Imagine there’s no Sgt Pepper. It’s all too easy in the era of Trump and May | John Harris

13 hours ago

This great Beatles album is as thrilling a listen as ever on its 50 th anniversary: but its a melancholy day for the one-world counterculture the record soundtracked

At the time Sgt Pepper was released, the American writer Langdon Winner once recalled, I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80. In each city where I stopped for gas or food Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend the tunes wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi For a brief while, the irreparably fragmented consciousness of the west was unified, at the least in the minds of the young.

How far away it all seems. On 26 May the 50th anniversary of the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band( it actually falls on 1 June) is likely to be marked by the release of remixed and repackaged versions of the original album. With his characteristically jolly meeknes, Paul McCartney insists in the latest issue of Mojo magazine that its only a record but its gained in notoriety over the years. The truth is that Sgt Pepper might be the most confident, boundary-pushing record British rock musicians had already been generated, and it is worth revisiting again.

We might also think about the era the album crystallised, and its long legacy. Sgt Pepper is not quite the quintessentially psychedelic, love-and-peace artefact of historical cliche: streaked through its multicoloured astonish is a very Beatle-ish various kinds of melancholy, partly rooted in the bands decidedly unpsychedelic postwar childhoods. But the wider culture moment, and the Beatles place at its heart, were indeed replete with beads, buzzers and a wide-eyed optimism.

Three weeks after the album came out, the band were the biggest attraction in the worlds first global satellite TV demonstrate, singing All You Need Is Love to an audience of as many as 350 million. Meanwhile, on both the US west coast and in swinging London, young people on the cutting edge genuinely were trying to push into a future very different from the one their parents had envisaged.

The so-called counterculture may not initially have reached much beyond its urban nerve centres and campuses. But the basic ideas Sgt Pepper soundtracked soon acquired enough influence to begin no end of social revolutions. A new emphasis on self-expression was manifested in the decisive arrival of feminism and gay liberation. Countries and borders came a distant second to the idea of one world.

Such shibboleths as matrimony until death and a job for life were quickly weakened. Once the leftist unrest of 1968 was out of the way, the shift continued away from the old-fashioned politics of systems and social structures towards the idea of freeing ones mind everything coloured with an essentially optimistic position of the future.

Two years after Sgt Peppers release, a young alumnu at Wellesley College, a women-only institution in Massachusetts, dedicated a speech. Our persisting acquisitive and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us, she said. Were searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living. And so our topics, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue.

Her name was Hillary Rodham, and her journey says a lot about where 1960 s values eventually resulted us. To quote the music novelist Charles Shaar Murray, the line from hippy to yuppie was not nearly as convoluted as some people subsequently liked to believe and once the love decades more ambitious alumni reached positions of power, the origin of many of their notions was as clear as day.

Their professed distaste for corporate values fell away, but the hippy individualism summed up in the future Hillary Clintons insistence on immediate and ecstatic ways of life lived on, as did a questioning attitude to tradition, and to the stifling the limit of the old-fashioned nation state.

After the anti-6 0s backlash symbolised by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, by the mid-9 0s such notions were shaping a new political establishment, exemplified by Bill Clinton, and Blair and Browns New Labour. I am a modern man, from the rocknroll generation. The Beatles, colour TV, thats my generation, said Blair. Clinton honked away at his saxophone and ended his rallies with a song by Fleetwood Mac.

It is not hard to read across from these legislators ideals to what they soaked up in their formative years. In 2005 Blair, who fronted a long-haired band while at Oxford University, told the Labour party conference that people should be swift to adapt, slow to complain open, willing and able to change. Collectivity was yesterdays thing; against a background of globalisation and all-enveloping liberalism, governments task was to encourage people to be as flexible and self-questioning as possible.

John Lennons response to the rebels of 68: the Beatles build Revolution rock

Go back 50 years, and you perhaps hear early stirrings of those ideas, soaked in patchouli petroleum and put to tape at EMIs Abbey Road studios. Try George Harrisons Indian-flavoured Within You Without You: Try to realise its all within yourself/ No one else can construct you change . Or what about John Lennons response to the rebels of 68 in Revolution( on the so-called White Album )? You tell me its the institution/ Well, you know/ Youd better free your intellect instead . As for a picture of globalised utopia, after the Beatles had broken up, Lennon released that saccharine anthem Imagine, with its key line: Imagine theres no countries .

And now? If youre a citizen of the world, youre a citizen of nowhere, says our new “ministers “. If we do indeed live in the post-liberal times endlessly analysed in academic papers, it is the inheritance of the 60 s that is in question. For sure, many of the changes that originated then have become irreversibly embedded in millions of lives. Positions to marriage, sexuality and matters such as race are seemingly more liberal than ever; wherever you go, youre never very far from the whiff of marijuana smoke.

But the dominance of post-6 0s individualism and globalisation is being weakened by the resurgence of collective identities meant to have withered away: class, nation, region. And if the events of 2016 and 2017 are anything to go by, political success now often goes to people whose values seem the polar opposite of the old counterculture.

Duty, nationhood, and regular trips to church: whatever values Theresa May affects to represent, they are surely redolent of a world that existed long before the 1960 s( consider also her parliamentary record, which includes votes against equalising the age of permission, lesbian adoption and the repeal of section 28 ).

Last year, a New York Post article contrasted Hillary Clintons embodiment of the campus 1960 s with the sense that Donald Trump was an unexpected throwback to the Rat Pack, those macho exemplars of everything the hippies wanted to sweep away. Trump, said the author, represented pre-Feminist Man, the guy who boasts about never having changed a nappy and expects subservience from his wives.

