Sunday, September 17, 2017

SUGGESTED READINGS FOR SEPT 17, 2017


Over at The Atlantic, Kurt Andersen has penned an illuminating jeremiad on the spreading contagion of unreality, in the tradition of Hofstadter's classic 1964 work The Paranoid Style in American Politics, entitled How America Lost Its Mind. It aims to explain how "the nation's current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history". Near the beginning of his article, Andersen writes:
Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.
This is a substantial, serious essay, so best to make sure you have a good hour set aside to fully get a handle on it. Here's a little video preview to prime your brain pump, if you will. As always, if you find anything in any Suggested Reading that you take issue with, or would like to argue about... start a discussion in the comments section! Goddamn it, I know there are hundreds of you reading. So let's get chatting about stuff, too! Anyway... only if you feel like it.


***


Speaking of the particularly American brand of crazy that the above essay endeavors to dissect, have you heard about the recent blow-up at the NSC, which led to the ouster of a number of high level officials, most of whom had long-standing ties to disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn? One of those casualties was strategic planner Mike Higgins, who wrote a gloriously insane memo about how...
The president’s enemies ... are employing “political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model.” Even Republican leaders have been subjugated, Higgins says, because they are “more afraid of being accused of being called a racist, sexist, homophobe or Islamophobe than of failing to enforce their oaths to ‘support and defend the Constitution.’ ” (Yes, Higgins says you and I have a choice: Either don’t be homophobic or support the Constitution.) He concludes chillingly, “The recent turn of events give rise to the observation that the defense of President Trump is the defense of America.”
Believe it or not, that's NOT the craziest shit to be found in Higgins' memo. For a taste of the harder stuff, check out the excerpts dug up by Esquire's Charles Pierce, about which he declares:
If this were Alt Right Hearts, this guy just shot the moon. If it were Alt Right bowling, he rolled a perfect game. If it were Alt Right baseball, he'd be Sandy Koufax with the ball against the Cubs on September 9, 1965. If this were Alt Right golf, he'd be the late Kim Jong-il with his 18 holes-in-one. This is nothing short of the pure diamond heartstone of modern American political crazy. This is what millions of Americans are fed, every day, over their radios and through their inboxes, pseudo-intellectual claptrap to feed an anti-intellectual political movement, bat-winged syllables in search of some dark, clammy sentence on which they can land. ... This guy was on the National Security Council, and he'd likely still be there if he just spouted this stuff off in the bar after work.
Indeed he was. And the fact that Trump fuckin' LOVED that memo, and was furious with McMaster for firing Higgins over it, gives you just a bit more of a hint of how dangerous the times we're living in really are.

***

And finally for today, a bit of tomfoolery to help the medicine go down. It's been a while since yer old pal Jerky mentioned the British comedy magazine VIZ, which has been a favorite at Chateau LeBoeuf since forever it seems. But my old pal Mel Rosedale recently returned from a trip to Old Blighty with a gift of Jaffa Cakes and a VIZ hardback compilation entitled The Otter's Pocket (a euphemism for ladyparts, I think), and my love affair with the bawdy British humor rag was instantly rekindled. So much so that Mel and I are working on a comic of our own to submit! Hopefully I'll have news on that to share in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, you can check out VIZ at the link above. They put nearly everything up on their website, which makes it easier to stay abreast of the antics of such classic characters as the Fat Slags, Biffa Bacon, Buster Gonad, Sid the Sexist, Raffles the Gentleman Thug, and my own personal favorites, the Drunken Bakers. In fact, here's an example of the Beckett-like humor of that particular strip to whet your appetites...

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