Welcome back to the Silliest Take of the Week, the thing I do most Sundays instead of the mounting pile of dishes in the sink!
Shut Up, Jacob
Jacob Wohl, An Instagram Post, Instagram, 9/17/2019
Jacob Wohl is, as accurately summarized on his Wikipedia page, “an American far-right conspiracy theorist, fraudster, and internet troll.” A full summary of his incompetent grifting would take a long time, but here’s a quick highlights reel. In the last few years, Wohl has managed to:
- Use a fake Twitter account to concoct a death threat against himself;
- Wander around Minneapolis looking for some nebulous secret Sharia conspiracy;
- Get himself charged with felony illicit sale of securities in California;
- Try and fail to gin up some kind of fake sexual assault claims against Robert Mueller and Pete Buttigieg; and
- Just generally show his entire ass all over the Internet on a regular basis.
On September 17, 2019, Wohl posted the following caption on a grainy Instagram picture of his dumb face (note that he is banned from Twitter):
“I use a locking briefcase. Whenever I walk through an airport or an office building with it, people stop and compliment it. They say “Wow! you never see those anymore” — The removal of the locking briefcase from civil society was a feminist conspiracy. Back in old days, if a man had an extra cell phone, it would go in the briefcase when he got home. Love note from his secretary? Locking briefcase. Hockey tickets along the ice for him and his friends? Locking briefcase. Thanks to the feminists, men are now expected to carry around a soft, suede bag (preferably in a feminine color). It’s time for men to take their privacy back. Get a locking briefcase today! P.S. NEW BLOG POST (link in bio)”
That’s right: men can’t be masculine philanderers because of the abolition of the locking briefcase. Now if my secretary hands me a note inviting me to some illicit workplace rendezvous, I am forced to simply return it with a sad shake of the head. Where would I put the note? I have no briefcase, yet I must skeeze.
Note that it never occurs to Jacob “My Transparent Horseshit is Literally a Meme” Wohl that the reason people might be commenting on his briefcase is that he looks like a big ol’ doofus in low-rent Don Draper cosplay.
What’s Sean Up To
Sean Spicer, A Now-Deleted Tweet, Twitter, 9/17/2019
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is now on Dancing With the Stars, because America decided some years back to just go all the way and become as unparodiable as possible. He didn’t receive great marks on his debut performance (I guess; no power on this Earth could cause me to watch that video), causing former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to ask the American people to vote for Spicer, apparently to trigger the libs or some such. Spicer, overwhelmed with gratitude, tweeted the following:
On behalf of Christians everywhere, let me say how glad I am that Sean Spicer is fighting the good fight and spreading the Good News by beclowning himself on a reality show dancing competition. What more effective witness for the Gospel could there be than a dime-store Goebbels shimmying in a neon green ruffleshirt? I believe that no person could see this image and doubt the doctrine of original sin or that we are all in desperate need of salvation:
The Silliest Take of the Week, 9/15/2019-9/21/2019
Amber A’Lee Frost, “Andrew Yang and the Failson Mystique,” Jacobin, 9/18/2019
This one is a bit of a journey, so stick with me:
- Frost mentions a friend who was on Tinder and had a lousy interaction with an Andrew Yang supporter. Frost claims that this Tinder dude exemplifies a type of millennial layabout “failson.”
- This Yang-guy (like many such “failsons”) digs the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), which is probably the most famous part of Yang’s platform. Briefly, the idea is that the federal government would write every American a check every so often, no strings attached.
- 1950s and ’60s housewives were miserable, as famously described in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.
- ’50s housewives were basically on a UBI.
- Yang supporters thus basically want to be ’50s housewives, who were miserable.
- UBIs are bad. We should do other socialist things instead, which will not make us miserable ’50s housewives.
The whole “UBI” versus “universal jobs guarantee” thing is a big debate in left/socialist circles right now. I, personally, am neither a Yang guy nor, really, a UBI guy, though what I’ve read leads me to think that a UBI is probably better than a universal jobs guarantee. But I really haven’t done enough research about it to have an opinion, and I don’t really know a ton about Yang’s specific UBI proposal (the “Freedom Dividend“) or UBI proposals in general. What I do know is that the above Take is bonkers.
An exhaustive analysis of this Take would take a very long time and would be better-performed by somebody more familiar with the subject, but let’s take a look at some paragraphs that stuck out at me as particularly odd.
First, writing about why her friend did not elect to keep talking to the Tinder Yangman in an attempt to persuade him why the UBI is a bad idea:
“It is notoriously difficult to evangelize class consciousness among the hopeless and disaffected. What’s more, it’s generally an unpleasant conversation, whether over Tinder or in person.”
I will grant that I have spent a total of 20 minutes on Tinder, at the end of which (and this is true) I deleted the app and instead spent a good half-hour researching whether I’d be eligible to join the Society of Jesus. So I don’t have a ton of familiarity with the platform. But this comment suggests that occasionally people attempt to have serious political conversations on Tinder, although it grants that doing so is often unpleasant. This was to me as the rending of a veil betwixt myself and some hidden and hideous dimension of suffering; what I had briefly glimpsed already seemed to me a terrible place, but now I realize things are far worse than I could ever possibly have imagined.
