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Friday, January 18, 2019

I've Seen The Preview: I Don't Need to Hear Your Shitty Argument

Ending of the movie on cover.
What do shitty arguments have in common with crappy movie trailers?

Only everything.

When I went to see Bumblebee, there was a trailer for A Dog's Way Home, which seems to pretty much be Lassie Come Home for a new generation. As you watch the trailer for A Dog's Way Home, it becomes obvious that you just saw the entire movie. I mean there might be a scene that you aren't able to predict exactly, but all the major beats are right there in the preview. Even the part where the dog and the human are reunited at the end is in the trailer.

These kinds of trailers are not unusual. You watch them and it's really clear that you don't need to see the movie. You've seen the whole thing. You already know how it is going to go.

Arguing with Dudebros and SQuiD's about social issues is very similar. They are, from the moment they appear, the living embodiment of the latest studies that raised upper forebrains, logic, rationality, and thinking are not created to find truth, but to win arguments. And they want, more than anything else in the world, to win.

They often equate the unwillingness to debate them so with an inability, but in reality, just like that movie, you just don't NEED to see this one out. They think they are original, edgy, vital, fresh to death, but what they really are is an edgelord clone with a all-too predictable stream of clichés spewing out. From the first moment they reveal their "Debate me!" position or demand proof of things like "inequality exists," you already know pretty much exactly how it's going to go.

Not a lot of variety.
First, they demand proof! Whatever it is, they will demand that it be proven. It's a very popular strategy because it mimics good faith skepticism, and claims require evidence. Here's the punchline though: you're NEVER going to prove it to these people. Maybe inequality existed once, but we're past all that now. (It's always, mysteriously, ten years ago that this great shift occurred––even if they themselves age a year, it doesn't become eleven years ago, but still ten).  If you give them statistics, they argue the narrative. If you give them the narrative, they question the statistics. If you give them both, they question the source as reliable. If you give them an impeccable source with pie charts and graphs and hundreds of studies that they can't possibly argue, they pontificate some heretofore unexamined X factor like they are suddenly experts on the subject who are seeing a flaw in the data. They work tirelessly to grind the argument into dozens, maybe hundreds of comments just dealing with something like the very existence of racism or sexism, and turn the entire ordeal of attempting to educate into a huge emotional labor engine trying to get them to acknowledge not only the value of a person's ability to relay their own lived experience, but something that literally all evidence points to.

They twist the institutional forces of bigotry into the false equivalency of someone with prejudice. ("I can name a white person who once got called a honkey before being punched, so obviously the entirety of systematic and systemic racism is a myth.")

And then they will claim that equalism/egalitarianism/humanism should be the real goal (because they care about social issues and equality, but only so long as no specific group gets to talk about how inequality affects them in particular), as if the only thing holding them back from being the champion of oppression everywhere is a branding issue, and not in any way a silencing tactic.

Come on guys! They changed the name to "egalitarianism."
That's what we were waiting for, and now
we totally give a shit about pay inequality for women!

And then they will attack the person making the claim for anything they have ever done that seems questionable as if it justifies the bigotry they have experienced and/or insinuate (or outright claim) they are faking it for attention or money.

And then they will claim that the efforts to name and shame the social issue (sexism for example) are just as bad as the bigotry itself. Because they can remember a time a woman was mean to them for holding the door open or something.

And then they will attempt a fallacy of relative privation because someone somewhere has it worse.

And perhaps they may even attempt a rousing round of "That's Just How Humans Are." The game where it's apparently not ever worth pointing out or working against fundamental inequality because at the end of the day, humans just suck. (That 99% of people who say this happens to be in the group that benefits from this fundamental human suckage is surely just coincidence.)

The cleverer versions of these folks will, at each step of the way, first try Just Asking Questions and imply that their genuine skepticism is above reproach. Any emotion that meets their non-stop questions it (be it frustration, anger, or anything else) is simply evidence that it's all an emotional reaction, worthy only of scorn.

At some point, it is likely they will say that they would listen (or would have listened) if everyone had been a whole lot nicer to them. They may say this despite their own inability to remain even remotely civil because of course THEY were being "attacked" and accused of not getting it and not to mention not a few unkind words as regard to their character, and of course, that is the real crime––their feelings––rather than the implication that entire groups of people are making shit up.