Sgt Pepper arrived two decades after the second world wars objective: approximately the same historical distance that separates the Brexit/ Trump age from the high point of the Clinton/ Blair era. Devote a 21 st-century polish, the albums music voices as thrilling as ever, though with a bittersweet sense of a credo abruptly falling victim to a counter-revolution.

On the last track of the old side two, the bell-like piano chords that begin A Day in the Life are applied to sound like the death knell of all the inward-looking, fusty, moralistic ideas the Beatles came to do away with. How strange to tune in half a century afterwards and find all that stuff back with a vengeance.

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Barack Obama says Donald Trump may have ‘enough craziness’ to be president

5 days ago

In a wide-ranging interview, the US president tells ABC he thinks Obamacare will survive Republican repeal attempts

Barack Obama believes Donald Trump is very engage and gregarious and not lacking in confidence, to the point where he may have enough craziness to think[ he] can do the job. But he wont say if he likes him.

The US president spoke to ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos, in a wide-ranging interview that was recorded on Friday.

The conversation included reflections on Obamas time in the White House, which ends with Trumps inauguration on 20 January, his achievements and letdowns in domestic and foreign policy and his expectations regarding his legacy.

Asked if he guesses his Obamacare health reform, his chief domestic accomplishment, will survive a Trump presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress, he said: I think it will.

Questioned about the president-elects controversial stance to intelligence agencies faith that Russia intervened in the US election on his behalf, and favourable statements about Russia and its president, Obama counselled trust in such agencies.

We have to remind ourselves were on the same squad, he said. Vladimir Putins not on our team.

Stephanopoulos asked Obama what he had tried to impress on Trump since the Republican victory over Hillary Clinton in November.

The conversations have been cordial, Obama said. He has been open to suggestions, and the main thing that Ive tried to transmit is that theres a difference between governing and campaigning.

Trump has spoken favourably of such conversations with Obama, although he just said, in a typically incautious tweet, that he was trying to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going to be a smooth transition – NOT!

Obama, spoke of his familiar measured tones, said Trump would soon be in charge of the largest organisation on earth which he would not be able to manage[ in] the style you would manage a family business.

Trump is due to hold a press conference his first since July on Wednesday, to outline routes in which he intends to lessen or avoid conflicts of interest between his business empire, members of his family and his new political role.

Stephanopoulos asked how Trump had impressed Obama so far.

You know, the president said, he is somebody who I think is very engaging and gregarious.

Do you like him, Stephanopoulos asked.

You know, Ive enjoyed the conversations that weve had, Obama said. He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence, which is probably a prerequisite for the job, or at the least you have to have enough craziness to think that you can do the job.

I is considered that he has not spent a lot of time sweating a detailed description of, you know, all the policies

Asked if that fretted him, Obama said he saw himself more at the policy wonk end of the spectrum, and said a lack of familiarity with policy details could be both a strength and a weakness for Trump.

I think its fair to say that he and I are sort of opposites in some ways, he added.

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On final Ukraine trip, Biden urges Trump administration to keep Russia sanctions

9 days ago

Comments while meeting with Ukraines president came after Trump indicated he could aim Crimea-related sanctions in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal

Vice-president Joe Biden, on a last foreign journey before leaving office, fulfilled Ukraines president on Monday and called on the incoming Donald Trump administration to retain Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Bidens comments at a briefing with Petro Poroshenko came after Trump indicated in an interview with the Times and Bild that he could aim sanctions imposed in the aftermath Russias 2014 annexation of Crimea, in return for a nuclear arms reduction bargain.

Trumps attitude to Russia and praise for Vladimir Putin has been a consistently controversial feature of his rise to the White House, which will be completed with his inauguration in Washington on Friday.

US intelligence agencies believe Russia sought to covertly influence the US election in Trumps favour and against the Democratic nominee, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Trump has recently admitted that he believes Russia did orchestrate such hackers, but has nonetheless fuelled a bitter feud with intelligence officials over the issue.

The international community must continue to stand as one against Russian coercion and aggression, Biden told reporters, standing alongside Poroshenko, in remarks which did not include reference to Trump by name.

The Crimea-related sanctions against Russia must remain in place until Russia returns full control to the people of Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Other US sanctions are connected to Russias involvement in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

Together with our EU and G7 partners, Biden said, we made it clear that sanctions should remain in place until Russia fully, emphasise fully, enforces its commitments under the Minsk agreement.

Poroshenko said Ukraine believed in good cooperation with the new US administration and urged sanctions to stay, without mentioning Trumps statements on a deal with Russia.

Andy Hunder, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, said Kiev would have to put much time and resources into dealing with the new US administration.

On 20 January Ukraine will be waking up to a new reality, he told Reuters. There is a concern in Kiev about how the new relationship will develop. It will require constructing new bridges to the influencers, the gatekeepers and decision-makers.

Kiev has taken steps to win the very best favour of the those calling the shoots in the Trump administration. Days after the election in November, Poroshenkos office started planning an official visit to Washington in early 2017.

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I’m American and devastated. Why did we vote for Trump? | Mariella Frostrup

1 month, 15 days ago

One woman, frightened by her countrys results of the election, insures no chink of sunlight. Remember the millions, like you, trying to construct the world a better place, says Mariella Frostrup

The dilemma I am American; born, created and still living in New York City and I am, without exaggeration, devastated. I feel my country, in electing Donald Trump, has just been resulted down the road to extermination and mayhem. My disgrace, embarrassment, fear, rage, and sadness are unrelenting. I witnessed 9/11 from my school window as a adolescent, so I will never think of the US as a place of unending harmony or prosperity, but I cannot believe that so many people would allow this to happen.

