September 17, 2020

Left-right power-pop tribute, "Aimee's Pod" (to the tune of "Stacy's Mom")

To round out the summer concert season here, one final tribute to the anti-woke left muse, Aimee Terese. It's written in the voice of any disaffected cultural conservative who also wants the economy of the New Deal back, and found a kindred spirit in Bernie-boosting leftists like her.

The second verse is specific to me, though -- not to be self-indulgent but to reference a key event that I precipitated in the history of the anti-woke left. Namely, a series of posts on their ethnic composition, and why those cultural groups are less invested in wokeness -- ethnically reserved seats at the elite table do not include theirs (see here, here, and here).

Sticking with the 2000s kick I've been on, the tune is "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne (original lyrics here). Political realignment feels like going through puberty in many ways -- the shift from hating a group to falling in love with them. And no genre captures that feeling better than earnest, eager power-pop.



* * *

"Aimee's Pod"


Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot

Aimee can I come posting, with your populist crew? (populist crew)
We can troll blue checks, break their asinine rules (break their rules)
Did your pod bounce back from their censorship? (censorship)
Are hoes still mad, or have they finally gotten a grip? (gotten a grip)

You know we're not the partisans that we used to be
We're all realigned now, against the PMC

Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
No prog facade, and it leaves me so awed
Aimee can't you see? You're our prophesying queen
I know the left is flawed, but I'll be sub'd to Aimee's pod

Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot

Aimee do you remember when you found my blog? (found my blog)
"The List" came out, your name by Lebanon (Lebanon)
I could tell you liked me from the link you shared (link you shared)
And the way you said, "I never knew someone cared" (knew someone cared)

And I know that you think it's parasocial cheese
But since they banned your account, your pod could use some songs like these

Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
No prog facade, and it leaves me so awed
Aimee can't you see? You're our prophesying queen
I know the left is flawed, but I'll be sub'd to Aimee's pod

Aimee's pod, her takes are glowing hot
No prog facade, and it leaves me so awed
Aimee can't you see? You're our prophesying queen
I know the left is flawed...

I'll be sub'd to Aimee's pod, woah-oh-oh
Aimee's pod, woah-oh-oh

Aimee can't you see? You're our prophesying queen
I know the left is flawed, but I'll be sub'd to Aimee's pod

September 15, 2020

More on Tik Tok's uniquely non-parasocial nature (and blasting "Electric Love" in public to get young people in a flirty mood)

A little update on what songs have been well received when I'm blasting them out the car windows, now that we're in the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, and people are eager to come out of their vulnerable-phase shells.

Ever since I learned of the insanely popular Tik Tok trend of surprise kissing your friend, I've been digging the main song they use as background music -- "Electric Love" by Borns. The album it's on came out in 2015 and was not a mega-hit at the time, but by a stroke of good luck I found the CD this weekend -- and in the clearance section for only $2, no less! Thanks to its popularity on Tik Tok, it has re-entered the charts in multiple countries five years after its initial release.

I've only brought it with me on two car trips so far, but I can verify that everyone under 25 knows this song and what it's associated with. And unlike all other forms of online memes, they don't respond as though you're breaking a necessary barrier between online and IRL culture. They're intrigued and pleased to experience this intrusion of online into IRL, so much so that it stops them dead in their tracks.

Two high schoolers walking a lap around the park paused, turned toward my car, and began smiling and talking to each other. A group of track-and-field joggers near the college campus had their concentration broken for a moment, suppressed a laugh, and had to strain to stare straight ahead to get back into the flow of their run. And when I was stuck at a busy intersection, three high school girls sitting outdoors at the Starbucks across the street went dead silent, looked at each other, then started smiling and talking about the random hot guy in the car playing that song (you know the one). At first they might've voyeuristically thought there were people in the car about to participate in the Tik Tok trend, but when they saw it was just me, they continued looking and smiling, like "are u just gonna play that song all the way over there or...?"

That's actually a common theme if you search Twitter for the song name -- usually a girl, lamenting that she still has yet to be kissed by someone to "Electric Love". Kind of like missing out on the mistletoe ritual, only the opportunity is year-round. And unlike other forms of pop culture, Tik Tok trends are not the product of the media and entertainment cartel. They aren't fairytale endings that are too unrealistic for the average person to expect to happen to them. It's happened to all those other ordinary people -- not parasocial personas with a large following -- who are uploading their experiences to Tik Tok, so why can't it happen to me?

Contrast this welcome intermingling of online and IRL culture to when these young people's Resistard teachers and parents were lecturing them a few years ago about how Pepe the frog was a dangerous white supremacist symbol. The kids took to social media to say it made them want to jump out a window -- not just because it was abjectly retarded, but because you aren't supposed to have IRL conversations about a meme that exists entirely online. The two worlds were colliding, and it made them deeply uncomfortable.

The same is true even if the intended connotation is positive. You don't see anyone who's a groyper online wearing a groyper t-shirt IRL, in the way fans of a band do. That's because a band and their music are part of real-life culture, whereas avatars and memes exist solely online. Only the most hardcore nerds would actually show up in public wearing the "merch" of some online persona they're a fan of (and even then, more likely in a convention or meet-up with other fans, rather than in a setting among the general public).

