Wednesday, April 1

Echo Chamber

WE'RE always a day behind on Daily Show/Colbert viewing around here; the first run is on too late for my Poor Wife, especially for the nine months of the year that Indiana is on Newfoundland Time, plus she's a read-until-lights-out type. So it was yesterday evening when we saw Monday's quickie Colbert appearance of Slate's Emily Yoffe, erstwhile global climate change denier, now the world's leading non-expert authority on a psychological disorder that doesn't exist*.

And I'm reasonably sure it was Emily Yoffe, because we've been watching old Larry Sanders Shows recently, and Mimi Rogers is much better at faking sincerity. And I don't think Scientologists go around touting psychological disorders, even the risible or indefensible. But it might have been. Both women have that hyperthyroid stare and pasted-on public smile, either of which taken alone is more disturbing than a little narcissism, and which manage to escape the easy public opprobrium of professional yentas by merest historical chance: because Phrenology, Mesmerism, and Anthropometrics evolved into the study of emotional traits instead of physical features. I don't want to get into a long historical discussion here, so let's just say the money was better, and it's proven slightly more difficult to laugh off.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder! I suppose we should be grateful that it's difficult nowadays for these people to get a license to hack the offending area of the brain loose and suction it out through the nose, or hook the afflicted up via jumper cables to old Army field telephones. NPD--of course it's a fucking acronym--was added to the Psychological Liturgical Calendar in 1980. Before that we had to make do with saying, "Jeez, she's stuck up!" or "Boy, what an asshole!" Another sparkling example of how modern psychology, like the old Soviet system, solves problems you wouldn't have otherwise.

And 1980 does not really come as a surprise to us, since contemporary psychology and Reaganism go together like Pam Anderson and Whatever Loud and Talentless Tattoo Model She's Presently Dating. Prior to Reagan, psychology was just about at the point of admitting that the two things it did well--the two things it did at all--namely, running behavior tests on captive college freshmen and keeping people locked up indefinitely, with or without trial, were really of use only to the people who periodically re-wrote entry-level college psychology texts.

Yes, it was a great time to combine Authoritarianism, Small-Town Snoopery, and a supple and utterly valueless willingness to trumpet any sort of public behavior that promised to put you back in the majority. It was in the 1980s that we decided that the sort of people who might actually benefit in some way from the machinations of modern psychology would actually be even better off turned loose on the streets to fend for themselves. This was, I think, merely fortuitous, in that the Reagan administration was just trying to trim the books of any federal spending that appeared to help people who weren't donors. This was also the time when we expanded the disposable incomes of the well-off, and convinced them via Public Service Announcement that their surly teenagers were like two fried eggs on drugs. This fortunately kept us from having a lot of spare psychologists hanging around with nothing to do, and over the past twenty-five years has made Making Young People Less Inconvenient a growth industry to match Producing Unarmored Combat Vehicles, Unfettered Near-Banking, and Herbal Supplement Informercials.

But the thing that got to me about Ms Yoffe's reverse-Scientologist performance Monday night was the urgency with which she pushed John Edwards as the poster-boy for this pseudo-disorder. He outed himself by having an affair! she insisted, before babbling on about his hair-combing proclivities. The Slate piece goes even deeper into non-clinical diagnosis by rank amateur:
John Edwards outed himself as one when forced to confess an adulterous affair. (Given his comical vanity, the deceitful way he used his marriage for his advancement, and his self-elevation as an embodiment of the common man while living in a house the size of an arena, it sounds like a pretty good diagnosis.)

Yes, yes it does, and I'd like to offer my congratulations, except you just congratulated yourself enough for both of us, and the rest of the globe.

Lessee, we've got A) inability to distinguish the trivial from the serious; B) willingness to swallow silly propaganda pieces provided they reinforce your own point of view; and C) spouting Class Traitor nonsense that doesn't survive a minute's reflection. Is "Journalist" an analytical category yet?

So we've turned to Yoffe's actual piece while our concern over whether a Colbert booker got fired over her appearance is still fresh. And there's Edwards, still being pushed to the fore, still having his marriage analyzed by long distance by a careerist scrivener who's never met him or his wife, whose diagnosis is confirmed by the subject himself, which seems a smidge self-defeating, if not a confirmation of the whole thing as a sort of late-20th century materialist version of a round of slumber-party OUIJA. And that paragraph ends with the classic philosophical conundrum:
And what other malady could explain the simultaneous phenomena of Blago and the Octomom?

