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I am not surprised that Phil Bryant and his theocrats-in-waiting would deed control over the government to their churches. What does surprise me, is how little faith our state government has in religion, that it would deed control over those beliefs to the government.
We’ve covered HB1523 before. There, I called it the “Three Commandments.” This is a more accurate name than the hyper-Orwellian "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act."
Listen. HB1523 restricts, not protects, your conscience, while trashing the constitution.
Let’s do a test.
Are you a cop who doesn’t want to haul the homeless away for begging? Our man-baby legislators deeply regret that they cannot help you.
Did you want to break into a military base and decommission a weapon of mass destruction to, perhaps, save the entire human race? You’ll be going to jail. The apocalypse is not religious.
Maybe you work at a company dumping toxic waste into the river and poisoning future generations, and remember something from some holy book about it, and blow the whistle? Sorry, your conscience is not free to do so, and our pathetic attorney general won’t give you the same protection he does to bogus forensic experts who send people to jail with science-sounding lies.
Are you a prison guard who refuses to beat and torture because of what Jesus taught? Then buddy, you are fired.
There are ten commandments, but our legislators have improved upon that tired, three thousand year old formula, giving us something sleek and tweet worthy for the new, modern theocracy - there are only three religious beliefs!
Yes, in order to keep our government out of our churches, our government has now mandated the three protected religious beliefs. (You can read this ill-constructed mess of a document HERE)
This law is awful in two ways. I need you to keep in mind as I go from here, I will often be quoting from this incredibly poorly written law - clearly our legislators are products of terrible educations from segregation academies. I would never write something so awkward and kludged together, and I once transcribed a madman’s feverish review of a television show that never existed.
The other way in which this is awful is that it is cruel, unnecessary, and intrusive.
One: Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
Note that their religion begins in denial of the obvious existence of other unions. Those are legal unions, and if you have a“sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction…” about those legal documents, then stop being a child, and realize that the law only has a tangential connection to what is right and wrong - and even less to your sincerely held beliefs and convictions. Legal marriage exists to provide the state and her attendants with a handy legal fiction, not to satisfy your God, and certainly not to in any way reinforce your beliefs.
Two: Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Did you ever hate the thought of hot, sweaty gay sex so HARD that you accidentally outlawed all non-marital sex? Did you ever want to be able to fire a woman because you sincerely believed she was a slut? Good news.
This third one is written like an alien sociologist was trying to describe what Mike Pence thinks.
Three: Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
Just a few notes, Gleep-Glorp the Alien. One. Individuals don’t have immutable biological sex. Two, you can’t always objectively determine anatomy at the time of birth. Three, what if anatomy and genetics don’t agree at birth? What then, hotshot?
Also, I like how, in keeping with conservative principles of keeping the government out of our business, they’ve decided that your junk and your genes are fair game for anyone to question. Dinnertime with the theocrats must be an unimaginable nightmare.
Now - I hear what you’re thinking, and bless your heart, but this law is more than about ruining wedding days, implementing The Scarlet Letter, and spying on bathrooms.
Where the fascism hits the road is who it extends the freedom of conscience to, and how they get to use it.
You can hire, fire, or discipline employees using the Three Commandments as guidance. That’s right - time to write up Bob for having a boyfriend. It’s okay, Phil Bryant has your back!
You can refuse to sell a house to someone who you feel has the wrong genitals. You can refuse to rent to a young lesbian! You can kick out your renter for having had sex in the apartment she’s paying you for!
Foster care providers can cruelly deny gay parents adoption. They can take away or prevent an unmarried couple from fostering children.
You can do “gay conversion therapy,” or as it should be called “torturing gay people until they say they’re not gay” and you can prevent a couple from going through with fertility treatments if you think one of them should really be calling herself a man.
You can make a young man who looks like any other awkward teenage boy dress like a girl, so long as someone says he was born with a vagina (no word yet on what cruelty you can inflict upon those who had ambiguous genitalia at birth).
You can bash your coworkers! And the state can’t do anything about it!
You may have noticed a common thread here. This law only allows you to do negative things. It only allows you to deny, to prevent, to take away, to torment. It protects those who force their beliefs (well, one of the three) upon others. It never allows positive action, it does not help anyone do anything to aid or better their fellows.
Another common thread here is the unimaginable cowardice of these grown men hiding behind a judge’s robe. They want to be able to deny a gay couple a marriage license or a wedding venue, to fire Cindy in accounting for sleeping with Ted, to barge into a restroom and demand to see genitalia, and they don’t want to get into trouble for it.
That is because they have no deeply held convictions. Their religious beliefs are smoke and mirrors - the three commandments and damn the rest. These would-be-warriors are prayer warriors only. They are not nuns chaining themselves to nukes, not druids standing in front of bulldozers. Their enemies are not soldiers or policemen or corporate skyscrapers. Their enemies are poor women on the way to a clinic, scared couples wanting a special day, teenagers who want to use a restroom without being harassed.
Deeply held convictions are the ones you hold even when they get you into trouble. There is nothing conscionable about using your privilege and position to prevent yourself from being inconvenienced when you are going out of your way to be hateful, but it is, at least, deeply religious.
As a man with a beard who spends an inordinate amount of time in a swamp, I take a particular umbrage with Duck Dynasty, especially Phil Robertson, the one you always see talking about Jesus. You know. The Duck Commander. The guy who's always tricking ducks into trying to have sex with him so he can murder them.
Well, he’s got a movie coming out, and if the phrase “Citizens United Productions” fills you with confidence about the quality of your information, the Bad Duck Lieutenant has something for you!