These kinds of Tik Tok trends do not require any form of media to catch on, they could explode in popularity just as any number of fads have done through face-to-face transmission. Those that are sight gags of course require the technology to make and distribute them. But having friends and kissing people does not. Nor does dancing, another major category of Tik Tok trends. Dance crazes have caught on entirely through in-person transmission.

They are akin to the planking fad of the early 2010s -- a physical activity performed IRL, and transmitted mainly IRL, with cameras and social media platforms only serving to document the phenomenon and speed up the transmission. It did not belong to the realm of online memes.

Nor do the most popular Tik Tok trends. They are made by zillions of nobody accounts, not a concentrated elite of personas who have enough followers and clicks to monetize their "content". In fact, nobody in the audience will ever "follow" them -- anymore than a viewer of the planking fad decided to "follow" the rest of any given planker's online "content". They're made all over the country, not just in major cities in coastal blue states -- and by normies rather than by insular sub-cultures.

Tik Tok trends are an example of uploading IRL phenomena to the cyber-realm (via a camera phone and an app), where others may view it (and maybe, but probably not, "interact" with it). That directional arrow between worlds is the opposite of the parasocial case, where people try to download online personas into their IRL social circle, or "make memes real" in any other way. The split between comfort and discomfort stems from our moral intuitions about how the natural and the artificial ought to relate to each other: the artificial may preserve shadowy copies of the natural, but we should not corrupt the purity of what is natural by bringing the artificial into it.

Toward that end, I highly recommend playing "Electric Love" in public places, especially where young people congregate, to encourage them to let their emotional guard down, take social risks, and form meaningful bonds with their friends -- and potential future spouses. Probably best to do it in a car or on a bike, since they might assume you're inviting someone to kiss you if you're a pedestrian. You want to make it clear you're playing the role of mood-setting DJ, not one of the kissy-kissy parties themselves. If you don't have a vehicle, you live in a densely populated area, where you could always open the windows of your house or apartment and play it for anyone within earshot.

And if house parties ever come back during / after the pandemic, include this on the playlist. Where else will there be such a high concentration of friends who have crushes on each other? Especially after imbibing a little liquid courage. The pandemic is the only reason this trend hasn't exploded to the next level, where a large group of people take part at the same time, like a group of people finding partners when the slow-dance song plays at a party from pre-Millennial times. So far it's confined to a single pair hanging out together, maybe with a friend or two watching nearby.

But with normalization through repetition of the song, maybe we can get them to just go for it in public outdoor spaces as well. Like during Christmastime, driving leisurely along a sidewalk with a mistletoe hanging out over the curb side of the car. Who are they to refuse to conform to the trend when the call is made? They'll come out of their shells in no time.

September 7, 2020

The geography of emo: Sun Belt anxiety vs. Rust Belt depression

As I explore the emo / scene / pop-punk genre, two major types stand out, each one tying into a different standard personality disorder. And as it turns out (see this entry on emo pop), they have origins in different regions of the country, reflecting the different demographic and economic trends within each one. Two different strains of negative emotions, stemming from two different material causes of bad vibes.

The first type is based in the Sun Belt, where young people have no roots but do have a future. Their parents (or even grandparents) uprooted their nuclear family from the extended family back where Americans have been living for a long time, and transplanted them to a carpetbagging colony.

This is where all the internal demographic growth has been happening during the neoliberal era, and where job growth is most promising. They aren't great jobs, but whatever the economy is actually offering, will continue to be invested in the Sun Belt. Originally this was to avoid higher taxes, regulation, and union power in the North, but by now it's taken on a life of its own.

So, there's less cause for doom and gloom among these young people. Their economic future is marked more by boredom than by deterioration and decay. And yet their so-called communities have no roots whatsoever, and they lack the extended family support that young people enjoy where they have deep roots. This leads to feelings of alienation and atomization, but in a way that is more bright than dark in tone.

Their negative emotions mainly take the form of anxiety, or nervousness, restlessness, worrying, being on-edge, tense, etc. These are symptoms of a lack of broad, reliable social support that would stabilize them, leaving members of a social species like ours to feel unsafe and insecure as we try to fend for ourselves. They are less gloomy and brooding, and more tender, vulnerable, and bittersweet. Softer rather than harder.

Major bands from the western Sun Belt include Jimmy Eat World from Mesa, AZ, Panic! at the Disco from Las Vegas, NV, and Metro Station from Los Angeles, CA. From the eastern Sun Belt, there's Paramore from the Nashville metro, TN, We the Kings from the Sarasota metro, FL, and Dashboard Confessional from Boca Raton, FL. They're kindred spirits with pop-punk Sun Belt groups like blink-182 (San Diego, CA), Green Day (East Bay, CA), and Bowling For Soup (Dallas, TX). A representative hit song:



The second type is based in the Rust Belt, where young people do have roots but do not have a material future, as deindustrialization has gutted their economic base and shows no signs of stopping in the near-term. Their communities are losing members in droves, rather than gaining hordes of transplants. If anything, their demographic decline is only balanced by legions of immigrants arriving from poor countries (a group to which we'll return later).

