Macron, the gilets jaunes and French politics (Charles Devellennes)

  • Macron represents a new era of French politics, for one thing the streets are reacting differently.
  • Hollande tried for normalcy but that era has passed.
  • “Macronades” are little sayings that Macron has become famous for (ex. telling an unemployed man “you only need to cross the street to find a job”).
  • Macron is very stubborn but the gilets jaunes forced his hand.
  • The gilets jaunes were the only political force to successfully get Macron to increase social welfare spending.
  • The center right and center left parties have completely collapsed. Macron has taken more upscale voters from both.
  • Macron is really despised by a lot of people. One reason is repressive police violence. He also pushes through reforms without consultation.
  • He is perceived as a right-wing president.
  • No political party has captured the gilets jaunes movement, they have intentionally evaded this in any event.
  • There was a gilets jaunes party in the 2019 european elections but it completely flopped.
  • In the first round of presidential voting younger voters went for Mélenchon, the middle aged favoured Le Pen and Macron won the old.
  • Macron’s base has changed, the wealthy and retired have flocked to him over time. He passed a tax break for the richest.
  • Le Pen has support in rural and peri-urban areas, places outside of big metros where you need a car to get to work (the gilets jaunes protest was sparked by a carbon tax policy).
  • There is a diagonal of these communities that crosses France (low pop. density).
  • Le Pen is first for working class voters. That said, the working class tends to abstain from voting.
  • Many working class non-voters are those who have distanced from the left but haven’t been taken in by Le Pen.
  • The France of roundabouts, edges of cities, big box supermarkets etc. is the key locus of gilet jaunes type French. They tend to live in still further outlying areas and are small property owners.
  • French villages have lost needed amenities like little shops so locals have to go to big box stores via the roundabouts.
  • Macron has framed French politics as “it’s me or the fascists”.
  • A Macron reform made the “state of exception” permanent in French law so his self-assertion as the candidate of democracy is disingenuous.
  • Le Pen’s platform was surprisingly boring.
  • There’s been a far-right candidate in 3/5 of last French presidential elections (final vote).
  • Macron claimed to be “at the same time” left and right.
  • Since 2002 the left end of the French political spectrum has coalesced around anti-fascism (against the National Front, now the National Rally).

A Shopping Mall’s Live Drive-Thru Zoom Play (media and marketing case study)

This shopping mall staged an interactive drive-thru play on Zoom, the perfect pandemic era promotional event. It’s a cool media and marketing vignette.

Drive-Thru Murder Mystery on Zoom

“Since the health department allowed drive-ins, OTC created a Zoom ‘Dinner and a Murder’ event. Taking the basic drive-in concept up a notch, its duo of Janet Jerde (director) and Paige Jeschke (marketing manager) collaborated with The Murder Mystery Company of Michigan to develop a script and hired a dozen actors from across the country to perform the whodunit live online, with the intrigue coming to center viewers on-site on a 41-foot screen erected in the parking lot. That’s just part of the hair-raising story.

Guests who had pre-purchased their tickets could roll up to the center and park in front of the screen, order food and drinks from tenants restaurants, and then ease back into their seats, watch the action unfold, and try to solve the murder like investigators on a stakeout. According to OTC’s team, it communicated with the actors via Zoom while those present really got into the event’s theme and actively participated when prompted by honking their horns, flashing their car lights, using their blinkers, and texting the team who they thought had murdered the ‘movie’ victim, millionaire Sal Fie (get it?). The supporting tech gave the guests the impression that they were interacting with the actors directly, even though the OTC team was the intermediary-the performers could actually call out specific cars, incorporate team names that were texted in, and ‘see’ drivers react when they thought one of the suspects wasn’t telling the truth. “

juicy meat #3: Alone with Vladimir Putin on TikTok

“juicy meat” is an ongoing series analyzing media content. This instalment reflects on Vladimir Putin’s TikTok presence.

Vladimir Putin on TikTok
Putin on TikTok in a Tweet within another Tweet

Putins In My Hand Thanks to China

I’ve got a new Twitter account that only follows two people: Elon Musk and a Canadian journalist. Since my timeline would be boring otherwise, Twitter crams it with topical Tweets and other filler. Yesterday I logged on and was served the above Tweet. In the Tweet a finance influencer “quote Tweets” an anonymous account that posted a TikTok video. In it, Vladimir Putin faces the camera and talks about the global financial system and the supposed diminished standing of the US Dollar.

Curious about the TikTok account that originally posted the clip, I opened the app and navigated to @president.putin.fanpage. The page has over 900,000 followers and features flattering snippets of the Russian president. More recent clips are of the straight-to-camera public statement genre and almost mimic selfie-video, partly because they are on TikTok. One thumbnail preview displays the caption “I want ordinary Western people [to] hear me”.

