Culture Feature

Boots Riley Drops Major Truth Bombs in Endorsement for Bernie Sanders

Boots Riley recognizes the need for radical direct action––Because without radical direct action, nobody will listen and nothing will change.

CREDIT: GRIFFIN LIPSON/BFA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Boots Riley, the activist, rapper, writer, and director behind Sorry to Bother You–the most underrated movie of 2018 (although that's to be expected from majority white mainstream media when it comes to a biting satire about code switching and capitalist enslavement of black people)–has taken to Twitter with his endorsement of Bernie Sanders.

In a phenomenal thread spanning 33 tweets, Riley lays out his reasoning behind supporting Sanders, despite the fact that he has never previously voted for a presidential candidate. His words speak to the experiences of many Sanders' supporters (especially circa 2016) and reflect the ideological core that sets leftists apart from liberals.

Riley's thread outlines his belief that in order to have actual "democracy," we need to live in "a world in which the people democratically control the wealth that we create with our labor."

Riley recognizes the need for leftist activists, or "radicals," to push us in that direction through direct action––Because without direct action, nobody will listen. Riley traces movements that fall in this vein, from the Anti-Iraq War movement (whereby millions of people took to the streets but were ineffective in convincing anyone with the necessary power to stop the war) to the Occupy Movement (which brought discussions of capitalism and the 1% into the mainstream public conscience) to Black Lives Matter (which spoke out against cops disregarding the lives of black people and ultimately proved that even communal anger rarely results in any action from those in power).

"We must have movements with teeth," Riley says. "Ones that are able to force the hands of power."

To this end, Riley sees value in radical, militant labor movements wherein workers organize to strike in solidarity and in large enough numbers to shut down business. Riley points to Wayfair furniture workers' successful strike to stop the company from working with ICE and 20,000 Google workers rolling work stoppage walkouts to force management into addressing issues including workplace sexual harassment.

In a hyper-capitalist society, collective movements with the power to shut down industries by withholding labor might very well be the only way to ensure representation and effect change.

Ultimately, Riley clarifies that he doesn't necessarily agree with Bernie on every single thing but that Bernie is the only candidate propped up by a movement consisting of millions of actual working class people who are actively banding together to engage in necessary class struggle.

Funnily enough, another Twitter user presumably read through Riley's entire thread and still said, "I like what you're saying here. Will you show up to vote for any of the other candidates if Bernie doesn't win the nomination?"

To which Riley concisely responded, "Nope."

Many, many people, especially working class people who fall along various lines of intersectionality, do not feel represented in American politics. Donald Trump may be an especially rancid embodiment of the racism and corporate greed at America's political core, but we can't pretend that centrist Democrats have the best interest of working class people at heart either, even if their social policies are slightly better.

The truth is that most politicians on both sides of the aisle are bought out by corporate interests, lobbyists, and the uber-wealthy––or, alternatively, fall into the uber-wealthy class themselves, and they aim to use their vast wealth to buy their way into government positions. None of these politicians, with their corporate donors or billions of dollars, give two sh*ts about people who work full-time and can barely afford rent and food.

But that's the beauty of a grassroots movements like the one surrounding Bernie Sanders. His supporters aren't corporations and lobbyists. They're working class people who are sick and tired of not being represented in American government––not just by Trump, but by the entire two-party system. There's a reason that, despite Bernie Sanders leading all other democratic candidates in support from non-white voters (not to mention overall support), mainstream corporate media has continued to bash him at every turn while continually posting op-eds with headlines like, "It's time to give the elites a bigger say in choosing the president."

Don't get tricked into believing that having a common enemy in Trump automatically puts leftists and liberals on the same side. The liberals who support candidates like Biden, Buttigieg, and especially Bloomberg–insisting that everyone must be united to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 while parroting the racist, sexist Bernie Bro myth to erase the women and POC who support Sanders in massive numbers–are the same breed of "white moderate" that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned about:

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.'"

Nobody is obligated to "hold their nose" and vote for a transphobic, racist, sexist like Mike Bloomberg, and doing so isn't such a far cry from all the Trump voters who claimed to dislike the things Trump says but voted for him anyways. Moreover, there's practically a zero percent chance that Bernie won't have a plurality of delegates going into the Democratic National Convention, especially considering his overwhelming support among individual voters. Nominating anyone other than Bernie in this case would prove that the DNC isn't aligned with the American people, so take heed. If the DNC wants to force a choice between oligarchs, they should prepare for a lot of people to abstain.

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CULTURE

What Is Mukbang: These Beautiful Women Are Paid to Eat

Mukbang finds its massive audience by pandering to the three pillars of Internet culture: loneliness, sex, and absurdity.

YouTube

The concept of posting "food p*rn" pictures to social media was taken to new heights in 2010 when a bizarre Korean phenomenon featuring petite women eating impossible portions of food took off.

