Saturday, March 6

Okay, Brooks, The Genie Grants You One Wish: Hippie For A Night Circa 1967, Or Teabagger Backstage At A Lee Greenwood Show. You Have Five Seconds.

David Brooks, "The Wal-Mart Hippies". March 4

I'M not sure which it is. For one thing, I'm so old now that I've long-since dealt with the dealing with the middle-aged (for me) recognition that Freud was, if anything, a hopeless optimist (and that, whatever else was wrong with that 30-volume fairy tale he spent his life on, it wasn't the Theory that Zum Dickvads neffer git ofer ze potty training). The fact that a goodly proportion of people on any given bus would lie to you, outright and without the barest hope of surviving minimal scrutiny, and just for the exercise, I learned so long ago that I don't remember exactly which junior high school girl gave me my first lesson. And that, of course, is just the amateurs.

On the other hand, even the withered charlatan observer of today's Wal*Mart of Ideas has to ask himself whether these time-honored behaviors really have increased exponentially over the past three decades, as it appears, or whether this is just an artifact of not confining one's time and attention to the Sane, Rational, or the Mildly Interesting, coupled with the de-advancement of communications technology. And no, we do not mean "Mildly Interesting" as in "it's mildly interesting that a sniveling, talentless, careerist hack gets a prime spot on the Op-Ed page".

(Brooks was pretty damned painful on Colbert this week, for that matter, something that wasn't helped by Stephen choosing to play up Brooks' "moderate" credentials. For some reason this must have appeared, if not Comedy Gold, perhaps the one way to get Brooks to play it straight. This failed miserably, of course, merely encouraging Brooks to join in the quipping contest, with increasingly dismal result. If that was the idea it was a complete misreading. Treating Brooks as though he is, rather than plays, a "moderate conservative" just puts him in his element, which is nowhere you want to be if your purpose is entertainment. Or information, but that's another matter. It was like having Foster Brooks as your guest, and warning the audience beforehand that you saw him backstage, and he might be a little inebriated. I suppose there's no chance at this point that Brooks will ever stop simpering--maybe it's the most natural thing there is about him; I don't know--which just highlights his passive-aggressive faux-moderate routine in a way that reminds you that some kids on the playground deserve to get picked on. Brooks doesn't just deserve a punch in the nose; he'd be improved by one, by the taste of his own blood in his mouth. He waltzes unscathed through the Newshour; he gets to write about how "serious" Afghanistan had become seven years after he'd been the worst whooping warflogger in print, the pep band kid taunting the losing football opponent from row 27, in between hits on his asthma inhaler. Honestly, Brooks doesn't deserve the Pass, and god knows phony "moderate conservatism" doesn't. )

Everybody know about this POS by now? Teabaggers are just like Hippies--I mean the New Left--because they don't like The Establishment and their tailors are de trop. Hating the Establishment, to Brooks, is the same thing as not knowing the Establishment, which he's sure they'd love if someone could just teach 'em enough manners that they could be invited to the Hamptons for the weekend.
There are many differences between the New Left and the Tea Partiers. One was on the left, the other is on the right. One was bohemian, the other is bourgeois. One was motivated by war, and the other is motivated by runaway federal spending.

Y'know, Dave, the anti-war movement opposed Vietnam when a Democrat was running things, and then when a Republican-Psychopath was. When the Teabaggers demonstrate their opposition to federal spending of whatever stripe, while Bush III is running it, not after he's become a liability to Their Side, then the similarities will be more striking than the differences.
One went to Woodstock, the other is more likely to go to Wal-Mart.
One wore Tea Shades; the other carries Tea Bags. One failed Drug Tests; the other passes Purity Tests. One "grooved" on "Free Love"; the other is a collection of knuckle-walking Troglodytes with handguns in place of penises. Thanks, I'm here all week.
But the similarities are more striking than the differences. To start with, the Tea Partiers have adopted the tactics of the New Left. They go in for street theater, mass rallies, marches and extreme statements that are designed to shock polite society out of its stupor. This mimicry is no accident. Dick Armey, one of the spokesmen for the Tea Party movement, recently praised the methods of Saul Alinsky, the leading tactician of the New Left.

