Jesse Owens in “Race” and “Addicted to Outrage”

Conservative provocateur Glenn Beck recently wrote a book called Addicted to Outrage. The book details the psychological power of constant outrage – the feeling of moral righteousness that it entails the person who is outraged, along with the postmodernism that empowers it in to our consciousness. Beck adds later in his book that fascism is the logical response to postmodernism.

The thesis of his book struck hard after I watched Race, a movie depicting American athlete Jesse Owens. I had heard that he was treated better in Germany than in Europe and after that movie, which depicted a harsh and brutal situation for him, I wondered if I was wrong or mistaken somehow.

In the movie Race, Jesse Owens is depicted as attending the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, wherein his agent takes him to meet Adolf Hitler, who walks out and leaves before Owens can shake his hand. Goebbels is depicted as asking, “You want mein fuhrer to shake hands with that?”

I say this with no intention to make Adolf Hitler look good or to, God forbid, be a Holocaust denier. I have ancestors in Jewish cemeteries and Hebrew tattooed on my arm to remember them. The problem is with a film portraying things that didn’t happen in order to push social anxiety and tension. Owens, at the time, actually said he was treated better in Germany than he was back in his own country:

“Hitler didn’t snub me—it was [FDR] who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram.” ~Jesse Owens, quoted in Triumph, a book about the 1936 Olympics by Jeremy Schaap.

Disturbingly, raw footage of the 1936 Olympics has been flagged by users, as if they are trying to censor it. The video shows the German crowd cheering Owens, as well as Adolf Hitler clapping. Hitler also did not shake the hands of any of the athletes. There’s no actual evidence of any bad experience or treatment while Owens was there. The Race movie actually perpetuated more anti-black stereotypes than old footage of Owens – whereas he seems like a strong, confident athlete in newsreel footage, Jesse Owens becomes a pathetic, womanizing slave in the film that is supposedly sympathetic to him. It’s actually quite messed up, when you think about it.

There’s a song by popular rapper Yelawolf called “Row Your Boat,” where the artist raps that “the media will graffiti up your vision.” Back in 2016, the Trump campaign along with rampant news about shootings sent such fear in me that I had several horrible panic attacks. I thought I would get shot anywhere – there was news of someone being shot on the King County Metro Bus and then of course that massive attack in Orlando on the Pulse nightclub. I remember the Meet the Press footage of it, in which Chuck Todd referred to “all the dead people.”

In 2016, the estimated number of murders in the United States were 17,250. Back in 1995, the media was singing a much different tone. In the New York Times in 1995, writers boasted of success that “the number of homicides dropped to 23,730 last year from 25,470 in 1993.” Things were much worse in the 1990s, a time that we supposedly see as the most peaceful and prosperous America has ever been.

Not everything you hear or see in the media is wrong – but the American media has a deep talent in searching for things that will fit a narrative. From highlighting reports of black men shot by police to white girls killed by illegal immigrants, while other reports of violence that don’t fit so narrowly are left to local news, the media searches hard for stories that will reinforce core fear and anxiety among varying segments of society.

Rest in Peace, Stan Lee

I had the unexpected pleasure a little over a year ago of meeting and interviewing JC Lee, the daughter of Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee and the likely heir to his estate. Here’s a picture of me with her:

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After meeting her, I felt less enthusiasm about being a journalist. Not because it wasn’t great – but I felt like I had finally done all I wanted to do. Once you reached a connection with the founder of Marvel Comics, what else was there to write about?

Stan Lee is credited with creating and popularizing most of Marvel’s Golden and Silver age franchises (terms that incorporate Marvel Comics from the 1940s in to the 1960s), although that is a broad description given the presence of others in the founding of Marvel.

In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, writer Sean Howe documents how a blistering tension developed between Marvel creator Jack Kirby. Kirby was five years Stan’s senior and passed away in 1994. Their tense relationship didn’t resolve before his death. To both Kirby and many of his fans, Kirby was the true character of many of the key Marvel franchises, including Spider-Man. (There is a big segment about the never ending debate at the Jack Kirby Museum’s website.)

