Thursday, May 18


Okay, so I check in with this week's Nooners column, "Out of Touch: What the president's immigration speech and "The DaVinci Code" have in common," which--you're not going to believe this--never actually makes the case that either is Out of Touch. She does manage to use "detached elites" as a segue, but it's tacked on, unsatisfying, almost as if she'd merely slapped out her contractual 850 words by glancing at a couple of headlines, though of course we know better.

There's not much more to be said for the rest of the thing, either, except a) What the hell happened to religion over the past twenty years that its most vocal adherents can't handle a figurative accidental jostle on the bus without breaking into hysterics? b) would you please quit quoting that "85% to 90% of Americans identify themselves as Christian"? They don't. (It might have been 85% twenty years ago, but it's been dropping ever since and was below 80% a couple years back.) c) if you've got to make (up) those raw number arguments, kindly bear in mind that nearly that many Americans say they believe in ghosts or ESP, which should at least give you pause, plus a solid minority admit to believing in the predictive power of astrology, and many others attend Bi-Monthly Science Fiction Conventions in costumes they made themselves.

As for the Bush/Immigration part of the equation, it's turned out to be a celebrity marriage reality program between Bush and the Right, hasn't it? The aging drama queen and the no-longer-young stud who fills out a flightsuit but isn't too much in the imagination department? Can somebody explain this to me? Four years ago he was a Colossus, the Solitary Warrior, the man who'd single-handedly saved Civilization Herself from the dastardly Moor. Now he's a bum.

Of course no one puts it quite like that, but how are we to understand it? Nobody asked Noonan or Hinderocket back then to slather on the praise in a way that would make a Scientologist PR flack blush. But having done so, wouldn't you expect they'd stand by him now, instead of griping that he didn't update MacArthur's plan to salt the 38th Parallel with cobalt?

Oh, and one more thing, Peggy. If you're occupationally unable at this point to write about politics without telling us what "the people" want, move to Omaha and shut up for five years.

Speaking of Hiney, he's the second person I'd seen praise this from Wretchard at The Belmont Club:
However that may be, Jaynes' theory intriguingly suggests that hunches, guesses and intuition may hold some validity. They are the end result of a logical process inaccessible to the waking mind. My own hunch is that in the last two or three months there's been a change in the tone of the blogosphere. Nothing definite, simply a change in atmosphere in proportion to the degree of abstract tendencies of the blogger....

My own theory is that all the old divisions so sharply erected between September 11, 2001 and April, 2003 have been slowly eroded by the uncertainties of the world. The Left and the Right have seen their champions turn out to be all too human, and are confounded. Issues which are a wedge on both sides of the spectrum -- like immigration or Darfur -- have scattered interest groups around like balls after a billiard break. New issues like the resurgence of a hostile Russia, the spread of Marxism in Latin America -- even the malicious buffoonery of the Iranian President -- are crowding at the fringes of the now comforting world of the War on Terror. The old play is ending and yet the new one has not yet begun. And this bothers abstract intellectuals far more than it does the men in the field. A soldier can write with perfect conviction that "the world was a slightly better place every time I pulled the trigger" because he lives in a world of specificity, but the agonized thinker can find no such comfort in cold abstractions; abstractions now in need of repair under the weight of experience.

I can't count the number of links I've chased because somebody said, "X is a really good writer," or "Here's a thought-provoking piece for both sides," and he or it turn out merely to reinforce the blurbist's own prejudices. It's not a right-wing-only phenomenon, but the above is--that popping pressure-value of political angst, the wisp of comradeliness, the assertion that Right and Left have been equally misguided--you can only find that sort of thing on the Right, and then only because they've spent four years blaming the Left and the Media for everything and now find themselves out of ammunition and cover.

So in the spirit of our shared sacrifice, with the now comforting world of the War on Terror receding into the background, let me just say this: What the fuck you talkin' about?

I'm obliged, too, to mention that as it goes with the rest of the world, so it goes with Julian Jaynes and The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind: please do not try to operate it without reading the manual first. Jaynes' discussion of what consciousness is is a delight. The stuff about myth suffers from Academic Out of his Element Syndrome. Jaynes' theory is not reversible, the "bicameral mind" is not something quaintly assigned to "primitive" peoples, and it's not a defense of "intuitive thinking," nor an excuse to toss around "unconscious mind" like it's a scientific term. I think you were probably reaching for Jung, but at times like these, like most times, it's best to keep your hands in your lap.


Anonymous said...

You're brilliant, of course. And exactly right.

I'm still waiting on Peggy's "Oh, well, we were all conned" column, as though those Americans who voted for Bush--twice--were simply reading the tea leaves wrong, and gosh, it's all so ambiguous, who could possibly be blamed for the way things worked out?

That little faux-embarrassed chuckle and the "Who knew?" reaction and we're expected to embrace the people who have spent the last six years calling us traitors because, hey, we're all wrong sometimes, right? No harm, no foul.

It's not like anybody's been *killed* or anything, not like we've been driven into debt so badly we'll never recover, not like social programs for the very poorest have been cut so taxes for the very richest could be cut. It was just a mistake, that's all. No one has to apologize, or explain, or (more importantly) promise never to do it again.

In this way, however much they struggle to distance themselves from the newly-liberal president they used to love, they are exactly like him: they don't admit mistakes. They weren't wrong, it just didn't work out exactly right.

T.H. said...

journalists -- they're either at your feet or at your throat.

that's one reason why i quit being a newspaper reporter about 20 years ago. imo, it's gotten worse since then.

eRobin said...

Good god, man. How do you do it? I can't get past the first paragraph of her stuff. The rage sets in. And then the despair.

Anonymous said...

Why is The DaVinci Code controversial or popular?

I mean, the central revelation is that the Catholic church excludes things from dogma not because they're false, but because they're theologically unsound.

The Aztec evidence for Huitzilopochtli is as good as that for Christ (A few manuscripts translated from primary sources, archeological evidence that the Aztecs were in roughly the places indicated by the manuscripts, widespread popular belief), and yet somehow Huitzilopochtli isn't accepted by the Catholic church.

The church does the same thing to every other religion, and has since its inception.

The idea that the Church would deal with the "Christ is Alive" brand of heresy in a different manner then they've dealt with other heresies makes no sense.

More then that, the "issue" of the church being wrong about something and suppressing info about it has already been out of the bag since Gallileo.

If The DaVinci Code shakes your faith, you're too uninquisitive to really deserve to be religious.

I worry that its popularity is a symptom of a profoundly incurious public.

roy edroso said...

"out of ammunition and cover" -- apt in every sense (except that it is not an apartment, of course).

They haven't had to think hard in years, and this has left them defenseless in the face of challenge.