Archive for the Grumblings Category

On Book Banning…

Posted in Grumblings on January 29, 2022 by chemiclord

So, social media is on a bit of a boil over two separate but kinda similar-ish sorta events.

  1. A school board in Tennessee removed the work Maus from their library, and banned it from being taught in their school. (Link)
  2. A school board in Washington state removed the novel To Kill a Mockingbird from their curriculum’s required reading list. (Link)

Now, you may assume that being a writer, I’d be vehemently against the idea of “banning” books (in the sense of academic use). You’d be wrong. As far as it pertains to teaching purposes, I’m generally not bothered by what books are and aren’t specifically used. There are many books in this world, and any of them can be used by teachers to convey the messages and writing techniques that they wish to convey to students.

I do have a bit of a problem when they are used to score political points, which to different degrees both of these incidents are. A big clue is that neither school board has shown any indication what they intend to replace those books with in their curriculum… or even if they have any plans to do so. These were decisions to demonstrate to the parents just what these school boards believe in.

Sure, both school boards will give their reasons. To Kill a Mockingbird has problematic “white savior” narratives that run through it, or Maus contains “graphic imagery” that is disturbing to young students, for example. Many of the criticisms will be legitimate on its face. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to see how they aren’t a fairly clear political message.

(On an aside, to Mike Cochran of the McMinn County School Board: I had many emotions running through my mind as I read Maus. “Enjoyment” was certainly not one of them. While I am willing to accept that you poorly chose your words in an off-the-cuff quote, there is a significant number of the world’s population that would genuinely “enjoy” the imagery of that graphic novel, and those are not good people. Anyone who said they “enjoyed” Maus would be asked to provide a pretty damn good explanation for their choice of words lest they quickly find themselves no longer talking to me, and probably for good.)

That said, these two stories are, in fact, not the same, and our fourth pillar would be served to not treat them as if they are. Much like nearly everything else in our political discourse, one side is significantly more guilty and with significantly greater severity than the other. The conservatives and reactionaries among us are a far greater threat to our political discourse and sustainability of our society at this moment, and these two stories reflect that.

Maus was outright banned. Teachers are no longer permitted to discuss it. The school library is not allowed to have it on their shelves, or even in their stacks. For students whose only exposure to books is their school library (which is no doubt a non-zero number), Maus no longer exists in their world.

Meanwhile, To Kill a Mockingbird is simply no longer required reading for students in the Mukilteo school district. Teachers are still allowed to present it to students as supplementary text (and I’m sure many will). Students can still be recommended it and it can still be found in their school libraries. Depending on what book is chosen, there is not necessarily any meaningful loss in the education of these children. Presuming, of course, that a replacement actually is chosen or at the very least some rationalization that other books already in the required reading list can fill that niche.

Which it may not be, because again… it’s hard to see how at its core, this move isn’t political posturing of its own. But at the same time, it is long past due to stop approaching such decisions as binary actions of equal severity.

Any Attention is Good Attention

Posted in Grumblings on January 7, 2022 by chemiclord

Welcome back to another (extremely intermittent) commentary on people and the things they do to be noticed and stay noticed.

In today’s episode, we meet Tectone.

Tectone is a content creator, most notably for the game Genshin Impact, but not exclusively. Now, Tectone’s typical creative process runs something like this:

  1. Make a juvenile but otherwise largely innocuous bawdy tweet about something, like “waifus” or the size of a game character’s chest or ass.
  2. Soak in the angry replies from the professionally outraged on Twitter who seem to make a living out of overreacting to anything that happens to come into their vicinity.
  3. Make a Youtube video complaining about how he’s being attacked on Twitter.
  4. Repeat.

Now, let’s get some things out of the way.

Firstly, this process is entirely intentional. Tectone knows exactly what he’s doing.

Secondly, there’s absolutely nothing new about this. If anything, Tectone has merely refined the process of instigating a fight, then crying foul when he gets exactly what he was looking for, that has existed on social media pretty much since it’s inception.

