Suddenly aware of Bronze Age Pervert!

MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2024

We arrive on the scene a bit late: Yesterday afternoon, as the Celtics pulled away from the Warriors, we switched over to the C-Span book event which appeared beneath this byline:

Anne Applebaum and Ezra Klein on the Future of Democracy

The month-old discussion took place in Rancho Mirage. A name like Rancho Mirage makes us wonder if the gods are possibly having some fun, but at least it's better than watching an event from Rancho Cucamonga. 

We arrived at the discussion midway through. At the 39-minute mark on the C-Span videotape, Klein can be seen saying this:

KLEIN (2/2/24): One thing I'm a litle, I'm more attentive to these days is what it looks like to be a young person coming up in Republican Party politics. I mean, what kinds of things are you reading? What kinds of—

The fact that you had all these young campaign staffers who had to get fired this year because of what turned out to Nazi imagery in the meme videos they were making for Ron DeSantis and people like that, that was worrying. Because I don't think they knew what that imagery was. But it was in the world they were inhabiting online. 

The kinds of thinkers who have become more salient on the Republican side, people like this online writer Bronze Age Pervert? 

Like that's a real thing. You can look it up. 

[GESTURING TOWARD APPLEBAUM]

The Atlantic has done a great profile of Bronze Age Pervert. Because we are all demeaned now, having to describe reality.

[LAUGHTER OFF-CAMERA]

I'm not sure— For a long time, I thought Trump was an isolated kind of threat, and as a politician, in a way, I think he is. But what he is has kind of spread more broadly.

And so, I don't know. I don't know if this is kind of a temporary threat that America navigates its way past or not. I don't know what Gen Z's politics ends up looking like. 

Klein went on from there. But who in the world is "Bronze Age Pervert?" And how did we manage to miss that great profile of this "online writer" in The Atlantic?

The Atlantic profile is here. It was written by Graeme Wood, who has apparently known the online figure in question for something like twenty years.

Politico Magazine offered a second profile, with no paywall. You can read that profile here.

These profiles appeared last summer when we were locked away in a "skilled nursing facility," receiving ten minutes of bandaging per day for a brand-new surgical wound. We had little access to the Internet. That's when the profiles appeared, which would explain why we missed them. 

The Atlantic profile strikes us as massively illuminating. For example, what's up with the peculiar impulses of a figure like Steve Bannon? Without mentioning Bannon by name, it seems to us that the profile by Wood may make that conundrum quite clear.

We expect to return to these profiles of Bronze Age Pervert at some point. For today, we'll offer this one passage from The Atlantic, print edition headline included:

The Rise of Bronze Age Pervert

[...]

Last year, at a conference of political philosophers at Michigan State University, a Yale professor named Bryan Garsten told his colleagues that they were in trouble. The topic of the conference was liberalism—not Ted Kennedy liberalism, but the classical version that predates the modern Democratic Party and indeed America itself. Liberalism is the view that individuals have rights and beliefs, and that politics involves safeguarding rights and making compromises when beliefs conflict. It has existed for only a few centuries and is by some measures the most successful idea in history. Just look where people want to live: the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, all liberal places that people will risk their life to reach.

But Garsten said liberalism had some of his best students hopping into rafts and paddling in other intellectual directions. He said they had been “captured” by the belief “that to be morally serious, one faces a choice.” The choice, he said, is not between liberalism and illiberalism. Liberalism had already lost. Its greatest champion, the United States, had run aground after pointless wars, terminal decadence, and bureaucratic takeover by activists and special interests. Garsten said his best students were choosing between the protofascism of Nietzsche and a neomedieval, quasi-theocratic version of Catholicism opposed to Enlightenment liberalism. These students considered liberal democracy an exhausted joke, and they hinted—and sometimes did more than hint—that the past few centuries had been a mistake, and that the mistake should now be corrected.

Some of his best students had given up on classical liberalism, Professor Garsten said. Among the writers to whom they were drawn was the follow called Bronze Age Pervert.

