The Unadulterated AOC
The congresswoman’s biography: reviewed
Hell is on a book break so you’ll have to wait for her breakdown of the biolabs in Ukraine situation. (It shall be called ‘I Stan With Putin’ and woven with memes.)
Now is not the time to make jokes because there has been a massacre. The MSM tells us the Russians have murdered civilians because they are evil and losing. If anyone questions this they are an evil loser… Even though other reports shoved in front of us include Ukrainian babushkas fighting off tank divisions with bricks and jars, ethnic Slavs being defeated by the ‘cold’, and a Russian commander getting run over by his own tank.*
With Covid rates at an all time high, Hell wonders if that vaccine offers permanent immunity to incredulity.
Once, we used to have these things called ‘war reporters’. In the current nightmare, foreign stringers were killed while mercenaries were fleeing complaining that they were being sent on suicide missions. As a result, we have stenographers who sit on social media all day.
One could go through the claims made about Ukraine in painstaking detail, cross referencing with sources any journalist doing their actual job would force themselves to read, but what is the point? No one cares.
Anyway, here is a book review about something else.
Back after Easter. God bless.
(*Image courtesy of Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov no less - only not, if you look.)
‘Who is AOC?’ The back cover of this book demands. ‘A wack job!’ Says Donald J. Trump. ‘She needs to run for president when she turns thirty-five,’ Cardi B explains. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest congresswoman in America. She goes by her initials (minus fullstops - like FDR and JFK not A.P.C or A.L.C, the luxury brands for ladies) and is ‘a Latina from the Bronx and Westchester, with no background in policy-making, a bartender. She has a boyfriend; she uses social media to communicate with fans and fight with political foes, and also to cook ramen noodles in front of millions of people while chatting with them about structural inequality and mass incarceration. And every one of these things winds up meaning so much.’
Take Up Space: The Unprecedented AOC is her ‘kaleidoscopic biography’ - assembled by the editors of New York magazine. The 32-year old’s short life takes up 200 pages and there are 22 additional, multimedia chapters including a comic strip of her trip to a ‘“concentration camp” at the Border’, a copy of the speech she gave to congress ‘ON: Being Called a F*cking B*tch’ and a two-page, close-up photograph of her mouth.
The reader gains little impression of what AOC is like in an age when likes are what matter. (‘Politics had never had an influencer before. When Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she liked Stila Stay All Day liquid lipstick in the color beso, it sold out at Sephora nationwide.’) Dead white Boswells may have written the lives of their subjects - New York dissects her livestreams; the breathless account of one woman’s Instagram account. Tweet threads are printed in full. ‘The video of her grilling Zuckerberg gives me life,’ says Capriana, 19, in a chapter called ‘What the teens say’.
Born a month before the Berlin Wall came down, AOC was once known as ‘Sandy’ (as in ‘Sandy is a psycho and she wants to wake up at like four in the morning and go drive’). Nowadays, friends call her Alex.
Real life revelations are rare and make no sense. For instance, we are told AOC first entertains ‘the idealistic thought’ of quitting a medical degree for a politicised future while she is in Niger holding the hand of a 19-year-old, who has just given birth, watching ‘the medical team try and fail to revive’ the girl’s stillborn baby. It is while living in this community (where 88% of the population live on less than $2 a day, one in nine die in childbirth and a quarter of children die before their fifth birthday) AOC realises that ‘Americans had it backward. The grind was a scam’ so she needs to ‘focus on healing sick systems’ - in the USA. ‘I remember feeling at that time that Americans were so poor,’ the authors quote her as saying. ‘That level of enjoyment does not exist in American life.’
In 2016, AOC begins to make good on this awakening by taking a ‘road trip’ to protest against the building of an oil pipeline at a Sioux reservation and records herself en route, maintaining ‘mesmerising eye contact’ while delivering ‘a dissertation on the relative merits of Cheetos and Hot Cheetos’.
AOC stumbles into political stardom shortly after while working as a bartender for a business which only employs hot people who could be models. During this time, AOC’s brother hears of an organisation called Justice Democrats which appears to be running a sort of casting call for the pop idols of socialism.
(‘Like, what’s her X-factor?’ one of her Svengalis remembers asking. ‘She’s just really pretty,’ another reveals. ‘That’s like 30, 50 percent of being on TV.’)
After AOC wins a stunning election victory against the establishment Democrat and subsequently becomes congresswoman for Queens in 2018 ‘rumours started to circulate online, suggesting that she was somehow a rich kid, having grown up in Westchester (true) and attended Brown (false)’. It is very tragic that AOC’s father died and left her the family in terrible financial circumstances but… In America, are the daughters of architects who graduate from Boston poor - or is AOC the Lia Thomas of the working class? (In Britain, nothing screams ‘bourgeois’ like a double barreled name.)
Still, the real head scratcher is a checked fact: black people don’t vote for AOC even though she is a POC who sells ‘Drink water and don’t be racist’ sweatshirts for $58 on her website. ‘She won in the whitest neighborhoods in the district, all of which are in Queens,’ the authors note before pointing out that she later ‘killed one of the largest economic-development projects in the city’s recent history’ after which ‘the neighborhood filled with young AOC voters’.
At points, cognitive dissonance mashes the mind - the narrative is composed almost entirely of the sort of deranged triviality only a stalker could pore over and the authors have no idea why Fox News would mention AOC’s name, ‘on average, 76 times a day’ or how ‘even the most insignificant things about her become controversies: her haircuts. Her fashion shoots. Her astrological sign.’ One minute we’re informed AOC ‘wasn’t intimidated by what she didn’t know’ - the next that she believed herself capable of flipping Trump voters in a Democratic primary.
When MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol did this MEAN AOC GOT ATTENTION? You bet your ass, honey! Afterwards, she ‘spoke [on Instagram] for an hour and two minutes… offer[ing] the reassuring warmth of Oprah; the fire-and-brimstone of Jonathan Edwards; the inspiration of John F. Kennedy; the intimacy of an FDR fireside chat. It was exhausting and reassuring and scary and comforting and extremely weird. It was kind of wild, and actually there was no real, full precedent in American history for what it was or how it should be received’.
Is this hagiography or hatchet job? It depends on how you interpret passages such as: ‘She has to maintain her position among the power brokers in order to agitate against them while continuing to persuade her following of her authentic disinterest in power in order to earn their trust. One false move and she’s done for.’
Ultimately, the real question the authors address is not ‘who is AOC?’ But ‘why are we so obsessed with her?’