Friday, September 08, 2006

FREEDOM OF SHIT. It's a longstanding rule among cranks like me that when everyone agrees on something, the wise man should run screaming in the other direction. Like many fun, contrarian sentiments, this one's more honored in the breach than in the observance -- if you find yourself shaking your fist at clean air and water, you should go see a shrink, and start the first session by telling the shrink how you were molested by your high school Debate Club coach.

But the ABC 9/11 story is a good case study for my rule. Many liberals are going berserk over the whoppers told therein (particularly one in which, if I understand it aright, Sandy Berger lets Osama slip away because he's busy recruiting little girls to blow Clinton). Some conservatives have begun to say that the liberals may have a point.

I understand why the Clinton people are upset: The Path to 9/11 is a consensus reality event, like a war memorial or an official Best Foreign Film Academy Award entry, and it would be injurious to their political health (not to speak of the truth, though we will in a minute) to allow this particular event to tar them as national security slackers. Digby worries that "if this nonsense is allowed to stick, we will be battling these inaccurate demagogic, phantoms for another 50 years."

One should of course call out lying liars, and tell the countervailing truth as eloquently as one can. But when we attempt to manipulate consensus events, we refute the reality of culture. (I know it's a stretch to call an ABC Mini-series part of culture, but hear me out.)

Now I hate to even use the word "culture," because in our depraved era, it's usually on the other end of a little teeter-totter that goes "culture...war." In fact, that's the problem here, and it exercises me sufficiently that I have to talk about things normally best left unspoken.

Any culture worthy of the name is fluid, animated by innumerable human currents -- works of art and works of crap-art, invention of new styles and adaptation of old and even foreign ones, shifts in language, shared experiences, and so on. To the extent that human experience is rich, that is, more meaningful than the life of a cow or a dog, culture makes it so.

The vectors of these currents are to some extent traceable, but not very tractable. Still, there is a base impulse in some people that makes them want to manipulate it, rather than contribute to it in the normal way; to decree, turn right (or left) here.

This motivates the many Kulturkampf buffoons who comprise alicublog's favorite targets -- the yapping dogs like Bozell and Malkin and Reynolds et alia, whose only contributions to culture are insane demands that they be put in charge of it -- and, of course, totalitarians throughout history.

My problem with those guys is not that they are supporting wrong causes (though they usually do that, as well) but that they are engaged in anti-human activity. It is that they see the most natural and wonderful thing in the world, the evolution of human consciousness, and think how much better it would be if only they could control it with the blunt instruments of politics.

Now, culture is in some ways as supple and self-healing as the human body, so maybe in the long term it's a wash. (On the other hand, if you beat up the human body enough, it stops self-healing so good.)

But I worry that too many Americans are taking the bait, and coming to believe that culture is what the goon squad thinks it is: something to be wrestled over for political points.

If this sort of thing spreads much more, we will become a nation of Jason Apuzzos -- crazed nerds unable to enjoy a drama, historical or otherwise, or a comedy, or a trailer or a poster, without fumbling for our calculators, trying to figure out which side is winning the culture war. (The correct answer would be "not culture.")

I choose not to be part of it. Hack writer though I may be, there are some forms of hackery my ink-stained hands will not deign to touch.

In my own practice, I answer bullshit with non-bullshit (or, on slow days, better phrased bullshit). It may not be the most efficacious way to shore up votes in the Third Ward, but it's clean work.

UPDATE. Lots of disagreement in comments, which is understandable. Let me clarify something: I don't disapprove of calling bullshit when bullshit is smelt. Why, that's my hobby.

What bothers me is that ABC has allowed its program to be edited -- at the last minute, no less -- by politicians like Tom Kean. Yeah, he's a producer as well as a consultant, I just found out, so he has some legitimate authority here. But I believe he's been put front and center in this imbroglio because that insulates ABC from seeming to respond directly to pressure from government officials. Call me cynical.

I would have been pissed if Spike Lee's Katrina doc got this kind of treatment, and I can't approve it in this case, either.

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