In that passage, Wood describes classical liberalism as "the most successful idea in history," though only "by some measures." We'll flip the lens, focusing on the fact that this most successful idea "has existed for only a few centuries."

Translation:

For many members of our war-inclined humans, classical liberalism is a very recent layer of ideation laid down upon a much older set of impulses and reactions. For people like the online writer whose thinking Wood describes, that new layer of ideation doesn't seem to be establishing itself as a successful transplant.

Our own surgical wound still hasn't healed. For the online writer Bronze Age Pervert—Wood supplies his actual name—it looks late that recent set of new ideas hasn't really gained purchase.

Until yesterday, we'd never heard of Bronze Age Pervert. We had heard of Steve Bannon, and of quite a few others like him.

What in the world did Bannon have in mind when he said he wanted to deconstruct the administrative state? Wood's profile of this online writer may start to offer an answer, without necessarily reassuring us that the center will know how to hold.

Wood's profile of this online writer may start to help us see why our existing blue tribe elites have shown so little skill at the task of holding back the pro-Trump wave. As for Ezra, we think he ought to make an attempt to "demean himself" more thoroughly. It seems to us that Wood's profile may start to light the way down many dark corridors and paths.

What is driving a person like Bannon, and possibly a person like Trump? Thinking about the popular online writer BAP may be a good way to find out.


CULTURES: On Fox, viewers are given the status of friends!

MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2024

At MSNBC, we viewers are now "beloved:" Last Friday, Ainsley Earhardt was helping tease the 7 o'clock hour of the long-running morning program, Fox & Friends.

Earhardt's co-hosts had started the tease. At 7:02, she ended the tease with this:

EARHARDT (3/1/24): The second hour of Fox & Friends starts right now, and remember:

Mornings are better with friends!

"Mornings are better with friends?"

We've heard the slogan several times in the past few weeks. Is it a long-standing branding / marketing message? We have no idea.

As we've noted in the past, Fox & Friends is one of the longest-running programs on the red tribe's Fox News Channel. The program premiered on February 1, 1998. The two principal male co-hosts—Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade—have remained in place to this day.

The idea that you're starting the day with friends is presumably offered as part of the program's appeal. It's an especially friendly branding message in an era in which our American nation, such as it was, has split into two rival nations—Red America and Blue.

Mornings are better with friends? For many viewers, the message may be reassuring.

If you're starting the day with friends, you as a viewer know that you will never be confronted with material that challenges you—material you may dislike. You'll hear one set of facts, frameworks and viewpoints—full stop. 

Every guest on the friendly program will reinforce your pre-existing point of view!

Presumably, your friends will always service your needs and your tribal desires. So it goes as red tribe viewers are told that they'll be happier if they start the day with friends.

This implicit reassurance is a long-standing part of red tribe culture. That said, let's recall a bit of advice we blue tribe viewers received as we watched The Rachel Maddow Show on Monday evening, February 5.

Midway through the hour, Maddow began calling her viewers' attention to an upcoming event. Directly out of a commercial break, she began her new segment with a somewhat unusual suggestion:

MADDOW (2/5/28): So if you can change your schedule around this week—your school schedule, your work schedule or childcare, whatever you need to do—if you can make time for it on Thursday morning, this week, you will have the opportunity to hear American history being made, live and in real time.

That Thursday morning, at 10 a.m. Eastern, the Supreme Court was going to hear oral arguments in the Colorado ballot case. This was the case that would decide whether "states can keep Donald Trump off the ballot under the provisions of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution," Maddow correctly said.

The case would be argued that Thursday morning. Maddow was suggesting that viewers might want to change their schedule around so they could listen to the oral arguments, which were going to be broadcast live—audio only—on MSNBC.

A ten-minute segment followed. As she continued, Maddow listed the three main questions the Court would likely be exploring, then she offered this:

MADDOW: Anything can happen. The whole country is going to be listening in Thursday morning. Luckily for us, people who are experts at these things can help us understand what we should be listening for.

"The whole country is going to be listening?" Excitement about the hearing was running high on this cable news channel.

