Daily Notes for 2023-04-28

· 1417 words · 7 minute read

Mixed pitch in Doom 🔗

Less a big thing to write about and more a thing I learned that was helpful after pounding my head against this wall:

mixed-pitch-mode allows for both variable and fixed pitches. It’s nice for org-mode, where you’ve got a mix of prose and more code-looking stuff – headings and body text look nicely typeset, property drawers and tags continue to use a fixed face.

My Doom font setting is pretty basic:

(setq doom-font (font-spec :family "Fira Code Retina" :size 15 :weight 'regular)
      doom-variable-pitch-font (font-spec :family "SF Pro" :size 16))

… but for reasons that eluded me, when I entered mixed-pitch mode, my variable pitch font was way too small, except when it was way too big.

I did a lot of poking around, a lot of searching, and a lot of scrolling forums, then I broke down and asked ChatGPT, which told me to add this:

(setq mixed-pitch-set-height 16)

That did it. Combined with the doom-earl-grey theme, I’ve got a pleasant, low-contrast, paper-like display to work with.

I was braced to hate this column, but ended up appreciating it a lot:

No, You Absolutely Do Not Have to Hand It To Tucker Carlson (The Nation)

“… there’s every reason to view Carlson’s alleged anti-war politics and putative politics as a fraud. It’s true that Carlson worries about escalation in the Ukraine/Russia conflict and has pushed for diplomacy. But his position on that issue is based not on any aversion to militarism but a belief that the United States should focus its firepower on other enemies, notably Mexico and China. Rather like the late Gore Vidal (who, alas, made this argument in the pages of The Nation), Carlson wants an American-Russia alliance against the non-white hordes. International relations scholar Daniel Drezner observes, ‘It’s also hard to claim that Carlson was opposed to U.S. military adventurism; it’s more accurate to say Carlson preferred aggressive military adventurism closer to home. Carlson repeatedly called for using the military south of the border in Mexico.’”

… and

As for economic populism, Carlson is far more likely to criticize big corporations for “wokeness” (in other words trying to keep up with changing social mores) than union busting. His populism is the kind that worries about gender ambiguity in M&Ms candy—not rampant inequality. He’s all too quick to revert to GOP business-class norms when there is a partisan battle. Business Insider reported on a telling moment in 2021 when Carlson “accused President Joe Biden of proposing a tax hike on wealthy Americans to ‘punish’ them.” This was a tax on people earning more than $400,000 per year—hardly a fitting target for proletarian outrage.

In sum:

His occasional populist and pacifist sentiments only exist in the context of a politics that aims to take justified anti-establishment outrage and harvest it for far-right ethnonationalism.

Why was I braced to hate it?

Because one of my core theses about What is Going on Right Now is that formerly cherished political categories are disintegrating, but we’re not doing a great job of understanding what that means, or allowing each other to explore what that means. So while it’s good to call out a charlatan like Tucker Carlson or assorted other faux populists (fauxpulists?), it’s not great when we just shoot on past that useful distinction-making and on into the territory of “therefore, nothing they’re saying should have any resonance with decent people.”

The danger of Tucker Carlson and others like him is not, to me, that they think bad or dangerous things. It’s that they are accomplished ideological entrepreneurs. They’re good at catching scent of shifts in the popular mood, understanding the language of those shifts, and then folding those shifts into whatever their real political commitments are. I’m not sure who you could name on the left that has shown the same acumen for that kind of political marketing. Bernie Sanders, AOC, Elizabeth Warren, and Katie Porter come to mind as politicians working the left populist beat. In terms of commentators? Not sure.

One bad side effect has been the rise of commentator who exist outside the mainstreams of conservative or liberal thought and engage in their own entrepreneurialism despite being badly confused about their own political commitments.

I’m thinking of people like Batya Sargon Unghar, who wrote a snarling takedown of student loan forgiveness as a populist issue because, she said, it wasn’t helping “enough classes of people,” implying that there couldn’t be any working people with student loan debt. She has made some good observations about the cultural and class proclivities of the professional media “class,” but that’s just it: She doesn’t see a working reporter as a “working class person.” The top one percent of households in the US control a third of the wealth, the bottom half of US households control 2.6 percent of it, but let’s pit the nurse (or reporter, or software developer, or corporate recruiter, or technical writer) paying off their student loans against the person working a job that didn’t require college.

And I’m also thinking of the contrarian class – people who probably have some sort of left political commitment but respond poorly to reflexive rejection of an idea because the wrong person coopted it, and who end up contributing to a feedback loop: They become impatient with the echo chamber, they resent the lazy dunks and thoughtless inconsistencies of politics built around cultural antagonisms, and they get lumped, in turn, with “the dark side,” tainting anything they’ve ever put forth regardless of its worthiness.

Anyhow, my point, I suppose, builds off this one:

The strategy of selectively borrowing left-wing ideas in order to bolster a program of nationalism, racism, and gender conformity is not new. As Meyerson and Mavuram rightly observe, this is a familiar tactic of fascism, which typically emerges in a time where establishment politics are in crisis and the public is open to multiple solutions.

I appreciate an article that can acknowledge that selective borrowing, and remind readers that Carlson and other fake populists like him are identifying “what works” about left political ideas. That doesn’t mean we should spend our time understanding how we could rehabilitate Tucker Carlson: He does not want to be rehabilitated. He is a cynic whose commitments are not mine. But we should spend some time understanding what in there both resonates with our own politics and speaks to people who are suffering.

If you truly think a product is too bulky, pointlessly prods people toward buying a thing that replaces a shared good they probably already have, is hard to use, leaks water, takes forever, and is only worth a score of “5/10” even though you couldn’t even get your own spouse to try it out, I’d propose that you not put affiliate links in your review.

I think this cuts to the core of my issue with modern review sites. The only way to get the reviews is to accept that they need affiliate link revenue; but you end up in situations like this, where the product is a sustainability nightmare about which the only nice things you can say are “doesn’t smell,” “looks cute,” and “good if you don’t have an outlet” (even though you also note it is too big and heavy to actually carry anywhere there are no outlets). They still feel okay tossing up the affiliate links, even though their review nets out to “useless; do not buy.”

I’m just picking on this review because it went by in the news stream last week. There’s much worse.

But man it could also be better. There is so much electronic junk in the world – drop-shipped ripoffs, poorly thought out Kickstarters, parts-bin garbage. There should be less of it. It should not be okay to make something out of plastic and toxic battery components then render it useless in six months.

It’s fine for the Verge to do its journalistic duty by fairly reviewing a bad product and saying it’s bad. It’s correct for the Verge to disclose the existence of affiliate links to better educate people on how they’re incentivized. It would be awesome if the Verge, and sites like it, would go one step further and say “we’re not going to help you buy this thing” when they plainly don’t think the thing is worth buying, and when that thing is going to be turning up in a landfill.

Okay. That’s it for today. This afternoon is spoken for.