September 29, 2020

Realignment only after Trump's 2nd term, not during / after Biden: Disjunctive vs. rehabilitating phases of the regime cycle

The phrase "realignment" has gotten thrown around so much over the past several years, 99% of which has been nothing more than wish-casting from partisans. In that usage, "realignment" means "my cadre will finally become the governing elites, implementing our custom plans for all of society".

Shut up, moron, no it does not -- and no you will not.

This is not a pedantic squabble over the meaning of words. It's about descriptive analysis vs. prescriptive emoting ("takes," "reactions," etc.).

Realignment means that the current structure of political coalitions will be shaken up somehow, not necessarily in any specific way, and that as a result of this shifting balance of power, the government will pursue programs that are different from the status quo somehow, not in any particular way.

* * *

The current structure of coalitions has the military controlling the Republican party, which represented a dramatic shift during the most recent realignment under Reagan, since the military bases (the Greater South) used to be rock-solid Democrat territory. But during both periods -- the New Deal and the neoliberal -- the military was part of the dominant coalition that kicked off their period's realignment (the Democrats of the New Deal, and then the Republicans of the Reagan era).

That was the major defection that defined the realignment away from the New Deal coalitions, and into the Reaganite coalitions. The GOP was already controlled by the manufacturing and agriculture sectors during the New Deal, when they were the weaker opposition coalition. But by picking up the defectors from the military elites -- and along with them, the geographical turf of their client base, i.e. Southern voters -- the GOP suddenly became the dominant coalition of the neoliberal era. (They also picked up Texas oil and West Virginia coal, but these were not decisive, and Texas would've flipped on the basis of the military defection alone.)

As a result of that realignment, the finance sector was dethroned from membership in the dominant coalition. It controlled the Democrat party under both the New Deal and neoliberal eras, but their party lost dominant status when the military and the Greater South defected to the GOP.

This describes the basic shake-up of political coalitions between those two eras. What were the major changes in how the government ran society, based on the shift in the balance of power? Well, it has been consistently militaristic during both eras, since the military has belonged to the dominant coalition of each era. However, it has been financially unrestrained in the neoliberal era, since the finance sector no longer enjoys dominant status, and can therefore no longer wield as much power of the purse (and printing presses) as it used to during the New Deal.

The military of the New Deal era pursued WWII, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam (and Southeast Asia), not to mention lesser adventures. But, all that unprofitable militarism did not bankrupt the nation because the finance sector made sure that the debts were paid off. After the realignment of 1980, public debt has exploded because the unprofitable military is still in the driver's seat, but now the finance sector is the little kid in the backseat powerlessly pleading for his dad to stop driving like such a maniac.

(I use the term "unprofitable" despite the obvious pork-barrel patronage flowing to the military sector, to emphasize that this represents waste from the financiers' perspective of "return-on-investment". All those trillions spent on wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and how much richer is any sector of society outside of the military?)

Likewise, the manufacturing sector went from opposition to dominant status, and that too has contributed to the explosion of public debt, as the trade deficit has taken off like a rocket. Manufacturing elites benefit by cutting costs, mainly by off-shoring their factories to cheap-labor colonies. Now that much of the manufacturing-related wealth is being generated outside of the US -- and with profits only flowing to the private pockets of the manufacturing elites -- we've lost a major source of revenue to tax in order to pay for the government.

Those are the two defining trends of the Reagan realignment -- debt-bursting militarism and de-industrialization. Also, the explosion in immigration since Reagan, which is just the flipside of off-shoring factories -- bringing the cheap labor here, when the work-sites cannot be transplanted outside of the nation (food service, landscaping, chauffeuring, etc.).

Realignment away from the current arrangement does not mean we're going right back to the good ol' Wonder Years of the New Deal era, and its pattern of which sectors controlled which political parties. It just means that some elite sectors -- and their geographically defined client base -- will defect from one party to the other party, shifting the balance of power not merely away from the GOP, but away from the sectors that will make up the new opposition coalition, and toward the sectors that will belong to the new dominant coalition.

