Wednesday, January 10, 2007

David Roberts @ Huffpo nails it

Via Digby, this is just so dead-on:
The '60s counter-culture revolution was deeply, deeply galvanizing for many people. Not so much for the hippies themselves, mind you -- the Boomers transitioned fairly seamlessly into toothless feel-good bromides, middle management, and unrepentant consumerism. No, the real legacy of the 60s/early 70s was to freak out conservatives on a primal, lizard-brain level (see: Nixon, Richard M. and descendants). A 'culture war' was born, broke the surface with the Reagan Revolution, and continues unabated. The ideological messages were simple: socialism is evil, any use of government on behalf of public welfare amounts to socialism, markets rule, aggressive militarism rules, sex is evil, God rules, and above all -- the central governing principle, the North Star, the lodestone -- beware the dirty hippies.

Beware the dirty hippies. They're immature and irresponsible. They're utopians and dreamers. They meddle with lives and hate Christian values and blame America first and root for terrorists. They want free sex and legalized drugs and mandatory abortion. They want to eat your babies. They heart Satan.

This enormous backlash against revolutionary leftism continued growing and gaining strength long after revolutionary leftism petered out as a political force of any real influence.

The narratives and habits of mind bequeathed us by the culture war are with us still, despite the long-ago disappearance of one combatant. It's shadowboxing on a nationwide scale, and it shows no signs of abating.

Any number of examples could be cited. The same dynamic plays out on virtually every issue: there's the virulent far-right position, funded by deep-pocketed reactionaries and pushed by talk radio, an enormous network of mutually reinforcing conservative pundits in every major media outlet, an entire cable news network (three now, really), and numerous powerful politicians in leadership positions in every branch of government. Then there's the avowedly liberal position, represented by some obscure professor or a guy in the comment section of a blog or a random placard at a protest. Then there's the "centrist" position, which is the far-right position with the edges rubbed off.

How does one establish oneself as a "centrist"? Why, by bashing the dirty hippies. After all, if you bash the virulent reactionaries, you're criticizing "real Americans" and the heartland and the baby Jesus. Everybody positions themselves by way of their distance from the -- at this point largely mythical -- dirty hippie. There's no faster route to media exposure for someone on the left that to spend every minute of the day criticizing other people on the left. Mickey Kaus. Joe Klein. Richard Cohen. Joe Lieberman. The list goes on and on.

Nowhere has this dynamic been more clear and more utterly at odds with reality than around the Iraq War. Before the war, there were people who supported war -- both the militarist right and the "liberal hawks" -- and people who opposed war without the U.N.'s imprimatur, i.e., the bulk of the country. The former were "serious" people; the latter were dirty hippies.

Well. We see how the war has gone. It's a cataclysmic disaster by every conceivable metric. The serious people were wrong about everything. Literally everything. The dirty hippies -- the great masses of the public and the very few public figures (Feingold, Gore, Kucinich) who stood with them -- were right. The war went horribly wrong for just the reasons they said it would.

So what's the dynamic now amidst the Beltway chattering classes? Where's the center? Why, it's still in the exact same place! The people who advocated for war, and who advocate for more war, and who were wrong about everything, are still the "serious" people. The people who advocated against this fiasco, and are advocating for ending it, and who were right about everything, are still the dirty hippies who never show up on cable news or in major media op-eds. Expeditious withdrawal is a fringe leftist position, despite being supported by a clear majority of the country.

In other words, the "center" has become utterly detached from facts, substance, or majority opinion. It's an insular, self-sustaining myth, all about the vanity and egos of powerful people in the Beltway clusterfuck. It's about them, their self-flattery, their exclusive club, not Iraq. For a truly parodic example of this dynamic and its incredible staying power, check out Joe Klein's blog post, wherein he informs us that OK, the dirty hippies were right about Iraq, but they still sound silly and their opponents are still more "serious." One can only marvel.

These fools are toxic. I know some here would have us ignore them, but that is an empty gesture. Our little corner soapbox (and I mean not just this blog, but the blogosphere in general) punishes no one with silence -- the Gang of 500 would not go through withdrawal if the dirty hippies stopped throwing rocks at them. Our only (marginally) effective tools are shame and ridicule. The pundit class does hear our footsteps, and we are making them increasingly nervous.

They will be harder to dethrone than even the Republicans were. But most of them are old now -- Broder, Cohen, Greenfield, etc. My guess is that our brickbats will hasten their retirements, at least a little bit. Who knows if their replacements will be any better. Time Magazine's move to give Bill Kristol a column is discouraging. But the soapboxes these gentlemen have relied upon are not as tall as they once were. And us termites continue to gnaw away at what remains.


