Beating Trump Isn’t Enough

Beating Trump Isn’t Enough

 

we have to beat the conditions that got him elected to begin with

 

When I was 14 I was asked by a friend of my parents if I was proud of being a Puerto Rican. I said, “No.” He said, “What, are you ashamed of it?” I said, “No, I’m not proud of being Puerto Rican or ashamed of it. I can’t be proud or ashamed of it because I didn’t do anything to be Puerto Rican. I didn’t earn it. I was just born that way.”
I still think that way. So if a candidate for President was Puerto Rican, I wouldn’t care either way. That’s not what I look for in candidates. I don’t need my identify validated in that way, and I’m not so tribal in my thinking that I will support someone just because they’re part of my tribe. I’m also not naive enough to think that I can trust someone just because they share that point of identity with me.
I started supporting Bernie Sanders in late 2015 because I’m a political pragmatist, not because I deeply self-identify with a white socialist Jewish male from the NE who is 20 years older than me. There’s not a single descriptor in the line above that connects with me: I’m not white (at least not to the racist whites I’ve known), not socialist (I support distributed private ownership), not Jewish (raised Catholic, briefly atheist, now broadly ecumenical Protestant), and not from the Northeast (Southern California in the 70s!). I started supporting him because I saw how his platform would directly benefit me, and by extension, literally tens of millions of people just like me. And I saw that he meant it: he didn’t develop his platform just to get support. He really is committed to his platform because he really is committed to working and middle class Americans.
I also saw how Sanders’s platform solved numerous problems that we’re facing, and I see how the coronavirus crisis illustrates how his platform points — such as Medicare for All — are desperately needed right now. We have the highest unemployment rate since the onset of the twentieth century, higher even than during the Great Depression, and millions of Americans are still dependent on employer-based healthcare. Does that even remotely make sense? Not to mention savings in costs by having one administrative system over all fifty states, rather than fifty different administrative systems, and not to mention the fact that it seems almost literally suicidal to trust your healthcare to companies that make their profits by collecting premiums and not paying out claims. So long as private health insurance companies are running our healthcare system, they will be trying to pay out as little as possible. They will always try to cut coverage for pre-existing conditions, for example.
I’ve been saying for weeks now that Biden needs to pick a black woman as running mate — for a number of reasons — so I do get that identity politics matter in national politics. But I’ve also been reading some detailed examinations of Harris’s record that have been out there since at least early 2019, and most of them say that she talks progressive but then actually does the opposite on a consistent basis, when it really counts. For example, she talks police reform but has been said to protect the police officers who commit acts of police brutality.
I haven’t followed up on this reporting to verify it for myself, but she was never my first pick, and if these reports are true, she may be another Amy Klobouchar: she may have at some point protected an officer who will be involved in some future killing that provokes more riots. What would that do to the Democratic ticket if that happens between now and November? My impression from her Twitter feed over the past year or two has been that as well: she’s never been a committed progressive so much as a politician committed to advancing her career. She constantly tests the waters to see what policies have the most traction rather than advocating for policies that will address our real problems.
But there’s a bigger picture than even this: we need to account for the fact that Trump was indeed elected president in 2016. He won the popular vote in forty-nine out of fifty states combined, in fact: HRC’s popular vote lead was entirely from the state of California, which she won by over 4 million votes. Biden and Harris represent a political mainstream that many Americans distrust and rejected in 2016.
So, does Harris’s gender and multiethnic identity matter? Not in terms of her politics. There’s no reason to trust her just because of that. We need to look at her record and her donor base. That’s all that matters. After 8 years of Obama, though, I can see that it mattered culturally to have a black president. It outed our racists and gave black America hope. And I have to admit I’m looking forward to the Harris/Pence debate even more than Biden/Trump. She has demonstrated the ability to fight: in her debates with Biden, in the Kavanaugh hearings, and at other times.
The question remains, though: who is she really going to be fighting for? Biden and Harris need to do more than beat Trump. They need to address the situation that led to Trump’s election to begin with, and that’s a political mainstream made up of people who care more about the wealthiest Americans than the rest of us in almost every way that counts. They need to do it through the DNC platform, which I think is not going to give me everything I’d like to see, but which will still be pretty good, but then they need to do it by enacting the platform. That is what will matter.
Only time will tell. If they don’t come through, Trump can always run again. And when he’s gone, there will be others like him. He’s proven that people like him can win, and the next Trump that comes around may be smarter, more savvy politically, and by extension, even more dangerous.

Rock and Romanticism on RCRR

Many thanks to the website Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions for inviting me to guest post to their blog about my Rock and Romanticism titles, and many thanks to Suzanne Barnett for inviting me to do so.

