Sunday, October 28, 2018

Last Call For Brazil Nuts

Brazil has elected its Trump today in Jair Bolsonaro, and the number of democracies in the West falls by one as the country's new president has made it abundantly clear that his word is now the only law.

Brazil on Sunday became the latest country to drift toward the far right, electing a strident populist as president in the nation’s most radical political change since democracy was restored more than 30 years ago. 
The new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has exalted the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture and threatened to destroy, jail or drive into exile his political opponents. 
He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative. 
“We have everything need to become a great nation,” Mr. Bolsonaro said Sunday night shortly after the race was called in a video broadcast on his Facebook account. “Together we will change the destiny of Brazil.”

If all these seems depressingly familiar, it's because it's 100% Trump's playbook.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s victory caps a bitter contest that divided families, tore friendships apart and ignited concerns about the resilience of Brazil’s young democracy. 
Many Brazilians see authoritarian tendencies in Mr. Bolsonaro, who plans to appoint military leaders to top posts and said he would not accept the result if he were to lose. He has threatened to stack the Supreme Court by increasing the number of judges to 21 from 11 and to deal with political foes by giving them the choice of extermination or exile
Mr. Bolsonaro, 63, a former Army captain who has been a member of Congress for nearly three decades, beat a crowded field of presidential contenders, several of whom entered the race with bigger war chests, less baggage, and the backing of powerful political parties. 
Part of the reason for his victory was the collapse of the left. Many cried foul after former President Luiz Inácio da Silva, the longtime front-runner in the race, was ruled ineligible to run after he was imprisoned in April to start serving a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Bolsonaro's battle cry was "lock them up" and he did.  Now, the bloody purge of his enemies will soon begin.  There's no question how we got here, Bolsonaro's takeover is just one more domino in the end of democracy 

It's only going to get exponentially worse over the coming years unless we begin the turn back to sanity in 9 days.

Meat The Press, Con't

NY Times reporter Jim Rutenberg admits that after three years, the American media still has no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and that Trump continues to use the media as targets to beat up on a near-daily basis and will basically always get away with it.

The question is, is it working?

The short answer is yes
. Increasingly, the president’s almost daily attacks seem to be delivering the desired effect, despite the many examples of powerful reporting on his presidency. By one measure, a CBS News poll over the summer, 91 percent of “strong Trump supporters” trust him to provide accurate information; 11 percent said the same about the news media.

Mr. Trump was open about the tactic in a 2016 conversation with Lesley Stahl of CBS News, which she shared earlier this year: “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you,” she quoted him as saying.

And with the president settling on “Fear and Falsehoods” as an election strategy, as The Washington Post put it last week, the political information system is awash in more misleading or flatly wrong assertions than reporters can keep up with. It’s as if President Trump has hit the journalism industry with a denial-of-service attack.

We have seen gross distortions aplenty during political low moments in this country. But something like the “Swift Boat” campaign against the Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 — with its accusations that the candidate had faked his war record — seems almost quaint in retrospect. That attempt drew scrutiny from major media organizations, and eventually led to broad condemnation, even from the candidate it was intended to benefit, President George W. Bush.

Now, partisan smears are a staple of every single news cycle. As crude pipe bombs were discovered at CNN headquarters and in mailboxes across the country, Mr. Trump’s supporters like the Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and the conservative writer Ann Coulter asserted that the crime was a frame job by Democrats.

Before pipe bombs and the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings dominated the news, the main story was the migrant caravan — and it was accompanied by wild speculation on talk radio, social media and from opinionated personalities on Fox News. A myth went viral: the thousands of desperate Hondurans making their slow way toward the American border were players in a drama hatched by Democrats and funded by the right’s all-purpose villain, Mr. Soros, a notion Mr. Trump seemed to nod to at a rally in Montana.

Reporters respond by pointing out that these assertions have no basis in fact, just as they attempt to knock back Mr. Trump’s manufactured content by producing running tallies of his false statements — more than 5,000, says The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column.