Okay, one: if there was some way to put Dick Armey, Dick Cheney, and Phil Gramm in a cage and determine who was the biggest lying shitbag, preferably involving the death of the other two, who would you bet on? How would anybody handicap that? Two: I keep hoping someone with the rights to the Alinsky estate will pull a Graceland™, and start suing every goddam wingnut who mentions him for copyright infringement. Seems like poetic justice.

But mostly this: that "extreme statements designed to shock". This is how the "moderate" Republican chooses to portray the ill- negatively-informed gun-tottin' chuckleheads who've overrun his party after they spent twenty years as sure votes and credulous consumers. They're performance artists, is what. It's like guerilla theatre, except in place of Left wing politics you have utter cluelessness, marching orders taken from disingenuous loons on th' teevee, and a belief that Barack Obama is the Kenyan Hitler. Seems like a reasonable comparison.

And look, I understand why Brooks, like Douthat, feels really threatened, in a way he didn't when the purest eight-year test of an ideology in the nation's history--that's Mr. Brooks' ideology, as well as Mr. Friedman's, Mr. Reagan's, and Mr. Bush's--produced, well, the most colossal disaster in the nation's history. What I don't understand is, after Bush II cemented the final nail in the coffin of foreverness, who th' fuck is supposed to be listening, aside from the other shit-scared plutocrats who suddenly found out they're the bottoms?

IS there anything else in American cultural or political life to which Brooks affords this sort of innate seriousness? Certainly nothing on the Left has ever been entitled to it, unless he's doing one of those periodic "I read in Psychology Today pieces that explain why the Left is still wrong even if it is right" pieces. (Because "Conservatism" has its finger on the Truth about Human Nature, y'know. Sorry to give away the ending.)
These days the same people who are buying Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals” on Amazon.com are, according to the company’s software, also buying books like [blah blah blah blah Hillary Clinton George Soros blah blah blah]. Those last two books were written by David Horowitz, who was a leading New Left polemicist in the 1960s and is now a leading polemicist on the right.

Which goes to prove that the laws in the US governing the public use of "leading polemicist" are the same ones governing the use of "North Atlantic Cod".
But the core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it.

I will give the man his due: Brooks gets more out of a Cliff Notes tour of PoliSci 101 than any other Canadian-born practitioner of Right Wing Satyagraha* living or dead.
Because of this assumption, members of both movements go in big for conspiracy theories. The ’60s left developed elaborate theories of how world history was being manipulated by shadowy corporatist/imperialist networks — theories that live on in the works of Noam Chomsky.

Teabaggers have Ideas, however misguided; towering Left-wing intellectuals have theories. And outdated ones at that. And you just know Brooks was smiling that Retirement Community Salesman's smile when he typed it.
In its short life, the Tea Party movement has developed a dizzying array of conspiracy theories involving the Fed, the F.B.I., the big banks and corporations and black helicopters.

One: like those theories aren't the goddam building materials the Republican sump pump was constructed of fifty years ago. Two: like no sane person could imagine the Fed, the major investment banks, and Trans-Global Multi-Mega Butt Rape & Associates could possibly be involved in any shenanigans.
Because of this assumption, members of the Tea Party right, like the members of the New Left, spend a lot of time worrying about being co-opted. They worry that the corrupt forces of the establishment are perpetually trying to infiltrate the purity of their ranks.

So neither of 'em wanted you? We know. You wanted to go skinny-dipping with that hippie chick in '77, but Mater insisted you get home by 3:45 sharp, and, besides, she went with that Senior with the unicorn mural on his van. Let's move on.
Because of this assumption, members of both movements have a problem with authority.