Let’s take a look at this trailer, folks: Yes, it’s time for another edition of PEARL RIVER FLOW: TRAILER REVIEWS.
AH, Citizens United Productions, famous for being so bad and misleading that the US Supreme Court had to be called in to determine if what they said was illegal. “Technically, it’s legal for us to say this” is both their hard-earned slogan and the bar which they strive to reach with every production.
Yes, this quack film is being brought to the theaters by the scintillating masterminds behind Hillary: The Movie, the worst movie ever to be the subject of a Supreme Court Case. It’s not a pornography in the traditional sense of the word, as most legally-challenged films are, but there is a fuck ton of mental masturbation throughout. But, none of the fun kind.
Citizens United Productions was also legally allowed to produce Occupy Unmasked, which is "a deranged hodge-podge of bizarre memes, wild dot-connecting and unadulterated fury." according to one review that, I imagine, makes the movie sound far more fun than it actually is. Additionally, that’s the best description of Breitbart News that I’ve ever heard.
Breitbart - the news outlet named for the racist asshole who got ACORN defunded through fraudulent videos - is important here, because they’re an integral part of Citizens United Productions. They also employed the producer of this movie, Stephen K. Bannon, an ex Goldman Sachs investment banker who thinks that Ronald Reagan beat the commies with one hand tied behind his back by the liberal elites. That didn't stop him from making money with Sean Penn and Seinfeld, though.
Plus, since he was in Hollywood right before Biosphere 2, and was a part of that project, I can only make the astounding leap in reasoning that he is at least partially responsible for Paulie Shore’s Biodome.
For most people, working in investment banking and Hollywood would be enough black karma to last an eternity in one of the more inventive Buddhist hells, but Bannon wasn’t content to do that, and in order to secure his deplorable bonafides, went to work at Breitbart before becoming the Donald Trump campaign's Chief Executive Officer!
Another name they’re tossing out in this trailer is David N. Bossie, Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager. If Citizen’s United Productions and, by extension, Breitbart and Torchbearer were any more a Donald J. Trump Junior joint, this movie would have giant gold TRUMP letters on it somewhere.
I need to get back to this trailer now. We all know the demons behind the camera are worse than anything their bible conjures, so let’s see what illusions they’re casting to ensnare the innocent.
The trailer opens with a hopeful monologue, as the only happy voice in the mix proclaims “even the mightiest of dynasties eventually crumble,” as we at home are filled with the hope that the Duck Dynasty will be the next bag on the trash fire of history.
Alas, we are then shown the shotgun shooting Ayatollah of Louisiana himself, the only face associated with hunting ducks that’s more vilified than that damn dog from Duck Hunt, Phil Robertson - DUCK COMMANDER! Oh, and he’s serious. He’s telling us!
“In the beginning, there was God! Beyond all time and space there was god...:”
We’re not going to get into the infinitely recursive question of “well then what was before God if everything has to have a beginning, and if it was beyond all time, how can it be before and if it was outside of space, where was God, so never mind all that then. Those, I am told, are the questions of a child. The answers to those questions are deep. Deep answers, down at the bottom, I’m sure.
Thirty seconds in we’ve got SATAN! Satan, “the father of lies,” represented by… uh, a clearly rubber cobra in a fake tree.
Hold on a second. A fake snake? Is that a metaphor for the illusory nature of the devil? A clue that you’re not taking this seriously? I know it can’t be because you can’t get a real snake, Phil, you live in a swamp and spend all your time there, you can find a real fucking snake okay?
I am beginning to think these assholes don’t care. Anyway, back to the trailer.
“Man shakes his fist at his creator” Phil lets us know - because atheists spend all our time angry at a thing we don’t believe in. Or maybe he just knows that everyone watching this trailer is out there shaking our fists at the creator of this film.
Now Phil’s mad. He says that mankind has said to itself “I decide what’s right and wrong!” The fact that he thinks this is wrong is beside the point. Obviously this is true. We do decide what is right and what is wrong. We’re maybe not so excellent at it, but I think we do alright.
NEXT: IN GOD WE TRUST vanishes from the money! What? It is still on the money, right? If I had any money or knew anyone with money I’d find out for myself, so let’s see…. If only there was some way to find a few dollars and conclusively prove this guy was fulllll of shit.
(NOT PICTURED: DOLLARS, BECAUSE I AM BROKE AS FUCK. GO LOOK IN YOUR WALLET, YOU RICH SNOB)
Forty-five seconds in, we get to what appears to be the main point of the trailer: ISIS and NAZIS!
ISIS and Nazis are what happens when you don’t believe in GOD! You’ll believe in anything! I mean, I’m no geopolitical expert, nor an authority on the Third Reich, but Phil. Buddy. Phil. Duck Commandant. Bro. Look. I’m pretty sure you could sit in your Duck Diner in Monroe,Louisiana, get on the free wifi, and use your phone to wikipedia the fact that ISIS is pretty hardcore up in that “believing in God” thing.
Same goes for Nazis. Christian apologists have an amazing technique for handling this egregious error - anyone who follows a God who isn’t precisely what they think God should be doesn’t technically believe in God, since it's not their exact God! It’s an argument that works better with Scotsmen, I think.
I don’t want to get into the Nazi thing, but I have a feeling it’ll come up again. It’s a short trailer, but there can’t be too many points Duck Commander-Admiral can make, here.
We’re fifty seconds in, now. Shit’s getting real.
“With the Fall, Death entered into creation. Now all of creation is subject to its bondage to decay.”
