Reality Comes Knocking
Plus, Civil Society Is Mobilizing Against Russia
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: “This Is Their Time”🔐
SONNY BUNCH: ‘The Batman’ Review and RIP, Musicals?🔐
THE SECRET POD: The Party (Reporting from the Principles First summit.)🔐
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CORBIN BARTHOLD: Reality Comes Knocking.
Call it liquid modernity. The death of taboo. The culture of inversion. The suicide of the West. It’s hard to pin down, but it’s something to do with the demise of shared myths, the splintering of cultural narratives, the questioning of authority, the denigration of sincerity, and the disappearance of the sacred.
Whatever it is that we’re losing, it’s not coming back. We can’t order it to return. We can’t legislate it back to life. Most of all, the powerful can’t just demand that regular people behave as though it were still there. The cynicism, the nihilism, and the Pepe memes are spreading, and we’re not sure what to do.
And yet: Reality exists, whether we act like it or not. It’s not the virtual carnival. It’s not a game. That dead six-year-old on the screen really is dead. Putin really is a maniacal warlord. Some commentators on the American right really do, at this point, see Putin’s Russia and the “decadent” West as moral equals. Donald Trump really is a massive Putin stan. Following Putin’s lead, Trump really is building a thuggish cult of personality. And Trump really is the favorite to be president of the United States in three years.
That’s the thing about the “end of history”—one of the most misunderstood concepts in our glib, shallow, Twitter-driven discourse. When he coined the phrase near the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama wasn’t promising that we’d live happily ever after. Some people, Fukuyama warned in the neglected final part of his famous book, will always “want to risk their lives in a violent battle, and thereby prove beyond any shadow of a doubt to themselves and to their fellows that they are free.”
The American Enterprise Institute’s Kori Schake joins the panel to analyze the Russian invasion and the risks of a wider war.
So much to cover on this weekend’s podcast: A former president giving aid and comfort to our enemies, Tucker working through his Putin love, Bill Barr’s cover-ups, NIMBY hippy-crits in Berkeley, and the ISIS bride.
Tim Miller’s back on with Charlie Sykes.
Did you miss TNB? We opened it up for non-subscribers last night, so catch the archive here. Bulwark+ members get access to all archives, the livestream live chat, and the ability to ask the panel questions.
BENJAMIN PARKER: The U.S. Is Not at War, But Its Civil Society Is Mobilizing Against Russia.
What happens when an entire society goes to war—but the government doesn’t? That might be what’s going on right now in response to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s “special operation” against Ukraine. Governments from Tallinn to Tokyo have imposed sanctions, closed airspace to Russian aviation, and denounced Putin’s war of naked aggression at the U.N. But the response from the free world didn’t end there.
Where governments stopped, other entities from around the world picked up. Companies with financial risk were among the first: BP and Exxon pulled out of joint ventures in Russia and Boeing announced that it would discontinue all activity in the country—no new planes, no spare parts, no access to maintenance manuals. Warner Bros. announced that its new movie, The Batman, won’t be released in Russia. The list goes on: Renault, FedEx, UPS, Maersk, Bain, Boston Consulting, McKinsey, Apple, etc. Have so many major companies abandoned a market of 140 million people so quickly when their own country was not a belligerent?
Outside Russia, YouTube has blocked channels belonging to RT and Sputnik, and Google has dropped the Russian propaganda networks from its news services. This morning brings word that Airbnb is suspending all bookings in Russia and Belarus. (Putin, meanwhile, has been blocking various U.S.-based platforms from Russia—apparently as a matter of censorship, not retaliation.)
SONNY BUNCH🎥 : AMC's Variable Pricing Is Good, Actually.
