Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  December 11, 2020

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant

On Monday morning, police raided the Florida home of Rebekah Jones, who was an employee at the Department of Health and architect of the state’s Covid-19 dashboard until May, when she was fired for refusing to “manipulate data,” presumably to cast Governor De Santis’s utter disdain for human life in a more flattering light. (The virus that has killed nearly three hundred thousand Americans, nearly twenty thousand of them in the sunshine state, isn’t really all that bad, “affects virtually nobody,” etc., etc.) The police dropped by to wave their guns around with a warrant based on a complaint filed by Jones’s erstwhile employer that required them to seize all of the “hardware and tech” she’d been using to maintain her own, independent Covid-19 dashboard. “They took my phone and the computer I use every day to post the case numbers in Florida, and school cases for the entire country,” Ms. Jones later tweeted. “They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach.” A security breach, indeed! Keeping Florida’s tourism economy humming—no matter how many lives must be fed to the undertaker—is a matter of state, no, national security. 

 

It can’t always be morning in America.”

Meanwhile, Time magazine—that time-worn purveyor of lukewarm pap and twaddle—has decided, at this late hour, to boldly stare down the festering cyst of the nation’s “soul” and call it like it is, announcing in a year in review essay that this country is and long has been a horrific place, burdened by “toxic traditions of injustice and inequality,” “a nation that [can] barely take care of itself,” content to watch hundreds of thousands die so we can have dinner at Applebee’s and burn down forests for the sake of revealing the gender of offspring to come. Lest you think the glossy trashrag has finally come to its senses, though, the writer concludes with a threat: “Our optimism is our most ridiculous trait, and our greatest.” 

 

Water World

Certainly, though, things will get better: a vaccine is on the way and will soon enable the richest nations to resume ransacking the planet at pre-pandemic levels. One must think optimistically when presented with news that hedge funders and other Wall Street swine are now betting on—and hedging against—future water availability in California, which just so happens to be suffering through one of the most severe droughts the state has seen in nearly a thousand years.

 

Words to Watch Out for

Still, in today’s fast-paced economy, one can’t help but feel a twinge of empathy for the hedge funders gleefully remaking the world: they have a lot to be wary of as they extinguish every last worthwhile feature of human society—not only yields and volatility but also, increasingly, the algorithms they’ve designed. As the Financial Times reports, finance apparatchiks must be more vigilant than ever with their speech, for fear of upsetting trading algorithms that process earnings calls, social media, and regulatory documents for “market-moving” clues. “We are not far from someone on a call reading ‘we said au revoir to our profitability’ versus ‘we recorded a loss’ because it reads better in some NLP model,” observes one researcher. To avoid upsetting stock prices, here is a helpful list of terms to avoid: “bottleneck,” “appears,” “litigation,” “aggravate,” and “anomaly.” The more you know!

 

All We Want for Christmas

Finally, every holiday season, we here at The Baffler take a moment to marvel at the unending parade of useless shit—baubles, trinkets, and other loathsome consumer “goods”—produced by human beings and sold to other human beings so that we might exchange these “gifts” in the economy of simulated affection. It is not our mandate or desire to recommend any of this trash; we merely gawk in awe, cowed into silence by the sheer volume and pluck of it all. Take, for instance, this pandemic-friendly touchless holy water dispenser with artificial gold detail ($345). Or consider this playful menorah-shaped, eight-bowl bong ($399), this tasteful acrylic Squatty Potty ($75.95), a positivity-inducing crystal elixir water bottle featuring a unique clear, rose, amethyst, or smoky quartz crystal ($80), or perhaps this Keurig for cocktails, the Drinkworks™ Home Bar, which will prepare at the touch of a button everything from a Chambord French martini to a White Russian to a rosé spritzer for the slothful boozer in your life ($299.99). Elsewhere in the tempest of consumer innovation, Hidden Valley Ranch offered for a limited time a Lifetime Supply of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (along with a Ranchified Refrigerator) for $900 (plus an additional payment of $600 in 2025). Regrettably, it has already sold out. 

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