Donald Trump, Nativism, and Patterns in US History

In her opening segment last night, after Donald Trump’s horrifying anti-immigrant speech, Rachel Maddow put the rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right into political history context. She argues that when one of the two major parties in the US two party system collapses, and can no longer hold its own weight and position in the (flawed) system, the nasty, racist, anti-immigrant, nativists gain power. In the 18th century, after the collapse of the Whig party, it was the so-called Know-Nothing movement, viciously against the Other of that time, primarily Catholic and Chinese immigrants. Nativism means putting Americans, and only true-blooded Americans, first, above everyone else, and blaming every ill of society on immigrants. Maddow convincingly argues that is what Donald Trump is doing, and that this isn’t new but history repeating itself, and it’s equally scary. Must see TV.

Photography is inescapably a memorial art. It selects, out of the flow of time, a moment to be preserved, with the moments before and after falling away like sheer cliffs.

At a dinner party earlier this year, I was in conversation with someone who asked me to define photography. I suggested that it is about retention: not only the ability to make an image directly out of the interaction between light and the tangible world, but also the possibility of saving that image. A shadow thrown onto a wall is not photography. But if the wall is photo­sensitive and the shadow remains after the body has moved on, that is photography. Human creativity, since the beginning of art, has found ways to double the visible world. What photography did was to give the world a way to double its own appearance.

Memories of Things Unseen –
The central part of a great short essay by Teju Cole on photography and memory.


One of the earliest Māori suffragettes, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia (22 May 1868 – 10 October 1920)

Meri Te Tai was of Ngati Te Reinga, Ngati Manawa and Te Kaitutae, three hapu (’clans’) of Te Rarawa, an iwi (’tribe’) in Northland). She was well educated, studying at St Mary’s Convent in Auckland and was an accomplished pianist. In 1893 she became the first woman to address the Maori parliament, asking that women be given not only voting rights but to be eligible to take a seat within the parliament as well.

E whakamoemiti atu ana ahau kinga honore mema e noho nei, kia ora koutou. katoa, ko te take i motini atu ai ahan, ki te Tumuaki Honore, me nga mema honore, ka mahia he ture e tenei whare kia whakamana nga wahine ki te pooti mema mo ratou ki te Paremata Maori. 1. He nui nga wahine o Nui Tireni kua mate a ratou taane, a he whenua karati, papatupu o ratou. 2. He nui nga wahine o Nui Tireni kua mate o ratou matua, kaore o ratou tungane, he karati, he papatupu o ratou. 3. He nui nga wahine mohio o Nui Tireni kei te moe tane, kaore nga tane e mohio ki te whakahaere i o raua whenua. 4. He nui nga wahine kua koroheketia o ratou matua, he wahine mohio, he karati, he papatupu o ratou. 5. He nui nga tane Rangatira o te motu nei kua inoi ki te kuini, mo nga mate e pa ara kia tatou, a kaore tonu tatou i pa ki te ora i runga i ta ratou inoitanga. Na reira ka inoi ahau ki tenei whare kia tu he mema wahine. Ma tenei pea e tika ai, a tera ka tika ki te tuku inoi nga mema wahine ki te kuini, mo nga mate kua pa nei kia tatou me o tatou whenua, a tera pea e whakaae mai a te kuini ki te inoi a ona hoa Wahine Maori i te mea he wahine ano hoki a te kuini.

English Translation:
I exult the honourable members of this gathering. Greetings. The reason I move this motion before the principle member and all honourable members so that a law may emerge from this parliament allowing women to vote and women to be accepted as members of the parliament. Following are my reasons that present this motion so that women may receive the vote and that there be women members: 1. There are many women who have been widowed and own much land. 2. There are many women whose fathers have died and do not have brothers. 3. There are many women who are knowledgeable of the management of land where their husbands are not. 4. There are many women whose fathers are elderly, who are also knowledgeable of the management of land and own land. 5. There have been many male leaders who have petitioned the Queen concerning the many issues that affect us all, however, we have not yet been adequately compensated according to those petitions. Therefore I pray to this gathering that women members be appointed. Perhaps by this course of action we may be satisfied concerning the many issues affecting us and our land. Perhaps the Queen may listen to the petitions if they are presented by her Maori sisters, since she is a woman as well.



  • alan turing is a gay autistic man played by a straight actor who compared being autistic to Frankenstein monster
  • who is now up for an academy award
  • in a film that downplayed the sexuality he was persecuted and driven to his death for

    could we disrespect the memory of this man even more 

Yes, it actually is even worse: According to this Guardian article, the film not only downplayed the sexuality-based persecution aspect, but invented a storyline according to which Turing appears to cover up a Soviet spy. 

The Imitation Game’s Historical Contortions

Alan Turing was the kind of unsung hero who certainly deserves a great big biopic. Unfortunately, The Imitation Game isn’t it, at least according to this critique of the movie, that points out quite staggering and unnecessary liberties the film’s creator took in telling Turing’s (hi)story, and shows how the result of these contortions is even worse than an underwhelming movie:

Historically, The Imitation Game is as much of a garbled mess as a heap of unbroken code. For its appalling suggestion that Alan Turing might have covered up for a Soviet spy, it must be sent straight to the bottom of the class.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure if I will.
Cumberbatch must be good, though.

The Imitation Game’s Historical Contortions

Afong Moy



the first female chinese immigrant to america was a sixteen-year-old girl who was part of a cultural exhibit where she sat in a life-size diorama and people watched her eat with chopsticks while wearing silk clothes and that’s really all you need to know about the commodification of chinese women

Afong Moy.  Her name was Afong Moy.  Say the names of people who should be remembered.

In this world of instant communication, I don’t think it will ever be possible to completely eradicate a lie once it’s loose in the atmosphere

Bill Kovach, quoted in a Chicago Tribune article from 1999 (!) debunking the myth that Catharine MacKinnon actually said/wrote “all heterosexual sex is rape,” a anti-feminist claim that predates the Internet. (Found the article thanks to feministing.)

Reading the article and the criticism of 24-hour journalism on the hunt for the next sensation at the cost of well-researched content, I am torn in my reaction.

At first, I was disappointed that things haven’t improved since then. Tribune writer Cindy Richards was optimistic: “Viewers are turning off the hype and tuning into National Public Radio.” Kovach adds a bit of interesting historical context I wasn’t entirely aware of. In the 1920s, the introduction of the radio brought along a sensationalist frenzy in a similar way to the hype brought along by 24h cable news or the Internet.

Then again, comparing the criticisms in the article to today, things haven’t deteriorated that far in the last 15 years. People have created their own finely-tuned information bubbles, and digital gossip rags like TMZ are apparently out new whistle-blowers. But culture still exists, and the Internet is also home to in-depth reporting and platform for voices that would otherwise remain unheard. The digital tools that make spreading lies so easy also make it easy to debunk those lies. Both in 1999 and in 2014. That, on this grey and cold November Friday, gives me hope.