Monday, April 06, 2015

10 Years After: 2010 -- The Fall of the House of Gipper

The 10th blogiversary fundraiser continues with the Town Hall Year of 2010.

Once the Beltway patched the holes in its hippie-proof fence, the world was once again safe for Bush Administration Neocon hacks to come out of the shadows and go back to work being horribly wrong about everything in public, and who -- in a Better Universe -- would have been banished for life from the company of decent humans.

Like David Frum.

The Fall of the House of Gipper

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.

I know not how it was - but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows - upon a few rank sedges - and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees - with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium - the bitter lapse into everyday life - the hideous dropping off of the veil."

-- Edgar A. Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"
Such lovely writing, those images and adjectives fitted so precisely one atop another -- from the very start of the piece to the very end -- to create a relentless impression in the mind of the reader that transcends the mere facts of the story.

The facts of the story are simple: the arrival of the narrator at the ancient, crumbling estate of an old friend; the apparent death and entombment of the friend's twin sister, followed by a reversal, the collapse of the house and the narrator's narrow escape.

Thus leaving us entirely at the narrator's mercy.

After all, outside of what the narrator (who is, after all, the miraculously lone survivor of both whatever sordid crimes and horrors took place in the house, and the conveniently evidence-destroying implosion that is the climax of the story) tells us, we have no fucking idea what really went on here. For all we know, the House of Usher was a rockin' place, full of sex grottoes, brilliant conversation and happy people.

What Poe teaches the careful reader is that the power of the narrator is absolute. And that power is manifested not merely in the recounting of the "facts", and not merely in the editorial decisions about which facts are emphasized and which are hidden or omitted, but in the ways in which the mental state of the narrator is itself revealed by the way he or she tells the story.

Which is why "Usher" is not about an old house falling down on a couple of trustifarian weirdos, but instead about the psychological and emotional states -- the escalating and oppressive sense of terror and doom -- through which the narrator passes from the beginning of the story until the end.

Which is how at length I found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Reagan.

In case you were unaware of it, behind all of the Vital!And!Immediate! crises of the day, one wing of the Conservative Movement which has visited so many of those crises on us is busy quietly tinkering away deep inside of the rotting House of Reagan trying to rebrand itself.

In both cases, it was not that these Vast, Cool Intelligences of the Right actually woke the fuck up to what the Dirty Fucking Hippies have been trying to tell them for years, and noticed that the foundations of their ideology are frauds and fictions invented by misers and assholes who paid good cash money for a dogma that would leave them free to fuck over their fellow man and still be thought of as noble and upstanding Americans.

Rather, it was that, on a day that was much like any other, as they were making a handsome living troweling out their depraved movement's toxic bullshit, they happened to stub their toe on some blunt corner of the Bilge Wagon they'd been wheeling around all these years. Or choked on some undigested bit of choler floating in the venomous stew they'd been selling to school kids and old ladies for the last 30 years.

Which is why it came as no shock to me that Andrew Sullivan (who swears that Conservatism was fracking awesome until George Bush screwed it up in 2004) would toss the keys to his blog to former Bush speechwriter David Frum (who swears that Conservatism was fracking awesome until the American Enterprise Institute fired his ass for badthinkfulness in 2010) during his vacation:

How We Got Here
12 Jul 2010

by David Frum

Perhaps a word of background about what I’m doing here in these unexpected surroundings. Andrew and I have been acquainted since the mid-1980s, when he was a Harvard graduate student and I was enrolled in the law school. I led a section of the late Judith Shklar’s class in the Government department. The section met in a classroom that was used by a section led by Andrew that ended immediately before. All semester I wiped his handwriting off the blackboard, but I don’t think we ever once encountered each other in person.

That experience prefigured the next quarter century. Andrew and I have exchanged tens of thousands of words first on paper then online, written tens of thousands of words about each other. Yet if I am tallying aright, I don’t think we’ve been in the same room with each other on even a dozen occasions.

And now here I am again, writing on Andrew’s blackboard after he has gone.

Back then we both identified intellectually and emotionally with the trans-Atlantic conservative movement. Andrew no longer does. I still do. As the Obama presidency under-delivers on its over-promises, an effective and intelligent conservatism is more needed than ever. I’ve been writing and thinking a lot over the past few years about how such a conservatism can be rebuilt. I’ll be continuing that conversation in this space.

