When I was a kid, rumor had it that “antidisestablishmentarianism” was the longest word in the English language. I actually looked it up once, and discovered it had something to do with the status of the Church of England — which sort of took the fun out of the word. But in college, I decided I liked the idea of defending the establishment against those who sought to disestablish it.
Yeah, I understand they're still buzzing about it on Hahvahd Yahd.
Hey, as someone who deals with the realities of dementia, I'm happy to put politics aside and cheer the fact that Bill "I Was Too Young For Vietnam" Kristol is getting some of his memory of those years back. And I'm accustomed to the fact that such will be largely selective.
I didn't go to Harvard in 1970; I went to a large Midwestern state school in a small Midwestern state in 1972. And, lemme tell ya, the Antiestablishment Circus had definitely pulled up stakes and moved on, by that point, replaced by the Fifties except with patched clothing and hash oil. Indiana was the hotbed of campus radicalism among the state's colleges in the 60s. It was also the home of Emmett Tyrrell, who, by the time I got there five years later, had turned The Alternative, which eventually became The Spectator, into a tidy little tax-exempt electric milking machine for various right-wing cash cows. (Emmett was viewed, more or less affectionately, and more or less correctly, as the crazed grad student who'd never finish his dissertation, and a man whose Problem was Obvious; the people I knew who read him eagerly did so the way someone else might attend really bad movies. None of us could have anticipated that within fifteen years the culture at large would be unable to tell the difference. Anyway, it came as no surprise, really, to anybody who Knew Him When that his empire fell through an obsession with someone else's blowjob.)
The point is, however radical the student body of Harvard in the early 70s, it's unlikely to have anti-radicalized Trust Fund Billy, and he and his old Collegiate School tie no doubt found space at table with like-minded individuals, instead of having to wait until after dark to make a dash for a nearby snack machine. It gave him cover to be an asshole, is what, and it's doubtful he had any more contact with Anti-Establishment types in his college days than he does with Politically-Correct Academic Feminist Professors now. The jab-it-in-your-eye Republican mentality dates to this period; we're grateful that Mr. Kristol's brief flash of memory illuminates it, since we've frequently pointed it out and occasionally speculated about the massive frustration of the teenaged libido which finds itself on the wrong end of trendiness, or time and mores, or simple personal agreeableness and sexual attractiveness. Thanks, Bill.
And while we appreciate the invite, we're sorry to pull back the aluminum foil to reveal we've brought the same old green bean casserole along for pitch-in. The really remarkable thing in all of this is that You, Bill (aggressive brown-shoe Square), David Brooks (burgeoning hip-to-be-square Reaganaut), or you pick-em from the post-Reagan generation of partisan Screamers (see Corner, The) have precisely the same bio despite shifting cultural climates; you all bravely stared down a madding crowd of college Marxists. And you all reach middle age somehow without ever picking up on the fact that that's almost everyone's bio, except generally without the faux-Burkean conversion in the epilogue. College is the time when most people collide with the fact that other people disagree with them, and frequently for pretty good reasons they're able to defend, not because they're members of a differing high school clique. We just find it more than a little odd that "conservatives" are the only people you find still crowing about it in their forties and fifties, still convinced that everyone else is the grain, and they're the world's only crosscut saw blade. (We might add--what's a green bean casserole without the dried onions?--that people who don't pick up on this through the Socratic method in college generally do so through dating. Just sayin'.)
If it's curious that this sort of, oh, oversight turns up so regularly among the punditocracy of the Right, we might at least have excused it as part of the "Conservative" Personality Inventory if it weren't for the Bush Administration, when the philosophical underpinnings of Cultivated Wingnuttery washed away like Nawlins' Ninth Ward. How does one explain Billy "Whaddya Got?" Kristol shilling for Change, and finding it in the welcome relief promised by the...McCain/Palin ticket?
John McCain wasn’t on particularly good terms with either the G.O.P. establishment or the leaders of the conservative movement — yet he won. He then put on a Republican convention that barely acknowledged the existence of the current Republican administration.
And he chose as his running mate Sarah Palin, one of the least-known outsiders to be picked in modern times, and the first woman on a Republican ticket.
This in turn sent other establishments into a frenzy.
Sing along with me, won't you? Everybody knows the words: The Media Establishment! The Democratic Establishment! The Academic Establishment!
ABC’s Charlie Gibson, one of the most civil of the media bigwigs, unable to help himself from condescending to Palin as if he were a senior professor forced to waste time administering a Ph.D. exam to a particularly unpromising graduate student.
Ph.D? Ph.D.? Get Councilwoman Palin on the phone right now--I'm sure you know where they're hiding her today, right Bill?--and let's ask her how "Ph.D." is abbreviated. Ph.D. my Aunt-fuckin'-Fanny. Gibson looked like an overworked high school English teacher forced to grant an audition interview to a forty-something GED candidate who wanted in his creative writing course on the basis of her execrable doggerel, in peacock blue ink with all the "i"s dotted with circles, and which she couldn't even manage to pass off as sincere. Call it what it is. I'm no fan of Charlie Gibson, a daytime chat host blown up, in the parlance of the Sweet Science, to a heavyweight, and who continues to flourish--wasn't he supposed to be the interim anchor?--because the division is full of bums. What th' fuck did you expect him to do--make allowances? I think the fact that he didn't do any spit takes shows remarkable restraint, or else an amazing level of cynicism about the political process. You've had your fucking chance with a half-witted Christianist in the White House. Would that Gibson hadn't resorted to the Bush Doctrine semi-gotcha--it was only a gotcha because of Palin's incompetence, and she should have claimed ignorance as a matter of Youthful Indescretion--and had instead pounded her on the issues, and on the Pentacost. She'd have looked much, much worse. Would that he'd have done the same with Barack Obama, instead of dithering about lapel pins and babbling about inheritance taxes in the midst of a Republican-engineered financial meltdown. It's the Media Establishment we've got, and that's largely thanks to the constant shit-stirring from your side over the past forty years. A real journalist would have incinerated her.
As for real university professors, especially the academic-feminist establishment, they’re even more upset. Wendy Doniger of the University of Chicago’s Divinity School wrote last Tuesday of Palin: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican Party’s cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working-class women.”
Bill Kristol: the anti-anti-establishment figure who's been bedeviling the politically-correct feminist academic Establishment since he entered Harvard in 1970. Or maybe we should make that 1972, when Harvard first admitted women. Or...
But then Palin is much beloved in the "real" country, the one unintelligible to university academics but understood pulse-perfectly by the likes of Beltway Billy. And we know this because the Religious Right, which Kristol fingers somewhere other than the pulse point, just loves her, and they're all for Change, aren't they?
“Guns, God, Lipstick”? This is what feminism has come to? One can only imagine how many feminist comp lit professors are walking around campus, muttering to themselves the lines from T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all.”
Just as one can only marvel at how many Republicans admire Change now that Change is in bloom.
The politically correct wing of the academic establishment suffered a jolt last week as well, when McCain and Obama, at a national service forum at Columbia, both urged Columbia to invite R.O.T.C. back to its campus.
Either my foundation is settling, or that's what it feels like to live through a Youthquake! Clip that out and take it with you to the Post Office. I've lost track of what stamps cost, but 50¢ oughta cover it.
It’s past time for such an antiestablishment awakening. If it goes too far, though, I of course reserve the right to become an antidisestablishmentarian again.
The nations tremble, Bill. Tremble.