To our ear, it seemed a bit odd when this major media figure suggested that viewers should rearrange their school, work or childcare arrangements so they could listen on Thursday morning as American history was being made. 

By now, it wasn't entirely clear that any major history actually would be made. Also, Supreme Court hearings are famously hard to follow, especially so since videotape isn't allowed.

To our ear, Maddow's suggestions seemed a bit overheated—but, on balance, so what? Then, at the end of her hour, Maddow returned to the topic as she threw to Lawrence O'Donnell. 

She started by saying this:

MADDOW: Just a little note for your calendar before we go. 

This Thursday, 10 a.m. Eastern, the Supreme Court is going to livestream the oral arguments on whether Donald Trump is disqualified from holding federal office in the United States. Here at MSNBC, we will have that audio live and in full...

Then Thursday night, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern, I'll be here with all my beloved colleagues. We will have a primetime recap of those oral arguments. I'll see you then.

That does it for us tonight. Now it's time for The Last Word with the great Lawrence O'Donnell.

There followed a discussion with the great O'Donnell. During that throw, Maddow reported that she had just readjusted her own Thursday morning schedule—that she'd done so rather frantically.

She had done so "in a panic," she told O'Donnell—later, she called it "a moral panic"—so that she would be able to listen to the livestream that Thursday morning.

Had Maddow really been in "a moral panic" as she adjusted her schedule? We would assume that the answer is no—that Maddow was simply telling us, as she is inclined to do, that her all-around state of being is more dramatic than ours.

That said, we were most struck by the reference to the people with whom she would recap the events on Thursday night:

Those people are her "beloved" colleagues? We didn't think we'd ever heard that characterization before.

Let's be clear! Presumably as a branding and marketing mechanism, hosts of MSNBC programs have long since begun describing their colleagues and guests as "friends."  Before too long, the inevitable embellishment began creeping into the messaging, with colleagues being described as "dear friends," even as "dear, dear friends."

So it has gone as "cable news" channels convince their viewers that they will be safe within a network of friends if they watch the channel in question. Now, those "dear, dear friends" had been bumped up another notch, attaining the peculiar status of being "beloved."

For us, the oddness of this presentation lingered when Maddow appeared with her colleagues on that  Thursday evening broadcast. 

In truth, the oral arguments hadn't seemed to proceed in the way our blue tribe had hoped. But as Maddow called the roll of the colleagues who would be part of the evening's two-hour broadcast, she referred to them as her "beloved colleagues" again.

We were struck by the hint of desperation involved in this marketing device. She then brought the analysts right out of their beanbag chairs when she offered this:

MADDOW (2/8/24): In the 1970s, Watergate hearings were also broadcast live during the workday. Recognizing how consequential, how important those hearings were, news networks during that time started recapping each day's Watregate hearings at night, on TV, in prime time, so no one would miss out on that incredibly important history in the making.

We then did the same during the daytime hearings of the January 6 investigation in Congress in 2022. We know from what we heard from you, our beloved viewers, that that was valuable, that was a useful thing. 

And so here we are, together again, tonight, with basically the same approach.

The analysts came right out of their chairs! Quickly, let's summarize:

By now, it seemed likely that no incredibly important history in the manner of Watergate was going to emerge from Monday's oral arguments. (We may find out today.)

Still and all, Maddow showered MSNBC with praise, comparing its recaps of the January 6 hearings to what had happened during that famous era.

As Maddow offered this introduction, she referred to the people sitting around her as "beloved colleagues" once again. But she brought the analysts right off their futon mats with that reference to us out here in TV land:

We were now the "beloved viewers" of our blue tribe's channel! We were the beloved viewers she and her beloved colleagues were working so hard to serve!

Over on the Fox News Channel, red tribe viewers have merely been told that they've attained the status of friends. On our own blue tribe channel, we've been bumped up to "beloved!"

To our ear, this was very strange journalistic behavior by a very major media figure. Maddow's formulations struck us as very strange. As always, your assessments may differ.

