Katniss, Enemy Of The People


I haven’t read the Hunger Games books, I haven’t seen the movies — not on principle, I hasten to add; but the target demographic is a bit younger than I am. What I have heard of the story line, I’ve liked.

But alas, many of my fellow Lefties are quite disappointed. For all kinds of fascinating reasons. The Original Old Trot Wet Hen, Louis Proyect, has been passing along devasting Leftie critiques of the franchise, when he’s had a chance to catch his breath from cheerleading the Saudi/Israeli initiatives in Syria.

(I don’t know how he does it. Louis’ opera-omnia are going to be at least as voluminous as the Boswell Papers, if not quite so much fun to read.)

Lefties, it seems, are not immune to the impulse to fall into the story, and respond as if they were high-school students encountering the characters in the cafeteria line. This is a not unamiable trait, and shows a certain likable childlike unguardedness on the part of people whose hyper-adult conversation on other topics consists mostly of abstract nouns.

Alas, the guardedness comes back once the lights come up and the blog post is composed. It takes the form of political critique. The childlike response — bless it — provides the impulse; but it appears muffled in a kind of stiff hazmat suit, inflexible at the knees and elbows, and comically robotic in its general demeanor. Danger, Will Robinson!

Here are a few such items my man Louis passed along:

Homophobic garbage

The heroine Katniss (um, what’s up with that name?) lives in a poverty stricken, mountainous American rural mining town – it’s obviously meant to represent Appalachia. The people who live in that town appear to be predominantly God-fearing white country folk. If they lived in present day America they would be members of the extreme Christian right. But alas, Katniss must desert this tough yet wholesome country life and travel to a big city that somewhat resembles the Emerald City of Oz, except everyone who lives there appears to be homosexual, or at least ‘homosexualized’.

Ugly LGBT stereotypes — and anti-Semitism, too!

Imagine if you could make a film that pandered to the worst prejudices and false grievances of the most ignorant, privileged and socially paranoid….

The film begins in a poor, overwhelmingly white rural town, which feels disturbingly like the US Bible Belt….

Unfortunately, insane delusions about the sacrificing of innocents by cultural outsiders are nothing new. If anything they’re sadly familiar.

Indeed, a newspaper article claiming that Jews were killing Christian children to use their blood for Passover rituals sparked the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, an infamous massacre of some 50 Jews in the Bessarabia province of the former Russian Empire.

If theatrical release of Catching Fire leads to pogroms in Williamsburg, I for one will be surprised, but no doubt anything is possible.

I have always loved these what-if narratives about fictional characters. As a parlor game, it’s great fun: What’s Becky Sharp’s favorite flavor of ice cream? (Rum raisin, I think). The ability to play this game depends on real imaginative engagement with the text. But as with any game, it’s important to remember that it is, well, a game.

The ludic character is rather lost once you start to make up an imaginary biography for Katniss in Wolfe County, Kentucky — home of my own ancestors, by the way — and enroll her in a snake-handling Proddie cult and provide her with a tortured self-hating closeted gay pastor and so on.

At that point you have started writing your own screenplay, and I wish you the best of luck getting it produced.

NYC: Business as usual

blasio miller

One nice thing about living in New York: One is never disappointed in one’s ‘elected’ officials. They always run true to form.

Of course I was delighted when Mister Community Organizer, Mayor-elect de Blasio, re-appointed that appalling shitheel Willliam Bratton — the father of stop-and-frisk — as police commissioner. Delighted and I must say a bit surprised: I hadn’t expected him to do anything so nakedly contemptuous of the people who hoped for something different from him quite so soon. But I suppose it’s never out of season to tell folks to lower their expectations. Indeed, one should never miss an opportunity.

And considering his stage-managed lopsided victory, it seems clear that the tiny minority of liberal-schmiberals were never an important constituency. The gestures made in that direction were just an exercise in pacification: let’s have no trouble out of those professional kvetchers. After the election they can raise as much geschrei and gevalt as they like. To revise a James Baker aphorism: Fuck ’em — they’ll always vote for us.

