Monthly Archives: August 2018

America is Bored

Drink

Many years ago, I enjoyed the first couple of season of The Apprentice. It was a rather goofy show. I saw it the same way I saw America’s Next Top Model. The Apprentice wasn’t producing any Warren Buffets out of its pool or talents, and America’s Next Top Model wasn’t going to produce the next Heidi Klum (who happens to have a reality show at the same time as well). I knew at the time that Donald Trump was full of it. He marketed everything and was willing to plaster his name on everything. His audiobook even had a section devoted entirely on advertising products. He was a cartoon of a man, and it was entertaining at the time. And then I got bored by third season.

I used to enjoy Gavin Mciness. I read Vice regularly on its early days and often enjoyed his many contributions although I didn’t really agree on some of his opinions. After splitting from Vice, I still enjoyed Gavin Mcinness with some of his comedic attempt. I thought the whole, “how to be a man” thing was great satire. And for a short period, I thought his hyper-masculine rants and conservative turn was a Kaufmanesque attempt at humor. It wasn’t. I moved on.

I saw a few of Jesse the Mind Ventura’s old show on conspiracy theories. I thought it was hilarious when it came out. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was tongue-in-cheek or not, especially when he goes around with his “investigative team.” A lot of what they talked about was hilariously flawed, but with a bit of production, it made it more entertaining than it should be. A couple of times, he even had Alex Jones on the show. I didn’t really know much about Alex Jones at the time, but I do remember that a lot of the big revelations and conspiracies he was talking about in the show all amounted to teases which led to nothing. There were no evidence. Just a couple of men often staring at a barbed wire fence and making up stories about what’s on the other side. I got bored and moved on to shows which had actual writers.

The first time I heard about Milo Yiannopoulous was when I heard about Gamergate. I wasn’t really that invested in the issue at the time, after all, there are bigger things out there in the world that should concern people than “ethics in video game journalism.” I found that Anita Sarkeesian and Milo Yiannopolous at the time were both working their own crowd to build up their brands. I was just amused that the whole thing blew up so much that Sarkeesian found an audience at the UN and Yiannopolous became a hero of the alt-right. And I’m like… how about playing video games instead of just arguing about them?

I used to watch Michael Lebron on Lionel Nation. He came into my radar around the same time I started listening to Sam Seder. I thought some of his arguments made sense, and it was interesting how he would sometimes go against popular takes on politics, culture, and what not. I thought he was a decent but an old-fashioned broadcaster. Then I moved on to other things. Next thing I know, I see him peddling Qanon conspiracy theories and posing with Donald Trump. Ugh.

What I’m getting at here is that America seems to have been caught up with me at my most bored a few years ago, me at my watching Jerry Springer because there is nothing else on television (and yes, I know Jerry Springer is a better statesman than most of the clowns out there right now). I’m surprised that these people I mentioned have large followings, enough for Mcinness to have global franchises of his hate group and for Trump to become the leader of the free world. Why didn’t the rest of the world move on? Couldn’t they see there are more entertaining stuff out there?

In any case, here’s hoping that the joy of seeing D-list entertainers will be usurped by an even darker desire… the desire to see someone spectacularly fail. It was entertaining to see the whole Gamergate thing erupt, but it’s even more entertaining watching Milo Yiannopolous fail again and again at trying to be relevant. It was entertaining to see Donald Trump rise. It’s the reason why cable news gave him and his supporters so much free coverage. But it would be even more entertaining to see a US president fail spectacularly. This would guarantee more rating for cable news shows.

I believe this is what ultimately will happen. People will root to see him fail just for the spectacle of it. How do I know this? The times I was watching The Apprentice, reading Gavin McInnes, or checking out Lionel Nation or Gamergate, I remember those are periods when I would occasionally scroll through Failblog. It was quite entertaining to see people fail. So yeah. C’mon America. Catch up with me at my most bored.

