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A Bit of Disclosure, Re: Sneak Previews and Special Events

A picture from a Lovecraft Country special event, with a very tall, spacey-looking creature, who recited poetry.

In the last couple of months, I’ve — quite mysteriously! — been added to a number of PR lists inviting me to virtual sneak previews of upcoming shows and other related media events. The way it works is you’re invited to an online “red carpet” event, with either sneak previews of the show/movie or some ancillary-but-related event: The picture above, for example, is of a spoken-word performance by Jurnee Smollett in a VR space, associated with her show Lovecraft Country. With the invite often comes swag of some sort, sometimes something as goofy as package of space-related candies, and sometimes as expensive as a virtual reality rig. If one accepts the invite to screening/event, the PR company will ask that in return one notes that one is participating in said event on social media, often by using a particular hashtag, so they can track who is talking about the event, etc.

So that’s the basic deal. PR companies are doing this at this point because they can’t do the traditional red carpet events but they still want to get the word out, and with regard to me, I expect that they see me as someone reasonably well-connected into science fiction/fantasy circles, so getting me to talk about their shows/movies on social media is a useful thing.

I’ve been invited to more of these sort of events than I’ve accepted, but occasionally something will pique my interest to attend — for example, a trio of Lovecraft County-themed VR events (because I was a fan of the book, and now, the TV series), and just today I accepted an invite for a screening of Moonbase 8, an upcoming comedy series starring John C. Reilly and Fred Armisen, because I thought it looked funny. In keeping with the Whatever disclosure policy, I feel it’s ethical to note that I’m getting these invites, that sometimes I accept them, and that sometimes they’ll send along swag when I accept the invite.

Also, while generally speaking I’ll be happy to note that I’ve attended/participated in one of these events (up to including hashtag use), as a matter of principle I won’t falsely say I enjoyed a screening or event if in fact I did not enjoy it. If I say something positive about the event, it will be because I genuinely enjoyed the experience. I’m not bought off by a box of candy (or by a VR rig). This is reminiscent of when I was a professional film critic and would attend junkets to see movies early, and they would give us swag bags and t-shirts and do various events for us. I remember specifically being taken to a really cool event for Super Mario Brothers. It did not entice me to speak well of that mess of a film.

In any event, that’s the deal. If I chat up these events, I’ll happily disclose their nature as something I was invited to, so you’ll be aware of it and can tweak your expectations accordingly. It does no harm to pull back that little bit of the curtain, I think, and quite a lot of good, in terms of credibility.

— JS

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And Now, Some General Thoughts About the Election

And to do it, I’m bringing back the “talking to myself” format. Hello, me!

Hello, you! Who, uhhhh, is also me. 

Indeed. So, what are your questions for me about this year’s election?

Well, since you’ve already detailed how you think Trump will do in your own county, any thoughts on how you think he’ll do otherwise?

Sure. I think he’s gonna lose.

You’re sure about that?

Nope! I was almost certain he was going to lose in 2016, and look where we are now. So I have a healthy respect for my being wrong. That said, I feel pretty confident he’s going to lose.

And why is that?

Because this year isn’t 2016, and we are no longer under the illusion a dangerously incompetent and racist con man can’t win. He totally can! And did already, thanks to the intricacies of the electoral college and some good ol’ fashioned foreign interference in our elections. I mean, no one, not even Trump himself, thought he’d win it — and he didn’t want to win it. When he won, it totally fucked up his plans to add a wing to his media empire. But he did win, and now we all know better.

So I think people who have disliked having Trump as president these last four years are taking the election more seriously. They’re voting early, they’re voting down ballot to get rid of his enablers when they can, and they’re aware of the consequences if he stays in office for an additional term. Lots of people, myself included, are not voting for Biden and Democrats as much as they are voting against Trump and the GOP. Which I think is fine — whatever gets people to the polling stations.

