Thursday, February 06, 2014

Seven Year Ago

This is what I was writing:
Sunday Morning Came and Went
More and more, Left Blogylvania tracks the Sunday Mouse Circus like the mineshaft canary that it is. This puppet show where trial balloons are floated and talking points run around the track is now almost immediately sighted for range and distance by giants like Crooks & Liars and then shelled to dust. This beetle-riddled tree where hacks like McCain and Lieberman nest and preen and regurgitate their smirky horseshit is now routinely used for target practice by Think Progress.

So today, no teevee reviews: that is being done just fine elsewhere.

Today we asked the Musical Question: “Having toed his ideology into the retaining wall, where best for Bobo to fall back to 

to make his final stand?”

Hey! How ‘bout college!

In his Sunday column, Bobo waxes all Veronica and Archie about discovering that the students in his charge in a class he taught at Duke are moving towards what Bobo persists in trying the sell as the “Center”.

Here are a few snips delivered from “Children of Polarization” to me by the NYT Select fairy, papier-mâchéd together with a spot of glue and dab of pissoff.
It begins thusly:
Today’s college students, remember, were born around 1987. They were 2 or 3 when the Berlin Wall fell. They have come into political consciousness amid impeachment, jihad, polarization and Iraq. Many of them seem to have reacted to these hothouse clashes not by becoming embroiled in the zealotry but by quietly drifting away from that whole political mode.
In general, their writing is calm, optimistic and ironical. Most students in my class showed an aversion to broad philosophical arguments and valued the readings that were concrete and even wonky. Many wrote that they had moved lately toward the center.
Ah, the Center.


The Midlands.

That legendary point equidistant from the vertices of the American political polygon.

That Atlantean home of the Lost Tribe of the Levelheaded, lush and green with promise and yet forever vanishing just over the horizon.

The Right horizon, of course.

That great, calm sea down to which all turbulent cultural waters are supposed to flow, and under whose vast meniscus of polity all the tricksy, strifey ways of la vida partisan are made smooth and serene.

That elusive Brigadoon of Serious Purposefulness now sunk into myth and coaxed out of the mists of legend only under the mopey, maudlin gaze of America’s most artless, pompous hackers of 100-dollar-a-word editorial prose.

Please note what Bobo cites as the prime catalyzers impelling the Yute of Murrica towards the Center: impeachment, jihad, polarization and Iraq.

And now note what he has omitted. That of these four, three are exclusively the toxic partisan fallout from his Party’s total war for total power.

“Impeachment”. That final, filthy destination of the GOP’s hysterical, no-holds-barred, seven-year political jihad against Bill Clinton. A Party so berserk with fury and drunk with hubris that they really, really though it was perfectly OK to stalk, hunt and take down a President for trivia …

…and then turn right around and call anyone who dared question their Dear Leader’s sprint over the Constitution and into despotism, treason and endless, bloody slaughter “unhinged” and “un-American”…

…all to the approving roar of Fox News and Hate Radio.

“Polarization”. Was and is the deliberate intent of the Party of Lee Atwater. Of Newt Gingrich. Of Jerry Falwell. Of Karl Rove. Divisiveness is not the side-effect of GOP policy: Divisiveness IS GOP policy.

“Iraq”. The apotheosis of GOP insanity. An entire GOP foreign policy by the Party of Small Government based on investing their Dear Leader with unprecedented, unlimited, imperial power. An entire GOP Congress of the Party of Personal Responsibility based on making sure not a single substantive hearing was ever held, not a single hard question was ever asked, not a lick of oversight was ever performed, and not a single person was ever held responsible.

The formulation is simple:
If you are a Democrat, not a single gaffe is too minor to be beneath the reach of Impeachment’s guns. 
If you are a Republican, no caravan of crimes stretching into the distance and groaning under the weight of a hundred treasons is too grotesque to be ignored.
Bobo continues...
[Remington] Kendall arrived deeply conservative and remains offended by people who won’t work hard to support themselves. But he now finds himself, as he says, cursed by centrism — trapped between the Pat Robertsons on the right and the Democratic elites on the left, many of whom he finds personally distasteful.

He has come to admire the prairie pragmatists, like Montana’s Jon Tester and Brian Schweitzer. In a long conversation with his brother Sage, who works on the ranch, Kendall decided that what the country needs is a party led by “entrepreneurial cowboy politicians” with a global perspective.
Then, because whatever the truth is Bobo is damned well going to grind and blast and sledgehammer this story until the narrative fits into his Procrustean Bed of the Happy Town of Centerville, we are presented with the Liberal Student who will “switch to the Republicans in a heartbeat if I believe my ideas are better received in the G.O.P.”

Hell, I’d switch from off-brand mayo to owl poop if owls pooped apple butter.

And I’d certainly switch from Bud to squirrel urine if it turned out squirrels peed 20-year-old Oban.

But they don’t.