None of this is particularly revelatory and this is not a mis/disinfo scare-post. A few fairly obvious things are still worth noting, however. The account has a huge following but doesn’t interact at all and there’s no public manager (added context: the “bio” says it’s not an official page). Since it seems to be a simple matter of adding english captions to highlights of pre-existing video clips, occasionally with bare minimum contextualization, the account’s propaganda value to resources expended ratio is incredible. Many of the videos have millions of views.

Another thing worth noting is that TikTok is a Chinese-owned application. There’s endless talk in the current moment about Chinese-Russian relations and a Chinese firm facilitating the distribution of Russian propaganda to Western palms and eyeballs during a hot conflict seems novel.

To sum up: by logging in to a fresh Twitter account and following Elon Musk as well as the “Business and finance” vertical my attention was directed at a Putin-propaganda effort to undermine confidence in the USA financial system that bore the watermark of a Chinese-owned platform. In an unpredictable smartphone and social media instant you can end up face-to-face with a major political figure’s fount of massaged information. As far as Russia and China, it’s surprising that all this is tolerated, to the extent that it is, by the Western establishment.

juicy meat #2: femininity coaches on social media, preliminary notes

“juicy meat” is an ongoing series analyzing media content. This instalment contemplates femininity coaches on social media.

“Femininity coaches” are trending right now. They’re plying their trade on Youtube, TikTok and elsewhere. Lots of commentators say elements of this are “problematic”, but what actually explains the phenomenon? Some early thoughts…

Why Femininity Coaches Now?

  1. Cultural backlash against “Female Chauvinist Pigs”, a phenomenon best exemplified by the Call Her Daddy podcast. Certainly true, right? Femininity coaches reject the Call Her Daddy woman but stop short of outright “social conservatism”, a welcome compromise.
  2. The bitter internet lurkers favourite explanation and sometimes the explicit conceit of the content: hypergamy. Femininity coaches can help you secure a “high value man”, that’s the hope. Women definitely complain about the quality of men in the current day so maybe the stakes are just that high.
  3. Pure fantasy. The content in question has virtually no practical relevance for most of the people consuming it. This is clear from many “comments” and obvious more generally. This explanation is best seen in light of the immersive and intimate quality of the digital media environment. You’re curled up in bed alone in your apartment and a “femininity coach” ambushes you on TikTok.
  4. Women’s desire for feminine intimacy with other women. Straight women desire lots of intimacy from other straight women.* That said, stuff like woman-on-woman hair-brushing has surely declined in the era of the smartphone. Maybe alluring imagery on said smartphone fills the gap? Do current-day men (including “high value men”) really want women to be “feminine” in the style of this content? It’s iffy.** Is this all a woman-on-woman fantasy-projection?

*See: ASMR, fodder for any number of future “juicy meat” posts.

**To be clear, I’m not speaking for myself. I’m not taking a position any which way but playing the objective social analyst.

juicy meat #1: A beauty influencer’s monologue on work, class and adventure

“juicy meat” will be an ongoing series analyzing media content. Content being the “the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind” according to Marshall McLuhan. Further context for this particular document will be provided at a later time.

“Yeah, so… to go back to just everything I’ve been talking about. Ummm… There’s a topic in the anti-work subreddit that really spoke to me and I’m showing you right here it says ‘anti-work is not a right vs. left issue, this is a top vs. bottom movement, everyone deserves to have a livable wage, every single person no exceptions. No one should have to work until death or work multiple jobs just to survive. Don’t let multi-billionaire corporations pit us against each other, this isn’t a social issue, it’s an economic issue that negatively effects all of us.’

I believe there’s a lot of social engineering happening right before our eyes that is dividing us, it’s dividing the people, the working class, where we fight against each other while those at top they get to basically just control everything and they’re engineering these false narratives that are pitting us against each other. If you think about it, the top %1, there’s very few of them compared to the rest of the world and everyone else and imagine if we put aside our differences and worked and helped each other and understood each other more. We see each other as enemies rather than brothers and sisters and we have a common enemy which is a very small percentage of people who are puppeteering everything, who own everything, and I truly believe people are waking up from this, they’re starting to see beyond the veil that’s in front of us.

I know this year was very tough for a lot of people around the world because of just.. a lot of the uncertainties with the future uhh.. inflation of course, what’s happening with money. There’s been a lot of civil unrest around the world too so… I didn’t come in this video for solutions it was really just more to have like an open dialogue and discussion with you on this because most people are not happy with their jobs, they don’t feel valued, they have meaningless work, they have soul-sucking jobs that are robbing them of their time and energy where they can allocate that to things that they enjoy, they love.

