Thursday, July 09, 2009

THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES. If you're having trouble understanding the depth of conservative commitment to Sarah Palin's ridiculous assumption of martyrdom, John Derbyshire offers an instructive sidelight at The Corner. He starts with a typical "The Fuhrer was sweet, the Fuhrer was kind" defense of Pinochet, but gets to his bigger fish: a new film by "Chilean commie film director Pablo Larrain" called Tony Manero, which sounds like an American Psycho-style knock on the Pinochet years (I haven't seen it, and evidently neither has Derbyshire).
That's bad and silly enough. What lifts Larraín's feeble bit of ComSympery to the level of outrage is the particular cultural icon he picked on as the target for his venom. It is none other than Tony Manero, the character played by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Larraín's wretched, filthy movie is in fact titled Tony Manero.

Is there no decency any more? No restraint? No respect for our cultural heritage?

Chile had a narrow escape from Marxist-Leninist tyranny. We should never cease to remind the Left of that, if only because it annoys the hell out of them. Pinochet, with all his many faults, was a patriot who saved his country. We should keep saying that, too; and Pablo Larraín's absurd movie gives us the opportunity. It might all have gone unmentioned for another year or so if not for Larraín; but, as Tony Manero says to the customer in the paint store: "You brung it up."
I charitably assumed at first that Derbyshire was making a subtle joke, but as the screed wore on I realized that he was genuinely enraged that an art film few Americans will see trifles with the sacred images of Tony Manero and Augusto Pinochet. Even stranger, he found this cultural offense a suitable launching pad for new and louder defenses of the murderous dictator, to which most Americans are likely to respond, "Who are Pinoshay and Ayendi?"

It was unavoidable and understandable that, with conservatives largely out of power, they would spend more time complaining. But so much of their time these days is spent raging at irrelevancies. It's as if they believe their rage itself is incandescent and, if allowed to burn brightly enough, will attract voters like moths. The Palin eruption, in which her abandonment of the responsibilities of office is portrayed as victimhood, is only their biggest such bonfire of vanities at the moment.

This compares badly even with the conservative culture-warring of olden times, for which I find myself growing almost nostalgic. They make Pat Buchanan look like Isaiah Berlin.

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