“Basket of Deplorables” Riffs on Trump’s America

“A new collection of short stories by Tom Rachman considers privacy and cultural bubbles in a post-truth era.

The first sentence of Basket of Deplorables announces, “You can’t see me right now. Then again, I can’t see you either.” You can take the narrator, Georgina, literally: A recent head injury has left her blind, and adrift at a buzzing election-night party at a Tribeca loft where she feels increasingly alienated from the intellectuals, musicians, and n+1 editors in her social circle. But her statement applies to all five of Tom Rachman’s new stories, released on Audible in the U.S. and in book form in Britain and Australia. Set consciously in the current moment and a few years from now, the darkly satirical tales consider a broader kind of cultural myopia—one that afflicts conservatives and liberals alike.

There’s something inevitable, if not rote, in the first wave of cultural works responding to the Trump presidency. Most seem sprung from outrage or sheer incomprehension: “The nightmare is in high gear,” is how the playwright Tony Kushner described his in-progress play about Donald Trump to The Daily Beast. But even in this early phase, it’s apparent that the 45th president is as difficult a subject as he is irresistible. Neither satire nor fiction can adequately capture him. So writers might be wise to consider him obliquely, as Rachman does: as a presence in the room, not a focal point. Basket of Deplorables is less interested in Trump than in the people and factors that enabled his presidency, and sometimes not even in those. Its point is that Americans’ increasing polarization and suspicion of each other is leading to a place that could make even 2017 seem like halcyon days for humanity by comparison.

The world of the five stories is an intricate, interconnected one, with many of the various connections and hints only emerging on a second read. The first tale, from which the collection gets its name, is set on November 8, 2016, at a prototypically dazzling Manhattan soiree, where fashion designers mingle with cultural theory professors and Salvadoran waiters serve sumac-spiced appetizers raided from “the pages of Ottolenghi.” Georgina, the narrator, is a former photographer known for her caustic images of rock stars and artists; her good-natured partner, Roger, is a publisher who prides himself on his parties, where Henry Kissinger and Britney Spears might both be proffered as cultural curiosities for the left-leaning “hothouse intellectuals” in attendance.”

Read more at The Atlantic

Featured photo credit: The Atlantic

Would You Read This Collection of Short Stories?

 

Post-Truth Project Featured in Portland Monthly

This month’s copy of Portland Monthly Magazine features an article titled “Fall Arts: Creative Resistance” with a nice write up on our collaborative Post-Truth project with Open Signal.

From the article – 

Big Screen, Little Lies

“Earlier this year, community media center Open Signal and micro-budget film studio Lower Boom put out a call. They were looking for five regional media-makers to create original works on ‘post-truth,’ or ‘what it’s like to live in a post-factual era.’ Say Lower Boom’s Matt Schulte: ‘Everybody believes nothing and everybody believes everything simultaneously. How could that be? I was looking at it through the lens of the breakdown of language and what words can mean and cannot.’

From the dozens of submissions, the partners chose five, each to receive $1,000 toward the project as well as mentorship and equipment access. Dawn Jones Redstone and Brenan Dwyer were among the winners, for their short film proposal, Nemesis.”

“It explores white male fragility through the lens of a single Scrabble match,” says Redstone. “What starts out as a competitive word game becomes recognizable gendered political warfare.”

For Redstone, the change in administration has also strengthened her artistic resolve. “As a gay, Latinx filmmaker, the election gave me a bitter determination to focus the lens on the voices that are being silenced and suppressed right now,” she says. “And it’s absolutely important to me to tell these stories with other women and people of color, because if we want our stories told we have to tell them ourselves. We have to become the storytellers.”

Is Post-Truth An Elite Invention?

THIS IS AN OPINION ARTICLE, REPOSTED TO START A CONVERSATION. SOURCE. 

“There is a joke in the humanities circles about the predictable trajectory of conventional intellectual debates in university spaces and elsewhere. The proper way to understand the world, so goes the joke, is to engage with terms like orientalism, colonialism, nationalism, modernism etc. and then start the process all over again by prefixing ‘post’ before each term in the same breath. The ingenuity of the joke is striking as it reveals the inability of scholars to capture contemporary reality as anything other than post-ness of earlier realities. Even then, these scholars may be forgiven, or even sympathised, for the simple reason that, at least theoretically, these post-everything claim to contest the truth claims and universality of those post-less terms. Thus post-modern is not necessarily the aftermath of modern, but a more critical and nuanced attitude towards modernity, or as one of the advocates of postmodernism proposed, it is ‘an incredulity to meta-narratives’.