Thirdly, Twitter is certainly filled to the brim with people who haven’t matured emotionally since fifteen and giggle delightfully when someone makes a tweet about “[insert character name here]’s massive mommy milkers,” and a legion of people who are too chickenshit to fight in real life, so they trawl the internet for hours every day looking for an opportunity to throw metaphorical hands.

Of course, none of this should happen this way. Is Tectone playing down to the juvenile? Yeah, he is. But there is absolutely nothing the dude says that should warrant anything more than an eyeroll. The proper response to his games is to mute the conversation, then go on with your day. Let him have fun with the forever teenagers. It simply isn’t worth ruining your day over. They aren’t an army of dangerous incels. They’re a bunch of just out of college aged kids that still laugh at fart jokes.

On the flip side, you kinda start losing sympathy for a person that keeps sticking his hands in a cage filled with angry dogs and inevitably gets bit. Should there be a pack of angry dogs in that cage? Probably not. But they are, and at some point, you lose the right to whine when the dogs in that cage attack you after you’ve stuck your grubby mitts in their face one too many times. I mean… what do you think is going to happen?

At the end of the day, social media has gone all in with the old journalistic maxim of, “All press is good press.” It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as a million people react to it.

And it’s just as tiring to witness now as it was twenty years ago.

On Ship Teasing…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on November 11, 2021 by chemiclord

Before I get terribly deep into the weeds, some of my followers might think that I’m writing this in reaction to… certain events among creators I follow, but it’s really not. This has been something on my mind for a while, and it’s taken me a while to compose my thoughts. Which is also why I’m not going to give examples like I normally do with these sort of thought exercises; because it’s no creator’s fault here, and it’s not something to name names over.

Because I know why creators do it. It works. It works extremely well. I’m annoyed that it works.

To put it bluntly; I don’t ship tease. I probably never will ship tease. It doesn’t interest me to do so, it adds nothing to the stories I wish to compose, it’s just empty filler that does nothing for me. If you’re reading something of mine, and two characters aren’t specifically in a relationship or in the process of building one… they aren’t. I’m not leaving breadcrumbs in my prose, I’m not dragging out sexual tension, I’m not subtly building something.

I don’t particularly do “love triangles.” (Note: polyamorous relationships aren’t a “love triangle,” so don’t get yourself all twisted.) I’m not going to lean into romantic tropes trying to “hint” something. In regards to in-story, I’m pretty simple. If I’m not telling you, “these characters are a thing or they are working towards being a thing,” they aren’t. End of story.

To me, ship teasing is the literary equivalent of “cheap heat.” It’s the wrestler going into a city and just flinging generic insults at said city to get people booing. Yeah, you’re getting engagement. Yeah, you’re getting views. But are you actually building anything meaningful? Are you actually contributing anything worthwhile to the community that follows you?

I’d argue… no. You’re not. I find there is little that is more toxic to a community than shipper wars, and that’s something that I find is largely inevitable once the ship teases start. As a creator, I don’t think I would have any ground to decry toxicity in any community I build if I was actively feeding the gasoline to that fire. Sure, shipping shouldn’t be a conflagration point. But it is, and it would be reckless to do something just because it shouldn’t set a community ablaze.

And if prospective readers are that much more interested in teasing out who is or might be bumping genitals rather than any themes or messages I’m trying to deliver… I cordially request you find somewhere else to be. Even if that means I’ll never have the level of success or engagement I could have.

On Review Bombings…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , on September 29, 2021 by chemiclord

There’s really no clever opening I can make here. I’m too tired to try, and I’m not sure any cold open would even work as a decent analogue.

Genshin Impact represents the best and the worst of contemporary gaming. There really isn’t anything that encapsulates what the industry has become quite like MiHoYo’s latest offering.

On one hand, we have a nigh fully explorable open world setting that is ever expanding with a dearth of content, an ever increasing cast of varied characters, ways to interact with them, content to play and experience, on a massive bevy of devices that range from high end performance PCs all the way to the smartphone in your pocket that can connect you to millions of others across the world.

On the other, we have a fully exploitable “gatcha” monetization system loaded with microtransactions and a slot machine that is just forgiving enough to keep you enticed, and just punishing enough to make it very hard not to drop more money than you probably should on it… in a setting that really hasn’t shown terribly much obvious diversity in characters and people despite now experiencing three of seven (or potentially eight) nations.

