Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Attention Versus Power

The City Journal article by Blake Smith, Attention Counteracting Ambition, hit some interesting buttons for me. Our elites desire admiration more than power.  That seems plausible.

Obama’s speeches and Trump’s tweets gave their supporters the pleasure of imagining that their team now occupied the driver’s seat of history, leaving “bitter clingers” or “losers” in the dust. Both political elites and their audiences seem content to let politics become a kind of dramaturgy, in which roles are performed to cheers and boos. Obama flew to Cairo to give what was then hailed in the global press as an epochal speech. Trump flew to North Korea for an equally blustery, equally inconsequential meeting with Kim Jong Un. Both enjoyed fame in its postmodern sense of media attention, not its eighteenth-century meaning of lasting glory.
I see the complaint on conservative sites - more in the comments than the posts - that various liberals crave power and control over us, and they apply that interpretation to everything that they do. I don't reject that entirely, but it has never quite rung true for me. It seems an overinterpretation of motives, and when that happens, one has to wonder if it is projection, and the critic is desiring power himself.

Beto O'Rourke does not seem to be pursuing power.  He wants to be seen as a cool dude with massive righteousness, admired by all. Hillary might be best understood on the power axis, but AOC seems more like Beto.

 Nearly half a century ago, Jean Baudrillard advanced a blistering critique of Michel Foucault’s theory about the ubiquity of power, arguing that political elites today seek only the illusion of power.

I was in the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic-affiliated order for young men when I was in high school. My participation was indifferent, having been dragged in by a friend whose mother was very involved with Eastern Star. But I do recall that there were phrases that kept showing up in the secret ritual, and one was "worthy of the commendation of all good men." That seems like that older version of fame that Smith is referring to.


Christopher B said...

It's not either/or. Look at the word that describes this on social media, "influencers." Back when he was sane Jonah Goldberg wrote a whole book about how the power-grab would likely happen under the cover of a smiley face, or while looking like a dork riding a skateboard.

Donald Trump does not equate with Robert O'Rourke or AOC. Trump was already widely known and quite widely admired (and, yes, as equally despised) before he entered politics. The latter two are famous because they entered politics.

engineerlite said...

Have we past a time when a good person would pursue virtue?

David Foster said...

Seems to me that much of the Left is obsessed with power...if not their personal power, then power as the single thing that matters in explaining everything. See:

Professors and the Pornography of Power

Classics and the Public Sphere

Grim said...

It is ironic that the Masons named that order after a Templar executed for various alleged things not commended by men of good will. He was likely not guilty, but still: his reputation was not stellar at the time of his death.

Grim said...

Those are interesting links, Mr. Foster.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, I attract an amazingly intelligent crowd here, David Foster prominent among them. I like to think it's my winning personality.

David Foster said...