That's just from the last week or so, and if you're anything like me, you've been wondering whether the entire news cycle at this point is an effort by the cosmic writers to do us all in. We're asked to absorb stories like "Former president Donald Trump declares himself winner of own golf tournament based on unproven scorecard from round he played two days before event began," and even if you can handle that one, it doesn't mean you'll be able to withstand the tone shift from that to "Tucker Carlson rails against shoe choices of anthropomorphic candy brand mascots" without getting the equivalent of a news concussion.
Whether you can withstand it is beside the point, though, because by the time you've heard both stories another conservative bobblehead will be sprinting to the television cameras to declare that changes to power-saving settings on a gaming console is an attempt to "groom" children out from under their coal-rolling parents or whateverthefudge.
So, sure. Xboxes. We're going to do Xboxes now.
For those of you who do not think that proper politics ought to involve chasing the wailing ghosts the come out of Ted Cruz's head-holes during his nightly dreams, you are both welcome to think that and, if recent history is any indication, probably wrong. Here's why it matters:
Oh, look, it's going to be a Texas thing:
Now, if you are a particularly gullible American, you are probably not even going to bother reading the linked story outlining this travesty as presented by a "news" service founded by fired Fox News conspiracy crank Glenn Beck. You will assume that the forever-unnamed "they" are indeed coming to take your Xbox away, because that is what "they" have done with your guns and your gas stoves, because the walking bag of mayonnaise you elected to national office is telling you so flat-out.
A problem, here: Anyone who is following Troy Nehls or Ted Cruz on Twitter is almost assuredly a particularly gullible American to begin with. "Particularly gullible" is the Texas Republican base. With the possible exception of reporters or others who are obliged to follow one or both accounts for professional reasons, everybody else is there because they at some point or another wanted to hear what Troy Nehls or Ted Cruz had to say.
And we already know nobody else in the United States Senate ever wants to hear what Ted Cruz has to say, so everyone in Ted Cruz's Twitter followers is even less judicious than that.
What we have here, yet again, is a whole hell of a lot of Americans who, as of this week, will believe a brand new political hoax promoted by their own political leaders. Nobody is going to "take your Xbox"—aside from your parents, if your grades don't improve. Nobody wants to take your Xbox. Nobody gives a particular damn about your Xbox except, ironically, ultraconservative control freaks who continue to rail against the video games you purchase as being too violent, too obscene, too worldly, too promoting of witchcraft or devil-worship, or for setting false expectations about what city managers are allowed to do to prevent alien abductions.
Not even the story they're linking to claims that "they" are coming to take your Xbox. Not even the conservative news-slush factory founded by Glenn Beck can twist this story into that; it's largely a rewrite of an Ars Technica story about Microsoft's recent software update. Republican "lawmakers" at a national level, along with Fox News, completely made up the rest of it as part of their ongoing attempts to:
1) terrify their supporters with a constant barrage of supposed threats to their way of life,
2) assign blame for all of it to a nebulous "they" that conservatives must band together to stop, and to punish.
This has been a longstanding conservative approach since forever, and, as an aside, has been the cornerstone of domestic terrorism campaigns for exactly as long, but what knocks it from a conservative to a fascist approach is that the purported crisis is entirely made up.
Nobody is coming for your Xbox. Period. Nobody will be taking your gas stove. Period. And if you consider changes in the relative implied sexiness of imaginary talking M&M's to be a television-worthy problem in your life, that is a You problem, not a "they" problem. "They" would very much like to spend the rest of their lives not hearing about it.
Political movements battle over societal problems. Authoritarian and fascist movements craft movement-pleasing hoaxes to present as problems, and claim a surly chosen leader can "solve" those by crushing those that the movement has singled out as behind those plots.
Hey Ted, guess which one you picked. Again. Funny how that keeps happening.
Like conservatism's yearlong battle over, sigh, the implications of a perceived reduction in the sexual attractiveness of some candy mascots vis-a-vis their imaginary shoe choices, this new Xbox panic is based on the thinnest possible reed of offense. The real story is Extremely Damn Boring, even for those of us whose beats it touches, which means barely anybody would have even heard about it had Fox News writers and Glenn Beck's discarded appendix not seized upon it to send our cycle of news-cycle torture spiraling to ever-greater heights.
Earlier this month, Microsoft began rolling out a new software update for the Xbox that added several new, and optional, features. The one that has Interchangeable Fox & Friends Hosts 2 through 7 in a tiz is a rather clever feature that will allow the console to schedule software updates for those times of the night when the local grid tends to have the most renewable energy sources online.
In Texas, this would be wind power. Lots of wind power. More wind power than Ted Cruz can produce from his piehole, nostrils and both ears during even the most animated of his speeches.
What the console owner gets out of this is, hopefully, the cheapest possible energy. What Microsoft gets out of this is some new estimated numbers that can get them closer to their previously stated goal of being a "carbon-neutral" company. There's absolutely no downside, it will certainly have at least a little effect on curbing carbon emissions, and if individual Xbox owners have strong, uh, philosophical objections to the time of night their Xbox prefers for downloading game updates then they can change it to something else. Maybe you tend to do your gaming in the dead of night and would rather it update at noon, I'm not going to judge you. Well, not for that.