I remember growing up and going to school and being told this was how things worked and if you follow the rules and you’re a good person, you’re a good citizen, you will be rewarded. Now that I’m older and I see the world through a new lens, through the lens of someone who’s an adult, who’s in this economic system, that is so far from the truth. It’s the corrupted people who are winning and who are passing off the laws and rules and those who are decent, decent people who are taxpayers, they are the ones who are getting robbed, they are the ones who are getting blindsided by the system and [I] think people are just fed up.

I think people just want sovereignty. I think people want to be able to pursue their dreams so now we have to reevaluate what is the future going to look like… I think this is a good note that I can end on… is that in life you can make so many different plans and be prepared but there’s so many elements that are completely out of your control and being anxious about things you have no control over will only make things worse. And so, the best advice I can offer that I used myself when I was feeling anxious and I was in debt and I didn’t have a job and I had to figure my future out… was to learn. Be a self-learner, you have so much knowledge at your disposal now compared to when I first started out and you can learn so much and learn things that bring you joy, learn things that you’re good at, learn things that can help you create a better future for yourself. And in a way, yes, it is scary but it’s also exciting that means it’s a new adventure, there’s new things to be created and to be learned and… you have to ask yourself where do you want to start. Don’t be scare of the unknown, see it as an invitation to grow as a person and also it’s exciting, you never know where it’s going to take you right?”

YouTube, fandom and “intimacy”

Youtube’s Intimacy, Fan Passion and Digital Eye Contact

“When we surveyed our teen and Millennial subscribers, 40 percent told us that YouTubers understood them better than their friends or family.* But a whopping 60 percent of them told us that a creator has changed their life or view of the world.”

“This embrace of openness by both fans and creators has led to a stronger link between them and the traditional teenage fan club. Sixty percent of those same subscribers tell us that the community they form with other fans of their favorite YouTubers is stronger than those they form around traditional celebrities from TV, music, or film. And earlier in the book I mentioned that the same percentage tell us that a YouTube creator has changed his or her life or view of the world.

When I asked Tyler about this, he explained that even the format of vlogging encourages connection. ‘YouTube is so intimate because it’s a YouTuber talking directly into the eyes of the viewer,’ he said. ‘It’s physically so close to the screen, it feels like you’re with your friend.’

But I believe that intimacy goes even deeper. When you first encounter actors, you’re likely encountering them performing a role. Their success depends on your believing their portrayal of someone they are not. With YouTubers, it’s the opposite; their success depends on your knowing and liking who they actually are. That doesn’t just lead to a situation that’s more intimate; it’s the definition of how intimacy is built.”

Public space, Hannah Arendt and Toronto

“If cultural homogeneity is no longer an option, how do we live together? An indispensable precondition for peace and harmony is to have place and spaces where we tread the same sidewalks, see each other, simply walk to a park or public square to meet friends, take our kids to play, walk our dogs, and through unscripted interactions learn to cope with our inevitable differences and understand our commonalities. Virtual space does not replace that. As with many other earlier communications advancements – telephone, movies, television – new technological capabilities are absorbed and become complementary to this still-basic need for face-to-face encounters.

Encountering the “other” in public has something fundamental to do with self-actualization. As philosopher Hannah Arendt observed, humans appear before others in public in order to be recognized. Personal identity is exposed and revealed. This “revelation” of identity cannot happen in isolation; it cannot result from self-reflection alone. Our public self is revealed in a public place. In our city, we cannot help being aware that we have been born into a world that is inhabited by many others who are different from ourselves. We can also see that, in large part, we benefit form that reality and thus we consider it a positive condition of our shared lives as city dwellers.

A pervasive desire for some form of sociability in true public space seems to meet a fundamental human need. On a personal level, many of us have a longing for the unscripted possibilities – a life of absolutely “no surprises” is deadly dull. Too, the experience of seeing and being seen among our peers in public confirms our own place in the universe as humans and the connectedness of things. In true public space we can reveal and communicated our uniqueness as individuals and at the same time recognize the differing identities of others. These interactions, even when they provide something as simple as awareness and familiarity, speak to our collective viability as an urban society. In the absence of public spaces where such mingling can occur, problems of exclusion can easily arise. When citizens do not meet their fellow citizens – in all their variety – there emerges the very real danger that the unknown “other” will be seen as in some way threatening. In our heterogenous city, we have an obligation to ensure the existence of a space for communication and interaction among all citizens; and it must be inclusive enough to allow access and use by everyone.

There is an important political dimension, as well. The presence and stability of the commons is critical to democracy.We need space for political freedom, places where people can demonstrate, express dissent, and freely vice opinions in public.”

Counterpoint: Nathan Jurgenson in The Social Photo

“‘The Moment’ is not just a solitary experience. And, often, when people praise disconnecting from the digital in order to be ‘in the moment together,’ it really is a privileging of mere geography. The fetishization of contiguity has a long tradition and is echoed in our everyday language: each time we say ‘IRL,’ ‘face-to-face,’ or ‘in person’ to mean connection without screens, we frame what is ‘real’ or who is a person in terms of their geographic proximity rather than other aspects of closeness-variables like attention, empathy, affect, erotics, all of which can be experienced at a distance. We should not conceptually preclude or discount all the ways intimacy, passion, love, joy, pleasure, closeness, pain, suffering, evil, and all the visceral actualities of existence pass through the screen. ‘Face to face’ could mean much more than breathing the same air.

