Lifestyle Blogging in Trump’s America?

Moon
Blogging about whisky and food has never seemed very essential and seems pretty frivolous now. What has happened feels like terrible social death even though no one has died. The election results, and the events that have followed, have spurred me into more direct political engagement with my local community. I’ve come to feel the limits of the privilege that have allowed me to feel hitherto secure, as a brown immigrant with an accent (and these days, a beard), in the bits of America that I usually move in; and I’ve recognized the urgency of more than an intellectual acknowledgement of the situations of those who do not have the protections of that privilege. Moving forward in the world we live in now cannot be done, as I said on Thursday, in complacency or denial. As I also said on Thursday, it also should not foreclose a commitment to pleasure. Blogging about whisky and food is frivolous but I will continue to do it. It should not be read as a deferral of social engagement.

I will, however, be diverting more of my discretionary spending into supporting organizations and institutions who are at risk in Trump’s America. One of these institutions, as a number of people have pointed out, is serious, investigative journalism. A number of you have probably already done this but subscriptions to publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post, Mother Jones etc. are more essential than ever. Both to make sure that we have the information we need in this Humpty Dumpty world (when Trump uses words like freedom and “bringing people together” they mean only what he wants them to mean) and to keep them in business.

I’m Indian—my country elected an autocrat as well on the last go-around (one who was already a genocidal maniac) and, as my friends who still live in India remind me, curbing press freedoms has been a hallmark of the Modi regime. It’s already beginning to happen here as Trump’s contempt for journalism, expressed so clearly during his campaign, continues unabated. For (far) less than the price of a bottle of whisky or a nice meal out we can help essential publications. A subscription to a year of Mother Jones, for instance, costs only $12. This too is a form of political engagement and a necessary one. And if you have recommendations for other magazines and websites that do good work please write in below.

11 thoughts on “Lifestyle Blogging in Trump’s America?

  1. Reason.com is mostly free with an extensive archive. As one whose has noted the regrettable lack of rigor in most journalism since the early-80s, I can vouch for Reason as a news organ that is careful with valid evidence and that often reports with verifiable figures. The Economist is another – but not free. I have less experience with the Wall Street Journal, but they tend not to ring my enumerative B#LL$#!T detectors – also not free. When a news account pushes “my buttons”, Reason will often show evidence that calms me down.

    You might like it at the cost of time and little cash.

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  2. Your Mother Jones reference aroused a recollection for me.

    In 2012 Mother Jones offered a very interesting histogram of mass-shooting deaths going back to 1982. Reason has noted this and believes it uses news accounts as a source (unlike, say FBI statistics):

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/mass-shootings-investigation

    The article offers plenty of anecodotal information. I’ll offer this:

    1) Pick off the mass-shooting deaths for each of the 31 years, 1982-2012.

    2) Divide those mass-shooting death figures by the average US population for each of those 31 years – scale to mass-shooting deaths/100-million.

    3) Average those mass-shooting deaths/100-million figures – works out to 5.9/100-million.

    So What?

    Here’s another way to consider it – a recent 20-year average for deaths-by-lighting strike in the U.S. worked out to 20/100-million.

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  3. We are all going to have to engage in a lot of ways. Trying to keep the liberal press alive is one way. Direct demonstration and taking a more active role in politics is another. America will get through this. Each political action generates a reaction. The reason that Trump won wasn’t an increase in conservative voters – it was that fewer Democrats, liberals, and progressives bothered to go out and vote. It seems the major factor was that many Democrats and progressives drank the koolaid about Hillary Clinton. Now we all need to engage because of the bully pulpit Trump has to spread his values – which will make things worse for all minorities and women.

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  4. The Obama administration prosecuted twice as many whistleblowers as all other presidents combined. Those whistleblowers help facilitate “serious, investigative journalism”.

    The Obama administration threatened James Risen of the NYT with contempt of court for not revealing a source. The journalist described the president as “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation”.

    Obama himself advocated “curating” the press. I’d say that’s suggestive of “curbing press freedoms”.