For many enacting this carefully choreographed dance on some sort of open forum or multi-person venue, the entire time they will conveniently miss the logical and careful arguments they claim to be interested in by those who carefully, logically, and OH SO NICELY refute their points, they will respond mostly to the emotional arguments, which they find easiest to attack.

Of course, every one of these is one type or another of fallacy––from a burden of proof fallacy (dismissing something on the basis that it hasn't been proven beyond all doubt is a part of that fallacy), to Tu Quoque, to Argument Ad Absurdum and more.  Honestly it would take a week and change of a critical thinking class to break them all down.

Ironically, about 90% of these people would recognize these fallacies if they were being told to prove vaccines work or to prove that the earth is round. 

And then....the best part of all. The climax of our story––which, just like Free Willy, you already know....

The ghosting.

If all of this somehow ends in inescapably pinioning the person, they simply disappear. Like a ninja with a smoke pellet, they must go, or it is time for work, or their spouse is calling, or maybe....JUST MAYBE they quite appreciate the rousing intellectual stimulation you have provided them purely as a diversion and thought experiment, possibly with a side of thanking the person who managed to explain the issue in the most detached way possible (weaponizing their discipline against everyone else who had the temerity to get frustrated).

And then the next time you see them they have returned all the way back to "Prove to me this exists at all." They didn't learn. They didn't grow. It was all designed to make sure everyone knew the "price" of disrupting the status quo.

Of course, at any point during all of this, should anyone give up and assume this agent is not operating in the most irreproachable of best faith to be educated OH so gently, it is because they CAN'T. It is because this social issue doesn't really exist. It is because this claim has no evidence. The whole thing is made up and run by the group's emotions.

The thing is, from the moment most of us who butt up against this sort of motivated skepticism every day recognize that someone is stubbornly NOT GETTING IT, we don't need to see the whole movie. We've seen the preview with the entire thing. We've watched the earlier version. We know exactly what's going to happen. As amazing and intellectual and original as these people think they are, the best most people can do with their time is go watch something else.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bioshock Infinite as Art: Your Argument is Invalid (Part 3-Human Condition? Subtext? It's in there.)

Two quick reminders:

1- This is Part 3 of a multi-part article, and I’m jumping right in from Part 2 without recap.

(Or go all the way back to part 1)

2- While I’m not decoding the end or discussing the plot directly, there will be spoilers.

A brief real-time caveat: this is a snippet of conversation I had with an artsy geek friend since beginning this article. But since I have to lay this out as me being awesome, I'm going to call him "Art Snob" and cut a slice out of our broader interaction so that the whole thing looks a lot more antagonistic than it really was it totally happened just like this.


Art Snob:  You know that a game can ever be real art. You’re wasting your time with that article.

Me: Dude, I haven't even finished. Wait until you see what's next.

Art Snob: The rules of games are too arbitrary. You have to have levels. You have to have a difficulty curve. You have to have random dudes with chocolate and ammo in their pockets. You have to have an epic end fight. It’s all these constraining artificial… “rules.” (“Art snob” is also kind of a geek, so he knows these things.)

Me: How is that any different from, say, an Elizabethan sonnet? 14 lines. Specific rhyme scheme. Iambic pentameter. Three quatrains. Shift in the 9th line. Ending couplet. How are those rules less constraining? You know as well as I do that when art colors inside the lines, it becomes even more creative. Especially if it bends the rules of the convention in a way that works with the themes.

Art Snob: (after a very long pause in which he—I shit you not—kind of picked his teeth with his tongue and I thought Duel of the Fates was going to start playing) Very well then, Christopher of the Brecheen clan. (As he said this, his body seemed to stretch and shadows filled the room like Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring.) Finish your article. But mark my words and mark them well... (He extended a gnarled, bony finger directly at me.) Should you fail, the world of video game art fails with you, and there will be a reckoning such as never has been. No pressure, dude!

That's totally exactly just how it happened.



So we’ve established that Bioshock Infinite is excellent in its technical execution. From its eye-popping graphics, to its spectacular play experience, to the voice acting and facial expressions, to the intriguing 19th-century stylistic covers of modern songs (which actually have an in-game explanation), and even the mechanics of gameplay. Somewhere out there there might be a Comic Book Guy discussing the “clearly visible rogue pixel in the baptism scene” or something, but short of that, I think the quality seems pretty well verified by everyone who has played through.

What about the other three aspects we discussed that TEND to make for great art?