But more than that, it seems pretty clear from the polls that Trump is way behind, two weeks from the actual election date.

He was behind in the 2016 polls, too, you know.

I do know. But as others have noted, and in more detail than I will go into here, the 2016 polls were not as wrong as people thought they were in the aftermath. The national polls had Clinton up by a couple of percentage points and a few million votes — and in fact she got more actual votes from actual humans than Trump, by about three million. The polls were not horribly wrong; they were, however, somewhat optimistically read. I don’t think anyone’s being optimistic about poll numbers this year, and they have a rather healthier respect for things like margins of error.

With that said, at this point Biden is polling far better than Clinton was, not only nationally but in “battleground” states, and a few other places besides. I mean, fuck me, Biden is within two points of Trump in Texas, and only .2% ahead in Ohio, which means at the moment it’s a statistical tie here. Trump’s significantly behind in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania polls, and behind but within the margin of error in Florida. He loses any of those states on election night, he’s probably toast. Biden can lose one or two of them and he can probably still win.

Two weeks is still a long time and lots of things can happen (hey, remember the Comey bombshell?) but the point is that Biden is in a much stronger position than Clinton was all the way around, and Trump is both a known (bad) quantity, and is currently not doing anything to help himself in the home stretch. There’s a reason all those Republicans are suddenly trying to put some distance between themselves and the president.

Yeah, hey, what’s up with that, anyway?

Look, no one can see the road ahead better than a boot-licker; they’re kind of at that level. The more sitting Republicans you see peeling off from Trump, the more you know they already think it’s over, because Trump, how to put this, is not forgiving of sudden yet inevitable betrayal. If he does win, there will be retribution. No one in the modern GOP is exactly a profile in political courage, so their abandonment is telling.

Are you worried about election day hijinks at the polls? 

I am but less so than I was before.

Why is that?

Because so many Democratic and/or anti-Trump voters have decided to vote early — it’s possible the majority of Biden voters will have their votes in before election day — that if the GOP or Trump tries to fuck with day-of voting, the only people they’re going to hurt is themselves. Trump is a bit of a Bond villain, in that he loves to monologue and the longer he talks the more he reveals his secret plans. Trump made it clear early that he wants to sabotage the electoral process and that he’s not planning to accept results he doesn’t like, and, oh, hey, if actual fucking Nazis want to patrol polling places, well, that’s fine with him. So, yeah, a lot of people seem to have taken that as a hint to get their votes in early. I sure did.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s still likely there will be at least some day-of issues. There will be long lines, I do think at least some homegrown fascists will be about waving their semi-automatics, and there’s a real possibility that at least a couple of states will have their electoral systems hacked because the GOP is bound and determined to make the actual process of democracy in the US as vulnerable as possible. But again, if most people voting against Trump have gotten their votes in by then, then fucking with polling places mostly hurts Trump.

This is a long way of saying: Hey, get your vote in early, okay? In person if you can (the mail is going to be… unreliable), but if you are voting by mail, don’t screw around, put it back into the mail the same day you get it.

Admit it: you’re not gonna be that upset if Trump voters can’t vote.

Well, no, actually I am.

Scoff! Scoff!

Stop that. Look, here’s the thing: Either you believe that every adult US citizen has the right to vote, or you don’t. And if you do believe that every adult US citizen has the right to vote, then you accept it’s entirely possible that, in a fair election, the majority of voters might not vote the way you want them to. If Trump wins the election fair and square, then, a) oh fuck, but also b) then he’s won the election and that’s how it goes.

Now, the thing is, as it stands today and right now, only one of the two major parties in the US is generally for every adult US citizen voting, and it’s not the Republicans. The GOP has clearly gone out of its way to make it as difficult as possible for many adult US citizens to vote, correlating its largest efforts in areas that are Democratic leaning and/or substantially non-white districts. Anyone who argues otherwise is tendentious and supporting the cause of racism and disenfranchisement. And, you know. Fuck them right in the ear for that.