Many of the space oriented creations, such as Fantastic Four and certainly characters like the Silver Surfer or Galactus, do have the hallmarks of Jack Kirby, who went on to create multiple science fiction franchises when he left Marvel. However, with his lifelong disdain for bigotry and intolerance, Fantastic Four characters like the Hate Monger and certainly solo characters like Black Panther, one of Marvel’s most ambitious creations, have the hallmarks of Stan to them.

Whoever did create the Marvel franchises, it cannot be doubted that Stan Lee is responsible for popularizing them. He started in the business during the midcentury and struggled for many decades to get the franchises taken on by film studios. His biggest result until 1998’s Blade and 2000’s X-Men, by that time Stan being well over 70 years old, was the Incredible Hulk TV show, which ran in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

It’s doubtful that any of the films, cartoons, or Netflix shows ever could have happened without him. Film agent and Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad didn’t sign on with Marvel until 1996, when the company filed for bankruptcy, while Stan Lee was frequenting studios since the 1970s. Film studios traditionally were hesitant or even hostile about comic book properties, and with comics creators such as Alan Moore, who boasts of never viewing any of his adapted work, there is a precedent for the opposite attitude taking place as well.

In fact, in the 1970s, before any studio would ever touch anything Marvel, Stan Lee narrated an audio recording of his Fantastic Four stories. I would suffice it to say it’s better than any of the Fantastic Four films:

One of my happiest childhood memories was coming home from a difficult day at school. My mother knew my day was difficult and decided to drive me out to Pizza Hut. I didn’t know it at the time, and she did, but there was a big promotion at Pizza Hut for the X-Men. The Fox TV X-Men cartoon was at its height at the time and with a kid’s pizza, you could get several video cassettes that showed cartoons introduced with a round table hosted by none other than Stan Lee. Already well on 70 years old by 1992, Stan had no shortage of enthusiasm or energy:

Edmund Wilson’s America

One of my favorite books about Marxism is Edmund Wilson’s To the Finland Station. Finland Station refers to the train station in which Vladimir Lenin was stationed at the end of World War I, before European Great Powers sent him off in hopes that he would sabotage the Tsarist regime in Russia.

The book, in a novelist tone, stretches the history of Marx’s ideas through the difficult life of him himself, the aborted life of Ferdinand Lassalle, and later in to the lives Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trostky, and Josef Stalin. The book was written in 1940, so the second world war was already white hot. Trotsky was killed by one of Stalin’s assassins just that year.

Toward the end of the book, Wilson, an American author, waxes on about the chaotic mess of Europe and the great hope that his country provides. It starts to sound like New Deal propaganda but it was striking for this reader. The theme of Wilson’s books were largely either Marxist or Freudian. He dedicated considerable mental time and energy in to Marx’s economic theories and overviews. Unlike contemporary leftists, he didn’t see himself outside of the norm of then contemporary American society. In fact, as chaos reigned with consecutive genocides and totalitarian regimes, he was seeing Roosevelt’s America as the leading example of the ideas he adored.

This came in to my mind with some news I found on Facebook today. China’s involvement on the African continent is not at all news and it has illustrated itself with industrial accomplishment after accomplishment, the latest being an $785 million connecting Maputo in Mozambique toward South Africa:

During the time of Edmund Wilson’s America, initiatives such as what China is endeavoring on in Africa were not even up for question. America was building infrastructure everywhere. One of its most beautiful landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge, was built in 1933 at the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s term as president. The concept was accepted by Americans well in to the 1950s, when the interstate highway system was built.

A wave of socialist congresswomen (emphasis on women) were elected to office earlier this month. One woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has become a visible face for this burgeoning movement. It is hard to see what positions she will inevitably reach and where all of this will go. We may simply be too divided to ever build the kind of things we did in the midcentury and, therefore, socialism will be reduced to a label for various identity politics and perhaps improvements in our health care system. I hope it can be something more.