I knocked on doorways, encouraged people to vote and donated money, but had I known the reality, I would have done much more. I know people in other countries are equally shocked, but do you have any wisdom to share? I would also like to tell those abroad that many of us here find this tragic and deep embarrassing( no one I know feels differently to me although I realise that is part of their own problems ).

Mariella replies My heart goes out to you. Many of us remain mortified by our nations recent political choices. We both live in countries that have experienced political shocks of a seismic nature in the past year and you are certainly not alone in your hopelessnes and embarrassment. That said, you cant take responsibility for the choices a nation makes any more than you can for a partner.

The best we can hope for is to try to understand why such selections were made and let that inform future dialogue. On the summer day we voted to leave the EU, plenty of us in the UK were as devastated as you are now, but period has encouraged a degree of sagacity. Pulling up the drawbridge to the UK has provided a salutary lesson to those on both sides, and neither seemed to be in step with voters. Believing youre the one in the right is no alternative to appreciating the concerns of others , no matter how alien their beliefs might feel.

Its a lesson as true in politics as it is in our personal lives. Being so convinced of the righteousness of your beliefs that you block your ears to opposing ideas is certainly not constructive. Never has the liberal left looked more out of step with the populist tune and I speak as a paid-up member of that fraternity. My belief and hope is that the referendum and election outcomes in both the UK and US respectively will animate us all out of our apathetic stupor. Weve been treading water for too long. Like partners in an unhappy marriage we needed things to hit rock bottom to force us out of our hapless ways.

The world as we know it has to change. It feels as though the divide between rich and poor hasnt been so pronounced since the Middle Ages. Along with our determination to claim whatever meagre bit of clay we consider our birthright, were becoming increasingly useless at the life skills essential to survival. My shameful Tv secret is that Im an Im a Celebrity viewer, a programme that are typically confirms my hypothesi that evolution is in retreat. Your future chairperson would have made a perfect contestant. I suspect you know how to light a fire, clean your socks and whip up a meal from basic ingredients, but that basic skill set is gradually attaining you part of a minority in the developed world.

Its a dangerous state of affairs. No wonder the proponents of dread are taking over. As a species we are scared witless and feel increasingly helpless about where we are heading. But instead of fuelling us to care better for our planet and its dwellers weve been wringing our hands and staring out the window.

Again, as in a relationship, its all too easy to identify where things are wrong and harder, but more constructive to identify where were getting it right. Our tally in attaining the world a better place is something we dont often add up. Instead our daily diet of failing is delivered through every media outlet, our excesses and brutalities writ big to capture the popular imagination. So its hard not to despair.

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Antonin Scalia: a supreme court justice ‘extreme and out of step’ with women

1 month, 18 days ago

The conservatives positions on discrimination, sexuality, race and abortion stimulated him a liberal bugbear. But he did have some capacity for understanding

It would be an understatement to note that Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away on Saturday, was a controversial figure. Known for his acerbic disagreements and what President Obama called a larger than life presence on the bench, the supreme court justices demise immediately elicited discussion on how soon is too soon to note the route a public people career negatively affected so many.

Given Scalias penchant for discrepancy and unapologetically saying what you think, however, it seems unlikely that hed take issue with the American people doing the same in the wake of his occur. And the truth is that throughout Scalias long tenure on the supreme court, he crafted a legacy that was decidedly regressive and anti-woman.

Scalia was a proponent of originalism, believing that the constitutions meaning is fixed, and should be interpreted in the way the framers originally intended. He was decidedly anti-progressive: Scalia wanted to overturn Roe v Wade, voted against protecting equal pay, wanted states to be able to proscribe homosexual sex, and sometimes said things outside of the courtroom about these issues that created eyebrows.

Jessica Mason Pieklo, vice-president of law and the courts at RH Reality Check, a pressure group concerned with reproductive and sexual health issues, says: He argued abortion rights, same sexuality marriage, and policies that address systemic racial segregation all should be left to the voters while insisting firms have constitutional religious rights to deny employees equal benefits on the basis of gender.

In a 2011 interview with California Lawyer, Scalia said he believed that females were not protected by the constitution, bucking decades of precedent.

Certainly the constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex, Scalia said.

The only issue is whether it proscribes it. It doesnt If the current society wants to prohibit discrimination by sex, hey, we have things called parliaments, and they legislate things called laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union called his comments extreme and out of step with the mainstream; the National Womens Law Center said: Instead than acknowledging that our understanding of the principles enshrined in the constitution grows and deepens over hour,[ Scalia] would freeze its meaning in the 19 th century.

Scalia walked back the controversial commentaries a bit in a 2013 New York Magazine interview, saying of course the 14 th amendment prohibits discrimination by sexuality but that the issue is what constitutes discrimination.

There are some intelligent reasons to treat girls differently, he noted.( He also carried discomfort with women who swear .)

On abortion, Scalia guessed similarly, saying in a visit to the Oxford Union that the constitution says nothing about[ the right to abortion ]. In addition to wanting to overrule Roe, Scalia voted to uphold legislation that banned abortion in the second trimester without a health exception, and came down on the side of anti-abortion protesters trying to block women access to clinics. Scalia even characterized the protesters who frequently scream at females, call them murderers, and even assault them as wanting to comfort girls.

And during oral debates for the Hobby Lobby case on contraception coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act, Scalia apparently agreed with Hobby Lobbys incorrect characterization of some different forms of birth control as abortion-inducing, calling them abortifacients .