Young people's job prospects only look to get bleaker and bleaker in this region, and their physical environment and infrastructure is visibly in decay, resembling ruins in the bad areas. These portentous material conditions lead to a sense of doom and gloom, brooding, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. If there's no future, why bother living?

Apart from the depressive symptoms, there's a pronounced streak of anger and rage. If the vanishing future is not just an accident, then someone is responsible -- and getting angry and raging against them may force them into turning the situation around, and redressing your grievances. Not necessarily because you're addressing the responsible forces directly, but at least they might want to make things better in order to not have to deal with so much undirected anger and unrest.

Anger, rage, and resentment also reflect the feelings of being abandoned by those who are leaving in droves -- it's an attempt to shame or coerce them into staying or returning, to provide critical social support for the majority of Rust Belters who remain in the Rust Belt.

Unlike the utterly unmoored Sun Belters, young people in the Rust Belt do enjoy a healthy level of social support (especially from extended families), owing to the deep rootedness of the region. But they can still sense the decreasing level of that support over their lifetimes, as a larger and larger minority flee to the Sun Belt. So they don't feel free-floating anxiety, tension, and insecurity, but doom, rage, and abandonment. It's a type of alienation and atomization that is darker in tone, and gives the music that appeals to them a harder edge.

Though fewer in number, the Rust Belt emo bands are more influential, including two members of the emo trinity. From the western Rust Belt, there's Fall Out Boy and Plain White T's (less rage-y, but still gloomy / depressive), both from the Chicago metro, IL. From the eastern Rust Belt, there's Taking Back Sunday from Long Island, NY, and the summit of the emo pantheon, My Chemical Romance from nearby Newark, NJ. They're kindred spirits with other dark, depressive, hard-edged Rust Belters like Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails in the Great Lakes region, and hardcore scenes from New York to DC in the eastern Rust Belt. A representative hit song:



That takes care of the majority of the emo creators and fan base, native-born whites. But from what I remember living out West in the late 2000s and early 2010s, emo / scene culture had a decent appeal to Hispanics as well. These were primarily children of recent immigrants, and not so much Tejanos or other groups who have roots going back many generations. They, too, were another group of rootless young people whose parents were (international) transplants, leaving them in a state of boredom, tension, and anxiety, while not really dreading their economic future.

Blacks are a different case, since most of them live in the Sun Belt but are not recent transplants with shallow roots. So their situation doesn't match that of most white and Hispanic youth in the Sun Belt. And as far as I know, they were never into emo of any kind, whether the original or emo-inflected rap.

The one exception is recent immigrants of African descent, and sure enough the biggest emo rapper from the South, XXXTentacion, was the rootless child of Jamaican immigrants, growing up in the Miami, FL metro. Even if he were an American descendant of slaves, he would've been rootless there, since no one of any race lived in southern Florida until a few decades ago. And like the original emo from the Sun Belt, his style is more on the vulnerable and bittersweet side than the doom-and-rage side.

The major emo rapper from the Rust Belt is not black, but white -- Eminem, from Detroit, MI -- and decidedly more on the doom-and-rage side than the anxious and bittersweet side. I haven't listened to much emo rap, though, so I'm not going to weigh in on how much it parallels emo rock in the Rust Belt. I expect it to sound harder and more doom-y / suicidal / apocalyptic than the Sun Belt variety.

September 5, 2020

The princess is back from the dead, again




Can we pretend
To delete, and then
We'll tweet again
When both our alts go live

* * *

Lest anyone doubt the power of offering ritual tribute to raise the dead, the anti-woke left princess has returned. Still trying to cast the spell right to reincarnate her as a blog, though.


With that new name and avi, I've got just the theme song for her -- as always, from Marina and the Diamonds. [muah]



September 3, 2020

"2005", Millennial quarter-life crisis / late 2000s nostalgia anthem (after Bowling for Soup's "1985")

To capture and speak to the not-so-young Millennials' nostalgia for the late 2000s, in contrast to the more bitter than sweet appraisal of where they're at now, I wrote a new set of lyrics to "1985" by pop punk band Bowling For Soup (from 2004; original lyrics). I expect it'll resonate most with people born in the first half of the '90s.

The changes reflect the more precarious living standard of the Millennials vs. the early X-ers of the original song, as well as the greater influence on Millennials of online culture than music and TV. Especially the shift in online's role from complementing to substituting for reality -- from web 2.0 to social media. And with that, the elimination of a real-life component to culture.

The main hurdle to re-making it is the stress pattern for the numbers of the year. The only real way is to rearrange the stress on "two-thousand" so that it goes: "TWO-thou, TWO-thou, TWO-thou-SAND and FIVE". For the other lines, they generally have three stressed syllables per line (the first stress of the measure is a rest for the vocals, making the standard 4 beats per measure).



