Monday, August 16, 2004

Class Clowns

Got the latest Harper's in the mail yesterday, and the cover story is an essay, The Tentacles of Rage, by Lewis Lapham. A longer-form version of his monthly Barthes-as-told-by-Mencken Notebook feature, the topic is one that I've spent no small amount of time being at turns alarmed and depressed about: the propaganda armature of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. The piece chronicles the thirty-year philosophical and financial "re-education program undertaken in the early 1970s by a cadre of ultraconservative and self-mythologizing millionaires bent on rescuing the the country from the hideous grasp of Satanic liberalism" and the resulting triumph of inanity that passes for conservatism these days:
How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases "personal initiative" and "self-reliance" to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communications, and weapons industries, square the talk of "civility" with the strong-arm methods of Kenneth Starr and Tom DeLay, match the warmhearted currencies of "conservative compassion" with the cold cruelty of "the unfettered free market", know that human life must be saved from abortionists in Boston but not from cruise missiles in Baghdad? In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental priciple except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people.
Lapham runs it all down, from a rebuffed Goldwater as the avant-garde whose ideas are ultimately subsumed by the mainstream, to the paranoid strategizing of Lewis Powell's memo that launched a thousand think tanks, to the Reagan-era birth of fledgling "idea" factories such as the Heritage Foundation, to the present day state of affairs in which the field generals of the massive shibboleth known as the Culture Wars (Scaife, Bradley, Olin, Coors, etc.) pony up the capital with which the usual suspects (Heritage, AEI, Hoover, Cato, Hudson, etc) provide the matériel and tactical supremacy.

Of particular interest may be the swamp of conservative college publications, funded by the likes of the above and invariably, mimetically, named the (Dartmouth, Stanford, Michigan, etc) Review. If a certain creaky aphorism describes a natural trajectory of political consciousness, where on the spectrum does a nineteen year-old Grover Norquist acolyte go to die?

This has all been noted, investigated, annotated and pissed into the wind by so many others, why bother? The idea that a wholly market-supplied media, by its very decentralized and "free" nature, could permit a propaganda system much more insidious and effective than a hundred Pravdas is clearly demographically insignificant. That George W. Bush could represent for anyone the last best hope of liberation from the commie depredations of Time Warner, Disney and General Electric is a notion which is as apparently pervasive as it is unspeakably imbecilic. The resulting cognitive dissonance is for me, shall we say, considerable.


Blogger Jude Nagurney Camwell said...

Delightfully written, C. Jodi.


3:19 PM  

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