Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Ross Douthat Conducts The Worst Worldcon Panel Ever


As in a dream, I don't remember how I got there exactly, but there I was, in the middle of the night, staggering I down an infinitely long corridor, bottle of Lagavulin in one hand and the foot-thick World Science Fiction Convention Program Guide in the other,  looking in vain for either the  "Blue Drazi/Green Drazi:  Can Mixed Marriages  Ever Work?" panel or the one listed as "From Pufnstuf to Hufflepuff:  One Woman's Journey Through Fantasy Fandom".

It was late, OK?  The pickings were slim.  The place was desolate and the rooms poorly marked and, to be 100% honest, I owed a lot of money to various unsavory types up in the Con Suite.  A lot of money.  Which is why, when I stumbled through the first open door I found into a dimly lit room with a pasty, paunchy guy on stage fiddling with his noted and a few sleepers and coughers sitting around in folding chairs, I figured I could at least take a load off, dodge the various Fetts on my trail, and resume my hunt for the panel of my dreams in a while.

Then the panel began.

I could not find it listed anywhere in the program, but it appeared to be entitled "What If, Maybe, Someday in The Future, The Democratic Party Becomes as Shitty as The Republican Party???!!  I'm Not Saying It Will Definitely Happen.  Or Even That It Will Probably Happen.  Because Who Knows, If  a Bunch of Stuff Changes it Could Happen, People!  It Could Happen!!!"

And it was so mesmerizingly bad -- so "The first time you saw Plan Nine From Outer Space and realized, holy shit, they weren't exaggerating!" bad -- that I sat though the whole thing:
A Trumpism of the Left

Ross Douthat OCT. 5, 2016

...In a world where a figure like Donald Trump is a major party’s nominee for the presidency, why shouldn’t a character like Alicia Machado aspire to high office as well?

I’m joking (and anyway Machado is constitutionally ineligible for the presidency), but there is an interesting underlying question here. Trumpism represents the conquest of the still relatively staid world of politics by tabloid seaminess and the reality-television carnival. But that seaminess, that carnival, is hardly limited by ideology or partisan affiliation.

Democratic voters swim in the same cultural sea as the “Apprentice”-watching Republicans who helped make Trump the G.O.P. nominee...

Given all this, could a Trump-style celebrity takeover someday befall the Democrats as well, without the white identity politics but with all the raging telenovela drama that’s trailed in Trump’s wake...

Right now it couldn’t, because the Democratic Party...
I raised my hand because I knew the answer and because the poor, rambling doofus seemed so fucking lost at this point I kinda felt sorry for him.

Oh!  Oh!  I know!  Because the Democratic Party isn't a madhouse of bigots and imbeciles?   Because the Democratic Party is noticeably lacking in overwhelming numbers of bigots and imbeciles because they're all in the Republican Party?  Because the modern Republican Party was built on a strategy of flattering and pandering to bigots and imbeciles?

But Mr. Douthat was not taking questions at this time.

Instead he lumbered on --


-- heedless of his own absurdity:
But what’s true today might not be true forever. The differences between the Democratic Party’s younger, poorer, browner base and its older, whiter, richer and more moderate leadership are a potentially unstable equilibrium.

The anger coursing through left-wing protest politics could find a cruder, more nakedly demagogic avatar than Bernie Sanders...

A Hillary Clinton administration could supply various betrayals and compromises or foul up in some disastrous way...

...a Trumpism of the left would imitate the left-wing populists of Latin America and Asia — the Chavismo of Alicia Machado’s native Venezuela, or the Trumpian socialism presently being served up by the ranting, trigger-happy president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte...

This may sound implausible, indeed frankly un-American — but so did the ascent of Trump’s National Front-ish politics, and yet here we are...
Yes, here we are.  Here we are indeed.  An while we are here, I just can't help noticing that while Mr. Douthat has so very many words to spend pondering the Possible Democratic Hellscape of Tomorrow, he spends so few asking just exactly why we are where we are today.

