News Watch: A Reading on Collective Angst

Our Jerri-Lynn, who mainly lives overseas, was briefly in the US last month and dropped by our NYC meetup. She commented to me that she was very eager to leave because she could sense how high the general tension level was. She didn’t go on at great lengths why, but it was clear that at least some of it came from the success the press was having at whipping up outrage over Trump, and often not for the right reasons, such as over his mainly ineffective executive orders as opposed to his success in getting hard core conservative judges confirmed. It’s not hard to add to the list of topics that go beyond the usual media “If it bleeds, it leads” rule: the risk of nuclear war (even those those supposedly nutcase North Koreans appear to have to have diffused that with some Olympic diplomacy), Rooskies, #MeToo, more open hostility towards “out” groups ranging from immigrants to the white working class to Muslims. And that’s before we get to listing sources of stress: way too many people with student debt, older people with little to no likelihood of being able to afford retirement unless they leave the US, upper middle class parents spending and pulling strings to make sure their kids wind up in the right social stratum.

Because Lambert and I read so much of this sort of thing on a daily basis, we’re somewhat desensitized. But we’ve both noticed and regularly discussed in the last few weeks that the news flow has become, for lack of a more precise word, weird. The big stories somehow don’t seem that big, perhaps because they more and more seem like variants on shopworn themes. For instance, there is still news and jousting coming out of the Mueller investigations, but the media’s default posture of This Is Really Big and Will Finally Bring Trump Down has come to have a “Boy that cried ‘wolf'” flavor to it. Yet we both find the secondary stories, which ought to be more interesting and relevant in light of the “too much attention on Washington” orientation of the press, seem flatter than usual.

In other words, even though we’ve been cranking out articles, both Lambert and I have been struggling to find things that we deem to be interesting and postworthy. It may be that we’re overstimulated and our calibration is a bit off. For instance, I couldn’t get very worked up about the stock market tsuris of last week. Wake me up if it might endanger something that matters, like the financial system or the real economy.

With that as background, I have an odd confession to make. Even though I am a moody creature, I am able to trace precisely what has got me in the state I am in, whether good or bad. But all day, I’ve been very agitated, when absolutely nothing unusual happened, not even a dustup in the comments section. It is as if I were infected by someone else’s state of high anxiety. Maybe some among our readership are sufficiently sensitive that that happens to them upon occasion, but not me.

Questions to readers:

Are you sensing more angst in the air in recent weeks? If so, can you tie it back to particular triggers?

Do you sense, as Lambert and I do, that the news tide has receded? If so, to resort to Warren Buffett’s image, who do you think it has exposed as swimming naked? Or could it be that the waters seem to receding much further than usual, meaning a tsunami might be on its way?


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  1. FluffytheObeseCat

    I have a similar sense that the “news tide has receded”. The more orthodox MSM outlets like the New York Times and the WaPo seem to be presenting us with stale fare right now. It’s not particularly anxiety inducing for me, but I don’t make a living off the media stream. If I did, I’d find the present, uneasy lull more upsetting.

    I think that there has been a recent and broad reduction in non-paywalled news. The scope, quality and amount of free analysis floating out there on the web is declining. Media organizations may be retreating (quietly and spottily) behind paywalls in 2018, and/or they may be reducing analytical coverage overall as they lay people off like there’s no tomorrow. I have no data to support this view, just little anecdotal things. I.e. the Times dropping it’s free article count to 5 just recently. And others likewise. Each time I go to an ‘old favorite’ site that I only look at once every few months, the pickings seem slimmer.

    I just get sense of a sea change, but I can’t define it properly.

    1. Jim Haygood

      orthodox MSM outlets like the New York Times and the WaPo seem to be presenting us with stale fare right now

      Such as this [paywalled] bombshell from the WaPo: ‘With McCain’s retreat, some turn to Romney to carry his torch.’


      Like reviewing old photos of the Soviet Politburo to see who got airbrushed out.

      To paraphrase the WaPo’s slogan, ‘Democracy dies in decadence.

      1. flora

        …or like viewing old photos of the Robber Barons. The msm has stopped trying to convince middle class readers it’s ‘on their side’, imo. A few have gone full plutocrat friendly. Anything that rocks the plutocrats boats must be caused by ‘russians, russians, russians’, or outside agitators, or foreigners of one kind or another – not ‘real’ Americans. Exactly the kind of things the robber barons and their press said 100+ years ago about working class workers striking for better wages and working conditions.

    2. Alex V

      I agree in the regard to the seeming reduction in analytical quantity and quality. I think you’re right with it being caused by reductions in newsroom staff, but I think the type of journalists we have has also changed drastically. Most of the younger generation that is being brought in has gone directly to journalism school, but has no other experience in the real world. I think many of the older guard had other careers, expertise or experience before they started writing. So much of what passes for “analysis” nowadays reveals very shallow knowledge of the subject being covered by the writer. This is often most apparent in tech or science articles. I would say some overlap to “management” culture – managers are interchangeable, no matter the industry, since they are experts on managing. Same thing with journalism – if you can write something, you can write about anything….

    3. XXYY

      For one thing, the, MSM has become heavily dependent on election coverage in the last decade or so, both (I assume) in revenue from political advertising, and in fountains of easy-to-write daily horse race articles about the state of the election.

      I think 2017, a post-election year, kind of got a free pass because of the election of Trump, who was either going to make everything great (again!) or blow everything up, and the media was able to sustain an electoral-style energy and reader involvement well beyond the 2016 elections.

      Now that (a) Trump has turned out to be an incompetent and ineffectual idiot who does nothing but watch TV, (b) we are seeing the tired old GOP program of screwing the population instead of anything new, and ( c) the Dems have done absolutely nothing for 13 months beyond foam at the mouth about Trump, perhaps the energy of the 2016 election is finally wearing off.

      In other words, this is a pre-2018 election lull.

  2. Emorej a Hong Kong

    How much does this weigh?

    The article ( linked in yesterday’s Water Cooler, seemed to be a major step forward in articulating and advocating a strategy of the Democratic establishment making anti-Russia hysteria (and resulting surveillance and military spending and probably adventures), as a core campaigning plank, the new normal, completely independent of any impeachment or even re-election defeat of Trump.

    This strategy was already starting to become implicit, as the Mueller-related “wolf”-crying drags on (and counter-investigations of Clintons are brandished as a M.A.D. deterrent), and as we read that Trump’s tax cuts are playing well among likely swing voters both in Congress and in the low-middle income electorate, while it gets ever-closer to “too late” (to be credible before the 2018 midterms) for the Democratic establishment to show any new seriousness about the issues raised and pursued by Bernie Sanders, and by the many local candidates being sabotaged (of necessity more openly than in the past) by the donor-addicted Democratic establishment.

    1. Dwight

      In the real world, we have growing social needs with an aging population that will require Social Security and Medicare. This guy is basically saying to ignore that, which will likely result in a mass die-off of the middle-aged and elderly like that which occurred in 1990s Russia when social programs were gutted under neoliberal shock-therapy “advisors” to the puppet Yeltsin.

      Meanwhile, climate change advances requiring massive investment in adaptation, and mitigation if Democrat concerns about climate change are to be taken at face value. (I believe we are 30 years too late, but should do what we can. Democrats claim to be concerned about climate change with their posturing around the Paris Agreement – how does this new cold war lower emissions?)

      Nuclear waste from nuclear power and weapons needs to be secured before climate change kicks in, but instead we are spending trillions on new weapons that will create new radioactive waste. The new arms race with Russia and China will be incredibly expensive and dangerous, taking money from real societal and economic needs. Arms spending by the US will result in arms spending in Russia and China, multiplying the problem on a global scale. Unsecured nuclear waste in Russia and China, like unsecured nuclear waste in the US, affects the entire globe.

      In this real world context, this guy wants to promote an unnecessary new cold war to get Democrats elected. Truly disgusting and insane.

      1. Big River Bandido

        In this real world context, this guy wants to promote an unnecessary new cold war to get Democrats elected. Truly disgusting and insane.

        Not only disgusting and insane, but politically stupid. Any Democrat politician who thinks that promoting Unhinged Russia Hysteria is a winning political strategy is guilty of political malpractice.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Hmmm, that reminds me of something. I need to work on building my Russian vocabulary. I’m getting better at sounding out words and using proper Cyrillic spelling, but there’s plenty more to be done.

        2. petal

          On that note, I’ll try harder to go to that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen talk on Tuesday, as that seems to be what she and they are pushing(unhinged Russia hysteria as a winning political strategy).

        3. lyman alpha blob

          It really is politically stupid.

          I got paid today and since the Republican tax cut, my take home pay is larger. Not a dollar or two larger, but enough that it’s very easy to notice.

          That’s what people are going to remember when they go to the voting booth in 2018 (if they even bother) – while the Democrats where whining about Putin and Russia and doing nothing productive whatsoever to improve people’s lives, Trump gave everybody more $$$.

          1. DHG

            Not everything is about money and its not going to affect the majority of people who will be going to the polls, we are already set in our objections of the POTUS and unless he becomes Presidential quickly none of us are changing our minds. This brought to you by a swing voting independent. I will not vote for a republican in 2018 sans what I said.

        4. drumlin woodchuckles

          The only way that the Democratic Party running on years-to-come of Neo McCarthyism 2.0 will be “political malpractice” is if we make it “political malpractice.” And the only way I can think of to make the Democrat Cold War into “political malpractice” is to vote against every Democratic officeseeker who runs in favor of any trace of New Democratic Cold War. They won’t “be defeated” on their own or by magic. It may require a readiness on the part of millions of Sanderistas to vote for Republican officeseekers until every last New Cold War Democrat is exterminated from public view and political life.

          Here is perhaps a slogan to play with. “The Democrats want yet another Democrat War.”

    2. sleepy

      . . . articulating and advocating a strategy of the Democratic establishment making anti-Russia hysteria (and resulting surveillance and military spending and probably adventures), as a core campaigning plank, the new normal, completely independent of any impeachment or even re-election defeat of Trump.

      The “official” narratives from much of the MSM are increasingly removed from any reality experienced by the majority. For example, the latest is a report from Hamilton that much of the social media activity concerning the Florida school shooting is now infested and promoted by Russian bots “to sow division”. How more absurd could it be?

      I think that sort of disconnect produces both a numbness and an anxiety and a belief that we are governed and led by institutions completely clueless and out of control. Therefore, people just hunker down in disbelief.

      1. taunger

        this. this seems important. coupled with the fact that enough of the news consumers today are wholly cynical regarding any ability of the hoi poloi to make change.

        1. Travis Bickle

          Quibble: “hoi”, in Hungarian, is the article for poloi. But, since the phrase has been adopted in English as a phrase, idiomatically, let’s go with it. Your point remains.

      2. Skip Intro

        I have it on good authority that the whole rebranding of the KKK first as the CCC than as the NRA was a long-term Soviet Russian plot to cause an epidemic of mass shootings that would undermine not only US ‘Democracy’, but the entire capitalist juggernaut!

      3. Fiery Hunt

        Key phrase here…”out of control”.

        I’ve definitely been noticing a fairly obvious breakdown in people’s ability to be on top of even basic things. We’re all fried. I’ve got really reliable clients suddenly bouncing payments, unable to track projects…I’ve also had first hand encounters with both the law/court system and the medical industry/health care system and the IT processes are byzantine and hugely ineffective.

        I think Lambert used the phrase “boom exhaustion “. I think it’s apt. We’re spinning so hard and nothings getting better or easier.

        “…the center can’t hold.
        Things fall apart.”

        I suggest we expect serious gyrations.

    3. Andrew Watts

      That story is a classic example of a dominant minority resorting to archaism to address the present crisis they face. It won’t work either. The US government had an extraordinarily high amount of social trust and support heading into the external crisis that was the Cold War. They eventually frittered it away into the present and the expectation that events will turn out the same is why the creative minority of our past is now a dominant minority in the present. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, for the sake of clarity. We live in a target rich environment for people who’ve studied Toynbee.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        amen to that.(Toynbee)
        although i have yet to identify any new creative minority, I’m still hopeful.
        perhaps the illegitimacy crises need to flower some more(that big stinking flesh flower/fleur de mal?)…or more ordinary folks need to feel the pain as well as connect it to the people on teevee(the part I’m watching most closely, still ongoing).
        All is definitely in flux(h/t Heraclitus).
        It reminds me of a story my drunkuncle told me, about being stranded on a sand bar in his sailboat, and watching the stone crabbers come in. they’d scoop up the stone crabs and hack off one claw and throw them back…the claw would grow back in time for the next run.
        I was shocked, of course, and sez: well hell…one of these days they gonna rise up…”

    4. Lambert Strether

      I think what the horrid warmongering article in Useless News misses is that the flyover states, which supply the troops for the wars, are getting war weary (and why not). Trump capitalized on this in the election, and there was a positive correlation at IIRC the county level between war casualities and troop support.

      An anti-war candidate who could make the case in the flyover states might really make an impact. And the only candidate I can see doing that is Sanders, and I’m not sure Sanders has the inclination, or even the stones, to do it. That F-35 base in Vermont rankles. Is that really the kind of bacon to bring home?

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Until someone can run and get elected on some very clearly stated other kind of bacon, yes. That is the only bacon left at present to bring home.

        If one is ready to lose by running on something very real and very plainly stated, and one ends up winning by having run on that very thing, then one may be said to have a mandate to try doing what one got elected by running on.

        So perhaps Sanders, or maybe the younger people who come after Sanders, can run very clearly and specifically on restoring all the missing taxes against the Upper Class, repealing all the anti-New Deal legislation step by step, rebuilding all the broken and decayed infrastructure, and other such things to create some other sort of bacon to bring home other than F-35 bases.

  3. windsock

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Do you think this might be an age-related experience? The elders among us may have a feeling of deja-vu, been here, seen that… there’s not much new in the world, just the same scenes endlessly repeated with new actors, or an incremental worsening of situations that have already been in decline for years. How long can endless war be news? Or endless corruption? Or endless neo-liberalism etc?

    2) Here in the UK, I personally am sick to death with everything being seen through the prism of Brexit. Yes it is an existential crisis for our politics and our way of life but no-one is addressing the ways in which it will improve/demolish our daily lives – food being an obvious one. Yes it is referred to but not in such terms as ordinary people can identify with. It’s all about abstracts – treaties/reciprocal arrangements/customs and tariffs/values and volumes of exports/imports etc. And in the meantime, we get stories about how Europeans leaving us will damage our NHS and crop picking without addressing the underlying causes of WHY we need imported labour and why the NHS is still deteriorating despite having those immigrants.

    3) Following on from 2, whatever other news there is seems weirdly predictable and is based around personalities, rather than communities and systems. Whatever source one chooses to read, this predictability leads one to end up agreeing with Mandy Rice-Davies…”Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”, no matter who the subject is.

    4) Now we are leaping on the Russiabus but it is largely met with a huge yawn, unless you like to foam at the mouth at ConservativeHome.

    1. Clive

      I wholeheartedly agree about how a significant factor is that the mainstream media insists on viewing everything through ridiculously contrived “lenses” (Trump, “Russia-gate”, Brexit, harassment) and, intentionally I would claim, deliberately obscuring the real problems (wealth distribution, neoliberalism, collapse of the social contract).