The other power-saving feature made available in the update is a preference to send the Xbox into "Shutdown" mode when it's not being used instead of "Sleep" mode. The differences, as explained by Ars Technica, is that waking the console from Sleep mode is instant; waking the console after a full power-off Shutdown will cost gamers ... fifteen seconds.
Yeah. The power-up time of one of these Xboxes is a mere 15 seconds. And the energy difference between still-energy-hungry Sleep mode and 0.5-watt Shutdown mode is expected to save console owners nearly $14 each in power company bills over a year. If the idea of not paying the power grid $14 absolutely melts your brain, or if you have the attention span of a dead suction eel and losing 15 seconds out of your pointy-shooty funtime is going to wreck whatever small joy you have remaining in life, you can fiddle with that setting too with something called "Active Hours."
So it's a barely noticeable change that will save energy, make a measurable difference in everybody's energy bills during a time of soaring (AHEM, Texas) prices, and holds off the apocalypse by, hey, probably at least 20 minutes.
Or, if you are either Ted Cruz or a Fox News host, it is The End Of The Entire Damn World.
We understand what this is,” the conservative comedian stated. “It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay—the level of reduction is infinitesimal. But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”
“You’re right,” Earhardt agreed. “They’re going after the children.”
Yes, that's right. In the words of Fox & Friends Interchangeable Hivemind Points Dispersal Unit Five, "Xbox has also announced that they're going woke."
That is a strange word, woke. Every time we think we know what it means, the meaning changes again. Among the things conservatives now believe to be Woke:
- AP History
- History more recent than the 1950s
- Books by Black American authors
- Books that reference LGBTQ people
- Books that reference a specific gay penguin couple
- More comfortable imaginary candy shoes
- More efficient stoves
- Rules against anti-Semitic and racist hate speech on a social network
- Cars that do not run on the virgin blood of baby seals
- Microsoft software updates
I may be getting some of that wrong; it's getting hard to keep track.
There are several things that are evident here, however. First, the "conservative" drive to manufacture false information for the purposes of demonizing their enemies has not been dialed back a bit, even after the Republican Party used the technique to instigate a violent coup inside the U.S. Capitol that came very close to causing the kidnapping or death of the vice president.
Second, there is absolutely nothing that does not count as "woke." There is no bit of culture that conservatives consider to not be woke, or to not be in imminent danger of wokeness. NASCAR is woke. The candy aisle is woke. Your favorite hard liquor is woke, because women have been drinking it, too. That dog is woke. Look at it, with its woke collar. Its little woke ears. Its inability to power itself using good ol' Texas fossil fuels. In my day, dogs ate coal and farted freedom, but now?
To a great extent, all of this is just the extended efforts of people like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Kevin McCarthy, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Tucker Carlson, and other people whose very careers depend on stoking anger in gullible people to keep stoking anger in gullible people even if that requires upping the supposed stakes three times a week. It is the same problem faced by cult leaders who wrongly predict the date and time of Jesus' and/or Elvis' return; once proven wrong, you can either sheepishly moderate your new predictions, or you can say new things so outlandish that everybody forgets your previous buffoonery.
But it also might be indicative that the conservative movement has hit a wall, when it comes to confronting all of the things that aggravate it. There is no reasonable reason to ban books by Black authors from school libraries; now it needs to be wrapped in a larger plot, where authors are grooming our children to give a flying shit about things and parents must band together to make damn sure they don't. The demand that LGBT characters be barred outright from our television screens is a ship that sailed off a long time back; the notion that candy mascots might secretly be "lesbians" is the same category of supposed cultural offense, but squeezed out of the toothpaste tube of Tucker Carlson's writing room with all the strength the fading cultural warriors can still muster.
The problem with losing the political argument on all fronts is that the only alternative may indeed be to craft new hoaxes that blow past all those actual arguments and into the realms of forced candy mascot androgyny and roving Xbox confiscation squads.
Oh, and hoaxes undermining the very legitimacy of our elections, of course. Those, and the candy sex thing, and government agents coming to take your Xboxes, and the gas stove bit, and the indoctrination of our children at the hands of nasty horrible historians, and an alleged plot to kill conservatives off by offering them vaccines to deadly diseases, and Jeebus who can even guess what's coming next.
No, M&M's won't be getting rid of their 'spokescandies' because of a Republican tantrum
Life. Liberty. Lead paint
Colbert elegantly rips Fox News’ claims that Xbox is ‘grooming’ kids over energy-saving mode
This week on The Downballot, don't miss a special double-guest episode. Hear from Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, as she discusses the group's efforts to roll back the corrupting effects of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and their plans for campaign finance reform. Then, law professor Quinn Yeargain joins to discuss the surprising setback Gov. Kathy Hochul faced in the state capitol and what it means for the future of New York's top court.
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