Reading as Democracy in Crisis Now Available for Purchase

I’m pleased to announce that Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History is now available for order on Rowman & Littlefield’s website.
The chapters in this book demonstrate how the variety of reading strategies represented by the figures and movements discussed within its pages were motivated in part by different historical circumstances, many of which involved periods of crisis in democracy. These circumstances range from Plato’s Thirty Tyrants to the French Revolution to the two World Wars and the Holocaust, from the Civil Rights movement to LBGTQ rights to the Arab Spring in Egypt to social media. It covers figures and movements such as Plato and Derrida; Hegel; Marx; Wittgenstein; Warren; Rosenblatt; Adorno, Foucault, Derrida, and Frow; Butler; and Object-Oriented Ontology alongside Digital Humanities. Chapters include:

1 Democracy as Context for Theory: Plato and Derrida as Readers of Socrates, by James Rovira
2 Historian, Forgive Us: Study of the Past as Hegel’s Methodology of Faith, by Aglaia Maretta Venters
3 Karl Marx: The End of the Enlightenment, by Eric Hood
4 Ludwig Wittgenstein: Toward a Dialectical Pragmatism, by Steve Wexler
5 Robert Penn Warren: Poetry, Racism, and the Burden of History, by Cassandra Falke
6 Louise Rosenblatt: The Reader, Democracy, and the Ethics of Reading, by Meredith N. Sinclair
7 Aesthetic Theory: From Adorno to Cultural History, by Philip Goldstein
8 Judith Butler: A Livable Life, by Darcie Rives-East
9 Networking the Great Outdoors: Object-Oriented Ontology and the Digital Humanities, by Roger Whitson
The following 30% discount code is valid until April 30, 2020: LEX30AUTH19. It should work on the publisher’s website linked above.
This book presents straightforward explanations of each figure’s or movement’s central ideas alongside an original thesis about each figure or movement, so it can also be useful for introducing students to different theoretical approaches to texts.

How Fake News Works

Here’s how fake news — the real fake news, right wing fake news — disseminates itself, and it depends on the fact that six in ten Americans only read headlines according to a recent study.

I receive daily news alerts from a number of sources from the far right to the far left. This morning, a far right outlet, Godfather Politics (just the latest iteration of a continually renamed site) sent out an email with a list of headlines, almost all of them alarmist in different ways. One of them included a disturbing headline: almost 8 million illegal immigrants tried to buy guns recently according to FBI stats.

Just on the face of it, I thought — ah no, I don’t think so, so I followed up. Here’s how it went.

Godfather Politics posted the following headline yesterday, December 28th: almost 8 million illegal immigrants tried to buy guns:

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You can read it yourself heregodfatherpolitics.com/record-number-of-almost-8-million-illegal-aliens-tried-to-buy-guns-this-year

They got their information on December 27th from the Washington Examiner‘s Twitter feed, @dcexaminer

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Which you should be able to see for yourself here: twitter.com/…r/status/1078397615350390785

That tweet of course links to an article on the Washington Examiner‘s website, which has a somewhat different headline now. Instead of claiming that 8 million illegal immigrants “tried to buy guns this year,” the headline now says that a “record number of illegal immigrants are barred from buying guns this year.” See the difference? Here’s the new headline:

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Which you can read for yourself here: washingtonexaminer.com/…/fbi-record-number-of-illegal-immigrants-tried-to-buy-guns

Ah, but there’s more: the Washington Examiner did in fact erroneously report that a record number of illegal immigrants tried to buy guns and were prevented from doing so. But, that did not in fact happen. What has happened is that the FBI released lists of names of people barred from purchasing guns. Nearly 8 million of those names are illegal immigrants. So the real story is that the FBI list is bigger than before, and that it has 8 million names, but it was never the case that 8 million illegal immigrants actually tried to buy guns. That’s fake news.

Now the Washington Examiner did post a correction on the news article:

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You’ll notice that the venue incorrectly named itself Washington Secrets in the retraction, which was no doubt an earlier iteration of the Washington Examiner, but they’re so sloppy they didn’t even catch that.

What is the real number? The Washington Examiner did in fact report the real number. Of the 8 million illegal immigrants barred from buying guns, 3,300 attempted to buy guns in 2017 and were denied:

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So what has happened?

  1. The Washington Examiner, formerly Washington Secrets, falsely claims on December 27th, 2018 that 8 million illegal immigrants tried to buy guns in 2017.
  2. Godfather Politics picks up that headline on December 28th, 2018 and emails it out in a digest by December 29th.
  3. Some time before December 29th, 2018 the Washington Examiner changes the headline and posts a small correction on the bottom of the page.
  4. They have not removed the misleading tweet as of December 29th, 2018.

I know my right wing friends. They’re going to say “everyone makes mistakes. Mainstream media does the same thing.” No, this is the deliberate spread of misinformation that leverages the fact that most readers don’t read more than headlines. I know that because they didn’t remove the tweet. I also know it because every time I follow up on right wing media headlines I get the same results. I don’t get these kinds of results from my follow-ups on the Washington Post or the New York Times, however.

What do we really learn from this fiasco?

First, that consumers of right wing media are regularly being fed massive lies and they believe them. My right wing friends won’t bother reading this, and if they do, they might believe it in this one instance but never learn to distrust their sources.