      1. animalogic

        That, Clive, is the DNA of the MSM.
        Address anything other than the truth, whether in part or whole.
        Of course now we are ALL free to say ”what truth ?”

    2. sleepy

      Here in the UK, I personally am sick to death with everything being seen through the prism of Brexit.

      I read the following article from today’s Links fully expecting it to be about Brexit and the political fallout from a possible hard border. Instead, the pivotal issue in the split between Sinn Fein and the DUP apparently revolves around efforts to secure offical status for the Irish language in the North. While that issue too may well be a distraction, it had nothing to do with Brexit, and I was surprised.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Brexit is playing a surprisingly small role in the usual NI political game-playing, although its constantly lurking in the background. Rights to the Irish language have become something of a lightning rod for both sides. Sinn Fein were promised a law enshrining Irish language rights, while the DUP have focused on it as a line they won’t cross. There are lots of other issues going on in the background, this has just become the red line issue for both.

        To a large extent, it suits both Sinn Fein and the DUP for the power sharing executive to collapse. Sinn Fein are more comfortable in opposition and are finding more and more traction in the Republic and in dragging the Irish government into NI affairs, while the DUP are having fun playing puppet master in London. Neither really fear direct rule.

    3. MoBee

      …whatever other news there is seems weirdly predictable and is based around personalities, rather than communities and systems.

      This really hit home for me. Thank you!

  4. Skip Intro

    Animals become agitated in advance of earthquakes. It may be that the reason for angst does not lie in the past, but in the future.
    In general, so many of the stories are predictable self-parodies, from the Democrats relentless pursuit of the mythical ‘moderate insurgents’ in republican suburbs, and their comical screeching about Putin, to the drumbeat stories attacking Trump for Obama policies, to the contortions of the neocon policy apparatus trying to justify occupation and regime change in Syria, without mentioning those goals…

    The centre does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world“.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Yes! I’ve never seen anything like this by any measure. It’s the scope and magnitude and number and inter-relatedness and intractability of all the issues at once. Population, climate change, economic disaster systems as in Capitalism going nuts, exploding Military Industrial Complex and perpetual wars , 2 Bat —- Crazy and utterly corrupt political parties playing nuclear Russian Roulette, Baghdad Bob like main stream media, transformation from a democracy into a police state, open and protected killing of blacks for being black (the fact that isn’t exaggerated is mind-numbing), technological tsunamis being co-opted and twisted into iron fisted dystopias by all of the above.

      The mind simply can’t keep up with it – particularly the reality of it (as in the Democrats going stark raving mad with Russia-Gate – never mind just being corrupt and hypocritical to the core) and the body or something inside sends out a sort of anesthetic to help the mind deal with the increasing perception of the trauma.

      I do “get” the analogy of calm before the storm and perhaps that is indeed what we are going through right now but to me it feels like we are simultaneously in the middle of the disaster and constantly waking up to just how horrific it really is.

    2. John

      “Slowed down by a sense of hopelessness in all his decisions and movements, he suffered from bitter sadness, and his incapacity solidified into a pain that often sat like a nosebleed behind his forehead the moment he tried to make up his mind to do something.”
      — Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities

        1. polecat

          I never said anything with regard to HAVING fun … as most geopolitical carnival rides tend to make one nauseous .. or in some cases, even worser for ware !

    3. False Solace

      For me, this is key. When I cast my eye upon the news I’m greeted with unrelenting bleakness. Trump’s cruel and terrible health plan was big news for months, then his terrible tax cut plan, now his terrible budget. Foreign affairs are equally bleak: the Democrats are busy stirring up a second Cold War. There’s no end in sight to the trillions of dollars our nation spends every year on waste and destructive mayhem. Sociopathic corporations and octogenarian billionaires own this country. It’s difficult to see anything positive on the horizon.

      It could also come down to low Vitamin D and an unusually cold (thanks to climate change) winter.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It doesn’t have to be fair to be true.

          The Democrats don’t realize the Civil War they are preparing at home with their Trump Must Go

          But they are doing their best to engineer this Democrat Cold War on purpose, with malice aforethought.

      1. Waking Up

        I have often wondered whether the politicians in D.C. even care what citizens think or feel. And if so, what part does age play in that equation? For example, 67% of Senators are over the age of 60. Do a number of them have an “end of days” or an “I won’t be on this earth long enough to worry about the future of the planet” type mentality. They certainly don’t care about their children or grandchildren otherwise they would do everything in their power to change laws on assault weapons and make our economic system more just. And, why aren’t congressional representatives under 60 concerned about their fellow citizens in the rest of the country? Do they believe if everything falls apart they will get to remain in some bubble world? Other than a very small number of Congressional representatives (of both parties) who occasionally make statements and follow through consistently with their actions, the majority only care about getting re-elected, power and their personal wealth.

        As for news reporting, I think what you see is a reflection of corporate owned media placing an emphasis on profit and keeping people ignorant (through endless entertainment or simply very poor reporting). We now have decades of destruction of actual investigative reporting. Many of the best investigative reporters quit or were laid off by major publications or the msm.

        Our country spends over $1,000,000,000,000 (TRILLION) /YEAR on national security. Should we be surprised that congressional representatives, the President and a whole lot of corporations and even small businesses support an endless Russia, Russia, Russia message? They want another cold war and endless build up of military and weapons. Guess what…it’s very profitable in a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” way. Who knows…maybe some of those 67% I mentioned above would be anxious to go out in a big way under a nuclear war. It feels as if far too many people have lost common sense and their minds!

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The Senators are millionaires. Or else they plan to be upon leaving office. They feel they will afford all the armed guards and private armies that their personal children and grandchildren will ever need to be safe with. So it is not “their” children they don’t care about. It is “OPC” ( other peoples’ children ) they don’t care about.

          Then too, the ones at or over 60 are dogs-too-old to learn new tricks. Or new thoughts.

  5. sd

    There are two Americas. The news is mostly for and from the one that protects the rentier or elite class. They send their children to private schools.

    The second one has children who go to public schools who get shot and killed by gunmen that the school and law authorities have been warned about and then decide it’s not worth their attention.

    I think we have reached America’s breaking point. Shitty jobs, shitty pay, shitty hours, no hope of affordable housing anywhere, no advancement, massive amounts debt, no easy access to medical care, uneven safety nets, denigration, lack of mutual respect, a lifetime of working with little hope of a safe retirement…it’s just not pretty out here.

    1. rd

      I agree with this. For example this article yesterday caught my attention:

      Where I live, they post the real estate sales in the newspaper and there are many weeks where not a single house sold for over $500k. But in SF, it is news that something sold for $500k because nothing is ever that cheap.

      So you have many areas of the country (not accidental they voted for Trump) where $500k is a fabulously high price for a house because the economies are in a rut but the places where all the people carrying huge student debt loads are supposed to go to work to be part of the future are completely unaffordable for all but a few.

      I think we are still in a Wile E. Coyote moment where he has gone off the cliff but gravity has not taken hold yet (cartoons don’t understand parabolic arcs, similar to central banks and politicians). One of the purposes of financial crises like 2008 is to reset the playing field. The inequality and inefficiency of the Roaring 20s got reset in the 1930s where many people who had paper wealth, but large debt, collapsed and regulation followed that survived for 60 years in preventing similar scenarios. The 2009-2016 period missed that window of opportunity as the focus became preserving the people who had destabilized the system. That meant the damage was one-sided to the bottom 90%. The top 10% are largely disconnected, deliberately, from what is going on with the bottom 90% and as a result are baffled about the swelling unrest in the country. That unrest is still largely unfocused and just burps out random things right now like the Tea Party, Trump, Sanders etc.

      The only good news to come out of the Florida shooting is that the young people are beginning to realize that they are cannon fodder (literally) in the cynical political battles waged by their elders. We may start to see more passion for change occurring. Hopefully the 70 years old politicians will move out of the way and allow a new generation with new ideas to start to emerge. However, it will take a lot to displace the current political inertia from funding allowed for the wealthy 70 year olds by Citizens United.

  6. Clive

    Strangely enough, I’ve been thinking the exact same things, obviously from a U.K. framed perspective. I’ve not commented on this on posts nor have I discussed this with either Jerri-Lynn, Lambert, Yves, Richard Smith or any of the regular crowd here. I just passed it off to myself as my usual neurotic preoccupations.

    I can’t really put it into words properly. Which can be one of the reasons why I’ve not put my thoughts down in writing. Musing on this earlier this week, the best way I could come up with capturing the vibe was to quote from E M Forster who (describing an English country house, the people in it and as a metaphor for the country as a whole at the time) as “being not yet actually in decline, but in the torpor which precedes it”. That fit both the mood that I sense and the cause of the pervasive anxiety.

    It also, he says, opening a can of worms which he’ll probably regret, but here goes, covers and explains several conversations I’ve had with fellow Brexit voters. The U.K. government is screwing things up royally with regards to the implementation of Brexit. The national division is just as bad as ever. And we’re alienating the neighbors who we really need to keep in with for the sake of the long term. We may yet end up as being something akin to Mordor-on-Sea. But, among the friends and relatives I’ve had these discussions with, none of us could, if we were being honest, really say we cared that much. The nihilism was slightly shocking. What was the reason for that?

    The general consensus was that we simply cannot go on as we are. Something — anything — is better than years and years, decades and decades of more of the same. A shake up is long overdue and we’re way past the point that tweaking round the edges is going to be good enough.

    I’m still slightly stunned to have stumbled across this unsettling zeitgeist.

    I’ve done my stint in living through the chaotic end to the 1970’s and endured the major social upheavals in Thatcher’s show-no-mercy early 1980’s. Those were bad times. But this is worse in a lot of ways, if only for the crushing atmosphere of a powerless proletariat.

    I do think there are some safety valves. And at least in the past decade we’ve come to recognise in our shared culture the harms done by things like inequality and how corrupt our governments and corporations really are. And we’ve channels of common communication (like Naked Capitalism, amongst a few others) which didn’t exist a decade or so ago. I’m just not sure they’re enough.

    1. windsock

      Mordor-Sea… ha! Mordor has better weather.

      Completely agree with “none of us could, if we were being honest, really say we cared that much”. My friends and I are in the same boat. I’m not sure it’s nihilism… sometimes I think this is the point of our news coverage – to grind us down with boring mediocrity until we accept whatever settlement suddenly becomes acceptable to TPTB. But then maybe THAT is nihilistic too.

      1. animalogic

        To what degree can people accept and live in a vicious social environment before masses of the just — snap ?
        Take a look at Greece. They have suffered years of worse than Great Depression standards. And it goes on — and on.
        So, I suspect that things can get a whole lot worse before people actually DO something…. (Nihilism, apathy, obsessions with distractions & trifles (ie Russia) are, of course, coping mechanisms)

    2. hemeantwell

      Important question! Let me serve up a goulash of inertial fear and loathing:

      1. Attacks on Trump have failed to wing him legally. Passage of the corporatophilic tax bill is going to produce a short term stimulus that many of us suspect will undermine the reversal of fortune the policy-thin Dems hoped to pull off. So in part we’re stuck with watching a dreary theme in political economy play out in as margin estimates drift downward.

      2. The Dem commitment to Russiagate has become their WMD story, it has to be stuck with lest its proponents admit their lying. Down on the ground, I was flummoxed to get a forwarded MoveOn email from a friend encouraging me to participate in flash demonstration at the capitol if Mueller is fired. I was moved to explain that this worried me since it likely hinged on Russophobia. A coolness ensued. This is happening broadly. The Russo-Resistance strategy has had the effect of exacerbating divisions in the potential opposition to neoliberalism. Not a bug.

      3. The Syrian conflict has entered yet another crucial phase. I expect the Israelis to kick over the table, and the Trump administration doesn’t have the necessary resolution to stop them with guaranteed threats. Militaristic cretins might be given a chance to run with the ball. And then there’s North Korea. Breath holding here.

      4. Personally, I have very little gut-level understanding of the cadences of crisis politics. Given the seriousness of the issues and the obviousness of the targets, I’d expect Sanders or someone else to be sounding the trumpets. Instead, it seems to be more a matter of setting out rebuttals, worrying about exhausting or boring the audience. I realize that we’re not in an “in the streets” phase, but are supposed to be building organizations, finding candidates, etc. But the methodical, deliberate pace of that effort starts to seem inadequate to the moment.

      5. And then there’s climate warming, which so easily gives rise to that deck chairs feeling. Hard to suppress it at times.

      I hate to concede much to the importance of national leadership, but in the absence, as yet, of a broad, thoroughly anti-neoliberal social democratic organization that provides a “culture of solidarity,” (as Rick Fantasia described it in his fine book) we need it. And so we’re left with moods and presentiments, while trying to deflate fake leader trial balloons — another Kennedy? Cory Booker?

      1. chwee

        I would argue that there’s a basic need for most human beings to feel like part of something greater, that they’re working towards something more meaningful than ever more crass consumerism, ala Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…..”

        So when push comes to shove, a credible national leader who is able to cajole everyone to start pulling together in the same direction can make a serious go at solving or at least addressing / amerliorating some of our pressing issues. I don’t think there’s anyone in the US political circles right now that fits the bill…..

        Compare and contrast with Putin and Xi, who are personally untouched by corruption taint, and whom their population actually believes has their nations’ long-term interests at heart…

        I’d say national leadership will make all the difference when push comes to shove. Been telling that to US friends for a couple of years, fwiw.

        1. animalogic

          I’d like to agree with you. However, the US is an unambiguous Oligarchy. A leader would require a huge mass following to
          take on the Elites..
          ar-la Kennedy and be ready to duck !

    3. Grumpy Engineer

      The general consensus was that we simply cannot go on as we are.

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Whether it’s skyrocketing measures of income inequality, health insurance premiums rising faster than wages, college tuition rates and student loan balances rising faster than wages, mindlessly skyrocketing stock markets and asset bubbles fueled by stupid central bank policies, or whatever other unsustainable woe you choose to pick, these things cannot go on forever. Indeed, you can almost feel the “major social upheaval” lurking around the corner.

      And we’re incredibly divided. Most of the MSM has been sucked into personality conflicts and the us-vs-them mindset. They actively feed it now. You’re expected to pick a team and learn to hate the other guys.

      I too suspect that “tweaking round the edges” will prove totally inadequate, but I have no desire for revolution. I’ve seen too many of them start off well but then go off the rails in horrible, terrifying directions. Revolutions can be terribly sloppy affairs, with real people getting hurt in the process. And they usually don’t end where we really want them to.

      So where does this leave us? Unsettled and full of angst, to say the least, with no good solutions in sight.

      1. perpetualWAR

        Just yesterday I was asked, “Aren’t you a liberal Democrat?” I answered, “No, I hate both parties equally.”

        That set them back on their laurels. They expected me to say “Yes.”

    4. Lambert Strether

      > The general consensus was that we simply cannot go on as we are

      Waiting for Godot:

      ESTRAGON: I can’t go on like this.

      VLADIMIR: That’s what you think.

      (Bleakness mitigated by my view that Waiting for Godot is best read, and performed, in the tradition of slapstick comedy.)

