normalization of extremism: steve bannon edition

Here’s NPR story about Steve Bannon’s appointment as Chief Strategist. It’s just one of many that fails to note how extreme Bannon is, or downplays his extremism. Here’s how NPR describes him:

“Meanwhile, the inclusion of Bannon, the former head of the far-right outlet Breitbart News, suggests another direction entirely. Rumored to be have been considered for chief of staff himself, Bannon “would have been the insurgent choice” for the top aide job, Eyder says. He is “known for his no-holds-barred approach to politics and his popularity among the alt-right,” as NPR’s Sarah McCammon reported last week.”

Here’s how they could have described him:

Steve Bannon is a white supremacist, anti-semite, and a domestic abuser.

Not saying those things – instead saying that he’s “far-right” and “insurgent” – is what normalization looks like.

some quick fact checks on the election

The election’s over. Trump won. The GOP won the Senate, and kept the House. That’s all the grim truth. No one fully knows how bad this will be for the next four years and for all the years to come, but we have some educated guesses and it’s bad.

Some of the other claims flying right now – about how this happened, who’s responsible, how we missed this, and so on – are misleading or false. This post isn’t a detailed analysis, it’s just a quick attempt to get everyone on the same page. It’s also my meager attempt to deal with the emotional fallout this morning by doing what academics do best: post-hoc analysis and contemplation.

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what’s next?

There is not a lot of silver lining tonight. But here’s one bit: assuming the projections hold, more Americans voted for Clinton than Trump. We live in a messed up system that denies votes to many (Puerto Ricans, disenfranchised felons, etc.), and disproportionately weights the votes of others (the electoral college). So Clinton loses the Presidency despite winning the most votes. But she did win them. The next four years are going to be awful. I am afraid for what will happen to Muslims, to immigrants, to people of color, to women, to anyone targeted by the immense and unaccountable national security state. Elections have consequences, and this one’s consequences rate to be terrible. I shudder especially to think about what this means for tackling climate change – a problem that gets worse every year we fail to act. But at least we can say that most Americans did not vote for this.

So, to that majority of Americans who did not vote for this: What’s next?

latour’s five modes of politics

I just came across a wonderful, short 2007 comment by Bruno Latour titled “Turning around Politics: A Note on Gerard de Vries’ Paper.” Science studies scholars, and Latour in particular, are often accused of having a wonky or non-existent notion of politics. In this essay, Latour goes a long way to clarify what sorts of politics STS scholars have done a good job of exploring, and which sorts they tend to leave by the wayside. Through his reading of de Vries, and his engagements with diverse political traditions from feminism to pragmatism, Habermas to Foucault, Latour identifies five modes of politics, five ways we might mean something is political in a useful sense. All five, he argues, must be part of our study of “cosmopolitics” in Stengers’ useful terminology. Below I reproduce the main chart that summarizes these five modes of politics – of which the first and fifth are often seen as apolitical and which STS and feminist research have made their mission to recast as political (but perhaps, in so doing, lost sight of their distinctiveness from modes 2-4).

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 3.11.25 PM.png

I’ll say that I wish I’d read this paper a long time ago, as it provides a much fresher and more synthetic take on “how STS does politics” than Latour’s older (but still wonderful, and totally worth reading), “Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world”, my previous go-to piece for the subject. What do you all think?

description without causation, causation without explanation

Over at SocArXiv, two University of Michigan political scientists just posted a wonderful, short comment on my stylized facts paper. In the original paper, I argue that stylized facts are empirical regularities in search of explanation, that the production of stylized facts should be understood as an important component of social scientific practice, and that stylized facts are capable of doing political work even in the absence of well-established causal explanations. In their comment, Crabtree and Fariss (C&F) offer a nice clarification in the context of experimental social scientific research programs.

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did bros cause the financial crisis? hegemonic masculinity in the big short

The following is a guest post by Joseph Gamble.

There’s a moment in The Big Short (2015, dir. McKay) where the film cuts to footage of a grandfather and his grandson eating eggs at a diner. Over the footage, we see the text: “The truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry. —Overheard in a Washington, D.C. bar.”

As a literary critic specializing in gender, race, and sexuality in English Renaissance poetry, I was a bit offended that I was watching a movie about a subject I thought everyone hated—the economy—only to learn that it was my work that people would rather avoid. I couldn’t believe that people don’t like poetry![1]

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reminder: blogger party this sunday, now with swag and snacks!

A quick reminder: the annual blogger party is this Sunday! Join us from 4pm-7pm at the Pine Box Bar in Seattle, a scant 10 minute walk from ASA.  Longer description here. This year’s blogger party will feature some free food and exclusive (not really) swag for SocArXiv. So, come for the scintillating intellectual conversation and open access advocacy, stay for the snacks, booze, and buttons!

SocArXiV Buttons.jpg