Oh hell yes. Phil is getting METAL AS FUCK. This, I can get behind. It doesn’t really sound like something Phil would say, though, does it? That’s because it’s from the Bible! Romans 8:21. Duck Commander is getting ready to engage in mutual assured duckstruction, baby! We’re talking end of the fucking world, kids, so buckle up and get ready to die!
How did I know Phil didn’t say that? It’s a long sentence with recursion. The Three Star Duck Commander doesn’t talk like that. He reads his lines like Donald Trump gives political speeches. Disjointed word chunks. Order not important. Loudmouth poetry. GOOD. HUGE DUCKS.
We’re one minute and twenty seconds in when Duck Commander General laments the fact that human beings have moral reasoning. This is clearly a problem for him, as he indicates with a dejected sigh at the end of the line: “When men begin to determine what’s right and wrong.” Of course, as he says that, the trailer shows us things that are wrong. Atheists and believers both will recognize them as wrong, just as we recognize the wrongness in his next, absolutely bonkers line: “In the absence of god, the man with the biggest stick determines your worth.”
Shit, someone tell the medieval peasants that their existence was egalitarian and free, because there’s no way that the Catholic Church or the Caliphates ever practiced anything like that. No sir, authoritarian bullying is impossible with God!
BACK TO THE CAROUSEL OF HORROR! Moral decay? Give them a flash of Miley Cyrus. Sure, she can’t even be in the running for the top one-hundred worst things happening to the world right now, but Duckmaster Flash hates her, I can tell!
Twenty seconds later, we’re only one minute and forty seconds into this gibbering nightmare, which I have had to watch at least four times for this review, so HAVE PITY ON ME!
I… I think the Duck Rear Admiral Third Degree is in Rome, now, and he’s got his arms spread wide and his beard in full flow, Old Testament style and he’s saying “WHEN HE OPENED THE FOURTH SEAL AND I HEARD A VOICE SAY COME!”
Yes, the Ducken Oberleutnant is reading his bible again, and this time it’s Revelations 6: 7-8, where DEATH rides his pale horse to kill! He kills with war, he kills with famine, and, he kills with, uh… death. Okay, that seems a little redundant, but I’m not gonna argue with Death.
To drive the point home, the trailer shows us sickening images of violence, mostly done by terrorists in the Middle East and Africa who have ISIS flags and certainly, without a doubt, in absolutely no way believe in God.
If only ISIS knew they didn’t believe in God, they could quit their holy war and start telling people about astronomy like the rest of us atheists.
SO, we’ve seen some death and we’ve seen some doom and we’re nearing the end, baby! We’re two minutes and five seconds into this never-ending bad trip and all the orange slices and vitamin B in the world aren’t helping as Ducktor Doom blames non-belief again! What has it done this time? It’s responsible for people feeling lonely, ashamed, and self conscious!
FUCK! Nobody tell the Catholic Church that atheists invented shame. I’m sure that none of those emotions were ever felt before Nietzsche said “God is dead,” and those are all emotions that are never felt by believers. That’s gotta save church-goers a ton on therapy bills, right? Sorry if you do believe in God and every once in awhile you feel a little lonely, because the Duck Commander thinks you’re no TRUE CHRISTIAN.
Okay, quick note at 2:20, Duck General says all this death is “the legacy of fallen mankind,” but isn’t all mankind fallen? Whatever.
But hang on! The hunting guy is ashamed that we’re full of violence and carnality. So here come the NAZIS to prove that… atheists are evil? Did the National Socialist Party believe in God? I feel like that iron cross might be a clue, so let’s take a quick look into it:
Yes. The whole thing where the inner circle of the Third Reich is satanic, degenerate, and oddly effeminate? That’s a lie started shortly after World War II ended, and most Germans were as fully believing Christians as most are now, or most Americans are now. The members of the National Reich Church would have been pretty astonished to learn that they were not Christians, and I feel like the Wehrmcht would have had to change it's motto if they knew that God was not, in fact, with them.
But don’t worry about the death and the pale horse! Duck Overlord knows the only way to solve this problem! WAR! The “best chance of civilization!” WAR. GREAT. Violence and carnality and we decide what’s good and bad! Dark Ducker is here to save us all with a war, that’s what it’s good for!
So now it spirals down into Duckmaster Duckman wandering in the woods, a hobby he is besmirching. All in all, we have a trailer that is incoherent, a wet mess of pictures and unrelated words, a morass of moral judgements, preaching, and bible verses. A hodge-podge grab-bag of history, truth, and theology. In other words, it's the Breitbart Bible, coming soon to a theater near you. In Madison. At the Malco.
The movie will be out on October 7th, at which point I may try and slog through a torturous review.
Please hate this article so I don't have to do it.
Many foolish people believe that HB 1523 protects their religious beliefs. It does not. It protects three beliefs, and three beliefs only. What are they? Let's find out!
One: Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
Two: Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Three: Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
Or, to rewrite this in my own words:
1: No homo.
2: No ring, no fling.
I was going to try to come up with a clever way to phrase the third one, but it's so byzantine and weird that I couldn't, and I'm a guy who once pretended that a massive flood simulation structure was a pre-alpha release of Fallout 5. It sounds like something an alien would say if they got stuck on Earth, except they'd probably have a better grasp of Earth-man biology.
So, we're stuck with belief #3 being "Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth." I feel like they had the word "Human" in there a few times but got it edited out by one of those alien-human hybrids from The X-Files.
This is billed as an act to protect religious freedoms. I'll go and check my supply of holy books for anything covering "Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth," but I think it might be an even weirder offshoot of Scientology.