  7. bassmule

    A seemingly endless loop of outrage…that yields nothing, except the feeling of powerlessness–that all that is important in life is out of our hands, and in the hands of those who look at us and see nothing but another source of revenue.

    1. timotheus

      Yes, I agree with the “endless loop of outrage” weariness that has set in, the best example being the (ho-hum) shooting of a dozen high school students that in a normal society would prompt mobilization for change and quick marginalization of any leader who said, Let’s do nothing! When murder becomes routine, an overall numbness is unavoidable. I had a visitor from Mexico with me recently who asked why I was watching a documentary about serial killer John Wayne Gacey (as someone who hitchhiked nearby around that time, I take a personal interest) and remarked, “In Mexico serial killers are not news.”

    2. flora

      “A seemingly endless loop of outrage…that yields nothing, except the feeling of powerlessness–”

      I rather think that our “feeling of powerlessness” is the goal aimed for by the msm. And identity politics serves a divide and conquer function. (But you can buy T-shirts! so it’s all good. /s)

      1. bassmule

        I hope to draw some response to the second part of my complaint, which is that in the dog-eat-dog world of a society ordered solely by markets, we are reduced: First, from being to citizens to consumers, then from being consumers to being marks, rubes, suckers. The “news” (such as it is) isn’t reported to us, it’s sold to us.

  8. Louis Fyne

    Corporate media has been pumping out Trump Derangement Syndrome stories for 18+ months. [if you’re cynical] not only because the media genuinely dislike trump, but to drive clickbait and subscription sign-ups

    but just as ‘likes’ juice the happy-chemical parts of your brain, Trump-related outrage stories juice the angry-chemical parts of your brain.

    After 18 months of being triggered by the news media [sometimes by Trump, sometimes by DNC pundits, sometimes by real life], your brain basically says—‘so what? i’m not angry any more.’

    qed the overton Window has been moved.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    I was idly wondering yesterday where the current hysteria surrounding Trump will lead everyone. There have been hysterical political situations before, but they have tended to be ‘single issue’ ones – I can’t recall any time when so many people on the main political parties have been so singlemindedly determined to whip up anger. When its a ‘single issue’ or generated by one side it can run out of steam or diffuse… but when its multiple issues I think its liable to either result in an explosion, or, conversely, lead to a sort of nervous exhaustion. Looking at it from the outside, I would really fear what could happen in the US if there was a major economic reversal. A sense of a rising tide can ease over a lot of worries, but if things go into reverse, it can curdle into real anger. In historical situations it can help if the anger has a particular focus, but a huge problem in the US seems to me to be that there is no focus – its all so diffuse – anger at Trump, at inequality, at feminists, at equality, at Russia, at Iran, at pretty much everyone.

    From my reading of history, when countries have been in the grip of anxiety it is often a relief when a feared thing happens – such as when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour it was widely reported that the response of the public, including anti-war activists, was great relief. A feeling that at least a course had been set, a key decision made, even if it was a potentially disastrous one. I’ve read that much the same feeling descended over much of Europe at the start of WWI. While the same situation doesn’t quite apply in the US, I do fear that there is a craving for some sort of decision, a decisive act. While I think Trump is by nature someone who prefers to stir the pot rather than take decisive action, he is also very sensitive to the darker drives of the public feeling. I do fear that he might feel inclined to do something really stupid, and there is nobody sensible around him to stop it happening.

    1. susan the other

      I think Trump understands more than he reveals. I think we are looking at the tempered effects of MSM froth by all the good, sensible internet bloggers and commenters which serve to neutralize the nonsense. What I see is angst failure – nobody bought this farcical onslaught of propaganda. Everyone questioned it. Something happens to the “news” when opposite views and facts collide – it gets emulsified like vinegar and oil into much less drastic possibilities. On the one hand – on the other hand. The internet was able to neutralize the MSM because the MSM does only superficial “reporting”. There seems to be a state of angst withdrawal, lots of confusion, and no direction. As if “time goes on like nothing is important.” And lately a very interesting thing has happened – there is almost no hysteria about “the debt. I have the vague feeling that there are some few people who are actually in control of their senses and the sea change is approaching critical mass. Things will change for the better not only because everyone is fed up but probably more because our dear leaders, including the banksters, are clueless and they don’t know how to make capitalism work using the old rules. It’s gonna be interesting. Thank you NC.

    2. W

      Interesting… reminds me of how some torturers have learned that the fear of the pain can be worse than the pain itself in terms of emotional distress and breaking down ego-barriers to cooperation/submission. When the fear is worse than the feared experience, the feared experience itself is a relief.

  10. Kevin

    Our Jerri-Lynn, who mainly lives overseas, was briefly in the US last month and dropped by our NYC meetup. She commented to me that she was very eager to leave because she could sense how high the general tension level was.

    I can assure you, what she feels is very, very real.
    My wife and I travel at least once a year back to Canada , where my wife is from – the difference in tension is palpable. I feel so loose and calm when I am there.

    1. polecat

      “I feel so lose and calm when I am there.”

      Not me … I can only look at Canada from my vantage point, as I am not rich enough, nor do I have a relative to punt to, should the need arise to flee the border !

  11. Norello

    “Do you sense, as Lambert and I do, that the news tide has receded?”

    My primary news source is the print edition of the Wall Street Journal and I’ve noted to myself a similar observation recently. The first time I saw the gymnist doctor sex abuse story featured prominetly on the first page I thought it odd. When the story was featured promintely on the front page multiple times after that it felt bizzare. My reaction was wondering how can this possibly be that important compared to everything else happening in the world.

    “If so, to resort to Warren Buffett’s image, who do you think it has exposed as swimming naked?”

    My interpetation has been the news media has been exposed as swimming naked. They are unable or unwilling to spend the money required to deliver professional reporting. Since election season they have depended on reporting on Trump’s controversies to fill their pages. That is cheap and easy to do. Without that they have to spend time, money and talent to report on other complex matters.

    The quaility and quantity of the print edition of the WSJ has been a noticeable decline the last few years. Little things like a front page lead in to what was supposed to be on page B1 was instead on B4. I’ve been reading the WSJ for probably twenty years now and never seen that happen before. Twice during the presidential election they had what looked like at first a normal section of the newspaper but was actually a “paid advertisement” from China and Japan. It was blatant propaganda from their governments. It was shocking that the WSJ would take money to print foreign government’s propaganda on election matters. There have been many other observations like that which have lead me to the conclusion news reporting capabilities have been gutted more than most people realize.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Probably unable to spend the money. Subscriptions down, classified ad sales down for years now. So less money to hire journalists with.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      They might be without purpose but they appear secure. Few people I know feel secure; a lot of it is about the basic stuff, health care and jobs.

      1. Edward

        True, but can they address those concerns? The Occupy movement was such an effort, but the police seem to have stifled it. Then Sen. Sanders appeared on the scene with his Presidential campaign and that too was suppressed. If people are in fact not engaged it probably indicates an absence of what is important and meaningful for them in the larger society.

  12. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    I have had the same or at a least similar feeling of late, but for the most part considered it as me reflecting my own circumstances on the world, as well as worrying items of news particualry from Syria. A bit like an increasing tightness of breath, within the increasingly stale & pressurised air of an expanding balloon.

  13. Wukchumni

    It has been a rather dull time for news, and i’m not really feeling any angst, other than when I went to a neighbor’s dinner party surrounded by reign of error supporters that seemed to be doubling down on their choice in an assertive manner, with absolutely no prompting from me.

    I found that disturbing, the group-sink mentality, a blackjack equivalent of doubling down on a 16, with the dealer showing a face card, why?

    The LA Times got sold this week, which came with the SD Union Tribune as 2 for 1 deal for $500 million.

    The LAT had truly turned into a piece of garbage the past years, they’d get scooped on stories in their own backyard, the writing was what you’d expect from a newspaper emanating from a city of 48,424, and it would be a given that new reporter hires should go at least a page into google when investigating.

    Why would somebody pay half a billion for something that’s broken down and even if you fixed it, where is the upside?

  14. Sam Adams

    My take is we are in the period just before WW1 and the last garden parties. Everything seems warm, slightly off. The skirts are hobbling, the hats large and the military medals shiny on gold braid. The politicians are making noise, but we all know that for all the strum and bother, they will come to a resolution.
    Did you hear the Austrian heir and his wife were shot? Try the sandwiches….

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      Ummm, those sandwiches are simply MARVELOUS…I *must* get your recipe.

      My neighbors sons both joined the Uhlan Regiment, and we are organizing a party for them before they go to the academy. They look sooooo precious in their uniforms, I want to be sure we have the best in food and drink for their send off party!

      And yes, those dang Serbians. Such troublemakers. Rest assured they will be dealt with swiftly and severely.

    2. animalogic

      I guess if anyone bothers to read this comment I’ll be accused of being a smart arse. Fair enough.
      I don’t think there is much mystery here. The US has been suffering 30-40 years of systemic, institutional breakdown. Given the time scale it is unpresidented Corruption. (The closest historical parallel I can think of is that 50 odd years between the rise of Marius and the metamorphosis in Octavian).
      Systemic corruption has symptoms: most obviously in various forms of public decadance: opoid crisis, 100’s of school shootings, institutional fraud, class injustice, nationalism disconnected from morality, confusion, apathy on a grand scale, nihilism, obsession, police killing unarmed citizens (and over arching everything a strong feeling that we are destroying our planet)…fill in the rest as you see fit.
      Sorry but we, the Western world are teetering…its no surprise that confusion reigns supreme.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I still lean towards Trump as an analog of Honorius, which would make the various and sundry trump-whisperers(kelly, mattis, etc) a serial analog of Stilicho(they should watch their backs)…and Obama as a sort of Theodosius(briefly shoring up a declining empire).
        Right after the election, the Demweb was filled with folks talking about Nero and Caligula, but to me that just doesn’t track.
        Of course, the Honorius scenario would make Trump Tower a Ravenna.
        all that’s lacking is Goths and Vandals in the “Homeland” and something that rhymes with Abandoning Britannia.(perhaps Mesopotamia)

  15. Carolinian

    There’s an Ingmar Bergman film from the 1960s called Winter Light where one of the characters finds out the Red Chinese have acquired the bomb and kills himself. Surely it’s the news media who are creating the current wave of high anxiety and even tragedies like school shootings seem to be egged on by the media since most shooters are copycats.

    Which is why some of us have taken to getting our news from sites like this one. A sanity filter is needed. A sense of perspective may also be useful as in world historical terms there have been much worse periods than this. Time does heal wounds, perhaps even elites who have lost their marbles.

    1. HopeLB

      All of the warnings, predictions, knowledge, tech advances and humor of sci-fi, real science, history, and literature alike has boiled down to this? This low quality “news” that reports on the latest predictable,preventable outrage/injustice when it not intentionally turning up the hysteria/fear tuner? It’s like living in a simulation of a society ruled by the insane and hearing about its unwinding day after day.

      This rings true as well;
      “The implications for the future of the American republic were terrifying, Tesich concluded. His words are haunting to read today:

      We are rapidly becoming prototypes of a people that totalitarian monsters could only drool about in their dreams. All the dictators up to now have had to work hard at suppressing the truth. We, by our actions, are saying that this is no longer necessary, that we have acquired a spiritual mechanism that can denude truth of any significance. In a very fundamental way we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world.”

      Yeat’s captures the inexorable feel of our times perfectly;

      William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


      Turning and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      Surely some revelation is at hand;
      Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
      The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
      When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
      Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
      A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
      A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
      Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
      Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

      The darkness drops again but now I know
      That twenty centuries of stony sleep
      Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
      And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
      Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        ah, yes. this has been on my mind lately. More the best lacking all conviction and the worst full of passionate intensity than the rough beast part… He’s already ensconced in Washington and doesn’t seem to be able to do much of anything [brain glancing off the specter of all those judges].

      2. GERMO

        This is an astute post by NC and lots of great comments — little to add but I’ll see your Yeats and raise you one Gramsci:

        “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

      3. Bittercup

        Well as long as we’re talking poetry, I think Auden’s September 1, 1939 might be even more relevant today than it was back when it was written. So much so that I can’t decide which part of it to excerpt (and it’s a bit too long to just quote the whole thing!).

        Actually, no, I do know — here is the last stanza of the poem, which just happens to describe exactly the kind of thing that NC — at its best — can provide in opposition to the “waves of anger and fear […] obsessing our private lives.”

        Defenceless under the night
        Our world in stupor lies;
        Yet, dotted everywhere,
        Ironic points of light
        Flash out wherever the Just
        Exchange their messages:
        May I, composed like them
        Of Eros and of dust,
        Beleaguered by the same
        Negation and despair,
        Show an affirming flame.

  16. Jay Jay

    The DOJ Inspector General report will be out in March. After one look at a draft of the report, Randall Wray fired McCabe. And remember, the DOJIG has all of the Strzok e-mails, including the ones the FBI “inadvertently destroyed.” Hopes–and fears–are high that this report will expose all of the Russiagate corruption in complete detail. If so, even mainstream media stars won’t have a place to hide. They went all in too long ago and pushed the story way too hard.

    So to answer Yves’s questions: yes, there is deep fear that a receding tide is about to reveal a lot of naked swimmers and that yes, it will be a tsunami.

    1. John Zelnicker

      @Jay Jay
      February 16, 2018 at 8:16 am
      Umm, Randall Wray is the economics professor who is one of the developers of the MMT paradigm.

      Christopher Wray is the director of the FBI.

  17. nv

    Professor Kendall Thomas, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Culture at Columbia Law School, spoke at Goethe House New York recently. He designated Trump a ‘post-president,’ saying that the mythological status of the US presidency has been exploded (my word). An audience member asked if we were also post the nation state; Kendall replied that the questioner had answered his own question.
    Perhaps here we have the source, or one major source, of the generalized angst?
    (No video, or no video yet, however, see fuseaction=events.detail&event_id=21154521)

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      This also applies to the UK. What goodwill, mythology (“worldliness, pragmatism”) etc. that was attached by continentals to the UK has been “exploded”.

      This makes me wonder whether the US will exist in its current form. Is it desirable? Genuine questions from someone who visits annually, including “fly over”, and enjoys doing so. I don’t see the UK existing as currently constituted much beyond the next decade.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      I should have added that a friend of a friend works for the chairwoman of UK, Inc. The family, or the “firm”, as they refer to themselves, think that. It’s not difficult for the employees to pick up what is said.

      1. paul

        Now that is news I can use!

        I suppose it might have been private eye, a very changed publication from my first introduction, suggested that the offspring of the firm were far more interested in discotheques and tax free beaches than than the fealty of the field mice in their property.

        A little disinterested resignation might go a long way.


      2. paul

        NCO smithers, sorry to hijack your thread;

        But if I’m going to do it within the headline post:

        Iraq war protests:

        The one in edinburgh was glorious, people flowing in from the mound, the west est end and leith street, blocking the roads, g galloway and t sheridan doing what they do best.

        I retired and watched the news on the bbc and that is why I have hardly looked at since then.

        What your have gifted me is contributions is that nothing is rational as family business, and extra-family is hopeless romance.