There are lots of artistic elements within B.I. that I could examine, but to avoid a thirty-five-part article and y'all force-choking me around Part 7, I will focus on one element in which we can hit two birds with one stone.

So first, let’s look at whether Bioshock Infinite deals with any fundamental (human condition) type philosophical questions.

Looking back on the 80s in hindsight,
I can sort see why this turned into a pregnancy joke.
Uh...yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaah. It's in there.

Perhaps Bioshock Infinite’s most prevalent thematic concern is free will, and the question of whether or not we really have any. (A case could be made that the overarching theme is redemption—“wipe away the debt”—but I believe that the redemptive aspects of the various character arcs are tangled in with their free will—can they, in fact, actually ever make the choices that will redeem them? Besides, it's not like redemption isn't a human conditiony thing.)

The nagging anxiety that Bioshock Infinite seems to slam into with more force than a Handyman on crack is that we may actually make no decisions more significant than whether we want coffee or tea. Our lives may be written for us and we are puppets just acting them out––whether we are Dimwit or Duke (the Goofus and Gallant of the Bioshock world), good or evil predetermined by forces outside our control.

Knowing what we knew, when we knew it, would we always do the same thing in the same set of circumstances? Or do we have the ability to make different choices? The entire unfolding plot reveals the idea that the characters may have indeed walked past whatever precious moments that their fates were sealed, and that the only way to make new choices lies in undoing previous ones. Booker’s past continually locks him into only one possible course of action, and the same thing ends up being true of Elizabeth’s dark future.

It turns out that free will is a major anxiety in our current society. B.I.’s writers didn’t just throw “philosophical conundrums” into a hat and pick out one at random. Predetermination looms larger and larger as social sciences have shown that more and more ideas of meritocracy and exceptionalism (usually weaponized to blame the poor and marginalized for their poverty and marginalization) are far from the truth. As we delve further and further into life science and behavioral psychology, we start to learn that so many decisions we think we are making consciously are products of genetics, early development, social acculturation, and environment, and that there may even be less free will involved in our existence than we ever imagined. Since the moment the Twinkie defense actually fucking worked, and liberal/conservative traits were found to have genetic proclivities, we’ve been questioning if we are truly capable of being anything greater than a composite of our DNA and environment.

This isn’t the first time that our society has struggled with the concept of free will. Before the rise of rationalism, the concept of divine predestination had people ill at ease about their free will. If God knew what everyone was going to do before they did it, and had the power to change anything…did we really exercise free will at all? But philosophies (at least the so-called "Western" philosophies) diverged from religious determinism in the 19th century, and focused on humanity's indomitable will. We conquered nature. We subjugated people who were not like us. Science won. We were walking examples of free will—gods of the universe.
Rawrrr!
And it was not until the late 20th century that we began to slip back into the uncomfortable realization that this might not be true. This time our anxieties came not from the omnipresence of God, but from the unfolding discoveries of science.

It is absolutely no coincidence, then, that Bioshock Infinite starts in a religiously laden 19th century filled with predestination within religious imagery, but also hybridizes in a futuristic world of quantum realities and multiverse dimensions without the 20/21th century science mucking up the middle. That determinism is taken from God and prophecy about halfway through the game and handed to quantum physics and science, but the main conceit of the game from its first moment remains the ability to definitively prove that in the same situation, the same person would make the same choice over and over (and over) again––be it to sell a baby or destroy a city.

Kind of like our growing cultural anxiety.

In fact, exactly like it.

Because of the bantering of the Lutece twins and a few other clues, we know that the player takes control of the 123rd Booker DeWitt to come to Columbia, and that New York has always ended in fire. We know he never rows. We know he always flips the coin the same way. He always picks 77 (despite the warning). There is even an implication in the dialogue that even though the player sitting at home gets to make a choice between cage and bird, Booker has made that same choice over and over again.

He helplessly plods along a path of determinism, unable to change his fate. Every choice the player makes (or thinks they make) is revealed to be just another illusion. It doesn’t matter at all to the ending. From decisions about whether to draw first at the ticket booth to decisions about whether to kill someone begging to die. They are all details that in DeWitt’s words, “wouldn’t change a goddamned thing.” One of the Lutece twins even says at several points where you must do something to progress in the game: “He will do it. Eventually.”

In this way B.I. weaves an element of video game storytelling into the broader themes that it’s exploring.