* * *

"2005"


Sarah's whole life has stalled
Her future's been paywalled
It's wine o'clock all day
BF streams video games

Her dreams flew out the door
When she saw her credit score
Has few friends IRL
Just a parasocial shell

She was gonna be a singer
A hero on guitar
She was gonna shake her thing
To be the champ at DDR

Her IG following
Still leaves her soul empty
Looks at her quest for likes
And nothing has been alright, since the

Scene queens, Rihanna
Far ahead of Lana
Classic YouTube, and blogging
And "Do the D.A.N.C.E."
Her nieces and nephews
Remind her that she's old-school
But she can never unsubscribe
From two-thou, two-thou, two-thousand and five

She's seen all the classics
She knows every line
"One secret I'll never tell"
Mean Girls and hot vampires

My Chem is still her jam
Finds Billie Eilish bland
"Let's chat" meant A.I.M.
Not Tinder and OnlyFans

American Apparel shorts
Showing major skin
Heading out to '80s night
With her top 8 MySpace friends

When did our Twitter feed
Replace reality?
Whatever happened to iPods, dumb phones?
"Online" long ago was

Scene queens, Rihanna
Far ahead of Lana
Classic YouTube, and blogging
And "Do the D.A.N.C.E."
Her nieces and nephews
Remind her that she's old-school
But she can never unsubscribe
From two-thou, two-thou, two-thousand and five

Wrong timeline
Make it stop
When did Fall Out Boy
Become dad rock?

Hot Topic only sells
Geek merch and Funko Pops?
Please make this
Stop, stop, stop, and bring back

Scene queens, Rihanna
Far ahead of Lana
Classic YouTube, and blogging
And "Do the D.A.N.C.E."
Her nieces and nephews
Remind her that she's old-school
But she can never unsubscribe
From two-thou, two-thou, two-thousand and five

August 31, 2020

Me Too era dead: "Call your crush" TikTok trend

A recent post looked at signs from TikTok trends that the Me Too era is indeed over, and with it the broader vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle (2015-'19). Now we're into the restless warm-up phase.

The previous trend we saw was "surprise kissing your best friend," clearly a sign of people leaving their refractory states, coming out of their social-emotional shells, and feeling eager to mix it up with the opposite sex again -- albeit in baby steps at first, e.g. by practicing on your bff.

Also, the notion of "consent" is gone (the initiator makes their move without asking first). People will only hysterically demand consent for any and all forms of interaction if they are in a refractory state, hypersensitive to stimuli, and where the slightest mis-touch could crash their nervous system. Now that their energy levels are recovering to baseline, they don't mind if someone makes a move without asking permission. If they reciprocate, fine; if not, they'll push them away -- without, however, launching a hysterical witch hunt.

Prior to that trend was a similar although less intense trend -- playing a game of odd-man-out, where the loser has to call their crush and confess their feelings on camera. This began in the end of November 2019 and lasted into early 2020 -- the same time I posted here about various signs that girls were getting all horned up again (blatantly brushing against me in public places, catcalling me from their car, and so on, for the first time since summer 2015). So there really was a widespread breakout around the turn of the year, as predicted by my excitement cycle model.

Below is just one compilation from YouTube (search for others using "tiktok crush call / confession"). Some of them are clearly fakes, where the kids can't act at all. I don't recall any of them being real where the person calls another member of the group on camera, but given the "kiss your bff" trend, there might be some that are. Generally, though, these are genuine, since you can't fake the palpable nervousness when they're calling, or their explosive excitement if their crush says they feel the same way.



This was only the first baby step toward leaving their vulnerable-phase shells. A few months after this trend, they escalated from just letting their crush know, to planting a kiss right on their lips by surprise.

The other big-picture observations from the previous post hold here as well. This is a non-parasocial use of smartphone apps and so-called social media. TikTok, at least for now, is centered on whole trends rather than individual accounts. Although it does have functions for liking a specific item, commenting on it, and following a specific account, those are afterthoughts to the central purpose of browsing through variations on a theme. Users don't care which accounts hop on a trend, and don't stick with them long after their initial encounter with them while trend-browsing.

This trend is not like other internet-mediated fads, such as a hot new meme template. It actually requires you to interact with someone you know IRL, not from online. And you're not contacting them through social media, email, etc. -- it's a good ol' fashioned phone call. Intonation, tempo, non-linguistic vocalizations like laughter, all unfolding in real time, back and forth -- these corporeal qualities of conversations that people had assumed were dead after the adoption of text messaging, email, social media, etc.

And unlike cyber-communication, you're supported by your IRL friends, who are physically close by, perhaps patting you to boost your confidence, and either cheering along if you succeeded, or hugging to reassure you if you failed. And of course the process began with an IRL game, and the social pressure to adhere to the rules if you're the odd-man-out. None of these qualities carry over into the cyber-realm.

This trend, and the other one, show how current tech can complement or encourage reality, rather than poorly substitute for it. The presence of the camera recording the whole event provides an extra little bit of "the clock's ticking" pressure so you don't wimp out. It can then send the signal to a wide group of people, who can imitate the example, helping the activity catch on far beyond the original group. And it keeps the pressure from becoming too great -- there's plausible deniability when you're calling your crush "because I lost a TikTok challenge," rather than calling them entirely out of the blue. You feel less personal responsibility, making it easier to carry out the action, much like the classic "spin the bottle" game.