And as a disingenuous little weasel like Bobo knows full well, that is the very fucking point. Lots of people might switch to the GOP if they weren't evil, planet-raping Christopaths.

But they are.

They’re proud of it.

It’s right on the letterhead.

And second, would someone once and for all kindly introduce me to this cabal of omnipotent Liberal Elites that has every shitkicker from Sisterfuck, Alabama to Spider Egg, Utah crapping in his goat-ropers over their Eeeevil Plans?

And would that someone then tell me what their Eeeevil Plans actually are?

Because last time I checked, Michael Moore never authored a single word of Democratic foreign policy, unlike some Big Oil lobbyists I know.

And Paul Krugman was never complicit in ginning up a catastrophic war-of-choice, unlike several Wingnut “journalists” I can think of.

And Noam Chomsky never got unrestricted face time with the Commander-in-Chief, unlike certain meth-smoking gay Evangelicals who used to leave the White House on Sunday afternoons with their breathe stinking of POTUS ass.

Bobo continues…
For many students, the main axis of their politics is not between left and right but between idealism and realism. They have developed a suspicion of sweepingly idealistic political ventures, and are now a fascinating mixture of youthful hopefulness and antiutopian modesty.
Seriously, how long has it been since anyone with a straight face described the Left as a “sweepingly idealistic political venture(s)”?

The Left has become the Center, which is terribly frightening thing for a Renfield of the Right like Bobo.

And then we round out with a slice of genuine truth
But over all it’s bad news for Republicans. …most of my students see the Republicans as the impractical, ideological party — on social and science issues as well as foreign and domestic policy.
Followed by a wafer-thin mint of dissimulation.
“That’s not the way to win the children of polarization.”
Again, Brooks attempts to tack around the dead elephant in his Party’s phone booth, so let me clarify this once again: Bobo, you people bred and perfected polarization as a means to your political ends.

This condition was not created by accident.

This is the world you built.

The water you poisoned.

The air you polluted.

And you are still doing it.

One GOP cadre dumps mercury into the milk, and then on-cue another begins to cry about how the milk’s all done gone mysteriously bad.

One GOP cohort laces the apples with razors, and another weeps ‘cause somehow the apples make his mouth all owie.

One wing burns the rhetorical Reichstag down, and another walks the rubble wondering aloud how such a terrible thing could have happened.

You, Bobo, are the problem. You personally. You specifically. You individually are the problem.

You wanna help this country find its way? Quit. Quit tomorrow. It is far too late to pretend you didn’t know where this was all going, or couldn’t tell how it would all end, or that you were working silently for change from the inside, or whatever nonsense collaborators tell themselves that lets them sleep at night.

You are the disease vector, Mr. Brooks, so please quit waddling the Earth looking for more venues to pass along your sickness.

You are the spongy, pastel beard of the hard, crazy Right and if nothing else, the last two years have at last demonstrated a clear natural limit to that specific strain of mass-hysteria and self-delusion that infects your side.

Yes, 30% or so of the citizens of this country are a cultural dead-loss. A morally atrophied slumgullion of wasted carbon, bad ideas and straight-grain-stoopid that cannot be reasoned with and should never be indulged.

And they have been feeding off of that steady diet of psychotic rage that their religious, media and political leaders have pumped into our national groundwater. For every ache and pain in their pathetic lives they have been offered the same, simple sacrificial scapegoats over and over and over again:
Queers, Feminists, Activist Judges and Dirty Hippies.
But that 30% is unelectable without a thick undercoating of respectability and a heavy carapace of “Reasonableness” welded to their hides. Without some nice, clean, articulate barker to work the Midway and wheedle the Moderates into Jerry Falwell’s political freak show.

Without a suit, a pair of glasses, soft hands, a moon face, a pink tie and some valuable real estate on the editorial page of the NYT they’re just another mob of racists and Dominionists begging for tyranny and screaming for blood.

So this is what it comes down to:
The Center does not exist anymore because the Right murdered it. Methodically strangled it in full view of the public and the press over the course of thirty years.

The men that killed the Center still rule the Modern GOP.

These are the Modern GOP’s only legacies:
A New Orleans in rubble.
A Constitution in tatters.
A carefully cultivated international reputation in ruins.
A debased media.
A proud legacy of science and inquiry kneecapped by roving bands of Conservative theocrats.
A debt that will hag-ride us for a generation,
And an Iraq ablaze for the next 20 years.
So, Bobo, the idea that there is still some “Center” where further capitulation to the lunatics and criminals on the Right is “wise” and “sensible” -- that the cure for the disasters unleashed by their decrepit and discredited ideology is yet more compromise with their decrepit and discredited ideology -- is ludicrous on its face.

The Right is the corpse at Democracy’s picnic, trying to pass itself off as vital and practical with a pound of rouge over its rotting flesh and a veil across its dead, gluey eyes while it tries to filch one last pillowcase full of candlesticks, good silver and tax cuts.

