Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 22, No. 4, 2023
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
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Don Dewey
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Lydia Schrufer
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




For more of Liz, visit her fashion/brenda website.


Real or Satire?

It’s getting harder and harder to tell.

Is Justin Trudeau real? To me, he seems totally concocted, like a hologram or a department store mannequin brought to life by a casting agent and a critical theory professor. His woke hardwiring is so impeccable, three separate black-face incidents barely left a scratch.

Sometimes his programming glitches out, especially when it comes to uppity women. Like that time he chose a gender-balanced cabinet—“because it’s 2015.” Duh!—then kicked defiant Jody Wilson-Raybould under the bus.

This errant software bug surfaced during a G7 meeting. Trudeau, having already solved all his own country’s problems, decided to mansplane equality to Italy’s Giorgia Meloni: “Canada is concerned about some of the positionings that Italy is taking in terms of some of the LGB rights but I look forward to talking to you about that,” he told her.

And how did this go over?

Media reports described the Italian prime minister as being “visibly irate.” My interpretation is more in the vein of ‘deeply annoyed.’ That expression of hers is one that often precedes the question “Is this guy for real?” Well, Ms. Meloni, that’s exactly what I’d like to know.

Speaking of political holograms, find someone who loves you the way Virginia Heffernan loves US transport minister Pete Buttigieg. That’s the lesson of a recent tongue bath profile of Mayor Pete in this month’s WIRED magazine.

There’s nothing new about profiles that slather powerful people in glowing praise. But this piece of journalistic puffery spins off into so much hyperbole, reading it made me wonder if I was living inside a Truman Show-type universe.

The introduction alone is so dripping with honey, it should come with a bear warning:

When your subject spares an entire apse in his cathedral mind, the least you can do is repay him with more lubricating gushes along the lines of “We are told ‘even as he discusses railroads and airlines, down to the pointillist data that is his current stock-in-trade, the US secretary of transportation comes off like a Mensa black card holder…”

Sure, he reads Knausgaard in translation, but that’s no reason to barrage him with ‘gotchas.’ Only pillowy soft questions will do for this potential Mensa black card holder: “Running the Department of Transport seems to suit you. Are there more ways the challenges of transportation speak to your spiritual side?”

Apparently, the answer is ‘yes’ . . .

“I think we are all nearer to our spiritual potential when we’re on the move. Something about travel pulls us out of the routines that numb us to who we are, to what we’re doing, to everything from our relationships with each other to our relationships with God. That’s part of the reason why so many important things in the Bible happen on highways,” replied Secretary Pete.

The attentive news junkie—having paid attention to the transpo boss’s series of unforced errors on the job, all of which go unmentioned—will be left wondering: is this parody? Of the many thousands of Twitter responses to the story, this was the number one question. Number two was: ‘WTF happened to journalism?’ On that question, David Burge—the wittiest man on Twitter—had this to say:

“Truly we live in an age of gauzy puff pieces illustrated with artsy photography about minor government functionaries. I love how journalists act like they’re hard-bitten cynics with a gimlet eye and finely tuned bullshit detectors and then publish this kind of Tiger Beat-level fan drivel about politicians.”The truth is, mainstream journalism truly is in dire straights. Layoffs and bankruptcies are at an all-time high while public trust in the institution is at an all-time low.

I’m not unsympathetic. But it’s hard to feel bad for these journalists when they keep sawing away at the branch they’re sitting on. Also, who’s the real victim here? Journalists or writers of parody and satire?

The list of otherwise harmless things that are racist, bigoted or rooted in colonialism is long and growing. We’ve known for a while that math is racist. Apparently, lawns and gardening are too, along with being punctual. Did you know parks were unbearably white? Also, while filling up your tank, has this ever occurred to you?

“As the planet warms,” writes Professor Daggett, “new authoritarian movements in the West are embracing a toxic combination of climate denial, racism and misogyny.” And here you thought you were just picking up groceries.

But getting back to the racist hegemony of early risers, there is, sadly, no there there. We are told that “acknowledging the cultural diversity in sleep patterns and work schedules is another important step toward dismantling harmful stereotypes.” The problem is, no documented cultural differences in sleep patterns exist. Every culture has its larks and its owls.

Never mind facts when there’s a grievance to air.

This genre of ‘grievance headline’ has become so common, conspiracy theorists are calling it the handiwork of far-right activists out to discredit their progressive political opponents. More likely, blaming everything on white supremacy right down to your spouse leaving the cap off the toothpaste trickles down to us from academia. Specifically, from fields like gender studies, queer theory, critical race theory, intersectional feminism and fat studies.

Papers from these PoMo critical theory departments—famous for high levels of absurdity and low academic rigour—aren’t exactly light beach reads. If you’ve ever come across the Grievance Studies hoax, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Briefly, in 2018, the writer James Lindsay and two of his colleagues submitted 20 bogus papers to high falutin journals. The nature and success rate of their submissions makes for hilarious reading.

My personal favourite—accepted by the gatekeepers at the prestigious Gender, Place & Culture journal—is titled “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Ore.” The fake researchers claimed to have observed dogs at dog parks, noting how often humans intervened when their dogs were observed “raping/humping” other male dogs.

“Because of my own situatedness as a human, rather than as a dog,” cautions the author, “I recognize my limitations in being able to determine when an incidence of dog humping qualifies as rape.”





Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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