Nary a word to be spared to condemn the Republican Party's disastrous decision to bet its future on recruiting militia nuts, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, anti-science dominionists and various other species of human flotsam from the shallow end of the American gene pool.  Nary a word to be spared mentioning that the arrival of someone like Il Douche was hardly implausible to those dirty American "Chavismo" Liberals who have been warning about the madness, bigotry and open-mouth-with-tongue flirtations with fascism which have been running wild through the GOP for decades -- warnings which gutless Conservative brain wizards like Mr. Douthat have chosen to ignore.  

Nary a word to be spared for any of that.

Instead...
Cultural and demographic change can ripple into politics slowly, and then all at once. The elite checks on a gonzo left-wing populism are real and powerful, but so are the cultural forces roiling underneath...

And the same demographic changes that have made the right more nativist and populist, more European and reactionary, could expose the left to a Latin American temptation if liberal governance ever really hits the rocks.

If and when it does, the Hillary Clinton campaign’s skillful deployment of Alicia Machado may be cast in a somewhat different light. It’s Clinton’s Democratic Party today — managerial, technocratic, polished, a little smug. But Machado’s wilder, messier, “I’m not a saint girl” style might have its own claim on the American left’s future...
Then it was over.  His New York Times bearers whisked him away, leaving the rest of us stunned and silent.   As we began to shuffle out.  I noticed Maureen Dowd  mating grimly with some nameless, ancient horror in the dark corner behind the door. 

Her panel was next.  

I  killed what was left of my Lagavulin and lurched into back into the hall, this time with renewed purpose and resolve.

It was time to face whatever was waiting for me up the Con Suite.

Because honestly, nothing they could dish out could possibly compare to the existential pain I had just experienced being punched in the brain by so much stupid in such a short period of time. 

17 comments:

Ed Crotty said...

Msgr. Ross must be spending too much time sniffing the incense.

Dave McCarthy said...

"and yet here we are..."

at the risk of sounding politically incorrect (horrors!), Mr DoubtThat...

what you mean WE, Kemosabe?

bowtiejack said...

Shorter Douthat: You know, if pigs grow wings they could fly and who is to say that might not happen!

I have noticed that the keen insights of "conservative" punditologists such as Messrs. Douthat and DFB lately sound an awful lot like the cosmic insights of really bad stoners. Just saying. And with Der Trumpf doing his meth-head impressions . . .

Neo Tuxedo said...

the "Purple Drazi/Green Drazi: Can Mixed Marriages Ever Work?" panel

Fixed that for you, chief. And remember, when Claudia Christian breaks her foot the day before you're going to film Ivanova kicking the scales off the asses of a roomful of Drazi, your five-year novel-for-television master-plan had damn better be able to adjust. (Meanwhile, the GOP continues to prefer goodfacts over realfacts.)

bluicebank said...

"..a Trumpism of the left would imitate the left-wing populists of Latin America and Asia ..."

Isn't it just cute when children make up shit because facts are bouncing around as fuzzy images in their pointy little heads?

We already know what the "extreme" Left looks like. Shit howdy, Douthat, some of us wear its t-shirts and watch documentaries in our boxer shorts. It looks like god-luv-'em kids protesting the international gaming & trade racket. It looks like peppered-sprayed whiteys demanding that the fucking banksters be held accountable vis-a-vis frog marched to the nearest honest DA's office. It looks black people getting uppity by demanding that white cracker cops stop committing 1st degree murder on them and getting away with it. It may even look like pie-in-the-sky ... err, taco truck on every corner, idealism.

These people on the far, crazy-ass Left, Douthat, sure are a scary bunch, huh?

Not so much like "populists of Latin America," Douthat. More like populists of Iceland, who told the banksters to fuck an iceberg.

Jimbo said...

Monsignor Douthat, the right wing cultural madness of the Trumpster didn't suddenly appear out of nowhere as you have suggested. It began with the first plantations in Virginia 400 years ago. It began with the genocide of the original inhabitants of this country. It raged during slavery, the Civil War and Jim Crow. It flourished in the Gilded Age and then in the McCarthyite period. There literally is no equivalent to the dark, menacing madness of the right among the left in the entire history of the United States. Try reading a non-Texas approved history text sometime, Monsignor.

