Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Peeved Aggrieved Bereaved Club

It's getting so divisive out there that liberal commentators can't even tweet out their innocuous accolades for war criminal George H.W. Bush without the Twitter trolls making their lives a living hell.

Frank Bruni of the New York Times has even written a column about the "obituary wars" between those who come to innocently praise Bush and those who come to crankily point to his many faults and crimes while his freshly embalmed body is still indecently at room temperature.
On Twitter over the weekend, the television writer Bryan Behar did something unconscionable.
He praised George H.W. Bush.
The former president had just died. In Behar’s view, it was a moment to recognize any merit in the man and his legacy.
Many of his followers disagreed. They depended on Behar for righteous liberal passion, which left no room for such Bush-flattering adjectives and phrases as “good,” “decent” and “a life of dignity.” How dare Behar lavish them on a man who leaned on the despicable Willie Horton ad, who nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, who did too little in the face of AIDS, whose privilege often blinded him to need.
They lashed out at Behar. They unfollowed him. And they demonstrated the transcendent curse of these tribal times: Americans’  diminishing inability to hold two thoughts at once.
I'm surprised that Bruni didn't blame Russian trolls for sowing such divisions among the rabble. But it's early hagiographic days yet. And to give Bruni credit, he at least admitted that his own Saturday column in praise of Bush 41 was just a tad over the top.

But rather than cast too much opprobrium on himself and his fellow liberal Bush fan club members, he casts opprobrium on people who, unlike Bush, are totally lacking in class and the ability to project bullshit with a smarmy smile and crocodile tears. Meanwhile, we should allow all the cyber-mourners to pseudo-grieve in peace and safety.  Just because Behar had written a boilerplate condolence tweet praising Bush's goodness and his dignity and his patriotism didn't mean he was endorsing the points of blight on Bush's record, for cryin' out loud. Now all those haters are making him feel so terribly bad about himself, don't you see.

Grief-shaming is the new slut-shaming.

Lanny Davis, the Clinton lawyer who now represents Donald Trump consigliere Michael Cohen, is among the outraged, tweeting: "Any follower who dropped @bryanbehar for his kind words about this great and good man President George H.W. Bush reflects the worst there is in today’s politics. They only show affinity for the politics or hate reflected by @realDonaldTrump

Since writing my own post on Saturday to mark Poppy's entrance into the void, I let off some additional steam in the Times comments sections, which at least initially were rife with liberal praise for Bush. I felt compelled to throw a little acid on the sickening hagiography emanating like rivers of rancid honey from the Paper of Record. Although nobody accused me of liking or even being Trump as a result, the most common epithet hurled in my direction by Times readers was "churlish." One troll worried I might show up at his wake to cast opprobrium on his life. Unfortunately, he posted under a pseudonym, so I have no way of knowing whether the many funerals that I crash in order to deliver my unseemly diatribes against the Dead will ever find the right target. Sad.  

But for the past couple of days, I've been striving to ignore the nonstop pageantry, with its star-studded cast of blood-soaked ruling class racketeers coming together to cry, laugh, share candy, hug each other or snub each other, and take selfies. I keep thinking back to Ronald Reagan's week-long funeral in June 2004, when I was confined to the prison of a hospital bed and tortured by the wall-to-wall coverage. Shutting off the TV was next to impossible, because the remote kept falling on the floor and I didn't want to keep calling the nurses to deal with my TV dilemma when they had more pressing emergencies to address.

So now that I have the physical freedom to avoid such things, I do so with gusto. It also helps enormously that I cancelled cable several months ago.

With Bush 41's funeral and burial lasting only a day or two more, we can hopefully bury the Obituary Wars right along with the actual Bush body. Until it starts all over again. I am predicting Henry Kissinger to top the charts at the next Hagiography Hit Parade. Sadly, I give Dick Cheney, whose young transplanted heart remains helplessly trapped and beating in his aged body, a couple more years at least. Is anybody wondering, as I tastelessly am, what the movers and shakers will do when it comes time to bury Trump? It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for the liberal class to rehabilitate him, assuming of course that we still have a civilization in another few climate-changed decades.

George H.W. Bush is being effusively praised for remaining such a calm, collected, polite, serene old gentleman in the long dull decades of his post-presidency, much admired by the Aggrieved Club for his uncommon avowal of having achieved much peace and happiness in his life. His self-satisfaction is something all of us should emulate, apparently.

