A mockup of a Richard Branson-Rupert Murdoch scrabble game. / Sinclair
The Baffler,  February 29, 2016

Daily Bafflements

A mockup of a Richard Branson-Rupert Murdoch scrabble game. / Sinclair
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• Remember when Mark Zuckerberg decided to slaughter his own food? And when he embraced thank you notes? No, we had carelessly forgotten, too. Those were the days when we all still thought he was dull and robotic, not “the aspirational model in chief” he is recognized as—with a little hindsight!—in 2016. In 2009, the maverick original decided “to wear a tie every day.” David Graeber wrote on the symbolism of the necktie in his Baffler no. 27 salvo, “Dickheads,” and commented on its uniformity: “its very effacement of individuality is itself one way of expressing power.”

• In Quartz, Leah Reich explores corporate attempts to rebrand empathy: “empathy as not a soft nurturing value but a hard commercial tool,” “these are the most empathetic companies in the world,” and so on. In Baffler issue 29, Merve Emre visited the business school class that teaches literature under the banner “The Moral Leader,” in which empathy is taught “not a precursor to a politics of solidarity but a method for acquiring and maintaining power over others.”

• Baffler contributing editor Barbara Ehrenreich reviews Matthew Desmond’s Evicted in the Times, concluding that “poverty in America has become a lucrative business, with appalling results.” Exploitation, as Desmond writes, is “a word that has been scrubbed out of the poverty debate.” 

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Strip The Hierarchies of Cuckoldry and Bankruptcy of its satirical critique, and you're left with a logic that is dismally familiar. The categories of embattled manhood now trafficked by the cuck-trashing, immigrant-bashing men of Breitbart or 4chan are shifting but ultimately exacting; like Fourier’s taxonomist, they obsess over finer and finer distinctions. Their aim is not to elevate one idealized version of masculinity, but to break masculinity into a more perfect pecking order, so almost everyone can look down a level at the scum below. This new order relies on the traditional markers of manly achievement—a girlfriend, sexual partners, money, power, and, most importantly, control—but none of those matter as much as the act of division itself. It’s a coping strategy. Yes, the 4chan men like to make jokes about living in their parents’ basements, but those jokes are only funny if they can point to someone even lower than themselves.

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Further Reading

 September 8

DACA was no DREAM. It was, at best, one of those restless afternoon naps one sometimes takes on a bad day hoping to wake up to something better.

 September 5

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire, I say, shut up, the lot of you.