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Madam is a Bigot

Strawberry

Ugh… when someone complains about the cost of housing/helping refugees. Don’t bother entertaining that question. It is a talking point as old as time usually aimed at immigrants. It’s been adopted by white supremacists. This “economic anxiety” is just fluff for what is basically racism. It was economic anxiety that got Donald Trump elected to the White House. However, this same “economic anxiety” does not surface when it Donald Trump wants a space force, an expensive military parade, and increased military spending. His supporters only seem to be “economically anxious” when it comes to issues which affect minorities and immigrants.

So as innocent as that lady might be when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about where the money to assist refugees will come from, she is parroting a talking point that has been historically used to attack minorities and immigrants. It’s bigoted and racist. That is not to say that Canada should mindlessly bear the cost of helping all refugees out, but when it’s your first complaint, the one you heckle the leader of the country with, then I begin to judge your motives and intelligence. Canada is not a poor country. It’s not the richest country in the world, but we are not starving either. We can afford to help those who are desperately fleeing deadly situations in their home country. We can do this.

A few days ago, I came out of Seoul Station and heard festive drumming. There were drummers set-up in front of the station with seats for the audience and everything. It was pretty elaborate and the whole thing seems to have been well organized. It was a really festive mood. But ironically, it was organized by a group that wants to block refugees coming to South Korea, particularly the 500 Yemenis applying for asylum. The people who want the refugees out were channeling Trump. There are talks of immigrants taking advantage of the system, and that they are not really refugees. And these are the more civil talking point. Others on the Internet simply say they don’t look like Koreans or are scary. There’s a growing concern that the influx from a few hundred applicants ten years ago to about 10,000 asylum applicants this year point out to massive fraud, but it could also mean that the world continues to be a hellish place to live for some people. Or perhaps it shows how Korea has become more attractive to immigrants and refugees in the international stage.

A lot of the anxiety stems from Jeju Island, with many of the Yemeni asylum seekers being there due to its visa-free policy. I suspect this is also fueled by the growing angst against Chinese investors buying up property, coupled with the influx of tourists in the past couple of years. What’s disappointing is that aside from the usual racism, Islamophobia, and accusing foreigners of being involved with drugs and crime, the country’s #Metoo and feminist movement seem to have allied itself with the anti-refugee crowd as well. #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”) was trending on Twitter last month, with the disappearance of six women being blamed on refugees. Again, there is no evidence that directly links refugees to the actual five missing women (rumors made it six) and it seems to echo the anti-refugee sentiments in Europe, with people saying that they are a danger to women. It also bears mentioning that foreigners in Korea as a group commit fewer crimes than the rest of the Korean population. This fervor reminds me of events a few years ago when there was a spate of students molested by their Korean teachers. Some were covered up, while others were simply fired. This created a bit of an uproar, but instead of addressing the problem directly, lawmakers decided to make it mandatory for foreign teachers to have AIDS test in order to get their visas. Ignoring the implication that foreigners have a higher risk for AIDS and that they should at least be AIDS-free when they presumably have relations with students, not many people batted an eye when this “solution” was made into law. Blame the foreigners and minority for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s an old, lazy, but effective tactic. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make anyone safer.

And if you really want to go deeper in history, women’s safety has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to demonize black men: the brute caricature. Black rapists, white victims.

Economic anxiety, women’s safety… these have all been incorporated by hate mongers to demonize foreigners and minorities. When it comes to talking about refugees, it is simply racist to address these things because a cursory search in the Internet will show how these talking points have been used repeatedly to demonize people. The coming of foreigners has never resulted in the collapse of a country’s economy and the pillage of women unless you look at colonialist history. European settlers ravaged the First Nations. Columbus and his men raped women and sold people as slaves. It was the First Nations that should have felt concerned about their economy and women’s safety. People don’t need to worry about these things when it comes to refugees. The last time I checked, Germany is still a pretty rich country despite taking in so many refugees. And as for crimes, it has the lowest crime record since 1992. So yes, going back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that woman was talking bigoted bullshit.

I’m not saying the woman is evil however. She’s simply misguided on the issue. She could be the best mother, daughter, sister, or whatever… but when it comes to the refugee issue, she is a misguided bigot. A couple of weeks ago, a Korean man hurled some racist sentiments at me. The person I was with tried to defend me, but I told her to let it go, and I tried to move on from the situation. Now, as progressive as this person might be in defending me against racist attacks, this same person later tried to convince me of the problems with “fake refugees” coming in to Korea.

