I always wanted Ariel Pink’s music to do more for me. The initial allure was mostly there but ultimately I never found he was able to do much with it. His best albums never left me more than lukewarm. I’m not just saying that because he’s now being (reasonably) treated as persona non-grata since he and John Maus were spotted at last week’s putsch, or because of his pathetic interview on Tucker Carlson. Pink has had credible allegations of abuse swirling around him for years, and he’s never really bothered refuting his scummy statements on race and gender. It hasn’t been easy to take him seriously for a while now.
We have become numb. Safe little phrases like “pandemic fatigue” don’t begin to cover it. Headlines about spiking death tolls and overwhelmed hospitals, new strains and nations cut off from the world interchange in our minds with news of friends and family sick or dead. The pain of intimate loss and the horror of the grand tragic-historical fill in for one another.
If the headlines are to be believed then a new relief bill is going to be passed any day now. Millions of people who have been tossed into poverty since the expiration of the CARES Act five goddamned months ago are going to finally be tossed a paltry lifeline. Whether it’s enough to lift them back out of poverty is an open question, given that the direct relief for working people – $600 stimulus checks, and an added $300 in weekly unemployment benefit supplement payments – is about half what it was back in the spring and summer.
Entering Donald Trump’s world felt like entering into a bad fiction. For me the feeling was amplified given that news of the elections reached me, in real time, high above the planet’s surface. Months before the 2016 elections I had booked a flight from Chicago (where I lived at the time) to London (where I was speaking at a conference) on election day. Like most people I was under the foolish impression that this puffed up billionaire reality star didn’t stand a chance.
Compared to the hellish turn events have taken over the past four years, the Great Clown Panic of 2016 is easy to forget. But as I wrote at the time, this bizarre phenomenon – part prank, part media hype, part soccer mom moral panic – was not as alien to America as it appeared. Far from it, it seemed to be symptomatic of a country whose already threadbare psyche was completely unraveling. If you believed in omens, it would be easy to see this as a preamble to something far more menacing in store.
Santa Claus is a fascist. He always has been and always will be. I can hear your shock and outrage at my writing that from here, but I have the facts on my side. Not only does this man run a sweatshop whose workers are basically treated like slaves, his whole reason for being is that he can bring gifts only to Christian kids. We’ve seen this type of selective charity before, but most of the time the groups that do it have been named things like “National Socialist People’s Welfare.”
EP Thompson saw Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the beginning of a new phase in world history. By itself this is not exceptional. Most historians, politicians and commentators, from across the political spectrum, saw the end of the Second World War and the dramatic shift in the geopolitical axis as the dawning of a new era. What set Thompson apart was the name he picked for the logic undergirding this new world: “exterminism.”
Already the air is febrile, anxious, begging to move. It is easy to find the demonstration, with so many walking in the direction of the park. Everyone wears masks. Most wear black, many carry signs: “George Floyd did not deserve to die,” “ACAB,” “Fuck12,” “Defund police,” and, of course, “Black Lives Matter.” A police helicopter hums overhead, the first of at least five we will see over the next few hours.
There are no doubt plenty who thought that if there was salvation in this moment of time, it will come from the Musks of the world. Elon himself had offered to send thousands of life-saving ventilators off to hospitals in need. This was of course after he had downplayed the threat of coronavirus, calling the panic “dumb” and then saying children are immune. But with the productive capacity of the government hamstrung by Trump, his offer seemed a lifesaver. Then the ventilators arrived. And as it turns out, they aren’t the right kind of ventilator. In fact, according to some medical experts, they may actually speed up the transmission of the virus.
In some ways, it’s surprising that something like this has taken quite so long to happen in this election cycle. Almost a year after Poway, eighteen months after Pittsburgh, two-and-a-half years after Charlottesville. No, a flag can never do as much literal damage as a loaded rifle or a speeding muscle car plowing through a crowd, but to deny that they now exist on a continuum is the kind of vulgar materialism reserved for those who want to wish away just how bad things have gotten.