* * *

Back in 2018 when I wrote on these topics, I suspected that at least one big sector to switch will have to be industrial commodities, such as steel, who produce the raw ingredients that go into the manufucturing of final goods. As the manufacturing of final goods has been off-shored, the domestic demand for the ingredients into those processes has dried up. That leaves the elites of the industrial commodity sector bitter, and ripe for defection.

One of them, Wilbur Ross (steel), was a key supporter of the intended re-industrialization policies of the Trump 2016 campaign and his eventual administration. It was not just tariffs on foreign steel within the US, which can only affect how much of the tiny domestic demand for steel goes to American steel companies. The main problem is the tiny domestic demand for steel of any origin, due to our lack of industrial-scale manufacturing, now that the factories have been sent to cheap-labor colonies. Bringing the factories back would do exponentially more to boost demand for US steel than even 100% tariffs, under the current trend of off-shoring factories that require steel to make their final goods.

If the industrial commodity sector defected to the Democrats, and brought along with them the current and new legions of steelworkers, that would be a realignment. The populous state of Pennsylvania would become a Democrat stronghold, instead of a state that voted for Reagan twice, Bush Sr., Trump once, and likely Trump again, while never being a deep-blue state even under Clinton and Obama.

More importantly for realignment, though, would be the currently deep-red state of Indiana -- which, if all your knowledge comes from the propaganda complex, you probably didn't know was the #1 steel producing state, since Pennsylvania got gutted during de-industrialization. Granted, most of that is in the Chicago metro area that extends just over the border, but that includes a lot of people. Being part of the Rust Belt -- not the Great Plains breadbasket -- means that its population has been and continues to be huge, since industrialization supports a much higher population size than agriculture. It's in the top 15-20 states by population, along with Massachusetts, and way bigger than all those dinky little blue states along the East Coast and out West (aside from New York and California). Media junkies and lib-arts majors don't know any of this -- but now you do.

At the intersection of these trends is the shuttering of military bases all over the country, while expanding the military's presence outside of the nation, especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan. That is the primary reason that several states and regions flipped from red or toss-up to reliably blue under the neoliberal era. California values are no less libertarian and libertine than they were back in the '70s, but their material economic base used to rely heavily on military bases and defense manufacturing, whereas that's almost entirely gone now, outside of San Diego's naval base. When the military patrons removed Californians from their client base, that was the end of the Republican party's appeal in the Golden State.

Demographics are not destiny -- patronage networks are. If the GOP wanted to realign California back into their coalition, their Pentagon puppetmasters could open up 10 new gigantic military bases there, with assorted defense factories feeding into them. But 75 years after our peak of territorial expansion during WWII, the military has descended even further into the "impotent grasp at further territory on the periphery" stage of imperial decline, and sneers at the "defense of the core nation" function. So they won't be giving money to employ ordinary Americans anytime soon, whether in California or elsewhere domestically.

The shuttering of domestic military bases is another source of the dried-up domestic demand for industrial commodities. This is yet another reason why the steelmakers are bitter over the GOP becoming dominant since 1980 -- not just the truly private sector, but now also the quasi-public sector of manufacturing for the military has little need for domestic steel. And all the more reason for them to defect away from the GOP.

* * *

That brings us to the final topic, the most boring and hated election of all time, Trump vs. Biden 2020. Is realignment happening already? If not, is it possible with either of these two choices? If not, how will it happen next time (or after that)?

Plainly, realignment has not happened under Trump. None of the Democrat sectors -- finance, info tech, media / entertainment, education -- have defected to the GOP. Neither have any of their client bases, nor therefore the safe blue states. Some of the Rust Belt states took a gamble on Trump, but they are not only not re-industrializing, the trade deficit has exploded far worse under Trump than under Obama. So they are not like the Southern states voting for Reagan, which heralded a long-term lock. They're desperately taking a risk at the end of a moribund regime cycle, for a seemingly anti-establishment candidate from the dominant party who promised to blow up Reaganism from the inside.