The characters in B.I. all do terrible things as their lives unfold, and each literally feels powerless to make different choices. At one point Elizabeth stands in front of a burning New York, and says she could not have done otherwise. Apparently convoluted plots involving time travel and the key to Songbird are doable but just saying “Why don’t we go to Disneyland and have a Coke instead?” when it’s time to wipe a city off the map is unfathomable.

But hey, who am I to judge? I like pineapple on my pizza. THAT'S the real crime.

And yet Bioshock Infinite does not leave us with such a bleak statement about free will being an illusion. Its final message is one of hope and choice. Even if it takes 123 quantum times to shine through, there is something above and beyond just our genetics and our upbringing. Because after 123 times, both father and daughter make the same choice. Maybe they cannot stop the railroad violence that has determined their lives, but they can go back—back to a moment before it became too late—and make a different choice.

In this way B.I. might even be said to have some undertones of a didactic lesson. Life has a way of locking us in. So perhaps we might be reminded to consider well those few choices we really do have.

And golly gee willikers, doesn’t it seem like maybe there’s a book or two that deals with the concept of young folks' choices making old folks' destinies? Yes, I’m certain a tweed-jacketed English teacher or two has assigned me JUST such a book.

Okay, so Bioshock Infinite has a theme that is important in the human condition. One of the age-old philosophical questions. But a deep theme doesn’t mean much by itself. Prometheus was a film that tackled several deep themes yet still managed to be one of the most poorly fucking written movies of the last decade.

However, when we're discussing art that is mostly considered GOOD most of the time (by most?), what is more important than the themes simply being THERE, is whether the discrete technical elements of the art form a cohesive vision that echoes this theme.

Does Bioshock Infinite do this?

Do its separate artistic elements reinforce the themes of free will vs. determinism?

Lana is taking this article into the....danger zone.

Bioshock Infinite is the story of the 123 “loops” of a repeating pattern. It’s basically like Groundhog Day or that déjà vu episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, except that the player is only playing through the final loop. Before you showed up, 122 Bookers have come to Columbia, fought Comstock, made decisions that didn’t end the cycle, and started all over again. The Luteces' banter can be analyzed to reveal that they have begun to realize they might be caught in a loop that will be infinite.

Hence the name of the game, if you didn’t realize.

So the plot and the dialogue already reflect the theme. Again, I'll just analyze ONE thing so you know it's there, but it's actually part of a list. (Seriously, I think someone could do their master's thesis on this game.)

Let us consider one of the game's most salient criticisms. In the modern era, most people want big sandbox games. Games like Bethesda makes (Skyrim or Fallout) where you can run around and explore gigantic landscapes full of all kinds of side quests and adventures. Many reviewers’ and critics’ main complaint about B.I. is that the game is FAR too linear. You can’t explore all the shops and stuff—you just grab the money and move on. It’s only a 15-hour game and that’s if you poke through every possible nook and cranny. You can’t really interact with people. There’s only one way to go. Even when it feels like you have a choice, it doesn’t matter. The alternate ways to explore turn out to be a bunch of dead ends with only one truly viable path. The entire game seems like you’re just acting out a predetermined course of actions instead of having any real control.

Sound familiar?

If it doesn’t, maybe this line from Elizabeth may help: “So many choices. They all lead us to the same place.”



And lest you think this was just a coincidence between thematic exploration and slapped-together game mechanics, I offer you this counterpoint. The first choice you get (between cage and bird) is also at the beginning of the first map where there are actually byways to explore beyond a straight shot to the next plot point. At each step beyond this, choices begin to grow almost exactly on par with map complexity. It is even possible to get lost in the run-up to Comstock house. In the final moments in the sea of lighthouses, Booker literally can choose any combination of rights, lefts, and straights the player wishes and go in infinitely different directions.

And each time the path is clear and straight, something happens (like a Songbird attack) to remind them of how few choices they really have.

The idea that it is a coincidence that with each successive map, Booker has more free will to move away from a nonlinear path is one of those absurdities of thinking the artist stumbled upon such a metaphor. It's not like the idea that maybe the curtains were just fucking blue, but actually patently ludicrous to imagine that this was all a big series of interlocking coincidences. This game design aspect perfectly reflects both the scope and urgency of Booker and Elizabeth struggling against their fates.

And yet, all choices end in the same place.

And yet, that is a place with a choice…a choice that actually does matter.