For academics and scholars, truth claim is associated with power, and by that logic, the emergence of this chimera called post-truth should bring hope rather than despair. Interestingly though, the world of journalism which gave life to post-truth as a contemporary truth-slaying monster has not been able to match the theoretical sophistication of academics and philosophers. We may say that the post-truth order is a manifestation of our lack of imagination to understand our times and our place in it. And we are told that this new order is something, which has descended upon us and has made itself manifest in Brexit and Trump’s presidency and is facilitated by something called fake news.

Some Indian columnists and intellectuals see elements of post-truth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power and everything he says and does. But if truth-claim is an intellectual vice, where do we place the term ‘post-truth’, which mourns the loss of reason in contemporary times? In 2016, post-truth became the word of the year though it was coined earlier in 1992 by an American dramatist. The term is defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

If post-ness means an attitude of incredulity/suspicion, we should be celebrating the ‘absence’ of truth, the way we celebrated post-modern and post-colonial. The fact that we are mourning over it not only betrays the inability of thought leaders to decode people’s behaviour, but in an insidious way, deny people the privilege of accessing truth. Though post-truth is linked with degradation of news media and the latter’s descent into the world of lies, what is conveniently ignored is that the very idea of media is predicated on the act of mediation or re-presentation; that is to say, media at best can only attempt to capture reality, but cannot really capture it. Untruth or lies are not extrinsic to media; they are in the heart of the latter.

Regardless of our conviction that the journalist is a truth-agent and is interested in unravelling truth, the fact of the matter is that truth is not antecedent to his/her social and moral universe. In reality, post-truth does not reveal the incapacity and irrationality of people; it reveals the growing realisation by elite subalternists that their time of entitlement over truth is over and that people are willing to explore and even produce their own truths outside mainstream (mostly left-liberal) media. For elite subalternists, subalterns are good fellows as long as they trust their elite emancipators.

Mainstream Media And Their Fake News

Post-truth order and its tools in the form of fake news reveal mainstream media’s fear that people no longer believe in their claims of transparency and see them as ideologically driven. Here are some illustrations, which will establish the collusion of left-liberal news media in the production of half-truths and lies. Recently, there was a news item in the form of a confession from Karan Thapar, a leading TV anchor whose intellectual credentials in journalistic circles is beyond doubt. He retracted from his earlier accusation of the Modi government for not having done enough to retain Raghuram Rajan as the Governor of RBI.

Thapar was not alone; all mainstream English media houses asserted the same and did not forget to add that Rajan was shunted out for being a critic of Modi’s politics. This is in spite of the fact that Rajan himself had cleared the air that he will not be able to extend his leave from his university. After spreading this ‘truth’, Thapar owned up the mistake, but while doing so, did not forget to establish himself as a responsible journalist and seeker of truth. First he produced truth in imagining Modi’s aversion to Rajan and then claimed that it was a mistake, thus making way for another truth. Truth indeed can reward one twice.”

Read more here

Photo credit: Getty Images

What do you think of this opinion? Should we celebrate the Post-Truth Era?

Can comedy save us in the “post-truth” era?

In her fascinating, comprehensive new book “The Girl in the Show: Three Generations of Comedy, Culture, & Feminism,” author Anna Fields reveals the audacious women who shaped modern comedy — and the obstacles they overcame just to get a place on the stage to make audiences laugh. Culled from both exhaustive research and interviews with luminaries like Abbi Jacobson and  Molly Shannon, it’s a tribute to the power of women standing up.

Fields spoke recently with Salon.com about comedy and the “girls” in the rooms where it happened.

On the presumed masculinity of humor:

We do think of men when we think of comedy, and we do think of maleness when we think of a comedian. So many of the women I interviewed talked to me about how they have to “trick the audience into thinking they’re men” in order for the audience to feel comfortable laughing at them but also loving them.

It’s so fascinating — what is a comedian supposed to look like?

On how gender fluidity is changing comedy:

What is to be a female comedian? What is it to be a male comedian? What if you are a comedian of either, both, or no gender? What does that mean in terms of how you present yourself to the audience, what you are allowed to joke about, and whether your audience will feel comfortable joking with you about that thing?

