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Palmer Square: Summer, Part III


Later, I was in the apartment and half conscious of a centipede that appeared to be sleeping (if centipedes sleep) in a corner of my bedroom ceiling. Five books lay scattered around me in bed, their spines cracked, faces down. Because of the imminent collapse of democracy, I found it hard to read short stories. Ditto novels. I don’t have to even mention poetry, right? Instead, I was thumbing through the internet on my phone, looking for xenophobic opinions that I could use to verify the spread of a national disease. Or maybe I’d write a 500-word think piece it.

I wanted to get my heart racing, so I looked for misspelled insults in comments sections.

Frustrated and restless, I threw myself off of my back and pulled out my laptop to look at jobs in political campaigns. I opened tabs in my browser and told myself that I would submit applications if I found the right position. Maybe I wanted to fight injustice from within established structures of effective action. Maybe I would convert my latent streams of political energy into kinetic energy.

Wow, I realized, they need lots of data scientists. Almost only data scientists.

This was surprising.

I’m not a data scientist. I scrolled through job descriptions like:

“We require an experienced Data Visualization Specialist who can analyze polls and translate them into impactful charts that the ordinary voter can comprehend in less than ten seconds. We need to minimize voter activation energy. We need to get people HYPED for voting. So we want to see next-level passion for data, numbers, bits and crumbles of seemingly insignificant measurables, and a remorseless tenacity when it comes to mining users. We have oodles of information about voters’ downloads, their shared music playlists, their fears about climate change and developments in genetic technologies. We see them using our calculator tools to calculate the costs of tomato sauce, gasoline, airfare, and Happy Meals under economic conditions imposed by the other guy (the news isn’t good!). We don’t know what to do with it, but we have it. Troves of it. We know exactly what voters prefer to masturbate to, like, even their preferred device and resolution, and can tie their shame to their all-boy Catholic schooling. Seriously, some scary, scary shit. But to you, this is unsurprising. You know how to do this stuff already. And we need you to help translate this data into scripts for our robocalls and click-bait fake-news headlines. You must be detail-oriented and willing to work events every evening.”

I'd read The Federalist before, as well as a not-insignificant amount of critical theory. I could absolutely alert folks to the poetically portentious forces roiling within the American electorate’s collective unconscious, if that turned out to be at all useful. If they needed an essayist (or someone who could talk with certain segments of voters about how to write effective essays), I could be their guy.

But data?

I figured I’d maybe just go back to sleep.