Monday, November 13, 2006

SELF-AGGRANDIZEMENT MASQUERADING AS SOCIAL COMMENTARY: A SPECIALITY! Allow me to quote me! Just the other moment, the big "I" (of medium build, pale complexion, and limited omniscience) was watching the internet, when Norbizness commenced to bitch about car commercial jingles. Sez I to Norb, I says
The use of these incredibly inapposite songs to sell ugly, stupid cars make[s] a pretty good argument that we have moved beyond postmodernism into a new phase which I would like to call "Apocalyptic Science Fiction Viewed from the Inside."
I kill me. But I also have a point. As a society, our tolerance for bullshit long ago became an appetite. I will not revive here the usual speech about meta and self-referential whatnot, but I will say this: if there's any justice, David Letterman will one day be recognized as the father of our era.

Like other great men, Letterman knew that Americans were dumb as rocks but still had their pride, so if you were going to feed them the intellectual equivalent of hogslop, you had better flatter their intelligence at the same time.

While genii such as Cecil B. DeMille managed this trick by festooning their slopfests with Biblical and historical trappings -- making anti-culture look like culture -- Letterman found a much cheaper, much more insidious angle: let the rubes in on the gag. Call the pet tricks "stupid," make the showbiz flash-and-rattle even stupider than it needed to be, and cheerfully represent yourself as the hollowest of hollow men, and the suckers would applaud not only your twaddle, but the label on the twaddle that said it was twaddle.

Thus we began to accept lack of sincerity as an American equity, if not a virtue. This threw commercial culture into reverse gear: stupid and ugly were no longer absolute negative virtues. Evil wasn't even a negative virtue -- look at the revived popularity of Donald Trump, once admired for his imbecile dynamism, now frankly lionized for his cruel willingness to fire people on national television. Nowadays the only negative virtues have to do with being a Loser: indicted, dumped, disgraced. But with enough money and a sufficiently energetic image handler, I'm sure even Kevin Federline can come back from exile.

As a liberal baby-killing sodomite, I can accept moral relativism in most things, but it breaks my American heart to see public relations, advertising, and celebrity management unmoored from the verities.

Now look where we are. As the cars get increasingly, seemingly willfully, ugly and stupid, Madison Avenue abandons all pretense of claiming benefits, aspirational or otherwise, and simply turns up the freshness on the visual and musical accompaniment. This is not the proverbial pig lipstick -- no one thinks this will fool anyone into thinking an Escalade is in any way analogous to Led Zep. This is an abandonment of all responsibility. This is, "Oh, fuck, I don't know, you want to buy this car? Whatever. Here's some music so you don't get too bored while we do our shitty sales pitch."

Seen from the perspective of old-and-wrongthink, using bitchin-rad tunes to advertise these depressingly awkward assemblages of metal and polymer is like using the O'Jays at their most rambunctious to introduce an emphysemic 70-year-old to the fashion models he wishes to date. It is rankly, hilariously absurd. But nowadays, why the hell not? It might work. Look at the love life of Harrison Ford. That's victory enough for unreason to keep the various agencies, consultancies, working groups, and subcommittees that signed on to this nightmare scenario from having to run off into the swamps, there to subsist on toads and newts and every low, crawling thing until their ignominy is forgotten.

What does this have to do with politics, you might be wondering (especially if you are my shill at the back of the hall who has been paid to shout the question).

Well, here's a bit of the Times' article on Jon Tester today:
Chouteau County, where Mr. Tester lives on a homestead of 1,800 acres, lost 8.5 percent of its population in the last five years — typical of much of rural America that has been in decline since the Dust Bowl...

“When Jon talks about the cafe that’s trying to hold on, the hardware store that just closed, the third generation that can’t make a living on the farm, he is living that life,” Mr. Doherty said...

On the campaign trail, Mr. Tester spoke often of how “regular folks” just “haven’t been given much of a shake"...
There's even a bit about Tester spitting sunflower seeds, though several expected quotes such as "the big corporations are going to hear from little folks like you and me" and "I sure could go for some of my Maw-Maw's antelope stew right now" seem to have been edited for length.

Now, this is bullshit -- a campaign circular disguised as a newspaper profile -- but it is reality-based bullshit of the old-fashioned variety. I make no moral claims for it, but its simple propagandistic construction gives me more pleasure than the post-post-modern variety, in which, for example, it is asserted that the occupation of Iraq is going well, despite all evidence to the contrary, because a single blogger ("'Sooni,' who describes himself as a 'free man"' living in Baghdad") said so. Give me old-fashioned ballyhoo and tubthumping over the wholesale denunciation of reality anytime.

I am prejudiced myself in favor of the Democrats for all sorts of reasons, but not least among them is my deep antipathy toward the very modern kind of casual unreason that has been the stock in trade of the Republicans' preeminent online defenders -- as an hour's perusal of this site (a excellent way to spend your lunch or coffee break) will show.

Now that the Dems have gained some advantage, I expect I will take more notice of their nonsense, and get annoyed. But until that nonsense starts to come even close to the sort of high-flown gibberish that right-wing bloggers have perfected during their long ascendancy, I probably won't shift gears very often.

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