Our assessment? As in The Iliad, so too here:

As we've split into two separate nations, the cultures of our red and blue nations have sometimes grown quite different. Sometimes, though, those failing cultures are startlingly the same.

Tomorrow: The wages of "segregation"


SUNDAY: The YouGov survey has Biden, Trump tied!

SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2024

Do polls at this point really matter? Do polls at this point really matter?

By that, we mean general election polls—nationwide surveys of the type we cited in yesterday's report.

We ask for an obvious reason. In yesterday's report, we cited the new poll by the New York Times / Siena College—and that survey has Candidate Trump ahead of Candidate Biden by five points nationwide.

Oof! This morning, the three co-hosts on Fox & Friends Weekend started their day with that survey. Last night, the routinely unwatchable Saturday Night Live cited the Times survey too.

That said, how much attention should be paid to any such survey this far from November? Before we try to answer that question, let's note the new survey by The Economist / YouGov, which Kevin Drum recommends in this new post.

That new survey has Biden and Trump in a dead heat, at 44 points apiece. Kevin cites this organization's "excellent reputation for accuracy," though it's worth noting that, under current arrangements, a Democratic candidate still seems to be unlikely to win in the Electoral College if the nationwide popular vote ends up being tied.

That said, should anyone pay any attention to nationwide polls at this point?  It has been our general impression that polling at this stage of the game generally tends to hold up. That said:

Early this morning, we found this Gallup report from June 2000. It cites four previous presidential campaigns—1968, 1980, 1988 and 1992—in which nationwide polling from June of the election year failed to hold up in November.

Beyond that, we remember the way one Democratic nominee staged a massive comeback win in the nationwide popular vote, even as he allegedly ran the worst campaign in presidential history! We refer to Candidate Gore's comeback win over Candidate Bush in Campaign 2000. 

How reliable are early surveys? Here's a Gallup report on the Bush/Gore polling from November 1999—exactly one year out:

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE (11/11/99): George W. Bush is also maintaining a healthy lead among voters when they are asked to vote in hypothetical general election ballots. In the most recent poll, Bush leads Gore by a 55% to 40% margin. Gore's 40% now is actually smaller than the percentage he received in May of 1998, when he got 47% of the vote against Bush. Gore did best in that May 1998 poll and in an early January poll this year (he came close to tying Bush in each), but since February Gore has dropped to roughly his current levels.

Oof! One year out, Gallup had Candidate Bush with a 15-point lead in the nationwide popular vote. By this stage in that campaign, Gallup still had Bush with a 9-point lead, as you can see in this Gallup report.

Candidate Gore went on to win the nationwide popular vote, though by a slender margin. Somehow, he managed to do that while running the worst campaign in American history, a judgment which was widely rendered within a mainstream press corps cadre which was working to ensure his defeat.

Was Candidate Gore ever behind by 15 points? There's no way to answer such questions. We mention the conduct of the mainstream press because it constitutes an astonishing historical episode—an episode very few blue tribe voters have ever heard about.

What happens within the mainstream press tends to stay within the mainstream press! Journalists and academics alike have known that no one should ever discuss the remarkable historical episode which almost surely determined the outcome of that campaign.

That said, many nationwide surveys had Candidate Bush well ahead of Candidate Gore as of March 1999. Somehow, those surveys all turned out to be "wrong," though Bush still won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

A final note about that 15-point lead in November 1999:

It was during that month that the mainstream press corps relentlessly savaged Candidate Gore for his heinous wardrobe selections:

His suits, his boots, his polo shirts? The number of buttons (three) on the jackets of his suits?

The height at which he hemmed his pants? The "earth tone" color of that one suit? 

The fact that his boots were too shiny? Also, the person who had allegedly directed him to wear such heinous clothing? 

According to a group assessment, this whole fandango showed that the candidate had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man!" 

That fact, along with the three-button suit, established Candidate Gore as "today's man-woman" (Chris Matthews).  According to the press corps' many psychiatrists, it also showed that the candidate "doesn't know who he is" (every mainstream pundit on the face of the earth.).