To conclude, I'm getting more comfortable calling the end of the cocooning social mood that's been growing since roughly 1990, after the outgoing mood that had been growing from circa 1960 to 1990, itself following the last cocooning period of roughly 1930 to 1960, and before that the outgoing mood of 1900 to 1930. These social moods are linked to trends in crime rates, with outgoing moods matching a rising crime rate, and cocooning moods matching a falling crime rate, for reasons I detailed here in the early 2010s. (Briefly, outgoing people have their guard down in public, making them easier prey for criminals, while cocooning people have their guard up all the time, making them harder to prey on. Similar to a predator-prey model from ecology.)

I'd always predicted that circa 2020 the crime rate would start rising again (based on the length of previous rising and falling phases), and that the social mood would shift back into outgoing, signaled by greater levels of interpersonal trust and letting your guard down as a result. I just don't see the "phone as personal shield" pattern that was ubiquitous in the late 2000s and most of the 2010s. These young people on TikTok could not be letting their guard down more around their friends and acquaintances. Contrast that against the picture of the 2010s, where each friend would be staring down at their own separate laptop / phone, even while seated less than a foot apart in a public hang-out space like Starbucks. Public hang-outs don't look like insect hives for drones anymore.

August 29, 2020

Aimee Terese pop punk tribute, "Girl All the Banned Guys Want" (Bowling For Soup parody)

Been awhile since I offered tribute to the muse, Aimee Terese. Lately I've been immersed in pop punk and power pop, so what better tune than a song that channels both? Like "Stacy's Mom" by Fountains of Wayne mixed with "First Date" by blink-182, also from the early 2000s, "Girl All the Bad Guys Want" by Bowling For Soup (original lyrics).

Its themes resonate with her role in the online realignment -- an anti-woke commie princess whose kiss transforms a frog twitter prince that had helped her out when she was in need.



* * *

"Girl All the Banned Guys Want"


2 A.M. Monday night, and I'm scrolling
To read the takes of a girl who's more edgy than me
Her name is Aimee, and she's anti-woke but left-wing
She's fond of groypers, but I'm not quite sure how to meme

And when she talks
All the simps show up with wedding rings
But she doesn't follow me

She's talking shit to blue-checks
Tweeting feet to frog guys
They're in and out of Twitter jail
Tucker vids in her eyes

Autistically amusing
Delightfully confusing
She posts about her boobies
I drool like such a newbie
As I fail miserably
Tryin' to @ the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want

She's Rosa Luxemburg, and I'm more Tulsi Gabbard
Her feed's a motley crew of posters that are comrades and chads
She says she'd like to find a hot-guy hot-take-haver
She'll never know I'd be the best thing for the group chat

And when she talks
All the simps show up with wedding rings
She'll never follow me

She's talking shit to blue-checks
Tweeting feet to frog guys
They're in and out of Twitter jail
Tucker vids in her eyes

She likes 'em from the trade class
Snowboard season pass
Flirting like they're Tarzan
Does a deadlift make a man?

Autistically amusing
Delightfully confusing
She posts about her boobies
I drool like such a newbie
As I fail miserably
Tryin' to @ the girl all the banned guys want

'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want

There's her ghost again
With a cami on, and waves for days in her hair
She blocked my alt, made things so complicated
All I wanted was to see her naked

Now I am trolling blue-checks
Tryin' to be a frog guy
Hope I land in Twitter jail
Tucker vids in my eyes

I'm not from the trade class
I ain't got no season pass
All I got are dumbbells
Dumbbells, dumbbells...

Autistically amusing
Delightfully confusing
She posts about her boobies
I drool like such a newbie
As I fail miserably
Tryin' to @ the girl all the banned guys want

'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
(There's her ghost again)
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
(There's her ghost again)
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want
'Cause she's the girl all the banned guys want

August 27, 2020

Delayed party realignment and the new crises of 2020

Nothing fundamentally has changed in my assessment of the 2020 election and beyond, from the analysis I did mostly in 2018 and '19 (navigate through those archives on the right). And I will continue to ignore the 24-hour news cycle and the unstructured "takes" of social media platforms.

But it's worth a post now, with Biden having formally wrapped up the Democrat nomination, and with sufficient time to assess the aftermath of the new crises this year -- the central bank printing trillions more dollars to bail out imploding markets, the coronavirus pandemic, and the angry liberal riots.

I'll split this into two posts: this one on the failed realignment of the Trump admin, and the new crises of 2020; another on the upcoming election, and near-term prospects for realignment under the non-Republican party (the Democrats or a new 2nd party that replaces them).

* * *

Starting with Peter Turchin's model of polarization cycles, the best analogy to the present is the 1850s, leading up to the Civil War. And using Stephen Skowronek's model of political regime cycles, we're specifically in 1856. I still think this will be like that particular disjunctive phase, which was hyper-polarized and lasted more than one administration (Democrats Pierce followed by Buchanan, before realignment under the Lincoln GOP), compared to the other less polarized eras where disjunctive phases only lasted for one (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Hoover, and Carter). Polarization retards realignment, whereby political coalitions are shaken up and blocs from one party defect long-term to another party.

