47 Comments
May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I think we should take free subscribers out to the gravel pit.

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This essay reminds me of a comment you once said in regards to the Yellowstone show and how many people use the character Kevin Costner portrays as a sort of “literally me” persona:

“As social conditions deteriorate in America people are adopting cartoon identities to provide their lives with greater definition.”

People also seem to be physically in decline as well as they’ve lost all forms of self-control of themselves and others. For example, a lot of the acrimony towards pornography (not unjustified) being a reason for the lack of the disappearing social life and many women seemingly being at odds with each other, ignore just how fat, ugly and unpleasant people are nowadays.

Irony poisoning has replaced sincerity which probably exploded at the turn of the 2010s. Don’t let alot of those millennials tell you that they are better than boomers when they got browbeaten by the mentally unwell to agree with insane worldviews and then hold you in contempt for pointing that out.

I’ve been involved in a lot of hobbies and groups and have seen the exact type of person start to tank them by making it less about the subject and more about the personas of who’s involved.

Guess it’s fine for me to realize I’ll never be like others nor should I try to.

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May 2·edited May 2Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I've observed this same cycle on various internet forums over twenty years. A small group of people gather online to talk about Thing™. A small cadre of "friends" forms. A valuable resource of collected knowledge and experience is created and freely, if quietly, shared. As Thing™ gets popular, web traffic grows and more and more people show up. These late comers show decreasing interest in Thing™ and just want to talk about politics and air grievances over how the site is run and by whom. Inevitably, the core cadre tires of it all and leaves. Traffic drops off as everyone forgets why they went there in the first place and the forum dies. Sometimes it's left online as a monument to low IQ hubris, or the site gets taken down and is erased without a trace.

It's strange to see this sequence played out in the actual real world.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I truly believe Trump’s appeal is that he genuinely does not care. He’s not a nihilist, he’s just a man of pure confidence living his life on his terms. People love him because that’s aspirational. He’s relatable because everyone deep down wants to be who God made them to be and Trump is truly the living embodiment of that. I think people really do have a sixth sense of when they’re being lied to and the fact is when Trump speaks you don’t get that sense. Americans have become jaded and used to politicians hating them and lying to them. Noem may not be a bad person but I do get the sense she’s trying to be something she’s not.

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May 1·edited May 1Author

I agree, I think the term “fatalist” captures it best. Trump cares about a lot of things, but has cast his fate to the winds to unselfconsciously pursue them. I’m working on an essay on “MAGA Fatalism.”

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I think that’s a better way of phrasing it.

He clearly does _care_ but not in the way that most people care which is to say caring only insofar as it’s as you’re trying to prove something to someone.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I've actually raised both goats and dogs on a ranch. There is a common superstition amongst farmers that once a dog has the taste of blood they'll never be able to train killing out of them. "Experts" can argue about the legitimacy, but it's still widely believed. As far as shooting, I disagree that's fundamentally worse than farmers leaving boxes of puppies in the elements because a shelter won't take them.

The point isn't the killing, like you said, it's this obsession with drawing attention and establishing her "profile." It's an obsession of everyone to come off as "sincere." I'm a real farmer/leftist/sports fan/movie buff, not a poser. My identity is unimpeachable, I shot a dog and have strong opinions on Tarkovsky films. Everyone is frantically trying to prove they exist. They rarely do.

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MG has leftist readers?

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No. But it has retarded ones

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May 1·edited May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

Great essay. The salient point here is the same reason I utterly despised the entire "Rich Men North of Richmond" saga. There's a time and a place for country, folk, bluegrass, whatever music about being on hard times and drinking too much, I enjoy a lot of that music myself when I'm in the right mood for it, but I saw Right-leaning people on social media engaged in an entirely performative race to claim that, no, THEY were the biggest loser, and THEY'D been the most mistreated by those awful Rich Men North of Richmond. It was a negative song - a loser anthem - and, like I said, there are plenty of good loser anthem's out there, and I think it's okay to resonate with them because we've all been there, once or twice, but it really was like these people wanted to build an identity around the Right-side of the spectrum about being perennial, downtrodden losers being abused by the elites. Wrong? Not entirely. But when you define yourself like that, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. If you want to act like a chronic loser, you'll be one, and people will treat you like one, too. It wasn't just enough to like the song, people had to make it their "bit", as you described it, while it was still in the zeitgeist. They were willing to debase themselves just to play a character on social media, in a way.

I guess what it comes down to is that people just can't be normal about anything anymore. I think politicians have been this way for much longer, due to living their lives in front of cameras before the advent of social media, but now that TikTok and Instagram and Twitter and the rest have brought that reality of "Always being on" down to the public level and we live in a veritable panopticon of social media, we're seeing that same inability to "turn off" the bit manifesting in average, lay-level people. As the lines between reality and the internet grow ever thinner, especially among generations who never knew a time without it, I think we're going to see more and more people who are less "people" with any definable traits and just characters, faces, or bits they adopt for the camera.