It should be noted, though, that some in the anti-abortion community were torn on Scalia after a 2008 60 Minutes interview in which he told Lesley Stahl that he disagreed with those who thought you said you treat a helpless human being thats still in the womb the way you treat other human beings.

I think when the constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, he said, I think it clearly means walking-around persons.

Afterwards, the American Life League called Scalia the adversary and his comments downright ridiculous, as a matter of fact, it is heretical.

The justice was also known for his breathtaking homophobia. In Romer v Evans he defended hostility towards gay people as similar to the disdain one would have towards slaying or cruelty to animals and compared statutes that limited LGBT peoples rights to those that adversely affect smokers or drug addicts.

In Lawrence v Texas he wrote something similar, arguing that while outlawing gay sex does enforce constraints on liberty, so do statutes that proscribe prostitution or recreational use of heroin. He also compared gay sex to incest and bestiality and argued that states had the right to stimulate lesbian sexuality illegal since they are position this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.

Scalias views on race also drew wide criticism. During oral arguments for the affirmative action case Fisher v University of Texas last year, he made offensive commentaries concerning people of color, saying: There are the individuals who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school a slower-track school where they do well.

According to one reporter, specific comments elicited muted gasp in the courtroom.

Pieklo said: A plenty has been said about how brilliant a novelist Scalia was, but I think its important to remember that behind that brilliant prose were a lot of radically dangerous beliefs.

Despite Scalias history of anti-woman notions and rulings, he remained close with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so much so that a comedic opu, Scalia/ Ginsburg, was created in their honor.

Irin Carmon, writer of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote of their friendship: Whether or not it was how Scalia considered it, for Ginsburg their public relationship also made a statement about the court as an institution: that it was strengthened by respectful debate, that it could work no matter how polarized our own member were.

Its unclear what Scalias death will mean for upcoming cases concerning girls. Next month, for example, the court is set to hear arguments in Whole Womans Health v Hellerstedt, on the Texas law that effectively shut down most of the states abortion clinics .


Scalia makes a rare appearance on Capitol Hill, to testify before a Senate judiciary committee hearing in 2011. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/ EPA

The law required that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles of their clinic and that any clinics abortions fulfilling the same building regulations as ambulatory surgical centers. The Center for Reproductive Rights has called the law deceptive, and noted that it has placed too many obstacles in front of women trying abortions.

In the process, HB2 punishes women for their decision to exercising their constitutional right to objective a pregnancy, they say .

With Scalias death, the ruling might result in a tie in Whole Womans Health, in which instance the lower court ruling which would let Texas law stand would remain in effect.

No matter what happens in future lawsuits, what is clear is that Scalias empty seat will irrevocably affect womens and civil rights; and should Congress effectively stall President Obamas supreme court pick, the next chairman could possibly appoint up to three justices. For better or worse a lot would argue for better none will leave the kind of legacy Scalia did.

As Slates Dahlia Lithwick wrote, Scalia was the most three-dimensional justice with an often two-dimensional worldview.

History will likely recollected him as someone who was gloriously, powerfully on the wrong side of so many important matter. But history is certainly remember him.

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Kellyanne Conway: the secret weapon that won the war

1 month, 23 days ago

Just when Donald Trump seemed about to faltering, up stepped a new campaign director whose words diffused her bos machismo

The decision that would transform Donald Trumps campaign was constructed in August. Outwardly the candidate was putting his usual pugnacious spin on events, insisting he would destroy opponent Hillary Clinton in the debates. Behind the scenes the campaign was in freefall.

His first campaign manager, the bombastic Corey Lewandowski, had been deposed; replacing Paul Manafort, a veteran lobbyist, was under investigation for his ties with the Ukraine; and Trump himself wasnt exactly helping his cause his repeated insults to the parents of Humayun Khan, a soldier killed in action in Iraq, had watched him slip behind 10 phases in the polls. Something had to change.

Enter Kellyanne Conway. The 49 -year-old political strategist and pollster became the Trump camps third campaign director, the first woman to do that job for a Republican presidential campaign and its most effective weapon. The notoriously egotistical president-elect appeared to acknowledge this on Tuesday night when the pictures from his victory party presented him with one limb casually draped around the beaming Conways waist as he pointed to her with the other as though saying: Guys, it was all down to her. A undertaking as the White Houses next press secretary is strongly rumoured to be her reward.

So what was her secret? Conway feminised the Trump campaign, dedicating it an acceptable face amid the blustering machismo. A Tv veteran, she hit the airwaves relentlessly, diffusing all criticisms of Trump with a sunny smile and a continued insistence that Mr Trump has a positive vision for America.

Nothing seemed to faze her, including the candidates own inability to stick to the script. Not even the disastrous leaked grab em by the pussy videotape. In truth that last incident did briefly rattle her: she cancelled her Sunday TV appearances rather than defend Trump, before returning to the fray with message, and smile, firmly in place. I observed specific comments to be horrible and indefensible, she told CNN. Im glad he apologised. I was there when he made his apology[ and] I will tell all the people who think he was not sincere and he wasnt truly contrite youre incorrect. He was.

Not everybody was convinced. Online site Salon had already branded her Trumps liar in chief, with an utter lack of regard for honesty[ thats] simply breathtaking. Other news outlets joined in, denouncing her for cynically promoting her own career at the expense of any genuine beliefs.

Kellyanne Conway speaks during a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images

The truth is more complicated. Conway, who has often talked about her strong upbringing in a house dominated by females, both understands and is consistently drawn to men like Trump. Born Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, she was raised by her Italian American mom, a casino worker, in the town of Atco, New Jersey in a house in which her grandmother and two unmarried aunts also lived. Its like South Jerseys version of The Golden Girls, she told the New Yorker. Of her Irish American father, who walked out when she was a child, she noted only that he was on his fourth wedding before rolling her eyes. Her current boss is on wife number three.

