(Tonight’s guest poster is Gavin M. from Sadly, No!)
Above: A very good sign
It’s sometimes good to sit back in your chair, hook your thumbs under your overall straps, and savor the blessings that so grandly accrue to us as Americans, or as citizens of the other advanced countries or Canada.
Wealth isn’t always one of them, certainly, and dignity and sobriety are seeming less golden lately, with the gathering chance that we’ll spend our final days, perhaps in June or something, as green Day-Glo skeletons frozen in eyeless, crabbed screaming postures on a blasted, glassy doomscape. And not to completely minimize that, but life is full of satisfaction, and there are many gifts that modern life grants us daily that would make us the pride and envy of our ancestors.
Specifically, never since humanity clustered nightly around sod fires in the Afar and told jokes about afarensis or erectus, or whomever the funny guys with the little heads were, has there been such an impossibly fecund, pollen-blown, juice-engorged garden of comedy and hominid folly by which to be entertained and brought closer to perfect understanding of Creation. But let’s not go too wide here.
It speaks to the genius of the sons and daughters of Goethe that the highest of human faculties in our modern times is named in German. But it was an American who innovated the beautiful parallel term, Podenfreude, to denote the joy felt in reading the bad writing of others. It is named after John Podhoretz, and more about him anon. My own innovation is Hindenfreude, which combines the awed, stomach-dropping feeling of watching a spectacular disaster, such as an exploding Zeppelin, with the experience of reading John Hinderaker.
I sit here with thumbs hooked in my overall straps, typing by scorn alone, awash in the joy of living except for one thing: I’d wanted to craft a basic overview of Wingnotology on the Internet, but it’s simply too broad, and I’m wrestling two separate premises. In brief, and most simply: A consolation for being who we are, in the age we inhabit, is making fun of the grand clown-parade of upper-case-‘C’ Conservatism that is to our discourse what the Sophists were to Plato’s — or (more accurately) what the cargo-cult movements have been to Melanesia. Pretense aside, the important and genuine corrolary is that it’s through the wackiest, most fumbling of conservative writers that contemporary Conservatism best reveals itself for what it is.
(Clockwise from top left: Justin Darr, Pastor Swank, Jeff Gannon, that one Powerline guy who isn’t Hinderaker, Charles [LGF] Johnson, Marie Jon, that other Powerline guy who isn’t Hinderaker, Kaye Grogan, John "Assrocket" Hinderaker.)
There’s a music writer whom I know slightly named Douglas Wolk, whose most insightful insight, to me, was in a review of an ‘80s hardcore EP by a band called Unity. This was a few years ago. I’d had the record at some point, and remembered it as being competent, but a bit goofy – not a record you’d care much about either way. What Wolk said was that you can often learn more about a genre of music by studying the bad records than the good ones. The reason is that you can see mistakes of judgment and technique that lay bare the artist’s intentions. The artist can’t hide from you as successfully as a craftier, more practiced and opaque artist would be able to. Most good art is in a sense alike in that it’s able to speak to something more intrinsic than base culture, something cross-platform or common to the human condition. (Neil Young calls it ‘the spook’; a great song has the spook in it.) Most bad art is concerned with trying to be a successful example of itself, or of a genre or movement — with trying to operate its own cultural tools correctly. Bad art struggles to express its difference.
Apropos the Unity record, you can appreciate that most vividly in the band’s stylistically-constricted tucka-tucka, habbada-habba performances, but there’s also a bit of it in the record sleeve. You see an idealized straight-edge good-guy bursting through a wall with bricks flying marked, ‘hate,’ ‘racism,’ ‘sexism,’ and also some oddly context-specific signaria like ‘apathy,’ ‘fascism,’ and ‘negativity.’ To skim over the context — which at a certain point with these records takes a near-curatorial interest to understand — ‘fascism’ was, of course, not a real social movement in Southern California, circa 1986. It was a term that certain people in that scene used as shorthand for a whole panoply of irksome things, many of them petty, and nearly all of them collapsing, ultimately to ‘that which is not-us.’
