Postscript to future historians from Xmas 2016 (OAG #8)

[T]he facts are what they are — email server management, rather than any deeper or more profound root cause, was the dominant issue in Donald Trump’s successful rise to power.

The facts are what they are: Even intelligent, knowledgeable, sophisticated, and articulate writers for successful websites dedicated to usefully explaining events and issues for well-educated readers were, in America 2016, utterly incapable of usefully explaining events and issues for well-educated readers.

Matthew Yglesias apparently believes, as the sub-head in his Christmas Day article has it, that “Big events sometimes have small causes.” The notion is suggestive of chaos theory, which describes how small variations in initial conditions can sometimes produce radically outsized differences in eventual outcomes, but the situation in question is better evoked by the saying on straws and camel’s backs. Yglesias tweet for his post re-stated its conclusion, quoted above, even more illustratively:

The “hook” is precisely the absurdity – and self-inter-exponentiating meta-absurdity – of the notion it entails, and of the co-absurdifying and absurdified political culture and political system it reflects.

A nation that could be plunged into “profound crisis” in such a way must have been a nation profoundly vulnerable to crisis, or crisis of this type. In this instance, we would be compelled to conclude that something must have been (and very likely remains) profoundly wrong with a political culture or political media – of which Matthew Yglesias and Vox are, of course, typical parts – that could be dominated by an issue to be judged intrinsically trivial, and dominated to the point of determining eventual collective decisions of undoubted significance. The story’s criticial sub-story, of a massively important inane interaction of commercial media with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s announcement of a pending absurd federal re-investigation and eventual announcement of confirmation of absurdity opened another dimension of all-enveloping vacuum, a new sub-zone of indistinction between content and absence of content, of the even more importantly even more trivial factoid of factlessness.

Such profound disability, or disabling self-inanition, of a democratic or aspirationally democratic nation’s chief means – commercial means as well as governmental means, in perfectly incompetent collusion – of informing its citizenry, or of sustaining its capacity for government, or their or our capacity for self-government, would potentially exceed and – one would expect, as we appear to have experienced and would seem to have been experiencing and re-experiencing – very likely in actuality must exceed almost any particular issue in importance, not least because the significance to the citizenry of any issue, or the status for the citizenry of an issue as an issue, is dependent (at some point, in theory, entirely dependent) on such means of information or self-information.

The “email story” would stand in this sense as an appropriately empty or absurd vehicle for conveying the emptying or absurdification of stories in general. The email story’s lack of content would be its true content, and our inability to process it appropriately, as absurd, its true significance. Indeed, everything about this story or non-story story as biggest story points to our self-absurdity, our collective idiocy. That, as though in homage to the arch-conservative Joseph de Maistre, we have inflicted upon ourselves a true representative of one typical form or expression of effective non-sentience, rather than inflict upon ourselves the other nominee and true representative of a different form or expression of the same, may be interesting, and in the short term materially significant, but the real Big Story of 2016 would remain the prevailing utter unconsciousness as prevailing inability to become effectively conscious of the real Big Story of 2016, of that same all-inclusively all-exclusive utter unconsciousness, the Big Story of our our apparent profound incapacity for collective self-consciousness against our remnant belief or expectation that such collective self-consciousness, a necessary pre-condition for self-government, should be within our power, and not just within our power but after more than 200 years under popular sovereignty well within our power.

In this peculiar way this real true big “email story” – not the particular inanely particularized story of an obscure private email server about which nothing is understood by anyone despite collectively manically obsessive attention to every aspect of it, and its somehow deciding our destinies despite and because of its triviality, but the story of that story or the story of the story of that story and so on, infinitely very regressively – would be utterly the right story for us as we really are or as what we really have become: a world-historically important insubstantial motion in the direction of abject nullity and invincible self-ignorance. The real true big email story would be a story about non-communication or simply non-community on matters of policy in the information age, in the event expressed as sheer banality, compulsive dishonesty, and superficiality to the point of invisibility of and among our leaders or would-be leaders, especially in relation to a citizenry which shares identical qualities of lack of qualities, as indelibly conveyed moment by moment and year over year by its or our media – or the complete lack on the part of leaders and would-be leaders in this would-be constitutional republic, and of all the Popular Sovereign’s reporters and all the Popular Sovereign’s pundits, of insight into and connection with a mass of likewise benighted and disconnected, self-absent citizens.