She is married to George Conway, a lawyer, staunch Republican and member of the conservative Federalist Society, which helped spearhead the impeachment campaign against Bill Clinton. They have four children. Since 1995 she has run her own firm, the Polling Company, which advises firms on consumer trends among women. Previous political clients have included Newt Gingrich and Trumps operating mate Mike Pence. Her speciality: convincing females that socially conservative male politicians arent really that bad.

She has spent almost all her adult life working in highly macho surroundings she once said of her run: Im a female consultant in the Republican party, which entails when I walk into a session I always feel like Im strolling into a bachelor party in the locker room of the Elks club and has survived and indeed prospered because she is careful to coax rather than confront. Yet those honeyed tones conceal a will of steel.

When Mitt Romneys former campaign strategist Stuart Stevens claimed that she was simply a telegenic front for men such as former Fox news boss Roger Ailes and Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner, her rebuttal was swift: It smacks of misogyny and sexism to suggest that I cant do the job of a campaign manager,[ that] I can only go on Tv. Similar frustrations led her to co-write a volume titled What Women Really Want with Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. The GOP shouldnt talk to women from the waist down, she told Time magazine in 2014.

This is Conways greatest ability. Her terms resonate with white suburban girls across America, who would never dream of saying a bad word in public and whose criterion response to something they disagree with is to smile, say youre so funny and swiftly move on.

Conway took this method, the smile, the quick pivot on to something less likely to cause problems, and applied it to national politics with phenomenal success. US reporters might have hailed her as the Trump whisperer for the route she maintained the candidate focused during the final weeks of the campaign but her real ability lay in the coded messages she sent to women like her, convincing them that if she could stand by Trump despite the accusations of sexual abuse, so could they.

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Bursting the Facebook bubble: we asked voters on the left and right to swap feeds

1 month, 29 days ago

Social media has built it easy to live in filter bubbles, sheltered from opposing standpoints. So what happens when liberals and conservatives trade realities?

The 2016 election took place under the spectre of a bubble. Not the subprime mortgage lending bubble that shaped the 2008 election, but the filter bubble. Tens of millions of American voters gets their news on Facebook, where highly personalized news feeds dish up a steady creek of content that reinforces users pre-existing beliefs.

Facebook users are increasingly sheltered from resisting standpoints and dependable news sources and the viciously polarized nation of our national politics appears to be one of the results.

Criticism of the filter bubble, which gained steam after the UKs surprising Brexit referendum, has reached a new level of importance in the wake of Donald Trumps upset victory, despite Mark Zuckerbergs denial it had any influence.

To test the effects of political polarization on Facebook we asked ten US voters five conservative and five liberal to agree to take a scroll on the other side during the final month of the campaign.

We made two Facebook accounts from scratch. Rusty Smith, our right-wing avatar, liked a variety of conservative news sources, organizations, and personalities, from the Wall Street Journal and The Hoover Institution to Breitbart News and Bill OReilly. Natasha Smith, our left-wing persona, preferred The New York Times, Mother Jones, Democracy Now and Think Progress. Rusty liked Tim Tebow and the NRA. Natasha liked Colin Kaepernick and 350. org.

Our liberals were given log-ins to the conservative feed, and vice versa, and we asked our participants to limit their news consumption as much as possible to the feed for the 48 hours following the third debate, the reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the election.

Not all of our participants induced it through to election day. You might as well have been waterboarding a brother, said one of the participants, Alphonso Pines, after his first exposure to the right-wing feed.

But eight of our bubble-busters made multiple forays into the Facebook feed and were interviewed three or four times one even said the experience influenced his final decision. Heres how it impacted them all 😛 TAGEND

Inside the bubble

From Utah to St Louis, and Georgia to San Francisco, most of our participants were aware that they lived in a bubble.

Twelve people have shared a story with me about the Hillary Clinton bus dumping human garbage into the sewer system, said Trent Loos, a farmer and radio host from central Nebraska. I never watch positive stuff about Hillary Clinton. I didnt know that existed.

Trent Loos, a conservative 50 -year-old farmer from central Nebraska. Photograph: Facebook

Nato Green, a comedian and writer who describes his political orientation as somewhere to the left of Che Guevara, describes a similarly sheltered existence.

I find regular Americans unbelievably exotic, the native San Franciscan said. I know Jill Stein people, and I know dont referendum people, but I dont know Trump people.

Several participants said that they sought out opposing viewpoints outside of Facebook, by watching Fox News( for a liberal) or reading High Country News( for a conservative ), but most had a generally one-sided experience within Facebooks news feed.

If I got any Trump advocates on my page, theyre in the closet, said Pines, a retired union organizer and liberal who lives in Smyrna, Georgia.

Like reading a book by a fool

If there was one thing that our participants agreed on, it was that the Facebook feed the other side reads is largely incorrect.

Its like reading a volume by a fool, said Pine. Its hard to read something you know is a lie.

Andra Constantin, a conservative 37 -year-old project manager in the construction industry. Photograph: Photo courtesy of Andra Constantin

Another liberal, Nikki Moungo from St Louis county, Missouri, went a step further: Its like being locked into a room full of those suffering from paranoid delusions, she said.

Loos said that he found the left-wing Facebook feed was too restricted and he was frustrated by the liberal medias attempts to spin and justify every negative story about Clinton.

Andra Constantin, a conservative project manager from Westchester County, New York, was frustrated by this whole big brainwashing move to save the world from the horrible climate change.