On the political power of laughter

I’ve always asked myself if, given that we live in an era in which so many of our leaders are abdicating their role as truth tellers, if comedians, by telling us the truth, become our new national leaders?

**Watch the video for the full interview. Click here to be redirected to salon.com

**Feature image credit: Salon.com

Can Comedy Save Us? What Do You Think?

Interview: Brooklyn Designer David Yun On A Post-Post Truth World And Streetwear Brand

Misinformation campaigns by Russia toward western countries; journalists jailed in Turkey; the spread of hoax news in 2016; the Trump administration’s ongoing game to blame the press for Trump’s woes. These kinds of events are causing the creative class in places such as Brooklyn, Berlin and Portland to appreciate the free and independent press.

Brooklyn designers David Yun, Zak Klauck and their team at Wax Studios came up with “an evolving streetwear/advocacy initiative” called Post-Post Truth. “We are deeply concerned about the future of journalism in the US and worldwide,” they write. “How do you fight disinformation in an age when all information is suspect — if facts are tailored to your own personal perspective and reason is seen as suspect?”

To help support a robust, independent media landscape with high ethical standards, the PPT project has pledged to donate 50 percent of profits from their product sales to independent, nonprofit news organizations that support non-partisan investigative journalism. They point to ProPublicaPew Research CenterThe Center for Public IntegrityReveal News and The Associated Press as some of the good guys they want to support. “Post-Post-Truth looks toward a new era when public discourse and debate is framed by observed, corroborated, and reported facts; when the loudest person in the room is one who upholds journalistic standards, crafts arguments with process-based research and employs objective reason,” they write.

Read more on forbes.com

Featured Image Credit: Scott Haven / http://postposttruth.us

 

Surviving in a Post-Truth World

LOS ANGELES – Despite the falsehoods that some politicians peddle, facts still matter, and getting those facts right is essential for survival. I know, because I regularly see the deadly consequences of getting facts wrong.

I am a behavioral ecologist, and I study how animals assess and manage predation risk. But, rather than study the flashy predators – with their sharp teeth, stealthy approaches, and impressive sprinting abilities – I focus on their food.

Some wallabies make bad use of facts. Too often, these four-legged snacks ignore information right in front of them – like rustling in the underbrush or the scent of a passing carnivore. And they pay for this ignorance dearly, with the sudden slash of talons, or the constricting squeeze of a powerful jaw.

But my research has shown that many would-be meals – marmots, birds, lizards, fish, and sessile marine invertebrates among them – are better at assessing risk. In 1979, the ecologists Richard Dawkins and John Krebs proposed the “life-dinner principle,” which holds that prey, with more to lose than predators, are more creative survivalists. The risk of being eaten – and thus removed from the gene pool – provides a strong incentive to up one’s game. For the predator, the only consequence of failure is going hungry until the next meal.

Continue reading on Project-Syndicate.org

Featured Image Credit

Does survival depend on having the facts?

How we got here: The origins of post-truth anti-environmentalism

“I grew up in the Long Island suburbs of New York and have vivid memories of running behind the “fog trucks”. These trucks went through the neighbourhoods spraying DDT for mosquito control until it was banned in 1972.

I didn’t know it until much later, but that experience, and exposure, was extended due to the pesticide industry’s lies and tactics – what is now labelled “post-truth”.

Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. It was a beautifully written, if distressing, bit of what we today call “research translation”. The “silent spring” was the impact of DDT as songbird species were killed off.

Carson tried to expose the chemical industry’s disinformation. For doing so, she was roundly and untruthfully attacked as a communist and an opponent of progress. Silent Spring was one of the most popular and vetted overviews of environmental science of all time. Yet lies and bullshit prevented a decent policy response for a decade.

And the lies won’t go away. In 2007, one of the think-tanks responsible for climate science misinformation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, began reiterating one of the main refuted claims about Carson. She was said to be responsible for millions of deaths due to the ban on DDT to control mosquitoes that spread malaria.

The reality is that while DDT was banned for agriculture in the US – and spraying on kids in suburban neighbourhoods – it was never banned for anti-malarial use. Even now. But the political right and the dirtiest chemical industry players in all of industrial capitalism have long painted environmentalists as killers – of people, progress and jobs.

Read more on Business Insider

Featured Image taken as a screen grab from Silent Spring

Will the Lies Continue?