And again, just like that problem with federal spending run amok, I'll believe this when the Teabaggers have a problem with authority being exercised over other people, not just themselves, their penis substitutes, and the corporations they admire.
Recently a piece in Salon astutely compared Glenn Beck to Abbie Hoffman

Zzzt…wha? Sorry, I must've dozed off there. Nothin' like getting the definitive history from some other guy who wasn't there, and you know you can trust a capsule biography of Abbie Fucking Hoffman written by some "Centrist" sinecure with a chip on his shoulder about the battle over Western Civ at Stanford. (And who, into the bargain, lets us know that this sort of lunacy associated with liberalism is why decent, middle-of-the-road Americans [such as, uh, himself] were drawn to the intellectual model of the Republican party, once William of Buckley slew the Birchers. In other words, he chose his political affiliation by the same method normal men use to choose the width of their ties or the style of their sunglasses. And we are not just supposed to understand this. We're supposed to fucking applaud it.)

Okay, fine. It doesn't deserve it, but let's just answer this. Hoffman was a huckster. Beck is a prostitute. Hoffman was a witty and occasionally wise one; Beck is a particularly shameless and successful one. I got to the party late, m'self, but I knew people who were in Lincoln Park in '68, and people whose politics were leftward of Tom Hayden, and I never knew anyone who claimed Hoffman (let alone Jane Fonda), as an inspiration, and certainly not a "leader". The only person I knew who owned Steal This Book was a steel-town trades union socialist who had, in fact, stolen it, or so he said. If I go to Barnes & Noble right this minute I'll find four feet of Beck's pickled puss staring back at me in the Current Events section, and if I follow the first person who buys one and engage him in a political conversation I guarantee 90% of what comes out of his mouth will be a Telephone game away from directly quoting the Big Man or his henchliars on FOX. And the length of time required to elicit either a racist remark, or some snopes-worthy lunacy, assuming I try, will be measured in seconds, not minutes, extrapolating from the ones I happen to know. The most doctrinaire Marxist of the New Left era may have been wrong, wrongheaded, or a terminal prevaricator, but the thing he couldn't be is smugly cocooned inside his own alternative reality. He didn't have the luxury. He trucked through a country where he and his kind were The Enemy. Your Teabagger, product of three decades of Reagan On The Fifty and fingers in the ears whenever the Impure were speaking, imagines himself to be The Real America.

And you Reagantots believe this because it was force-fed you in infancy, and because you never bothered to distinguish between what you were told and the motives behind the telling. Like Randianism, this sort of thing can be excused through age twenty-two or so, for late bloomers, but no further. To suggest, in middle age and after most of the dust has settled, that Buckley and Goldwater are not forever tainted by a racism too vile to be excused even by the standards of their own day, or that the baldfaced history of the United States propping up European colonialism throughout the 20th century, or its willingness to use nuclear proliferation and nuclear brinkmanship to further economic aims, which were then divorced by Buckley/Goldreagan from benefitting 95% of Americans even economically is somehow beneath your notice because Abbie Hoffman wore shirts you wouldn't be caught dead in, is simply inexcusable. Even, or especially, for paid mouthpieces.

Sure, sure, it's the nature of the beast that you'll say anything to maintain the illusion that the people in power are doing your bidding. Might be worth a whirl or two around the dance floor, except it follows the pure and pervasive Goat Fuck of the past decade. (Not that I'm suggesting anyone needed to wait for the Bush-Cheney administration for an empirical test; it's just that thanks to the last administration, and Goldman Sachs, the Emperor's been caught on tape, tried, convicted and sentenced for Public Nudity.) It's just a mite curious how this "philosophy" predicated on Original Sin seems to be blind in one eye. Your vision's 20/20 when it comes to the Unintended Consequences of liberalism, but call up the results of unbridled capitalism and you can't see the blackboard. You're wise enough to lecture Teabaggers on their theological error, but too incurious to note the contribution of multiple wars and trillions in unnecessary military gizmos and axiomatic overkill to the National Debt. There was a time this Reagan worship was just a maddening tic of the improperly toilet trained. Today, with a cesspool the size of ten S&L scandals, and two more Vietnam-like defeats--two you keep insisting are successes so long as you say so, the way an earlier seraglio of warfloggers insisted we didn't lose Vietnam, we weren't allowed to win! later, revised for the next generation of indifferent student, as forced to pull out just when we were winning!--none of which can be blamed on Abbie Hoffman's bell bottoms, in which you have both feet planted up to the neck, it is simply contemptible. The Teabaggers are yours, in a very real sense, not the sense in which political opponents and conniving Scoop Jackson Democrats pinned the Hoffman on the Donkey. There's nothing at a Teabagger rally that Ronald Reagan wouldn't or didn't campaign on, though he, like you, would have scrupled at drawing Hitler mustaches on Obama in the daylight. Teabaggers embarrass you, now? Pity they didn't when you thought you owned their votes. Pity no one taught you, back when all that PolySci bushwa got caught permanently in your brain, that the one and only solution for being covered in shit is coming clean.

