The Silliest Take of the Week: 9/8/2019

Welcome back to the Silliest Take of the Week, my (mostly) weekly attempt to avoid pulling out my hair in horror at the sight of the preposterous things people say on the Internet.

For those of you who are new here, here’s a general description of the project, and you can click here for the STOW Archive!

What is it About Taylor

Michelangelo Signorile, “Why Taylor Swift Really Scares Trump on LGBTQ Rights,The Daily Beast, 9/1/2019

Taylor Swift won an award at the MTV Music Video Awards about two weeks ago, and used the occasion to mention her support for the Equality Act, a bill (passed by the House, though not yet by the Senate) which would amend the Civil Rights Act to incorporate protections for LGBTQ individuals. Later that week, several prominent Republicans criticized Swift’s speech. For the writer of this Take, this signals that Trump et al are terrified of Taylor Swift:

“More than any politician—or any other pop star—Taylor Swift has struck fear in the hearts of the enemies of LGBTQ equality.”

Why are these folks scared of Taylor? Well, you see, she once got a bunch of young people to register to vote:

“The immediate reactions were for good reason. The 29-year-old pop phenomenon who has sold more than 50 million albums has a massive fan base among a young demographic nationally—people who follow her lead. When Swift broke her silence on partisan politics and endorsed Democrats in 2018 in a post to her more than 112 million Instagram followers, a surge in voter registrations followed, enough to scare any seasoned GOP strategist…

When Swift spoke out against Republican candidates in 2018, Trump’s response revealed Swift’s superpowers. Just about every well-known woman who crosses Trump, after all, is vilified by him in misogynistic tirades.

But Trump’s only response to Swift was that he would ‘like Taylor’s music about 25% less now.'”

Never mind that the Washington Post source Signorile cited above says that “it’s difficult to credit Swift directly for the spike in registrations.” Never mind that, as Signorile himself says, “[s]ome inside and outside the LGBTQ community have questioned the sincerity of Swift’s advocacy, raising concerns that she’s profiting from it or, in the case of the ‘Calm Down’ video, which is filled with queer icons and rainbow flags, engaging in appropriation.” The fact that Trump once was slightly less than vitriolic to Swift clearly shows that all Republicans are terrified of her.

“The Trump campaign’s goal is to appease suburban straight voters who are repelled by blatant bigotry—and that includes many that are part of the huge Swift fan base—while not deviating from evangelical leaders demands. As Swift herself said in an open letter back in June, however, you can’t claim to support equality while supporting discrimination.

She articulates that point repeatedly and loudly—enough to make them jumpy in the White House and on the religious right. That’s why, for them, perhaps more than anyone else on the issue, Swift represents a clear and present danger.”

I’m sure Swift’s advocacy moves the needle in some ways. But it’s the superlative language here that strikes me as particularly Silly. But maybe I’m wrong! Maybe Taylor Swift really is Public Enemy #1 for anti-LGBTQ politicians. Maybe when Mitch McConnell closes his eyes at the end of a long day, he sees a vision of a tall woman astride a pale horse, wielding a rainbow sword. As she bears down on him, blonde tresses streaming in the wind, he realizes it’s none other than Taylor the Swift, champion of the downtrodden, most feared of all the Warrior-Bards of Nashville. He awakens in a cold sweat, and quietly tells himself to shake it off.

The Return of Erick, Son of Erick

Erick Erickson, A Tweet, Twitter, 9/5/2019

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson is a recurring star of the Silliest Take of the Week Project, and he was back at it again this week.

Erick has said that he doesn’t care about climate change before, so this isn’t exactly news. But while there’s just a lot going on in this tweet (what does “atone for their privilege” mean?) the Silliest thing here is the notion that alternative energy will “send us back to a dark ages reliance on the wind and sun.”

I am not a historian, nor am I an expert in sustainable energy. But I feel like reliance on the wind for say, sailing ships is pretty different from the use of wind to power turbines. I’m also pretty sure Charlemagne didn’t use solar panels.

The Silliest Take of the Week: 9/1/2019-9/7/2019

David Brooks, “And Now, a Word From a Fanatic,The New York Times, 9/5/2019

David Brooks is one of the most reliably Silly opinion writers for The New York Times, and he is often mocked on Twitter. This week, he took it upon himself to understand the psychology of vitriolic online commentators, and did so via a rambling psychological odyssey. In addition to being bizarre and melodramatic, it consistently attempts to conflate the alt-right with the “alt-left,” whoever that is. Does he mean Twitter tankies? The Dirtbag Left? The sort of person that the alt-right calls a “social justice warrior?” Who knows! In between references to Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, we just get paragraphs like this one:

“I am one of those fanatics on the alt-right and the alt-left, the ones who make online forums so vicious, the ones who cancel and call out, the minority of online posters who fill the air with hate. I’m one of those radicals whose rage is intertwined with psychological fragility, whose anger at real wrongs is corrupted by my existential panic about myself.”

It’s hard not to just quote every single paragraph in this thing:

“Adults in my life have not been trustworthy. Friends have not been trustworthy. Women reject me. I passed through school unseen. You have no idea how ill equipped I am to deal with my pain. I was raised in that coddling way that protects you from every risk except real life.”

So, wait, which is it — have I been overcoddled, or have adults not been trustworthy? Those don’t seem to quite square, right?

“I crave the single narrative that will make everything clear: Everything is race. Everything is class. Everything is moral rot caused by godlessness. They say that fundamentalism is rigid and authoritarian. I say to them: Yes! I want fundamentalism. Please wrap me in that rigidity. Otherwise, I have no coherent self.”

This isn’t even the sort of thing the alt-right says — as a rule, they don’t talk about “moral rot caused by godlessness,” but rather the “corruption” of Western Civilization because of foreign invasion and Jews, or the seeding of the academy with “cultural Marxism,” and other such nonsense. Stuff like this makes me pretty sure that Brooks has just absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

“I’ve lost faith in reason. Communication is for condemnation and arousal. Forgiveness has become foreign to me. Sometimes you have to be vicious for justice. If I afflict the comfortable I have served justice. I don’t have to worry about comforting the afflicted. If I attack faraway wrongdoers I don’t have to worry about tutoring a child.”

do you… do you want alt-right Internet trolls or Twitter tankies tutoring children, David?

But here’s the best paragraph:

“Online war is a force that gives life meaning. Hatred gives me that delicious simulacrum of power. Did you really think you could raise me on gourmet coffee and yoga pants and I wouldn’t find a way to rebel against your relativism and materialism? Didn’t you observe the eternal pattern — that if you try to flatten a man to the bourgeois he will rebel by becoming a fanatic?”

Dear David,

Hi, it’s me again. Just as a quick question: what in the hell are you on about? What do gourmet coffee and yoga pants have to do with anything? Are you proposing to lay the blame for the diseased state of the Twitter commentariat at the door of Starbucks? I guess I can parse the argument about “materialism,” but how on Earth do fancy soy lattes or comfortable leggings have anything to do with “relativism?” Do you imagine that everyone who drinks an espresso at a fancy coffeeshop immediately comes away with a strong reaction about Nietzsche?

Your Befuddled Servant,

-Bill

That about does it for this week’s Silliest Take of the Week post! As always, please send me the Silliest Takes you see to sillytakes@gmail.com, and have a good week!

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