Still not convinced? There’s more….

I will leave you with one other artistic game-based aspect cleverly woven into the game that reflects the theme of destiny.  Consider for a moment the skylines that are so integral to the combat in so many areas. These are supposed to be for troop transport and cargo transportation. Right?

Did you notice that they don’t actually fucking GO anywhere?

Except for a couple in the cinematic sequences, all the skylines Booker can interact with are nothing more than loops. It is a design that would be preposterously inefficient for moving cargo or troop transport. No real tracks would ever be so poorly designed. They don’t go from one area to another. They don’t have connecting tracks. Most of them don’t even have multiple “stations” where they stop. They just go around in a circle. Like anyone would want to move their cargo down the block and back all day without actually building more tracks.

If you build a track system to help with transport, you want it to go, you know, maybe across town or at least to another station so they could unload it once it got where it was going. These are the worst fucking skyline designs in the history of anything, if they are looked at pragmatically. They just go around in a big circle and end up where they started. However, as a thematic reinforcement that most people probably didn’t notice, they are strokes of genius. These skylines are just like Booker and Elizabeth. They just go round and round on a predetermined track, unable to ever really leave. And even though they get more and more convoluted with each successive map, they always end up right back where they started.

So yes, the elements within Bioshock Infinite were reflections of the theme. For realsies.

In the next section, I will talk about the subtext within Bioshock Infinite.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best of December 2018

We're wrapping up the admin end of the 2018 year here with our Best of posts. (There's one more order of business as the patrons and Patron-Muses have yet to be thanked.)

It may take me a little while to figure out the year's best and the adjusted three best by month. I have to account for one of FB's most greed-inspired and dramatic throttlings to date. If I went strictly by the numbers, only posts from before mid-October would make it. So what I've got to try to do is figure out what did the best by ratio compared to the rest of articles accounting for a major dip in numbers.

Facebook claimed their massive change to their algorithm was so that its users could see "more of [their] friends and the things they love" but behind the scenes they have quadrupled their efforts to badger page admins into paying ad revenue. (They all but said "Nice outreach you used to have. Shame about what happened to it. Want it back?") I dropped by 90% overnight and trying to figure out what that means to which articles actually did "better" will take some consideration.

However, as December was all on one side of The Greedening Throttling, it's easy enough to figure out which articles did the best for that month in a vacuum.

Ten Flavors of Gamergate Fail
A rescue from another blog about a years-old event turned out to be our best article of the month. Ain't showbiz funny?

"You Live in a Bubble" (Social Justice Bard)
The claims of echo chambers and bubbles are oft tossed at folks who dare to care about social issues. But is there anything to them?

20 Questions (Meta)

  • Can I take you to lunch/take you out to get a cup of coffee. Will you share your Amazon wishlist/Steam wishlist/Something wishlist.
  • Amber asks: Do you ever get PMed questions that just require too much emotional labor to answer or just make you feel gross?
  • Becky asks: Most amusing instance of "Hey, aren't you the WAW guy?"



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Best Contemporary Science Fiction Poll (or Series)––Nominations Needed (and New Rules!)

What is the best science fiction book (or series) written in the last ten years?

We're going back to some of our most popular polls of the past few years, but this time we're doing it with lots more voters (and we'll be keeping the results on display.) It's all part of our new Sticky Polls--the 2019 roll out for polls here at Writing About Writing.

To start, the very latest in science fiction.


The Rules (pay close attention because some of them are new):


  1. There is a new category of nomination. It is NOT a nomination for the poll. It is an UNDERSUNG HERO nomination. It is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, but maybe not necessarily the best. I will be listing these books along with the poll results. However, if you nominate a book it will not be considered for the undersung hero list and if you shout out something for an undersung hero, it will not be counted as a nomination. (Someone else can nominate it.)
  2. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Worm, I'm not going to argue, but you have to convince others if you're going to get on the poll--nevermind win.
  3. Your book must be copyrighted 2009 or later. If it is a series, the ENTIRE SERIES must be written after 2009.  Of course you can nominate the most recent novel in a series if you are trying to work around the rules, but not the series itself unless it's entirely published in the last ten years.
  4. You get two (2) books or series. That's it. Two. You can do one nomination for the poll and one UNDERSUNG HERO.  Or you can do two nominations. Or two undersung heroes. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but I compile these polls myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list every decent book they can think of in the genre. It is up to you how to divy your two choices.
  5. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. THEY WILL NOT GET ONTO THE POLL WITHOUT SECONDS. You can agree with or cheer on the undersung heroes, but they won't become nominations unless someone else nominates them (and then they get a second). Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. 
  6. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  7. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought Matt Damon was great in The Martian, but you didn't really care for the book, nominate something else.
  8. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...) The competition on THIS poll is going to be FIERCE so please come back and second, third, fourth, and twenty-fifth everything you want to see go on to the poll. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Trump Shutdown: A Tale of Two Narratives (Social Justice Bard)