So, some of the slimy defenders of this bill constantly make the grandiose boast that it's all about weddings and marriages, and how dare you force their pastor to marry two men together!
I'm not sure that's a big problem. If you're asking a preacher to do your wedding and he doesn't want to, he can say no. Now, that doesn't apply to, say, a public business like a wedding venue, because it's a business open to the public, so...
So can I just go ahead and assume that all the talking point monsters clogging the newspapers and comment sections haven't read the damn bill? I will, because of course they haven't read the goddamn bill. I don't blame them, it's poorly written drivel, no plot, no characters, it goes over the "this is what a wedding is and we don't like doing them" thing in three separate places, but then, it gets to the really insidious shit.
Say what you will about conservatives, they're right about one thing - you shouldn't just 'make a law' unless there's a very pressing need. This bill is a problem in search of a application. Let's find out what it can let you do to anyone who breaks the Three Commandments, Mississippi Edition.
Let's find out what the problems we can create are!
If someone's breaking one of the Three Commandments, you can discriminate in hiring or firing! Yes, it's time to fire away the gay! Deny housing to that teenager kicked out of her house by her parents! Go for it!
Prevent a recently allowed adoption by a gay couple? Okay! HB1523 to the rescue!
Say you're a social psychology professional and, because it's debunked, hurtful pseudoscience, you want to defund an anti-gay counseling service? Sorry, that's prohibited! Pray away the gay is now okay!
Have you discriminated against a couple involved in fertility services? You're safe!
Bigotry in school dress codes? Protected! Want to prevent someone from using public restrooms, spas, locker rooms, or gyms that make them feel comfortable? You're golden!
State employees can badmouth their coworkers! Clerks (not just weddings, but all state functions) who won't deal with THE BIG THREE are protected!
State tax codes can no longer take away tax-exempt status from entities engaging in this chicanery, nor can they be prevented from getting grants, loans, guarantees, or state contracts!
Why, it even prevents other state organizations from firing these assholes, so if your coworker is fucking someone and they're not married to each other, screw HR laws and stuff, just fire the hells out of 'em!
Yes, these are the only three religious freedoms protected by this law. It's almost as if it wasn't about religion at all.
The State of Mississippi is looking out for you - assuming you're a Confederate monument. Oh, Civil War, don't get me wrong, I love a good treason as much if not more than the next man, but if you're going to be warring against a corrupt, fascist government, maybe don't do it so that you can own people?
If "people owner" is the kind of person you are, then A: Stop reading my website, and B: The State of Mississippi has your back!
Yes, upcoming legislation authored by old racist assholes who are dead inside would prevent towns, cities, and institutions from removing stone monuments to even older, deader racist assholes! These assholes are going ass to ass to protect their nonexistent right to make you look at their dicks all the time! How? Why, these lovers of FREEDOM will throw you in jail if you don't LOOK AT IT!
If you, as part of a democratically elected town council or organization, vote to remove that racist old eyesore, this is what will happen, and I quote:
"Any member of a governing body who votes for or otherwise causes an action that would be in violation of subsection (1) of this section, and such action is actually realized, shall be personally liable and punished..."
Punished! Personally liable! Unlike, say, the school board in Rankin County, Mississippi, which has repeatedly broken the rules regarding the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. Now those Mississippi goat-scrotum good old boys have only made the funding of the school district suffer, not the lawbreakers in charge!
But if you want the granite bust of Lt. General Beauregard T. Whitesheets to be removed from the lawn of the MLK Middle School in Tombsawumba, MS, that'll come out of your OWN pocket! AND you could go to jail! Again, I quote the words of racists, though I may not be able to get their shit-eating mealy-mouthed accents quite right:
"Any person who violates this section shall be punished by a fine of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), imprisonment for six (6) months in jail and must pay all related restoration or relocation costs incurred as a result of the violation."
Speaking of DICKS, you dicks up in north Mississippi elected Dan Eubanks even after I specifically told you not to.
Now Representative Eubanks is getting government out of our lives and into our pants, which are not part of our lives (corporations don't wear pants, my friend) and where every God-fearing Republican knows Government belongs.
His Orwellian masterpiece, the "BIRTH GENDER PRIVACY ACT," (spoiler alert) fucks over every single one of those words in the title, and would more properly be called the SECRET PENIS POLICE ACT.
Even if you're a gullible, trusting soul who believes this could somehow address a real issue and isn't just a way to harass a vulnerable group for cheap political points, this act creates a nightmarish "report on your neighbors" scenario that's better suited for hunting down witches and communists. We've already got laws against harassment, which is all you need to prevent in public restrooms. That, and the people who shove a whole roll of toilet paper into the toilet. Or don't flush. But "not matching the sign on the door?" Get the fuck out of your government job, Eubanks.
There's a lot of different sex and gender situations out there, and this law makes a mockery of all of them because Rep. Eubanks probably saw an episode of Orange is the New Black once. Doctors notes to go to the bathroom! Didn't bring it? Five to ten years in Parchman, buddy! That'll fix ya! Cops are gonna be checking your junk before you use it! Go small government! Go PRIVACY!
To quote Rep. Eubanks' website: "Over the past decade, we have seen an erosion like never before of both our individual and state's rights.*"
*Unless of course I'm worried about what's in your pants."
But lest you think that Rep. Eubanks is trying in any way to help you, the hypothetical reader (our research shows we have no readers) let's take a look at one other aspect of his shitty, incompetent legislation.
The second part of the law is a little less atrocious, and seems to try and address the growing concern that is phone and electronic harassment. Unless, of course, you're a debt collector:
"The provisions of this section do not apply to a person or persons who make a telephone call that would be covered by the provisions of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 USCS Section 1692 et seq."
