I Think I’ve Finally Figured Out Why I Write About Politics Here Rather Less Than I Used To
I mean, besides the reason I’ve already noted several times, which is that there are only so many times you can say “The political right in the United States is unambiguously all-in on bigoted authoritarianism and white supremacy and has no interest in helping any American, just in punishing some of them” before it gets tiring, both to say and to hear. That remains accurate!
And also, the other thing is that so much political messaging these days, particularly on the right, is so performative that engaging with it is also performative, and a furtherance in distributing the original performative messaging. The political right in the United States understands that, inasmuch as it currently lacks a coherent political strategy other than will to power, it must keep its followers forever afraid, and its opponents forever on the defensive — spending their energy responding rather than doing anything else. So: outrage at trans people and black people and librarians and candies and anything else that will keep the outrage cycle going on for another 24 hours.
And, you know, I… just don’t want to. I’d like to say that it’s because I don’t have time, but I have the time, as much as I ever have with regard to this site. I just don’t have the inclination. So much of it is fucking trivial, for one — the individual incidents, to clarify, not the overall intent to strip everyone but white dudes of their rights — and all of it is “I said or did something shitty, now you have to respond, so I can play my next card.” Engaging in that level of rhetorical dishonesty for anything more than the length of a tweet feels icky, and even engaging in it for that long is fast losing its appeal.
Likewise saying much about any of the “personalities” of the right, including the several congresspeople who have been making obtuse screaming their brand. Yes, I’ve seen your trick. What else do you have? The answer: Not much. And that’s fine, I suppose, if there is something else to talk about. But there is nothing else: No policy, no strategy, nothing other than whatever you are for we are against. That’s it, plus the white supremacy mentioned above. Again: How many ways are there to approach that before it just gets stale? And why would I want to write it? I’m not getting paid to.
(This is another aspect of it: There are lots of people getting paid to write about these topics, and I think the need to put fresh spins on the simple fact that US right has nothing but bigotry and rage going for it these days is one reason we’re getting some fundamentally nonsensical commentary out of otherwise sensible writers. Dear political writers in the US: I know you know better. Please do better. As for me, I’m glad I’m not getting paid to write on politics, otherwise I’d be in the same boat.)
I don’t think this means that I won’t ever write on politics again until the right in the US gets smarter and less addicted to fomenting outrage. One, that’s not going to happen: not being smart, and fomenting outrage, has worked well enough for the right, so why would they change that. Two, even if the right in the US did want to do that, it would be a multi-decade project. It does mean that when and if I write about politics, I want it not to be reactive, or if it is reactive, not in the way that those instigating the messaging want it to be. And, again, for something longer than a tweet, that takes time and effort. I don’t have it in me to be silent about politics, but more than ever I’m aware that I, no less than anyone else, am susceptible to the prodding and poking of others to run their play when it comes to messaging.
(Also: I have less interest in being snarky about politics these days, which cuts down the amount I write about it here, too. It used to be easy to be snarky about politics! But then we had an attempted coup and the right leaned really hard into actually taking away the rights of American citizens. I don’t know, I feel less inclined to make funny quips about all of that. You can think of it as a personal failure if you like.)
So: Writing less about politics here, but I hope that when I do, I actually have something useful to say, rather than banging out “I’m writing to write about the thing everyone else is writing about” response text. And if I can’t make it useful, I think it’s fine not to write it up at all. It’s not as if people will lack things to read on the outrage du jour. That is, after all, the whole point of the outrage du jour.