To which psychopathic mindset the late critical theorist Theodor Adorno replied in his Minima Moralia book of aphorisms:
A newspaper obituary for a businessman once contained the words: 'The breadth of his conscience vied with the kindness of his heart.' The blunder committed by the bereaved in the elevated language reserved for such purposes, the inadvertent admission that the kind-hearted deceased had lacked a conscience, expedites the funeral procession by the shortest route to the land of truth. If a man of advanced years is praised for his exceptional serenity, his life can be assumed to to comprise a succession of infamies. He has rid himself of the habit of getting excited. Breadth of conscience is passed off as magnaminity, all-forgiving because all-too-understanding. The quid pro quo between one's guilt and that of others, is resolved in favor of whoever has come off best. After so long a life one quite loses the capacity to distinguish who has done what harm to whom. In the abstract conception of universal wrong, all concrete responsibility vanishes. The blackguard presents himself as a victim of injustice: if you only knew, young man, what life is like. But those conspicuous midway through life by an exceptional kindness are usually drawing advances on such serenity. He who does not malign does not live serenely but with a peculiarly chaste hardness and intolerance. Lacking appropriate objects, his love can scarcely express itself except by hatred of the inappropriate, in which admittedly he comes to resemble what he hates. The bourgeois, however, is tolerant. His love of people as they are stems from his hatred of what they might be.
This insight makes the statement about Bush from Barack and Michelle Obama seem all the more creepily revealing: "America has lost a patriot and humble servant in George Herbert Walker Bush. While our hearts are heavy today, they are also filled with gratitude. Our thoughts are with the entire Bush family tonight - and all who were inspired by George and Barbara's example."

Their hearts are weighted down with big, chaste, hard boulders of appreciation for the way that Bush bequeathed unchallenged unitary executive powers to all his Oval Office successors and the well-monetized life that comes after "public" service to the oligarchy. They look in the mirror and they see George and Barbara reflected right back at them. It's a tiny club, and we ain't in it. Thank God.
Here are few of my recent Times comments. The first, directed toward Frank Bruni's column, is mainly a critique of Twitter itself, because I was already suffering from churlish anti-grief exhaustion:
Tweets are not exactly the ideal venue for conveying nuance. And that goes for outpourings of grief and pseudo-grief, reactions to the outpourings, and revisions of the outpourings by the original (now a victim of gaslighting) tweeter, ad infinitum and ad nauseum.
 I never tweet. For one thing, you can't ever take back what you might have written in haste. I'm also sick of reading tweets, especially when they are gratuitously and regularly inserted into every otherwise thoughtful and nuanced article, including this one.
Why do people feel so obligated to tweet, anyway? This is an addictive (and might I say lazy) form of communication, which seems to reward the sender more than it serves to share views with the hordes of unknown recipients out there in cyberspace. Studies have shown that the Tweeter receives a satisfying jolt of dopamine for every new "like," follower, retweet and "x number of people are talking about this!"
Twitter is absolutely tailor-made for the dangerous either-or/ us vs. them, "you're an idiot and I'm not" synaptic brain-bursts that pass for political discourse and even basic thought these days. It's also tailor-made for the limited vocabulary of President Thumbs, which is all the more reason to boycott it.
That said, you simply cannot be president of this historically violent country without accumulating gallons of blood on your hands. So much of the "grief" for Bush seems so utterly platitudinous and obligatory and downright clubby.
I also commented on Maureen Dowd's weird and allegedly touching post-mortem, in which she casts herself as the main character in a decades-long madcap flirtatious relationship with Poppy Bush. I kind of sensed something like this was coming, given the maudlin pre-mortem hagiography she'd already penned about the man three years ago. (see my previous post.) Read her whole column, or just get the mawkish gist of it from the title: "The Patrician President and the Reporterette: A Screwball Story."

My published response:
This column can be interpreted on two different levels. First, it's the heartwarming story of how a journalist with working class roots forged a decades-spanning "screwball" relationship with one of the most powerful men on earth. Cue Hepburn and Tracy and the popcorn and the hankies.
Second, it's a case study of the mechanics of "access journalism." The D.C. press corps (up until the rise of Trump, that is) have long acted more as stenographers for the powerful rather than their adversaries, who act in the public interest. Thus, the very brief paragraph buried within this otherwise hagiographic piece that has Maureen Dowd "recoiling" at some of Poppy's racist and sexist behavior, before she is able to sweep them under the memory rug and wax rhapsodic about how this basically decent patrician gentleman deigned to let the "reporterette" into his rarefied world with all that flirtatious banter and gift exchanges and meals.
She dismisses the horrible things he did with the stock phrase that sycophants commonly use to excuse the powerful: "he wasn't perfect."
And most forgivable of all, he wasn't like Trump. He had class, he had manners, he had the upbringing to know how to protect his privilege with self-deprecation and jokes. Dowd "afflicted" Bush, but not too hard, and not too seriously. The subtext of this piece is that Poppy had her wrapped around his little finger while allowing her to believe that he was wrapped around hers.


stranger in a strange land said...