Mayor Bloomberg Lite has now followed up in rare form, appointing the amazing figure shown at right above(*) as chief PR flack for the New York Praetorian Guard. The Times story was perhaps a bit more more humorous than it meant to be:

After a career spent toggling between television and law enforcement…

Which of course — for any thinking person– raises the question: What’s the difference?

(*) One John Miller, a notorious police buff and TV talking head.

Realists vs. chiliasts


Email from a pal of mine:

See the front-page story in The Times today about how Washington is “furious” that the Kurds are making oil deals with Turkey without going through the central government of Iraq? How dare they.

I suspect there are wheels within wheels on this one. One of the big wheels is Israel, which really would like to dismember all the Arab states, including Iraq. I think that was really the point of the recent war, more than anything else.

Now that it’s backfired and Iraq is in the Iranian sphere of influence, the Kurds, once again, are the most useful of idiots.

US imperial ‘realists’ value stability and would like to find a rapprochement with Iran. The Zionists, however, want instability and war with Iran. And there’s a kind of uneasy entente on this topic between Israel and the Sunni Islamist states (including Turkey) — the latter have gone all jihadi on Iran’s ass, for their own reasons.

The recent flap over Syria, ending as it did, was certainly a defeat for the Zionists and may have strengthened the realists’ hand, for a time, anyway. They’ve been on the defensive for quite a while, but the Israel Firsters may have overreached. Bound to happen sooner or later, I guess. Ὕβρις, ἁμαρτία, νέμεσις. If so, not a minute too soon, and serve ’em right.

The Viral Center


A friend of mine — not a Facebook friend, a real one — was recently bemoaning the craziness of Teabaggers and other such freaks. Of course I also get a lot of similar handwringing from earnest ‘progressives’ and even from self-identified Commies on mailing lists and on Facebook, when I’m incautious enough to visit the latter. Everybody seems very worried about people who are, basically, Flat-Earthers.

Now it has always seemed to me very silly to pay any attention whatsoever to these clowns; but this was more a matter of intuition than careful thought.

Talking with my friend, I came to the conclusion — surprise, surprise — that my intuition was correct, but now I have some thinking to back it up.

I think my friend — and many other people — see political culture as a kind of arithmetic average. If you could just somehow eliminate the Teabaggers and kindred species, either by conversion or some other means, the center would automatically shift Leftwards — simple arithmetic, right?

This inorganic view of the matter seems not only wrong-headed but topsy-turvy to me. I don’t think the center is where it is because the Teabaggers are pulling it in a crazy direction. I think the Teabaggers are crazy because the center is crazy. That is, the fundamental, almost-universally accepted axioms of American political discourse are incoherent and delusional. My ‘progressive’ friends, who are capable of very sensible and cogent thinking on any other topic, start spewing word salad as soon as the conversation turns to Our Great Republic. Systematically unexamined concepts like ‘democracy’ and ‘the rule of law’ and ‘mixed economy’ and ‘extremism’ and ‘order’ and ‘chaos’ start to be flung around like badly-designed, un-aerodynamic Frisbees. They all fall to the ground; nobody ever catches them; and yet the pretense is kept up that some fun game is being played, out in the open air, to the general increment of cardiovascular health for one and all.

Seen in this light, the Teabaggers haven’t departed from the center; they’ve just raised it to a higher power. And maybe zeroed out some terms, as is the case with people who go the market-cult route. Put another way, craziness like the Teabaggers’ is simply a lemma of craziness like the center’s — an emanation, an epiphenomenon, a statistically predictable tail of the distribution, maybe one or 1.5 standard deviations out.

Of course this has some implications for the Left too. Maybe the abstract moralizing schematism of a lot of Left thinking is also an emanation of the Viral Center’s craziness.

So what do you do if you live in a crazy culture? You can’t simply bootstrap yourself out of it. You’re going to participate of the craziness around you, more or less.

Perhaps the best we can do is try to become, at least, a bit more aware of it — self-aware in the sense that any high-functioning crazy person has to be: There I go, being crazy again. Time to take a nap.