With no realignment among elites or commoners, there has been no realignment of outcomes. The military is more expansionist and pathetically losing than ever, adding more Eastern European nations to NATO (Montenegro), bombing and occupying a new Middle Eastern country (Syria), and sending tens of thousands of Americans back into Afghanistan. De-industrialization has accelerated, and so has immigration, legal and illegal.

What about Trump or Biden in 2020? Neither of them is campaigning on realignment either. Trump has abandoned his 2016 campaign, and has been captured by Reaganism. No more appeal to the white working class, in the Rust Belt or elsewhere, on the themes of 2016. At most, try to whip them up into a backlash against the Democrat riots that have burned down cities in their states over the summer. No more promises of a manufacturing renaissance, though. The GOP are trying to make up for this depression in white working-class votes by appealing to professional-class non-whites. None of that is a departure from the trends of the Reagan era, hence not realignment.

But then, neither is Biden campaigning on shaking up the party coalitions, base membership, or policy outcomes. "Suburban yuppie moderates" are squishy swing voters, not a key member of the Reaganite GOP -- so if they end up voting for Biden, that's not a defection from one party to the other. It would all just be warmed-over Obama crap, and like it or hate it, it would still be Reaganism, not realignment. Faced with two non-realignment choices, voters will likely favor Trump over Biden, since Trump has at least some track record of promises and a few minor deliveries on the realignment theme (some tariffs, diplomacy with North Korea).

I'm not interested in who's going to win the election, though, just charting the course of the regime cycle. That is the other big piece that all of the realignment "takes" willfully obscure. Political events are structured into enduring eras, not moment-to-moment coin flips and random walks. They have phases that repeat in a cycle. To see where things are going next, we have to at least know what phase we're in now.

Stephen Skowronek is the main source for describing the dynamics of the regime cycle, although he focuses more on the traits of the leaders (presidents) than on the ecology of the government as a whole. If you've heard the term "disjunctive" in the past 4 years, that's where it came from. And that's where we are now -- not with a realigner president who is ushering in a new era, but the last of the line of the status quo, who promises something bold and new in a last-ditch attempt to keep the status quo relevant and popular, but who is ultimately unable to deliver on that vision due to the sclerosis that has built up within the dominant coalition after so much success, resting-on-laurels, and internal contradictions becoming irreconcilable.

That means the realignment phase is coming in the short-term, but not right now. And more to the point for 2020, it means a Biden victory would delay realignment even further away than a Trump victory would. All a Biden term would deliver is another disjunctive GOP Reaganite term after it, similar to Trump's. Aside from the purely chronological delay -- another 4 years without a disjunctive dominant-party president -- there would be bi-partisan re-legitimization of the status quo. That would release some of the internal pressures that are nearly bursting within the dominant party (GOP today), and allow them to re-group and hang on for another moribund term.

The next realigner will not simply be a Democrat -- or a non-Republican, if some new party replaces the Dems -- he will be a Democrat after a Republican, namely the disjunctive Republican who is the end of the line of Reaganism. There will be no realigner Democrat who follows an old-guard Democrat, as in the imaginations of those leftists who see a Bernie-style leader triumphing after a Biden administration.

There would have been no FDR in 1932 if the old-guard Democrat Al Smith had won in 1928. The realigner Democrat had to take over from an internally unraveled GOP presided over by the disjunctive Republican Hoover. An old-guard Democrat victory in '28 would have only prolonged the Progressive GOP era until another Republican of that mold won in '32, and only in '36 or later would the New Deal Democrats realign the system. And that would have been true with or without the Great Depression hitting during the '29-'33 term, which is more of an exogenous shock than a matter of internal dynamics. Merely re-legitimating the old guard from the oppositition coalition would have delayed realignment, even if their party had escaped a depression under an imaginary president Al Smith.

Not that you can will things into being simply by understanding the dynamics of complex systems, but assuming you had divine intervention powers, and wanted realignment out of Reagnism, you would weigh in for Trump rather than Biden in 2020. And more than that -- for any future Reaganite Republicans, when an old-guard Democrat (not a realigner Democrat) is their rival. That is the way to hasten the demise of the dominant coalition of our era, the Reaganite GOP.