Here’s the thing: variable pricing is a great idea. It really is! In a world where only superhero movies are regularly selling out showtimes, it makes perfect sense to charge more for them. It’s simple supply and demand. And theaters already do variable pricing. What is a cheaper matinee ticket but a variable price designed to attract people to screens that would otherwise be empty? What are upcharges on IMAX, Dolby, and 3D screens but a variable price? What are Discount Tuesdays at chains like AMC, Regal, and Cinemark but a variable price?
[AMC CEO Adam] Aron’s mistake is couching this pricing scheme in terms of what will cost more. Because the point isn’t necessarily to gouge folks who are coming out to theaters. Or, at least, it’s not only that. The point is to maximize revenue by a.) gouging the folks who are going to show up for The Batman and No Way Home and Shang-Chi regardless of cost while also b.) increasing overall attendance by encouraging folks to show up for other, lesser-watched movies by lowering the prices on those tickets. Variable pricing only really makes sense if you, say, knock $2 off of every ticket to Sing 2 (because it’s available on VOD) or $1 off of No Way Home tickets (because it’s been out for nearly three months) or $3 off of Cyrano (because absolutely no one anywhere wants to see it) while also charging $1 more for The Batman.
Theaters are in a tough spot financially, given decreased attendance thanks to COVID and ongoing efforts by the studios to shift audiences fully to streaming. I totally understand why AMC would want to make a little more off The Batman by getting an extra grand or so out of every sold out auditorium every day. But if your ultimate aim is to increase overall attendance, you have to encourage people to come to the stuff they’re not already coming to. And if that means lowering the price on a movie like Dog or West Side Story or Licorice Pizza, then … do that!
Happy Friday. Supplies are flying into Rzeszow, Poland from all across the world. A plane just landed from Spain, and this Aussie plane flew from down under to Hawaii, to Dayton, Ohio, before getting to Poland. Keep ‘em coming!
Sky News team's harrowing account of their violent ambush in Ukraine this week… A disturbing video.
“We’re in shock at how dumb their behavior is,” How U.S. trained Ukrainian special forces are holding off the Russians. And how a battle for an airport showed how quickly Moscow’s plans went awry.
State of Disunion… Matt Labash on the first Biden SOTU.
Russia dials up the censorship… Social media is going dark, and a new law passed promises up to 15 years in prison for “discrediting” the Russian military. To put in perspective, Anatoly Dyatlov, one of the Chernobyl engineers, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in that disaster.
Meanwhile… That former guy is talking to anyone who will listen. In this case, his friend, golfer John Daly.
Madison Cawthorn notches a victory… In his effort to stave off a challenge to his ballot eligibility on the grounds that he is an insurrectionist, a thread.
Trump and Roger Stone did some criming… And the January 6th Committee is on their heels. Will the DOJ buy it?
The taxonomy of right wing dog whistles… At The Atlantic, our friend Molly Jong-Fast writes:
The first time I witnessed the birth of a right-wing talking point, I was sitting in a crowded ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, in National Harbor, Maryland. This was the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, and I was listening to Sebastian Gorka deliver remarks that fell somewhere on the spectrum from venting to fomenting.
There he was in his three-piece suit, voice booming: “They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers.” As I jotted down the line about the hamburgers, a sudden sense of unreality came over me.
Democrats want to take my hamburgers? It seemed too preposterous a threat to alarm even the most willing rube. Knowing the origin of the line was perhaps revealing, but made it no less ridiculous. Republicans had taken left-wing concerns about the environmental effects of factory farming and animal slaughter and contorted those worries, casting the Democrats as not just an anti-hamburger party, but a coalition of hamburger thieves—hamburglars, if you will.
That’s the secret of these GOP talking points: They’re sticky enough to be memorable, they’re designed to elicit an emotional response, they typically target an ideologically symbolic bogeyman, and they contain a sliver of truth that can be blown up into something completely unrecognizable.
Here in this Pennsylvania diner… A reporter finds blue dots in a sea of MAGA red insanity. It’s weird that many diner whisperers have trouble finding these people, or the people in their community hell bent on tearing it apart.
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