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Opportunistic Feeders

By Al Schumann on Monday March 2, 2009 07:41 AM

There's nothing paranoid about observing and detailing the relationships in the incestuous, overlapping, interlocking, patronage-laden pseudo-grassroots organizations set up and funded by oligarchs. That's what right wing oligarchs do. It's how they work. It's a highly successful business model. They coach, groom and recruit the model's next generation of managers and middle managers at the universities. Ask any of the believers, nicely, and they'll tell you life is war. Then they'll try to recruit you. They are collectivists in the narrowest, worst sense of the word and feel most comfortable when they're surrounded by people who are "on message". They run a celebrity jackpot for people at the bottom of the organizational food chain and groom the winners. It's perversely meritocratic, cf Joe the Plumber and Rick Santelli, and they get a nasty kick out of horrifying the respectable liberals by shoving the "lucky" contestants in their faces. Pretty standard ├ępater les bourgeois stuff, disgusting too, but it works as well as the magician's patter.

There's no need for them to do anything but start dozens of greater and lesser freak shows. One of them will get momentum and then the pile on begins. If they get impatient, they wind up a jacquerie; usually a keyboard jacquerie. Anything else is at arm's length, with plenty of deniability.

What's appalling is how much bang the oligarchs get for their buck. Talk about force multipliers! That bang relies on a level of accommodation in their opposition that must surely strain the credulity of anyone supporting that opposition. And that strain does in fact show on a regular basis. It's hard to beat liberals for the energy that goes into an accurate audit trail of how the machinery of capitalism works its violent, vicious scams and thefts. They're stakhanovite in their pursuit of it. They have a deep driving need to know how their world works. But that, alas, is as far as it goes, with the laudable exception of an occasional Ralph Nader. They're crippled by the same ghastly sense of propriety that keeps the "small gubmint" punters coming back to the Republican table. The liberals head to the Democratic table, allegedly the table with better odds. What gets to me, on a personal level, is being told it's the only game in town. Of course it is! That's the first problem. The second is that it's also rigged in favor of the house. The third is the defensive ridicule of people who insist that playing is a virtue.

Hey, the system is not broken. It's working. Isn't that a problem?

Comments (15)

sk:

Joe the Plumber and Rick Santelli and the organizations they front for appeal to a certain demographic, but the higher brow versions of the "incestuous, overlapping, interlocking, patronage-laden pseudo-grassroots organizations set up and funded by oligarchs" aim for a more elite and "enlightened" audience, as shown by Michael James Barker's investigative work.

It is an asymmetric conflict, given the vast resources devoted to projecting the national security state of mind, but even those opposed to the war mindset tend to hyperventilate. Much like the war on drugs, war on terror, war on you name it alarmism, the authorized participants and "experts" of the moral theatrics industry are so insular they unavoidably breathe their own exhaust. This not only perpetuates the lucrative game, it also denies space to more thoughtful and effective responses.

Given the devotion of Congress to making things worse, we should probably plan on developing a network of first responders to limit the psychic damage caused by media inflammation of such expert warnings.

seneca:

What is the subject here, Al? I understand "projecting the national security state of mind" (JT), but is that what you were talking about?

SK linked an article by Orwell on Kipling the other day, in which the central idea was the hypocrisy of liberalism. The touchstone question for all of us is whether we're willing to give up our comfortable way of life in favor of our ideals. I am that peculiar American hybrid of middle class life with radical values. A life of contradiction!

"It's hard to beat liberals for the energy that goes into an accurate audit trail of how the machinery of capitalism works its violent, vicious scams and thefts. They're stakhanovite in their pursuit of it. They have a deep driving need to know how their world works."

Really? Isn't the essence of modern liberalism a deep driving need to believe that a friendly attitude and a properly improper haircut and outfit are viable substitutes for understanding and accepting the way the world really works? That capitalism somehow isn't really capitalism?

seneca:

No, liberalism is protesting the use of pesticides in local parks and public spaces while opposing the opening of a half-way house in your neighborhood.