* * *

As far as the more distant question of which leader could be that eventual realigner Democrat, Bernie removed himself from that role over the past 4 years. He won groups in the 2016 Democrat primary who, if they had stuck to him in the general and ever after, would have been defections from GOP loyalists (in presidential election), like West Virginia coal miners. But he gave into the libtard takeover of his campaign in the meantime, and by now he's just another Reaganite-era Dem, and his most ardent supporters right before voting began in February were fellow Reaganite Dems.

That only leaves Tulsi Gabbard from the existing Democrats with any national recognition. You can tell she would be a true realigner because most Democrats, both centrists and leftists, can't stand her, while she enjoys warm support from both cultural moderates and conservatives within the GOP base. Bernie will not shake up the membership of political coalitions, but Tulsi would. The extent to which someone loathes her -- or passive-aggressively / ironically dismisses her -- reveals how wedded they are to the partisan status quo. Their deepest fear, disgust, or anxiety is for the Democrat party base to take in, long-term, a critical mass of MAGA chuds, Joe Rogan fans, and other assorted Deplorables.

The last realignment, under Reagan, did not happen by the old opposition splintering itself down into the narrowest and most impotent of cadres -- which was the desire of the cultural right during the New Deal. If the GOP had allowed that to continue, they would never have gained dominant status since 1980. Rather, they have systematically marginalized the Moral Majority types over the past 40 years, and welcomed in legions of defectors from the New Deal Democrat coalition (critically, the military network in the South).

That means the next realigner president will be the Democrat (or non-Republican) who can most successfully compete for the votes of the Deplorables, not some dead-end dedicated to out-progging the other progs, or the equally pathetic meme candidate for the Never-Trumpers, who could only swing back Virginia into the GOP column.

The Democrat party elites will therefore have to discipline their base away from their "ewww, yucky, cooties" view of Trump voters, and center those Democrat bodies that are hot and ready for hate-fucking the "MAGA defectors for Tulsi".

September 26, 2020

Slovenly chic for haughty individualist strivers

Not a butler, but Uber Wipes (or Wipr).

The slovenly chic among affluent gentrifiers stems from their status insecurity. Their main concern is preserving or rising in status, and that means no manual labor or maintenance of personal and domestic spaces, including their own body. They're not going to stoop that low.

However, they don't have enough money to hire a live-in staff to perform that lowly service labor. They've already blown their one-percenter wealth on housing in a 1% zip code -- living elsewhere would be just as fatal of a blow to their status-striving as doing their own laundry every week.

So that leaves little for outsourcing the domestic labor. Maybe they can hire some foreign scabs for this or that task, like delivering their overpriced meals, or chauffeuring them around without having to pay unionized rates.

Largely, though, the bugmen will just forgo that stuff altogether. Their slovenliness is a signal of their haughtiness combined with entry-level nouveau-riche wealth.

All the rest is just rationalization and branding. So punk, so indie, so against-the-grain. As usual, the punk realm of the contempo subculture-verse is the most compatible with neoliberal / libertarian goals. Rebel against society's rules, like paying unionized labor rates, doing your own laundry, preparing your own meals, taking others' concerns into account when grooming and dressing yourself, etc.

Collectivism = conformism. Or as Matt's even punkier co-host Amber repeatedly said on their neo-Daily Show, "community is reactionary".

September 20, 2020

Riots target squishy Democrats in (failed) attempt to amp up turnout, not Republicans to intimidate enemies

When the riots first started, I discussed the importance of who they were targeting -- namely, their fellow liberal urbanite Democrats. The rioters were not heading off to the suburbs, rural areas, small towns, or red states -- where their conservative, non-urban Republican enemies live. It is a fragmenting of the Democrat electoral coalition, which portends defeat in the general election just as it did in 2016. (GOP elites had plenty of internecine warfare back then, but not among the actual voters, who overwhelmingly backed Trump over all the other Republicans.)