________________

* Right Wing Satyagraha differs from its better-known progenitor in that the practitioner vows to abstain from practicing violence himself, though he's free to encourage, cajole, or demand that others take care of it for him.

11 comments:

Blisterão said...

Shorter comment: What the hell are "tea shades?"

Some time along 1968 or so I was enjoying one of the better Berkeley street demonstrations-- it was part of the "People's Park" series, which was centered around a patch of dirt off Telegraph Avenue that the university wanted to build on, so street people planted carrots in it and took the two-by-fours lying around and nailed them together in forms reminiscent of playground equipment. The White Racist Power Structure threw up a chain-link fence around the new park, and threatened to wipe it off the face of Berkeley.

Naturally the street people rioted and pulled down the fence, and the university kids stood a few rows back and objected sonorously, and the Power Structure brought in the Blue Meanies, which were Alameda County sheriff's deputies dressed in blue jump-suits, and one of the Meanies loaded buckshot into his 870 and murdered a kid, James Rector, for standing on a rooftop along their line of march. In balanced documentaries about that era you can hear Reagan pal Ed Meese explaining that Rector must have been some sort of Bolshevik who deserved it.

This started a general shitstorm. The next appropriate night everyone went ape-shit-- fraternity boys with short haircuts stoned police cars with the athletic grace of water-polo champions, Ghetto kids from Oakland came up to get in on the action, and sweetly-scented young girls from Walnut Creek and Los Altos Hills, and a Berkeley High kid hit a highway patrolman with a molotov cocktail and burned up his uniform pants.

That first night soon after the highway patrolman was burned I see a clot of serious guys with lots of political buttons arguing at Bancroft and Telly, two or three blocks up the street from the concentrated action, and recognized them as guys that Time Magazine would call protest leaders. One of the guys was a kid I'd known a year or two earlier at UC Riverside, Carl Wood, who was a genuine Communist, the son of actual 1930's CP member parents.

Carl, who is an old man now and was recently elected to the state assembly out of Riverside, you could google him, said that when "the Masses are moving like this" he didn't want to lose the initiative. But some of the others were counseling restraint, advising that the troops be pulled back. It's not clear whether they had conned Time Magazine, or Time Magazine had conned them, but these characters were talking as if they really were leaders and had a comic-book-hero influence on the frat kids and dopers throwing rocks at cops.

I like to think that Horowitz was among them, as clueless then as he is now, because he is a guy who seems willing to take these non-existent tides of men in hand and write his will across the sky in stars, if only he wasn't such a dipshit.

You're correct that the dilemmas or occurrences requiring remediation that were addressed by the DFH of the '60's were more awsome and based more in reality than anything imaginable by poor saps like Brooks who grew up thinking that Ronald Reagan was something more than a nasty clown with shaved armpits. But it could be noted there's nothing historically exceptional about a guy like Brooks. Guys like Brooks were hopping around like new frogs all over the '60's, and they'll be around in 2060.

With luck there will be someone like you around to put it in perspective.

Rugosa said...

I don't know why I read Brooks, unless that getting mad is a good way to get an adrenaline rush and sort of clean out the mental crud. The Dirty Hippies of the 60s were inspired by a war fed by an unfair draft that could get them or their loved ones killed. The Tea Partiers are inspired by fear of paying their fair share of taxes that supply them with highways and other benefits of civilization, including Medicare. I think the corporate fat cats are laughing their asses off at the fools who think government regulation is a greater threat to their "freedom" than unfettered capitalism.