Blogger RandyH said...

I have to admit, when I read pieces like the one you quoted so generously, I get a bit discouraged and I wonder why we bother with these "Serious People" at all. Then you remind me why we must keep doing it. Thank you for that. Here's a Nick Anderson cartoon from some time back that I really like for some reason.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, a brief review of history. Let’s start where Dave Roberts starts, the sixties. Having been in the thickest of those years, I believe I can claim some weight for my view that is not available to people who are not the right age or were not in the “right” place at the time. The hippie movement was a distraction that was tolerated, perhaps even encouraged, by the powers that be.

The middle class was learning to live its dream after the end of World War II, and with that new life was growing the ability to question the government and ones’ betters (There’s not much point in using “speech” marks around all my sarcasm, so I won’t bother. I’ll just assume you’re almost as smart as I am and can figure out that’s what I’m doing). Some even had the audacity to say no to certain programs or directions coming from the government or the wise ones or the church, school authorities and others. It was in this context, along with the astonishing growth in the military-industrial complex that went largely unnoticed in the rising tide of personal income, that the rich and powerful felt a shiver go up what passes for their spine. It didn’t take much of a cosmopolitan view or much knowledge of history to sense that the workers were about to cause trouble. They wouldn’t actually revolt, because they were getting a fat slice of the pie too, but they would start wanting some say in how the pie was baked and then divided.

So, the children of the middle class took the cue from their parents and started saying things out loud. And the heavens didn’t collapse!! Indeed, I remember a brief period, all too brief, when it seemed the powers that be had paused and might actually be contemplating the possibility of changing courses. I was, of course, much younger and more naïve then. It was SIMPLY A SET UP. The seeming liberal leaders of the times were actually owned outright, but they didn’t necessarily know it. Them as didn’t know their place got told. But, it was in that period before they realized who the boss was that we got to think, for an instant, “Things might actually change.”

The set up was fully and consciously intended by the dark forces. The purpose: to convince those parents, elders, betters, right thinking religious people, chancellors, principle, teachers, police, etc., that freedom was not a good thing. Indeed it was a bad thing. Very bad. You see, the government, in any place on the planet, and in any century, has always known that you need a whipping boy in order to rule effectively. The function of government IS to keep things as they are, with the rich in charge. There is no other historical use of government, other than as manacles. The fully Americanized Japanese in the U.S. were part of that exercise in World War II and now it was the turn of the hippies to be the goat. There must always be something there in order to point at it and yell “Wolf!” or people might begin to suspect that the government WAS the wolf. Even the barest knowledge of history will reveal the whipping boys used by the U.S. over the centuries. Equally, a casual review of the facts will show that those objects of hate, derision, fear, etc., always turned out after the fact to be hollow bogeymen. As Gomer Pyle would say “Surprise, surprise!” We have lots of phrases in English similar to whipping boy and scapegoat. And, most of them are quite old. Why do you suppose such phrases are in modern use?

Dave Roberts, Digby and Blue seem to see the picture clearer than many, but I am still waiting for someone with so-called liberal tendencies to take the final two steps: Evaluate the true effects of sniping from the left, registering to vote, protests about anything (from any political quarter), “working from within to change things” and all of the other proposed slowly-slowly strategies for having an impact on the body politic.

An honest assessment will conclude that strategies which depend on gradual change have NO impact. If one looks at any 15 year period, you will see that all temporary changes “for the better” have been reversed and things have got worse. The contributions of technology over the last sixty years should allow everyone on the face of the planet a life of ease. Obviously that isn’t happening. So where did those profits from our collective ingenuity go? Can it be so hard to figure it out? Anyway, that’s the first of the two final steps. Assess! Coldly, calculatedly, objectively. Who stole my/your future? It wasn’t a lie that we were told in school, about the march of progress; the teachers simply did not understand the real means of governance; keep ‘em barefoot, pregnant and hungry.

Two: evaluate what means could have a REAL impact that is UNLIKELY to be reversed. This is a very difficult job and most people give up here. But then that is the explanation for how the wealth of the planet is continuously squandered while the ordinary person never got anything from it, not even a say in how to use it. By every economic measure, Americans are worse off than they were when the hippies emerged as a possible reasonable response to the unbelievable power of those few in charge. Hippies wanted the distribution to be fairer. That’s all.