    Did you blog about any of the above? Acting as if “it’s only wrong if the other side does it” is very problematic. That’s my annoying opinion. And for the record, I’m not a fan of Trump, nor did I vote for him.

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    • I admit that I didn’t care enough to check on the president’s alleged (and attempted) violations of various freedoms. BUT, reason.com DOES care and has called him out many times since Jan 2009 – worth checking their archives if you are interested.

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    • My (annoying?) opinion is, that if somebody does/did something wrong, one may rightly object to it and one can do so without(!) needing to first check, whether the supposed “other side” did something similar or equally wrong before. Because, even if that were indeed the case, this does not absolve the current culprit from its wrong doing. It has become very fashionable to demand from everyone who raises his/her opinion to be absolutely impartial (which is, of course, impossible), even though there is no legal or even moral argument that demands such.

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  5. Yeah, totally agree. Since last Tuesday, writing about whisky has seemed to be a pretty shallow worthless endeavor…or rather, even more of a shallow, worthless endeavor than it already was. But you put that well, let us not foreclose on pleasure. As a white male, it is especially easy for me to just shrug my shoulders and write some more banal tasting notes.

    Love the suggestion of subscribing to various media. I hadn’t thought of that, but they are as vital and vulnerable as the Planned Parenthoods and Earth Justices.

    I suggested donating to these endangered causes in my annual stocking stuffer post yesterday. It didn’t take long at all for some tough guy to tell me it was liberal bullshit and that he was donating to the NRA.

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  6. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to some of the comments on this post. This is the busy season at work and it’s not been easy to find time. Anyway, here is a quick and doubtless inadequate response to some of the arguments upthread. Apologies for the fragmentary nature of what follows:

    1) Like Chris, I reject the notion that we can only criticize something if we can first prove that we’ve always criticized every possible instance of it before.

    2) In any case, by urging people to contribute to outlets that do serious investigative journalism I’m not suggesting that the main problem with Trump is his attitude to journalism/journalists. Trump is objectionable in many, many ways—I suggest supporting investigative journalism here because that’s one thing we can all do easily from the comfort of our desks/couches, no matter where we’re located. It’s easy but it’s also important.

    3) And sure it’s also important to call out people on all points in the political spectrum when they erode the idea of a free press. I’m not a fan of Obama’s record on whistleblower prosecutions (though it’s worth pointing out that the number of prosecutions that’s more than all previous Presidents combined is 8; I’m not suggesting that 8 is not a number to be alarmed about but it’s always good to be specific when we can). I’m also not a fan of Obama’s habit of dropping bombs on people or his record on deportation.

    4) But the fact that the Obama administration has prosecuted whistleblowers does not make it equivalent to what Trump has been doing and is doing. Trump has threatened newspapers with lawsuits; he has said he will do his best to make it easier to sue journalists for libel; during his campaign he, his people and his surrogates have all both gone after specific journalists in vicious ways (see Megyn Kelly’s recent account of some of this) and done their best to devalue the function of journalists; his surrogates have used “fake news” as a way of bamboozling the electorate; as President-elect he’s already shutting out the press pool from events where they’ve always had access. In sum, even looking just at attitudes to journalism/journalists, I find Trump far more alarming.

    5) As for Obama’s comment on “curating the press”, in context (that is to say, by reading everything he said in that regard) it seems clear that he’s not talking about censorship but the need to give people the ability in this social media news ecosystem to sort out fake news and unsubstantiated claims from fact-based journalism, that journalists need to not report everything as though they’re equally valid opposing positions (evolution and creationism, say). Maybe you feel it should but for me this doesn’t add up to the same level of threat against journalism/journalists as Trump represents.

    6) Again, this is all just one part of what makes Trump such an alarming phenomenon (and the political appointments he’s been making don’t, I’m afraid, make me think that my larger fears are overblown).

    7) The benefit of having a hobbyist blog, not driven by or reliant on page views or (the hopes of) a large readership, is that I can write about whatever I want whether or not anyone else finds it a reason to read the blog (see, for example, my endless jam recipes from last summer).

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