Friday, November 26, 2010

The Rally To Restore...Vanity?

There is a post by far-left Mark Ames making the rounds, The Rally To Restore Vanity: Generation X Celebrates Its Homeric Struggle Against Lameness, because the concluding paragraph of his overlong rant encourages liberals to spit on libertarians because they are "enemies of the state." Ann Althouse (plus Stephen Green, via Instapundit*) finds some things in the essay worth attending to however, and not merely as a bad example to be aware of. Ames has sensed correctly one of the driving forces behind the Stewart/Colbert rally, and is furiously angry about it.

Some additional comments to Ann's about Mark's piece from from eXile: As he is 45, Ames learned about the 60's protest movements secondhand, when the mythology of their sincerity, courage, and nobility was already in place. He contrasts the liberals following fashion now with the liberals seeking justice then. It ain't so. First, there was a sharp decline in purity of motive from the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement. Even Jesse Jackson was sincere then. I don't mean to paint either movement as pure or impure. There were bandwagoners and attention-whores in the civil rights movement and deeply sincere seekers after justice in the antiwar movement. But there was a general decline. And in both, there were those whose aim was always the downfall of the American system, who insinuated themselves into the confidence of decent people - piggybackers willing to latch on to anything that looked as if it might cause trouble. The numbers of these latter were small but determined.

Also, one might pause to consider the sincerity of the politics of popular performers in any generation. They were increasingly prominent (only a few folksingers at the beginning of the civil rights movement; everyone on the radio by the late 60's, most of TV and Hollywood by the late 70's. Evidence for my first point in itself). Authenticity is so easy to fake onstage.

Note, BTW, that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are the same age as Ames. Not an accident.

The current generation of retro-infatuated hippies, in its fascination with the music and styles of the 60's rather than its ideals, might send Ames over the edge, but he needs to bear in mind that it wasn't much different in 1969. The myth of the early heroes of the struggle is standard in all movements. There was genuine concern for equality, for peace and justice, but there was a lot more concern for being noticed, getting high, and getting laid. (Yes, even among all those churchy social justice types.) Not to pick on the left exclusively for that. That is true of their opponents and of all political movements in safe places. It's human nature.

Second, because Ames is in the anti-corporate left, he still sees liberals as half-hearted versions of his more radical self, who can be rallied by appeals to stiffen the backbone and gird up the loins. In trying to shame them into standing up to The Man, he has not noticed that they are The Man. Corporations and billionaires and lobbyists are as likely - perhaps more likely - to support Democrats now, in the interest of tidying things up under nice government control influenced by them. They are likely to agree with the left about abortion and gay marriage, affirmative action and universal health care, global warming and talking nice to our enemies customers. Employees of insurance companies and health care corporations are not philosophically opposed to poor people getting health care. They are philosophically opposed to going out of business. Many of them, by their actions, care far more about poor people getting medical care than he does. The sweetheart Wall Street deals are cut by Democrats now, even more than Republicans. They are not liberals who have wandered off the reservation and need to get back to their roots. These are their roots.

Ames has allowed Democratic branding to becloud what he sees more clearly than most. There is a rhetoric of association that Democrats use in branding their product that Mark Ames has swallowed whole. Of course there are cigar-smoking fat cats who hate what Mark Ames stands for, caring only about money and not the least squeamish about corruption. But that divide is no longer left and right. That was years ago. The movements have changed, the ground has shifted. The roles have not reversed, but they are no longer clear. Friends at nonprofits may tell him differently, but look at their funding sources. They have a personal stake in party politics.

*There was an old New Yorker cartoon by Edward Koren, of a wealthy NYC couple in a book-lined apartment. He is is bearded, in a bathrobe, with a pipe. She has the Sunday NYTimes scattered around her chair and says "Paul's got an article in the magazine section. Ann's book is reviewed by Dick. Buddy has a short piece on the Op-Ed page. Roy has something in the travel section, there's an essay by Norman on Matthew's new movie, and a letter on endangered species by your mother." Evidence even in 1968 of the echo chamber that increasing became the liberal elite. Is the blogosphere now doing the same thing?

1 comment:

RememberRemember said...

He contrasts the liberals following fashion now with the liberals seeking justice then. It ain't so. First, there was a sharp decline in purity of motive from the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement.

Heard in a high school locker room, from many years ago. “My father signed a petition against the Vietnam War that was also signed by a lot of Ivy League professors.”

All the cool people.