Merging Politics and Celebrity is Bad for Democracy
Plus, why apathy Keeps Russia’s Death Cult Alive.
Recently at The Bulwark:
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THEODORE R. JOHNSON: Merging Politics and Celebrity is Bad for Democracy.
At Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing last March, after Senator Ted Cruz pursued a characteristically belligerent line of questioning, he leaned back in his chair and did something particularly unworthy of the seriousness of the occasion: He pulled out his phone and searched for his own name (in this case on Twitter). Cruz wanted to see how much attention his crude performance had attracted.
This moment of digital vanity—really only exceptional in that we were able to witness it—is evidence of one of the defining political facts of our era: Perhaps more than ever before, notoriety can offer shortcuts to political power. This is the phenomenon that Donald Trump rode to the White House. It’s what has Herschel Walker within a hair’s breadth of a seat in the U.S. Senate. To hell with thoughtfulness and principles and civic virtue—the thing that matters most is whether or not you’re trending.
Most GOP nominees running in the midterms are election deniers. Would it be all that surprising if one political party refused to accept a state’s election results in November? Major Garrett and David Becker join Charlie Sykes to discuss the potential fracturing of democracy — and America.
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BILL RYAN: Brian Evenson and the Basics of Violence.
When I first learned about Brian Evenson, I was told two things that turned out to be true. One was that he was the kind of horror writer my restless and elitist horror tastes had been looking for (the recommendation wasn’t put to me in those words, but at least I know myself), and the other was that Evenson’s early fiction had gone some way towards a mutually agreed upon excommunication from the Mormon Church. In this case the Mormon Church was represented by Brigham Young University, where Evenson was teaching at the time. His first collection of stories, from 1994, Altmann’s Tongue, contains in its 2002 reprint an afterword by Evenson describing how this specific book led to the excommunication. It also details his philosophy of writing, his disenchantment with Mormonism (which preceded objections to his fiction), and much else, though Evenson does pull up short, cautioning “Talking about one’s stories is a little too much like nailing a dog to the floor—you can get him to stay put that way but it doesn’t do much for the dog.”
NATALIA ANTONOVA: Apathy Keeps Russia’s Death Cult Alive.
The other night, I offended someone by refusing to drink Russian vodka at a social gathering. It was a profoundly stupid situation—no one really wants to be taking a political stance while mixing a martini. I hadn’t even said anything, just quietly swapped a bottle of Beluga someone had brought for Belvedere, which is better anyway.
Offense was still taken, and words were exchanged. “You should know that a lot of Russians aren’t even trying to fight in this war!” The offended person told me, referring to Russia’s genocidal campaign in my native country of Ukraine.
The subtext was clear: Please don’t hold Russians collectively responsible. Please be agreeable, not angry. Please, for God’s sake, must everything be about this war?
An Evening with The Bulwark (10/20)
A live taping of The Bulwark Podcast hosted by Charlie Sykes and a 2022 election panel with Amanda Carpenter, Sarah Longwell, and Tim Miller
MARYLAND ONE, SOMEWHERE OVER ILLINOIS.— Like a scene from The Newsroom, you get on a plane and news happens. Except instead of the death of Bin Laden, Biden pardoned thousands convicted of marijuana crimes and reports emerged that Ben Sasse is about to become President…. Of the University of Florida. Meanwhile, the plane that took me to Saint Louis is headed to Cleveland with my Bulwark nalgene bottle. Sitting in the front row has more leg room, but it also messes with your head when you don’t have the seat in front of you. Whoops!
Glenn Youngkin is paying his strategists… With state money for tourism ads. When you only get one term, make it count, right?
Birthday roasts… I asked my friends on Twitter to roast me for my birthday. Feel free to add yours.
Herschel Walker fumbles again… Not knowing who the Lt. Gov. is, well, is quite the feat.
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