Feb 16 • 15M

The Airing of Grievances and Delights

Dispatches from Severe Writer's Block

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It is 6:15 PM on Tuesday, February 15th and I have tried 3 different ideas for this Substack and all of them have fallen apart. I now have exactly 5 hours and 4544 minutes to figure it out.

So I’m offloading the responsibility onto other people.

And so, out of options and time and ideas, I present the airing of grievanc–

Ok fine also the airing of delights, at the end.

The Airing of Grievances

1. Writer’s Block

Why not start here.

A notepad with several crumpled papers behind it

I could blame this writer’s block on the memoir class I foolishly signed up for at the end of last year before it became fully clear how much I don’t want to remember anything. I could blame it on my brain itself, which is doing this thing it does sometimes where thinking feels like skimming the surface of a lake with analog TV static for water.

I could also blame it on CPAC preparations, which is definitely the most professional route and the one I should go with. This year, the event takes place from February 24th-27th at Rosen Shingle Creek, which still sounds more like an unpleasant skin disease than a hotel to me. It looks lovely. Definitely way more lovely than I can afford. I’ll be bedding down at the lovely [REDACTED] down the street.

The absolute biggest problem, though, is that in a week I will be handing out business cards to conservatives–people I want to talk to very, very badly–and they will look me up and maybe find this substack and maybe even read this article. And I’m paralyzed, stuck between not wanting to write anything that will immediately make them tell me to go fuck myself and not wanting to write pandering bullshit and definitely not wanting to write something boring and safe.

I’m overthinking things, probably. It’s going to be fine, as long as I don’t do anything super alienating like open with a brief description of mental illness or launch immediately into a discussion about how much Dan Bongino’s bad takes annoy me.

2. Dan Bongino’s Bad Takes Annoy Me

I first encountered Bongino at CPAC last year, when he was a featured speaker. “I should definitely google this guy,” I thought to myself, and then never did.

Last week, while researching the Joe Rogan article, I found a list of the most popular podcasts of 2021. Coming in at number 20, the Dan Bongino show. From the screen, Mr. Bongino stared at me with an expression of baffled disgust that only felt more deserved a few minutes later when I discovered he also hosts “Unfiltered” on Fox News every Saturday at 9:00 PM EST.

To repent for my ignorance, I listened to his latest two podcast episodes. I should have said some Hail Marys instead.

When I say that Dan Bongino’s podcast is moon logic dispensed by a moon man for people on the moon, I do not mean that I disagree with him. I do, but that is not what I mean.

Here is what I mean:

In “Where was Kamela Harris on January 6? And why it matters,” Bongino opens by asking why the FBI has not caught the J6 bomber. Great question, actually. Catching people who make bombs feels very central to the FBI mission. It’s been over a year. He is right that this is weird.

We also recently discovered that Kamela Harris was at the DNC building when the FBI found the bomb, which is different from earlier reports that placed her in the Capitol building. It is very weird that it took them 10 months to correct that; Bongino is right about that too.

What Bongino is not right about–what he is comically wrong about–is his genuinely astonishing take is that the entire accusation of insurrection hinges on Kamela Harris and Mike Pence, together, in the Capitol building, actively exchanging power on January 6th. 

January 6th. The day they count electoral votes. Not January 20th, when the President and Vice President get sworn in and the transfer of power happens every 4 years in a big ceremony on broadcast television. The other one.

He then asserts the mix-up with Harris’ location is evidence of a grand conspiracy to indict January 6th participants for a crime they did not commit.

Bongino had the raw ingredients for a semi-decent conspiracy theory and instead he somehow found a take so stupid that I’m still half-convinced I hallucinated the entire experience.

3. War

I am not proud that I supported the Global War on Terror. But I am proud that I at least learned from it. I remember the flawed arguments that convinced me of the virtue of invading Iraq when I was 16, and the peculiar type of blinders people like me strap to their skulls when it’s time to pour sacks of money into the ravenous mouth of the military-industrial complex.

Now people all around me who are old enough to know better are rushing to put on those same blinders. It’s an ugly thing to see.

“Putin is bad! He’s a tyrant!” Yeah. I know. Sadaam Hussein was bad and a tyrant too. He oppressed his people horribly. He was a bastard. A lot of world leaders are bastards and do bad things. This is not an argument by itself for World War Three: Nuclear Boogaloo.

I am also beyond annoyed at efforts to put happy masks over the neo-nazis who are official government-sanctioned members of the Ukranian military.

An Al Jazeera article with a picture of an old woman in the prone position with a large rifle. Title: "Babushka Battalion" ready to protect Ukraine from Russia

What kind of heartless Kremlin-bribed monster would you have to be to oppose the Babushka Battalion? The kind with a basic knowledge of the region, mostly.

“Organized by far-right movement Azov, the training offered basic lessons in first response medical care, survival and evacuation, weapons safety and how to shoot a weapon.”

Here’s what Al Jazeera has to say about the Azov Battalion in an article that falls over itself to fawn on the brave Russians who joined them:

“The Azov has seen its fair share of controversy. Routinely accused of being a neo-Nazi unit, some of its members have been caught sporting swastikas in the past. “The Azov is a regiment not a political movement,” Shirobokov says when questioned about the neo-Nazi links, “there are people here with very different political beliefs, and because of this, unfortunately people have come across soldiers here with swastikas, but they are a minority.””

THEIR UNIT INSIGNIA IS A WOLFSANGEL OVER A FUCKING SONNENRAD, AL JAZEERA

THESE ARE NAZIS AL JAZEERA

They’re not subtle

I am annoyed that so few people acknowledge that both Russia and the United States have deeply cynical reasons for wanting to control Ukraine that have nothing to do with what Ukranians want. I am annoyed that, on top of every other horrible thing happening right now, so many people think it would be cool to throw young men and women into a meat grinder in the name of spheres of influence freedom and democracy.