        I’ll jog along (to use the contemporary parlance),

        The only weak point is the family.

  18. Weltschmerz

    1) gaslighting with news that doesn’t matter
    2) feeeling of an echo chamber and the same ol same ol
    3) unclear ways of taking action and identifying those persons who can fix the mess that those persons impmementing neoliberalism and warmongering have created

  19. camelotkidd

    Lately, I’ve detected a certain sense of malaise among my fellow citizens.

    In my opinion, it’s long been apparent that this won’t end well.
    All of these factors points to a day of reckoning that is rapidly approaching. Perhaps the prevalence of school shootings is acting as the proverbial canary in the coal mine?

    Don’t think that the elite have not noticed the way things are moving. In my own line of work I interact with the 1% on a regular basis. I can tell you that even though they are doing better that ever, there is a sense of discreet terror. It’s obvious when they discuss all the ways that they’re trying to replicating their own advantages in the education of their little darlings.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      I don’t have much contact with the 1% now, having changed jobs in mid-2016, but agree with you and get that sense from friends / former colleagues who do.

      I work in the City of London. To use the euphemism en vogue at my employer, many people will be “rolling off the platform”, ours, over the spring. It’s the same at my former employer and another firm I know well. These are middle aged and middle class professionals about to be thrown on the scrap heap.

      One can observe Thatcherites becoming Corbynites.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Colonel Smithers, I observed something similar during the Sanders campaign’s peak here in Tucson. That would be during late 2015 and early 2016. Let’s just say that people weren’t flocking to Bernie because their lives were going well.

  20. Watt4Bob

    I’m starting to think that what we are experiencing is the realization that we’ve spent way too much time expecting that explaining our selves, our diverse grievances, and our political insights would naturally result in growing an irresistible movement that would wash over, and cleanse our politics of the filth that is the status quo.

    It is sobering to realize that it took almost four decades for the original Progressive Era organizers to bring about even the possibility of change.

    I think it’s dawning on us that we’re not re-experiencing the moment before the election of Franklin Roosevelt, and the beginning of the New Deal, we’re actually just now realizing the necessity of the daunting task of organizing, which makes our times resemble 1890 more than 1935.

    Government by the people, and for the people has been drowned in the bath-tub, and the murderers have not only taken the reigns of power, but have convinced half the population that their murderous act represents a political correction that will return America to greatness.

    It remains to be seen whether we will find it in our hearts to embrace both the hard, and un-glamorous work of relieving the pain inflicted by the regime that has engulfed us, and the necessity of embracing as brothers and sisters those who haven’t yet realized that it is the rich and powerful who are the problem, and not all the other poor and oppressed.

    The difficulty of affecting political change might be explained the way Black-Smiths describe their problem;

    Life so short the craft so long to learn.

    Even if it takes half as much time to defeat the Robber Barons this go-round, many of us will not see anything resembling ‘victory‘ in our lifetimes, so we have to make adjustments in our expectations, and accept the monumental nature of the tasks ahead.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      +100 imho; though the somewhat younger (40ish) crowd I am running with doing M4A grass-roots advocacy aren’t there yet, privately I don’t share their sense of if-not-imminent then-surely-2020 victory

      What is Naomi Klein’s latest take I wonder, haven’t seen anything recent…

      1. Watt4Bob

        We’re in much the same position with many members of ‘our‘ side, as we are with many of Trump’s supporters, they have yet to understand how badly they have been served by those they support and believe in.

        I’m sad to say I’m more disappointed in the diehard Clinton faction than I am in Trump’s working class followers, who I believe will come to their senses so to speak, sooner and more cleanly than those who still aspire to join, or stay in the credentialed class.

        It is particularly troubling to see how easily the Democratic mis-leadership class has led our country into the 24/7/365 anti Russia hysteria, a truly worthless and destructive preoccupation.

        1. Kokuanani

          Boy, I really agree with you regarding the members of “our side.” I have a daughter in her early 30’s who — together with ALL of her friends — clings to the “Hillary was mistreated” belief. Ditto for all too many of my 60s+ friends: they just can’t admit “Hillary was a bad candidate” and thus [I think] are susceptible to the Evil Evil Russians scare. Discussions with all of them are closed to possibilities and focused on moaning.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Two propositions:

            1) Hillary was mistreated

            2) Hillary was a bad candidate who ran a terrible campaign.

            These propositions are not mutually exclusive. (I think the logic your daughter and her friends are using is something along the lines that “victims deserve better treatment,” which in Hillary’s case would amount to winning. Seems a strange way to pick a President, and radically out of joint with Clinton’s real status in life.

        2. ChiGal in Carolina

          Just to clarify, these are Bernie folks I’m talking about, with no love of corporate Dems/Hillary, but I fear they don’t realize how very real the threat is that the energy of the base will be coopted by the leadership.

    2. Eureka Springs

      “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

      A nice excerpt from the non-binding Gettysburg address. Too bad he was referring to a system of governance which never existed.

      In a conversation with several friends yesterday.. all of us found among our greatest despairs the behavior of our long time friends who are Democrats. Much more pig-headed and determined to stay that way than Republicans ever were during the Bush Jr. years. Pretending we live in some sort of system (much less a party) which could or would possibly represent. Seemingly incapable of listening, blinded by delusion and propaganda… demanding anyone in their presence double down on what’s failed so many of us for far longer than we have lived.

      All of us men in our fifties. Hard working. None of us had kids of our own, but several are in relationships with women who did. None of us have anything close to high living standards. Barely getting by now with great uncertainty ahead. Hell, we all own our homes outright, drive ten to twenty year old cars, buy most clothes second hand, grow much of our own food, cut our own firewood, several live off the grid entirely. Only one has access to health care and that’s because he’s on disability due to spinal injury on the job and an inherited heart condition. He’s also the only one who might be able to get by in ‘retirement’ years on what he will receive. Every one of the rest of us realized if we lose our current jobs we would be hard pressed to replace them at half the income we have now.

      I went to orientation for jury duty this week. Out of a hundred and fifty people I was the only man wearing a button down shirt and a sport coat. The only man who removed his hat in the courtroom. And I felt like a freak. It was all I could do to not ask the judge about jury nullification. The only reason I held back is because I knew every citizen in the joint just wanted out of there.

      I think delegitimization is upon us. General malaise is nearly to the point of a general strike. The house of cards is in a slow motion but certain wind storm. Those thousand dollar checks at Wal-Mart payday will vanish overnight while the wealthy reap tax benefits for years on end. We are down to the twenty seven percent (Dems) waging false battles with the twenty six percent (Reps). Only the 47 percent rest of us will grow in numbers from here on out.

      1. Watt4Bob

        Only the 47 percent rest of us will grow in numbers from here on out.

        So there is our hope.

        Personally, I suspect that Trump’s working-class supporters will join us sooner than the deluded, diehard Clintonista faction of the democratic base.

        And let’s hope the false battles don’t turn into real battles. It’s obvious there are some who would love to have us throwing rocks at each other, or worse.

      2. juliania

        Yes, indeed, you have it. Delegitimization is the appropriate word. My thought on seeing the headline that 17 died in the Florida school shooting was how many months to go before the school year ends. I won’t read anything about the shooter, or the deaths, or the bravery and self sacrifice. There have been too many; there will be far too many more.

        It is an end-of-Vietnam moment. It is a moment for poems such as the above mentioned, and for me T.S.Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’.

  21. Petter

    Book: The Administration of Fear – Paul Virilio
    From the back cover:
    We are facing the emergence of a real, collective madness reinforced by the synchronization of emotions: the sudden globalization of affects in real time that hits all of humanity at the same time, and in the name of Progress. Emergency exit: we have entered a time of general panic.

  22. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you to Yves and the NC community.

    Perhaps because I live in the UK, I echo particularly what Clive, Windsock and Plutonium Kun say.

    Having spent much of the winter in Belgium, Mauritius, Spain and France, so none Anglo-Saxon, it was a relief to get away from the UK in the same way as JLS felt. Although these countries have their issues, I did notice their MSM appear not as venal as the UK and US MSM and seem more focused on local bread and butter. Brexit and Trump were mentioned very briefly, the latter nothing as hysterical and diversionary as in the UK and US. There were little identity politics on parade. Locals don’t seem as worn out, in all respects, as one observes in Blighty.

    With regard to PK’s reference about Pearl Harbour, I know some well informed remainers who want a hard Brexit just for the relief that it will bring. Others, not necessarily remainers, have no idea what’s going on and think Trump is a bigger threat. I must confess to, often, sharing what the former think, if only to bring the neo-liberal house down once and for all.

    All this makes me think whether anglo-saxon countries are in a class of their own and how, after Brexit, the EU27 will evolve, shorn of the UK. This is not to say that the UK (the neo-liberal bit) is the only rotten apple in the EU.

    If it was not for this site and community, I know of no other place where I would get a better source of news, insight and sanity. I know a dozen journalists, mainly in London, well and echo what Norello said.

    1. Quentin

      The Anglo-American countries can not be anything but in a class of their own. They include the mother country with former colonies, some especially successful, and rule the world by virtue of language, wealth and, often necessarily, violence, almost always gratuitous. Violence has an effect on peoples lives at both the giving and receiving ends. What was this school shooting? The 13th or something since the beginning of the year. War. Nuclear war. A fear of war is the undertone which has been droning (!) on long before Donald Trump took power. Image you are in Baghdad on the glorious, glittering night of Shock and Awe to get a feel for things. That happened when the US was supposedly great.

  23. Norb

    The news tide has receded because by blurring the line between news/information and entertainment, for most people, it looses all relevance in conducting daily life. People are tuned out and apathetic. Those watching the MSM closely are either entirely satisfied with society as is, brainwashed, social voyeurs titilated by the access to human suffering in ever expanding forms, or for professional interest. The weird atmosphere is that people realize how precarious their social positions have become, but are offered no outlet to relieve the growing anxiety. There is no leadership attempting to address these grievances, and when movements do surface, the same set of characters jump to the forefront and successfully diffuse the energy building for something different.
    There is no accountability.

    The MSM is ubiquitous in its constant drone of irrelevance. Just as the constant flashing of advertising becomes harder and harder to see, it just stops carrying any useful information regardless of what is being said or shown.

    My sense for years has been the thought, “what will it take to break the malaise”. Society has gone from the Deep Water Horizon disaster, Fukushima meltdown, endless small wars, and growing ecological disasters. Not to mention growing economic inequality with no end in sight. The response is indifference and obfuscation.

    Democracy requires civic action, but without proper leadership, Democracy is impossible. Democracy requires institutions that citizens can participate in, and the current crop of leaders undermines that participation at every turn.

    So what is left is that everyone conducts their lives on autopilot- until forced to act otherwise. It is a weird atmosphere where the general consensus is one of quiet despair, but easier to pretend that all is well.

    1. LizinOregon

      Is pretending all is well a rational defense against the overwhelming feeling that there is nothing an individual can do to deflect the trajectory we are on? And the emotional energy it takes to keep up that pretense is exhausting.

  24. Pat

    I will note that years after I stopped biting my nails I have started again. And this time it is worse. I never endangered the quick, but am now so anxious…And I have eliminated most traditional sources of news from my life.

    I am powerless. A seismic event that should have caused at least a small path change has not. Instead the road is even more closed to alteration, the real news is the same or worse. And the bread and circuses is not considered necessary because nothing really changed. The shootings, the growing early deaths of the populace, and so on are normal. I do not know if the slow boil of the frogs/populace will only end with their total collapse and that we have merely turned up the heat to speed things up. Or if another seismic event that is more violent and revolutionary is going to happen as the restricted road is overrun by those supposed to die quickly and quietly. A Russian and French Revolution level up rising where our current system is bludgeoned to death.

    I try to ignore that sense, that prediction. But as my admission makes clear I cannot. We are cursed to live in interesting times.

  25. Steve

    I think for myself and others that the complete hopelessness of our situation is starting to take more of a toll. The amount of personal and social capital used to finally get some sanity back in government after Bush and the disastrous wasted opportunity of Obama that led to Trump is overwhelming. The complete loss of fairness is everywhere and my pet one this week is how Experian after losing over 200 million personal financial records is now advertising during the Olympics as the personal security service experts instead of being prosecuted out of business.

  26. DJG

    Yesterday was peculiar, Yves Smith. You should have sent me an e-mail! My colleagues were having meltdowns (overtired, I think). My computers were glitchy. The WWW seemed to switch on and off all day long. I am of a mind that it has to due with the false spring: We had a thaw in Chicago.

    Like Lambert, and I won’t speak for Lambert, who can speak for himself, I am guardedly optimistic: I have attended Our Revolution meetings here in Chicago as well as community meetings. There are many hardworking and savvy people out there. Yet I also believe that we are seeing the collapse of the old order without knowing what will arise anew. And as always, I am not one who believes that we should advocate more suffering so that people “learn their lesson.” There is already too much suffering in the world–witness the endless U.S. sponsored wars in the Middle East. (The great un-covered story of our time: The horrors of the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi sponsored massacres from Algeria to Pakistan.)

    I tend to think that the Anglo-American world is having a well-deserved nervous breakdown.

    I note on my FB page that a “regular Democrat” is calling for war by invoking Orwell. When someone has reached that point of rottenness, not even knowing that Orwell was almost by nature anti-war, the rot can only continue its collapse.

    So I offer Antonio Gramsci, who in spite of everything, used to write witty letters from prison. >>

    My state of mind brings together these two sentiments and surpasses them: I am pessimistic because of intelligence, but a willed optimist. I think, in every circumstance, of the worst scenario so I can marshal all of my reserves of will and be ready to overcome the obstacle. I never allow myself illusions, and I have never had disappointments. I am always specially armed with endless patience, not passive or inert, but patience animated by perseverance.
    –Antonio Gramsci, letter to his brother Gennaro, December 1929. Translation DJG.

    Every collapse brings intellectual and moral disorder in its wake. So we must foster people who are sober, have patience, who do not despair when faced with the worst horrors yet who do not become elated over every stupid misstep. Intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists.
    –Antonio Gramsci, first Prison Notebook, 1929-1930. Translation DJG.

    So: Commenting groundlings and comrades, we must be alert, somewhat severe in our judgments of people and of the news, and yet open to a revolution that includes bread and roses.

    1. Eclair

      Nice find, DJG: “Our intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists.”

      Too big for a bumper sticker …. but good for a bedside table or the bathroom mirror. To remind us that, for the realists, being optimistic takes an effort of will, a determined reach every single morning to find just one small thing that will keep us going for that day and give us hope for the future. It could be a rosy sunrise, or the imminent arrival of a grandchild, or a packet of seeds ready to be sown. Or meeting a good friend for coffee, or mastering a new dance step or a difficult passage on the fiddle.

      Not denial of the world’s shameful faults and of our increasingly precarious position within it, but a refusal to allow them to grind us down completely.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      Intelligence makes us pessimists, and our will makes us optimists.

      My favorite quote. What else is there?

      And if you want to know who the enemy is, it is all those whose cure for what ails us is either “Just going on living your life (i.e. shopping)” or “just vote”. I view the current period of disquiet and all of us wondering what we can and should do, and who will be alongside us, or opposed to us, when we do.