Making a final grab for power before the wind fatally shifts and the reek of their death pong so fills up the world that creatures like David Brooks will no longer be able to pretend it’s just a vial of sweet bipartisanship perfume they are hawking any longer.

And then we bury their beliefs, their vocabulary and their false gods in a lead-lined sarcophagus -- unmourned and unmarked -- in that Potter’s Field where all of Bad Isms eventually go and return to our real jobs.

That the complicated, adult business of trying to heal and govern a great, flawed nation in a beautiful, broken world.
Seven years later, I use the word "slumgullion" less often than I should.

Seven years later, the Right is just as dangerously nuts as they ever were, but are now much more overtly and unashamedly berserk.

Seven years later, David Brooks' death-grip on The Centrist Ring of Power is more desperately "We wants it. We needs it. Must have the Preciousss!" than ever.

Other than that, nothing about the fundamental syzygy of American politics and media has changed in the slightest.

And yes, I have now become the first blogger in history to correctly use the words "syzygy" and "slumgullion" in a single post.



Monster from the Id said...

Yes, that 30% are a dead loss.

But thanks to the structure of the Constitution, which gives states with more cows than people (h/t Gene Lyons), which are dominated by 30%ers, equal representation in the Senate, and disproportionately high representation in the Electoral College, our kinda-sorta-maybe democracy has an enduring bias in favor of 30%erism--even before we get to the shameless gerrymandering of the House.

How do you propose to get around that?

Lawrence said...

Brooks found some Yale undergrads who like the No Labels flavor Kool Aid? Color me surprised. Did Rand Paul get the same vibe at Howard? The Right as a corpse at Democracy's picnic, now that calls for a Weekend At Bernie's photoshop.

John said...

You know, I teach college students all the time.

First thing to know is that Duke students are a pretty rarified bunch. Students at public community colleges outnumber students at elite colleges like Duke something like five to one. If you throw in students at all public colleges, you get a figure of something like eight or ten to one. What Duke students think is pretty unimportant, and it is indicative of Brooks' pathology that he magnifies the importance of elite students' mindsets.

I teach at a big public research university. The students I meet are often terrified and hopeless. Among the more inquisitive that terror and hopelessness can turn into a smoldering anger. In my opinion, angry students do not always have a clear idea of who to be angry at, but it's not a state of mind that leads them to the calm center, believe me.

casimir said...

Mr DG, righteously well-turned prose, as usual.

A slightly different take on Mr Brooks's subjects, from that offered by John. One of the very most foundational elements of those who hire Mr Brooks to run their interference is to produce adults who can serve as factors of production but who are incapable of critical thought, oblivious to how power and coercion move through a society, vacant as to history, and indeed are never even visited by the thought that there is such a thing as civic society or a responsibility to participate in it in a factually and morally thoughtful way. As my spouse - a university professor of moral and political philosophy - would confirm, even and especially the brightest go thru and emerge from our educational system without the slightest capacity to resist the imposed dimensions of the tiny Overton window created by BSDI/false equivalence, conservative/liberal as endpoints on the scale, and the message of Republican legitimacy in which the corporate media saturate us all. And so Mr Brooks then uses these heads, so capably emptied by his paymasters, as evidence for the obvious good sense of the corporate-pleasing "middle."

Lawrence said...

@ casimir
Wouldn't you rather describe your spouse as a professor of History and Moral Philosophy, even if it is a stretch?

John said...

Actually, I think that Casimir and I would agree on most things.

Just a little side thought. The students of Duke are not under threat like students at less elite institutions. There is really nothing in it for them to truly challenge the social order. And, in fact, if they do not, the potential rewards are great.

If they do challenge the social order, they tend to engage in academic exercises that are really more careerist than revolutionary.

Me, I learned my lesson long ago not to tip the boat too much, so I'm no one to criticize others.

But what I was trying to convey was the great insecurity of hopelessness of many college students these days at less elite institutions. They're going into debt to go to school; yet there aren't a lot of good jobs out there because the austerity chorus is working its magic.

I think that this is a fairly explosive situation, and the outcome could be very ugly.

casimir said...

John - Yes, I wasn't disagreeing, just speaking to a separate phenomenon. It's the existence of both together that's a problem. If the terrified pre-middle class and pre-intelligentsia had a critical consciousness, there might be an actual force for change (toward reduced returns to capital, reduced labor and consumption, sound mechanisms for distribution of social wealth). Instead it will just be folks threatened for their own and their families' means of stable existence and swinging selfishly at all the wrong targets including each other.

Lawrence - Afraid I'm not following.

Lawrence said...

Sorry, Heinlein reference.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you enjoy a good scotch, Driftglass, but Oban is a second fiddle to Laphraoig 10 year.

-Ric from the land of Mick Dodge.
-longtime listener, first time caller.

driftglass said...

I have enjoyed many a Laphraoig over the years. It has a distinctly Bandaid-steeped-in-Bactine bite to it, but sometimes that it just what the moment calls for