So I suppose it shouldn’t be much surprise that it also has drawn in the best and the worst of the gaming community… and right now the worst parts of both the community and the industry are on full display.

Firstly, some disclosure. I have played Genshin Impact. Usually about 20-30 minutes a day, sometimes more if there’s a big content drop. I actually pay about $15/month on it (in line with your typical MMO subscription). So, yeah, I guess I’m “invested.”

Anyway, in “gatcha” games, there tends to be an expectation as games reach their anniversary. Now, gamers tend to mistake these events as “appreciation” towards the players that have put their time and money into the game (game developers and studios do nothing to dispel this notion, and in fact encourage it). In reality, however… they are advertisements; events designed not as “appreciation” to current players, but a way to entice new players to hop on board.

It’s a trap that gamers should know by now. Game companies are not your friend. You are not in a relationship with them. They owe you nothing outside of the advertised product, and they are not going to provide more than the bare minimum they can get for the least amount of cost unless they feel compelled to do so.

So, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise that a company like MiHoYo, with a game like Genshin Impact that already is taking the world by storm, really… isn’t treating the anniversary like a particularly special event. They offered some meager rewards, pretty much on par with any other event… and hoo boy… did a special slice of the players not appreciate that.

The last couple of weeks has been a tidal wave of toxicity, though in reality the anniversary rewards are just the latest escalation from a group of swamp dwellers that have done such wonderfully well adjusted things as harass voice actors for doing their jobs, going as far as forcing them off the internet due to the rampant abuse.

MiHoYo has responded to this in the worst possible way, because of course they have. They have deleted criticism on social media, removed entire threads from their forums, and outright refused to even deign to respond to anything that suggests they could do a little bit more for the players of their game.

So, of course, the gamers had to resort to the last bastion of the unheard; rampant review bombing, which for the uninitiated is where a community spams a storefront for a game with thousands of negative reviews to try and drag down its review score and potentially scare off new players.

But, gamers couldn’t allow themselves to be outdone in the over-exaggerated response department. Oh no, so they had to take it up a notch and start review bombing games that not just had nothing do with Genshin Impact, but had nothing to do with MiHoYo.

It’s like being so furious with your Ford Explorer that you start throwing bricks at the windows of the nearby Chevy dealer. What, exactly, do you think that is supposed to accomplish?

Meanwhile, how does a company like MiHoYo not understand that trying to silence people isn’t going to work? Shutting down avenues to let people vent their frustrations isn’t going to stop them from complaining. They’re simply going to find other avenues to make their displeasure clear, and now they’re going to be angrier about it.

Never before has a gaming community deserved a game studio more. This entire debacle has been like a doctorate thesis for a clown college.

(And by the way, MiHoYo, it really wouldn’t hurt you to toss people a freakin’ free 5-star character, for crying out loud. You’ve made literally a billion dollars on this game. I think you’re good for it.)

On Nostalgia (Redux Number… Something)

Posted in Grumblings with tags , on September 26, 2021 by chemiclord

So… the intro to the Netflix adaptation of Cowboy Bebop dropped, and you could time the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth to it, because “old school fans” tend to be contradictory smooth brains who demand remade content to be simultaneously exactly how they remember it and not what they remember.

It’s a theme you see with anything that harkens back to an earlier era; like Star Wars, or Cowboy Bebop, or whatever. You have an aggressively fanatical fanbase who demands that the work take them back to when they were younger and capture the same magic that they felt when they first experienced it.

The problem is, of course, that it’s impossible. Not even the original work is going to be able to capture quite the same magic ever again, and demanding it does is an exercise in futility that will only end in disappointment (followed by rage and potentially tantrums, because we’re talking about 10-year old kids in 40-year old bodies here).

Let’s try a little math experiment here:

A+(B+C)=D

Let’s say (A) is a creative work. Let’s say (B) is the circumstances and environment. Let’s say (C) is the viewer, and (D) is the cumulative experience that you “feel” at the end. The “old school” fans expect -or more accurately demand– that (D) remain completely unchanged; and are extremely reluctant to allow (A) to change in any meaningful fashion as well.