What can I say about Representative Eubanks? He surely has the needs of debt collectors placed about your right to not have people questioning your genitals. That's the best thing I can say about this sick fuck.
Okay, so now that we're done with dicks and assholes, let's try and find out why these elected representatives know so little. They're knowledge-deficient donkey-brains, it's obvious, but we must ask the question - do they read books?
No. Just book, singular. You see, proving that brainless blathering is a bipartisan affair in Mississippi, a local democrat with a smug face and a bowlcut wants the state book to be The Bible. I mean, there's more than one bible out there, but this bill only designates The Holy Bible as the state book. Maybe someone out there more clever than I could work with that - does Thor have a holy bible, or just comic books?
And if you think the incessant march of progress will overtake these tremendous asshats before the apocalypse (we have some nice apocalypse poems if you need them) - rest assured, they're trying hard to make the children (aka 'the world') mindless brats suitable for malls, not America.
Yes, they're tired of teachers teaching The Science. They're tired of these textbooks showing students that things like evolution and global warming are real, and they want any bratty little shitstain to be able to interrupt a class with smug "God's not dead" bullshit they learned in chain emails, and the teacher be unable to do a damn thing about it. Can you imagine this in practice? Our representatives cannot, they lack the proper brain structures for empathy, imagination, and creative thought. This isn't even a new creation, a de novo law. This is an evolution of an older, more cretinous strategy by the Creation Institute and others.
So there's the new horrible laws they're working on! I don't know who'll be on the ballot in the the next election, but I know that the votes will be cast with pitchforks and torches.
I've avoided writing about Donald Trump, because his participation in presidential politics has seemed equal parts inconsequential and absurd, the difficulty in attempting to understand the situation has always outweighed any possible benefit.
Then, I was provided with a metaphor, in an interesting piece in Think Progress, by the improbably named Judd Legum, who is not, am I told, a sort of pea.
Judd argues that the work of French literary theorist Roland Barthes is critical to understanding the Trump campaign. If I may be a bit European myself, then - "bollocks." However, Legum and Barthes do point us to a familiar vehicle, one that will allow us to drive to the heart of this madness.
Greater minds than mine have been obsessed with professional wrestling, and with good reason. Wrestling is a distinctly modern theater.
It's also something that resembles presidential politics - color-coded costumes, identifiable teams, stage personalities, masterful prowess, good guys (faces) bad guys (heels), cameras, referees, talking heads, and a singular dedication to providing spectacle for the audience.
Like wrestlers, politicians perform for the crowd, the people with the signs, shouting for blood, crowding the arena. They bought the tickets, they take the ride, they have their favorites and they're here to see them, win or loss be damned.
Donald Trump probably understands this more than he'd like to let on. Trump's been involved in wrestling before, and he was a good fit for this thing that is a lot like politics. A lot of people claim Trump is not fit for office, but that's naive to the point of self deception. Con men and outrageous outsiders running for office and ruining the political system - that's been a staple of American fiction since the days of Mark Twain, and the only reason it stays fictional is because in real life, these sociopaths get into and fit into politics just fine.
Now is a good time to bring up "kayfabe," which is the reason that nobody cares that wrestling is "fake." Kayfabe is the mutual agreement between fan and entertainment, that sure, things aren't as they appear, but they are on the up-and-up. Kayfabe is the relationship between magician and audience. It's what keeps wrestlers alive, since otherwise they'd have to genuinely be thrown off a roof into a table, instead of using their stuntman skills to survive.
Political parties have kayfabe. The professionals climb onto the stage and promise they're going to give us more stuff for less money. Taxes are going down and services are going up. The government's going to do more, but not get in your business.
When a U.S. Senator of a few decades gets in front of a crowd and tells them he's a "Washington Outsider," we don't shout him down and drag him off his podium to be lashed in the streets. The state security apparatus has a very intense interest in maintaining kayfabe, not "law and order." Protest the actions of the state or their corporate buddies and you get tanks and secret prisons. Riot because your football team won? Or lost? You get a pat on the back, buddy. Thanks for playing.
Perhaps you'd like a less anarchistic example. Fine. Let's take Campaign Finances. On the surface, it's obvious bribery. A group gives a Senator money to run for office, then, they get some favorable legislation in return. If you or I gave an official thousands of dollars in exchange for legal preference, that's bribery.
But, much as it is too much to ask a professional wrestler to fight without their professional stunts and maintain the interest of a jaded crowd, it is too difficult to get our entrenched, unintelligent and uninterested legislators to come up with a fair way to allow people to congregate along lines of mutual interest and pool money to go about the expensive business of modern publicity without becoming irredeemably corrupt. And, just as a professional wrestler would never create a wrestling organization in which they had to genuinely fight and maim one another to win, no politician with influence and ability is going to throw away their mounds of money and power in order to come up with a more honest system.
In order to maintain the horse-race of democracy, kayfabe must be maintained at all times. Dropping character can cost a candidate the election. There's a word for it - the "gaffe." The media, which in this metaphor is a professional wrestling referee, endlessly looks for the gaffe - breaking the rules. But, what is the "gaffe?" It is a brief glimpse that reveals the man behind the candidate costume. It is breaking character. It is forbidden.
Let's put it to you another way (I can tell you have doubts) Do you think that Ted Cruz acts that way at home? Do you know anyone who really believes campaign promises?
Now you know why the endless truthful reportage on corruption is ineffective. Yelling "politics is corrupt" in the media is like yelling "wrestling is fake" at a match or "they're not really wizards!" at a Penn and Teller show.