Al Schumann:

The negative characterizations of actually existing liberals are lamentably accurate, but they're not the whole picture and, I would argue, they're more symptomatic than they are causative. I think they're the result of taking the analysis to the point of doing something and then, and then, and then.... and then realizing that doing something entails taking a risky leap. I'm moved to sympathy by that.

As examples of sedulous investigation liberal-style, I'll cite J.K. Galbraith, the older Galbraith, and Jane Mayer.


op:

if i get Al's point
i agree with it

big time liberal minds
are often inquiring minds
they indeed crave a peek or two
at the blue prints
of corporate capitalism
but nothing that would provide
a basis for action


only their tarted up conscience
can guide their fore-compromised actions

Al Schumann:

"big time liberal minds
are often inquiring minds
they indeed crave a peek or two
at the blue prints
of corporate capitalism
but nothing that would provide
a basis for action"

Yes, exactly! Thanks, Owen. Reading Galbraith I got the feeling he was toying with the reader. He'd march right up to the point making things explicit and emphatic, and then back away. Mayer delves into the stuff that leads to pipe bombs in the cars of activist researchers, takes it right up to the corporate interests, and leaves the rest for a prosecution team that will never materialize. Both are extraordinary, as far as they go.

I rise to defend the late JKG. As AEA prez in '70, he blasted the astrologers for failing to allow qualitative dimensions of reality into their modelings. Ecological analyses and actions aplenty lived in that gesture. In The Culture of Contentment, he laid the D v. R scam about as open as anybody could, suggesting that somebody stop buying it and upset the vote-changers' tables.

Al Schumann:

You've shown me the limits of my reading, MD. I'll get that book and reevaluate my statements.

seneca:

"big time liberal minds
are often inquiring minds"

Some people are born liberal, and some have liberalism thrust upon them. I never thought that an informed articulate guy like Juan Cole would cave in to the war party, but by gum after awhile he was saying that the "surge" had some good things about it.

Liberalism, literally, even in the JS Mill sense, is friggin' radical. Better to call what we're talking about "centrism".

Al Schumann:

I'm a little torn on that, Seneca. "Centrism" is accurate. The Democratic supporters stand wherever they're put and define that stance more or less as they're told. But some of them retain that inquiring mind and I have this almost religious urge to see them seek redemption.

I'll be interested to hear if you like Contentment as much as I do, Al. I thought it was a bold clarion call against moneyball politics, an effort to derail the oncoming Clinton locomotive in 1992, and stands the test of time quite well, given the non-change at hand. And I think he's right that the Rs are actually better and more honest politicians than the Ds. The Rs actually try to represent their base and deliver what they promise, with the notable ideologically necessary exception of the "I hate big government" fib. The Ds, as Galbraith said, are mere exploiters, and would rather lose than organize their natural base, most of which doesn't vote, mostly for good reasons.

I always thought JKG was a true social democrat, rather than just a DP liberal hack, at bottom. They certainly never let him anywhere near a lever of power, and he did rather obviously emulate Veblen in some ways. I don't think he'd have chickened out or sold out. Hence, his comparative isolation, and his ridicule and/or abandonment within his own profession after the Reagan Revolution/Great Restoration.

op:

"allow qualitative dimensions of reality into their modelings"

nice compact phrase


seneca:

"But some of them (liberals)retain that inquiring mind and I have this almost religious urge to see them seek redemption." (Al)

Maybe I spent too much time in academia, where "inquiring minds" was the official court religion.


I'm very ambivalent about this. I love the "dead white men" as much as anyone, but I realize they also lead to Harold Bloom.

When I was a kid there was a curly white-haired virile NY-type liberal intellectual (can't recall his name) who had discussions on public television with various thinkers, including one Wlm Buckley and maybe Paul Goodman. The program's logo was a revolving head which symbolized, I suppose, the fluidty of points of view. It was great stuff in its day, but would seem not up to the task, or worse, a distraction from the issues, today.

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