Geographic proximity remains important to whether we call something ‘close’ or ‘in person’.or ‘face to face.’ At times it is perhaps the most significant variable. But it certainly should not be the only one. To start from the prerequisite that co presence is solely dependent on proximity in space devalues so many other moments where closeness occurs and happens to be mediated by a screen. Physicality can be digitally mediated: what happens through the screen happens through bodies and material infrastructures. The sext or the intimate video chat is physical-of and affecting bodies. Video chat brings faces to other faces. You are aware of, learning from, assessing, stimulated by, and speaking through bodies and the spaces around them, as details of those spaces filter in and are noticed or foregrounded. This screen-mediated communication is face-to-face, in person, physical, and close in so many important ways, and distant in only one.

Likewise, being geographically close does not necessarily assure the other qualities of proximity. You can be in the same room with someone, but that doesn’t mean you are actively caring for or about them: maybe you are not listening; perhaps you are there out of obligation. You can be distant in all the ways you were close in the video conversation, not ‘in the same place’ at all. To be sure, mediated communication comes with miscommunication, degradations in the fidelity of the message, the loss of meaning. But to downplay mediated communication is to downplay the cultural and social possibilities of communicating with those who are far away, to exchange across culture, to send messages to those in the future, to speak to yourself from the past, to interface with the dead.”

Ukrainian nationalism, the far-right and Maidan

“More importantly, they had the force of an organized minority: they had a clear ideology, they operated efficiently, established their own ‘hundreds’ within the self-defence structures. They also succeeded in mainstreaming their slogans: ‘Glory to Ukraine’, ‘Glory to the Heroes’, ‘Death to the Enemies’, ‘Ukraine Above Everything’ an adaptation of Deutschland über Alles. Before Euromaidan, these were used only in the nationalist subculture; now they became commonplace. Probably everyone who used the central metro station in Kiev in December witnessed a scene like this: a group of nationalists starts to chant ‘Glory to the Nation! Glory to Ukraine!’, and random passers-by on their way to work or to their studies chant back: ‘Year Glory to the Heroes! Death to the Enemies!’ Everyone now knew how to respond, what was expected of them.

Of course, not everyone chanting ‘Glory to the Heroes!’ was a far-right sympathizer-far from it. The majority chose to interpret the slogans a certain way, as referring not to the heroes of Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, but to the heroes of Maidan. Still, this was a real success for the far right, something neither the liberals nor the small numbers of leftists who took part were able to achieve. Why these slogans rather than other, not so questionable ones? Why not some socio-economic demands? It shows who was actually hegemonic in the process. Numerically, yes, the far right had a minor presence, but they were dominant on the political and ideological level.”

“Yes, Ukrainian nationalism now mostly has these right-wing connotations, and the emphasis on the figures you mentioned has clearly overpowered the leftist strands. But when it emerged in the late nineteenth century, Ukrainian nationalism was predominantly a leftist, even socialist movement. The first person to call for an independent Ukrainian state was a Marxist, Yulian Bachinsky, who wrote a book called Ukraina Irredenta in 1895, and there were many others writing from Marxist positions in the early twentieth century. But any attempts to revitalize socialist ideas within Ukrainian nationalism today have been very marginal. Part of the problem is that it’s not so easy to reactualize these ideas: the people in question were writing for an overwhelmingly agrarian country, something like 80 per cent of Ukrainians were peasants. The fact that the working class here was not Ukrainian was, as we know, a huge problem for the Bolsheviks, intensifying the dynamics of the Civil War in 1918-21 because it was not just a class war, but also a national war; petty bourgeois pro-Ukrainian forces were able to mobilize these national feelings against a working-class movement that was seen as pro-Russian. Today, of course, Ukraine is no longer an agrarian country but an industrialized one, and since roughly half the population speaks Ukrainian and half Russian, it is no longer so easy to say who is the oppressed nation and who is the oppressor.

Then there is the fact that the right has worked to reinterpret figures such as Makhno along nationalist lines-not as an anarchist, but as another Ukrainian who fought against communism. In their eyes communism was a Russian imposition, and anarchism too is depicted as ‘anti-Ukrainian’. At the Maidan, the far right forced out a group of anarchists who tried to organize their own ‘hundred’ within the self-defence structures. They also physically attacked leftists and trade unionists who came to distribute leaflets in support of the Maidan-one of the speakers on stage pointed them out, saying they were communists, and a rightist mob surrounded and beat them.”