Now and then journalists will resort to the L-word, “lie,” as The New York Times has done on occasion. Other frequent targets of the president’s disdain, CNN and MSNBC, have debunked his claims with onscreen headlines and endless panel discussions.

Such good-faith efforts, however, seem increasingly ineffectual. The president has succeeded in casting journalists as the prime foils on his never-ending reality show, much to the delight of those who cheer him on at rallies.

“He has succeeded in creating a daily narrative in which he is the central figure,” Steve Coll, the dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a staff writer at The New Yorker, told me. “And he uses props and invented opposition — whether they are migrants hundreds of miles from the U.S. border or the press right in front of him — to pursue this kind of idea he has about how his populism works.”

Again, the media has allowed themselves to be maneuvered into a position where 90% of Trump supporters don't believe a word they say, and more than half of everybody doesn't either. There are many reasons for this, the rise of online media that more easily manipulates people and that can be easily manipulated by people, increasingly corporate control of news outlets by a handful of companies, the consolidation of local newspapers and local TV news, and the massive layoffs in the news business over the last 15 years.  And all those actions were conscious choices.

In other words, everything the American media could have done in order to make themselves vulnerable to a proto-fascist demagogue like Trump, they did.  Trust in the media is in shambles means that not only are Americans being massively misinformed, it means there are Americans who know they are being fed lies, but the lies are convenient enough to allow them to hate who they want to, as Steve M tells us.

I want to know what percentage of the American public -- and, specifically, what percentage of the Republican electorate -- believes what's been reported about Cesar Sayoc. I assume that Democrats and independents will overwhelmingly say they believe what we've been told about him: that he's a Trump supporter who decided on his own to build and mail pipe bombs to people on the president's enemies list.

But what percentage of Republicans believe that? Is it even a majority?

A polling firm should lay out law enforcement's allegations and the conspiracy nuts' scenarios -- that Democrats or a certain billionaire Democratic donor paid the guy, or that the recipients sent the bombs to themselves -- and ask what respondents believe. Or the poll could ask whether law enforcement's story is true and then give doubters an open-ended chance to tell us their pet theories.

I think most Republicans will be doubters, or at least the number of doubters and "not sure" respondents will outnumber those who believe what law enforcement has told us.

That's exactly right.  Trump's lies are all the excuse bigots need to be bigots.

There is no longer shame in being a racist hatemonger in America when the elected leader of the country is arguably the most vocal example of one, and now that the trust in the news media has been lost, most likely irrevocably, there's little the media can now do to stop him.

You guys had your chance.  You blew it.  The time to ask these questions was in Summer, 2016.

Instead it became "But her emails."

The game's over, and we all lost.

Sunday Long Read: Kit Kat Crazy

A part of this week's New York Times Magazine "Candy Issue", here's the story of how Kit Kat bars became Japan's most beloved snack food in the 21st century, with flavors ranging from red bean bun to wasabi and everything in between.

The seven-story Don Quijote megastore in the Shibuya district of Tokyo is open 24 hours a day, but it’s hard to say when it’s rush hour, because there’s always a rush. A labyrinth of aisles leads to one soaring, psychedelic display after another presided over by cartoon mascots, including the mascot of Don Quijote itself: an enthusiastic blue penguin named Donpen who points shoppers toward toy sushi kits and face masks soaked with snail excretions and rainbow gel pens and split-toe socks. The candy section is vast, with cookies and cakes printed with Gudetama, Sanrio’s lazy egg character, and shiny packages of dehydrated, caramelized squid. It’s one of the few places where an extensive array of Japan’s many Kit Kat flavors are for sale. Though the chocolate bar is sold in more than 100 countries, including China, Thailand, India, Russia and the United States, it’s one of Japan’s best-selling chocolate brands and has achieved such a distinctive place in the market that several people in Tokyo told me they thought the Kit Kat was a Japanese product.