So what about Donald Trump? We're getting to that. In case you need a recap - there is kayfabe in politics and wrestling. Donald Trump has been involved in professional wrestling longer than he has politics. Politics is a lot like professional wrestling.
The more wonky political blog types, the people who do awful things like "read Politico" and do unethical shit like waking up in time to watch "Meet the Press," the criticisms they've leveled at Trump are generally along the lines that he is "not political." He's "an entertainer," as though that were somehow more offensive than being a lifetime political operator. (Hint: It's not) The political writer assumes that Trump is committing faux pas (breaking kayfabe) by saying racist things in public, shouting about hedge fund managers while being a billionaire, and never performing the required public penance when he does something dumb - instead, as the wrestling heel would do, he demands apologies from the media.
Indeed, if you look at the Republican debates, with all their dazzling lighting, red, white, and blue imagery, and brilliant marquees that give it a Wrestlemania, Battle of the Billionaires feel, there's a reason the other candidates don't want Trump on the stage - because he's playing the heel, what political horse-race analysts call "riling up the base." The heel doesn't play by the rules, though, ironically, those are the Rules of Being a Heel. He's being the guy that the fans of the GOP love to hate. "Just you wait till the good guys kick his ass and kick him out of the race!" they cry. And when they finally do, they get to feel good about themselves. "See, we're not racist! If we were, Donald Trump would have won!"
A traditional political mind sees this spectacle and asks "What the hell is Donald Trump doing?" I'll tell you - Kayfabe. He is, simply put, not breaking character. Trump invented his persona before he got involved in politics, he is sticking with it in ways that other candidates cannot.
Donald Trump inhabits the character of "Donald Trump" so well that, by keeping kayfabe, he is "speaking his mind" and "telling it like it is" - the two characteristics that Trump supporters consistently espouse as their favorites Trump traits.
"Now, wait, Jerome!" You cry. "Certainly Donald Trump is not some superior actor, able to keep this facade up better than all his competitors!"
Good call! You're absolutely correct. The race for President of the United States is filled with the most sociopathic individuals imaginable. They are capable of lying for decades, a year long campaign season is nothing to them. But why, then, the breaches? The gaffes? The dropping of the facade of kayfabe? Or is something else at work?
In the primaries, it's not as simple as being "always in character." The primary candidate is playing for two audiences simultaneously. First, they're playing for the crowd. Trump does a good job, there. He's a heel, he throws red meat to the crowd, he's big, loud, and spectacular. The people who dislike him weren't going to be voting for him anyway, and the people who despise him weren't going to vote Republican at all. The traditional republican Faces will eventually triumph and the fans will get to feel good.
Secondly, in the primary, the candidates are playing to their donors as much as they are the crowd. Trump doesn't have to do that. So far, he's capable of spending his own money, and raising a few bucks here and there with internet donations and trips to the Donald Trump merc table, where you can (finally) purchase a Donald Trump shirt for your goddamn dog.
The fact is, Trump, a second generation billionaire casino tycoon, is being the "wild card" in a presidential election simply because he does not have to come, hat in hand, to another billionaire casino tycoon to ask for money. Said deranged billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, (no offense to John Hodgman, who is a right and honorable deranged billionaire) has a load of wonderful beliefs that explain why the Republicans, who should be against foreign entanglements and for shrinking the budget (which is mostly the military) are so damn Pro-Israel, even though they're frankly not courting the Jewish vote.
Adelson's not alone. The popular Tea Party bogeymen, the Koch Brothers, the Walton Family, a host of big-spending Democrats, all of them pour money at these guys who no longer even pretend to not be influenced; rather they brag about who has the most money, the most backers, as the refs slap the mat and count the money and tell us that it's all a real game and our vote matters so much that they're going to spend a few billion dollars to get it. (Never mind that they're spending that money on the very media conglomerates reporting on the match)
So that's the cost of the slip up. It's expensive. The gaffe? That's when your campaign financiers see the potential value of their investment dropping. Keep kayfabe in your mind as you consider this: A nationwide presidential campaign is like a movie with a worldwide release. The budget is immense - upwards of one billion dollars. The appeal must be broad, bland, lame. It must appeal to everyone, offend nobody. You thought the Avengers movie was mayo on crackers? Take a look at presidential campaign slogans. "Yes We Can" is right up there with "This Is a Thing" as far as inspirational platitudes go. Kindergarten teachers wouldn't throw that on a wall with a kitten, but it's considered mind-blowing neo-modern bleeding edge art in the world of political campaigns. The reward is HUGE, of course - the government doesn't "waste" money, it goes to the places where congress wants it to go. Bribery is one of the best investments a corporation can make, with lucky winners getting a nice 22,000% return on their uh, lobbying...
There. Professional wrestling explains Donald Trump. He's playing the same game as the rest of them, he's just got one less audience and more practice staying in character. Trump won't spend a billion of his own dollars running for president. When we start getting into the primaries, when he has to pony up to the refs to keep them reporting on him, he'll go to those big donors, find them unwilling to foot the bill, and then he'll tag out of the match with some of the cheapest publicity he's ever purchased. The Republican faces will cheer that they've outed that villainous heel, and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief at the victory of a different racist billionaire.
Congratulations, America. You WILL be made great. Again. And again in four more years.
I'm sure you've all read the news by now, and since our news cycle is bleeding fast, I'm sure I've already missed out on telling you this:
...no, you're probably not going to get cancer from eating bacon.
