Reading Response 2 / Alex Logsdon

While I was fascinated by everything in the essay, it failed to convince me that jokes and memes are as valuable as they claim. I learned how a joke’s “open-source” nature can spread information and sentiment quickly and effectively. I’d never thought about memes in this way, and it makes so much sense. They are powerful communication tools. But I still struggle to see how, in a highly divided population, they can do anything but widen the chasm between people. That might be power, but what good is it?

Metahaven called a meme’s nonsensical response a “dadaist troll mentality.” By responding outside of the framework of the question, they reject the framework itself.  Many of the examples given involved populations rejecting a singular antagonist with the goal of “disrupting their response and filling their hearts with panic.” This makes perfect sense to me when we are talking about actual singular antagonists. But what about the meme-filled 2016 election context? Candidates in any party might be a symbol we can poke a stick at, but who are they really but (attempts at) representation of a much larger population? Are in-jokes about Hillary or Trump going to change the minds of an entire portion of the country, or are they just going to unite one group in laughter and the other in *rolls eyes*? Does it matter that jokes hurt Trump, the individual, if the sentiment that he represents exists in the country with or without him?

I struggle to see the back and forth trade of jokes and memes as anything but divisive in a bad way. I am especially distressed by the essay’s support of nonsense response as a method of squashing the possibility for discussion, which is what communication in any context is about. Yes, I get that if one wants to simply reject the “system,” this is an effective way to communicate that. Great, you’ve rejected the system— But the people that are part of that system still exist, they live next door, and there are a whole lot of them. And now you’ve made them the butt of your jokes, and they hate you as much as you hate them. I know that I tend towards the moderate and careful rather than the radical and bold, but I truly do not see how this can be justified.

I think this except from a McSweeny’s (satire) piece illustrates the illusion of effective rebellion well:

I tweet my ‘Jabba the Trump’ meme for the world to see. The knife of satire twists deep. In a moment, I am flooded by dozens of retweets, ranging from friends who share my political opinions to strangers on the internet who also share my political opinions—the chorus of America itself. My tweet lights the spark, and the fires of rebellion burn bright…

The phone rings. It is my father, a lifelong Conservative who lost his career in the 2008 Recession and never truly recovered. Clearly, he has been crying.

Jeff, I saw your meme. I understand now. Trump has preyed upon and exploited my economic anxieties to the benefit of only himself and the billionaire class. He degrades us for his own sick amusement — very much like Jabba the Hutt. Your meme spoke to me. Your meme saved me. Thank you, son. I love —”

I hang up on my father, for I am receiving another call — from the White House.

I thought the essay was incredibly interesting and made very good points about the power of jokes and memes. I’ve never had so much respect for a Lolcat… However, at least in our immediate climate, if jokes destroy empathic communication and they aren’t changing anyone’s minds, really, where’s the value beyond ego entertainment?

This is the Political Satire That Finally Stops Trump, by Jeff Loveness

Secondary Research: Team / Disposession of Wealth

DispossessionofWealth_Presentation

Key Points:

  1. Middle-class Americans bore the heaviest weight of the 2008 Financial Crisis.
  2. Wall Street banks faced mostly symbolic consequences and individuals made gains.
  3. Legislation in response to the crisis has failed to equally distribute the consequences of the financial collapse.

Secondary Research / Alex Logsdon

Topic: Disposession of Wealth

  1. 9 Wall Street Execs Who Cashed In on the Crisis, Mother Jones

Summary:

Despite engineering the financial crisis and being bailed out by the government, Wall Street executives continued to receive massive bonuses and failed to discover a change in attitude.

Great charts comparing bailout amounts to executives’ personal gains.

Data/Quotes:

“[The autumn 2009 pay cap] capped salaries for only 25 executives, kept big stock bonuses in place, and did nothing to address the culture of rewarding folks who sowed our economic destruction.”

“Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO, 2007-present: Ordered a $50 million private jet, announced huge layoffs, and jacked up credit card APRs—after getting bailed out. His haul in 2008: $10.8 million”

2. How Wall Street’s Bankers Stayed Out of Jail, The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/how-wall-streets-bankers-stayed-out-of-jail/399368/

Summary:

Bankers were not arrested for a myriad of logistical reasons, including statues of limitations, and acting recklessly, while not technically illegally. At the end of the day, most justice efforts ended in settlements.

Data/Quotes:

“In early 2014, just weeks after Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, settled out of court with the Justice Department, the bank’s board of directors gave him a 74 percent raise, bringing his salary to $20 million.”

One banker was jailed after the 2007 crisis (Kareem Serageldin). In the 1980’s, over 1,000 bankers were jailed after a crisis.

What happened for most Wall Street Banks: “Threaten public disclosure of behavior that looks criminal and then, in exchange for keeping it sealed, extract a huge financial settlement. No one individual, or group of individuals, is held accountable. No predawn raids of Park Avenue apartments are made. No one gets arrested. No one gets publicly shamed.”

“Instead a very different message is being sent: for financiers, justice is just a check someone else has to write.”

3. Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts, New York Times

Summary:

Wall Street banks traditionally operate by rewarding valued employees with bonuses, rather than paying all employees according the success of the firm. This trend did not change during the financial crisis, and individuals continued to receive inappropriate bonuses while the institutions were being bailed out by the government.

Data/Quotes:

“…that compensation for every employee in a financial firm should rise and fall in line with the company’s overall results — is not shared on Wall Street, which tends to reward employees based more on their individual performance.”

“…’If the bank lost money, where do you get the money to pay the bonus?’ he said. All the banks named in the report declined to comment.”

”Incentives that led to large bonuses on Wall Street are often cited as a cause of the financial crisis.”

“The report suggests that those roughly 5,000 people — a small subset of the industry — accounted for more than $5 billion in bonuses.”

“All told, the bonus pools at the nine banks that received bailout money was $32.6 billion, while those banks lost $81 billion.”

Synthesis:

Despite engineering the financial crisis, individuals on Wall Street were rewarded with huge bonuses and avoided arrest. While explanations for this can be found within the complex justice system, it still reflects the inappropriate and reckless norms prevelant on Wall Street.

Reading Response 1 / Alex Logsdon

The Senate report’s executive summary outlined four practices that they discovered led to the financial crisis. These were high risk lending strategies, lack of regulation, credit rating fraud, and investment bank abuse. The individuals and institutions that participated in the financial collapse did so for their own profit, without care for American citizens, the world economy, or even the clients whom they immediately served.

In a second article, the Center for American Progress defended the government policies that supported homebuyers and blamed predatory, unregulated markets for the collapse. They showed that government programs had very little influence on the market at the time of the crisis, and were there to hold up the economy when private markets failed.

One statement stood out to me in the Executive Summary: “…bet on the failure rather than the success of U.S. financial instruments.” This is the choice that individuals and institutions made all along the way. In contrast, the FHA and other government policies bet on the success of the country.

Banks bet on failure by choosing to take a chance with high risk loans for higher profits. Again, they knew they were taking a risk, but they did not see that in the long term, they stacked the cards against the U.S. economy and themselves. The homeowners they deceived were counted on by the economy to pay their mortgages, yet institutions consciously allowed them to default. A video by Jonathan Jarvis illustrates how banks were unconcerned with defaults because they could just resell the house: The Crisis of Credit. Banks bet on the failure of their customers, without understanding that those people were the bedrock of the economy in the long-term. The executive summary described investment banks as institutions that “help to channel the nations’s wealth into productive activities that create jobs and increase economic growth.” Setting homeowners up for failure does not sound productive.

While private institutions bet on failure in the decades leading up to the crisis, government policies had long been in place to bet on success. The FHA was established in the thirties to help the country out of the Depression and reassure banks that loaning was possible again. The Community Reinvestment Act, passed in 1977, supported the reduction of discriminatory mortgage lending. The government wanted people to pay their mortgages and benefit from the financial and social advantages that homeownership brings. Whatever mistakes they made or risk they introduced to the market, they still bet on the everyday homeowner, who the economy depended on, and who risk-taking institutions set up for failure.