I am annoyed that it has been 19 years since Iraq and the arguments have not changed at all.

4. The COVID Milieu

Project Veritas has just released a video of an FDA executive officer telling a woman the following things over drinks:

  • People will probably have to get the vaccine once a year, like the flu shot

  • Vaccines are very lucrative for pharmaceutical companies

  • Vaccines for people 5 and under will be approved soon

  • Vaccines all received emergency approvals, which are more lax than regular standards

  • Vaccines were not as effective as the FDA hoped (because breakthrough cases I assume)

  • We do not entirely know what the long-term effects of the vaccine on kids (or anyone) will be since there are no long-term studies

  • As part of the vaccine trials, children received the vaccine

I am annoyed because anything shot on undercover footage looks scandalous just by the way it is presented. And yet, none of the things in this video are scandalous. They simply reflect the reality that we live in. 

It should be obvious to everyone at this point that we will get a COVID shot every year at least. It is also obvious that pharmaceutical companies are making bank on the vaccine. Because we live in capitalism. That’s a whole different conversation.

We do not know for sure what the vaccines do long-term. Research on mRNA vaccines since the early 2000s indicate that the vaccines don’t have long-term effects but that’s about all we know. 

Like most things in life, the vaccine is not totally safe. 

In an ideal world, the conversation would go like this: “There is a small risk involved in any medical procedure. But here are the risks of not getting the shot. You have to decide whether the risk is worth it to you.”

We do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where full-scale vaccination is essential for the safety of immunocompromised people who cannot have vaccines even if they want them. Where if we want to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, we have to keep COVID cases down or at least make them more mild. Where if we want to safely return to something resembling normal life, we need people to be vaccinated.

And so all too often the argument becomes “Science says the vaccine is perfectly safe” instead of the truth, because saying “There is a risk but you have to get it anyway” is dystopian and horrifying.

We live in a dystopian and horrifying world. A world where we cannot have it all. Someone or something is going to get sacrificed. The only question is who or what. Pretending we live somewhere else does not make things better. It makes them worse.

I hate it here.

The Airing of Delights

I don’t just hate it here.

1. Acceptance

The New York Post is not usually a source of joy, but their breathless report that Snoop Dog smoked a marijuana before the Superbowl show is sheer delight. It’s a profoundly archaic message from a far worse era.

I’m old enough to remember when the idea of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg EVER performing at a halftime show was unfathomable. They were dangerous gangsters and definitely out to corrupt the youth. The boogeymen of 30 years ago are beloved and accepted today. 

The other day I was walking down the street and I saw a billboard of a man in a white T-shirt and the writing on the T-shirt said “GAY” and it was of course a good thing, but I remember when that would have been a very bad thing. It’s not an insult anymore. Gay people can get married now. That seemed impossible when I was a kid.

Things can go dark very quickly. The Weimar Republic was way ahead of its time on LGBTQ+ issues. And yet, still, here we are. Maybe in 20 years the trans hate will seem just as anachronistic and socially unacceptable as gay-bashing seems now.

2. Wordle

I’m not talking about the actual word game Wordle (though I like that too). It’s just one of those rare trends that’s pure and good. It reminds me of that summer a few years ago when everyone was playing Pokemon Go. An uncomplicated thing that people really enjoy just because it’s nice. Really glad that happened. I hope the New York Times keeps it free.

3. CPAC

Not the event itself. The part where I get to go.

I went to CPAC last year and it was life-changing. Made me rethink my priorities, stop focusing so hard on LARPing street protests and pivot to the people ideologically driving the movement. 

This year, someone is paying me to go. I get to write an article about it that gets published in a major news outlet.

This year, for reasons beyond human ken, I get to have dinner with James O’Keefe, which is going to be I-don’t-even-know-what but it’s a thing that is happening.

This year at CPAC I will not pretend to be anything other than what I am: a freelance journalist who leans hard left but wants to capture the reality of CPAC from the perspective of the people who are there. Someone who hopes to explain why people believe the things they do without ever whitewashing the things they believe or do.

I’m going to have wild, cool conversations that teach me more about the world and see horrible things that fascinate me and learn more about what we’re all in for in the midterms and I will get paid to write about it.

A girl with red hair in a red dress standing next to that gold Trump statue from CPAC dressed in a suit jacket, a tie, and American Flag boxers. A sign in the corner says Look Ahead America. The woman looks super stoked. She is me
What a time to be alive

4. Ignorance

I did not see a single person complaining about me having fun at the Project Veritas event because I had previously blocked everyone and anyone who would have that opinion. The people I used to think had power over me have no power whatsoever. They have 0 impact on my life at this point and cannot stop me from doing the things I think are good. 

I’m not going to dwell on this one too long because that’s the whole point–I don’t have to. How delightful.

5. How beautiful biological symmetry as expressed in fruits & vegetables is

6. We Aren’t At War Yet

And maybe we won’t be.

Everything is awful basically all the time. And yet, somehow, this trashfire of a species has managed to avoid nuking itself for 77 years. We’ve had some close calls, but we’ve pulled ourselves back from that brink before.

Maybe we can avoid WWIII this time too.

I’m probably jinxing us all by writing this, but it’s still a good thing that people do not kill each other as often as they seem like they’re going to. I hope we can pull ourselves back from the brink we seem so determined to jump over.

That’s It

I promise to do something that isn’t this next week.

(If you feel like telling me your grievances and delights in the comments you should, not just as a cynical ploy to boost engagement but because it will make me feel better about doing an article that’s just rants)