Both Constantin and Green agreed that a conservative Facebook feed in the run up to the election had more diversity of opinions than a liberal one, largely because Republicans were divided on supporting Trump while liberals can often unified behind Clinton.

I didnt see the issues being discussed, Constantin said of the liberal feed. Even though we can be hateful and nasty, at both ends of the conservative side were talking about the issues a bit more.

When Green returned to his regular liberal feed after the third debate, he felt wholly out of the loop with his cohorts topics of dialogue. I logged in and I was like bad hombres, nasty girls, what is everyone talking about?

They detest me

For several of our participants, reading the alternative Facebook feed was not just surprising, but hurtful.

Its hard for me to read some of it, said Pines, who is black. Its only a racist kind of thing, and I dont think its cleverly disguised. Pines was especially pained by the way in which Obama was portrayed by the right-wing sources, which he described as code and puppy whistlings.

Pam Tau Lee, a retired community organizer and activist from San Francisco, also had difficulty stomaching the right-wing feed.

Everything that they are saying is bad, I fall under that category, said the fourth-generation Chinese-American. The hateful stuff: thats me. They hate me and my community and what I stand for.

Pam Tau Lee, a retired community organizer from San Francisco. Photograph: Politenes of Pam Tau Lee

Kathleen Matz, who owns a pet care service in Oakland, California, determined the misogyny on sites like Breitbart hurtful.

I just stopped. I couldnt look at it anymore, she said.

But it wasnt merely the liberals who found the experience painful.

Im insuring a lot more hate from the liberal side, said Constantin. Its all about how much of a horrible, fascist, racist, misogynist Trump is.

On her own feed, Constantin detected herself winnowing down her friends in order to avoid arguments.

I did unfollow a lot of friends because I didnt want to feel seduced to correct what they were saying and get in a fight, she said.

Honestly, I detested it, said Janalee Tobias, a longtime conservative activist and is part of Mormons for Trump from South Jordan, Utah. Im seeing a psychiatrist trying to get over the shock and the dislike from the left, she joked. I supposed this would be easier for me to handle, because Im held pretty open minded.

Janalee Tobias, a longtime conservative activist. Photograph: Sam Levin for the Guardian

The needle moved

For some of our participants, checking out the other bubble merely confirmed their commitment to staying inside their own.

I learned that[ people on the right] are way more vicious and lack a certain maturity that I would expect of adults, said Moungo, after the election. This just absolutely corroborated it … They are irredeemable monsters.

Seeing the liberal feed pulled me further to the right, said Loos. Without getting the counterpoint, I was drawn more and more to the conservative side. Instead of luring me in, it pushed me away.

But some of our participants determined greater understanding from the experiment.

Kathleen Matz( right ), a liberal, find the misogyny on sites like Breitbart hurtful. Photo: Politenes of Kathleen Matz

Lee said she was impressed by the cleverness of right-wing messaging, which use words like working class and jobs and economic stability. That promise is so great that it overshadows everything else, and I could see that, if thats the only thing that I find, I could understand. I could be swayed.

Asked whether that understanding had resulted in her having more empathy for Trump voters, Lee said: I dont know if Im there yet, but Im working on it. I come from a place where I want to build a movement coming from love and compassion, so Im working on it.

One of our participants, Todd Macfarlane, said his time on the liberal Facebook page influenced his final decision. A rancher and attorney from Kanosh, Utah, Macfarlane is a registered Republican who was considering supporting the GOP nominee, but ultimately chose not to vote for any presidential nominee.

The needle moved, he said after his first exposure to the liberal feed. I was kind of more undecided as I looked at it … I was persuaded to think hes a really bad selection.

Macfarlane didnt encounter any liberal news sources that convinced him to support Clinton, but his time on the feed helped him realize that a Trump presidency could be dangerous.

It had to do with his overall temperament and decorum and demeanor, he said. It only reinforced for me the concern about what he might do with that much power.

Maybe we should stop

It wasnt just his referendum that changed, for Macfarlane. Since participating in the experiment, he said, Im a lot more interested in engaging with people who are open minded and are willing to talk about the whole picture.

Nikki Moungo, a liberal from Missouri: Its like being locked into a room full of those suffering from paranoid hallucinations. Photograph: Courtesy of Nikki Moungo

Constantin, who currently relies on Facebook for 100% of her news, said that she has concluded that the platform seems to filter out believable news articles on both ends and feed sensationalist far left/ far right things.

I have to be more proactive about getting good quality content, she said.

Tobias said that exposure to the other side constructed her realize how difficult it might be to find common ground after the election.

Its frightening to me to see how much the left and the right are divided right now, she said. To bring us back together, I dont know what its going to take.

For Green, the lessons of the election are more stark.

Maybe we should stop having social media, he said. For all the things that social media has done in terms of inducing it easier for me to stay in touch with someone that I was vaguely friends with in college, perhaps the ability with social media for people to construct their own reality to create a rabble is not worth it.

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What Trumpism means for democracy

2 months, 7 days ago

If Donald Trump secures the Republican nomination an increasingly likely prospect the party will implode and the US will cease to be a constitutional republic in all but name. Not that any of that will matter to Trump

Whether or not Donald Trump ultimately succeeds in winning the White House, historians are likely to rank him as the most consequential presidential candidate of at least the past half-century.

He has already transformed the tone and mood of American political life. If he becomes the Republican nominee, he will demolish its structural underpinnings as well. Should he prevail in November, his election will alter its very fabric in ways likely to prove irreversible. Whether Trump ever delivers on his promise to Make America Great Again, he is already transforming American democratic practice.