Next, that right wing media is complicit with the Trump administration in manufacturing an immigration crisis that doesn’t exist. The Trump administration, with the help and support of right wing news outlets, is lying about the nature and extent of our immigration problem. The fact is, most illegal immigrants are here to work and to support their families, so they are overwhelmingly law abiding once they get here. And, for the record, they keep coming because American employers keep hiring them — but the Trump administration is not targeting American employers even though they are just as guilty of breaking the law as the illegal immigrants that they hire.

Finally, we learn that the immigration crisis is in fact a manufactured, fictional crisis. The numbers prove it. 3,300 illegal immigrants out of about 8,000,000 on the list is .04% — only .04% of illegal immigrants who enter the country attempt to purchase guns. That’s in contrast with 30-40% of American households with guns as of 2017. In contrast, as of 2011, “data collected by the FBI show that firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robbery offenses and 21 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide.” So the overwhelming majority of gun offenses are committed by Americans who own guns, not illegal immigrants. If we want to curb gun violence here in the US, we need to do it with extensive, national revision of our gun control laws. No wall is going to change that, and we need to quit blaming illegal immigrants for our own problems.

And yes, in case you weren’t sure before, this all adds up to the fact that the Trump administration forced a government shutdown for no good reason at all, and he did it while his own party controlled both houses of Congress.

2018: My Year of the Edited Anthology

Yes, blatant self-promotion here: I have a few publications coming out this year, and they’re edited anthologies, either my own or my contributions of chapters. I don’t feel too bad writing about it, as I love doing this work, so I love talking about it. But I also love hearing other people talk about the work that they’re doing, and I like promoting the work of others — I love it when people I’m connected to produce good things, and I like taking about that too.

There’s also a bit of an ethical imperative behind book promotion: if a publisher invests in your work by publishing it, you should feel obligated to promote it — to help the publisher recover that investment. On a side note, you can trust me when I say there is no real money in almost all academic publishing for the authors of these works, at least not in terms of direct compensation for the publication. I got one check a year for three years for my first book, Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury 2010). Each check was big enough to take my wife out to dinner to an Olive Garden / Red Lobster kind of restaurant, but it wouldn’t cover the sitter too. It sold about the average number of copies for an academic book, 300-350. It’s listed in over 1000 libraries around the world, but shared databases mean that libraries don’t have to own their own copy of a book to have access to it.

But best of all, because these are all edited anthologies, I’m not only promoting my work, but the work of colleagues around the world. So what I’m really saying here is, “check out this interesting work that we’ve all come together to do.” Publications appear in the order of their release.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake and Wordsworth, Book Cover
Taylor Fickes, cover photo. Fickes Photo.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, February 2018), edited by James Rovira. Check out the book page to see descriptions of each chapter, lists of musical works discussed, lists of literary works discussed, and links to iTunes playlists associated with each chapter. Most of the music covered in this volume falls in the category of classic rock or folk/roots/country rock (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Rush, U2, Blackberry Smoke), but we have chapters engaging acts like Lil Wayne and the 1960s’ Italian pop singer Piero Ciampi. Why I love writing about music.

 

 

 

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Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts (Northwestern UP, February 2018), edited by Eric Ziolkowski. Great study of the subject under discussion edited by a leading Kierkegaard scholar — not to mention the contributor list, which is almost a who’s who of Kierkegaard scholarship. I was fortunate to contribute chapter 12, “The Moravian Origins of Kierkegaard’s and Blake’s Socratic Literature.”

 

 

 

 

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Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains (McFarland, March 2018), edited by Julian C. Chambliss, Bill L. Svitavsky, and Daniel Fandino. I was privileged to contribute “Silly Love Songs, Gender, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The table of contents isn’t available yet.

 

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Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018), edited by James Rovira. Yes, it’s a second rock and Romanticism book released in the same year, but it’s completely different from the first with its focus on the Gothic. I’ve built a book page for this one too, which should go live either mid to late March. The book page will also have chapter descriptions, links to the music and literature under discussion, and links to iTunes and Spotify playlists. This anthology takes the thesis stated in the previous Rock and Romanticism book then narrows and focuses it upon the Gothic. After an initial discussion of Milton, Shelley, and the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” chapters focus on music from the New Romantics and the Pretenders onward, covering a variety of acts: post-punk, goth/emo, Eminem, and metal bands.

In development: Interpretation: Theory: History (under contract with Lexington Books). Really interesting project in which contributors examine a variety of reading practices from Plato to Object Oriented Ontology against their historical backgrounds to establish a dialectic between our reading practices and their social milieus. I hope to send a first full draft to the publisher by the end of March.

Active CFPs:

The next two projects are in very early stages of development and continue to narrow and focus my study of rock and Romanticism:

Rock and Romanticism: The David Bowie Edition (will probably be retitled David Bowie and Romanticism).

Women in Rock: Women in Romanticism

 

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