If you learn one thing from this blog, let it be....well, let it be that you should write every day if you want to be a paid writer. But if you learn TWO things, let the second be that controlling the narrative is true power, possibly greater power than splitting the atom or splicing genes. The ability to say who is right and who is wrong and whose story we will not even listen to is the power to take a species of storytellers and exert the ultimate social control over them.

The Republicans DESPERATELY (and urgently as their numbers slip every day) want to paint this shutdown as just a simple negotiation gone wrong because of the Democrats, and the declaration of a state of emergency as merely another tool in the executive toolbox to get things done when the opposition has the votes to veto. (Odd that I can distinctly remember them howling about "executive overreach" just a couple of years ago....) They want to paint Dems as intransigent and unwilling to negotiate despite being the ones to walk away from the table, refuse compromises that would at least end the shutdown, and even having their party leader refuse a Republican compromise. McConnell won't even take up a bill to keep other parts of the government open, chiefly because he knows it would pass, and force the President into the optics of vetoing a million paychecks.

The narrative here isn't in the GOP's hands. The longer this goes on, the more Trump is just the petulant guy on high-profile camera slapping away the olive branches that Dems brought to the table in good faith. The longer it goes on, the more his constituents realize "he's not hurting the people he is supposed to be hurting." The longer this goes on, the more facts and narratives (including calls from "within the house" of Conservative politics) start working against him. And the fact that we were already pretty definitely headed for a recession makes the timing even worse.

Republicans desperately don't want the Democratic narrative taking hold; i.e. that playing politics with nearly a million people's livelihoods creates a "hostage situation" and that if they wanted to pass legislation for a wall, they should just pass it like any other legislation. Oh wait, they can't. It's unpopular and the American people don't want it.

Unfortunately Trump's biggest problem right now is that he's NOT a Washington insider. He doesn't know how the winds can change. Those with expertise tend to be very sensitive to the narrative and which way it's shifting. Whether because he chiefly listens to Fox News or because he fires everyone who isn't a sycophant, Trump is unable to recognize the clear signs of a cause being lost by inches over time.

This potential for the narrative to shift is the same reason the GOP kept calling for votes without a floor debate, accurate reporting, or even time enough for everyone to read the legislation: they were passing unpopular laws based on unpopular policies and the Republicans knew full well that the longer anyone got to talk about the actual facts, examine the issue, do impact studies, talk about the issue openly, or even READ the goddamned thing, the more public opinion would swing against them, even from their own constituencies. It's the same reason they rammed through a SCOTUS appointment without an investigation and then shrugged and said "who's going to investigate these fifty complaints now?" They have relied on their reputation as fiscal conservatives and good faith actors to act impugned when their motives are questioned, but they needed that legislative blitzkrieg so that the narrative could still be (R) vs. (D) and us versus them and they could walk away with a win at any cost, only later for sob stories of betrayed rural voters to crop up in the media because the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party ate their face.

I make no bones about the fact that while I think Democrats are FAR from perfect (or even "okay" much of the time), Trump Republicans have made revolting and harmful bigotry and abject cruelty towards me and the people I love part of their political DNA. This is the party that supports and is supported by white nationalists, literal nazis, and where prominent party members like Steve King come right the fuck out and openly wonder what the big deal is about white supremacy. Some may receive some harsh words from fellow Republicans (mostly for saying it out loud), but the right leaning voters don't stop electing them and the RNC doesn't yank their funding or do the Klingon back-turn discommendation ceremony. And the leader of the Republican party was elected president because he just comes right out and SAYS the bigotry so many are thinking of. So I have no problem pointing out the narrative that they are trying to float as the same sort of fact-immune alternate reality, we've-always-been-at-war-with-eastasia absurdity which began on day one when Trump tried to claim his inauguration was bigger than Obama's.