In contrast to the universally reviled Martin Shkreli, however, Trump has cultivated a mass following that appears impervious to his missteps, miscues, and misstatements.

What Trump actually believes whether he believes in anything apart from big, splashy self-display is largely unknown and likely beside the point. Trumpism is not a program or an ideology. It is an attitude or pose that feeds off of, and then strengthens, widespread anger and alienation.

How to talk to strangers: a guidebook to bridging what divides us

2 months, 8 days ago

The more we do to interact with people who arent like us, the better off well be in the face of hatred that has become so visible thanks to Donald Trump

We seem to have lost the capacity to live with our differences in peace. The complex lines that divide us are now exposed, and they run deeper than we believed from what we see as the most pressing issues facing the country, to our values, to our understanding of race, gender and liberty. In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton herself find: We are a far more divided society than we realized.

In the Seattle Times, Nicholas Confessore and Nick Corasanti described the electorate as unprecedentedly segregated socially and geographically: About half of Americans now live near people more politically like them than not, whether in conservative rural townships or sprawling liberal cities. Few Trump advocates report having close friends voting for Mrs Clinton. Many Clinton advocates are more likely to see Trump voters on television than in person.

Republicans and Democrats have always been on opposite sides of political and social fencings. Whats new, what might feel insurmountable, is the degree of difference. The gap has widened very quickly over the past two decades. Weve arrived at perhaps the most difficult moment in recent history: approximately half the electorate have voted into the presidency of the United States an openly bigoted, racist, xenophobic, sexist, sexual predator. Divisiveness exemplified in an authoritarian leader.

In the face of pervasive, violent hatred that has become so visible and so normalized, people are struggling with “what were doing”, how to take action.

Republican and Democrat have always been on opposite sides of political and social fencings. Whats new is the degree of change. Photo: Julia Rothman

I want to suggest that many actions we can take is likely to be local: talking to the strangers we intersect routes with on the streets and sidewalks, in cafes and parks, stores and eateries. And the more we do this in places that require us to interact with people who arent like us, the very best.

People who arent like you and who you dont know exist for you only as categories. Abstractions. People who are different than you who you meet in physical space and talk with not at are individuals. The more we can have contact with people who arent like us, the more “weve been” challenged, invited, required to see them as humen, as specific people with a context. Hate breeds on seeing people as categories and abstractions.

When I say contact, I mean contact in person. Researchers at MIT found that our interactions in physical space with peers have a much more significant effect on our beliefs and sentiments than any other relationships, and more than our online lives. Physical interactions, researcher Alex Pentland wrote in Nautilus, are much better at changing sentiments than digital media and offer a greater opportunity of reaching consensus.

Our interactions in physical space with peers have a much more significant effect on our beliefs and opinions than any other relationships. Photograph: Julia Rothman

Sociologists, policymakers and urban planners have long analyse and supported an idea called the contact hypothesis, which, at its most fundamental, says that increased positive contact with people who arent like you decreases racism. Researchers recently turned their attention to the negative interactions catalogued in contact hypothesis analyses and found that a significant factor had been overlooked. A negative interaction carries far more emotional weight than a positive one and tends to increase racism. It takes so much goodness between people to overcome negative experiences.

Nothing about what is going on right now supports the idea that anyone should devote anyone else the benefit of the doubt, and I dont advocate empathizing with tormentors and racists. But every time I nod or say hello to a stranger in the past few days and they return it, I know some human decency remains.

In our smallest positive interactions with strangers in passing, we experience something called fleeting intimacy. Thats a brief encounter that devotes us a momentary feeling of connectedness, of belonging. I think we need to start using our interactions with strangers to make what Ill call fleeting alliances . We need to do the things that make for mutual acknowledgement of our fundamental humanity the smiles and hellos and brief dialogues in which we recognize a stranger as a person. We also need to recognize a new dimension to these moments. We can show each other we are not filled with hate. We can show we are allies and we will protect each other.

Kio Stark is the author of When Strangers Meet .

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Junk the system: why young Americans won’t do as they’re told this election

2 months, 9 days ago

The diverse millennial generation has assured too few answers from traditional leadership. Now, many of us are losing patience with the political system

Like any marketing-approved generational epithet, to be a millennial is not as simple as it sounds. If “youre reading” the news, you might be forgiven for thinking that were a mass of social-media-addicted lesbian biracial angels whod rather take a BuzzFeed quiz than guess for ourselves were responsible for the death of the car industry, the cable industry, were lazy, were entrepreneurial, were overly nostalgic and were narcissistic. But however handy the descriptive term, the truth is that were a widely various crowd.

Just look at this election. Millennials are not lining up for Hillary Clinton , nor potential candidates, for that are important. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that support for Hillary Clinton among voters ages 18 -3 4 in a four-person race is a paltry 31%. Libertarian Gary Johnson finished second and secured 29%. For the olds of America, this is a scary prospect.

Supporters for third party nominee, Gary Johnson, protest in Boise, Idaho on 22 September 2016. Photograph: Brian Losness/ Reuters

A recent New York Times op-ed by Charles M Blow claimed that young people voting for third-party nominees such elections cycle, watched by many as a form of protest against the creation options, is incredibly problematic and potentially self-destructive. While that might be true, his piece shows a disagreement on how democracy should be structured and how demographics work.

Im not going to berate anyone for rejecting the false binary of American politics. Claiming that someone is wasting their election is undemocratic, even if the outcome is undesirable. In fact, it should be heartening that young people are even aware enough to know that there are more than two political parties in this country. But I do wonder how we got to this point after the utopian high of the 2008 election, when Shepard Fairey posters were hanging on college dorm-room walls and was releasing inspirational, triumphalist music videos.

