Tag Archives: politics

Hetero Republican Affairs are a Gay Conspiracy

From Maisonneuve:

Hetero Republican Affairs are a Gay Conspiracy

by Drew Nelles

The biggest non-Glenn Beck joke in American political circles goes thusly: When a male Democrat has an affair it’s with a woman, and when a Republican has an affair it’s with a man. (It’s homophobic in its own way—why do Republicans deserve ridicule for screwing other men?—but you get the point.) Recently, though, that’s just not true. First there was John Ensign’s deafening silence, and then there was Mark Sanford’s inability to stop those torrents of sappy diarrhoea from dumping out his mouth-hole.

Read the rest.

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Bidenmania

The sheer scale and spectacle of today’s inauguration made me uneasy, and Jay-Z’s ball performance was a big letdown, but here was a highlight: As the national anthem began, Joe Biden was taking a picture of the crowd for one of the Obama daughters. He turned to give her back her camera, then looked around absentmindedly, apparently completely unaware he was supposed to have his hand on his heart and sing along like a Real Patriot. After a few seconds, he realized what was up. Biden is ridiculous.

In more important news, one Will Vanderbilt has joined the blog-off fray with a handy chart and summary. This should probably win him the blog-off, since he apparently has plenty of free time and an Obamamaniac-esque devotion to his ex-non-hierarchical superiors.

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Of Gaza and Facebook, part II

Vogt fires back, both barrels blazing. He concedes a few points, but takes issue with my last one. PJ, I’ll respond to each of your final points individually.

Yes, it’s true that photography, writing, and film do not get us all the way to the experience of lived war. But a James Nachtwey, a Hannah Arendt, a Philip Gourevitch, or a George Orwell get us as a lot closer than a bunch of inane, trivilializing back-and-forth between undereducated Westerners.

Of course they do. I don’t think I implied absolute equivalency between status updates and more, uh, traditional forms of text. (Did I actually just write that sentence?) Obviously, there is more to an Arendt or Orwell work than to some Qassam count on my news feed. My point was only that it’s silly to damn the Facebook format simply because it can’t do justice to tragedy.

Great writers are better able to capture inhumanity and devastation than most, so it’s unfair to compare Eichmann in Jerusalem or 1984 to a status update. In fact, it’s unfair to compare 1984 to anything that’s not a great work of literature. A lot of writing is bad, and bad writing cheapens human tragedy, through sentimentality and exaggeration and whatever else. We know that great writing is better than expressing yourself via news feed, but is sub-par reportage somehow innately superior to a status update? I’m not so sure. Though we’re immune to it by now, there is something viscerally inhumane about packing death counts into headlines and punchy ledes, but that’s what journalists do. We’re uncomfortable doing the same thing on Facebook – admittedly, I’m uncomfortable doing the same on Facebook – but this feeling needs to be interrogated.

They also demand that we engage the history of these places and weigh the stakes in these conflicts in a serious way. At the very least, I feel like they’d consider it misguided to reduce something as terrible and complex as this conflict into deaths v. rockets status-updates.

I think my above point, about good writing v. bad writing, also applies to the first sentence here. As for the second point, we could always email Gourevitch and Nachtwey to see what they think. But I’d like to think Arendt, for one, would be on my side. PJ brings up Arendt’s banality of evil – and what’s more banal than social networking? What’s more banally evil than a military launching a war and ending it on a political timetable? Facebook’s crudeness is fitting. The deaths of innocent Gazans have already been so cheapened by political calculation that a status update has little to add.

Drew, I suspect you probably agree with me, but are just using that big brain of yours to argue another side. Am I reading you right, Nelles?

I’m not sure what I think. Beyond a campus setting – where Facebook is powerful because it’s all students think about – I’ve always been suspicious of social-networking-as-activism. As I watched a fruitless Israel-Palestine back-and-forth crop up on my news feed, I posted a snarky Gaza status of my own. But, I think, that’s a knee-jerk reaction, and it comes apart under scrutiny. You’re right that this is partly a thought exercise, but I think I might have convinced myself.

Finally, I can’t believe we’ve burned up all this server time arguing about Facebook. I guess I started it. What a world.

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The view from up here

Canadians like Barack Obama, but not his plans. That seems an awfully apt wrap-up of the man’s whole public persona; he is charming enough, eloquent when reading from a script, victorious in a way that is symbolically, if not practically, meaningful, but also quick to reverse himself and sell his supporters short in the name of mending fences.

The Canadian obsession with Barack Obama has never made much sense, and with the inauguration a day away, it still doesn’t. On the Canadian political spectrum, Obama is neither a Liberal nor a social democrat. (No word yet on how he feels about Quebec sovereignty.) He is a conservative – make that a Conservative. He roughly aligns with the Conservative Party on most major issues, and even leans to the right of Stephen Harper on a few. Health care, gay marriage, and economic regulation come to mind, but chief among these is Afghanistan.

When Obama first announced his opposition to the Iraq war, he declared that he does not oppose all wars. (Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Rahm Emanuel, apparently, don’t oppose any.) But Iraq and Afghanistan are the same, though one was launched at a time of political invincibility for its architects. So the wise political hawk entrenches the occupation of the latter at the expense of the former. He trades one violent adventure for another.

A majority of Canadians oppose military participation in Kandahar in one form or another. Canadian troops will largely leave the province, by political and popular consensus, in 2011 – not soon enough, but an improvement on some endless engagement. Yet, in a way unique to this country’s relationship with the US, Canadians are envious of our neighbour’s political leadership. It may be no wonder that Jack Layton postured as an Obama-like change agent in the last election, but it’s also no wonder that even the lifeless Stephane Dion managed a few good digs at that idea. We like Obama – just not his policies.

[Note: My internet wasn’t working last night, so I wasn’t able to fill my contest quota. I’ll post something else tonight to make up for it, okay, PJ?]

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