Month: May 2015

The alignment of political media (updated)

Several months ago I put together a chart trying to estimate where media institutions lie on the political spectrum and reasonability spectrum. As a refresher:

  • The Y axis is has publications that are more reasonable/restrained up top and bombastic/insane lower.
  • The X axis is left-right.

I added The Daily Signal, New York Post, Spiked, IJ Review, Mic, Upworthy, New York Magazine, Crisis Magazine,The New Inquiry, The New Criterion, The Atlantic, and blogs, The Future Primaeval, Social Matter and Freddie DeBoer.

political grid new

I adjusted the position of others. Breitbart gained some reasonability points for being one of the few media outlets to cover gamergate in an honest fashion. The New Republic got pushed down due to its attempted transformation to a Salon-like click model and voice, causing an exodus of respectable staff.

Am I missing anything? Anything out of place? Leave a comment or tweet at @robert_mariani. Even blogs will be considered.

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A Sense of Place: The Beauty in Small Churches

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In no place do I feel more closer to God and my ancestors, both the Christian and those who followed Africa’s religions of various forms, than I do at a rural Negro church. It was there that, these two great paths towards God mingled and gave us many of the practices we have in the Black Church today and our culture at large. The ring shout, catching the holy ghost, the great Black American Gospel music that is derived from Negro Spirituals, that swing you hear in your favorite Jazz composition (the basis of and feeling you get from Jazz),  down on to the style of oratory made famous by too many Black preachers to name.

So if you’re in need affirmation, a way to rekindle your connection to community (which is harder and harder to maintain in this age) visit these churches or even the remains of one, its metaphysical impact can be great if you are open to it. God bless you.

 Ring Shout!

Ring Shouters, 1930 Courtesy Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Ring Shouters, 1930

Ireland first, with the United States not far behind

Thanks for nothing, Ireland. Your people are the first in the West to approve of same-sex marriage through the ballot box. And with it, you’ve continued the social revolution – I don’t mince words when I say “revolution” – that is surely to be affirmed by the United States Supreme Court this summer.

American social conservatives may balk, but their time is limited. Liberalism has won the culture war. The proof is overwhelming. A recent Gallup poll showed that for the first time in decades, more Americans identify as socially liberal than conservative. Big Business is now firmly on the side of pro-gay marriage. In the recent uproar over Indiana’s religious freedom law (which was subsequently watered down to the point of being ineffective), few national Republicans supported Governor Mike Pence. The one political party that’s supposed to protect religious liberty was too cowed by public perception.

Barring an extraordinary event like World War III, the Supreme Court will end all state bans on same-sex marriage this June. Only naïve simpletons living under a rock still believe the high court will defer to states on marriage. Our robed overlords will somehow find the right to gay nuptials in the Constitution. And just like that, America will take yet another turn away from its generic Christian cultural background and one step forward to egalitarian enlightenment. Liberals will rejoice. Conservatives will recoil as an institution two millennia old has been turned into a contractual love fest in the span of only 7 – yes, 7! – years.

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Winter in (Black) America

Few had the insight into that peculiar experience that is the Black American experience that Gil Scott Heron possessed. He died May 2011 and the social networks were abuzz with people who likely heard none of his music, and if they did, understood little of it. Mr. Scott knew the Blues and understood Jazz, which means he knew what it meant to be Black. His music and life was almost a perfect analogy of post 1960’s Black America.

While Mr. Scott’s and my political differences make it unlikely we were looking at this from the same perspective, it is clear he also saw an intractable decline on the horizon in America especially in Black America. This “Winter” the brother speaks about, in his best song Winter in America, features us gunning each other down, seemingly without pause. I won’t give into media sensationalism and ignore the improvement in the Black murder rate in the last twenty years, but our rate of committing homicidal acts toward one another is still dizzying relative to other ethnicities and our 1950s selves.

We have assimilated into materialistic mainstream culture at a dizzying rates. Our “intellectuals” have certainly failed to live up to Harold Cruse’s ideal that dictated:

“The special function of the Negro intellectual is a cultural one. He should take to the rostrum and assail the stultifying blight of the commercially depraved white middle-class who has poisoned the structural roots of the American people into a nation of intellectual dolts… He should tell black America how and why Negroes are trapped in this cultural degeneracy, and how it has dehumanized their essential identity, squeezed the lifeblood of their inherited cultural ingredients out of them, and then relegated them to the cultural slums.”

Instead our intellectuals have done nothing more than use the suffering of our poorest as a guilt trip to leverage against whites and get themselves accepted into white institutions. With few exceptions they merely repeat and slightly refashion the jargon handed down to them by old tired Marxists and other white liberals. They rarely offer anything in the way cultural rebirth or self determination. 

As a tribe we have forgot all the traditions that sustained us during that long walk from chattel to “freedom.” Our sense of community is long gone in most places, our dedication to the institutions founded by our ancestors nil. We tend not to even get married, we have almost all of our kids out-of-wedlock, our dedication to our own families is even circumspect. Since “official” integration (where the middle class blacks chased white people where ever they went) it seems the only thing we have gained was a marginal amount of wealth, although our wealth in relation to whites remains stagnant. Yet we are happy that we are integrated. I suppose living next to white folk and being allowed into their institutions made all these declines and the impending death of our culture and institutions worthwhile to most. Hey, at least we can feel self-important for embracing diversity.

 Undoubtedly those of us who actually care about Black communities, which are way different from “the Black Community,” see these issues for what they are, dismal signs of a dying people and decaying culture. Can we be saved? I have no idea. But as Gil said in Winter in America “sister (and brother) save your soul” if you can’t save anything else.

Fittingly the great Gil Scott Heron died, May 27, 2011 (62), in the dying former capital of Negro culture and self-determination Harlem, NY. I think the griot was telling us something.

From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims
And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains
Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
Looking for the rain
Looking for the rain

Just like the cities staggered on the coastline
Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more
Like the forest buried beneath the highway
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
Yes and all of the healers have been killed
Or sent away, yeah
But the people know, the people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your soul, Lord knows
From Winter in America

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain

And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
And all of the healers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the people know, people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fighting

Mad Men was a depraved and decadent show that gave us an incredible portrayal of humanity

The AMC television series “Mad Men” came to a close this past Sunday. After eight years, the critically-acclaimed show culminated in a dreamy reairing of Coca-Cola’s famous “Buy the World a Coke” ad from 1971. Critics panned it, but I saw the scene as a fitting end for a show about America’s cultural declivity into the hell of moral relativism. In its prime, the sentiment of the sing-songy Coke ad was nice, but the idealism of the post-1960s was too infantile to work, as we now know four decades later.

Within the show’s context, the ad didn’t represent world peace. Rather, it was one of the resolutions sought by the show’s main characters. It was the end product of protagonist Don Draper’s journey to the pits of sorrow and back. To use the cliché phrase, it also represented the End of an Era (the show’s timeline spanned from 1960 to 1970). Though the series finale was ambiguous and not entirely conclusive, “Mad Men” as a show contained some of the hardest lessons learned in life. In between the drinking, impropriety, womanizing, scams, backstabbing, and licentiousness, there were acute moments of actual humanity.

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