Archive for the Bad Faith Category

Is this Election Stuff still going on?

Posted in Bad Faith, Elections, Media, Politics, USA with tags on June 8, 2016 by Z

I kid.  Of course it is.  There’s perhaps less to talk about now, since the lack of exit polls this time around means no fun fraud spotting in Cali or Jersey.  It all seems so dull, though it is fun to note that the response of our “media” to the realization that the exit polls weren’t within the usual margin of the actual results wasn’t to question the legitimacy of the vote (as they would do in many other nations), but instead to conclude that exit polls are no longer necessary.  Not very subtle, guys.

Moving on to the people whose opinions actually have some effect on policy, Lee Fang over at The Intercept has a short piece up on Pfizer chief executive Ian Read, who “said that he cannot ‘at this moment distinguish between the policies that Donald Trump may support or those that Hillary Clinton may support.'”  Don’t feel bad, Ian.  Neither can I.  So here we are, barring some sort of maple flavored Vermontish surprise, back at our usual party A versus party a “democracy.”  (Let’s ignore Bernie’s military Keynesianism again for the moment.  We all know it’s there).  At least we’re familiar with this position, as we approach Bad Faith 2016.  There is one slim hope still ahead – that protesters at the Dem’s convention may ’68 the lot of them.  We’re due.

Post Thanksgiving Update 2: Black Friday, AKA American Thunderdome, or possibly Lumpenfest USA

Posted in Bad Faith, Capitalism, Economy, Media, News, USA with tags , , , , on December 4, 2012 by Z

What can be said about the uniquely American quasi-religious retail holiday known as Black Friday? This year’s observance happened to coincide with a Walmart worker’s strike that almost no one appeared to care about. Well, that’s not quite true; I’ve heard of several stories indicating that many shoppers expressed support for and approval of the Walmart strike – as they crossed the picket line to shop AT WALMART.  (This account of some of the more successful actions may lift spirits a little.  Let no one say I’m more than 95% gloom).  In addition, I’m aware of an incident of mass pepper spraying by a shopper looking for a cheap Xbox (California), two people shot dead in a Walmart parking lot over a parking space (Florida) and a man who tried to punch his way to the front of the line outside Sears, until he happened to attack a man with a concealed carry license, who drew his weapon and chased the attacker away (Texas). While I’ve never been a fan of concealed carry (if one must carry a weapon, surely open carry is both more honest and a better deterrent), the Texas Sears incident is probably the best argument in its favor I’ve yet seen. Of course, the Florida parking lot shooting seems a more potent argument against it.  But back to the matter at hand: How has this de facto holiday achieved such significance that people are prepared to kill for it? Why also do so many see no contradiction in indicating their approval of the Walmart strike even as they cross the picket line to shop at Walmart?

This second question is made more interesting in light of the revelation that the term “Black Friday” was used by factory managers in the 1950s not to refer to crowds of shoppers, but to the large number of workers who called in sick.  Only later did the day transition from a headache for manufacturing into a for profit free for all for retail. One might characterize the transition in this way: 1950s Black Friday was a day for workers to tell the boss “piss off, I’m extending my holiday and there’s nothing you can do about it,” while present day Black Friday is a day for consumers to say “it’s great that you’re standing up to this evil company I’m about to make more profitable. I’d stay home or shop elsewhere and actually support you in a meaningful way, but I can’t show any real solidarity. I mean, seriously dude – there are plasma screens at stake!” Between the violence and the disregard for workers, I think the following ought to be the official Black Friday slogan (or mission statement, if you’re the corporate type): “Plasmas over people!” This attitude shouldn’t surprise us. It makes perfect sense in the context of a society in which people have come to identify as consumers rather than workers.  This is what becomes of six decades of local news reports on who’s getting ripped off at the register instead of who’s getting ripped off on payday.  Yet the culture of Black Friday doesn’t really favor the consumer, either.  The desperate violence, after all, ultimately stems from the once a year availability of products that most consumers ordinarily can’t afford.  This is another effect of the worker-consumer disconnect. The exploitation of American workers is what sets the stage for the annual struggle over products that are temporarily affordable.  This is what leads to actual human beings calmly considering the pros and cons of unleashing pepper spray on their fellows in the name of savings, and this is what leaves us with shoppers who seem totally unaware that the bargains they’re hunting come at the direct expense of the striking workers they’re largely ignoring.  There is no understanding that the workers and consumers are the same people; even the workers and consumers themselves seem unaware of this.  Everything is simply part of the environment.  Deploying pepper spray against a rival for a game system seems as natural as two predators fighting over a gazelle carcass if it’s perceived as an environmental necessity.  Ignore the man behind the curtain, peon.  This contrived retail scenario has nothing to do with him.  Now face your opponent and fight to the death!  Two shoppers enter, one shopper leaves – with a discount!

Bad Faith 2012: They aren’t out of touch, they’re just not talking to you.

Posted in Bad Faith, Elections, Media, News, Politics, USA with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by Z

The conventional wisdom regarding both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama (according to their respective opponents in the left and right wings of the American neoliberal party with two names) is that they’re “out of touch.”  This is a very appealing explanation, especially in the case of Romney with his alien demeanor and cavalier country club financial sense (bet you how much, Mitt?).  However, there’s a better explanation.   They just aren’t talking to you.  The conversation taking place between candidates, pundits, etc. not only during election years, but all the time doesn’t require input from the American public.  It fact, it doesn’t even want it.  This conversation is about our future, but it isn’t one we’re actually invited to; it’s merely taking place where we can hear it.