I’m hoping that you can see the problem.

(B) is ever-changing, and that is almost entirely out of any given person’s control. Likewise (C) is shaped and altered inexorably by (B), no matter how much we try to resist it. It is simply impossible for (D) to even be remotely the same value within the constraints that “old school” fans are willing to allow. Your only chance for the “magic” you feel to be even remotely similar to the magic you felt back then is by allowing the created work to be different, and perhaps in significant ways, than the one you remember way back when.

The choice is pretty much binary. You either have to accept that the remade content is going to have to change, and take the risk that those changes aren’t going to hit the same sweet spots that made you feel so profoundly a long, long time ago…

… Or you pursue new created works, taking the risk… that it won’t hit the same sweet spots… that made you… feel so… profoundly a long, long… time ago…

Hunh. Gosh, it sure sounds like it’s the exact same risk, and that maybe our collective obsession towards sequels and remakes is self-defeating and that we should be more willing to embrace new stories and content rather than demand “more of the same!”

… Nah, that can’t be it. Must be something wrong with my math. I’ll work on it some more after I’m done finishing this scathing criticism about how the way the characters run in the Cowboy Bebop remake looks totally wrong and how it’s tragically ruining my appreciation of a time-tested classic.

Here We Go Again…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , , on July 8, 2021 by chemiclord

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

That’s a figure of speech. I’m not actually going to stop, even though I promise you that you’ve heard this story many times before.

The enthusiast press for games hears some rumors from a handful of different sources about plans a game company wants to do. Without thinking or any real editorial oversight to connect the dots, they rush to publish these rumors because they just have to break this story first.

Then begins the mad rush with multiple outlets not wanting to get left behind, so they rush to publish, turning the loosely connected strings into a jumbled ball that can no longer be unwound.

Because now the gamers have a hold of it, and the hype train that the press started is now completely in their hands, and the gamers have aimed that train right at the damned wall.

Again.

Meanwhile, said company repeatedly states that they have no plans to do what is being reported. They shoot down every and all statements that they are about to make an announcement about what they have already said they aren’t planning. They tell their investors there are no such plans.

It doesn’t matter.

And when the inevitable happens, that the thing the company has been telling gamers for months wasn’t going to happen doesn’t happen… gamers get violently mad at the company that didn’t promise anything.

It would be funny, if it didn’t happen so often without anybody seeming to learn anything. Now it’s just annoying.

In this case, this is the story of Nintendo, and the oft hyped and speculated Switch “Pro,” which remains in the ether, and will probably remain in the ether no matter how many times Nintendo refreshes their Switch console.

This most recent rumor that turned the masses into a ravening mob was started by Bloomberg, then quickly backed up Eurogamer, and Kotaku, and CNet, etc. If any of them had actually stopped to think about what they were reporting, this might have stopped at a dull roar rather than the incendiary social media fire that burst up in the wake of the completely unremarkable hardware refresh Nintendo actually announced.

Now, in a partial defense of these outlets, I don’t think they were fed lies. I’m actually confident that their sources are accurate when they said that Nintendo has been sourcing higher power components. I’m sure Nintendo has talked to internal developers about 4K resolution and/or DLSS. I’m sure Nintendo has discussed potential ways to add performance boosts into the dock, because that’s a patent Nintendo has held since before the original Switch console was put on the market.

(Don’t believe me? That patent can still be found here.)

But where the enthusiast press failed was not pausing to think. Nintendo is a company that has about two hundred ideas bouncing about at any given moment. They start developing their “next generation” of hardware before the current gen is even being shipped. If any of them had taken the time to actually put the pieces together, I have no doubt that the picture would have shown exactly what Nintendo told their investors; that they are always looking at hardware, but no significant upgrades were coming any time soon.

Pro tip: whenever you want to know what a company’s plans are, listen to what they tell their shareholders. Companies that aren’t planning some sort of financial crime generally don’t lie to them.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Stop fighting for the right to be first; start fighting to be the first to be right.