Thanks for referencing Russ Baker in your previous Poppy post. Would that a few more citizens could be exposed to his work, and the preponderance of shit it demonstrates about the Shrubs, and, by extension, others very much like them who wield so much power in this world... I was physically sickened today to see the Google logo grayed in mourning for HW. That kinda stuff is like a gut shot, enough to invite despair. George ‘You Ain’t In It’ Carlin said that a disappointed idealist lay beneath the exterior of any cynic. I try to be an ‘Adjust the Sails’ realist, but damn if it isn’t tough to see the way these days. Bucky Fuller preached that the best way to supplant an existing reality is not to fight it, but to invent a new one. What’s the plan?

The Doktor - Doug R said...

One of the reasons we CAN'T have any reasonable discussion about politics is exactly because there is no Liberal media and the Dems won't admit that.
America is chock full of fascist, right wing nut job Hate radio & extremist right wing network television, with absolutely no counterpart from the Progressives, let alone the left.
Name one single left wing Liberal Progressive with a media platform that reaches millions.
Rachel Maddow isn't talking about subsidized living wage programs for poor people.
She's not talking about how to institute single payer, public option health care.
She's not talking about how to drag corporatist Dems towards sane policy.
And she's among the best we've got!
Joy Ann Reid tip toes close to the edge on occasion, but she knows she'll be hangin' out with Melissa Harris-Perry next week if she calls out Monsanto or the absolute butchery of the barbaric Saudi's who gave us 9/11 & behead people for free speech, and won't let women actually OWN a car - let alone drive it without a MANS express permission.
So, yeah, the Bush's are a war mongering family full of war profiteering thieves... Dubya belongs in the Hague, Neil belongs in jail and Jeb belongs in a pathetic 80's pop video, but it's up to us as Americans to stand up to these bullies and demand it.
Call your local TV stations and explain why. Scream at 'em, that's what the righties do.
The media controls our reality, Trump understands that much.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Tweets are like cigarettes: moments of pleasurable release converted to smoke with long-term consequences. Best not to become addicted.

As for the elder Bush, it's a pity we can't bury his foul deeds along with his corporal remains. His legacy will continue to live on in millions as pain. So it will be with the big funerals yet to come for other presidents, perhaps with the exception of Carter.

We first took note of Carter when he captained a fiendish machine under the North Pole. In those years of the Cold War he would have, if given the order, nuked millions. With age he changed. Once retired from all the levers of power and back in Plains, he did a great deal to advance the physical wellbeing of many. His eulogy need not be so heavy with lies as those we have heard this week.

As for Kissinger, there is little danger Old Glory will droop long at half mast when he goes. He never held that commanding office of idolatry we are supposed to respect, no matter who is in it. No endless farewells on TV. His casket will skip the Washington National Cathedral Studio. I suspect mainstream journalists will be much more divided about his character and legacy in the week following his demise. From what little I hear about him lately, he appears not to have changed. Five years short of being 100, he continues to sell folly as wisdom for a high price here and abroad.

The Doktor - Doug R said...

It's pretty goddamned easy to be magnanimous when you rule the world around you. Nothing or no one can really hurt you or your family. You have everything you need or want. You can do pretty much anything you want; break laws, make laws, hurt others, crush your enemies, buy land, buy influence, buy your way into any circle of control. Failure doesn't affect you or effect your life circumstances.
Fuckers. Must be nice.
WE, the workers, pay for it all, with our all too real blood, sweat & tears.

Anna Radicalova said...

I find Twitter to be informative and even indispensable for tapping into the thoughts and activity of some of our best young minds.

Some of my favorites: Glenn Greenwald, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Julie K. Brown (Miami-Herald journalist for Epstein legal news), Carol Rosenberg (Miami-Herald journalist for Guantanamo news) Wikileaks, Aaron Mate (son of Dr. Gabor Mate), Margaret Kimberley and Amaju Baraka (both of Black Agenda Report), Rashida Tlaib (new Congresswoman) and there are many more. They don't tweet excessively and what they have to say is important.

