexist mob. Emily Cahn writes:

[W]ith the Iowa caucuses now days away, a subset of Sanders supporters has become extremely vocal. Their messages, which are oftentimes derogatory and misogynistic, are geared at Clinton supporters (or anyone who disagrees with Sanders for that matter). They’ve even become prominent enough to earn a nickname: the “BernieBros.”

As examples of Bernie bro behavior, the story screenshots two Facebook comments on a photo of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Hillary Clinton. The first is from Carol Jean Simpson, who writes, “I am no longer voting for you. You should have supported someone with integrity instead of a lying shitbag like HRC. #FeelTheBern.” That’s derogatory. But it’s not misogynist(ic), and the astute reader will note that Carol Jean Simpson is a woman. The second commenter, Scott Lockhart, writes, “Their vaginas are making terrible choices!” Now that’s the kind of cartoonish misogyny we’re looking for. Unfortunately, Scott Lockhart turns out to be a parody account.

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Safe territory

Like most Republicans, Rick Perry knows that government is the problem. But like a shining, lantern-jawed metaphor for his fellow candidates, he is not so clear on which aspects of government need to go. Definitely regulation. Probably taxes, especially for rich people. And uh, when you get right down to it, there’s no need for…um…ah…I’m smiling warmly right now. Is it working? At least my agitation has spread to Ron Paul, who is now waving his hand around like it’s trying to fly away. Video:


It’s possible that will not be good for his campaign.

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Health care debate ends, but Tea Party is just beginning

"You hold the base of its spine in one hand, and then you put the other hand on top of its head so you can get that twisting motion. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to keep a firm grip. It's a baby; it's gonna squirm."

Foolishly, we here at Combat! blog assumed that the political climate of the United States would settle down a little bit after Sunday’s House vote on health care reform. On some level we’d rather not have to consciously acknowledge, we were even a little disappointed. The vicious political rochambeau that had so dominated the past year seemed finally at an end, and as heartening as that was, it also meant we’d have to turn our attention back to Miracle Whip commercials. How wrong we were. Finally freed of the pretense of opposing a specific bill, the anti-health care reform movement has assumed its true form as an unmoored cloud of hateful bullshit. Gone is the obligation to talk about actual health care policy. Gone is the pretense of bipartisan intent, and gone is the salutary need to anchor one’s statements to any element of the real world. What remains is the essence of the Tea Party right, scurrying out from the corpse of town hall democracy like those shadow things in Ghost. Now that it has been released from its host body, the soul of American politics can make statements like this:

If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!

A congressman said that, which makes the hypothetical at the beginning kind of odd. You already have a country, asshole, and it sucks right now, largely because of you. The asshole in question is Steve King, as usual, but he’s not alone. Now that it no longer has to maintain the illusion that it’s talking about health care reform, reactionary populism has unsheathed the long knives.

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