As for the gamers… I’ve given up on those lemmings. They will tell themselves whatever they want, and will always blame those who never promised anything for breaking their promises. Because gamers seem to be utterly incapable of self-reflection.

As always, gamers are what’s wrong with gaming.

On Conspiracy Culture…

Posted in Grumblings on March 30, 2021 by chemiclord

Okay… deep breath time.

I’m about to criticize some good friends.

Now, as I do so, I want to lay down some opening caveats. Firstly, there is no way the creators here could have anticipated what was going to unfold in our society at the time they committed to their story. Secondly, it’s not really a criticism of them, as much as it is a criticism of our entertainment and the tropes it leans on. Thirdly, people should be able to make the distinction between fantasy and reality.

Now, with all that said, let me paint you a rhetorical picture.

A cabal of elitists, potentially spanning the entire globe, have been pulling the strings of society for decades, if not longer, manipulating people, killing people, starting wars, conflicts, abusing men, women and children, etc… all to advance their twisted machinations of power… until a small movement of scrappy heroes untangle all those sinister knots and finally take the fight to the secret society!

Does that story sound familiar? You’ve probably seen that many, many times in the dramas of our age. It’s one of the most enduring tropes in dramatic entertainment for the last fifty years.

I’ve never been a fan of “Illuminatti” style storylines. I don’t think they represent how people or societies work at all. We can’t even keep a secret between three people for more a couple days. A group of logistically thousands (if not more), operating in secrecy across an entire country or the world? There is no way that doesn’t come unraveled even before a second generation has a chance to take the reins.

Think about it. There is no massive covert operation that has survived more than a couple of decades, even in the most repressive countries in our planet’s history. And even those were more of the “open secret” variety where anyone who wanted to know could have found out, but there was an implied investment of the public to not confront it.

Watergate literally came unraveled because one dude couldn’t figure out where to stand. You want me to buy that a cabal has gone [x] number of years without even one critical misstep? Sorry… my suspension of belief only stretches so far.

So when The Uniques went head on into the secret society angle, my eyes started rolling. And they kept rolling as it ticked every single “conspiracy” trope in the book. Our intrepid heroes, taking on the “burden” of exposing this themselves? Check. The nutty recluses that have a few critical pieces but are too out there for anyone to take seriously? Check. The galaxy-brained chess masters who have every step our heroes make plotted out ten moves ahead of time? Check.

I am giving the creators the benefit of the doubt, because they have been so very good at twisting tropes on their head. But… ugh… I will admit that this particular part of the volume has been a tiring slog for me.

But now, I have another reason to not like this type of story.

Because that picture I painted for you at the start of this blog post? That was also in the heads of the people who charged the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. People are believing this sort of shit, and it’s getting people hurt, and even killed.

Our entertainment is awash in conspiracy theories. As I said, it has been one of the most enduring tropes in our entertainment for a long time. We are obsessed with conspiracies, and I do believe that our fiction is tinting how people see the real world.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Comfort Love and Adam Withers have any culpability in a bunch of morons who thought baby-eating leftists were trying to steal an election from Donald Trump. And they would have no way of foreseeing this happening at the time they were plotting their magnificent story.

But it is informing me as I read through this storyline, which is but one of hundreds and hundreds of such stories that fill our media every year. And it reinforces to me that I really need to remain committed to a different direction.

Being a Product of our Time…

Posted in Grumblings on March 2, 2021 by chemiclord

A moment of disclosure, I wasn’t really a Dr. Seuss fan even as a child. While my peers were reading Horton Hears a Who, I was reading Where the Sidewalk Ends. While my friends were flipping through pages of The Cat in the Hat, I was lost in the pages of Where the Wild Things Are.

Point is, this current scuffle over the legacy of one Theodor Geisel doesn’t hit me as deeply or strikes the core of my childhood like it does a good many people. So, if I seem particularly dismissive of the impact he has had on so many developing minds, I apologize. Nonetheless, as he has become the latest front in the United States of America’s ever expanding culture war, I am compelled to speak on it, as it ties to something else I have noticed repeatedly as modern society tries to reconcile with its past.

