Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  April 23, 2021

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Under (No) Pressure

On Tuesday afternoon, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin became one of the exceedingly rare police officers held to account for the brutal murder of a Black civilian in broad daylight, the moth-eaten and brain-addled powerbrokers of our great nation stepped in front of the television cameras to emit a succession of English words like “stain on our nation’s soul” and “committed to restoring trust” and “thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice.” Because that’s what he did, right? He was a willing martyr, who accepted his death under the knee of a cold-blooded cop so that, many months later, the symbolic victory of his killer’s conviction could be paraded across the evening news as evidence of history’s arc bending, at last, toward justice? Right? Behind the scenes, lawmakers have been paying tribute to Chauvin’s sacrifice: his conviction has taken all the pressure off Congress to do anything whatsoever about the hyper-militarized army occupying the streets of every American city, according to senior aides to lawmakers from both parties.

 

Down the Block There’s a Riot

State legislatures, though, are working at a breakneck pace to enact radical reform to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again. And by “this kind of thing,” we mean the groundswell of protest and civil disobedience that spread across all fifty states in the wake of Floyd’s murder. In Minnesota, legislation is under consideration that would make anyone convicted of “unlawful assembly” ineligible for unemployment benefits, housing assistance, or student loans. In Oklahoma and Iowa, Republicans assured constituents that it’s actually quite patriotic to plow a Ford F-150 into a crowd of protesters and that, were proud Americans to find themselves with the hankering to do so, they would be immune from prosecution. In Florida, any unpermitted gathering of three or more people can now be considered a riot.

 

Cannibal Holocaust

Meanwhile, the leading ethicists of the day have concerned themselves with questions of greater import. Namely, when astronauts inevitably arrive on Mars to pollute it with our lackluster way of life, would it be considered ethical to, in the worst case scenario, eat their fellow travelers?

 

He Is Risen!

To Los Angeles now, where a rabid pack of middle-aged children have cobbled together the funds to erect a billboard calling on Marvel Studios to bring the fictional Iron Man back from fictional death because eleven years and nine bloated blockbusters featuring the billionaire weapons manufacturer have, inexplicably, left this sorry lot of underdeveloped malcontents unsatisfied. Marvel, distracted by the twenty-four interconnected films and television shows comprising the fourth “phase” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are unlikely to acquiesce to the demands of a single billboard overlooking a freeway—at least until they begin planning a remake of the original Iron Man, which, coming up on its thirteenth birthday, is ripe to be “reimagined.”

 

The $2 Billion Hero

Speaking of things that enjoy market valuations far and above their actual worth to society, the company that owns a single solitary New Jersey deli hocking “home-style sandwiches” in a “casual and friendly atmosphere” is now, according to Bloomberg, worth nearly $2 billion—or approximately 330 million chicken cutlet sandwiches—on the stock market.

 

Eye See You

Having spent the last year staring into the cold and inky abyss of our webcams, yearning for the mutual recognition of sustained eye contact with a loved one or colleague, scientists at one Germany university have realized what we actually need is not the ability to consume gratuitous amounts of liquor in a communal setting, ideally a bar, without fear of killing anyone—but an anthropomorphic webcam that, in the loosest sense of the term, resembles a human eye. A single human eye. That blinks. And has an eyebrow. Such are the ends to which human ingenuity is directed absent a program for a better future.

 

Future-Facing and Inclusive!

The trajectory we’re on is certainly dispiriting: this weekend, a viral TikTok CBD lounge-cum-thrift store advertising itself as a “community-focused” “culture hub” for Gen Z with a “future-facing atmosphere” will open on the Lower East Side in New York City. What exactly all this means is unclear, but nearly 6 million people have heard about it on TikTok and two thousand people mobbed its “pre-launch” event last month. At the grand opening, all of the owner’s TikTok followers will get 30 percent off their purchase. 

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