Whenever I do the blog thing, after a while — and it’s happening again — I inevitably get sucked into an Althousian vortex of distracting bugfuckery and I end up with a half dozen incomplete drafts; not, I think, because I have ADHD but because, unlike George W. Bush, I’m curious about too many things. So many psychopaths fascinate, are fascinating.
I was gonna complete a piece on how wingnuts suddenly love Europe — first because of austerity and now because formerly cheese-eating surrender monkeys are bombing the shit out of Mali — but then I saw an article in the Slimes about how the DOJ is contesting Anheuser-Busch’s acquisition of Modelo. Oh, I thought, that totally reminds me of a great blog-fossil, Oligopoly Watch, now sadly dead; I chased its ghost to webarchive, found the goodies I was looking for.
Which tangentially got me to thinking about another internet Mary Celeste, General Glut’s Globblog, written by a type we sorely need, an anti-neoliberal economist. Unlike, say, Dr J. Bradford DeLong, the General was a real social democrat when it came to economic policy instead of a self-deluded (if sometimes charmingly so) conservative falsely advertizing himself as other, more left. Alas, the General was more, how you say, Christian Democrat when it came to the culture war, and while his posts on the subject were infrequent and incidental, it was enough to cook his goose as it were with the movement. Also it didn’t help one’s modest ambitions for a place in the progressive movement at the time to, as the General did, perfectly describe the ignorance, grossly immodest ambitions, and concomitant wishy-washy hackitude of such pundits as Kevin Drum, Ezra ‘I’m not so much a liberal as someone who enjoys fapping to spreadsheets’ Klein, and the egregious Fatty Woodchuck. (Should I dig into IOZ’s archive? No, it’s too good; I’ll get even more lost and, besides, I’m already reading through A Tiny Revolution.) Then there’s the nuclear-option subject of what is and is not tolerated in the is-it-big-or-is-it-little tent of the movement, the implicit hierarchy of values of a culture which is quite open-minded on the subject of how many extranational brown people it’s ok to murder or how much oomph is to be put into the kick aimed at the poor’s teeth, but is far less heterodox regarding the culture war and identity politics. Should I try to dig up that Alex Cockburn essay on the general reaction to Billy Graham’s raving on the Nixon tapes? Nah, leave it. Hey, I just found this which relates how Tom Frank has been aggravated by the same thing and is nothing but an old worthless asshole because of it. Leave it, too.
Simultaneously, while youtubing and inspired by rewatching Oliver Stone’s masterpiece Nixon last week and thinking about going back to work on the long, encyclopedia-type post on Gordon Liddy I’ve been fussing over for years (I think Liddy is unfairly passed over as a relic and generic talkshow host when actually his influence on the drug war is unique and his notions of authoritarian masculinity nicely epitomize modern wingnuttia’s fucked-up super machoman complex), I get derailed by a complete taped version of Nixon’s farewell address. I’d seen parts of it before and had read it, agreed with C. Hitchens that it was lame and rambling and on paper it still is, but in complete video form it’s not. Self-serving, yes — and even uglier, it’s self-pitying; but it’s also affecting. And look at Julie and Tricia, as cute as buttons. Hah and the camera lingers briefly on young Ben Stein whose mad scientist hairdo has to be seen to be believed. I thought it took Stone’s genius as a filmmaker to make me pity the ol’ bastard RMN but there it is in real life. This, in turn, made me think of doing something on the Elvis-Nixon Meeting, a highly-medicated congress of paranoia and resentment I’ve never before written about or indeed thought much about, despite having lived in Memphis for many years and having a fanatic Nixon-worshiper in my family. The poster version of the famous picture is a big seller in the tourist traps on Beale Street though I don’t recall seeing it much at the even bigger tourist trap of Graceland, though that’s a long time ago now.