The facts aren’t really in dispute. During Geisel’s rise as a cartoonist, he did a lot of work that contained exceedingly blatant racism. As in nakedly obvious, even for the early 20th century. It was a trait that informed even his later work where he tried to be more inclusionary. And he did try, even if the work was more allegorical rather than direct… and even though it still fell short in many instances.

This reality and problematic history has been met quite frequently with the same refrain that a considerable number of historical creators and figures when their own backgrounds are brought to the forefront of the discussion.

“They were a product of their times!”

On its surface, this is a true statement. As bad as we can be culturally in terms of inclusion and tolerance in the current day, past eras were far worse in nigh every aspect, and it is easily seen by what was considered acceptable discourse in those times by those who influenced those cultural periods, and that culture would inform and influence every single person who grew up and contributed to it.

So, I do not object to the statement. I object to its usage.

Because when this line has been invoked, it is used as a deflection. It’s used in hopes of burying the troublesome so that it doesn’t have to be reckoned with, and those who enjoy it can continue to enjoy it with a clean conscience. They want a clean break that doesn’t require retrospection… because that would invariably lead to introspection, and there’s nothing your average American hates more than having to look in the spiritual mirror and take stock of the warts on their soul.

We want to be free of the troublesome aspects of our icons, without even knowing why its troublesome to begin with. Even if it was good faith attempt (and in most cases, it isn’t), it is akin to sweeping all the dirt under the rug. It doesn’t actually solve the problem.

I’d contend it’s of utmost importance to remember that everyone is a product of their time, especially as we consume their work. I dare say that is vital. Because it’s with that knowledge that we can learn and build upon the past to be better in our time.

The Latest Line in the Sand

Posted in Grumblings on January 7, 2021 by chemiclord

I try not to get overtly partisan in my political discourse. While my personal opinions tend to lean fairly heavily into what would be considered “progressive” (by American reckoning, at least), I try to be accommodating and try to understand the perspectives of those who don’t agree wholeheartedly with me.

I am breaking that rule today; so if you are an ardent Trump follower even now, and have no interest in hearing anything bad about your dear leader or yourselves, you might as well hit the back bar right now, delete this link from your bookmarks and history, and any other distancing measure you can think of.

Because I am not going to be kind to Donald Trump, nor am I going to be particularly understanding of those that will defend his and his cult-like followers actions at this point. You are anathema to me. You are every problem in this country, and none of its solutions.

Because unlike a lot of other progressive thinkers, I don’t think you have been “brainwashed” by conservative, oligarch-driven media to reject science or reasonable discourse. I lived among you for half of my life. I know better. You weren’t inundated by anti-intellectualism. You sought it out because it’s what you wanted to hear. You weren’t helpless pawns in a conflict by a handful of greedy billionaires. You were, and are, willful volunteers.

And you aren’t duped by President Donald J. Trump. You aren’t blind to his most deplorable behaviors. You see them, and you revel in them. He is the man you wish you could be; a bigoted, hateful, braggart who lives a lazy, gluttonous lifestyle where he has sex with models, tosses them aside, spends money with abandon, refuses to pay his debts, says whatever the hell he wants, does whatever the hell he wants… without any consequences.

You know he pays lip service to faith, then does none of the acts that come with pious living. You know damn well that he is so alien to the Bible that he literally doesn’t know how to hold it. You don’t care. He is living your best life, and you are living vicariously through him.

You don’t even care that he has lived up to exactly none of his promises other than to fill the Supreme Court with people who also pay lip service to Christian ideals… then don’t actually do anything to support them. Because it wasn’t ever really about a wall on the Mexican border… or the right to bear arms… or protecting the lives of the unborn.

It was about making sure no one dared try to challenge your place in the social hierarchy. That the nation respected and acquiesced to your way of life. That you retained the imaginary throne in your heads; one where no one has the right to tell you what to do; no matter how reasonable or how imperative it is to the well-being of those who aren’t you.

I didn’t have much patience for it to begin with. Now, in the aftermath of a violent attempt to assert your dominance over a country that actively chose to reject that worldview, I have none. Anyone who supports Trump at this point is dead to me. We will no longer “agree to disagree.” You are wrong. You are despicable. And we are done.

