D.C. Friends: I am furious and sad to inform you that about 60 minutes after I landed in the U.S. a freight train threw sparks that lit forest fires near Metropark, NJ and shut down all rail traffic in the northeast corridor for the night.
I am stuck in Newark, safe with friends but really really annoyed that the first night of my transit-themed tour starts with a transit-caused cancellation. The only silver lining is that the song that’s gonna come out of this will be SOMETHING.
Anyone who has tickets to tonight’s show at @PieShopDC can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a screen cap of your ticket and your mailing address and you’ll get a special surprise in the mail. I will also inform you ASAP when this show gets reschduled.
Hey @musicofeyelids — have an amazing show, and please if you remember announce this thing about the ticketholders getting a free surprise next week if you’re not too busy blowing everyone’s minds.
The video above is a walkthrough for this weekend’s uploaded supporter-access session files and premasters. If you’re interested about what that’s all about, check the Comms page. I’m sort of halfway between it being public and not right now; it has been a slow process figuring out a way to do it sustainably and I haven’t wanted to hang up a “WE’RE OPEN!” sign yet for that reason. But quite a few of you found out about it without me even posting about it, which has given us an opportunity to test-drive. I’ll be posting more information about it over the next few weeks as the regular pattern of activity emerges.
I’m typing this from the central bus/train station in Gothenburg. Furniture: 5 stars. Floors: 5 stars. Outlets: N/A. Heating: 3 stars, considering how cold it is outside, but I’d still call it cold in here.
I’m on my way to play a show in Stockholm tonight (at Hus 7 with Freja the Dragon and Sticky Baby) and I had some time between shuffling around with all the other cold people while we wait to transfer and writing an essay about Edouard Machery‘s ideas as applied to media theory. And I used that time to finally get the Supporter Access part of this website working. (I HOPE!)
As an example, the two posts below this one are locked and accessible only to people with accounts, which can be obtained here. These posts contain links to full session files of old abandoned E.X tracks that are nevertheless interesting for one reason or another. I have hundreds of these and I’m interested to see what people will find useful in them.
There is also a very bare-bones, currently-somewhat-neglected Comms area. I’ll be using that more regularly starting this weekend and showing up for an office hours kind of situation in a Zoom-like room where we can talk about whatever. Most people who expressed interest in this idea seemed to want to talk about music production techniques and lyrics, but I’m happy to talk about anything on y’all’s minds.
Right now it’s a very very small group of about a dozen registered users. This is wild, though, because other than putting the tabs up on the website a few months ago I have never posted about Supporter Access or made any effort whatsoever to get people to sign up. That’ll change gradually over the next few weeks as I continue to smooth out the sign-up process + as I feel more confident that the subscribers to feel like they’re getting value out of the experience.
It’s a work in progress but feel free to jump in to early days.
I’m dipping a toe back into U.S. politics for a post because I saw this headline on Drudge:
At one level, the proposed law is media chum to trigger the libs and red meat for the GOP base who are hostile to the so-called mainstream media, and it’ll work, which I’m proving by posting about it. Consider this lib triggered. But the fact that my objection can be twisted into serving a convenient narrative for malicious actors is no excuse to not object. The law is unlikely to pass, and even if it did it wouldn’t stay in force for long. But even the suggestion of such a law as a serious proposal by a member of one of the U.S.’s major parties represents a significant step towards authoritarianism that draws directly from the playbook of Putin’s United Russia party, and responsible Floridians must take note of those similarities.
For the TLDR crowd, here’s a synopsis. A Republican senator in my home state of Florida yesterday proposed a law that would require people who get paid while writing about the governor and other elected executive branch officials to register their blog with the state or face fines of up to $2500.
It is important not to overreact to this kind of troll legislation which is unlikely to enter into force but which is useful to politicians mainly for its tendency to stir up emotional reactions in the media and move the public opinion needle. But it remains worth analyzing critically for two specific reasons: first, that it is a sign that at least some grassroots Republicans might be abandoning free speech as a first principle, and second, that it bears similarity to early attempts by Putin’s United Russia party to suppress anti-government public opinion in the run-up to the invasion of Crimea in 2014 and the escalation to full-scale war in 2022.
Though there’s some nuance on specific concerns, free speech is a topic about which Americans tend to agree, at least in principle and when polled with general language (Orth, 2022). Accordingly, both parties position themselves as champions of free speech. The right tends to defend speech that breaks politically correct social norms e.g. the controversy surrounding the gleefully homophobic Westboro Baptist Church (Baker et al., 2012), while the left tends to defend speech that breaks sexual and cultural social norms e.g. drag queen story time (Ellis, 2022), but both refer to similar values like liberty and freedom when they do so. For a comprehensive review of these tendencies over the first two centuries of American democracy from a civil libertarian perspective, see Graber (1991), or alternatively watch a few random episodes of centrist irritant Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect on HBO, and you’ll get the picture. Americans across the political spectrum tend to appeal to free speech values to defend their position, whatever that position might be.