For all of us, not just in the United States but especially here, the “information age” appears to have turned, as in fact often predicted, into the “nonsense age,” all facts flattened into congenitally equally absurd bits in an unimaginably vast, inexpressibly inexpressive cloud of them. This Big Event is also, however, not to be thought a cause, small or big, of what has transpired in the United State of America, for it must likewise be an effect, a realization via the digitization of communications, of a prior nullification of whatever could be or might have been communicated.

Leaving a much broader discussion aside, perhaps for future additional pointless re-consideration, we can venture here only speculatively that the cloud, or infosphere, has proven unbreathable. An onset of mass intellectual asphyxiation was certain, and will remain the “big” thing for politics and governance, with all of the big as well as small as well as simultaneously or alternatingly or interchangeably big as well as small causes gathered behind it.

Put differently, in the counterfactual format of which Voxian intellectuals are usually quite fond, if Hillary Rodham Clinton had won a close election but was left to face Republican-controlled government all around her, including a sizable mass of voters who deemed her and her people irredeemably corrupt and even murderously evil, the prospects for progressive good governance under her presidency would have been minimal. Given past history, it seems very likely that we would collectively-idiotically have held all failures against her, discounted her political successes and blamed her when they were sabotaged, put the inevitable effects of our own incoherence regarding domestic and foreign policy at her feet, and have remained profoundly vulnerable to accepting or opting for even the most idiotic and incredible promise of a change for the better or of any change at all next time around, presuming there was one. Whether whatever event or issue deemed most proximate to the likely eventual shiftless shift to that other idiocy was intrinsically trivial or intrinsically important could not matter less, or, to say the same thing, could not matter more.

Merry Christmas.


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Noted & Quoted

(1)

My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

DONNIE TRUMPO HAS INVOKED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS AND HE’S WIPING HIS ASS WITH OUR MOST SACRED DOCUMENT THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I HAVE EXPLICITLY TOLD YOU THAT YOU HAD BETTER STEP UP

If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.

SORRY YOU’RE GOING TO BE FIRED AS WELL BY THIS CANCER ON THE AMERICAN STATE IT’S GOING TO BE WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER BUT THE COUNTRY’S FREEDOM IS ACTUALLY AT STAKE HERE DESTROY HIM LIKE A GREAT AVENGING EAGLE

Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

IF I EVER MEANT ANYTHING TO YOU MY G-MEN AND G-WOMEN YOU WILL BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN

Jim Comey

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Quinnipiac finds: “By a 54 – 38 percent margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013.” You wonder whether that number has to hit 20 percent before Republicans stop circling the wagon around an incompetent, scandal-plagued and uniquely dishonest administration. (At least Richard Nixon’s White House could keep its story straight.)

And yet Republicans (in Congress and in right-leaning media) by and large embarrass themselves by defending the president, eschewing calls for a special counsel, remaining unconcerned with the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House and confirming some of the worst nominees in history, including an attorney general who appears to have reneged on his promise to recuse himself and raised questions about his participation in a scheme to fire Comey under false pretexts.

You do wonder when a political survival instinct will kick in.

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(0)

Inside the White House, opponents of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s second national security adviser, want him out. This week, they’ve made their campaign against him public, leaking to reporters details about the rocky relationship he has with his boss and trying to paint him as someone hell-bent on overseas nation-building projects that are doomed to fail. The timing isn’t accidental. The effort to damage McMaster comes as the Trump administration decides what its policy should be in Afghanistan, a debate that’s pitting McMaster against Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.

“McMaster is pushing this Afghanistan policy through. I think some people are giving him the rope to get it through, hoping he hangs himself with it,” one senior intelligence official said.

The Afghanistan strategy McMaster is pushing, with the support of Defense Secretary James Mattis, would send roughly 3,000-5,000 U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanistan, according to a separate source familiar with the internal deliberations. These troops would be sent to help bulk up the Afghan National Security Forces, which, after years of U.S. assistance, are still struggling against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a small Islamic State presence in the country.

...But the NSC is not walled off from the internal power politics of the Trump White House, and staffers reading the tea leaves see they still need to curry favor with people like Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, if they’re to have their voices heard and survive in what one source described as the White House’s “Game of Thrones for morons.”

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