 So it went, night after night, within the much more concentrated world of that era's cable establishment.

During that month, there was no part of the candidate's wardrobe which didn't come in for a withering assessment—and this was from the mainstream press corps, not from "the right-wing machine." Very few liberal voters have ever heard about this astonishing press corps conduct, but this onslaught almost surely contributed to that month's 15-point deficit.

People are dead all over Iraq because those people behaved that way. Academics and journalists alike have understood that this astonishing group behavior must never be memorialized or discussed. 

This studied group silence makes us think of Robert Graves' acclaimed 1934 novel, I, Claudius—much less so of The Iliad.

As for today's nationwide surveys, should Democrats pay them any mind? We'll repeat an earlier assessment:

It seems to us that, assessed by any traditional standard, Candidate Biden and Candidate Trump are both pretty much unelectable. 

According to the rules of the game, one will have to get elected! In our view, it largely comes down to this:

Will President Biden be able to run a vigorous campaign? At this point, we can't answer that question.

 That said, we mention the YouGov numbers today because the numbers are there.


SATURDAY: Kilgore reported some new swing state polls!

SATURDAY, MARCH 2, 2024

Then, up jumped the New York Times: In Wednesday morning's report, we ran through some recent results from some recent "swing state" polls.

Those surveys were conducted by Emerson College / The Hill. As we noted, the gloomy results were being happily bruited on Fox, but they were going unmentioned on our blue tribe's cable news channel.

This morning, at New York magazine, Ed Kilgore has made the current situation look just that much worse.

He starts by noting that a Democrat can easily lose the Electoral College while winning the nationwide popular vote. Then, he reports some newer "swing state" results, results drawn from new surveys conducted by Bloomberg–Morning Consult.

Headline included, Kilgore reports this:

Biden vs. Trump Polls: Joe’s Battleground Problem

[...]

In the most recent batch of battleground state polls, from Bloomberg–Morning Consult, Biden trailed Trump in a head-to-head matchup by nine points in North Carolina, six points in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and Nevada, four points in Wisconsin, and two points in Pennsylvania. In a five-way trial heat including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein, Trump’s lead ballooned to ten points in North Carolina, nine points in Arizona and (shockingly) Pennsylvania, seven points in Georgia and Nevada, and six points in Wisconsin.

At least in theory, it's a long way from here to November. That said, those are horrible results, especially when that trio of third-party attention addicts are included in the hypothetical race.

From there, Kilgore proceeds to note the "slightly less dire picture for Biden" in those earlier Emerson College polls. The picture was "slightly less dire" in those earlier surveys, but Kilgore also says this:

"Again, the indicators [were] that even in a close national race, the president is trailing significantly in the states likely to determine the Electoral College winner."

"The president is trailing significantly!" So wrote Kilgore, earlier today. 

(At the risk of creating a bit of confusion, this link takes you to a report in The Hill about those new Bloomberg surveys.)

Kilgore reported those gloomy results. Then, up jumped the New York Times, with a report about the results of its own new national survey. 

Headline included, the Times report starts like this:

Voters Doubt Biden’s Leadership and Favor Trump, Times/Siena Poll Finds

President Biden is struggling to overcome doubts about his leadership inside his own party and broad dissatisfaction over the nation’s direction, leaving him trailing behind Donald J. Trump just as their general-election contest is about to begin, a new poll by The New York Times and Siena College has found.

With eight months left until the November election, Mr. Biden’s 43 percent support lags behind Mr. Trump’s 48 percent in the national survey of registered voters.

Only one in four voters think the country is moving in the right direction. More than twice as many voters believe Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them as believe his policies have helped them. A majority of voters think the economy is in poor condition. And the share of voters who strongly disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of his job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency.

No doubt this is all a mistake! Can't we just get Trump thrown in jail?

It's still a long way from here to November. That said, we report these gloomy statistics in line with the old "Why did you climb Mount Everest?" bromide.

Why do we report these depressing statistics? In line with traditional journalistic practice, we report them because they're there!