The current era is the Reaganite era, with the GOP as dominant party and Democrats as the opposition. Trump is a disjunctive president from the dominant party, threatening to up-end the consensus, and even delivering on some of that promise, although severely limited by trying to accomplish this within the party that has derived the greatest benefits from the consensus -- having created it.

A few cases where Trump has acted decisively against the Reaganite orthodoxy, despite largely failing to fulfill his 2016 campaign promises to realign the system: personal diplomacy to normalize relations with North Korea, jailbreaking thousands of (largely black) non-violent federal prisoners, and imposing some level of tariffs on some goods from some countries.

It's not possible to say one way or the other whether his increased welfare policies in response to the pandemic are unusual, since no other president in the Reagan era has had their orthodoxy tested by such a crippling pandemic. Maybe Reagan or the Bushes would have supported what Trump has done (unemployment benefits, eviction moratorium, student debt deferment, etc.), in the hopes of not crashing the economy. Maybe they would not have. But still worth noting that he didn't promote Social Darwinism, as the neoliberal consensus would seem to have demanded.

But like the last disjunctive president, Carter, Trump has overseen an administration that has mostly extended the life of the moribund status quo. Carter campaigned on ending the New Deal, and did deregulate a few sectors, but also oversaw the creation of two federal bureaucracies (the Education and Energy departments).

Trump's foreign policy has been belligerent toward the Russian sphere of influence, increased the number of NATO members (Montenegro), sent tens of thousands of Americans back into Afghanistan, invaded and indefinitely occupied northeastern Syria, returned to punitive sanctions and now outright assassination against Iran, failed in yet another coup against a social democrat Latin American state (Venezuela / Guaido), and so on and so forth.

The trade deficit has exploded under Trump, as de-industrialization of the economy continues apace. NAFTA remains in place, albeit re-branded, and so does the similar policy with China (PNTR). More iconic American manufacturers are now making their products in China, including former hold-outs like Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland, Oregon. Funny, I haven't seen a single angry liberal rioter in Portland with a sign decrying the further destruction of good-paying manufacturing jobs for the local working class after Pendleton recently began making their clothing in China. ("Um, wow, xenophobic much?")

Trump has also overseen an explosion in the other form of the elites substituting cheap foreign labor for well-paid domestic workers -- immigration, which is literally off-the-charts compared to even Obama (it got so bad they needed to expand the scale of the y-axis). That's both legal and illegal. Not a single brick of The Wall will be laid.

To compensate for the destruction of the industrial economy, and to fund the never-profitable military's occupation of the entire world, the central bank has resumed printing money by the trillions. Unlike the boogeyman of "helicopter money," this gets laundered through the upper tiers of the finance pyramid until it stops trickling down past the professional-managerial class who make up the top 10-20%. This is not only the liberal yuppies in make-work tech firms during a stock market bubble, but also the conservative yuppies in make-work defense contracting firms during a military-spending bubble.

Accordingly, the state's fiscal health has deteriorated rapidly under Trump, with the national debt surging from $20 to $25 trillion, a huge amount absolutely, as well as a 25% increase in just four years. This continues the trend begun at the dawn of the Reagan revolution, which reversed America's status as a creditor nation -- not a debtor nation -- during the New Deal era.

And the public physical infrastructure and social services founded during the New Deal continue to decay, notwithstanding the unusual coronavirus protections.

* * *

All three of the major crises of 2020 point to the delay of realignment until at least the next election. Rather than spur responses from either side that would require shaking up the status quo, these crises have all been met with the same ol', same ol' from both sides.

Regarding the imploding economy and the sole solution of the central bank printing trillions to hand out to the elites, neither side is demanding a re-industrialization of the economy, which is the only sustainable source of funding for a modern society. Nor is either side demanding a radical de-scaling of the failing American empire, which will always be a gigantic drain on our fiscal health. Each side is hoping to print as much money as possible for elite bailouts while in office -- quantitative easing rounds 1-2-3 under Obama, QE infinity under Trump -- and hope that the cascading failures of this policy will strike when the other side is in power.

The coronavirus pandemic was the fault of open borders and global interconnectedness. At first, neither side wanted to impose travel restrictions, quarantines, or mask policies. The Republicans did not want these public health measures because they would diminish GDP growth for the near-term, and they are over-optimizers who want as much growth as possible at every moment. But the Democrats rejected these measures as well, albeit for liberal reasons -- travel bans are xenophobic, quarantines hinder the leisure / lifestyle striving of the urban professional class, and masks create a social-cultural climate of fear and stigma, which is worse than whatever material harm may be caused by a pandemic.

These two responses are no different from the '90s era of neoliberal consolidation, whether from the Gingrich revolution GOP or the Democrat crusaders for political correctness (now called wokeness). A realignment movement would have promoted public health over private profits, and material welfare over puritanical thought control. Neither side can even manage to take palliative measures like governmental distribution of masks for free on a regular schedule, let alone require that they be manufactured in America. All the costs and responsibilities have been burdened onto the individual citizen, which explains the failure to solve a collective problem like a pandemic, which requires a top-down state response.

