Monday 16 November 2020

Hey, America

You're capable of this:

You're also capable of this:

I don't understand.

Images via CNN and The Guardian/Niyi Fote/via Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock


  1. Not complicated. They represent the same strong streak of independence and commitment to integrity.

  2. It's two very different groups of people.

    A few articles I've seen recently have suggested that Trump appeals to people who've lost out (or at least feel like losers) by telling them it's all someone else's fault. Changes to technology and (to a smaller degree) changes in international trade have created a lot more winners and losers than usual. Maybe more important, it's created a whole class of people who aren't used to thinking of themselves as losers. These are the folks who turn out for Trump.

    What exacerbates the problem is our "woke scolds" who put a lot of time and effort into condemning people for not being up on the latest politically correct lingo. They've been around for years, and normally they don't really make much difference: attacks on the group in power don't usually cause offense--mild irritation at most. But these large groups of aggrieved losers do NOT feel like they're the group in power, and, thus, they're powerfully offended and eager to strike back.

    Finally, the Internet has made it possible for these folks to find each other and create echo chambers to support each other in their complaints. Bad as their situation is, it's nowhere near as bad as the fantasies they share online. Ironically, the Internet supports the winners who do things like create vaccines and launch spaceships in exactly the same way it supports the losers.

    I really don't know what we can do about this. The best I can come up with is to hope that the losers are mostly older and should naturally decline in number over time. That's cold comfort if that means they'll continue to be a threat to democracy for another twenty years though.

  3. Is this really that strange? The forces against science have been growing since Sagan's Demon Haunted World was published back in 1995. The Brexit movement seems fairly parallel to Trumpism: rife with conspiracy theories, fondness for strongmen leaders, fascist tendencies.

    Space X and NASA represent a concentration of scientific minds working hard to achieve results. Trumpism represents pretty much the opposite. A country of 330 million people contains so much diversity, and information, especially mis- and disinformation, travels blindingly fast these days. Scientific education and literacy are in the decline here, assaulted by conservative forces that see the benefits of science only as useful for the enrichment for the already wealthy. In academic research we rely so much on students and postdocs from China and India: they are hard workers, dedicated aspiring scientists, the cream of the crop from their home countries. They often have outside funding, either from wealthy parents or their country's government, that help us defray the cost of employing them to do scientific research. US domestic funding for science hasn't kept pace with time or economic growth: it's been largely frozen, so more and more scientists are competing for the same number of grants.

    I saw a post by an ardent Trump supporter on Facebook this past Halloween cursing scientists because no children came to his house for trick or treat candy. Rather than curse the virus that caused the pandemic, he prefers to attack those who made us aware of it, who have the best advice for how to fight its spread, and who are hard at work developing treatments. That's the level of willful ignorance we're dealing with here, but it's got strong parallels in the UK and Europe.

  4. We are vast, we contain multitudes. And many of those multitudes suck.

  5. 40 years of pumping lead into the atmosphere (gasoline), especially damaging the brains of millions of children back then, and taking brain evolution back 100,000 years.

    Now grown up and left stupid, angry, and can't help it...

    Most of the world's troubles... ...

  6. A good book to understand the U.S. is called "Fantasyland"

    America was founded by religious fanatics. It's no different now than it's ever been. Social media and news networks just broadcasts the insanity for everyone to see.

  7. A riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in tasty tasty bacon ;-)

  8. The U.S. (and the world) is and always will be a population divided into intellectuals and ignorants. I'm not sure why people think the United States should be the exception to thousands of years of history.

  9. America has always been a basket case of religious and racial divides. Having read a lot about American history, it's still the North vs the South. Imho.

  10. I grew up during the moon launches. It boggles my mind that many of us that grew up during that era of “American exceptionalism” are Trump’s prime supporters. A sad insight into human nature that does not please me.

  11. Thank you all for the observations.

    I'll pretend to no great insights about the state of the USA. I've visited about 20 times over 28 years, but I doubt that my stays add up to even six months in total, nowhere near enough to get under the hood of a culture. But the polarisation we see nowadays does seem to be an expression of something that wasn't anywhere near as pronounced when I first visited.

    By coincidence, I got to experience something of the mood on the night Clinton was elected. I was at a science convention - either DC or Boston - and as I rode the elevator some well-lubricated Democrats swept me into the party they were having in one of the ballrooms. There was definitely a sense of positive change in the air but it was nothing like the end of the Trump era. I was no fan of Reagan or Bush Snr, to say the least, but from a British perspective, even Democrat politics seemed more centre-right than centre-left. While I was happy enough for the Dems, I doubted that Clinton's ascendancy would make much difference from a European perspective (I was already living in the Netherlands at this point, so starting to view British politics from an outsider's viewpoint as well, and I was certainly no enthusiast for either Thatcher, Major or Blairism). I read PJ O'Rourke - "Republican Party Reptile", etc, with pleasure and an understanding that while I might not agree with him, at least we were arguing from the same sets of facts and his viewpoints were worth considering. I wonder if that kind of reasonable discourse is even possible now.

    The analogies for Brexit are well aimed. But Brexit is an act of national self-harm that (once the dust has settled) will have few consequences beyond our rainy isle. Whereas Trump's shattering of global norms, and his reckless cosying up to authoritarians, not to mention his total disregard for the climate crisis, has real consequences for the rest of the planet.

  12. I like trump. I think he is funny. I voted for him but I know voting does not matter at all. It all just a big show. People take it so seriously like they actually have a real say lol. The democrats and republicans are basically the same. Watch Biden copy Trump just as Trump copied Obama. I'm not talking style, but what they actually do.

    1. Wow. This from the perspective of December 2020. Trump is funny and he copied Obama? Nothing like a nihilist who isn't even informed on anything of substance. Another swell representation of our s*hole country.

  13. As former conservative I think the main problems is widespread racism and conservatives' insatiable thirst for revenge. Around 40% of the US is pretty racist. Having a black president for 8 years made the racists really, really, really angry. Everything that they do now is basically payback for having to endure 8 years with a black president.

    American conservatives have almost no policy positions. They're pro-gun and anti-abortion, sure, but the thing they focus on more than anything else is getting vengeance for perceived wrongs. That's the reason you hear so much talk about owning the libs. They're willing to destroy the whole country and even hurt themselves as long as it means liberals get hurt more.

  14. I appreciate Mathews comments above. Stated more clearly than I could do. The curse of social media has further divided us. On the one hand we have populations of diversity on the coasts, and on the other we have vast stretches of rural communities that lack diversity and so have little understanding of needs and views of people other than themselves. The rise of the demagogue Trump has embolden people who have kept their racism to themselves to express it openly. I fear Trumpism may be around for awhile.