Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

Paul Ryan Can Never Come Back

There is a comedy-trope in which someone you expect to fight abjectly runs away instead. It is in Princess Bride, when Inigo Montoya finally confronts the man who killed his father and issues his constantly rehearsed "Prepare to Die" speech. We have been waiting for an epic sword battle, and instead the adversary dashes away as fast as his feet will carry him.

Paul Ryan, who is so much tinier and emptier than he presents, just ran away, when he announced he would not run for re-election. I hope the voters will not forget that, when he wants to be President in a few years.

Elon Musk and Hatred

Sometimes it takes a second or third iteration before we can analyze something as a tactic, or a tool, or a trope, and not simply as an aspect of the originator's personality. I suppose that the first seagull to crack a clam by dropping it onto a rock may have been seen by her fellows as an eccentric; when one or two more bold imitators began to do it, the mass of seagulls began to consider it as a tool they might adopt, and even adapt (taller or different kind of rock? Particular shellfish crack easier?)

Elon Musk, whom many people read as a political liberal, is adroitly using President Trump's Twitter methodology. Step 1: Musk attacks a journalist who has written about him. Step 2: Behind him, a mass of adoring followers tweet threats and personal insults to the individual; if a woman, they comment on her femininity and looks, and threaten rape; if a Jew the anti-Semitism surges up, from the now ubiquitous {{multiple parentheses}} to the overtly hateful. Step 3: Musk pretends these people don't exist, never renounces them, and, if pressed, claims they are not "representative" of his followers.

Imagine if you had a zombie army for which you could disclaim responsibility, but who could be counted on to surge up and eat your adversaries. This is how we play today. Look for it.

The "Dial Tone"

In my Mad Manuscript on the idea of free speech, now 6200 pages and counting (no shit), I use the phrase "Dial Tone" repeatedly; I find one iteration here in the Spectacle, in a July 2017 article on the Trump voter:

Historically, marginal and vulnerable people may think their neighbors are decent in ordinary times. There is either a social sanction on exhibiting prejudice, so people keep it to themselves, or they have no particular incentive in the moment to hurt you. When power or chaos remove the barriers, neighbors easily kill their neighbors. In Germany in 1932, Jews had a sense of utter shock at how easily the people next door who had previously been polite adapted themselves easily to the violence and hatred of a new regime. In Poland after World War II, returning Holocaust survivors were murdered by their townsfolk. "[A] resurgence of antisemitism in Poland, in such incidents as the Kraków pogrom on August 11, 1945, and the Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946, led to the exodus of a large part of the Jewish population, which no longer felt safe in Poland". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aftermath_of_the_Holocaust We have seen examples in Yugoslavia, after the withdrawal of the Soviet power, and in many other nations through-out history. Earlier, the CroMagnons killed all their Neanderthal neighbors. The historical default, history's "dial tone", is bodies in piles.

I am thinking of this now because all Trump's tropes point to the dial tone: we can separate immigrant parents from children today because none of their lives matter to us; they are "animals", not humans. The ultimate way to end the mass migrations which are a feature of our geopolitical destiny will be by killing all the "intruders". Trump's "beautiful" wall will be a pile of bodies.

Israel and Black People

Israel has a large population of African refugees it is trying to deport, quite shamefully, to countries that don't want them and where they will not be safe. As Israel (like the US) sheds every Enlightenment value, the practical argument is made that if we grant them asylum, some day we will no longer be a Jewish nation. This is not, however, morally different than the American supremacist equivalent statement,that we will no longer be a white nation. Anyway, a proof of Israeli moral bankruptcy emanates from the announcement yesterday that Israel will not recognize or grant the right of return to a community of Ugandan Jews. This suggests that Israel does not want to become a black nation, or even a diverse nation, even if the black people are Jewish.

Policing EDP's

From time to time, the press reports with shocking inaccuracy, or at least visible ignorance, on something I happen to know quite well. Into this category sadly fall a number of recent incidents in which cops shot EDP's, "emotionally disturbed people". After 9/11, I spent five years working on New York City ambulances, so I know the protocols. Unless an EDP was visibly armed or attempting to hit someone, the cops hung back and let me talk to the patient soothingly. I was so good talking down EDP's that my partner and I would switch places when I was driving and we had a call for a crazy person. As one of those lines of dialog you invent and save for an opportune moment, when someone asked why I was so talented with EDP's, I would answer, "I am half crazy on my mother's side".

EDP's are getting shot because violent and ignorant militarized police are charging past the EMT's to threaten them. The EDP's freak out, try to defend themselves, and are killed. One theme, even before you get to the racism, is that police forces everywhere seem to be inhabited by people who nobody should hire to be cops, because they are too crazy themselves, too violent or, in many cases, too easily frightened, firing a weapon when a few more seconds of observation or investigation would save a life.

No idea

I text myself notes for this column all month, and frequently can't figure out what I meant: "Kasich Sophia Sylvia"? "Corpse out the torpedo tube"? "Memory joints"?

Facebook and scams

You can impersonate the CEO of Facebook, on Facebook, for years on end, to trick people out of money, without Facebook shutting down your account, let alone reporting you for prosecution. Think about that.

Elizabeth Warren

I find I have already written about this, but six years ago, so here it is again: Elizabeth Warren's cheerful, thoughtless presentation of herself as having Indian heritage, based on no evidence except her cheekbones, betrays a moral failing. There is a historical process in which we destroy a people, then miss them a little, and then abuse them again by using them as a metaphor. This has been going on through-out history; Macaulay writes of the Highland Scots: "Those barbarous institutions and usages, which, while they were in full force, no Saxon had thought worthy of serious examination, or had mentioned except with contempt, had no sooner ceased to exist than they became objects of interest, of curiosity, even of admiration." Warren with her boasts of Indian heritage assumes her place in this history of murder and metaphor.


Michael Anton, the author of the ridiculous essay portraying Clinton as the hijacker of Flight 93, and Trump as the brave American charging into the cockpit, has at last been fired by the Trump administration.