Wakanda isn't real, but neither is direct democracy in America, so why not freely devote ourselves to the Black Panther nation, anyway?

Is the recently impeached president's administration even real? Is Trump real? In a true testament to how much facts don't matter in the time of the 45th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture "accidentally" listed Wakanda as a free-trade partner, alongside 10 actual trade partners, on a tariff-tracking tool. A spokesperson for the Department addressed the oversight in a statement, "Over the past few weeks, the Foreign Agricultural Service staff who maintain the Tariff Tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly. The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down."

Yet the tool was a fountain of specific details when it came to trading with Wakanda. "There were hundreds of data inputs for Wakanda… Different commodity groups offered on drop-down menus range from fresh vegetables and unroasted coffee beans to essential oils and livestock," according to NBC News. "Yellow potatoes had to maintain a '0.5 cent/kg' base rate when shipped in from the fictional East African nation, while frozen Chinese water chestnuts were tariff free if the U.S. decided to import them from Wakanda. Cows were also tariff free."

It's far from the first time reality has blurred with fiction when it comes to geopolitics and basic geography. Who hasn't Googled "Is Agrabah" real?" at least once? Aladdin's beloved fictional city, sometimes based on the beautiful landscapes of Marrakech, was named by Disney director John Musker when he created an anagram of "Baghdad" (where the 1992 animated film was originally set).

And then there's the fact that democracy as a concept has always been oversimplified and mistranslated from theory to praxis. As sociologist Malka Older points out, "[I]t's hard to claim that the United States, at any point in its history, has been a democracy in the rigorous sense of the word. This is partly by design. The foundations of the United States were defined by a struggle over how much democracy should be mitigated. It was terrifyingly radical to suggest that the people — even a very restricted group of people — might have a say in government, and the founders cautiously padded the rails to limit the power of the masses." Even as we've tried to help our idea of democracy grow up from this nascent fear of authoritarianism (with policies that were truly radical to the founding fathers, such as giving non-white people the right to vote and speak and eat and breathe whenever they want), America's never been a true democracy.

Today, it's arguably not a democracy at all. In 2016, The Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index downgraded the U.S. from a "full democracy" to a "flawed democracy" due to "a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there." In 2014, a Princeton study concluded that the U.S. is an "oligarchy" rather than a democracy, a fundamentally unequal political system run by the economic elite.

So between increasing voting restrictions and gerrymandering, political power aligning with soulless corporations rather than public opinion, and spreading pronouncements that democracy is dead, who says we can't have a vibranium White House? Marvel's fictional indestructible element is just as real as American democratic freedom.

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Eight years ago, Azealia Banks was positioned to be the next big thing in hip-hop.

The Harlem rapper's debut single, "212," had spread through the Internet like wildfire. Banks was only 20 years old at the time and had just left her record label, XL Recordings, due to creative conflicts. Despite being strapped for cash and admittedly depressed, Banks released "212" as a free download from her website. The unforgettable hip-house track would reinvigorate her tumultuous music career.

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CULTURE

Devin Nunes' Mom Is Actually Really Proud of His "Butt Licking"

As the #DirectorOfButtLicking trend suggests, he has a real knack for it.

Twitter and PBS

Sometimes it can be hard to tell real news from steaming piles of gossip.

As a top-tier journalist—a muckraker, if you will—it's my job to get my hands dirty sifting through the raw, unprocessed stream of cultural output in order to help readers like you distinguish solid, well-digested nuggets of fact from the sloppy messes that aren't worth the paper they're smeared on. So when I hear a claim that a Congressional Representative's own mother is on Twitter insulting him and describing herself as his "not-so-proud" mom, I know I have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have some help from a fellow enthusiast in the task of licking a mess.


Enter Devin Nunes, a man who recognizes crap when he sees it, and who has zero tolerance for leaving it where it is. He cleans it up, and he has a serious appetite for the process. In this day and age, when social media provides a pedestal for anyone to release their torrents of loose, fluid rumors—spewing improvised nonsense like a bunch of jazz singers scatting—Devin Nunes is the Congressman who has committed himself to diving headfirst into that never-ending stream of scat. He's not one to turn away from anything that doesn't pass the sniff test. He'll find his opening and dig in. Gossip and rumors are the tempting but filthy morsels that are left dangling after all the solid news has issued forth from between the twin muscles of journalistic vigor and integrity, and Devin Nunes eats those morsels for breakfast.


So you can bet your behind that when some fool on Twitter calls herself @DevinNunesMom and uses that platform to insult him, Representative Nunes will take notice. He will sue for defamation, and he will get that account suspended. And when that same fake mom gets an alt account and starts the rumor pipeline churning with the hashtag #DirectorOfButtLicking—claiming that Nunes is in charge of licking butts for the Trump administration—you can rest assured that they picked the wrong Congressman to go up against in that game. Devin Nunes will not be bested in a battle of tongue wagging.


Is it true that he has shown a level of subservience to Donald Trump throughout his presidency and the impeachment hearings which you could characterize as "obsequious and fawning?" Absolutely. Is it further true that Donald Trump sometimes promotes whatever story casts him in the most favorable light in a process that could be summed up as "talking out of his ass," and that his pet theories about Democratic corruption are sometimes so false that you could call them "a load of sh*t?" Of course.


And in that sense, yes, Devin Nunes eagerly awaits the questionable material that issues from the president's "ass" and laps up that "sh*t" with an enthusiasm that most of us can't muster for Thanksgiving dinner. Does that make him a "butt licker?" I can't answer that question, because I don't want to be sued for $250 million. But whatever you call it, I can tell you that Nunes' mother—who has served as the treasurer of his congressional campaigns since 2002, is absolutely proud. She was also proud when he co-sponsored a bill to discourage frivolous lawsuits.

As for the rumors that his cow hates him, the jury is still out.