To which we are brave and ignorant enough to answer, well, that might depend on if you mean "Blago" and "Octomom" personally, or the massively stupid fifteen minute's entertainment either provided the easily amused. But in either case we'd like to offer the possibility of "Stupidity", "Venality", and "News coverage that unceasingly dives for the Bottom while the Bottom unceasingly recedes". There. Didn't have to pretend I knew what made either of 'em tick, didn't have to pretend I gave a shit anyway, and didn't have to read any pop psychology texts.

A small theme has developed; let's count the politicians who get mentioned here, and ignore, for the moment, the fictional characters from The Sopranos, The Wizard of Oz, and The Wall Street Journal. Edwards the Poster Boy. Blago the Hairdo. Ah-nuld the Insufficient Budget Squeezer. And, of course--surely you didn't imagine otherwise?--Clinton the Dick.

It's interesting: we start off using this junior-high analytical category on Wall Street, but that disappears before the opening paragraph is over. Then we bring in four politicians, none of whom has any noteworthy connection to, or power over, the economic meltdown--except the one who's being blamed for the perpetual constitutional and crackpot tax-cutting religious parties cluster-fuck that is California's--and we haply have some Op-Ed guy from the Wall Street Journal and Dr. Chuckles Merkwürdigeliebe Krauthammer standing by to help with the sidewalk psychoanalysis. Not a mention of the major political party which turned the Myth of Narcissus into a parable for Eternal Economic Reflected Sunshine. Hmmmm. Though now that I think about it, it is damn near impossible to find a single Republican who fits the bill, aside from that guy in Cali they elected without realizing his was quoting from his own movies.

For that matter, nothing about Botox and Boob Lifts, nothing about Religion, nothing about People Who Pretend Expertise Where There Is None Just To Get On Teevee. Hardly surprising. Hey, Ms Yoffe: I promise not to analyze your marriage via the aether if you'll promise to publish an honest photo of your shoe closet.

* or does, but fuck it; these are the people who told me, as a youth, that "while Marihuana is not physically addicting, it is psychologically addicting," Psychological Addiction being a category unknown until the previous Marihuana is Addicting business had proven, oh,absolute bullshit is the scientific term, I think, and carrying all the philosophical weight of any other concept made up on the spot to cover Your Venal Lying Ass. These same people will be happy to tell you that You Like Sex Too Much, provided you've demonstrated a willingness to be gulled that completely. It is probably true that a large number of people consumed by "narcissist tendencies" have some difficulty maneuvering through Life, in no small part because such maneuvering generally includes pleasing some employer or other supervisor who's at least as narcissistic as you. We note that this is also the case with people who are inordinately fond of Twinkies, or Jesus, and nobody ever suggests that Haley Barbour would be President otherwise.


arghous said...

One of your better pieces. So far, all they've got is 'Obama the Naïve Teleprompter Reader', which is still too long for their AADD (which is itself more a manifestation of self-induced OCD dumbing down than anything non-psychosomatic). But they'll find something shorter someday, oh, yes, they'll find something shorter.

Anonymous said...

(1) Merkwürdigeliebe? not in wikipedia, not in german-english dictionary which contains 220,000words. Are you some kind of crazy Lacanesque Prussian professor making up more & more arcane German neologisms to prove your vocab is lengthier than mine?

(2) psychologically addicting hahahahahahahahahahaheehee I forgot about that ploy. You recponnected some disheveled synapses with that remembrance, for which in my gratitude i forgive your Merkwürdigeliebeocious tendencies.

aloha mein fuhrer


Kia said...

More power to you for getting through that piece. I got as far as John Edwards and the complete disappearance of the subject that was supposedly the occasion for the piece, and felt a sort of suffocating feeling.

Hairless in Gaza said...

Patience... we have only just begun to explore the theme of "How Thoroughly Craptastic the Reagan Era Was For People Who Weren't Wall Street Executives, Government Contractors, or Retired." There is much, much to cover!

Penh said...

Come now, everyone knows Merkwürdigeliebe is Dr. Strangelove's pre-immigration name.

peorgie tirebiter said...


I fail to see why you don't average at least 20 comments per post. I guess word hasn't got around.