    3. Lambert Strether

      > Pessimism of the the intellect, optimism of the will

      I think — call me Pollyanna if you wish — that optimism of the intellect is warranted as well. My only concern is that collapse will come (or be induced) when “the good guys,”* let us say, are still to weak to take advantage of the moment. That’s why I keep saying that gridlock is our friend.

      * Who in the nature of the case have been unaccustomed to wielding real power.

      1. Eclair

        I have been fortunate, in the past decade, to have ‘hung out’ with lots of 20-somethings (and a few older beings) who have been passionately optimistic about what they can accomplish against the forces of darkness. From the environmentalists who are fighting the corporations who would build pipelines and LNG terminals to activists building tiny houses for the homeless and working with the city to find land to place them on, and those who happily get arrested for sleeping under a blanket, in protest against ‘urban camping’ bans, to a woman who for the last five years has served Friday night meals for all, on sidewalks in front of businesses supporting the urban camping ban.

        And, I have been constantly in awe of those who, in the face of centuries of being relocated, dispossessed, despised and massacred, will not give up on protecting their lands and their way of life. These Lakota and Kiowa and Dineh people are truly optimistic that they will prevail. Or, perhaps fatalistic is a better description; hey know they may die trying.

  27. Dean

    The firehose of information (shit?) being sprayed at me during my waking hours by the industrial-information complex was chipping away at my soul one clickbait headline at a time, one junk email at a time, one advertisement at a time. So I made a choice and l ‘opted out’ as best I could. I have only 3 news bookmarks (NC on of them). I dropped all social media in the summer of ‘16. I’ve been cable free for nearly two years.

    My overall mood has improved greatly over this time. I am not feeling the angst but I see the effect the 24×7 bombardment is having on people close to me.

    I am beginning to wonder if this constant bombardment is someone’s grand design to wear us down, divide us, and keep us in a permanent state of fear and paralysis.

    1. Loneprotester

      Brilliant! I felt a similar Lightness of Being after giving up Facebook a few months ago. But this has been undermined by recently taking up Twitter. Twitter is like having a stranger run up to you every few minutes shouting the same piece of nonsense in your face. Then someone else shouts the exact opposite. And so on and so on.

    2. Kokuanani

      I share your sense of “bombardment,” and for me it’s an on-going fight with my husband who wants to watch MSNBC, CNN, etc. We have a very small house, so it’s almost impossible for me to get away from the audio, and it’s winter, so going outside to escape is more challenging.

      I find the yelling of Rachel Maddow et al. actually like a physical assault on my senses. I say to my husband, “you know things in the world are crap. Do you need to have that fact repeated to you again and again? And don’t you feel that this assault wears you down and makes you less able to take positive action? That’s its effect on me.”

      [I wear my noise-cancelling earphones a lot.]

      1. Eclair

        Gosh, Kokuanani, I am in much the same situation. My recently-retired husband turns the TV on first thing in the morning and almost never shuts it down until bedtime. We have downsized to a small condo, which fortunately has a small second bedroom/sitting room, so I can escape for a time.

        He watches CNN and the local news stations … a lot … and, as I stroll through the living room or work in the adjacent kitchen, I am assaulted with the tension-laden voices of the news anchors, pushing the latest disaster. I was almost grateful for the school shooting, since it did make a change from the incessant prattling about l’affaire Porter.

        What I find most horrifying are the daytime TV shows that feature white male authority figures telling hapless people who have supposedly screwed up their lives and relationships, exactly where they have gone wrong and what they need to do to straighten themselves out. The audience, or should it be the ‘mob,’ acts as a chorus, egging on the participants.

        I now realize how insulated from the ‘real world’ I have been for decades.

        It is interesting that you feel the verbal yelling as as an almost physical assault. I feel the same about constant background noise; it hurts. My spouse, on the other hand, seems to need the stimulation of the verbal stream. (Might have something to do with his dyslexia).

        1. RMO

          I frequently like to have the television on – often as background while I do other things. I do have cable (as part of an integrated telephone/internet/television package) and when I have broadcast television playing, as opposed to DVD’s etc., I find I gravitate to old comedy reruns. I’ve rewatched the entirety of the Mary Tyler Moore show multiple times this winter along with many other 50’s through early 80’s television. The only breakthrough from the hurricane of angst whirling through the U.S. media has been the commercials. The ads are often made up of 50% promotion of a new pharmaceutical or medical product and 50% an invitation to join a class action suit against the makers of a slightly older pharmaceutical or medical product. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

        2. Kokuanani

          Eclair, my husband too is very recently retired. I think he both can’t figure out what to do with himself and finds the tv “babble” comforting or a source of companionship. In addition to CNN and MSNBC, he will watch all sorts of old crap movies.

          “Tension-laden voices” describes the current news perfectly!!!

          But boy, I do find this noise a physical assault. My sympathies to you.

      2. Lambert Strether

        I visit friends who watch CNN all the time fairly regularly (and as readers know, I don’t have a TV at all, so it’s quite an experience for me).

        Whatever’s going on at CNN, it’s clearly not news in any sense that I understand. It’s demented, crazy-making.

      3. Chris

        Kokuanani, have you considered giving him the noise cancelling headphones for his TV listening?

        If not your current pair, then an affordable Bluetooth sender/ receiver setup that will leave most of the house in blissful silence.

    3. oh

      I too have cut off anything from the MSM. I read NC, Counterpunch, and Truthout. I stay away from radio noose too. I feel no anxiety about anything, especially when I know that the media is full of propaganda and the two major parties are both really bad.

  28. John

    The wheels keep turning in place with no movement forward, backward, or in a circle. Case in point: Yet one more mass shooting in a school. Yet one more disturbed, angry, and/or obsessed personal with a semi-automatic weapon. Shock, horror, thoughts, prayers; we need ‘sensible’ gun controls; it’s not the time to talk about guns, etc., etc. Same script every time and it fades away until the next time. Does no one notice?

    What can I add to what has already been said? I am sick to death of slippery empty words and sly tactics and thievery. I want to say to hell with it all, but I cannot not care.

  29. Craig H.

    The reason most news is dull is that most of it is fake. I was watching an old interview that Kerry Cassidy did with Jim Marrs the other day and he was riveting. A lot of people classify Marrs as a conspiracy nut but he described himself as a journalist. One of the most memorable things he said (this is not an exact quote) is that he still tried to do journalism, but we really don’t have journals any more. They are more like advertising circulars and the stories are almost all government or corporate public relations pieces. There are plenty of stories to write. The pieces you guys run on Uber and Calpers are rare and not dull. It is obvious when a competent journalist has taken the time to do research and investigate and double-check things and think about what they are doing.

    The manipulated dope the government releases on the latest shooting is not news. It is propaganda. It isn’t worth reading.

  30. Martin Finnucane

    Illness? At least in my part of the country, we are having a particularly bad flu season, with plenty of norovirus infection, viral and bacterial pneumonia, and the usual wintertime ear infections, bronchitis, etc. When you are a single parent, and when two of three of your children come down with two or more of the above, and when your go-to daytime sitter gets pneumonia and self-quarantines, and when your boss starts leering at you in response to your frequent emergency absences related to child care, and when you are having a slow month in terms of output and revenues anyway — that is when one starts feeling a bit ragged at the edges. That is when a little tickle at the back of the throat becomes emotionally overwhelming.

    So, is it illness? Illness plus? I can only speak from my own experience.

  31. R

    As a New Zealander living in the USA for around 7 years now (but routinely spending Christmas months back in NZ, and often multi month stints remote working in Europe) the ‘tension’ just living in the USA – NYC / LA is through the roof.

    I can remember being in Vienna some time after trump won, a few days shy of returning to the US and wondering what the hell I was thinking – and that’s related to people / media’s reaction to trump just as much as trump being in charge.

    It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is – partly just the ‘big metropolis’ thing.. but there’s also something else nasty in the air.

    Similar (but amplified) feeling at work last week at the office as one quarter of the company were sacked on a days notice – a downsizing at a start up that supposedly has ‘great culture’.

    It’s that nasty squeeze of fast capitalism I believe that has a grip on everyone’s psyche – elevated fear levels, etc.

    Re-read Ames’ ‘going postal’ a few weeks back, which covers brilliantly the vicious cultural turn under Reagan.

    Ps – Naked Capitalism has become my ‘News refuge’ having dropped off social media entirely, and wanting to avoid the general insanity of the news cycle but not disengage, thank you!

  32. tegnost

    It’s not so much the presence of angst that I see, among my working brethren we’re pretty numb to the current hopeless future and tend to focus instead on the present for efficiencies sake, for if one thinks too much about the hopeless future it’s hard to get up and get going on fighting back the tide and muddling through the hopeless present that will be more hopeless if you don’t do anything. (as an aside my opinion is that this psychology has much to do with the current homeless crisis…it takes confidence to try and those who can delude themselves into doing so seem to be a little better off) But now the angst is in the the 10%er’s in my acquaintance, who claim to be really worried about nuclear war. Not surprisingly they’re mostly informed by npr, which as far as I can see makes people really stupid. The trump as crazy fascist narrative has them in it’s clutches so much so that his weekend I had to give the “don’t be too pessimistic b/c if the world doesn’t end you will be unprepared for it, and if it ends who cares?” speech normally reserved for youngsters who see no point in trying due to end of the world thinking (as anecdote since when I was in college in the early ’80’s I was pretty certain there would be a nuclear war and made different choices than the best ones,, anyone remember the star wars missile defense system?). That said I think the “we’re all gonna die” theme is just more bs sour grapes and more proof that the residence of hopelessness is actually the democrat partisans who refuse to live in the present, so denial is where they are at. But isn’t that the thing about angst, it doesn’t have to be real to effect one’s life negatively, and I’m hearing it from people who I think should know better, but I read nc daily and live out in the woods (highly recommended, almost as good as being in another country as the rural areas of the US are actually another country) and npr was so unhinged this weekend that I felt that even the reporters were having a hard time mustering the outrage. As Hope said commenting on the uber series…
    “What a pleasure it is to read a genuine (and all too rare) piece of financial analysis.”
    I couldn’t agree more, and I might send it on to a 10%er, but they seem kind of fragile lately and I don’t know if they could handle “uber is a failing enterprise”, they might not get out of bed…

  33. Travis Bickle

    Don’t know if I’m any more sensitive than you guys, and I’m certainly not that good at articulating what’s going in with something this subtle.

    I will say that when the dogs stop barking its time to start getting REALLY worried. What we may now be hearing, or not hearing, may be a sign of fatigue, but more depressingly, impending resignation. EVERY day for the past year there’s been yet another affront, and the opposition has been ineffective in any meaningful sense. Trump has apparently learned that the way to parry any thrust is to counter with something even more outrageous, literally in a matter of minutes. The initiative he is thus able to maintain is scary, and something I see no way to surmount.

    But Trump is not the problem here, only the Front Man for something larger. Even during the early oughts one could perceive a fundamental societal drift, empowered by a ‘conservative’ (read: fascist) willingness to do whatever was necessary in pursuit of their particular vision. It is not a vision of returning disempowered white folks to some rosy past that never existed; I sense a more feudal vision, with princes and lords in gated communities, with peasants conned into doing their bidding, every day being fleeced even further.

    Hence, having the means, though by no means being rich, I began my move off-shore over ten years ago. I now have 3 passports and permanent residency on as many continents. What Jerri-Lynn senses is very, very real, as I learned in the US over Xmas past in a series of vignettes I’ll spare anyone reading this. I was sharing my experiences there to a local student recently (here in South America) who had once lived in the US and who continues to be enamored of the now frayed, and largely repudiated, American Dream. As I explained to him, it’s not a pretty picture, and hardly one to succumb to.

    My sense is that the media has succeeded in instilling into the North American zeitgeist a sense of the US being At War against the rest of the world, not unlike that of the mentality of Israel, which has a far more real situation to contend with. The tragedy, in the case of the US, is that it really, really does not have to be like this. This is a hole we have begun digging ourselves into only recently, as opposed to Israel, which at this point can hardly see the light of day.

    At some point this mentality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and while the US could easily turn itself around, the momentum is strong and decidedly in the other direction. The vision of the fascists and the imperatives of the media pretty much guarantee the US, and by extension the world, is on a collision course with negative time and space.

        1. Travis Bickle

          In the parlance of this website, that would imply a simple market correction. That’s quite a bit less than what one historically observes when things get so far out of balance.

          The world today is much more of a closed system and more amenable to management by a few, thanks to technology. That may only mean that it can sustain more pressure than in the past before things implode, or explode. We are already at the point, clearly, where the center is no longer holding. But precisely what that means for the future, at this point in time, is anyone’s guess.

          I agree with you guys, based on historical observation. But, I think we are veering into uncharted territory. Mankind’s ability to commit global suicide is what is new, whether it be from some well-meaning idiot pushing the nuclear button or the massive release of methane which might be far worse than the fallout from an attack on NK.

          Previously the world was able to absorb the mistakes, making sufficient corrections through revolution and somehow muddle its way forward. Catastrophic societal implosions were limited, such as with the Mayans, with the people resetting to flatter, more basic structures. As the man said, getting back to the garden.

          No longer. It really is one big interconnected world economy and society. Individual cultures could and would certainly survive a reset were it only a matter of having reached some sociogical critical mass.

          But, my sense is that our collective fate, and not a mere correction,is now bearimg down on us hard and fast.

  34. Andrew Watts

    I’m probably the last person able to comment on this topic having spent the last three months ignoring the news and not even reading Naked Capitalism daily. I was never bothered by the big stories like the drama over North Korea which I thought of as nothing more than a psy-op incidentally aimed at the American populace. Nor did I find Liberal Hezbollah (The Resistance) or #Metoo to be anything more than a joke. I kinda suspected that American culture would be plagued by another round of hysterical superstition driven by Calvinist social-jihadism.

    If there seems to be a lack of consequential events it’s because history doesn’t move as swiftly as we might want. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t moving towards more worldview shattering events which will challenge the ability of our body politic to react to them. The United States continues to collapse driven by external and internal factors. The lack of clarity and unity of action will eventually usher in the end of the empire aboard. The inability of our ruling class to respond to Trump’s election in such a manner which would constructively restore faith in our institutions will only accelerate the process at home. There isn’t a lack of stories which serve as a useful guide through history. The story about American troops being ambushed and dying in Niger was significant.

    A few years before the Islamic State steamrolled through Iraq and Syria it was mostly unnoticed that the French were contending with rebels marauding through their African protection racket in Mali and the Central African Republic. The fact that the US is having to prop up the French and that the chaos has been migrating southward is significant especially given the economic factors at stake. Another story I found interesting was a recent DW article about the woeful state of readiness of the German military given it is assuming leadership of a prominent position in NATO. It notably reveals that in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and euro crisis the Germans, but probably the European countries as a whole, have been strip-mining their military budgets which is something that America did during the Great Depression. I’m sure there is even more stories out there that are little pieces of a much larger puzzle but to be honest I’ve mostly spent my downtime playing video games.

    Don’t judge me.

