‘Current Affairs: A Magazine of Culture & Politics’ is an essential read.

If you ever want to keep across the madcap goings-on in U.S. politics, especially, then this is near mandatory. Nathan J. Robinson is the man behind ‘Current Affairs: A Magazine of Culture & Politics’. In interviews, he sounds like a Briton-American or an American-Brit but evidently he’s now based in the U.S. and both he and the other writers expound with humour, critical thinking and at a length which allows a depth of field. During that mass acid trip that was the 2016 U.S. presidential election, ‘Current Affairs….’ was one of the few voices who were saying – back in February 2016 – that Hillary Clinton would lose to Donald Trump: “…running Clinton against Trump is a disastrous, suicidal proposition….” and that her FBI investigation was actually a really big deal…as it indeed it turned out to be.

Hillary’s Harvey-Keitel-in-Pulp-Fiction-style-“cleaner” is Sidney Blumenthal. Hillary was running for president while being the subject of a “security review“, said Blumenthal, an “inquiry” (“[I am] not familiar with the term ‘security inquiry,’” Comey replied. “We’re conducting an investigation. … That’s what we do.”). Much of the rest of the media bought this line and pushed it to their readers: it was, to use the preferred twee phrase, a “nothingburger”. ‘Current Affairs’, back in March 2016, laid down the reasons why this was anything but and that it was bonkers that everyone was seemingly treating it so blithely: “… one of the main presidential candidates is under active investigation by the FBI, and…this is somehow being treated as unimportant or inconsequential….”.

To be fair to The Guardian too, they also did a breakdown of Clinton’s email scandal and I remember reading that and thinking that it, actually, was a huge deal. Looking back, it was obviously a “somethingburger” in that the ‘something’ was the involvement of the FBI. If you’re running for office and the Feds are all over you, then that is the problem, before one even gets into what has or hasn’t been found. And that goes double if you’re someone who’s perceived as being somewhat shady anyway.

Indeed, sifting through the detritus of the 2016 presidential elections, those journalists, reporters and opinion-formers who backed someone as weak and damaged as Hillary, due to a misguided sense of her being more electable, must be sucking a thoughtful tooth. Leaving aside court cases about the legitimacy of the primary, the firings, the resignations, the superdelegates, Sanders only lost the race by something like 46% to Hillary’s 54%. Hillary’s name recognition gave her a 60 point lead over Bernie which closed to essentially zero, once people got to hear both Hillary and Bernie make their case. How many of those primary voters for Hillary cast their vote for her in the full knowledge that she was the subject of an active FBI investigation, rather than something nebulous like a security review or inquiry? Some people are too busy, just do not have much time to do their own research and need to rely on writers telling them what’s going on. Maybe they’d have quite liked to have been informed? ‘One candidate is the subject of an FBI investigation and one is not: your choice’  Many of those journalists knew the deal, knew the score, but kept their heads down and played along with this specious narrative.

The “experts” took a real beating in the 2016 U.S. presidential election: treating the idea of Trump as president with such disdain and the idea of Hillary as president as some Agent Smith-style “inevitability“. It’s amazing to see so many, if not all of these pundits, still in situ, still pontificating, still mouthing-off, having paid no price for their miserable, miserable failures (one of them actually got promoted, leaving Politico to go to the New York Times) when, if a right-wing politician had failed to the same extent, they’d have been screaming for that person’s head…and they’d have been right to do so. ‘Current Affairs…’ offered a three part retort to this mass failure: hammering Nate Silver; pummeling the New York Times; and disemboweling pundits in general.

Post-Hillary’s folly, a book came out that would have been projected to have been a testimonial to the election of the first female in the history of the United States (its authors, Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, previously wrote the, evidently public relations heavy, according to Naomi Wolf, ‘HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton‘) but, instead, they laid bare the hubris, entitlement and Mack Sennett-style bumbling, when a short-fingered, orange, dangerously ignorant, bandit was the potential forfeit (one gleans: I’ve yet to read it for myself). Nathan J. Robinson’s review of the book is a treat, especially as one knows that Robinson saw all of this fecal matter coming down the pike for months, if Clinton was going to be thrown in against Trump.

The trouble with the egregious looking for excuses for Hillary’s calamity is that they all can’t be proven incorrect because they all will contain a grain or more of truth….but it gets extrapolated out beyond stretching point. Like how Fox “News”, in a country of 320 million, will surely be able to find at least one African-American who’ll go on TV and argue their bigoted point for them, thus giving a dubious ‘balance’.

Think of the old cinema violence/rock music influences lawlessness canard. One can’t truly argue against it because everything and anything can affect an individual. The old political paradigm – before it got smashed by Trump/Bernie/Jeremy Corbyn/social media – of a politician, say, wearing a certain colour or style of necktie or shoes would get market tested as connoting something and changing perceptions; even just the weather affects how people feel, etc. To narrow things down to only a few agents of influence is to bully and victimise one area over others.