Then there are the angry liberal riots of the summer. The response from both sides has been an extension of the neoliberal era's abdication of stewardship by the elites, and the socializing of costs and privatizing of benefits. Namely, let rioters destroy the cities, let the citizens eat cake, and do not allow police or military to come in harm's way to defend the public -- but make sure the police and military still collect publicly funded incomes, pensions, authority, respect, status, etc.

In the wielding of authority and force against riots, the Trump admin has been little different from the Obama admin, who also had to deal with BLM and other riots, mass shootings, cop killings, and the like, during 2015 and especially 2016. A hypothetical Biden admin would not do much different either, based on the Obama admin's record, and the Democrats' rhetorical support or at least rationalization of the riots this year.

A realigning non-Republican would have to come out in support of sending in federal troops to quell pointless destruction across multiple major and minor cities. The realignment angle to shake up the political coalitions would be something like, "You don't have to think that cops are infallible, and you can demonstrate against them -- but when you start burning down cities to no higher effect, leaving downtowns boarded up for months after the fact, we will send in teams of men with guns to protect the public welfare. We will not allow violent thugs to appoint themselves as a new unofficial police force, since they are unaccountable to a public that did not elect, appoint, or fund them."

That would be similar to the New Deal era, when the state was strong and elites were unified. During the last peak of civil unrest, in the late '60s and early '70s, both the Johnson and Nixon administrations cracked skulls and threw rioters in jail to limit the scale of destruction. With a weakened deregulatory state like we have today, though, we can expect a more open-ended path of destruction in the near-term. There were major riots in L.A. in the early '90s under Bush Sr., and he did manage to send in federal troops. But they were not nationwide like the peaks circa 1970 and 2020, and in any case the early '90s were not as far along the course of neoliberalization as we are today, so the state was still capable of doing something to protect the public.

* * *

One final point of clarification: the police themselves, as a collective entity, are to blame for their lack of involvement in quelling the riots. Conservatives love nothing more than to blame dickless liberal Democrat mayors for "giving stand-down orders," but the police don't have to obey those orders if they wanted to perform their supposed societal function of protecting the public from violent anarchy. The police union could organize a strike, surround city hall, or issue a polite statement of mutiny and dare the dickless liberal Democrat mayor to ruin himself by cracking down on, or withholding pay-checks from, cops who are only trying to put out an open-ended conflagration. A stand-down order is just a wink-and-nod among two elite entities that neither will be risking their own lives in order to protect the public, who pays their salaries and respects their authority.

That happened at the national level when Trump tried to get some disjunctive work done in shrinking our military's global footprint, by decreasing the numbers in Afghanistan. He also ran on this issue, both in general and specifically about Afghanistan. Instead, the military elites told him to go fuck himself, and we're sending tens of thousands of Americans back into Afghanistan, just to show the so-called Commander-in-chief who really calls the shots about the global military occupation. Trump had no leverage to strike back with, so he got over-ruled.

Mayors are even weaker than presidents, so there's no reason the police couldn't do the same thing to over-rule them and deploy their members to quell the riots. Or the federal military, for that matter. They had no problem over-ruling the president, surely they can over-rule a mayor. But the military's goals are directed toward expanding their sphere of influence, and that means focusing on foreign lands that are up for grabs, rather than the core nation that has long been solidly within the Pentagon's sphere of influence.

That's another case of conservatives being exasperated rather than figuring out what's going on. E.g., "Why do we send so many troops to patrol terrorists in Afghanistan, and we can't even send a few to patrol domestic terrorists like Antifa and BLM in our own cities?" Duh, because the military would not expand its sphere of influence by deploying troops within the core nation. Conservatives still refuse to de-sacralize the sectors of society that control their political party -- manufacturers, military / police / armed force, energy, and agriculture. They won't view the military as a collective entity with its own interests, forms of leverage, etc., that conflict with the interests and leverage of other sectors of society, including the general public. Same goes for the police, at a smaller scale.

They're not "the good guys" or "defenders of America," they are the promoters of a course of action that will maintain and expand their own institution's collective welfare. The Republican military cartel is no different in that respect from Democrat cartels like tech, finance, or media / entertainment.

The key change that we see today, compared to the good ol' days of the New Deal, is that the elites of all sectors in society have gradually switched from mutualism and occasional altruism -- taking risks, perhaps literally putting themselves in harm's way, to benefit the general public -- to parasitism, where they take from the public but provide little to nothing in return.

August 24, 2020

My Chemical Romance fans remain the most devout among emo worshipers, feeling saved by their god

Some bands have such die-hard fans that their music is nearly impossible to find in the second-hand market, and when it does show up, it commands a hefty price relative to everything else for sale.

Belonging to such a group's fandom is like joining a religious community, going to their shows is a form of communal bonding ritual, and the various material items associated with them -- musical media, clothing, etc. -- are given sacred significance. Parting with the group's albums would constitute sacrilege, whether you donated them to a thrift store, sold them for cash to a used media store, or just threw them out in the trash.

Defiling sacred objects in these ways would be grounds for a charge of apostasy -- and you wouldn't want religious norm-enforcers to find out about it, would you? Even if you did grow bored of them for awhile, best to just keep them somewhere around the home without using them. Christians don't throw out their Bibles, give them away, or sell them in a market for cash, just because they experience doubts.

