As the 2016 presidential election gathers steam, it’s tempting to compare the Bernie Sanders surge among Democrats with the Donald Trump phenomenon among Republicans. After all, both candidates are marshalling support from the ideological grassroots in their respective parties (the left in Sanders’ case, the right for Trump), and both have successfully tapped into a deeper anger that animates their campaigns.
815 words into the Associated Press’s recent 949 word piece on Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, one will find a passage that should appear at the very beginning:
The FBI also is looking into Clinton’s email setup, but has said nothing about the nature of its probe. Independent experts says it’s unlikely Clinton will be charged with wrongdoing, based on details that have surfaced so far and the lack of indications that she intended to break laws.
How should progressives respond to the recent news that Marvel Comics CEO Ike Perlmutter donated over $1 million to a Donald Trump event intended to draw viewers away from the Republican presidential debate? As a start, they should remember these words of wisdom from one of Marvel’s most iconic superhero franchises:
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Comics has become one of the most influential forces in shaping American popular culture today. Unfortunately, Marvel has refused to use this power responsibly; even as their celluloid and pulp characters rake in billions fighting fictional bogeyman, Marvel continues to actively perpetuate many of the racial and gender inequalities that thwart justice in the real world. As such, Perlmutter’s support for the Trump campaign – which has emerged as a potent vehicle for racist and sexist ideologies – cannot simply be dismissed as simply one more occasion of a right-wing plutocrat backing one of his own. On a deeper level, it demonstrates that the reactionary ideals embedded in Trumpism are also promoted in our entertainment products… and that if we are going to oppose the former, we must also recognize and take a stand against the latter.
Have we decided, as a society, that professional incompetence is something we must tolerate? Indeed, dare I say, that it is even acceptable?
This isn’t an entirely rhetorical question. Most people are happy to pay lip service to the importance of reliability and efficiency, and there is little question that Americans are second-to-none when it comes to our collective work ethic. Quantity of labor is not the same as quality of labor, though, and claiming to despise incompetence is quite different from taking an active stand against it. Unfortunately, if my own recent experiences are any indication, our culture has moved away from demanding competence of those around us.
After it became apparent that the character of Rey had been excluded from game sets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” critics quickly accused Lucasfilm – which was purchased by Disney in 2012 – of making sexist assumptions when developing its product line. Although Hasbro denied these claims in a statement to Entertainment Weekly about their “Star Wars Monopoly” game, an anonymous industry insider recently revealed the ugly truth to the culture blog Sweatpants & Coffee. “As the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the ‘Star Wars’ products,” writes Michael Boehm in his report of a conference that took place in January 2015 with toy and merchandise vendors at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Center. “Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all ‘Star Wars’-related merchandise, says the insider. ‘We know what sells,’ the industry insider was told. ‘No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.’”
If there is any silver lining to the Amy Schumer plagiarism scandal, it is that it establishes one of the ways in which the Internet can be an unequivocal force for good.
Thanks to social media and online activism, the days in which the powerful can rip off the powerless with impunity are long gone.
Just to recap: Three female comedians have accused Schumer of stealing their jokes for her stand-up routines, TV show, and movie Trainwreck. Wendy Liebman, Tammy Pescatelli, and Kathleen Madigan each used Twitter as their platform for holding Schumer to account. Liebman pointed out that Schumer had used “one of my best jokes” on her HBO special; Pescatelli challenged how Schumer could claim to be a feminist “yet only steals from other female comedians” such as herself; and Madigan referred to a “disgusting amount of stealing” perpetrated by Schumer.
Apparently former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is thinking of running for president as a third-party candidate. The New York Times reports that Bloomberg commissioned a private poll to see how he would fare if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton and the Republicans nominate Donald Trump, which seems likely (though not certain) at this point. Although Bloomberg hasn’t released the poll’s results – either because they weren’t favorable or were so promising that he’s waiting for the perfect moment, depending on how you look at it – there is an inarguable logic to him waging a third-party candidacy in 2016.
Calling the recent boom in digital technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and biotechnology the “fourth industrial revolution,” the World Economic Forum, determined that by 2020—just a few years from now—as many as 7.1 million jobs may be lost in the world’s richest countries through redundancy and automation.
In particular, the forum, which is meeting this week in Davos, projected that administrative and white collar office jobs would be hard-struck by a major outburst of technological development. Though this could be offset by the creation of 2.1 million positions in fields like technology, media, and professional services.