There would be irony if, in attempting to destroy confidence in the 2020 election, Trump ends up screwing himself and the GOP, and I admit I am not made of such stolid moral timber that if that happens I won’t chortle a bit. But, again: Either you believe that every adult US citizen has the right to vote, or you don’t. If you don’t, we’re not allies, even if we’re voting in the same direction. You’re not substantially different, ethically speaking, than the modern GOP.

What do you think is gonna happen down ballot?

I think it’s more likely than not the Democrats are going to win the Senate and keep the House. And while I would be delighted to have Mitch McConnell lose his seat to Amy McGrath, that seems not particularly likely, so I will settle for him no longer being majority leader, and being treated with the same care and consideration as he treated the Democrats.

GWAAAARGH WHAT ABOUT HUNTER BIDEN AND HIS LAPTOP —

Man, shut the hell up, what’s wrong with you?

Sorry, I was trying to get into the head of a Trump supporter for a minute there.

I mean, I appreciate the effort, and also, when the NY Post reporter who was made to type out that bullshit refused to have his name put on it, that tells you something. Or tells me something, as a former journalist. No one, including the people who are desperately trying to get it into the mainstream news as an “October Surprise,” think it’s anything other than Russian-generated disinformation fed to a useful tool. I do think it’s interesting how frustrated the right is that no one seems to be falling for the obvious bullshit this time around, however.

What’s your thought if Biden wins and Trump doesn’t concede?

So what?

What do you mean?

I mean, so what? Show me where in the Constitution of the United States it says that no presidential election is valid unless the loser concedes. My expectation — and again, I’ve been wrong before — is that Biden is going to win by a fairly substantial amount, both in the popular and in the electoral vote. If and when that happens, I think the collapse of GOP support for Trump, which is already happening, will intensify as everyone asks themselves if Trump is actually worth a civil war. Call me optimistic, but I like to think most GOPers would prefer not to have that, especially when the alternative is bland, safe, chummy Joe Biden.

Aside from that, Trump doesn’t actually control the elections, the states do. There’s been talk about some states ignoring the election results and having their GOP-led legislatures assign their electoral votes to Trump no matter what, but — again, I may be overly optimistic — I don’t really see that happening, especially if Biden is way up in the results.

The moral to this story is that it will be really helpful if Biden’s margin is too big to fuck with, so please remember to vote, early if you can.

If Biden wins, then the electors will meet in December, the results will be certified in January and Trump will be out the door on January 20 at 12:01pm regardless of whether he accepts the result or not. So, you know, fuck him if he doesn’t concede. He doesn’t have to. He’ll be just as gone.

Even if he loses, he’ll still have nearly three months to go as president. 

Yup, and it would be foolish not to expect some malice between election day and January 20, 2021, because Donald Trump is a horrible shitpile of a human, and also, if he wants Putin to give him asylum, he’s got to wreck as much shit as he can on the way out. I do imagine Biden’s team is already factoring that into the transition period and will hit the ground running on January 20th.

Do you really think he’ll go to Russia?

No. I think he’ll pardon himself as he walks out the White House door on January 20 and announce a new media network by 3pm. But I do think he’s well aware of to whom he owes money, and he’ll be happy to have as much of that forgiven by doing favors with the time he has left to him. Good news, such as it is: He can’t pardon himself from state crimes, and I expect New York State is going to have a nice packet of summons and subpoenas waiting for him at 12:01pm, January 20. I mean, maybe they’ll give him a day at Mar-a-Lago first. I wouldn’t count on it, though.

This idea does not displease you.

Nope. I’d be happy for the rest of the man’s natural life to be one criminal case after another. He deserves no less!

Any last comments?

Yes! Hey, folks, did I mention you should vote? And vote early if you can? In person would be best! But however you do it, get it done as soon as possible. It’s going to matter. Thanks.

— JS

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