...and continued later that day when he assured us he didn't really lose the popular vote.

...and hasn't really stopped because he just swore he never said Mexico would pay for the wall.

Trump is working against a lot of simple, cold, hard facts surrounding the issue. Trying to flip the narrative blame onto Democrats is going to be an uphill battle (not that he won't try––he is notoriously allergic to taking responsibility for anything he perceives as negative––the buck stops....with everybody). Frankly, it takes a measure of cognitive dissonance to buy the party line:

  • Perhaps the most epic snag in trying to hoist blame onto Dems was the fact that he outright said he would be proud to shut the government down, and he wouldn't blame the Democrats. Bellicosely. Twice. On live television. Not just regular ol' live television either, but in front of cameras HE invited into a private meeting because he thought he was going to run the table so bigly. The only hoisting was Trump....on his own petard.




  • Currently the GOP has a majority in The Senate and the leader of their party is the POTUS. The Democrats aren't "in control" as Lindsey Graham would have us believe when he dons his crown of thorns and crawls up on his cross to weep. Dems provide only a veto. Republicans are trying to "rule" rather than govern by the rules set down for making compromises in a pluralistic society. You can't always get what you want. This is an inconvenient truth for someone who can't deal with not getting absolutely everything he wants when he wants it.
  • There WAS a limited extension budget. It passed. All Trump had to do was sign it. It wasn't the DEMOCRATS who let Ann Coulter goad them on Twitter at the 11th hour that they needed 6 billion to spend on a largely racist symbol that multiple studies have proven doesn't work against the types of problems Trump is catastrophizing and/or making up whole cloth.
  • It doesn't look entirely....ingenuous to blame an utter failure in governance on the party that you have spent the last two years essentially DARING to stop you from doing whatever the hell you wanted because they didn't have the votes. 
  • Republicans wouldn't NEED sixty votes if they hadn't used the once-a-year reconciliation simple-majority bylaw as a workaround for unpopular legislation they didn't want to have to debate or compromise on earlier in the year (in a total middle finger to the founding fathers' intention if you're keeping track of who clutches their pearls and talks about that every time they lose the popular vote by 4 million votes or someone wants longer waiting periods for grenade launchers or something).
  • The Republican disrespect for democracy over power grabs knows little limitation. We saw it in Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin after elections ousted them from power and this is just a larger echo. They have suppressed votes, gerrymandered the shit out of as many places as they could, and it's looking increasingly like they at LEAST looked the other way as our greatest geopolitical enemy interfered to their benefit in democratic elections. Playing chicken with a million people's livelihood if you don't get what you want (after you LOST a midterm election in which the American people voted for some checks on your power by 8.7 MILLION votes) takes a breathtaking disregard for what the people you claim to represent have told you they want.
  • Trump was offered even MORE than he's demanding now. He was offered it back in 2017, and if he had been willing to compromise on DACA, he could have had his "big beautiful cement wall" under construction already. Instead, after agreeing to a deal with Senate Minority Leader Schumer, Mr. Art of the Deal suddenly changed his mind since he thinks "deal" means getting people to do things when he already has power over them instead of "compromise."
  • He's not OFFERING anything to peel off some moderate Dems. He's not going back to DACA or offering to overhaul legal immigration. He's not rolling up his sleeves and working hard here. No midnight oil has been burnt. He's actually promised this could go on for months because apparently his wall means more than a million people's homes, health, groceries and such. He's not making deals (which is odd because I was assured he is the best deal maker that has ever lived). He's just Tweeting about how unfair life is that he has to be a public servant for a pluralistic society instead of the absolute monarch he wants to be. 
Ultimately, the power of the narrative is working against Trump the longer the shutdown drags on. He'll have his 30% base pretty much whether or not he starts eating babies on live TV, and since adulation is all he can handle listening to, he will continue to have a very disconnected perception of his image, but the rest of the country blames him, more and more Republicans see the way this is going to hang off them like a millstone and are jumping ship. What Trump has indicated as an "almost certainty" is that he is going to declare a state of emergency, his wall funding will end up quagmired in the courts, he will have to deal with the dead albatross of the optics of using Puerto Rico's emergency funding to build a monument to his racism. And blame for the whole thing will land squarely on him and the GOP that enabled him.

He was worried a couple of weeks ago that the fed raising interest rates was going to make him Herbert Hoover unpopular. 

At this point, the narrative should be so merciful.