The Death of the “Silent Majority…”

Posted in Grumblings on November 8, 2020 by chemiclord

It’s been a rather common dream among the extremes of the political discourse; that among the masses of those that don’t/won’t/can’t vote there is a swell of support for them and their message specifically, and thus their platform is nigh infinitely more popular than polling or general sentiment would suggest.

For the alt-right, they insist that there are masses of people in “blue” states who are in lockstep with their isolationist and conservative message, but they are demoralized by dirty liberal dominance.

For leftists, they tell us that there’s an army of wanna-be socialists through every vein of this country that are either beaten down by “politics as usual” or simply don’t realize that they are actually in favor of wealth redistribution, and merely need to hear it from a major leader.

In the 2020 election, we had a chance to see if there is any validity to the “silent majority.” Roughly 3/4ths of eligible voters showed up, a massive uptick from the roughly 50% that normally do. If there was any sign of a previously ignored block of voters one way or the other… surely we’d see signs of those people, at least in the margins.

And at the end of the day, with both candidates reaching record numbers of votes (literally the most and second most in any presidential election in the country’s history)…

The voting splits were almost frighteningly similar to the last twenty years; once again the presidency decided pretty much at the margins. Quite literally; roughly 100k votes among the 150+ million in a handful of states go the other way, and we’re talking about Donald Trump’s second term.

(And for what it’s worth, I think what we’re seeing from our polls is less a problem with finding out who actually supports who, as once again, the predicted splits of the total vote were well within the margin of error, and more a problem of polls being used for something they aren’t well equipped to do… which is trying to work on a micro scale in the one narrow band that actually is extremely volatile.)

It seems pretty clear that there is no silent majority. It doesn’t exist, and even a cursory understanding of statistics should have led to that conclusion. Give any statistician a random sample set of 1 in 2 and they will be exceedingly confident that the other 50% of that set will resemble what has been measured.

And while it’s true that the voting public isn’t a truly random sample size (due to things like vote suppression), there was no reason to believe that it skewed in any particular direction. There wasn’t any particular demographic statistically under-represented despite the best efforts of state and local governments (basically suppression of poor and minority voters was largely countered by laziness and disinterest from white voters).

It would seem that for every liberal/progressive in Texas or the Gulf Coast who was disenfranchised, there is an equal number of conservatives in places like New York or California that don’t bother showing up because they don’t feel their vote matters, either.

(This is a problem of the Electoral College that frankly everyone should find distasteful, regardless of political inclination.)

Nor was there any particular region that was being underrepresented. For all the “Get Out The Vote” efforts that turned states like Georgia and Virginia and North Carolina into battleground states, that inspired equally effective conservative efforts that turned the upper Midwest from fairly solid “blue” to a much more active “purple” as well.

The physical battle lines may shift, the ideological ones aren’t. Everyone pretty much knows what side they are on.

So what does this mean?

Well, it’s frankly good news for conservatives, in my estimation, even as their far-right flank was one of the most aggressive believers in the “silent majority.” Their message is rather simple, and it keeps the various groups in line. Irrational fear based on anyone different from them; that liberals are out to take their guns, that women will be lined up around the block to kill their unborn children, and that there are enemies in all directions invested with the goal of destroying their families and their way of life.

As disgusting and misleading the platform is, fear remains the single easiest and effective motivator of the human species. It works, and they’re going to keep using it until it doesn’t.

It’s less good news for liberals and progressives, because both major camps on the left side of the ledger have staked their entire platforms on the idea of a “silent majority,” at least in different ways.

Progressives, it’s time to stop waiting for the Riders of Rohan to appear from the west to lift you to victory. They simply don’t exist. The unvoting public is as moderate to conservative as the voting public you have tended to scorn. There are no swaths of unknowing socialists that you can reach.

For moderates, they need to drop the notion of appealing to the center-right. If the 2020 election should have shown you anything, it’s that it’s not going to happen in any meaningful numbers. “Centrist” Republicans may pay lip service to switching, but when they are alone in the booth, they’ll fall in line just like every other Republican, regardless of how disgusting of a man the GOP has at the top of the ticket.

We have to play with the hand we have, not the one we want to have.