Yet only the doofier, less acute bands (and ‘zine writers, and so forth) employed it literally — as (for instance) a brick in a wall that you’d want to bust down while waving your fist and yelling. It was like the line in Repo Man where the one punk kid is dying after botching a holdup. He’s like, “…Uck! I blame society.” That was funny to punk kids then because of course we all blamed society – and relentlessly, with headachy concentration — but you didn’t say it in so many words like that, for God’s sake. Tres louche! No class. What a tool!
Such also obtains in the honorable and worthy field of wingnutology — and by extension, American politics, in their current Conservo-sozzled form. Ken Mehlman won’t say that Christianity should be the official state religion, or that all taxes should be abolished for the wealthy, or that the US should invade France, or that Muslims should be put in concentration camps, or that divorce should be outlawed, et cetera et cetera ad nauseum. Brit Hume, Tony Snow, and Bill O’Reilly won’t say these things. Instead, they inhabit those notions, tinkering and playing with them (and often discarding them summarily when they become dissonant with the real, economic understructure of Conservatism), while presenting a massaged, ‘reasonable’ set of opinions in public that agree with every detail of the wingnut credology as though by ongoing, daily accident.
The base knows what they mean, by long exposure and consanguinity, while the message is too code-wordy and opaque to reveal the intentions behind it to saner listeners, who would immediately recognize such notions for what they are. In short, the high-end Conservatives know that they can’t get away with saying what they really believe, but to a large degree they no longer have to. People have been remarking on this fact lately, and David Neiwert’s analysis in a previous Late Nite column can perhaps stand in for others of different tenor (and insight).
But when you delve down deeper into the barrel, you begin to find conservatives who will voice the forbidden tenets, and who couple them quite plainly to the Republican agenda — and the further into the barrel you go, the bonkier and whoopier and (most importantly) plainer the messages become. The nuttier winguts often parrot the talking points and the message wackily off-key, while expressing the meaning vividly and nearly 100% correctly, nearly all the time. They’re nearly an ideal source of insight.
(Greg Sheffield’s ‘Gaggle': Foundation-financed, and busting boldly through a wall with a brick labeled, Communism!)
A example that we’ve paid much attention to at Sadly, No! is the recent trend toward veiled calls to genocide against Semites of the non-Jewish variety, as in this now-famous epistle from Instapundit Glenn Reynolds:
Civilized societies have found it harder, though, to beat the barbarians without killing all, or nearly all, of them. Were it really to become all-out war of the sort that Osama and his ilk want, the likely result would be genocide — unavoidable, and provoked, perhaps, but genocide nonetheless, akin to what Rome did to Carthage, or to what Americans did to American Indians. That’s what happens when two societies can’t live together, and the weaker one won’t stop fighting — especially when the weaker one targets the civilians and children of the stronger. This is why I think it’s important to pursue a vigorous military strategy now. Because if we don’t, the military strategy we’ll have to follow in five or ten years will be light-years beyond "vigorous."
(Front row [l-r]: Glenn Reynolds, hysterical anti-Semite (pro-Jewish variety) Pamela of ‘Atlas Shrugs.’)
There are of course others like this. Stephen ‘Vodkapundit’ Green recently issued a rewrite of Reynolds’s statement, and a secret font of the Cartago-delenda-est, look-what-they’re-making-us-do argument toward genocide is science-fiction author Dan Simmons, whose influentia April, 2006 ‘Message from Dan’ was recently scrubbed from his site, but is still available via the magic of Google .
John Podhoretz is higher on the ladder of respectability, but exactly at the margin of civilized discourse — a well-placed pundit (and the groomed-from-childhood son of neocon solon Normon Podhoretz) who wanders off -message in astonishing ways and writes like someone yelling at you on a subway platform. Here’s an ejaculation of his from NRO, concerning whatever the last Star Wars movie was.
(Podhoretz: "Moby Dork," or insert own caption from infinitude crowding all other information from Akashic record.)
Evidently 25 years into the Star Wars empire, George Lucas decided he just doesn’t like war. Now he tells us. The whole confusion is reminiscent of the last Matrix movie, which is all about a noble truce between our heroes and the computers that have been using all of humanity as batteries. So that a few people could survive to have orgies in the underground city of Zion, billions of people had to remain in the Matrix. Inadvertently, both Lucas and the Wachowski brothers (who wrote and directed the Matrix movies) reveal with their brainless anti-Bushism the essential cowardly vapidity of pacifism.