Protesters make their way to East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California, in May to protest against Hillary Clinton. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/ AFP/ Getty Images

Eight years later, whatever people wanted from Barack Obama they didnt quite get, and Clinton is struggling to claim her potential presidency as an extension of his legacy. Besides Clintons unique, complex issues with so-called likability, theres another reason millennials arent lining up to to buy Im With Her tote bag: traditional appeals to court our election no longer run and were losing patience with the political system of this country.

I can still recollect a hour when youth brands felt the need to hawk dusty old concepts like civic responsibility and democracy. Take, for example, this dire MTV Rock the Vote commercial starring Madonna and two anonymous back-up dancers. Marvel at Madges lackadaisical attempt to drum up a modicum of tepid patriotism. If you dont referendum, youre going to get a spanking, she says while sporting nothing but a little bit of red lingerie and an American flag.

In 2004, youth voting ran up again, because of( or perhaps in spite of) Puff Daddys insipid Vote or Die campaign. Vote or Die didnt literally mean that you would die if you didnt election, though there was certainly the implication that you might get drafted and sent to Iraq if you didnt support Democratic nominee John Kerry. Puff Daddy has since been on record saying he guesses voting is a scam. Hes not alone.

These days, youd be better off selling canned farts at a flea market than promoting the necessity of exerting the franchise in November. Despite its association with the grunge 90 s or maybe because of it Rock the Vote still exists, even if the idea of rocking is about as relevant to the youth referendum as a rotary phone. This year, Rock the Vote is joining forces-out with Glamour magazine, Refinery2 9, Jezebel and the Cut to register at least 100,000 girls before the election, an initiative called #OurVoteCounts. As one would imagine with the strategic placement of the hashtag in the name, most of this registration drive will take place online, unlike the TV-centric campaigns of yesteryear. To better appeal to its newer, younger, sexier partners, Rock the Vote might want to also deem rebranding for the 21 st century maybe something like Electric Democracy Carnival? Organizers can hold voter enrollment drives in the desert, hand out glow sticks and pacifiers, and build a giant wooden statue of Thomas Jefferson that they can set on fire every evening.

Kevin Liles, Mary J Blige, Russell Simmons, Puff Daddy, and Jay Z on stage at the Last Chance For Change Rally in support of Barack Obama on 2 November 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photograph: Larry Marano/ Getty Images

Still, its good to see Rock The Vote construct the jump from the airwaves to the internet. Youth political mobilization is occurring online, through organizing techniques that are either independent of any sort of official PAC or are merely social networks of like-minded individuals looking for a tightly sealed echo chamber. Donald Trump manages to stay in the news cycle some days strictly by saying something hateful or stupid on Twitter posing with a taco bowl, blaming Hillary Clinton for any negative headline, and often outright lying. Hillary Clintons recent appearance on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis was a funny, though transparent, attempt to get the kids to be down with her.

The bogeyman of such elections cycle is the alt-right, a movement that doesnt have a central figurehead though Donald Trump is its pet project of the moment and both implicitly and explicitly promotes its agenda but has frightened liberals enough that Hillary Clinton felt compelled to call the movement out in a stump speech.

While the alt-right isnt engaging in get-out-the-vote activities as of yet, supporters are making their voices heard through the favored persuasive tactics of my generation social media harassment and florid suppose pieces( many of which appear on the Breitbart News website ). Whereas Rock the Vote sought to infuse music rebellion into politics, the alt-right seems to be hoping to inject politics into uprising. When diversity and acceptance are buzzwords and mainstream pop culture is increasingly socially liberal, it stands to reason that anyone with a taste for anarchy and infraction would turn to the right.

A supporter holds up a sign in support of Senator Barack Obama in Concord, New Hampshire, in 2008. Photograph: M. Spencer Green/ AP

But both sides of the millennial political divide have come to distrust their elders, even if presidential candidates of the ever-expanding fringe Johnson, Trump, Stein, Sanders are old enough to collect whats left of social security. There is an increasing awareness in this country that somethings gone wrong. Millennial discontent with the course that the United States is taking is growing. Earlier this year, the GenForward survey, a collaboration between the Black Youth Project and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, discovered that 52% of millennials feel the country is falling behind and another 24% believe its failing. That same examine found that 17% of black millennials arent planning to vote, which could be a devastating blow for Hillary Clintons campaign, as shell be relying on the youth and minority vote to overcome Trumps significant advantage with white Americans.

The apathy of the millennial voter might simply be a symptom of having two candidates in their late 60 s or early 70 s who dont have the air of hipness that Barack Obama applied. What pops a pit in that hypothesi is that millennial voting rates fell 7% from 2008 to 2012. Instead, theres the very real potential that as millennials age, they are less apt to stomach a thing called hope. The Obama presidency did not usher in a new age of cooperation. Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner did not announce they would be going on a nationwide concert tour performing the hits of the Carpenters.

Racial tension, climate change, gun violence, terrorism, and poverty persist. Easy answers do not exist, and even if they did, they wouldnt be coming from one of the two major political parties groups often more concerned with their own survival than practical solutions to tangible issues. As the global situation appears to become more and more hopeless thanks to actual horrors, plus the media saturation that occurs after every tragedy, which amplifies our malaise it should come as no surprise that millennials as a group and the nation at large disagree on how to turn things around.

Consensus might just be a thing of the past; MTV is far from the unchallenged thought leader for American youth. What such elections might be remembered for is the moment when the American political system became so ossified and incapable of answers that we chose, at last, to junk it and start from scratch.

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