I’m very aware that many readers will feel nothing but skepticism about conservative rebuilding. For them, conservatism means Limbaugh and Beck and Palin. But it does not – must not – cannot.
Both Frum and Sullivan (and Brooks, for that matter) appear to have no marketable skills other than "public intellectuals".

In other words, pushing words around on paper, which is an ancient and honorable dodge profession, but one which presents the Serious Conservative with a unique and terrifying problem: How does the professional public Conservative intellectual continue to keep those sweet, sweet pundit checks coming in the face of the unrepentantly flagrant reality that these they have spent their entire adulthood conspicuously failing to notice the fact that the Modern Conservatism to which they have devoted their lives was, is and will forever be a hideously destructive fraud and failure?

They are the Gorbachevs of the Conservative Movement, desperately trying to save their decaying empire and its depraved ideology by whipping a little faux Neocon perestroika and glasnost at the problem and agreeing to permit (within certain, Procrustean parameters) a limited critique of a few, selected Heroes of the Movement (specifically, the ones that personally kicked our Conservative Gorbies in the teeth), just so long as that criticism takes the form of those "Heroes" failing the Movement, rather that being the inevitable outcome of a Movement that is inherently and fatally flawed.

I for one am really no longer interested in anything any Conservative (or one of those millions of CUT [Conservative Until Two Thousand and Eight] and RUN [Republican Until Nine minutes ago] Conservatives who now call themselves "Independent" because they are simply too fucking cowardly to admit the truth) has to say about anything: from my point of view, if you spent much of the last 30 years rolling in the Reagan wallow and sneering at the Dirty Fucking Hippies who were desperately trying to warn you that the Devil whose dick you were so happily sucking would one day come for his Due, you have forfeited any right to participate in the public discourse about the future of this country.

Because however many Hayek quotes or Venn diagrams showing the overlap between Margaret Thatcher and the Kantian ideal of Pure Awesome that Frum and Sullivan may have wiped off each others chalkboards over the years, the ugly facts of Modern Conservatism as it has been practiced in the real world since before either of them had pubes can never be reconciled with their bullshit theories of how Conservatism might be if it didn't have to deal with pesky problems like human nature, corporate power, and the need to achieve political ends by playing on the bigotry and paranoia of millions of American Conservatives voters who have never fucking heard of Bill Buckley.

So until they step to the back of the fucking line and spend as many years in the wilderness apologizing for their obscene ideology as they spent making princely livings extolling and defending it -- as much as I might agree with them on specific issues like gay marriage, DADT and marijuana legalization -- in the main I have no interest in what clowns like Frum and Sullivan and Brooks have to say about politics or culture or the state of the media or, really, anything.

But I also fully understand that something as trivial as the complete, catastrophic and Very Public Failure of their ideology is no barrier to them continuing to enjoy the perks and privileges that come with sinecures at the very ippy tippy top of the American media commentariat.

That there is too profitable a market to be found among the millions of CUT and RUN Conservatives who are frantically looking for just the right string of Majyk Conjure Words to absolve them of spending 30 years being stupid and hateful and wrong for the likes of Frum or Sullivan or Brooks to ever be out of a job.

And so they continue to tinker away, trying to find a prose potion that will let them pretend that Falwell, Limbaugh, Beck, Fox and Palinism were not the pure and completely predictable emergent properties of Modern American Conservatism. That will let them pretend that they only joined the Klan for the dry cleaning discounts and were shocked!shocked! to discover after 30 years that those seemingly nice men in their starched, white sheets had such despicable and non-Burkean extracurricular activities!

They are, in other words, fighting to control the future narrative of our times by becoming the central narrator of those times: to do that, they are willing to appear marginally reasonable by sacrificing a few of Conservatism's more deranged chess pieces which have already been lost to sane public opinion (Palin, Beck, the legacy of the Final Years of the Cheney Administration) in exchange for sweetheart positions in the media from which they can continue to ardently defend the Movement that created Palin, Beck, the Cheney Administration and all the rest in the first place.

Which means they are dangerous.

Because they imprison themselves in a doomed house that sits atop a pile of volatile explosives.

Because a doomed heritage possesses them.

Because a terrible secret refuses to stop clawing its way out of its tomb to confront them.

They can hear it coming.

They can hear it coming.

This will not end well.

No comments: