Recommentunde: Cruelty, Bullying & Freedom Multipliers (23 Feb 2020)

it's the latest edition of

The Recommentunde Newsletter

For the week that began 23 February 2020

This is a chart I built around 2007 to try to calculate when black Americans might actually be free. It's part of my #blackhistorymonth series on Instagram and the comments and caption (ok essay) are worth reading.

I delayed this week’s newsletter so I could include last night’s debate and… como se dice…. “shitshow??”

The candidates realized the rules didn’t apply to them if they ignored the rules, so they talked over and under each other to create a chaotic spectacle where almost no-one was heard. Sound familiar? It’s like most of the candidates, desperate to remain relevant, tapped into their inner Trump. I may do a candidate debate breakdown later, but for now I want to focus your attention on a response I got to last week’s newsletter.

This comes from GK who hit me up on my community text message number. You can join too. Visit this link on your phone, or send any text to +1-202-894-8844

Hi Baratunde, regarding the WaPo article you linked to about bullying because Trump does it. I’m curious what parents really are telling their kids, on both sides. What pains me deeply is that liberals throwing hate on Trumpians is just as bad. We may never understand why people voted for Trump but what I’ve come to realize is that for the most part these are (were) normal people. Neighbors, colleagues, etc. So back to my original question? What do we all tell our kids about bullying in the name of Trump, or in the name of anti-Trump. I’m just so disheartened by it all.

I hear you GK, and I appreciate you identifying the universal nature of how this plays out. It’s easier for me to call out the bullying on behalf of Trump, but the truth is we have all be worsened and coarsened by the environment and culture he has promoted. My friend Sam (actually, Dr. Sam Rader) is a psychoanalyst and she’s talked about how we all have some Trump in us, some inner shadow we don’t want to acknowledge but comes out anyway. I think that’s what kids are picking up on in these stories and what GK is seeing.

When the environment gets this toxic, and we feel very desperate… that’s when principles and values matter even more. If bullying is wrong, it’s got to be wrong for everyone. It’s probably not a good idea to match Trump energy with more Trump energy, as intuitive and satisfying as that may seem. I reluctantly admit, I think we’ve got to be better while also being honest about how we feel. In many ways, the United States has become a cruel society. We push people to fend for themselves. We relish making the necessities of life hard to attain. I could go on, but the point is this: the counter to cruelty isn’t more cruelty. It’s kindness.

Let me know what you think, and for those of you with children (your own or those of others close to you), how have you been talking to them about the U.S. president? What have you noticed them or their friends exhibiting in their language or behavior? Just reply to this message.

And now, for your regularly-scheduled content.

As long as online cruelty remains cool, it won’t be solved by hashtags, T-shirts or even censorship

Article in The New Statesman

I found this article as I was looking for the quote I had read about from TV host Caroline Flack who recently took her own life. In December she posted on Instagram, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” It’s great advice and sad that I know about it because of her suicide. This piece is a good take on that cruel society I mentioned above, with some hints about how we can reverse the trend.

How Bernie Sanders Dominated in Nevada

Article in The New York Times

Bernie Sanders did what democrats are supposed to do when they win: appeal to multiple races, generations, and geographies on a platform of leveling the playing field. Rather than fear that Medicare For All would destroy their hard-earned insurance benefits, most culinary union workers (as opposed to leaders), decided they want to extend their type of plan to their neighbors, not hoard it for themselves. Sanders’s message is often couched as a risk to those with good insurance, but it may actually give folks a chance to practice compassion and generosity by offering that coverage to everyone else.

A lot of “majorities” aren’t educated that their financial advantage isn’t because of their investments.

Thread on Twitter

Got a hot thread for you this week. Michael Harriot was responding to a post on twitter (since deleted because the author realized it was super duper dumb) that basically blamed minorities for being financially disadvantaged because we spend our money poorly on gold chains and other nonsense instead of investing it. Harriot offers a well-researched rebuttal that should be part of how we teach history and economics in the U.S.

A Vaccine Won’t Stop the New Coronavirus

Article from The Atlantic

Let’s call this a Very Important Story. The virus is here, and it will continue to spread. Lockdowns don’t work. We basically have a new flu on our hands. Like U.S.-wide infrastructure or the NYC subway, we have failed to make appropriate investments for years, and now that we need a robust response, we may struggle. Read this for actual scientific and factual information that likely won’t make you feel better, but at least if you freak out, it will be justified.


Money, Power, Glory

Podcast episode from On The Media

This has been one of my must-listen shows for years, and last Friday’s is stellar. I particularly love the segment with journalist Taylor Lorenz about Bloomberg and memes. She says what I’ve been thinking for a few years: cable news is ill-equipped to guide us through the present moment because the people there proudly don’t understand the internet. I’ve clipped out the key minute (that’s a YouTube link; it’s also on IG) using a new service called Nugget that my friend Craig Cannon is building.

Paid to tweet for Mike Bloomberg — not necessarily support him

Article in the LA Times

Bloomberg is hiring people to say nice things about him, almost literally buying friends on the internet. He’s basically created his own Internet Research Agency (what Russia used in 2016). No vetting. No real loyalty. Very little real support. This story is devastating, but Bloomberg is so bold, could this just work and create real affinity out of the bullshit variety? ¡Ay Bloombito!

Mayors back Bloomberg’s bid

Podcast from The Washington Post

See what I did there? We call that a segue. This episode is based on an article in which the Post interviewed DC Mayor Muriel Bowser about her support for Bloomberg. It’s interesting to hear this black woman be all in for Mike, and is a counter to the narrative from the paid tweet piece above. BECAUSE I TRUST YOU!

Bernie’s Damn Bill Pt. 2: How Did We Get Here?

Video on YouTube

Bernie Sanders is consistent, but sometimes to a fault. Take his communications style which also hasn't evolved in 40 years. That’s where his friends step in to fill in the blanks. I found this video narrated by comedian H. Jon Benjamin very helpful in explaining how the US healthcare system got so broken. As Elizabeth said to me during the debate, Bernie is always citing other countries to explain why universal healthcare is worth fighting for, but he could just as easily cite U.S. history instead. Americans love nothing more than hearing about how great America is, and it may help make the case if people understood that Medicare For All is inspired by our own history, not just other countries. USA! USA! USA!


"Every two years, you choose your legislators, but every 10 years, your legislators choose you." This video is hilarious and sad and true. Check out Gerrymander Jewelry which you can actually buy. Then check out the group behind this effort: OMGWTF. They are making civic engagement way more fun.


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Peace and Love.