In that time there were lots of “hippies” who hadn’t a clue. There were the 95% I have referred to in the past. They simply follow the 5% who get it, or more darkly, the 95% provide cover for the shills of the rich that keep everything in its proper place. Also in that time the CIA owned a large apartment building in Berkeley. Guess what it was used for? Many of the activists were guys getting trained in infiltration, not peaceniks. Surprised? You shouldn’t be since the movement died. But, how did it die? Now I’ve become one of those old people who understands and prays that the young ones will catch on faster. So far, the fertile young minds are still falling for the “work within the system” line, or the “lets get stoned and rave” line. They have about equal impact when it comes to changing things for the better.

The use of gradualism is a standard conservative political technique. There is nothing hidden or surprising about it. The only thing that is surprising is that people never seem to catch on to the proven fact that, as long as change can be slowed it can be managed; i.e. “we, the wealthy, maintain our position, even as things seem to be changing”. Even the dumb rich people understand this idea. They know to just say “Wait.” “No, you won’t have to wait forever, but right now just wait.” The wealthy families have always had the same names. How could that be if any change were taking place? What are we waiting for? So, point two is: create and use new techniques that are really disruptive to gradualism. Do things that will work, NOW! Not to shock per se, but techniques that will work to make more positive changes, which will last longer into in the future. That would be shocking, but shock is not the goal.

The founders of the U.S. understood these issues. Some wrote that absent a revolution every ten years, and then they clarified what they meant by saying absent a BLOODY revolution every ten years, the people will have lost and things will be as before when King George (the British one) ruled. Certainly each person must explore his or her own path to find the enlightenment necessary to do what still hasn’t been done 200 plus years after the last bloody revolution. But that exploration must be done or all of the other efforts are simply a waste. Believe me, the bloggers and the terrorists, the muslims, the abortionists, and on and on, are just a distraction. They are the whipping boys or scarecrows of the hour. They are only allowed to exist to keep the 95 % headed in the other direction from reality. But, of course, now we are back to point 1: evaluate the (in)effectiveness of the techniques used to date. Just don’t forget about point 2: invent and employ disruption. Do you believe that V for Vendetta is so popular solely because it’s titillating, or does it speak to your common sense?


4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedom may be a health hazard: report
Sydney Morning Herald - 9 hours ago
LOS ANGELES: Newly released prison inmates are more than 12 times as likely to die from a drug overdose during their first two weeks of freedom as the general population, a study has found.


2:57 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...


I don't have time to fully respond, but if you are saying that the Overlords planned the 60's counterculture and controlled it, well, that's where I climb off. I was around then, though too young to really participate. But I do know that what happened in the U.S. was also happening in lots of other places around the world (especially Western Europe). And calling the almost global unrest of the 1960s the product of a conspiracy strikes me as giving far too much credit where random forces and atomistic self-interest will do -- Occam's Razor and all.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I didn't and surely wouldn’t suggest that THEY were so foresightful or planful, smart, sensitive or that they possessed any other extreme quality. Not in their nature. And, I surely didn’t mean to be obscure, so I’ll try it again – shorter and more direct.

The rich do not stay in power by being smarter or more deserving. Do not, are not. But they, the same ones, the same families, the same groups keep right on running things, in spite of multiple, huge cluster-fuckups on their part. So far I think you agree. THE question I was hoping you would contemplate is HOW. If you don’t know how, if you don’t know what even stupid George W Fuckup knows, then you will never change things in a meaningful way. How? What can be taught to fuckups that lets them stay in power, century after century, without requiring them to be prescient in the least? No brains required. No master plan. Just a good working model and the certainty that they are right.

Planned the sixties? No. Controlled it? You bet your fucking ass. How did we go from a mind boggling expose of much (certainly not all) that was wrong in the heavens, in politics, in the morals of the day, in the “superior” knowledge of the authorities and their ability to make “good” decisions for us, only to wind up where we are now – with the pooch really truly screwed so bad that no one seems to be willing to see it, never mind say it, and don’t even think about acting on it? The American people are shitting their pants, trying not to offend anyone and just hope they can make it to the end of their lives. And they don’t see the cosmic joke in that at all.

Sorry, I promised to be shorter. To wit: if you don’t know how it really works, you can’t break it, you can’t fix it and you sure as hell can’t change it. What is the purpose of your news reading, comments, essays and other intellectual ruminations if you don’t try to measure your progress? What I’ve been writing about right along is HARD. It is the hardest thing I have ever come across. IT is seeing the truth without flinching. You keep ducking. Try again. I am for you, but you have to want it bad or you’ll never get there. If you, John, can’t work it out, there’s little hope for the rest to get it. That IS a compliment and a reprimand. There must be a 5% to lead the rest. Stop farting around.


6:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

see web stats