When Mitt Romney stood in front of a crowd of his loyal followers at a palatial mansion and suggested that everyone should be able to live “like this,” many rightly pointed out that the very suggestion was absurd.  Of course it’s not possible for everyone to have a mansion with a household staff and all the ridiculous luxuries associated with that lifestyle (it’s especially impossible for the members of the household staff).  Yet, the people who pointed this out missed the point.  Mitt knows full well that not everyone can live his lifestyle (again, especially not the household staff).  So what’s the secret that renders this insane attitude comprehensible?  Simple – if you think his statement was strange, he wasn’t talking to you.  He was talking to people who can live “like this.”  He was talking to people who do have the wealth, the connections and the desire to live “like this.”  The household staff, for example, are not included when Mitt says “everyone.”  Neither are most of us.  We aren’t the people in whose interests he wants to run the country, and we don’t have what he needs to get where he wants to go.  Consider also his laughable suggestion that young people borrow money from their parents to start a business.  “Is he serious?” many asked.  Well, yes he was – he just wasn’t talking to you.  How can you tell?  Easy – because either you don’t have enough money to lend your children to enable them to take his advice, or if you’re young, your parents don’t have enough to lend to you.  Or, and this is certainly outside of Mitt’s experience, you do have the necessary capital, but don’t want to be a business owner.  If any of these things are true, Mitt wasn’t talking to you.  In Mitt land, the solution to your problems is to become a business owner.  If your class, your interests or your financial situation prevent you from doing this, Mitt doesn’t think your problems need solving.  You are a non person.


Barack Obama may take a slightly different approach, but offers the same result.  He’ll talk to us – I understand we’re meant to hope for change, or some such – but his policies, as noted elsewhere, are more or less the same as his predecessor’s.  Keep hoping, I guess.  The nice boss (Obama) talks to his employees while he exploits them, while the traditional boss (Romney) is content to let the rabble believe he’s talking to them.  Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy agenda marches on.


Public political discourse in the US remains confined to a ruling class.  This ruling class is more eclectic than it once was, as it includes both the traditional 1%er types and a class of professional politicians, but in most cases debate about policy remains firmly in the narrow neoliberal frame long laid out for us.  This is because the people participating in this debate don’t want our input.  We are allowed to fool ourselves into believing that we’re included, but the truth is that we’re spectators.  We can observe this public discourse through the mass media, but our input is neither welcomed nor necessary.  The position of the general public is not unlike that of a household servant.  The masters of the house, our employers, are arguing over how best to run their household, including how to treat us.  We are in the room, we can see and hear the discussion, but although we may convince ourselves that we’re involved, we are not.  Our access to the political process is largely coincidental at this point.  We can see it on TV, but attempting to contribute in the traditional way is a bit like yelling at game show contestants.  The folks on Wheel of Fortune can’t hear you, and neither can your political class.  Not only that, they aren’t even talking to you.


Lesser Evilism and Bad Faith

Posted in Bad Faith, Elections, Media, Politics, Sartre, USA with tags , on January 18, 2012 by Z

Given that this corner of the web is named for Jean-Paul Sartre, I thought it would make sense to take a moment to address the ideas of the man himself.  One of Sartre’s best known and arguably most importnant concepts is that of Bad Faith.  Bad Faith is, at its core, a form of self-deception made possible by the very freedom it denies.  It is the use of freedom (freedom being inescapable) to deceive oneself into believing one is not free, and/or not responsible for a choice.  One of the favorite examples of existentialist philosophy professors is of a young man in occupied France who comes to Sartre to ask for advice: should he join the resistance, or stay at home to take care of his mother?  The young man acts as though he is earnestly seeking advice, but as Sartre points out, the young man is well aware that Sartre himself is a supporter of the resistance.  The young man therefore knows that Sartre will advise him to join the resistance.  He came seeking the advice he wanted in an effort to convince himself that his choice was not his, but Sartre’s.  Had he not wanted to join the resistance, he would have asked for the advice of a collaborator.  The young man has used his freedom to orchestrate a situation in which he can deny his freedom and his own inner knowledge that he has decieved himself.  In Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, the protagonist observes that all the works of man have been to convince himself that he is a man and not a piano key (ie that he is free, not determined, in his purpose).  In the case of Bad Faith, it is exactly the opposite; the individual seeks to convince himself that he is not free, but must use his freedom to do so.

If anyone reads the above and immediately thinks “Hey, that sounds a lot like the “lesser evilism” that characterizes American elections,” guess what – you’re exactly correct.  Lesser evilism, along with all the faux concern and hand wringing attached to it by the mainstream media, is a national exercise in Bad Faith.  By engaging in lesser evilism, we engage a two party duopoly that does not have our interests in mind.  This by itself is not Bad Faith; we even acknowledge the inadequacy of the two party system by noting that we seek the lesser evil.  There is no pretension that we are doing the right thing.  No, this practice becomes Bad Faith because by engaging in it, we implicitly deny that there are choices outside of the established system.  Acting on this self-imposed denial, we then throw our hands in the air and proclaim “Well, what can you do?”  We get to “admit” that the system is flawed, which only helps us convince ourselves that we have no choice but to go along.  Of course we have no choice, right?  If we did, clearly we wouldn’t choose evil at all!  We’ve constructed a national self deception by choosing to heed the advice, both explicit and implicit, of a system that offers us only evil options.  We act in Bad Faith just like Sartre’s young friend.  We use our inescapable freedom in an attempt to deny that we are free and responsible for the walking garbage for which we vote, then we refuse to admit it.  This is like asking a loan shark for financial advice, getting your legs broken when you can’t repay the loan he advised you to take, then asking him for another loan because he told you there was nowhere else to go.  Most people would easily recognize this as the behavior of a total moron, but in election years it’s “pragmatism.”  This is, of course, exactly the behavior our political elite loves to see.  How else can we maintain a plutocratic oligarchy in the skin of a representative government?