German Hip-Hop: Bushido

I had a roommate last year who spoke, at length, about German hip-hop all the time. I felt a bit rude – despite liking bands like Rammstein, something seemed off about people rapping in Deutsch. Rap is the language of the projects, was my thought, guys like 50 Cent, Nas, or Jay-Z. It’s not to say that that experience was more or less rough than that of anyone anywhere else but it was a unique experience that wasn’t duplicated elsewhere.

I’m not completely against “mumble rap” – I like “Ric Flair Drip” by Offset or “Gotti” by 6ix9ine. However, there is something about it that seems to say that the millenial generation just doesn’t quite know what to say about anything. Now check out the German rapper Bushido, who most certainly has something to talk about:

This is so dope, like the logical evolution of Wu-Tang Clan and trip-hop. I translated the lyrics as well – they’re pretty positive:

Now comes my time and the rest can go
No compromise, I fuck your best ten
You want to leave, but where do you go? Nobody stayed
You have enemies, you have friends, you have heights, you have depths
It goes into the Q7, out into the world
Nobody could defeat me here, boy, except myself
I see sinister figures singing
Good boy and we grind our blades
Every one of my enemies gets it on the collar
They can not stand me, but they have to endure me
A thorn in her eye, mirror of herself
Say, where does the belief that you never fall again?
Fuck on fame, fuck on money, boy, this is forever
Why are you so disabled? No clue
At that time with the MPC in my room at night

Neo-Fascism will Fail – but Liberals Won’t Stop It

There was none of this stupid identity stuff in Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia, or Castro’s Cuba. Identity was / is streamlined because the legacy of identity through religious or racial consciousness enslaves and keeps back human beings. Yet that’s all the “leftists” (really liberals) you see protesting in the US have got going on. They think they make a statement by catching someone saying “female,” “Muslim,” “transgender” or whatever and saying something like “could you explain what you mean by that?” or digging up some ancient evidence that they maybe once had a non-white ancestor.

They only provide ammunition to neo-fascists by appearing to be religiously dedicated to being offended by something. It provides no actual utility to themselves and only alienates those that could possibly help them in a conflict situation. They appear unable to get along with anyone, appearing worse than the fascists who can’t get along with anyone they perceive as unlike themselves. They are completely unprepared to fight neo-fascists and they won’t. They’ll get hurt if they even try.

The brick wall will come when the neo-fascists try to do a trade war with the growing powerhouses of Asia. The only competition those powerhouses have is from other rising Asian powerhouses. This is the towering Achilles’ Heel of neo-fascism – it’s hard to see how unifying the Korean peninsula, freeing it of the American military, and alienating China could possibly “make America great again.” Trump all but opened up a new opportunity for China while giving them the incentive to look beyond the United States.

The western chapter is over. A trade war will be fatal and will create the conditions conservatives used to lament were systematic of communism – shortages, starvation, civil war, and disillusion. Including a Sinophobic fascist Brazil in to the mix only threatens to see China involve itself in South America much as it has done Africa. Neo-fascists can’t and won’t force an old order back in to being. They’ll only force their own decline.

Proud Boys

Last year, I worked on an article about the Proud Boys that never got published. My experience with trying to write about the Alt Right is that editors are extremely hostile to it and then, low and behold, exactly what I wanted to talk about blows up in the wider world.

While I talked to an individual from the organization (not going to say his name), it was truly bizarre. He emphasized many times that his group wasn’t racialist, that most the members had biracial families, but that the group was “cultural chauvinist” and thought that the way the West does things is simply the “only way,” so to speak, and that he was “ready to fight” for it.

Despite trying to appear more mainstream than, say, Identity Europa, all the street fighting is still there and their different message probably only means they’ll have more pissed off young men of different backgrounds joining them, like some sort of reactionary Fight Club. With the whole #metoo thing and descending in a place like Portland, Oregon, I can only imagine what they would turn in to.

The guy I interviewed was extremely hostile, screaming on the phone and swearing at me before I even asked questions or introduced myself. It was hard to understand what he was even angry about. A real trip.