I'm no doctor, so all this is to be taken with a blood-pressure appropriate measure of salt. But I'm sure you've seen the headlines: BACON AS BAD AS CIGARETTES! HOT DOGS ARE PLUTONIUM! ASBESTOS BURGERS!
Now, should you go and eat a whole pack of bacon, right now?
No, no you should not, you greasy bastard. Moderation in all things, right? And nobody but the Cattlemen's Association (the only people on Earth powerful enough to take on Oprah Winfrey) and the Pork Board are claiming you should be slapping meat into your daily diet. Lighten up, for fuck's sake. I do not understand the internet obsession with bacon. It ain't a health food. It's a rare treat, not something to shove into everything from salads to burgers to grilled fucking cheese. Go outside and play, you monster. Have a fruit cup. Steam some broccoli. Grow up, you sniveling manbaby.
But, let's get into the meat of why these headlines, and all the hand-wringing, is wrong.
WRONG WRONG WRONG!
Part 1: The WHO is Kinda Dumb.
The World Health Organization does a lot of good work. I'm sure. I didn't check that fact. I could be wrong. The WHO is kind of like the UN, in that I've never actually heard of them doing anything right, but I get this vague sense that there have been things they didn't fuck up, and in those cases they did something right.
Anyway. What had happened was: The WHO has this one bit, the International Agency into the Research on Cancer. (The IARC, IIRC) Part of what the IARC does is to classify if things do or do not cause cancer.
If I had readers who were science and statistics minded, they would immediately say "Hey, wait, that's not how that works. That's not how ANY of this works! You can't just say 'yes, no, it causes cancer..."
Good catch, hypothetical reader.
So, as a workaround of "this is carcinogenic and this is not," the IARC has a different (profoundly confusing and nonsensical) methodology. They classify things as "how settled is it that these are carcinogenic?" The rankings, a handy 1, 2A, 2B, and 3, are based on that: 1 being "yes, cancer," 2A is "probably" 2B is "probably not" and 3 is "no data."
The only things in Group 1 are very much carcinogenic. They do, in fact, increase the risk of getting cancer. Red meat and processed meat have been moved to Group 1. This makes a certain amount of sense.
BUT, here's what's important: Group rankings don't take into account HOW MUCH the thing increases the risk of cancer. Only that it DOES.
Eating bacon? A very tiny increase for a certain chunk of the population (men, over a certain age). But that's enough to put it in Group 1, with cigarettes, which have a very HUGE increase for everyone who smokes them.
Or plutonium, which, again - HUGE increase in cancer for EVERYONE exposed. Asbestos? Same. But there's other fairly harmless things in Group 1 as well - some antibiotics, some oral contraceptives, alcohol, sunlight. These things CAN cause cancer. Sometimes. In some people. Depending on the exposure. Etc. Etc. Endless et cetera. The ranking is based solely on the strength of the evidence that they CAN. Not the increase in the risk!
Reading into the articles that most people linked to, you might have puzzled together this information. Sure, it wouldn't have been as easy to figure out, or as vulgar.
You MIGHT have figured it out if you read enough of the articles, provided you didn't get stuck with an especially feverish vegan food website - if you're visiting from Veganista, hello! We have vegan recipes!
But, you could also have been mislead by The Guardian, which isn't usually this stupid.
These were inevitably bad headlines. People call such headlines "clickbait," but that's what a headline does, in modern journalism. It makes you click. It is, literally, clickbait. That doesn't have to mean that it's misleading.
In the end, you could have just as accurately claimed: Bacon! As Healthy as Sunshine!
Or, more sinister: Smoking: Healthy as Sunshine, Claims WHO!
Big tobacco, I am available.
It was 2005. There were only two Halo games and one type of XBox. That night I was shooting people in my apartment with a friend on the couch beside me. He kept telling me to reload, even though I had three shells left.
Boom. Boom. Boom. On the third headshot, someone kicked open the door. In the apartment, not the game. All the doors in the game were automatic. The door to the apartment was not. You had to move the handle. I paused the game.
I kept the game paused.
I put the controller down. My backseat shooter picked it up.
"Where?" I asked.
"Next door. Joe and Ellie's."
I ran across the street. I looked both ways.
Their house looked like a general store. Shutters on the windows, flat roof, the open red door, complete with a man on the porch smoking a corncob pip not full of small town tobacco.
I stopped at the door. Inside, I heard the sound of ham hitting ham to stoned cheering. Lots of bare feet on the floor, like a dance party with the simplest drum beats possible.
This was Fight Club filmed with extras from a food coop. Writhing lithe bodies and whipping white dreadlocks, bony fists jabbing, gloves on, a egalitarian commingling of all body shapes sizes and smells, a white bread coalition of sexes and genders and orientations all dead set on beating the everliving shit out of one another.
A tiny worm of glee built up inside me, crawled up my spine and wrapped itself around my brain so that it could express itself. I shouted incoherently, then added "who wants some?" and a heavy drink of Jack Daniels that someone offered up.
"Whiskey fight!" A gnarled girl said. She was taking earrings and nose studs out so she could get punched in the face.
I laced up the big red gloves. Had I not looked both ways crossing the street? Had I died and gone to Valhalla, picked up by some Valkyrie who had not yet grasped the modern concept of video games?
Glee again as the first hippie answered the challenge. I was by far the largest person in the room, and unlike most of the people there, I had been fights.
I gave a hard right hook to a sprawling confused kid who couldn't decide if we were breakdancing or fighting. The swelling would make his post-fight explanation of white-guy capoeira even less comprehensible. White dreadlocks guarded his face well, but each blow to those skinny washboard abs was a sickening thing to behold. I let a very big woman punch me a few times but didn't hit her back.