A Kit Kat is composed of three layers of wafer and two layers of flavored cream filling, enrobed in chocolate to look like a long, skinny ingot. It connects to identical skinny ingots, and you can snap these apart from one another intact, using very little pressure, making practically no crumbs. The Kit Kat is a sweet, cheap, delicately crunchy artifact of the 20th century’s industrial chocolate conglomerate. In the United States, where it has been distributed by Hershey since 1970, it is drugstore candy. In Japan, you might find the Kit Kat at a drugstore, but here the Kit Kat has levels. The Kit Kat has range. It’s found in department stores and luxurious Kit Kat-devoted boutiques that resemble high-end shoe stores, a single ingot to a silky peel-away sheath, stacked in slim boxes and tucked inside ultrasmooth-opening drawers, which a well-dressed, multilingual sales clerk slides open for you as you browse. The Kit Kat, in Japan, pushes at every limit of its form: It is multicolored and multiflavored and sometimes as hard to find as a golden ticket in your foil wrapper. Flavors change constantly, with many appearing as limited-edition runs. They can be esoteric and so carefully tailored for a Japanese audience as to seem untranslatable to a global mass market, but the bars have fans all over the world. Kit Kat fixers buy up boxes and carry them back to devotees in the United States and Europe. All this helps the Kit Kat maintain a singular, cultlike status.

The Kit Kat first came to Japan in 1973, but the first 100 percent, truly on-brand Japanese Kit Kat arrived at the turn of the millennium, when the marketing department of Nestlé Japan, the manufacturer of Kit Kats in the country, decided to experiment with new flavors, sweetness levels and types of packaging in an effort to increase sales. Strawberry! A pinkish, fruity Kit Kat would have been a gamble almost anywhere else in the world, but in Japan, strawberry-flavored sweets were established beyond the status of novelties. The strawberry Kit Kat was covered in milk chocolate tinted by the addition of a finely ground powder of dehydrated strawberry juice. It was first introduced in Hokkaido — coincidentally and serendipitously — at the start of strawberry season. Since then, the company has released almost 400 more flavors, some of them available only in particular regions of the country, which tends to encourage a sense of rareness and collectibility. Bars flavored like Okinawan sweet potatoes, the starchy, deep purple Japanese tubers, are available in Kyushu and Okinawa. The adzuki bean-sandwich bars are associated with the city of Nagoya, where the sweet, toasted snack originated in a tea shop at the turn of the 20th century and slowly made its way to cafe menus in the area. Shizuoka, where gnarly rhizomes with heart-shaped leaves have been cultivated for centuries on the Pacific Ocean, is known for its wasabi-flavored bars.

The most popular kind of Kit Kat in Japan is the mini — a bite-size package of two ingots — and Nestlé estimates that it sells about four million of these each day. In any given year, there are about 40 flavors available, including the core flavors — plain milk chocolate, strawberry, sake, wasabi, matcha, Tokyo Banana and a dark-chocolate variety called “sweetness for adults” — plus 20 to 30 rotating new ones. In August, Nestlé was preparing to release a shingen mochi Kit Kat, based on a traditional sweet made by the Japanese company Kikyouya, which involves three bite-size pieces of soft, squishy mochi packed with roasted soybean powder and a bottle of brown-sugar syrup, all assembled to taste. It seemed almost presumptuous for Nestlé to flavor a chocolate bar like shingen mochi, which is rooted in traditional Japanese confectionary, then stamp its brand on it and produce it en masse.

A sales clerk was restocking the Kit Kat display in Don Quijote when I asked her which were the most popular flavors. She shook her head. “They’re all popular,” she said. She gestured at the empty tunnels of matcha-, grape- and strawberry-flavored Kit Kats that she was filling as a small group of Chinese tourists carried armloads of glossy snack bags and boxes back to their shopping carts, undoing her work. An Australian father and son rushed by in a panic, their cart heaped with gifts to take back home. “Which one, Dad? Which one?” the child asked desperately, pointing to all the varieties. “It doesn’t matter,” the father shouted, as if the timer on a bomb were running out. “Just take one!”