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Mohammed Bin Salman is a Fraud

Squidy

If an insect bit you, it committed what could be considered a crime against your person. It attacked you. Aside from being an irritant and bringing a general feeling of disgust, knowing that a six-legged creature that normally dwells in moist, dark, quarters brought its fangs to pierce skin, who knows what sort of diseases the creature has wrought with its violence. So what does a person do? Most people would quickly kill the insect with a strike of a palm or with a rolled-up newspaper. Others would swat the creature away, blame the act on its instinct or other innocuous causes and just move on. Afterwards, perhaps do something to prevent being bitten again.

A child however would sometimes be cruel. They would mete out punishment by slowly torturing the poor creature. Perhaps they would tear its limbs out one by one, or maybe slowly burn it with a magnifying glass.

This is how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does justice. It crucified a person in public in the holy city of Mecca. Though rare, it often uses capital punishment for crimes such as anti-government activism and homosexuality. It is abhorrent. As much as the west hates on ISIS and how violent they can be on what they perceive as transgressors, Saudi Arabia sees them eye to eye on many of these issues.

Canada recently sent out a couple of tweets calling out Saudi Arabia to release the activist Samar Badawi and her brother who were both arrested for speaking out against the government. Samar Badawi is famous for leading the fight for women’s rights in the country. She spoke out against Saudi’s guardianship system as well as advocated for women’s right to drive. Now, I’m not a big advocate for diplomacy via Twitter. It is a clumsy tool, and diplomacy is anything but clumsy. When Canada sent out those tweets, it publicly shamed Saudi Arabia for what it’s currently doing in terms of human rights.  And while they do deserve public shaming, I don’t think public shaming is something that diplomats should do.

But if Canada committed an error in publicly shaming Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia acts exaggeratedly by calling it an “attack on the kingdom,” what do you call their tweet in response? Didn’t their message with an Air Canada plane headed towards the CN Tower explicitly threaten a terrorist retaliation against Canada? Did it also not implicitly admit to being responsible for the attack on 9/11? And again, this was just a response over a call to release activists fighting for human rights. Don’t speak up for human rights or else we’ll send terrorist planes your way? Canada is dealing with a child.

And this child is aiming to hurt Canada through education and future investments. Cutting off current trade doesn’t necessarily impact Canada tremendously, but removing Saudi students from Canadian universities and cutting off future investments could hurt Canada in the long run. I’m glad that Canada doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of backing down from its stance, but I really hope other countries join us in standing up against this evil government.

Mohammed Bin Salman is not a reformer. People need to stop saying this. He is a young leader who inherited his position. Much like North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, he got infinitely lucky in the birth lottery. And while he tries to create a progressive Saudi image by having more foreign investments and recently allowing women in the country to drive, he fights Qatar, kidnaps the Lebanese Prime Minister, and arrests and holds hostage the country’s rich and political elites in an attempt to consolidate power. The country continues to crack down and arrest its own people for simply erring grievances against the government. It continues to punch down on Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the region, creating its own humanitarian crisis (I don’t know if Saudi Arabia has ever had to punch up in a military conflict). Mohammad Bin Salman is not a true friend of the west. He is Kim Jung Un with oil money. Saudi Arabia is attacking Canada as a warning to all other western countries who would choose to criticize the kingdom for its domestic and international abuses. Instead of military threats, their government will use their purse strings to punish other countries. They save physical violence on their own people as well as weaker countries.

As for the criticism that Canada should stick its nose to where it belongs, Samar Badawi’s brother is Raif Badawi, an author and an activist himself. Like his sister, he was arrested for his anti-government activities and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes, fifty of which he has already received. His wife is a Canadian. The Canadian government is looking after its own. But even if this wasn’t the case, it should be the responsibility of every rational government to speak out when one of its allies or partners is violating human rights. A true friend and ally would want its allies and friends to be better. If you see your brother pulling out an insect’s legs one by one, you’ll put a stop to it and teach him a lesson about cruelty and kindness. This is what Canada did. And for that, we just got threatened with a 9/11 attack.

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