Pharmakeus Ubik said...

That bit you threw in about Dowd made me involuntarily brandish my elder sign as a visceral chill slammed through me. She's been wanting to be the goat with a thousand young ever since her coming out party.

keith gargus said...

Hey, if you're drinking Lagavulin then the rest is no biggie.

I am writing a Twilight Zone episode. The Cardinal walks into a boudoir, laying on the bed is Reese Witherspoon beckoning our hero. Russ overcomes his guilt and shame and begins to undress, only to find he is as smooth and shiny "down there" as a Ken doll.

Jimbo said...

Oh and for the record "Plan Nine from Outer Space" is a great movie to watch when you are stoned.

MFortun said...

OK, I've been delinquent and I'm sorry to have read so much of your truly great writing without throwing into the kitty for so long, but that piece left me no excuse...

trgahan said...

"The differences between the Democratic Party’s younger, poorer, browner base and its older, whiter, richer and more moderate leadership are a potentially unstable equilibrium."

So Douthat ignores any facts about what a Democratic voter really is; takes an apt description of the Republican party; ignores the 25 year diet of immersive 24/7 hate propaganda; adds the word "browner" to the Democratic voting base description; imagines Republicans nominating Trump was all about disillusionment with wealthy party leaders and.....

Viola! Democrats are as bad (if not a little worse because of their smugness) as Republicans who can now be let off the hook for Trump because Douthat's crack analysis shows Democrats will create their own evil browner Sandinistia-like National Front candidate when liberal governance fails in the (tacit: near) future. Because both parties are mirror imagines of each other.

RUKidding said...

Your loyal commenter checking in from Good Morning now Commie Vietnam. Yeah it's a commie hellscape here brothers & sisters. Vote Trump to Save Us! We sure wouldn't want to end up like this trash heap.

Actually it's quite nice here. There's plenty of energy in a growing economy. And I have nothing but gratitude for the kindness of the locals.

I just love how Bishop Douthatt says Duterte is a socialist. Echoes of Jon Lovatt (of SNL): yeah, yeah that's the ticket!

Douthatt's fevered fantasy weird dreams are too stupid for words, and yet the peckerheaded NYT committed that asshattery to print & pixels. Shameful.

Belvoir said...

"If my aunt had balls, she'd be my leftist communist dictator uncle!"

Douthat is such a dreary tiresome petty-minded loon. Why does the NYT give him the time of day, much less editorial space? He's so incredibly shallow and yes I would say, dumb. And humorless. And with no appreciation for art or culture. A dull read. A deep suspicion of people unlike himself, especially in skin tone, because as I said he's incredibly shallow. I'm not sure, has he ever left the US? He seems cloistered and not well-traveled at all. Maybe he went to Switzerland that one time where Rosicrucians flogged him with cat-o-nine tails or something. I'm sure he would love that.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good morning, Neo Tuxedo.

I own the DVDs of every season of Babylon 5, and all the movies too. And yet I feel I must bow before your superior B5 skills.

Teach me, sensei. :)

Enjoy your day.

Dr. Puck said...

It’s Clinton’s Democratic Party today — managerial, technocratic, polished, a little smug. But Machado’s wilder, messier, “I’m not a saint girl” style might have its own claim on the American left’s future...

What does this even mean?

Stellours said...

[ isn't a madhouse of bigots and imbeciles? ]

You need to add greedy to your description. I've been saying they're greedy, ignorant and racist for a while now. That's where you get a 'browner' type person supposedly defending them, that person is obviously greedy and doesn't want to share with anyone else.

I wonder what three words describe us? Generous, helpful, and honest?

Thanks, love your articles...

KnaveRupe said...

This entire article is easily explained away by realizing that, to Russ Douthat, Alicia Machado is just Chunky, LATINA Reese Witherspoon.