      1. Andrew Watts

        True enough. It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Obama was calling for NATO nations to increase their military spending ’til they reach 2% of their GDP. The Germans wouldn’t theoretically have any trouble meeting under normal circumstances. It’s also a far cry from what Germany spent on the eve of both World Wars.

      2. LizinOregon

        Last night on BBC’s News Hour Extra I heard an hour long discussion about a new initiative to raise an EU Army that was presented as a reaction to Brexit and Trump’s negative comments about NATO. They were talking about a proposal coming out of Brussels but I kept hearing Macron’s voice in my head.

  35. RenoDino

    The opening ceremony of the Olympics was a cry for peace. I felt so sad watching it because the region and the world are about to engulfed in the exact opposite. The somber mood here is the realization that what is about to happen renders everything else meaningless. The calm before the storm is a deep sense of despair that nothing can prevent it.

    1. jerry

      “The calm before the storm is a deep sense of despair that nothing can prevent it.”

      Beautifully put.. I think that about sums it up. Everyone feels it coming, the shooting two days ago 2nd deadliest ever or what have you barely even registers as an event these days. There is a profound lack of love and peace in the human world, and I’m not sure exactly what kind of event would change this, given our history.

      Strange times.

  36. John

    Our poets and artists best explain what is going on. I have been thinking a lot about Auden’s “low, dishonest decade” recently. And of course his telling of what every schoolchild knows. That poem, September 1, 1939, has a lot to say about our present circumstance.

    1. Annotherone

      They do, and it doesn’t matter how many decades divide us from them. Carl Sandburg’s “The People, Yes” can be opened at any page and there’s something still relevant today right there. I’ve just pulled out my own battered volume, opened it at random and found :

      “The mask of “What do I care?” to cover “What else can I do”.

      That’s how I’m feeling, most days.

  37. Widowson

    I am President of a Unitarian Universalist congregation in the U.S. that recently voted to become a Level I Sanctury Congregation, offering sanctuary to immigrants who are at risk of deportation prior to the completion of their legal process. Preparing for Sanctuary has almost taken on a Religious Crusade-level of intensity as members of the committee leading the effort ready our church for a semi-permanent sanctuary-seeking resident that may never come. This comes in the wake of all the Liberal angst resulting from the Trump election and, too often, the most outspoken members of our leadership and congregation parrot the messaging and talking points coming down on high from the DNC. Basically everything and anything anti-Republican & anti-Trump that gets published on Facebook gets re-posted on our church Facebook page. Everything seems to be moving too fast– the social justice warriors are convinced that this is a matter of life and death and our standard processes need not apply– and thoughtful, Progressive leadership seems nowhere to be found. I see our progressive congregation cracking up, and I fear it’s a harbinger of things to come.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I got a whiff of this in NYC but many years ago. I went to the Unitarian Universalists church around the corner after 9/11. It turns out one of the ushers was one of the very few ex clients I had had to threaten to sue and I got a big settlement because their position was so indefensible, so that was a bad sign and meant the dim idea I had harbored for many years of getting involved there was not going to happen. The pastor gave a warmongering sermon, invoking Bush’s speech at the National Cathedral. It was deeply distressing.

      1. Widowson

        I have found it profoundly disheartening to realize that the window of acceptable public discourse has so moved to the Center-Right that even the Unitarian Universalists are becoming reactionary and not progressive enough for me! Our non-denominational, non-creedal faith should be a beacon to many but Liberal intersectionality is driving many of our members away, I fear. I keep wanting to scream out, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

    2. kareninca

      “Basically everything and anything anti-Republican & anti-Trump that gets published on Facebook gets re-posted on our church Facebook page.”

      Hmmm. Are you losing parishioners as a result? Or gaining them? It doesn’t seem to me like what people would be looking for in a faith community – an overload of politics – but what do I know.

      Oh, I see that you’ve already sort of answered that question.

  38. CalypsoFacto

    Fascinating to read others’ experiences, and thank you to our host for posting this. I too have noticed this and feel there are multiple contributing threads:

    – Overwhelming generationally-led cultural sea change (millennials slowly eclipsing boomers+). Those in power for more than15 years have maybe one more electoral cycle to make their mark. Meanwhile their views/policy/ideology is all from pre-9/11/endless war social constructs. The millennials don’t have that experience of the world and their views/policy/ideology reflects that. What gives me so much hope about this trend is that it seems to be part of human nature to rebel against your parents way of thinking, and millennials (confession: I am an old one) seem to have a strong strain of kindness, cooperation, and socialist tendencies.

    – No driver at the wheel, and different personalities are responding accordingly. I think a lot of people are still numb or deranged over Trump and haven’t recognized that there is no great leader coming to save us. Some people have recognize that and are freaking out in various ways about the work to be done in the face of various ongoing slow crises and checking out in terror. Others are trying to be prudent and pragmatic (save money, low key research expatriation) while holding their breath and waiting for the situation to change. I see this bleeding over into the real world in other places, like the very large corporation I work at, and the incredible disorganization and lack of initiative in the workers because of lack of clarity of goal/purpose being provided by their managers and execs. I feel like there is a lot of quiet downsizing/desperate rush for profits before various financial calendar deadlines in a lot of different fields, and this is approximately midway through first quarter. (management knows what the stakes are and that it will be a bad summer if things don’t change asap, but how??!??!)

    – Interesting that someone mentioned illness – my mother has the flu for the second time this year, and more than 3/4 of her workplace has been out of the office because of the flu since the new year.

    Finally… I know discuss Snow Crash here a lot, but have we talked about the sequel, The Diamond Age? Not as good as SC, however it’s set +70 yearsish after the events of SC and the main social setup post-US collapse is the definition of person rights as defined by the cultural group and social class of the individual. I am no fan of Neo-Victorianism as either a social or aesthetic construct, but excellent blog Zero Anthropology made a compelling case that Anglo America was defined by Victorian culture before the 2016 election:

    One argument I think we can make is that when two culturally similar and temporally proximate empires decline, they decline in a roughly similar cultural fashion. I would suggest seeing both the British and US empires as two basically Anglo-Saxon entities, with shared moral codes, shared ideologies, shared language and a shared literature, mutual training of elites, shared population, and so forth. More than that, both experienced similar cultural and ideological trends, in a period of growing global competition and increased overextension, with social strife at home. Just as the Victorian period preceded the withdrawal of the UK from its colonial empire, I am suggesting that the New Victorianism in the US may be one of the signs of the impending withdrawal of the US from its neocolonial empire—in other words, we may be nearing the end of the “New Imperialism”.

    Not sure I agree with the author’s thesis on all aspects of this Neo Victorian Age, but the whole series (linked at the bottom of link above) is worth reading.

    1. polecat

      Humm… maybe a neo-victorian age with ‘steampuck tendencies’, living lighter on this planet, adopting the best aspects of the Victorians, while discarding the worst aspirations of the Dispensationalists ..

      1. CalypsoFacto

        The ‘vickies’ (pejorative for the neo-victorians in the book) are not really living lighter, they’ve managed to get to nanotech while maintaining all the worst social aspects of the 21st century: ecological collapse (resource wars are a background concern to the vickies, a real issue for the lower classes), profound social stratification, excessive emphasis on identity, and colonialism. The world is post-nation states; there are multiple overlapping cultural communities living together geographically but their rights are defined by what culture/identity group they are a member of. Not an illustrious vicky? There are a near-infinite options available depending on whatever identity construct you like, complete with various rights and protections (or not) and requirements to join. The Boers are there, but so are the Ashanti.

  39. beth

    “News Watch: A Reading on Collective Angst”

    I leave for other worlds when I read NC. I don’t want to sound above it all, but I have always worked in other worlds since the focus in my work environments has been mostly petty and manipulative. That allows me to be creative. I retired in 2011 and by late 2012 I found NC which has been fantastic in focusing me on what can be done w/out joining in with the hysteria all around me. Except for one person in my life who was for Bernie fan until the election when she switched to Hillary, When she switched to Hillary she increasingly became distant. I didn’t initially attribute it to that. In fact I only discovered that by writing this. Writers will understand.

    Suddenly on October 28, (three days before I went for major surgery) she exploded on me. She screamed at me for an injustice that I had done to her. I stayed calm because I did not understand what I had done wrong. It enraged her that I was calm and asking questions. Even tho she is single. she makes more than the income or over 70% of the people who live here, and was angry at my having an income of less than and talking about how I stretch it. She was raising her rates for the 5th time since I retired..

    In the beginning of her doing my hair she related to me since she was recently divorced and her income had dropped drastically. As she told me she had spent her days shopping. I cannot relate but could empathize in her difficulty in adjusting to a reduced income. That started our conversations about how to handle the transition. Since Hillary she has lost that ability to relate.

    Since the fall election, she had become more and more distance. And now I learn she was channeling all her anger at me. As she screamed at me, my calmness, further angered her so she opened her door and screamed even louder.

    As someone who is around mostly wealthy people and, now that I am retired, around mostly Ds, I am getting the same as I got from Rs. Look lady, you are weird..

    I want to be around sane people, who don’t take out their hostility on others. At the age of 73, I can’t find them here. For the last six years I have been in excruciating pain. My goal was to act as normal as possible and when I couldn’t. to stay home.

    Since just before Xmas, I have been pain free. Now I feel good. This blog allows me to be simpatico with all of you. Socially I need that. I was weird in that I was in so much pain my thinking was not always clear.

    Thank you to Yves and Lambert and JLS. I needed the confirmation.. I thank all of you for keeping me calm and sane. I celebrate every day. Now I can start to deal with the piranhas who are trying to take my condo away from me even though I have no debt.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I’ve been running into people like that too. If I may venture a guess as to what’s going on, here it is:

        Too much emotion and not enough thinking.

        I attribute this to the rise of pop psychology and mass-market self help books during the 1960s and 1970s. These trends led to an emphasis on getting in touch with feelings and an erosion in thinking skills, most notably, analysis and synthesis, and an understanding of how to use the scientific method on a personal basis.

        1. CalypsoFacto

          the tendency to excessive rage when identity is questioned is a feature of narcissism. excessive, misplaced, out of proportion rage (at being denied what was expected, at being wrong, at being seen as incompetent, whatever conflicts with the rager’s identity) is what this sounds like to me. which is I guess another form of not thinking enough, unfortunately narcissism isn’t curable.

          in fact so much of this thread makes me feel like we’re all suffering a bit as grey rocks in a narcissistic abuse scenario. the narcissism is at the individual level and at the societal level; we’re all just trying to keep our heads down and avoid the maelstrom, which keeps increasing in intensity to get our attention back.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        My guess is that she wanted beth to validate her in some way or ways, probably among other things bog standard Dem views, and she wasn’t doing this.

        I had a more obvious version of this happen. I had a terrific lawyer for maybe 10 years. She and I got to be good buddies, to the degree that she’d speak to me 3-4 days a week on her commute home. But it became hard for me because I was in a period of no work and under a lot of financial stress, while she was overworked and super stressed about that, and worrying about which model of new Jaguar to buy and her renovation of her house before her son’s bar mitzvah. So I would listen but I would find her daily talks increasingly draining.

        She would sometimes bring up Iran. I have never been on board with the US position on Iran, particularly in light of the fact that Iran tried to normalize relations with the US post 9/11 (gave lots of helpful intel) to the degree that Stratfor wrote several times about “the coming US/Iran alliance”. The “axis of evil” speech was a bolt out of the blue as far as Iran was concerned.

        Anyway, my lawyer friend had long made clear she was a one-issue voter, in that all she cared about was Israel (she has 30 cousins there) and therefore regarded Iran as the devil. I wouldn’t say anything when she started about Iran, but I am sure she noticed my silence and didn’t like it.

        One day we got in an argument about, of all things, the US health system. She used to work at the NIH and has ex FDA commissioners as her partners. She said the US had the best health care system. I said it didn’t, that we were super high cost and had worse outcomes in many key categories. She said rich people from all over the world come to New York for cancer surgery. She was clearly upset way out of proportion to the importance of this topic. I said that wan’t the measure of the performance of a health care system.

        I sent her an e-mail with links supporting my position.

        She has never spoken to me again.

        1. Travis Bickle

          The very last part of your story brought everything into focus.

          As was noted earlier, a narcissistic attitude and zeitgeist when adopted at either the individual or group level. This complements the profound sense of alienation we can all easily perceive, driven directly through media programming and indirectly through the cocooning effect of TV and personal computing.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Try pan frying those piranhas. little corn flour. some thyme, perhaps.

      I’m in your boat, but surrounded by Republicans(mostly low income, or low-while-living as if Middle).
      I’ve abandoned all my internet haunts since around 2015, as they were all Team D to some degree, and have become preachy screechy and often vile and pitiless.
      I still wander into one, and hang around for a while, until the next herd of “Kill Them All” Clintonists show up and start pooping everywhere.
      In Realworld,I interact closely with about 5 people, all relatives…and have only acquaintances otherwise(I’ll always be a ferriner, here…which was expected).
      This^^^”I want to be around sane people, who don’t take out their hostility on others. At the age of 73, I can’t find them here. For the last six years I have been in excruciating pain. My goal was to act as normal as possible and when I couldn’t. to stay home.”^^^–is me,lol.
      “I’m with you in Rockland”…including the Pain Days.
      The only people around here who have read anything besides what was required in school, or James Patterson ,are preachers.
      or would be preachers.
      When I talk about “Being Jane Goodall in Teabillystan”, that’s how I cope. and entertain my mind. But it’s perhaps unwise to let slip to the Hostile Tribe one is studying that they are being scrutinised so quietly.
      So I’m thankful for a place where there are educated folks interacting freely and intelligently, and where I can sometimes fling my findings without giving a class or being tarred and feathered.
      That there seems to be a dearth of such places is maybe a forbidding indicator.

  40. freedeomny

    What I have noticed is: a sense of powerlessness and not being able to control basic aspects of your life….that at any moment things could spiral widely out of control; people have become more enraged, meaner and feel they don’t even have to be polite anymore (my friends and I have noticed this even with drivers); people who normally would be considered comfortable are feeling more and more financially insecure. Almost everyone I know feels this tension and is trying to figure out what they need to do to survive – I know several who are exploring becoming expats. I think we are rapidly moving towards a breaking point….

  41. orangecats

    Last night my 30-year- old son suggested that the Americans were not doing so well in the Olympics (we had just watched Nathan Chen’s disastrous performance) because Americans are anxious and unsettled. I thought it was an interesting theory, particularly after yesterday’s school shooting, and because I work with mostly young people and boy, do they seem stressed out. Wages are low, student loans high, housing unaffordable, the whole shebang. But if we are to accept psychology research, the most disabling kind of stress is to be in a situation where you have no control over the outcome. People feel stuck.

    1. Arizona Slim

      In order to perform well in sport, you have to get your emotions under control. Not easy to do, and being an Olympic competitor has its own stresses, but it can be done.

      So says Slim, who’s heading back out to the cornhole boards. My game needs some work. And I’m looking for a solution to throwing wide of the target.

      See you soon!

  42. PKMKII

    The angst feels not like the angst of an impending, singular catastrophe, but rather the angst of decline. There’s a late empire feel to the current mood: leaders without agency, more interested in their own, internal sense of normalcy and maintaining their perches, perches that increasingly feel pointless as they’re all just listless figureheads doing what the Magister Militum tells them to do. The military feels all-encompassing yet simultaneously incapable of exercising its will in the theater of war, so dispersed and aimless, as the missions are no longer about winning wars but about resume building. Same for the security agencies, whose invasive practices feel less like a preparation for a 1984-style security state, and more a cover for their own incompetence and inability to do proper legwork, as these mass shootings seem to inevitably come with the revelation about how authorities were alerted prior to the fact of the shooter’s warning signs and did no follow up. Meanwhile, standards of living decline for the vast majority of Americans, the sense of national unity is eroding as regional and rural/urban identities are superseding that of country. Not to mention the slow simmer that is global warming and climate change.

    So yeah, nothing that translates to a flashy headline or all-at-once collapse, but definitely an angst of a slow slide down, with too much resistance to the change needed to reverse it.

    1. polecat

      My feeling is that the U$A, along with various sovereign entities around much the planet … will, within a decade or so, cease to exist in their current form. When people coalesce and societies reform, is when one gets/is forced .. to choose their ‘new’ afilliation(s) !

      It will be facinating to behold, if one is alive to partake in it !
      As for positive, or negative outcomes … who knows ?

  43. Wyoming


    I believe that what is happening is that slowly but surely the numbers of people who are subconsciously reacting to the ongoing collapse of civilization are growing. They are uneasy, anxious, deflated, waiting for Godot, in depression and so on.

    Civililizations don’t collapse like falling off a table. They stress resources of materials and people and such stresses build and build. This has serious psychological impacts. Numbness to new bad news. Or what used to be bad news has to be Trumped by exceedingly bad news before folks can rise to deal with them, but for a shorter time than they had the ability they used to. As the number of people grows who have reached their capacity to tolerate the stress we will find more and more of them just shut down as their subconscious tells them there is no point in caring anymore as things are just going to get worse.

    We all see things getting worse.

    So we have little collapses on a regular basis which hardly ruffle anyone’s feathers anymore. The moderate catastrophic disasters like Trumps election cause much bigger disruptions to the civilizational equilibrium, but only for a time. We all know deep inside that what comes next in Brexit or say Trumps removal will actually be worse than what we have now. And we know that such will be the trend for the duration. Each time we seem to overcome a disaster we will be presented with another building disaster. A worse one. As we continue to stair step down the long slope that our civilization climbed during the renaissance and the enlightenment. Trump and Brexit are medium steps down.

    The Black Swan is out there somewhere watching us. The big step down. We can feel it coming and we cannot stop it. We know that what seems bad now is going to be a lot worse in the future. We know this and it makes us helpless.

    Skip above has the word on this.

    “The centre does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world“.

    1. juliania

      I will just comment further on the black swan, as I have had a real black swan encounter with a real black swan. That occurred for me some years back, as I and children huddled through our first of many real storms near the bottom of the world in a house that seemed about to be destroyed by fierce Antarctic winds.

      The house faced south over the windwhipped waves of a narrow inlet that was more estuary than harbor, and ocean spray was crashing against my seemingly fragile picture windows. I was rather terrified, but gazing out into the maelstrom I saw, bobbing serenely on the churning waters – a lone black swan.

      It’s a memory that always comes to mind whenever that imagery of a black swan event is raised.

      1. Chris

        Hmmm. A black swan is the antithesis of a “rough beast”. They can be fierce when defending their young or their partner, but they’re generally peaceful creatures.

        And they don’t “slouch”, they glide; graceful, lithe and determined.

        1. Oregoncharles

          That’s the ending of the poem that Wyoming quoted the beginning of. Someone posted the whole thing way up above. And I added a link to it. It’s apropos.

  44. bob

    One story I think is very relevant that it not getting nearly enough press is the Cuomo aide corruption trial.

    It is hard to follow. The corruption is so deep and systemic that it’s producing its own gravity and realities.

    I’m also having a hard time not feeling somewhat sorry for Howe, who is the star witness. He was arrested, again, during the trial. He’s been accused of any number of pejoratives, by everyone involved. He also seems to be the only one who has really lost anything – lots of money and a career.

    The rest of the filth are just fine. They were all more than fine to start with, and most of that fine is in no jeopardy of ever being taken away, stolen fine included.

    They stole over 100 million dollars. Howe lied about one night at a hotel. Howe gets a jumpsuit. Cuomo is still in his office. The COR execs are still being represented by very high priced lawyers, paid for with millions that were stolen. The press gets lots of clickbait about ‘ziti’ and the ‘fat man’, that never, ever really gets anywhere near the people who should most be in jail. They have lawyers, you understand.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      I grew up in NYS and I still know one of the reporters following the trial. Even for me, the scale of the sleaziness is mindboggling. And the evidence seems quite compelling to me. I mean, the wife had a no-show job, nobody even disputes that! Will be interesting to see if guilty verdicts, if there are any, taint Cuomo. Or change anything.

  45. akaPaul LaFargue

    The Worst Well-Being Year on Record for the U.S. – Gallup

    “Americans’ well-being took a big hit nationally in 2017, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which recorded declines in 21 states. Why did well-being drop, and where were the declines most pronounced?”

    OK- no endorsement from me re the validity of this Index, BUT the podcast raises an important point vis a vis 2009 downturn in their Index.

  46. Loneprotester

    I think what we have here is a Mexican standoff the likes of which has perhaps never been seen. I am 51 years old. For most of my life there has been a polite changing of the guards to no great effect every four years. Trump rode into Washington on a bridge burning mission and all that has changed. Or were the bridges burned upon his approach, after which he was framed for the crime? This is the essence of the problem we face as a country, and the world watching on with bated breath.

    I still do not know what is “true” about any of this “Russiagate” contretemps. Perhaps none of it. Perhaps all of it. I suspect both parties and candidates were hand fed dubious information then tried to hide the wrappers from the “authorities” who (naturally) were only interested in how any of it impacted them personally and institutionally, and so on and so forth, etc. etc.

    But where does that get us a nation? If you are a child and you walk into your parent’s bedroom to find your mother screwing the gardener you may be upset. But then if you run down the hall to your brother’s room to tell him and find your father en flagrante with the nanny, well where do you go from there?

    We have to find a way to deescalate with each other as Americans. I find myself repeatedly smiling blankly in conversations with family, friends, and strangers who will all equally complain vociferously about someone who is definitely destroying the planet/country/children. But that only gets you so far. If you do not engage after a few minutes you are viewed with great suspicion. And then only the strongest bonds of love can save you from being cast aside or worse.

    Deescalate now. I’m gonna put it on a tshirt.

    By the way, reading a lot of Jung right now. Anyone else?

  47. Blitz

    For the better part of the last 45 years I have traveled the world, worked with individuals in different cultures, walked among and shared bread and stories with many people in their living quarters and the news of today is not so much (occasionally) about the depth of love that exists around the world but only about the evils we are told about in pages of the WaPo, NYTimes and even the WST. So sad because there is so much good to view but good rarely delivers headlines and headlines sell news and make journalists.

    The news is slow because the liberal media just can’t dig out that one great story or smokin’ gun that brings down Trump & Co. This whole story is stale and at the point of “who cares”…..well, the liberals seem to be the only interested parties. I am not a Republican or Conservative or aligned with any party but an American who looks for the best talent of any party to represent us….citizens of the U.S.A. I laugh at the whole ‘Russian Thing’ …. like this is NEW news when it’s as old as the Roman Empire. There are many of us true Americans that if our democracy was every challenged, threatened or in trouble would rise up against any threat–and more than likely not with guns but with our minds, our knowledge and our ability to talk calmly and rationally rather than shout threats on Twitter.

    The media needs to get over itself and quit trying to be the type of police we all despise….manipulated headlines are part of the problem with the ‘stillness’ today. If you can’t dig up any worthy headlines that will sell the news, then go home and close the cover of your computer and find someone to hug…..God knows we can all use an extra level of love in today’s seemingly gloomy lack of news world.

  48. Hoosier of The Bloody 8th

    I don’t think any perceivable change in the Press is relevant, considering the invariable agon of our modern world. It will pick up again, and they’ll sell it off to us. I’m enjoying the transitory reprieve anyways. One thing of interest to me is the disconnect between the real, perceivable angst in society (what I prefer to call a collective neurosis, I may have read and stole that from somewhere I’m not sure) and its representation in the Press. Rarely is that collective neurosis of the American psyche accurately portrayed. I’m not sure that it can be put on paper. Maybe Elena Ferrante could do it.

    Basically, what I mean here is fear in the face of uncertainty, and the adversity that that uncertainty will inexorably bring.

    Two primary concerns are the triggers for that fear: 1. The survival of the world AND 2. The survival of the world as we know it. These triggers can be further divided, but the point is that they are dark shadows, threats looming over American shoulders.

    With respect to the survival of the world, we are talking climate change and nuclear war. No one is really solving the climate change problem. I mean, there are people with good ideas and teams doing good work, but no real solution. It is the tall shadow, peering over the shoulder of nuclear war reminding us of its presence every once in awhile. Nuclear war is the short, broad-shouldered shadow that has taken on a more solidified form in the past year. Now it’s more like that Alien Experience ride in Disney World where Alien has escaped its captivity capsule and it’s roaming the room, breathing and spitting down your neck. It might eat you any second. Both are huge threats to humanity, obviously.

    The paradox of all this is that Americans still retain their optimism. Most don’t actually believe that we will die from nuclear war or climate change. Despite how much Trump has laid bare the mismanagement of critical systems in our country, Americans believe those problems will be managed. They could be wrong, of course. We will find out. So, the shadows are beaten back with quintessential American pride. We are the country that rebuilt the world! We reached the pinnacle of political and economic power! Thus, we will solve those problems of greatest societal import. I think it fits into historical narratives like Manifest Destiny or American fatalism. From that optimism, however, a new crisis of confidence strangely emerges: uncertainty about the future. We are surviving climate change and nuclear war, now what? We know that fundamental changes are coming. What is the world going to be like? Where will everyone fit in? What kind of work will I have?

    I work on labor policy in Congress, and we are now in the midst of an intense spate of lobbying. I cannot put into words the subtle desperation I’ve seen with some labor groups. These people are scared. The blood drains from the faces in our conversations. Sometimes I feel like they don’t even grasp the seriousness of the problem, but they can sense it. It’s a human feeling. I do agree that the news, or the intensity of it to be exact, has diminished over the past couple weeks. However, the Press is consistent in one area. They always fail to accurately adumbrate the gravity of that second trigger – even during one of those periods of intense media coverage. This is because the second trigger is visceral. It is not what we say we are. It is not our words or our self-proclaimed identities. It is, instead, our true identities. And they are increasingly ephemeral, shifty shadows themselves.

  49. Clif

    a pretty good question in the face of all the noise.

    i believe it is in response to the saturated level of cognitive dissonance. an inverse reaction to the lack of transparency and unresponsiveness of both commercial and governmental activities.

    the sensitivity of untoward persuasion on social media an indication of the fallibility of the centralized narrative?

  50. Oregoncharles

    Whew, late to the game again.

    First question: no, I don’t. However, I don’t live in New York, or any big metropolis; I live in a little oasis in the Willamette Valley. And I spend a good part of my time outside pruning trees, the main part of my job this time of year. Furthermore, as a Green, I’m an outsider to the political machinations. As I’ve said before, if the Dems are getting what’s coming to them, that doesn’t make me tense.

    Second: the metaphor doesn’t promote understanding for me, but yes, I think it’s receded. People are finally getting used to the shock of the 2016 election. They’re also finding out that Trump is bad in roughly the way Republicans are bad, only cruder. It is, as Lambert would say, clarifying. And there’s an election bearing down on us, which means the Democrats, especially, have to start dealing with realities, or really go down the tubes. So, a long pause for reflection.

    A pause before the storm? Well, living in an oasis with six months’ worth of staples in the pump house, I guess I’m free to hope so. The air still needs cleaning. I better see if any of those bags are too light.

  51. Jeremy Grimm

    I have felt an eery disquiet for the last several years, more or less since the year I retired. I think retirement finally offered me the time I needed to see and think about the world. For the last few years I have felt a strong need to move away to higher ground and a smaller community further out from the cities. Churchill’s book title “Gathering Storm” seems apt, but war seems only one of the many possible storms gathering and I think one of the least likely at present although the actions and qualities of those who rule us make even nuclear war seem possible. And I take little comfort from learning how close we came to nuclear war in the past and how the unstable mechanisms guiding us toward this brink remain in place with new embellishments for greater instability.

    The economy is ambling a drunkard’s walk climbing a knife’s edge. The Corporations remain hard at work consolidating and building greater monopoly power, dismantling what remains of our domestic jobs and industry, and building ever more fragile supply chains. The government is busy dismantling the safety net, deconstructing health care, public education and science, bolstering the wealth of the wealthy, and stoking foreign wars while a tiff between factions within those who rule us fosters a new cold war and an arms build-up including building a new nuclear arsenal. In another direction Climate Disruption shows signs of accelerating while the new weather patterns already threaten random flooding and random destruction of cities. It already destroyed entire islands in the Caribbean. The government has proven its inability and unwillingness to do anything to prepare for the pending disasters or help the areas struck down in the seasons past. The year of Peak Oil is already in our past and there is nothing to fill its place. The world populations continue to grow exponentially. Climate Disruption promises to reduce food production and move the sources for fresh water and the worlds aquifers are drying up. It’s as if a whole flock of black swans is looking for places to land.

    I quit watching tv, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers long ago. The news desert isn’t new or peculiar to this moment. I haven’t seen much of interest in the news from any source since the election. The noise of social media and celebrity news does seem turned up higher recently, although I base this judgment on occasional peeks at magazines or snatches of NPR. After the last election I gave up on the possibility that we still had a democracy in this country. Over the last several years I’ve had some expensive and unpleasant dealings with local government, the schools, law enforcement, the courts, and government agencies in helping one and then the other of my children through difficulties which confirmed in the particular all my worst beliefs about the decay of our government and legal systems. In short my personal anxiety has been at a high level for some time now and I can’t say its peaked lately. I don’t get out and around enough to get a good sense of how others feel and certainly can’t judge whether this moment is a moment of peaking anxiety. When I’ve been in the City and nearby cities I’ve long had a feeling of passing through a valley between mountains of very dry tender. I hold my head low and walk quickly to my destinations. Every so often I warn my children to move out, but they don’t listen.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      Aye. I cut my teeth at LATOC(doomer forum of some repute), and there, we talked a lot about the Kubler Ross scale, in regards to dealing with decline.
      Maybe we’re detecting the Depression Phase.

      I’ve also been thinking about the Hero’s(or the Fool’s) Journey, and wondering when the old way will die already.
      This dark night of the soul seems overlong.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I don’t like to think of myself as a Doomer. I feel we face some serious problems in our near future and that as a society we are driving headlong into an abyss. I don’t believe we’re doomed but definitely face a very unhappy outcome far worse than need be if we do not soon replace those who rule us with people who represent the best of humankind instead of the insane who rule us now.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          I get you. Like “hippie”, “doomer” is something that was thrust upon me that I decided to go on and adhere to the pile.
          In spite of the various meanings the world attaches to such things, they sound better than “off the grid curmudgeonly hermit guy”.
          I agree that we’re in for a rough ride, but timing and shape are still up in the air.
          and now, with the ontological crises in full bloom, I find that my prophet hat is worn through and moth-eaten.
          Carter in the Cardigan and the Club of Rome should have been listened to more closely. It’s likely too late…and we’re all too confused and addled…to manage anything like a smooth transition.
          sic transit gloria mundi.