Christopher said...

Brooks:The New Left then, like the Tea Partiers now, had a legitimate point about the failure of the ruling class. But they ruined it through their own imprudence, self-righteousness and naïve radicalism.

Meaning... what? Name something great that was ruined by hippies.

I love that, 40 years later, any pin-head can huck rocks at the hippies without having to justify himself in any way. It's just self-evident that the hippies ruined EVERYTHING.

Also, he quoted Rousseau! He MUST be an intellectual!

R. Porrofatto said...

Ahh, sweet relief, blessed be thy name Doghouse. Your title made me instantly think of Lenny Bruce's Lena Horne/Kate Smith question, another dilemma for our boy Brooks. Bravo.

More than anything else, what aggravates me most about Brooks is that he's just so relentlessly full of shit. Keerist, you can't even make it though the four words of his title here without stepping in it. Walmart hippies? According to this CNN poll, his precious upscale white Republican Teabobos won't be found anywhere near a Walmart unless it's within proximity of a Mr. Knickers Golf Boutique. And if he must compare them to a group from the 60's, his Teabuggers are a whole lot closer in "core commonality" to the Wallace/LeMay American Independence Party than Abbie Hoffman & the Yippies (who, typical of these diatribes, apparently made up the entirety of The Left back then, along with the Manson Family).

If nothing else, we've learned a new euphemism for "fucking shithead", which makes Brooks another leading polemicist, too...well, more properly "misleading," but the shithead part still works as is.

Dr. Harl Delos said...

Brooks doesn't seem to understand that the Teabaggers are the New Confederacy.

There are all sorts of debates as to whether the Civil War was fought over slavery, or over states' rights. The reason those debates were never resolved is that the "slavery" crowd never understood why it was fought about slavery.

Nobody really gave a hoot about the slaves. It was that northerners wanted a level playing field, economically, thinking that slavery gave the south a significant step up. Nobody thought about the fact that a wage slave is RIFfed or just plain fired when he is injured, or ill, or there is an exonomic downturn, while southerners had to keep supporting slaves under those conditions, because otherwise, they'd lose a big investment.

The teabaggers are POed because government seems rigged against them, that they face 30% unemployment, while it's 1.5% unemployment for those in the $150+ income range, that they have to pay taxes to support both the impoverished and to give big tax breaks to the wealthy.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, I'm POed, too. I'm gonna go make myself an iced tea, and then I'll be back to write more.

fursocke. Fercryingoutloud.

Fiddlin' Bill said...

This one is for the ages. Thank you!--Fiddlin' Bill

Anonymous said...

Nice way to wake up today. Thanks, DHR.

Doghouse Riley said...

Maybe I made this up, but I remember it coming from the sainted Hunter S.: "tea shades" were the sunglasses you wore to hide a bad case of reefer-induced red eye. And it wasn't a real slang term, it was something some hophead made up on the spot and sold Harry Anslinger's goons after being pinched, the cops being particularly keen to keep up with the lingo. "Yeah, you gotta put on your tea shades before you go spark some baffle."

My best doper buddy in high school and I were endlessly amused by the glossaries in the back of the drug pamphlets they'd pass out in health class or convocations featuring reformed hippie drug fiends. This was the early 70s; we were being shown classroom films with 40s JDs and pushers in Panama hats--my junior year they upgraded to Sonny & Cher--so the hipster argot was roughly Harlem Renaissance vintage, and we spent three years asking confused classmates if they were holding any muggles or aces.

Anonymous said...

Doghouse,
You never asked "where can I get a deck?" to cement your hardcore druggie bonafides? Shoulda got some musically inclined guys together to do a rendition of Cab Calloway's "Reefer Man" during assembly. When I was in highschool, half the teachers would have applauded, since they smoked with the students.

nanute said...

Brilliant! Pulitzer material, I dare say.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about “Walmart Hippies” seems misplaced – when my girlfriend and I were in [a Denver] Walmart on Saturday trying to kill some time before a movie, the patrons primarily were Hispanic, not a demographic for either hippies or teabaggers !