Here's a tweet from AOC today:

'Right now Freshman members of Congress are at a “Bipartisan” orientation w/ briefings on issues.
Invited panelists offer insights to inform new Congressmembers‘ views as they prepare to legislate.
# of Corporate CEOs we’ve listened to here: 4
# of Labor leaders: 0'

And from Rashida Tlaib, also a new Congresswoman arriving with a new attitude:

'Gary Cohen, former CEO Goldman Sachs addressing new members of Congress today: "You guys are way over your head, you don't know how the game is played." No Gary, YOU don't know what's coming - a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits.'

Neither they nor we had any idea that corporate lobbyists 'orient' them. What they shared is one of the values of Twitter.

I encourage you all to follow these genuine thought leaders on Twitter. I guarantee it will lift your spirits. Start with AOC and the New Green Deal that she's helping promote.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Tao Te Ching

Mad Max said...

"he [G.H.W. Bush] wasn’t perfect."

Well, no, he wasn’t “perfect.” But as you say somewhere in this article, Karen,

“you simply cannot be president of this historically violent country without accumulating gallons of blood on your hands.”


About which of our “great”—or even “not-so-great”— presidents can you say that he hadn’t “accumulat[ed] gallons of blood on his hands during his tenure? Jimmy Carter…maybe?

(And I use the pronoun, “he,” here, only because all of our presidents to date have been men. Which is not to say that certain female Secretaries of State—specifically, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright—haven’t been ruthlessly eager to use lethal force to destroy whole countries either. They simply hadn’t reached that titular pinnacle of power, “President of the United States.” But they still could KILL. And seemed eager to do so.)

Like it or not, the WHOLE of human history [not just AMERICAN history] has been written in blood and conquest, from the time that we began to call ourselves “humans,” as such. Whether or not we really deserved that title.

Like G.H.W. Bush, we are what we are. But hopefully, we continue to evolve.

G.H.W. seems not to have been a bad example.

Erik Roth said...

Infamously unforgettable and certainly unforgivable was Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations “making the case” for Iraq War II, waged by George H.W. Bush's son, Dubya.

That deception mimicked an earlier one under the former president now being so brazenly idolized.
Yet the legacy of George H.W. Bush includes this marker of character and knell of consequence.

Nayirah’s testimony in link below is hard to take, and turns your stomach all the worse when you realize it was an elaborate lie, staged to enrage, contrived to convince, made to manufacture consent, and so, it, and with it, “Poppy” Bush stands insidiously despicable and damnably culpable for the consequent war crimes, untold deaths, and escalating horrors endlessly afflicting us all ad nauseam usque ad mortem.

How False Testimony and a Massive U.S. Propaganda Machine Bolstered George H.W. Bush’s War on Iraq —

Clueless It Seems said...

I agree with many of the things you say in this. Although from a different perspective. I was a professional musician (Kennedy Center in DC) and changed careers in my mid-30s to become a computer person. I saw storage media go from millions of characters to the 140 that our vaunted POTUS and everyone else uses. Can one really express oneself in 140 characters (i.e., keep 2 thoughts in mind at once)? And multiple Tweets don't count. An email mailbox monitoring system is still an email mailbox monitoring system. Always was, is now, and always will be. Getting to the point: Twitter and Facebook were ALWAYS tremendous violations of privacy (I know cookies and all the stuff that's under the table that one doesn't see very well and don't care if millions of other users of FB, for example, are blind). All this (routers and servers and electrical power) costs money and the moneyed class is figuring this out. And of course users will pay for it gladly! The users are always the ones who pay. But all the lemmings are completely blind to this and will gladly jump over the cliff... that's not what is meant by "follow me". Or is it?

Anna Radicalova said...

Here's an interesting take on Twitter users who are journalists. It can also explain the fawning over the passing of GHWB:

"If you ’ve ever wondered what motivates all those blue-checkmarked corporate media journalists to spend so much time on Twitter defending the powerful and attacking the disempowered, this is your answer. They spend their own free time smearing Jill Stein, calling Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite, attacking Julian Assange, supporting longtime neoconservative war agendas against Russia, Syria and Iran and uncritically reporting intelligence agency assertions as fact not because there’s a CIA officer hovering over their shoulder at all times telling them exactly what to tweet, but because they’re auditioning for a job. They’re creating a public record of their establishment loyalism which current and future employers will look at when weighing hiring and promotion decisions, which is why both journalism schools and journalism employers now encourage journalists to cultivate a social media presence to “build their brand”, i.e. their public resume."

How Plutocratic Media Keeps Staff Aligned With Establishment Agendas - Caitlin Johnstone

Jay–Ottawa said...


A most excellent link.