As the rioters have continued to terrorize their fellow Democrats over the summer, and now especially after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it finally clicked for me what they're doing. It's not aimless destruction in an urban area that coincidentally catches their fellow Dems in a friendly fire -- they're deliberately targeting squishy Democrat supporters just like the whip does in a legislature.

They're the enforcers of party discipline, making sure everyone on the team attends the proper meetings, performs the proper rituals, shows up to vote, votes the proper way, and does second-order enforcement on their own -- dragging others out to vote, badgering those acquaintances into voting the proper way, putting the proper signs in their windows, donating their life savings and 40 hours a week of their time, and so on and so forth.

In a system where the patrons and their clients are in a symbiotic relationship, the patrons offer positive patronage in exchange for the collective support of the client base -- buildings, roads, water, electricity, security, etc. But when the elites devolve into parasitism, they only offer negative patronage -- all stick, no carrot. Drop everything you're doing and devote your life to helping our campaign win, or we'll burn down your neighborhood next, your city next.

Is there a rational basis to the whip's desperation? Of course -- lots of the urban working and middle class did not show up to vote in 2016, out of apathy and disenchantment with the neolib Dems, when Trump offered a break with the rotting status quo. And a large-enough minority actually voted for Trump outright -- that's how he flipped all those blue states. There's no more blood for the GOP to squeeze out of the rural and suburban stone.

Rather, it was counties with at least 100,000 residents that were decisive, ones that hadn't voted red for decades. Erie, PA; Dayton, OH; Saginaw, MI; and many others. These Rust Belt states are the ones seeing major rioting, in addition to safe blue states. The one region that is being entirely spared is the suburban Sun Belt -- some of the major counties there flipped from GOP to Democrat for the first time in decades, the mirror-image of Rust Belters for Trump. Orange County, CA; suburban Houston, TX; and suburban Atlanta, GA. No way are the Democrat party's paramilitary whips going to attack the brand new defectors from the other party -- they need to be welcomed and integrated first, before they get the stick like old-timer members.

This time around, the DNC is not taking any chances with squishy Rust Belt urbanites. The yuppies are already gung-ho, and are therefore being spared punishment. But the working class and lower-middle class in the non-yuppie neighborhoods? They might just stay home like last time, and a handful may even vote for Trump. The party thought they had the election in the bag last time, and didn't bother cracking the whip ahead of the election. But now that it's likely Trump will win, they're leaving nothing to chance and are pulling out all the stops to motivate the squishes.

That's why they've amped up the rhetoric about this being "the election of our lifetimes" etc. They're obviously not talking to Republicans, nor are they just preaching to the choir of fellow hardcore Democrat partisans -- they're letting the squishes know that this is not just any old game that they can sit out if they feel like it. It requires 100% turnout, and 100% Democrat votes from those turning out. They're not offering anything positive in exchange, it's still negative -- but just chastising words, with the destruction and terrorizing left up to their paramilitary arm of Antifa, BLM, etc.

When they only looked to lose the presidential election again, that was bad enough. But now they're going to have an even smaller minority presence on the Supreme Court, so that's only going to make the elites crack the whip harder on their reluctant and apathetic client base. The only potential mitigating factor now is that summer weather is over, and testosterone levels are going to fall from their seasonal peak. That still leaves plenty of fuel for the fire, though.

There's simply no other way to interpret this. "We'll burn down every city if our guy doesn't win" -- that cannot be a threat to Republicans or Trump voters, who don't live there. Oh, no, please, don't burn down a libtard city, please, no, don't. Republican voters don't care about urbanites, whether of the working or yuppie classes, whether white or non-white. It's a separate galaxy, one they wouldn't mind seeing go out of existence.

Republican politicians manifestly do not care either, else they would've at least attempted to quell the riots. But how do riots in urban areas prevent the GOP from executing the agenda for their elite sponsors like the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pentagon and other military bases, Big Oil and Coal, and the agriculture cartel? Today's riots are not even targeting an oil pipeline like a few years ago.