I stare at the picture, stare at their vacant stares. Both are broken in a weird way; they are insomniacs; Nixon’s probably hungover and already eaten a handful of dilantin (IIRC recommended to him by the crackpot publisher of Reader’s Digest, a rag by the way — and to go back to my original subject of curiosity — that for many years was Ronald Reagan’s only voluntary reading material). Elvis is probably bombed on tuinal and ‘ludes and God knows what else. Both despise dope-smoking hippies. One has the Madman Theory, the other makes a fetish of Taking Care of Business. Both are warped in a tragic but also ugly sense by their powerful mothers’ intense Protestantism; and though Gladys Presley’s Assembly of God Pentecostalism is more familiar to me, Hannah Nixon’s Quakerism is preferable. Through the religious channel both men owe a debt to African-Americans: Elvis by making their music he probably first heard in church “safe” for white people, Nixon’s own undeserved and entitled sense of self-righteousness built on his mother’s family’s justifiably proud background as abolitionists. Yet Elvis made millions while black musicians starved and Nixon struck electoral gold with the Southern Strategy. Both in their increasing disconnection from reality become obsessed with finery, Elvis single-handedly inventing a more ostentatious kind of kitsch in decorating the Jungle Room, Nixon frittering away hours on end designing new livery for White House footmen. Both are as obnoxiously opinionated about music as any insufferable hipster, Nixon convinced of the world-changing genius of Richard Rodgers’s emetic score for Victory at Sea while hating the Beatles to the point of legal vendetta. According to Stephen Davis’s book on Led Zeppelin, before the band met The King they were sternly instructed to not try to discuss music with Elvis lest it upset him (Plant, Jones, and Page recently told David Letterman an entirely contradictory version of the story, however). Finally, in a point of difference, while part of Elvis’s genius was his comfort in his own skin, his incredible sex appeal, Nixon was notoriously other; whether on a boat in Florida with Bebe Rebozo in the halcyon days or walking on the beach in San Clemente in disgrace, Nixon was always awkwardly formal and weirdly sexless — in a word, uptight. Ok, I’ll shut up.
See what I’ve done? I’ve got nothin, yet I wanna say so much. I could have posted several funny shorters and maybe even a semi-substantive post in the time it took to write this crap. As a good Moloch-worshiping, gay abortion-having, Muslim-appeasing Liberal Fascist, I hate crapitalism’s fetish for specialization. As a wannabe history nerd I admire in the Founders’ generation the ability, of many if not all, to self-educate in the broadest sense, becoming if not expert then at least literate in nearly every subject. I’m the type that compulsively reads the backs of shampoo bottles in the shower (“…another with sodium lauryl sulfate!!”) It’s not my goal to mentally download the entire WingNet but that’s what I always end up trying to do. Argh. Umberto Eco, citing a Borges character, tells me I’m a fool and he’s right:
I like the notion of stubborn incuriosity. To cultivate a stubborn incuriosity, you have to limit yourself to certain areas of knowledge. You cannot be totally greedy. You have to oblige yourself not to learn everything. Or else you will learn nothing. Culture in this sense is about knowing how to forget. Otherwise, one indeed becomes like Funes, who remembers all the leaves of the tree he saw thirty years ago. Discriminating what you want to learn and remember is critical from a cognitive standpoint….
If culture did not filter, it would be inane—as inane as the formless, boundless Internet is on its own. And if we all possessed the boundless knowledge of the Web, we would be idiots! Culture is an instrument for making a hierarchical system of intellectual labor. For you and for me it is enough to know that Einstein proposed the theory of relativity. But an absolute understanding of the theory we leave to the specialists. The real problem is that too many are granted the right to become a specialist.
Sorry for the shit post. I’ll try to make the next one a snarky shorter, but obviously I can’t make any promises.
Also, too: Roy is probably the expert at sorting and synthesizing vast quantities of wingnut blargery. How does he do it, how does he stay focused? Is it via some CT technique or surrender to the will of the midichlorians or vyvanse in an IV drip? Dude has my respek.