A long piece from Andrew Sullivan about democracy under populism, and how Trump works into all of it.
Many contend, of course, that American democracy is actually in retreat, close to being destroyed by the vastly more unequal economy of the last quarter-century and the ability of the very rich to purchase political influence. This is Bernie Sanders’s core critique. But the past few presidential elections have demonstrated that, in fact, money from the ultrarich has been mostly a dud. Barack Obama, whose 2008 campaign was propelled by small donors and empowered by the internet, blazed the trail of the modern-day insurrectionist, defeating the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary and later his Republican opponent (both pillars of their parties’ Establishments and backed by moneyed elites). In 2012, the fund-raising power behind Mitt Romney — avatar of the one percent — failed to dislodge Obama from office. And in this presidential cycle, the breakout candidates of both parties have soared without financial support from the elites. Sanders, who is sustaining his campaign all the way to California on the backs of small donors and large crowds, is, to put it bluntly, a walking refutation of his own argument. Trump, of course, is a largely self-funding billionaire — but like Willkie, he argues that his wealth uniquely enables him to resist the influence of the rich and their lobbyists. Those despairing over the influence of Big Money in American politics must also explain the swift, humiliating demise of Jeb Bush and the struggling Establishment campaign of Hillary Clinton. The evidence suggests that direct democracy, far from being throttled, is actually intensifying its grip on American politics.
Mandy Brown, on bots and gender, and reading from literature into life.
In fact, it’s not hard for me to imagine a straight line (or at least a moderately meandering one) between a generation of bot makers who anoint their creations with gendered names and personalities and the impossible reverie that is the singularity: could the very notion of the singularity be the embodiment of the oppressors fear that the oppressed will one day rise up and slay them? Perhaps the attention some men apparently spend on wondering whether AI will eventually surpass them should be instead spent on noticing the fact that women already have.
Joanna Walsh argues that sex-literacy comes from writing and reading about sex, and that is a feminst idea.
In the UK, according to the association for PSHE teachers, “‘Personal, Sexual Health and Economic’ education is a non-statutory subject on the school curriculum”. It’s a frequent but unresolved complaint that children are taught no more than the mechanics of sex, and are sent out into adulthood with little beside biological basics, except warnings of STDs and other consequences. “Thou shalt not [is] writ over the door” of the Garden of Love, just as it was when the poet William Blake questioned why our “joys and desires” should be bound by prohibitions and prescriptions. But what constitutes sex-literacy, and why does it matter?
Douglas Rushkoff on the far reaches of advertising and marketing.
The trouble is, if everyone is in it for the advertising dollar, who is left to advertise? At no point in history has advertising, marketing, and research ever accounted for as high a percentage of GDP, or total economic activity (and that's being extremely generous). But right now, it's pushing at the very top of that range. The reason it can't go higher is that only so much economic activity can go to promoting the rest of our economic activity. The coming crash in the tech market—and quite possibly beyond—will be triggered by the growing realization that every company in the world can’t be a marketing company.