Sharp observers note a pattern in Podhoretz’s weird explosions that has something to do with war, war, hooray! warring, Graah! having wars, and there being lots of wars. Alicublog’s Roy Edroso watches as Podhoretz shakes his head with a wub-wub sound and returns to feigning sanity:
When challenged chapter-and-verse by Star Wars obsessives from the outlands, Podhoretz shrugs and, in the time honored Jonah Goldberg "anyway it’s late and I have to walk the dog" manner, says, "It’s almost impossible to wade through all the nonsense on the Web to get to the bottom of this, and to be perfectly honest, I have no interest in doing so."
Podhoretz is of course currently calling for an attack on the Imperial Matrix Darth Vader of Iran, for the sanest reasons he can muster from day to day. But the real wonderfulness is to be found even deeper in the barrel. Powerline, for instance, is a never-diminishing font of illogic and unreason that perfectly illustrates the thinking, from issue to issue and item to item, of the ‘intellectual’ arm of the Bush personality cult. Townhall.com is a daily cavalcade of C-list semi-professional GOP liars and propagandists, all searching for a politically-correct angle on the daily talking points that their fax machines spit out. Townhall pundits will fumble with three or four ridiculous rationalizations for every one that later makes it into the mainstream press as an ‘official opinion.’ It’s like watching a play in rehearsals.
And then there’s Pastor J. Grant Swank, Jr., Kaye Grogan, Doug Giles, and Marie Jon. If you truly want to know what the credulous mob of conservatives — the core of Bush’s diehard 30% — feels in its bones, and what it’s prepared to believe and say in order to stay true to its autonomic rubber-mallet reflex-notions, Swank is probably your man of first referral — meaning, the worst (and therefore best) conservative writer in America. Swank’s latest call to reason has vanished from the Internet, as seems to happen all too often to the really super-good wingnut pieces, once found by those who can best appreciate them. For this reason, we always save a copy, and indeed here’s an excerpt. (Swank produces up to five column-length pieces per day, so a shortage is not anticipated.)
BOMB IRAN BEFORE. . .
By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Feb 13, 2006
The United States must head off the annihilation of all mankind by Iranian killers. That means bombing Iranian nuclear sites.
If crazed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gets ahead of the freedom game, we’re done in.
Nothing will stop that Allah fanatic from bombing the world. He anticipates the return of his messiah when the world is in flames. This is the first time that a nuclear power has been wedded to a cultic creed. It has to be stopped or there will be no future to the world.
Free people have no other choice right now.
The world peace community has never before been faced with such threats as coming from millions of insane cultic Islamics. They mean business. Obviously with the numerous suicides, they don’t care if they die. Therefore, the Iranian President will doom his own with nuclear destruction in order for his males to inhabit Allah’s eternal orgy. To hell with the females.
And so on, etc. It’s not possible even to skim all of the interesting wingnut spew that comes out every day. And I’m aware of time, now, and of diminishing page-space; so there’s a steeper outramp than I’d otherwise like. This-all, in any case, is why otherwise sane people (and in that I would include myself) would wage war on crackpots and loonies via the Internet to the exclusion of other intellectual interests — of which I’m sure I would otherwise have some. Because, like Bill Cosby always says in that junkyard he hangs out in, with those kids (I think it’s in Philadelphia): If you’re not careful, you might learn something before you’re done.
And as Kaye Grogan always crows, "That’s just my opinion!"
-Gavin M. is the Vyvyan character in the overseas cult sitcom that is Sadly, No!
(Brad R. is Rick; Mike is played by Seb. Now introducing Retardo as Neil.)
Previous posts in the series:
Right Wing Racism: Steve Sailer by Armando
Educating Wolfie by Pam Spaulding
Let’s Go Real Far Right… by Matt Stoller
Tramsmitting Extremism by David Neiwert
The Fork in the Road — The Right and Race Online by Steve Gilliard
Late Night FDL: A Thin Candy-Coat of Legitimacy by TBogg
What Lies Beneath by Matt O.
Breaking The Code by Digby
Racist Crusaders Advocate Holy War: The Connection Between Racism, RedState, and the War on Terror by Red Dan
Matt O. has also been compiling racist quotes from right-wing websites over at The Great Society.