Editor's Note: Flagpole is still going to be the hyper-local news outlet you know and love, but we’re an alternative paper, and given Athens’ political leanings, we’ve been thinking a great deal about how to cover this new administration. We’ve always put an emphasis on informing readers about issues facing Athens’ low-income and LGBT residents, African Americans, Latinos and women, and we’ll continue to do so. In addition, we’re introducing a new column by Matthew Pulver, who’s previously written “Paul Broun’s Krazy Korner” and international-affairs column “Google That Sh!t,” as well as several excellent features for us, and has contributed to political websites like Salon. Hope you enjoy it.
Welcome to my new experiment, seemingly only a modest weekly column in Flagpole. Our last two presidents were permitted to construct the most insanely capable, mind-bogglingly vast domestic surveillance apparatus in history, and now the keys are to be handed off an unstable narcissist with a penchant for vengeance. “Mr. Trump has a long memory, and we're keeping a list,” warned Trump surrogate and fellow reality star Omarosa Manigault on the eve of Trump’s victory.
Fun! A surreality show that happens in the deepest shadows of the American imperial police state! It’s hard to get noticed as a writer, but reporting critically on the developing nightmare of a Trump presidency might be my ticket. I’ll never receive a Pulitzer for my writing or be named a MacArthur Genius, but if I really apply myself in this column, I might make it onto an exclusive watchlist, inshallah. From there, I’ll have to climb my way onto more and more exclusive databases, no-fly lists and registries. I’ll know I’m soaring to new heights when my flight is grounded and stern men in suits appear to question me in one of those weird rooms in the unknown catacombs of the airport. Rapper Talib Kweli was once detained and interrogated at an airport by federal agents for listening to Stokely Carmichael speeches. No shade, but I can do better than that.
During the last two presidencies, the U.S. government developed the capacity to read and listen to virtually everything we do on our phones and computers, aka the primary way we communicate these days. Liberals under President Obama paid little mind. A KGB-grade means of surveilling citizens wouldn’t be abused by Barack, right? Secret wars conducted with flying robots were in the service of something noble, right? The punishment and torture meted out to whistleblowers who exposed these powers were considered home-team wins, and thus normalized. All this will soon be Trump’s. We didn’t know it was a weapon, the Death Star of spy apparatuses. But there’s no changing that now, so as Billy Bragg sings, “If you got a blacklist, I wanna be on it.” Hope to see you there.