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founding
May 2Liked by Conundrum Cluster

It was really revealing that what looked like a majority of the online right chose a song about losing as their anthem.

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May 1·edited May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I wouldn't be surprised if the theory that the ghostwriter hated her and wrote it in as a fictitious piece in the biography was true. He would know it would get attention and Kristi likely wouldn't even bother to read her own biography.

That being said, both my grandparents were farmers, and had to do what was necessary to sick and violent animals, including pets. The difference is they were sick to their stomachs about what they had to do and refused to talk about it after the fact, contrary to putting it in a book to tell everyone how tough they are.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

The fact of the matter is most politicians are very unimpressive people IRL who get by on their looks and phony personas. Noem is no exception, but Trump is.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

Ah, Noem. I live in South Dakota so this definitely hits home. I also grew up on a farm and still work on it from time to time. Some things are better left unsaid. She’s a very divisive figure in the state, even among republicans. MG, if you have questions let me know.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

Reading this between sets. Great article!

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I don't believe that the "less than worthless" dog bit her. I think she made that up to make the story more palatable. She's just another woman with penis envy, who thought men would appreciate a story about heartlessly killing animals.

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The articles don't even say it bit her, just that it attempted to, which dogs can do when they're in a blood frenzy after killing chickens. You absolutely can train this out of them, we did it with my beagle growing up.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I thought the obsession with Noem doing this was strange, and her writer placing this story in some book was even stranger. Why do people care more about this than the millions of children being executed via abortion annually, or, as you mentioned, the mutilation and maiming of children in the name of 'being who you are'? We are out of touch with reality, both sides actually. I live on a 20 acre property in the country. Just a city guy transplanted to a safe area. I have no livestock, as they require constant care and I am a single man. So, I have some outdoor cats I keep around for pest control. 4 of them. Last year, one of them got pregnant. I only needed 4, so when I saw the litter of 5, I got food for the others to get them away from the house and then took care of this problem. Did I tell people? Of course not. It's not something you brag about. I have only told a couple of people. But, people kill animals all the time out here and they do not mention it much beyond it being part of daily life, let alone dispatching the family dog. In times past, you put down your old family dog, your trusted friend, when he was old and could not get around any longer. You did it yourself. No one wants to do it. Hell, I did not want to do what I did. But, you do not think about it and you just do it because it needs to be done. Everyone takes their pets to the vet to have HIM do it. Death happens over there somewhere. It is not just some sort of political problem. It is a cultural problem, both in the fact that no one knows what death is or is intimately involved in it (we want it sanitized), but, in this stilted and awkward way of bragging about it. My neighbor had an Australian shepherd named Cowboy. Had him since he was a puppy. 2 years ago, his wife Carol called me and said 'Todd, John had to put down Cowboy. He was too sick. Please do not ask him about it'. The following week, we were doing some work outside together and he said, 'Todd, Cowboy could not get around anymore, so I took him to the far field, ended his pain and buried him. I had him for 17 years. He was like an old friend'. My eyes misted. I shook his hand and spoke of it no more.

Humanity and manliness does not come from boasting. It comes from a sober mind in living life day to day, whether in a city or the country.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

In addition to being a greater cultural problem on the right, I think the kind of performative provocation you describe may be deliberately encouraged by what remains of the GOP old guard as a kind of limited hangout. Many conservatives are looking for a "Trumpism without Trump," and if you can convince them that on-command spectacles of brashness qualify as such, then you can divert large amounts of RW energy into supporting episodes that make them look ridiculous but are also totally non-threatening to the regime (Yarvin's analogy of "Cocaine Conservatives" contrasted with heroin liberals comes to mind). The success of content creators who give themselves names like "Catturd" is emblematic of this.

The trend you've noticed can also be connected to what Greer refers to as the "Insane Clown Party," which he uses to refer to the GOP base's predilection for conspiracy theories that are maximally disrespectable, but minimally threatening to the regime (lizard people, mass demonic possession, the government hiding secret aliens, etc). It's a way of acting and feeling edgy without actually violating the status quo.

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

I bet she stole the story from a family member or friend. It's not unheard of to do this in rural areas of the world; ask the people flooding the border if they've ever had to kill a violent dog and I guarantee many would say yes. But not everyone has one of these stories and I just doubt you'd make your teenage daughter do this and not one of your sons

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May 1Liked by Conundrum Cluster

This, along with Zero HP Lovecraft's essay on the "Spirit of 2016," and Second City Bureaucrat's essay on Trump and the return of premodern civility, is probably the best piece on the appeal of Trump that I have read. Some of your best work, bud.

I don't know if you came up with the hobby culture/personality culture divide, but it really does get to a huge problem with our increasingly retarded and insane culture. Much to think about.

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May 2Liked by Conundrum Cluster

Thank you Mr. Conundrum, I enjoyed reading this.

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founding
May 2Liked by Conundrum Cluster

All Kristi Noem needed to do to be VP is talk about how Dune 2 emphasizes local, over global, values

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