Before ASMR videos entered the mainstream American consciousness, the audio-visual experience of watching people eat carved out an Internet niche befitting the lonely, the starved, and the sexually frustrated.

Mukbang (pronounced mook-bong) roughly translates to "eating broadcast." Thousands of viewers tune in to watch a beautiful Korean woman — or sometimes an oafish, amusing man — consume copious amounts of food. Viewers will stay enraptured for over an hour watching the mukbanger eat, sending online currency called "star balloons" for impressively large bites, particularly expressive reactions, or simply being "cute." The stars are dubbed "broadcasting jockeys" or, believe it or not, "BJs" for short.

Nicknamed "BJ The Diva" by her 145,000 subscribers, Park Seo-Yeon earns $9,000 a month as a mukbanger. At 34 years old, the former consultant is a full-time YouTuber. In her most popular video, over a million viewers have been treated to the site of this petite, glossy woman single-handedly consuming seven to eight double-portion-sized dishes.

더디바 : The디바 (아구찜,산낙지연포탕,치킨) 140126 part2 The DiVa www.youtube.com

Beginning in 2007 with Korean TV dramas and ballooning into a worldwide $5 billion K-pop industry, Korean culture experienced a surge of popularity in America amidst what was later called the "Korean wave" (or hallyu)– a trend that made the country's media a driving force of global culture. Hallyu has allowed weird Korean trends to infiltrate Western tastes. Since then, popular American Youtubers, including The Try Guys, PewDiePie, Tana Mongeau, and Liza Koshy, have hosted their own eating broadcasts, while others have dedicated their channel to gorging themselves on camera in hopes of gaining a following. Korean-American actor Steven Yeun (Walking Dead) has even parodied the strange phenomenon in a three episode series with Be FUNNY Studios titled "What's Eating Steven Yeun."

What's Eating Steven Yeun? (스티븐연, 대체 뭘 먹는거야?) Episode 01 (제1회) youtu.be

Clearly, Korea's belief in fan death and affinity for Nazi aesthetics aren't the weirdest aspects of the culture. Part food review, part ASMR, and part fetish, mukbang finds its massive audience by pandering to the three pillars of Internet culture: loneliness, sex, and absurdity.

Loneliness:

In Korea, a collectivist country where "it's not common for people to go out to eat by themselves," says food blogger Simon Stawski, "dining is a social activity, and you don't sit and eat alone. For those that can't eat with others, they'll more than likely stay home to eat alone, but they'll still have the urge to socialize while eating, which is what I think mukbangers replicate."

Michael Hurt, director of cultural studies at the Busan University of Foreign Studies, told Quartz: "Korea is a society of the spectacle, and it's gotten to the point where social interaction can't happen—can barely be understood—without being mediated in some way." In Korea's media-obsessed society, mukbang isn't even a peculiar concept. "They have a different understanding of how media is used," Hurt added. "It's become truly a part of life." Cultural critic and researcher Jeff Yang agrees that the online interaction addresses "the loneliness of unmarried or uncoupled Koreans, in addition to the inherently social aspect of eating in Korea."

Aside from being starved for human contact, mukbang watchers are also seeking the ASMR component of the videos. While successful BJs are required to have good production quality, their audio must be excellent, with enhanced volume to emphasize every sound associated with their eating. The louder it is, the better the "brain tingles."

시크릿반반닭다리 먹방~!! 리얼사운드 Mukbang(Eating Show) youtu.be

It's a Sex Thing:

Some enjoy watching petite Korean mukbangers for the voyeuristic thrill of it, attracted to the manufactured intimacy of sharing a meal with a beautiful woman. Like ASMR, mukbang is not necessarily a "sexual fetish" at all—but it sure can be. Plenty of men are willing to pay $50 (or much more) to access a video featuring a fully dressed woman who resembles a K-pop star binge-eating up to 12 hamburger beef patties, 12 fried eggs, and three servings of spicy kimchi stew, followed by a green salad. Aside from the inherent connections between food and sexuality, the sensorial descriptions included in many mukbangers' videos as they narrate their feasting tap into plenty of people's kinks.

Weirdness Factor:

Watching someone gorge themselves with abandon is always ridiculous, but the Internet thrives on normalizing the absurd until we slough off self-consciousness and indulge. During an interview, Steven Yeun told Conan O'Brien about one of his favorite mukbangers. Known as the "Korean Peter Griffin," the overweight man posts videos of terrible quality, but his shrieking, ecstatic laugh while he eats is strange enough to be endearing.

So before you begin to despair about what mukbang's popularity says about our stunted social abilities, our preference for imitated intimacy over emotional relationships, or the fetishization of Asian women, just watch this fat man eat and enjoy.

Korean Guy Enjoying His Food Laughing! youtu.be


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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