Hillary’s billions of excuses as to why she lost the most important, yet easiest, election ever against a hysterical, know-nothing, degenerate, game show host. All of them, sexism; voter ID laws; Comey letter; et al can’t be disproven, they will have some truth, but within the overall, they all come with the territory. Indulging them all lets an individual off the hook and denies them any agency. Hillary’s excuses are like a soccer boss or hockey coach who wears a straight-face at a post-game press conference, complaining that: “It was terrible. You know, it would have been a lot easier if the other side stopped getting in our way; blocking; tackling; and trying to score against us instead. If it wasn’t for that, we would have won. We were up against it, you know…”. Yes, and you’re paid to counteract that. Nominees are detailed to counteract the opposing forces who want their own to win instead.

Any miserable failure or horrible act will always have explanations if one looks hard enough. If someone oversleeps and forgets to pick up their family member then what if they mentioned in mitigation how the film they stayed up to watch last night was so good that, if Martin Scorsese wasn’t so good a film-maker, ‘I’d have gone to bed at a better time and not overslept’? So, it’s partially Martin Scorsese’s fault for me being late. Technically true….but it’s still a bullshit excuse that should provoke laughter. What if the person was drinking too and points out that if the store hasn’t sold me the six-pack and the vodka, then I wouldn’t have overslept. Again, technically true but still laughable excuse. And on and on it can go, chipping away at the mountain face: “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”. ‘Explanations’ shouldn’t be conflated with ‘excuses’: there is no excuse for losing an election to Trump.

‘Current Affairs….’ also touches on culture too. Speaking as someone who’s never been overly convinced by ‘quality’ television being the new God over cinema, I liked this piece by Matthew Christman, especially on how the ‘quality’ television keeps its hooks into the viewer because it wants to get renewed, not because it has to take its time. I can think of exceptions straight away – films like ‘Shoah‘, shows like ‘The Wire‘ and those inbetween like the three-films-in-one, extended for television, ‘Carlos‘ and probably some others as well – but, generally, if I give someone four hours of my time maximum, if they can’t tell me everything, then I suspect that they’re either not a good story-teller or they’re trying to milk me dry. One hears about ‘binge’ viewing but, to me, as with other binges, the more one does it, the less one appreciates it so the more one does it, in order to try to recapture the pleasure, and round and around like a mouse on a wheel we go….

British politics gets covered, when the need arises, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour achieving its greatest vote increase in 1945 certainly engendered attention, especially since the ‘establishment left’ dunked and dragged Jeremy, in a similar, but much, much stronger, fashion to Bernie Sanders’ treatment in the USA. This piece by Nathan J. Robinson  ‘wears a wire’ on those who spent months or years trying to figuratively throw planks of wood through Jeremy’s bike spokes. How might Jeremy and Labour have done without this constant bullying and belittling? We’ll never know. One (good-hearted, if misguided and incorrect in this instance) Labour MP said that Jeremy reminded her of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail but, after the election result, she might be wishing that she herself had access to a Men In Black-style memory eraser.

To their credit, many of those who indulged in their counter-productive narcissism have held their hands up quite quickly and clearly, to make it clear that they were wrong and were sorry. That is good to see; it’s how adults treat other adults. After a period of time (those who’ve been assailed as ‘cultists’, ‘children’, ‘morons’ probably won’t want to immediately forgive those who’d been handing out the verbal beatdowns like so much candy) everyone should be back speaking to one another again. It’s a marked difference from the U.S.A. wherein many liberals will seemingly go to the graves swearing that Hillary Clinton’s farts smell like ice cream cones, never believing that that campaign did anything wrong nor bears any responsibility for the current sham U.S. government.

This recent article is the capper. This week, with that maniac in the White House on a historically low 36% approval rating, the U.S. Democrats managed to lose the fourth out of four special elections since Trump got his tiny hands on the keys to the kingdom. Robinson explains the concept of the ‘ghost’ candidate (just putting a name, any name, on a ballot) and how in 2016, the Democrats did this and garnered 38% of the vote after spending $0, zero dollars, in the race. Yet, Ossoff spent $22,000,000 instead…..and actually managed to draw twenty-four votes fewer than a ghost and some are trying to furiously spin this as a win, as the Democratic party crumbles into dust. A strong, ‘red’ district (the red for Republicans, blue for Democrats only stretches back to 2000, amazingly. Before then, colours switched around, there were no hard and fast rules, but 2000’s result was disputed for weeks and coincided with the first colour photographs in newspapers so the colours stuck from then onwards) a Republican district? A total ‘phantom’, a “Rodney Stooksbury” managed to get 38% for the Democrats with zero effort, zero financial outlay: what if the Democrats weren’t completely maladroit? What then…?  Anyway, an awesome magazine indeed.

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