That also raises the costs to entry for initiates of the religion. You can't just stroll into a used media store, buy all their albums for dirt cheap, and then be a decent way along the path toward becoming a true fan. Nope: if you want in, you have to pony up, up front. It puts more skin in the game, keeping away halfhearted would-be members from a very tightly cohesive community. They don't want initiates who could just be "going through a phase".

The best example of this pattern is Iron Maiden within the church of metal. Ten years ago I was curious about them, and noticed how rare it was to find their CDs in the used music stores. When they did show up, they were at least $10 used, vs. half that much for the average album. Having taken a tour of various used media stores and thrift store music sections lately, that is still the case a decade later -- I saw only one CD of theirs (Powerslave), and it was $11 used vs. the store's standard $4 price. Not that I was looking for their stuff around 2000, but I'm sure it was high-priced back then as well, and back in 1990, and ever since the group's fandom came together.

It was far easier to find CDs by other metal gods like Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, AC/DC, and so on and so forth. Iconic albums of these groups were more expensive than usual, but were not nearly impossible to find second-hand. Although widely worshiped, they were not treated as the summit of the metal pantheon like Iron Maiden was and still is.

As part of my general interest in revisiting and reviving the culture of the late 2000s, I looked into getting some CDs by emo / scene / pop-punk bands of that era. I was never into it, but I do remember hearing it a lot at the used record stores -- it was the only contemporary style they played (along with older, canonical styles for record store workers and customers).

One exception was My Chemical Romance: in this post from my late 20s, I named The Black Parade as the last strong rock album of the past several years (the mid-late 2000s). Along with other observers, I noticed the similarities to "Bohemian Rhapsody"-era Queen. Pretty good stuff, I thought, considering that most people dismiss them as just another whiny emo band for angsty teenagers.

I also could not help but notice how widespread their appeal had become, with cute singer-songwriters like YouTuber Mia Rose covering "I Don't Love You" to viral success (6 million views back then is like 60 million today). Around that time a former tutoring student, who was a cultural normie, uploaded a video to her Facebook of her friend lip syncing and dancing to "Teenagers". She was also a normie, and both were from the pretty & popular crowd, not at all scene kids.

Although every normal young person back then knew who the other emo / scene / pop-punk groups were, I don't recall such widespread appreciation for them as for My Chemical Romance. And it's not because MCR was more musically mainstream -- they had a harder edge than Fall Out Boy or Panic! at the Disco, and were not dance-friendly (unlike other bands during the most recent heyday of dance-rock). You'd think that would have made them more marginal, especially among cute girls.

But they had a social and emotional appeal that transcended their strictly musical appeal, and kept them from being confined to sub-cultural status. Their plea to the audience was more intense, direct, raw, and honest, bringing legions more initiates into the church of emo than did the lesser gods of the pantheon. In retrospectives on that era from popular normie YouTube channels (the React crowd, ClevverTV, etc.), you can tell from their responses that MCR still touches more of a nerve than the other groups. Of all emo bands you may have ever been into, you're least likely to "move beyond" them, relegate them to mere "guilty pleasure" status, let alone reject and disavow them.

Sure enough, on my tour through the second-hand music spots, it was impossible to find any of their stuff at all. And not because it was obscure -- their two main albums both went triple-platinum in the US, or over 3 million in sales apiece. There are tons of copies out there somewhere -- just not in the brick-and-mortar second-hand market. Sacred objects are not given away or sold. Again, think of how many Bibles are out there in America, but how few copies there are in any given thrift store or used bookstore.

In fact, it was easier to find CDs by lesser emo deities like All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, AFI, Paramore, and even the other two members of the trinity, Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco. As much as you may have resonated with their music, they didn't inspire the same level of reverence as emo Jesus, Gerard Way, so you won't be condemned to scene-kid hell if you sell some of their CDs to the local record store.

Evidently, listeners felt like Gerard Way wasn't just speaking to them, but saving them. Any cool dad or guidance counselor can listen to your problems, hear you out, make you feel seen, and so on. But diagnosing an illness is not as worthwhile to the patient as actually treating and curing them -- all the more miraculously when the healer is someone you've never even met.

I can't emphasize enough how dumbfounded I was by this turn of events. I was expecting to find multiple copies of both main albums littering the thrift store music sections, as cast-offs from when the angsty Millennial teens eventually grew out of their embarrassing MCR phase. Sure, I knew they were mega-popular way back when, and I'd seen some die-hard fans gushing about them recently on YouTube retrospectives. But there still had to be tons of former fans who just wanted to get rid of those reminders of their awkward teenage years, right? Not even close.

Turns out, those ultra-intense social-emotional bonds from the late 2000s, especially the experience of being spiritually healed or saved, elevated them into a summit-of-the-pantheon god like Iron Maiden for metalheads. It doesn't take a genius to predict that, of the various emo reunion acts under way during this return of the restless phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, the one for My Chemical Romance will most take on the character of a religious revival, a renewal of the fellow-feeling bonding the church members together, long after their awkward teenage years.