It was not as one sided as I make it out to be. The skinny fists landed plenty of blows, the little feet dodged more than landed, but every punch that hit me squeezed more whiskey and adrenaline into my bloodstream.
"Who else wants some?" I asked in a moment aggrandized by a heart pounding alcohol into an endorphin rush brain.
"Hell yeah I do." The new guy had tattoos of skulls and barbed wire instead of Chinese characters and birds. He didn't have any hair and he was the second biggest guy in the room. Someone gave him the gloves and the whiskey and I had a drink myself.
We stepped into the square made by a surrounding sea of stinking humanity and touched gloves.
"I should let you know." He said. This is almost always the point in a fight where the guy you're about to beat up warns you that he knows some obscure martial art that will not be of any help.
"I'm a marine drill instructor. I teach hand to hand combat to recruits." He said, as though his business was kicking ass, which, I suppose, it is. His first punch went through both my hands and connected weakly with my chin, and in the tenth of a second before he landed an immaculate uppercut to my solar plexus I thought "Well, that's not so bad." All I managed to say was "shit."
I'm not sure how the rest of the night went. I suppose I should have bowed out earlier, but repeated blows to the head mixed with Jack Daniels - my preferred brand of fightin' whiskey - gave me an unfortunate inability to feel the pain that I should have been feeling.
Perhaps other people fought him. Maybe they didn't. Maybe I didn't look as bad as I think it must have looked. I don't recall what happened, but the next day I looked like I'd been in a car wreck.
It wasn't my last Hippie Fight Night. Oh no. The next one was much worse.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I can take any fictional character. Mainly because they're fictional, and unable to put up any sort of fight, or physically affect the world in any way.
That said, there's plenty of places around Jackson in which one could fight Batman (if Batman were real). I suppose if someone wants to dress up like Batman, I could fight them in with these backdrops.
Take this scene for a bat-fight. It's an abandoned warehouse (classic!) that backs up to the Pearl River (okay, not so classic). I've used it in Walking Dead jokes before, as the pile of pallets succumbing to entropy is a far more realistic villain than the show gets. However, as a Batman fight scene, this has a lot to offer. Gymnastics on weird rusty railing thing. Freefall into the pile of pallets. *SCRUNCH!* Razor wire. Long shadows. There's a lot of little scrubby grass, though. You don't usually see that in Gotham City. Maybe a more Western feel, some sort of...
Batman: Unforgiven. If you work for DC Comics, I can have you a script by the weekend.
Just picture it: Dusty streets of a frontier "not-quite-Gotham" city, the old mining street buildings dilapidated and falling down. Couple of gunslingers are about to face off. A tumbleweed would blow by, but it's currently tangled up in something.
Just as they draw - *whok whok* double-batarangs. The masked figure in the long duster comes sliding off the roof after it, a lasso gets one, he rolls in the dust - punches thrown. No gunslinging murder today, boys. The Batman is in town.
But say you want a little more class. Clearly, we're going to have to go Black and White for that.
Jackson has a lot of mostly-intact modern architecture, the kind of stuff that Gotham City abounds with. Big arcs, squared curves, thick bricks. Art Deco, the kind of inspirational swoops and flourishes that give you both Batman and Bioshock.
It's still here, but falling apart. Slowly. Some of it, obviously, can be saved, like the backdrop of that struggling tree - the Standard Life building.
But there are gothic flourishes worthy of Gotham City itself. Old churches. Towers like this that a caped crusader could scale. Strange statutes of horses and other things. Wild gargoyles to hang from, grapple, swing across.
Perhaps, in a less Gotham world, the city of Jackson would take all this sprawling, falling down chaos, and fix it. But some cannot be fixed, and the best plans to repair the inexorable march of entropy have oft come to spread the wasteland, rather than repair it.
It would be easy enough to blame the realtors hording the shells of buildings along capitol street, asking exorbitant prices for shattered and ramshackle ruins, unable to be torn down because of their history, unable to be rehabilitated because no commercial reason to own them yet exists.
But perhaps they are trapped by their own faulty psychology. Or, perhaps, they are out-of-town investors, taking advantage of the low price of local real estate by spending big city dollar bills.
For such people, there is no incentive not to wait. Without an aggressive vacancy tax, it is cheaper for them to sit on these buildings and let them decay, reducing the value and therefore the taxes they pay. The value is already at a bottom, the land is the selling point, not the structure on it.
Solutions that were seized upon in the past have not worked. Take Farish Street. (Please!) The ideal situation is not to have the city spend money and abuse Eminent Domain in order to gussy up some "ready to build" theme park, or Big New Thing. That Big New Thing will be the rotten playground for my children to take trash pictures in, and the finely crafted streets of Farish or the would-be pipe dream of a Lake Jackson? Those are present day ruins. Not future ones.
So let's buck to the solution we know will work. It involves people having some input, a voice, in the way things work in this city. And not just people with big stacks of cash waiting to be spent.
Build the City, and let it fill. Don't plop down attractions and see if they're attractive.
Oh, and if you want an attraction in the form of a Batman fight - you DO have to wear the cape and full cowl, and outfit. It's really an unfair advantage on my part.
"...So, dear nonexistent reader, let us embark on a trip through a not-quite-existent reality, one that holds the potential for some revitalization and rejuvenation for an area we hold most dear - the part of downtown Jackson down by the River..."Read More
"...But no, you didn't do that, you didn't die, because you read this first. So let's trundle back through the muck, get down on the (somehow less) filthy ground, and get past this lethal trap..."Read More