Brodeur’s proposed law is different. It is transparently indefensible in free speech terms, at least at the level of lay public discourse. Constitutional legal scholars are likely to shred it to pieces too, but that’s not relevant here as I’m not making any constitutional legal claims. What I’m pointing out is that this is law has an openly anti-free speech tone. It doesn’t even make an effort to appease the protections to speech the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment provides, and it comes from a member of a mainstream U.S. political party which has historically claimed to champion free speech. I very much doubt Brodeur would even care to mount a defense of his law in terms of free speech because the way the law is written implies that the duty to register some kinds of speech — namely blog posts about Ron DeSantis — is obvious and not worth justifying. For such an assumption to come from someone whose party has in the past defended lobbying corporations as legal people deserving of First Amendment protection (Citizens United v. FEC, 2010) and railed against the presence of censorship zones in public universities (Ekin, 2017), this is a noteworthy change of tack. We should ask ourselves: why now, and why this way?
As a possible answer, we should look at the second unique feature of Brodeur’s proposed law: it would use a state mechanism to keep tabs on journalists. Despite the First Amendment, precedent for this in the U.S. exists, most dramatically in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA, 1938). But crucially, both in intent and application, this Roosevelt-era wartime law focused on the characteristics of the speech agent itself, not on the content of the speech agent’s speech. Brodeur’s proposal differs by targeting only those bloggers writing about specific elected officials, which warrants comparison not with FARA but instead with a series of similar agent registry laws enacted in the Russian Federation beginning in 2012 (HRW, 2017), continuing with increased regularity and slowly-rising severity to the present day (HRW, 2022). These laws, like Brodeur’s, target not merely so-called foreign agents but also private citizens who write about specific topics which can be interpreted at the whim of the appointed judiciary. It started gently, but flash forward eleven years and innocuous symbols like rainbows or unicorns are routinely interpreted by the state as criminal “gay propaganda” (HRW, ibid..) Such laws paved the way for the present conditions in which the Russian state has wide power to legally and technically block anyone inside the Russian Federation from posting on social media after expressing critical views about their government’s invasion of Ukraine under strict interpretations of laws limiting speech of civilians on the topic (Simon, 2022). It is a routine occurrence; friends and family relations of mine in Russia have been subject to these sanctions with no fanfare. Like Brodeur’s law, the Russian registry laws appeared confusing, bureaucratic, and mostly harmless at first. But they are now being used to silence, penalize, and even incarcerate dissenting opinion. We should be aware of the danger this tendency presents in Florida now to prevent the eleven year frog boil Russian society experienced. If we don’t, this might be our grandma too:
Leftists have a unique opportunity here. Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us on the left admire values Republicans claim to hold, such as the commitment to free speech as a pillar of democracy. Those shared values create rare but fruitful paths towards consensus. Brodeur’s proposed blog law, if taken as Republican policy, leaves no room for such cross-party admiration, because it abandons the narrow consensus shared by those on the American left and right around free speech. This is a potential wedge issue over which many centrist Republicans would oppose Brodeur. The DeSantis crowd presents the left with its first chance in a generation to seize the free speech concept as a PR weapon against corrupt power. It’s our narrative too, not just theirs. And I’ll take any bet hinging on most Americans, even Republicans, breaking for free speech over government control of citizen journalists.
I’m (legally speaking, still) a Florida blogger, some people support me transactionally for my creative work including this blog, and I write about Ron DeSantis occasionally, all of which together mean that Brodeur’s proposal would cover my activity. But no state will convince me to register with some office for the right to write. I await my $2500 fine with the same mocking amusement a supporter of the Freedom Caucus would. Come and get it, Florida. Слава демократії!
I will begin tomorrow to gradually release a new Emperor X tour EP. I’ll post one song every day or so over the next week to coincide with the upcoming concerts in the northeastern United States.
The EP, entitled Suggested Improvements to Transportation Infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor, consists of six tracks, each corresponding to a concert in the associated city and addressing specific infrastructure features that locals might recognize.
These songs are not cold hyper-local policy recommendations They are free-associative meditations on cold hyper-local policy recommendations. Or something…I don’t know, it’s hard to describe the emotions triggered by transit policy and 30 years of public infrastructure memories.
Also, it’s all done on tape four-track, so it’ll probably sound to you more like The Joytakers’ Rakes/Stars on the Ceiling, Pleasantly Kneeling than anything I’ve done over the past few decades.
Here’s the release schedule:
1. “Friendship Heights Metro Station and Related Proposal for Alignment Adjustments to the Purple Line (for WMATA)”
Released on Feb. 28 at 10:00am Eastern via Bandcamp