Rather, these unhinged Democrat pronouncements are meant as a notice of conscription to the less-than-gung-ho urbanites. You're going to drop everything and join the crusade for our party in the election, or else -- and we're going to burn down a few neighborhoods in a few cities up front, just to prove that the threats are not empty. Don't make us burn down even more -- donate money to our elites now, put the signs on your lawns now, rope 50 acquaintances into mail voting now. We're monitoring your enthusiasm levels, and if we don't see progress in your behavior, we'll unleash the hordes on your neighborhood next.

But as far as I can tell around this Rust Belt metro area, the punishment will not work. I only see BLM and related signs in the rich neighborhoods and on wealthy people's cars, not in working-class areas or on the bumpers of beater cars. The response of the squishes will be similar to 2016 -- mostly apathy that translates into not voting at all, and a handful of angry defectors to Trump, who has pivoted from a general "law and order" theme to one narrowly aimed at these urbanite victims of Democrat party punishment. "Vote for us -- our party discipline doesn't involve burning down the communities of slacker members."

On top of the realignment in the broad agenda that the Democrats need in order to become the new dominant party in a post-Reaganite era, they will also have to start offering positive patronage again. In the deranged conservative's mind, the Democrats are the party of promising "free shit" and letting their voters run amok. In reality, the Democrats insist on tight-fisted non-promises of any goodies, and deploy an elite of enforcers to relentlessly destroy the livelihoods of all lowly voters who aren't 100% on board with each electoral crusade.

No army becomes a dominant force that way, through the privation and humiliation of its conscripts. Expanding armies are held together and driven forward by camaraderie (or really "asabiya," for the Peter Turchin readers).

As for how the party can reverse this trend, it'll take divine intervention -- by the finance gods, who control the party. Simply de-financialize the sub-groups within the party who are responsible for their polarizing behavior that alienates the critical mass of defectors from the Trump base necessary to form a new dominant electoral coalition. De-financialize those who are hell-bent on demolishing solidarity and camaraderie. De-financialize all political aspirants (including think-tankers, NGOs, and the rest of them) who are not going to promise some free shit for once.

And given the abysmal trust that the voting public has in the Democrat party, the finance gods will have to make some kind of down payment first, to prove they're trustworthy. Again, a down payment to the voting public, not to the polarizing partisan retards who have driven the party itself into oblivion.

That's really the only leverage that any member of the Democrat elite coalition can wield against the others. They don't have military force, they don't control food, or the production and distribution of things, or natural resources. But if the finance elites can snap their fingers and make it so Antifa and BLM cannot have a bank account or receive payments, that will go a long way toward weeding out the vindictive enforcers. If a successor to Biden doesn't make some kind of "free shit" part of their platform, no campaign contributions from Wall Street -- maybe outright de-financialization of their campaign.

The media / entertainment elites are the least able or willing to make the changes. They've been stoking the riots worse than any other sector of society. And even if they wanted to weigh in against Antifa and BLM, all they could do is give them bad reputations through their coverage. Oh no, rioters will get a bad reputation! That won't motivate them. But closing them off from all financial services would.

Nor is the IT cartel of Silicon Valley going to lead the way toward realignment. They've been working hand-in-glove with their media / entertainment partners in stoking the resentment and vindictiveness toward apathetic or wayward urbanites. Plus, what could they do even if they wanted to stop them? Ban the rioters from all social media platforms? OK, so they'll communicate through some other way. Coordinate with the media to stain their reputations? The rioters don't care what the internet thinks about them -- only if they're getting their threats through to the squishy urbanites in the neighborhoods they're terrorizing.

The only way to really hit them where it hurts is through the finance sector. If this problem were within the GOP coalition, their elites could send in the police or military to use armed force against their party-destroyers. But Democrats don't have that. Their strongest form of leverage is their monopoly on the creation and flow of money.

It may take this electoral cycle and the next -- and perhaps the next after that -- for the money men to get it. But they have too much invested in the outcome to just let pure vindictiveness among their enforcers drive their party into extinction.

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).

* * *


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