“Friedan’s women, in their comfortable homes with their comfortable allowances, with all of that marvelous free time, were the biggest experiment in UBI the world has ever seen, and they were desperately, wretchedly unhappy, to the point of mental illness. Because that is what being paid off and discarded does to a person.”
Are we sure this didn’t wander in from the pages of National Review somewhere? Because “free money and no obligation to work turns you into a degraded wretch” feels like the sort of thing that conservatives usually say when they’re criticizing socialism, which makes me a bit confused about why Jacobin (“a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives“) is publishing it here.
Frost briefly addresses three objections to her comparison, of which:
“[t]he second is that there is something fundamentally different about being “kept” by a husband than being “kept” by the state. Even at first glance, this objection is merely a distinction without a difference.”
This bit about how the distinction is obviously irrelevant at “first glance” feels a lot like when a lawyer can find no legal authority for their position, so instead just confidently opens a paragraph with the word “clearly.” My “first glance” was not “what a quaint distinction, you rubes” but rather “yes, right, that’s because those are clearly not the same thing, what is wrong with you?”
“But as someone who has been both a housewife and on the dole, I assure you that housewives have far more political and economic leverage than welfare recipients.
A capitalist state that holds the purse strings is far less accountable to its dependents than a husband. If he annoyed me or didn’t give me enough money, I had immediate recourse due to both the value of my labor and my proximity to him. Such is not the case with the distant and opaque bureaucracy of the welfare office — you cannot berate them when you are unhappy, you cannot go on strike by refusing to do their laundry or clean, and you certainly can’t poison their dinner. These are not tactics I am willing to forswear (a girl has to have options).”
I will grant that the poisoning thing is presumably a joke. But “being dependent on a husband is better than being dependent on the state, because I can’t nag the state” is wild.
“We currently live in the most feminist moment in cultural history, and for all the perks I admittedly enjoy from it (divorce, abortion, miniskirts), it doesn’t appear that the anguish and misery of women has been much alleviated by their “awareness” that women are in fact people worthy of dignity and respect.
The very idea that women (or men) would suddenly flourish under a political shift back to helpless reliance on a (hopefully) benevolent patron — so long as we could still tweet bell hooks quotes and wear our “Feminist as Fuck” t-shirts — is the height of delusional ideology, not to mention deeply patronizing (which, again, I mean in every and sense of the phrase).”
I will say again that a description of a government welfare-ish program as “helpless reliance on a (hopefully) benevolent patron” is a super weird thing for a socialist publication to publish!
I think the real nexus of the Silliness of this Take is exemplified in this bit (“Lumpen” is a reference to the “lumpenproletariat,” a Marxist term for the “unthinking” lower classes exploited by reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces of the world. Or at least that’s what Wikipedia says it means. I am not going to pretend to be particularly well-versed in Marxist terminology, partly because I am lazy, partly because it’s more fun to learn about Pokemon, and partly because although I appear to be being dragged kicking and screaming towards becoming a socialist, I will tear out my eyes before I become the sort of person who unironically uses the word “praxis” in everyday conversation.)
“And so, the listless, lumpen boys of Yang Gang scroll and swipe their lives away, daydreaming about becoming the listless, lumpen housewives of yesteryear.”
At the risk of mansplaining something here (and please note that I have not read The Feminine Mystique, so it’s possible I’ve misunderstood what’s really going on here) the Yangsmen do not want to become housewives, because housewives did in fact have obligations at home. It was my understanding that Friedan’s critique was not so much that housewives did not have to work in the marketplace to receive their income, but rather that they were expected to be satisfied solely by life in the domestic realm. Housewives did (and do) perform labor: they raise kids, clean the house, prepare dinner, etc. UBI advocates do not envision a system of income which also comes saddled with a host of domestic obligations, accompanied by societal stigma if one doesn’t fulfill those obligations correctly. A UBI is supposed to be a no-strings-attached check — being a ’50s housewife came with a lot of strings. Under a UBI I would not have to explain why I’m not in the mood right now and have a headache to whoever hands me my UBI check.
“I must restate that I do not anticipate UBI ever gaining much political momentum, but it will take some work to reinstate the bedrocks of socialist reforms into the discourse of the Yang Gang base: full employment and meaningful work with living wages, parental leave, retirement, disability, housing, health care, childcare, and a worker-controlled supply of labor. These are the inspiring ideals that invigorate people and shape our discontent into something that can build power. These are the politics that fight for dignity. This is the program that inspires hope. This is the class war that promises socialism.
And besides, ladies love a workin’ man.”
This really is just about that self-destructive Tinderguy, I guess.
Thanks to Jarrod and Nick for sending several contenders my way this week, and don’t forget to send me the Silliest Takes you see to firstname.lastname@example.org! (or through FB messenger or whatever, that’s also fine)