Japanese Kit Kat bars are different.  Really different.  Not gonna lie.

But some of them are surprisingly good, so if you ever see these in your local Japanese food store or anime hangout give them a try.

Gabba Gabba Nope

I've said many times that social media networks have to get their stuff together before people get killed, but they're too lazy to self-police.  Now that eleven are dead in Pittsburgh, maybe people will start paying attention to people announcing they are going to hurt people on services like Gab, a social media platform for people kicked off other social platforms for being too bigoted.

Before Robert D. Bowers opened fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning, he posted a threat to the Jewish community online.

“HIAS [a Jewish non-profit organization] likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote. Just hours later, he killed at least 10 people and wounded others in what the Anti-Defamation League declared the deadliest against the Jewish community in the history of the United States.

Bowers didn’t make his anti-semitic statements on Twitter or Facebook or even Reddit, but rather on a small social network called Gab. It was founded in 2016 as an alternative to Twitter and other large social platforms, and indeed looks and operates similarly to Twitter, allowing users to follow and reply to each other, and to reshare short status updates.

But while Twitter, Facebook, and other mainstream social networks abide by ever-evolving sets of community standards, Gab allows users to say pretty much anything they want. Andrew Torba, the Silicon Valley Trump supporter who created it, said that he wanted to offer an alternative to mainstream social networks which he and others feel are biased against conservatives.

“What makes the entirely left-leaning Big Social monopoly qualified to tell us what is ‘news’ and what is ‘trending’ and to define what ‘harassment’ means?” he told to BuzzFeed News in 2016 explaining his decision to create the company. “It didn’t feel right to me, and I wanted to change it, and give people something that would be fair and just.”

Since then, Gab’s maximalist approach to free speech has made the network the de-facto home to extremist figures who have been booted off mainstream social networks for threats, inciting violence, or promoting racist, sexist, and anti-semitic ideas. While Twitter has banned extremist figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, Alex Jones, and Andrew Anglin, Gab continues to welcome them and their followers with open arms. It has been called a “hate-filled echo chamber of racism and conspiracy theories” and “Twitter for racists.”

This has led to tension with some of the platforms hosting Gab amid increasing pressure for web companies to “deplatform” extremist groups and individuals. In 2017, the Gab app was banned from the Google Play Store for violating its policy against hate speech and in August of this year Microsoft threatened to stop hosting the platform on its servers over similar concerns. (Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday afternoon.) Shortly after Saturday’s shooting, Gab tweeted what appeared to be a notice from PayPal, saying that the payment-processing platform would be terminating its relationship with Gab “pursuant to PayPal’s user agreement.” Opponents of deplatforming argue that censoring extremist speech, actors, and platforms doesn’t stop, and in fact might incite, violence. “Free speech is crucial for the prevention of violence,” the Gab account tweeted Saturday. “If people can not express themselves through words, they will do so through violence. No one wants that. No one.”

That's the argument that Gab makes, that if Gab's not allowed to not only exist but to prosper, then crazies like Bowers will go straight to the violence part rather than just post anti-Semitic Pepe the Frog memes online, therefore you should want Gab around as a social media lightning rod, and also you should give the platform and guys like Andrew Torba lots of money, because they're effectively babysitting America's lunatics.

It's a fantastically cynical argument, and of course it insulates Gab from any possible culpability as an aside.  Pure glibertarian nonsense of the highest order.

Only of course, this time eleven people died.

I'm not stupid enough to think the Trump regime will lift a finger against Gab, but "monetizing hate speech" is nothing new, and the beast can be starved if all the sponsors and advertisers refuse to do business with them.

We'll see.
Related Posts with Thumbnails