  52. schultzzz

    my 2 cents: the FOX NEWS-ification of the MSM is now complete, and that’s why it’s weird.

    If the subtext to the MSM’s Trump coverage is, “He’s a racist authoritarian so he must be stopped at all costs,” then you’d think they’d cover police brutality every day. If they’re so concerned about racism and authoritarianism. Instead, we’re seeing the FBI, CIA, etc., cast in the role of ‘oppressed minorities standing up to The System, Maaan!’

    Plus, as a fan of paranoia, I can say. . . I’ve never seen a more unsatisfying, overly-abstract conspiracy in my life. It’s not that they are rehabilitating CIA goons, but they’re doing so specifically in order to obsess over memos, and reports about memos, and memos about reports about leaks about other memos.

    It’s like an episode of The Office if everyone in the office had nukes. Sheesh, give me P2 and the Vatican Bank any day.

    TLDR: It’s weird because of the sudden growth of the disconnect between [the very real anxieties we news consumers feel in our daily lives] . . . . and the news reports which attempt to leverage those anxieties into outrage at [whatever media elites are mad at that day].

  53. EGrise

    A question I’m pondering lately that may be related: suppose a general pulled a Julius Caesar, crossed the Rubicon/Potomac and seized control of the US government. What would the response be?

    Sixty years ago, there would have been staunch support for the civilian government, politicians of both parties would have rallied their supporters to defend our democratic heritage, and I believe ordinary citizens would have actively opposed the military government in a number of ways up to and including taking up arms.

    Today? I just can’t see it. I don’t know if anyone would really give a [family_blog] beyond some outrage on Facebook or Twitter. The nihilism and ennui are palpable.

    Mark Blyth tells the story of speaking to a room full of fund managers and other monied types, and he asked them if they would have trusted the politicians they supported twenty or thirty years prior to manage one of their accounts, to general assent. But when he asked if they would trust any of the politicians they currently support to do the same, they all laughed out loud. In the US, that attitude is nearly universal, across all layers of society.

    Could you see yourself risking your life to go fight for our democracy under the banner of Chuck Schumer? The DNC? Any of the ghouls in the GOP? I can’t. And I think that’s meaningful.

  54. schultzzz

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the MSM is getting revenge on us.

    They got the 2016 election wrong, were exposed as out-of-touch, and rightly ridiculed. Lacking credibility and unwilling to do stories that would upset their owners (i.e. stories ABOUT average American problems), the only tool left in their ‘keep people reading us’ toolkit is. . .’aaaaah read this or the country dies!!!!’

    And what do you know, the ‘anxiety’ tool just also happens to inflict a lot of psychic punishment on the same news consumers that ridiculed them. So that’s a two-fer!

  55. Rosario

    I’m having trouble articulating the pile of words in my head to describe my thinking on current news media. I’ll just say that I’ve suspected an “establishment agenda” in most news for years and Trump has mostly confirmed that suspicion. I’m sure it has, to some extent, always been that way with the press (we can’t escape our culture), but the stakes of milquetoast (or outright nefarious) new media seem bigger now than ever (US empire collapse, climate change, ballooning global inequality). I’m only 31 so let me know if I’m off base thinking the sky is falling.

    I think the hosts are right that the news seems to be drying up as of late, but I think that is more a feature than a bug. There is plenty to discuss and dissect. They are just not the kinds of things that capitalist media wants to even acknowledge much less cover.

    I don’t know if there are any Aussies in this thread, but I’ll include a link to a comedian from Australia who has excellent and usually funny commentary on Australian politics. He posts a great deal on Youtube and has a pretty excellent take down of Vice News. BTW the ever edgy Vice has a 5% stake owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and his boy James is/was a board member, figure that one out. The comedian says more pointedly what I was trying to say above to a particular example of the problem, and I think the critique of Vice News is within the topic of the thread.

    As a heads up, you may need to see his initial video to get any context. I recommend both.

    initial video on #ChangeTheDate:

    His critique of Vice News critiquing his video:

  56. Jeff N

    I’m worried because the economy is supposedly booming, my job situation is tenuous & on its 3rd or 4th year of wage freeze, and I assume my job will only get more tenuous when the economy inevitably falters.

  57. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I feel agitated as well…and I wonder if it has to do with thinking if I am being watched, or if I let up for a minute, maybe someone would get my social security number or if I lose a copy of my electric bill, that might come back to haunt me, in some way.

    And every time something unusual happens, I connect it with other recent strange events, and wonder, why all the sudden there are this many.

  58. XXYY

    I think one thing that is new recently is that the people supposedly driving the bus are *obviously* incompetent and in over their heads.

    I am in my late 50s, and for most of my life there was an air of seriousness and competence about national leaders. Even when they were doing something you didn’t like, you could generally assume they were adequate to the situation, or at least had access to people who were. E.g., the moronic Reagan at least supposedly had a coterie of serious people in his administration who could keep the train on the tracks. Various government departments were staffed by people who had a lifetime of experience in their affairs, and there was thus a deep bench of skill and experience the national leaders could rely on when needed. Government seemed serious and purposeful for the most part, and the nation seemed in reasonably good hands.

    It’s impossible to say how much of this sensibility was real and how much carefully maintained illusion; my guess is a lot of what was going on was the latter, but at least leaders and the media realized seriousness was an important front to maintain.

    Now we seem to be at a point where the people in charge are unapologetic about their greed, their lack of ability or even interest in their jobs and consitiuents, their lack of intellect and integrity, and the absence of any pretense of doing anything useful for the population or the society. Important national institutions (e.g. the State Department! The CDC!) are being left to languish or being actively dismantled. Who will fill the void? No one cares. The media, meanwhile, not only fails to lament these things but actually seems to have some glee about the situation and delights in spotlighting incompetence and even criminality in the leadership

    (I write from the US, obviously; however, the same seems to be true, perhaps even more so, in the UK, from what I read.)

    As a result, a deadly sense of futility sets in. At best, we can head off the bigger disasters. Nothing is likely to actually improve. The will and leadership to face our many impending disasters (climate change, nuclear war, inequality, racism, financial collapse, infrastructure collapse) seems utterly absent.

    I guess what I’m saying is, as one surveys the landscape, there is a marked loss of hope coupled with a tearing urgency that something needs to be done. It’s a terrible, very volatile and dangerous condition.

    1. jrs

      a sensible emotional response to Trump perhaps. Obama was bad in many ways, but Trump is something harder to make sense of than mere bad: he’s absurd.

  59. Jim

    The Crack-Up F.Scott Fitzgerald (1936)

    “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation–the test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

    Do we still have that will and can we find a way?

  60. VietnamVet

    This is an excellent post and valid observations. Things don’t seem right. I blame old age and being awaken by F-16s on combat patrols out of Andrews. For me the frame changed with the restart of the Cold War. I remember “Duck and Cover, McCarthyism, John Birchers, and Who Lost China”. It has all come back. The Democrats are idiots for scapegoating Russia. President Donald Trump is incompetent. Scott Pruitt must fly first class because he cannot sit next to riff-raft like me who worked at his Agency for 37 years and hear that he has sold out the earth for short term gain and profit. America is at war, inside and out, with no way of winning.

  61. The Rev Kev

    I am going to try to see if I can make sense of what has been happening the past few years but I could easily be as wrong as the next person but will try nonetheless. In reading the comments I can see the tension seeping through so to try to come to terms with it I will use the US as my focus though I could just as easily be talking about any other western country like the UK, Germany, Australia, France, etc. The US though is at the forefront of these changes so should be mentioned first.
    The American people are now in what the military call a fire-sac and the door has been slammed shut behind them. What is more, I think they realize it. A few threads need mentioning here. A study that came out last year showed that what Americans wanted their government to do never becomes a consideration unless it aligned what some upper echelon also wanted. People want a military pull-back but are ignored and now find that American troops are digging into Syria and are scattered in places like Africa with the military wanting to go head-to-head with North Korea, Russia, China and a host of other nations. It has become blatantly obvious too that their vaunted free media has become little more than Pravda on the Potomac and in fact has aligning with the wealthy against the interests of the American people. The media is even helping bring in censorship as they know that their position is untenable. The entire political establishment is now recognized as a rigged deck with radical neoliberal politicians in charge and at the last election the best candidates that they could find out of 330 million Americans were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The massive industry that built America has been mostly disassembled and shipped overseas and without the wealth and skills that it generated, infrastructure has been left to rack and ruin when it should be a core government function. Climate change cannot be ignored anymore and is starting to bite. Even the Pentagon is realising that some of its vaunted bases will be underwater in decades. I am sure other commentators can list yet more trends here but you get the picture.
    OK, so there are massive problems but they can be faced and taken on but here is the kicker. The political establishment in your country does not want anything to change but to keep doing what is generated these problems. There is too much money at stake to change for them. In fact, one of the two presidential candidates in 2016 was specifically chosen to keep things going they way that they are. So where does that leave the American people? British officers have always been taught that when their men were complaining and bitching, that that was how it was but when the men were very quiet, that was the time to watch them carefully. I think something similar is at work here. It has not yet coalesced but what I think we are seeing is the beginnings of a phase shift in America. The unexpected election of Trump was a precursor but as nothing changed after he was elected the pressure is still building.
    Now here is the part where I kick over everybody’s tea wagon. In looking for a root cause to how all these challenges are being pushed down the road to an even worse conclusion, I am going to have to say that the problem lies in the fact that representative democracy no longer works. In fact, the representatives in the form of Senators, Reps, Judges and even the President have been almost totally dislocated from the will of the people. The connection is mostly not there anymore. It is this disconnection that is frustrating change and is thus building up pressure. I am all for democracy but the democracy we have is not the only form there is of democracy. There are others.
    What this means is that somehow this is going to have to be changed and if not done peacefully, then I suspect that it will be done in some other way. That lull in the news may represent a general milling around if you will until some unknown catalyst appears to give the beginnings of a push in another direction. How it will work out in practice I do not know but if a mass of independents were elected in your mid-terms then that may be a good sign of change coming. If both parties clamp down and continue to keep all others out and continue with neoliberal policies, well, game on.

  62. Erling

    We have for the last generation or two, (maybe three?) been relentlessly conditioned… (name your puppet-master of choice) to equate happiness and contentment with the never ending pursuit of keeping up with the Joneses. The competitive underpinnings encouraging our participation in this futile contest fit well with our innate drives for “success”. The race was over-subscribed by throngs of enthusiastic participants yearning for glory.

    For decades many of us did well. We ran strong and felt rewarded with the material enhancements to our lives, which encouraged many of us to run faster, even if that motivation was rooted more in the fear of being passed by Ron and Nancy Jones than it was for improving our chances of ending up on the podium.

    Even though we never seemed to catch or pass Ron or Nancy, surely they must have been out there ahead in the haze somewhere? After all, this was the race that we so eagerly had trained for. Plus, life was going well while we chased, so we figured it was a fruitful one to be a part of. All the effort and toil would be worth it in the end.

    The slow arc of realization and barely perceptible sense over time (coupled with the self delusion that comes with resisting acceptance) that we have been duped… that this Jones Marathon has actually been taking place on a treadmill which gradually (hardly noticeable, but cumulatively significant) has been ratcheted up in both speed and incline, has now hit home. We have been running for years, but going nowhere. We can’t find the stop button, and don’t even want to think what will happen to us if we were to slow down or stop running! Problem is… not only are we are growing physically weary, we are dejected and defeated in spirit knowing that all our efforts have yielded little other than illusionary gains.

  63. uxxx

    It may be just seasonal (I usually experience a heightened yo-yo emotional pattern in late Jan-early-Feb). However, last year this time, the collective energy of the post-election desperation (as it turned out then, there was reason for that whatever your vantage point) — that desperation was too fresh to have burn-out yet.

    Now we are 15 months or so since the climax, and finally running out of steam. I definitely find that scanning the “usual reads” doesn’t give me the absorbing-distraction-fix I’m used to (for me, typically a good 20-30 mins after work the last few years, and far longer including writing blogposts, during the election).

    Then again I am prob. a bit younger than most readers (late 30s), and my anxiety as such peaked around Sept. 2016 when I realized the Clinton campaign, and esp. the MSM coverage, had literally no idea they were alienating midwestern voters en masse. Maybe I’m prematurely jaded, but I was a lot more shocked by the Bush Administration, and Obama didn’t exactly help restore confidence despite all his potential :-(.

    Get outside. Get some sunlight. The US political system may be hopelessly captive to a club of overpaid loonies, but actual people will keep doing what they do, the world will keep turning. The nuclear war stuff is not worth losing sleep over, because (a) it’s 99% probability: hype/theater, and (b) you can’t fix it anyway.

    Get some rest, save your energy for the next time you can make a difference … marginally 2018, more seriously in primaries in 2019-2020.

  64. mathiasalexander

    Looking at the faces on the news, particularly in America, everybody in charge of government seems to be well past retirement age. Things can’t move foreward because they are all fighting some previous battle.

  65. Karen

    I think the key ingredients for a happy (meaning: satisfying) life are a sense of hope for one’s future, and a sense of being connected to community. The techno-capitalist juggernaut we’ve been on for the past thirty years has severely weakened both of these pillars. But I still have hope for us, because I believe suffering leads to empathy and empathy leads to community. Joseph Campbell explained the origin of the word compassion as suffering (passion) along with (com) others. That is the journey I have been on for the past twenty years: heightened awareness, intensifying concern for the suffering of others, and a deepening commitment to rebuilding community. With community hope comes rushing back–just look at this blog for inspiration. We truly are all in this together.

  66. Clif

    hi everyone- i spent part of the morning reading the comments although I had posted before. surprised to find such convergence across commenters, could i can summarize as a crisis of credibility?

    anyway, cool rainy lazy saturday, a lingering, last netflix order for ‘The life of Emile Zola,’ laying around for weeks, finally gets the play. perhaps others will find it enjoyable?

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I agree the comments collectively reflect a crisis of credibility … but is that a strong enough portrayal of the despondency you see? [‘crisis’ is a strong word but it is applied so often in the news and media as a word formula it loses some of its meaning to me] Also I’m not sure how feelings of angst fold into a crisis of credibility.

  67. jsn

    I felt this malaise set in a month ago or so. I think its a combination of the IC attempt to manage the US as a “muffled zone” (Pat Lang’s term), augmented by new techniques in social media all along with another turn of the NeoLiberal screw as described in the “Free Market Threat to Democracy” the other day.

    It’s a mosaic effect of the perverse, where without any obvious real change everything feels slightly worse at the same time. Like Lambert, I find great hope in the unreported activities at the local level and hope it can make it’s image apparent at scale before the mosaic of perverse undermines it.


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