Friday, January 14, 2022

The Political Play Is Literally The Thing

Poster From John Carpenter's The Thing

Because despite all the suspense and the horror and the shape-shifting and the gaslighting, our current crew of political actors are discovering to their great chagrin that there is a limit to the times that you can remake a smash hit and create a franchise, and still expect people to show up at the box office to gawk and tremble and purchase the merch.

Even Dick Cheney playing a rehabbed Darth Vader at the January Sixth Capitol extravaganza, and even Nancy Pelosi piping in ditties from the cast of the neoliberal Broadway hit Hamilton to paper over her crass championship of congressional insider trading, did not garner the ratings and the rave reviews the producers obviously intended and fully expected. 

Joe Biden, plain-speaking actor that he fancies himself to be, had already addressed the reality of the elites' declining ratings a few years ago during his campaign for the White House. He acknowledged the truth of The Thing to be self-evidently apparent. 

 But despite that brief moment of candor, he still made a great big show this week of marching to the Capitol to pretend to be "fighting for" the right of every American to score food and water from their fellow citizens while standing in long lines to vote. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema managed to steal top cinematic billing from his latest role, as she histrionically pretended to hate the same filibuster reform that Biden now pretends to love Not even his shout-out to dead racist Senator Strom Thurmond at his Georgia performance earlier in the week swayed Sinema to change her mind or her script. And why would it, when even the supporting cast and crew of what the late Glen Ford dubbed the Black Misleadership Class boycotted Biden's performance? 

Striving mightily nonetheless to perform his trademark down-home candor while admitting that mail-in ballots and food and water for waiting voters are GOP mountains far too high for him and the Democrats to climb, Biden plaintively remarked at the end of his truncated Capitol cameo part that "the honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done."

But actors must do what actors must do, and summoning up his very best Jimmy Stewart Mr. Smith Goes to Washington impression, Biden raised it to the next decibel and growled “As long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting.”

Are the Oscar nominations already a done deal, and I'm too late to register to vote? Oh, wait... mere audience members are not allowed to vote in the Oscar elections. Elites not only have weighted votes in "democratic" elections, they also have exclusive votes when it comes to nominating one another's theatrical performances. That goes not only for people employed in the movie business, but for the financiers of the movie business. Here's looking at you, Jeff Bezos, who pays no personal income tax but just donated a hefty sum to help construct the Chicago shrine of that consummate political actor, Barack Obama.

But all hope should not be abandoned. Because it is the Republicans, of all the villains in the annals of performative villainy, that just announced that they will no longer participate in the quadrennial spectacular known as the Presidential Debates. Of course, they are probably planning a whole series of alternate entertainments in the slasher genre that promise to be a lot more horrific and profitable than those boring affairs we're so tired of sitting through. Whatever the form of Campaign 2024, it will be a real Thing, what late critic Roger Ebert called "a great barf bag of a movie."

Speaking of ennui and nausea, Bill and Hillary Clinton reportedly are not only bored with being pariahs, but they smell the anemic Biden blood in the water and are planning a comeback. According to Politico, they are especially heartened that the latest "American Crime Story" season, depicting the Lewinsky scandal, did not get big ratings. Perhaps it was because the series was aired on a subscription channel, and the proles are already maxed out on inflated rent and food bills?

But here's The Thing, or as Joe Biden riffs on and on about it ad infinitum, Here's The Deal, Folks.  The horror show will end only when we stop buying tickets for the privilege of helplessly gawking at whatever capitalistic life-forms that The Thing is currently mutating into and at the same time to resist being assimilated into its maw. The Thing that the political-media-military-carceral-surveillance complex is selling is nothing more and nothing less than fear itself.

We just have to stop being awed by political performers and their stale narratives. Instead, we might take a tip from the simultaneously cruel and egalitarian Aztec civilization and, as recounted by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow in their riveting new book "The Dawn of Everything," we should subject all aspiring and de facto elected officials to an acid test involving "fasting, sleep deprivation, blood-letting and a strict regime of moral instruction."

We should implement a Dick Cheney reverse torture regimen on their sorry selves. Psychological, of course. Maybe do a little enhanced interrogation at least.

"Clearly, taking up office in this indigenous democracy required personality traits very different to those we take for granted in modern electoral politics," the "Dawn" authors observe in dry understatement about the Aztec proles.

Just imagine Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi being forced to relinquish their faltering theatrical careers for a long stint in political rehab and public self-abnegation as the only way to prove to the audience just how sincere they really are, and how much they truly feel our pain. Actually doing the right thing as opposed to being seen as doing the right thing should be a requirement for everyone entering public service, and a litmus test for staying in their positions once chosen. The goal should not be the acquisition of power, but rather the privilege of representation. No wonder the corporate press hates this book.

The mere thought of these miscreants having to publicly flagellate themselves in front of the cameras in order to prove their bona fides makes me feel better already. It makes me feel like torturing them, if only rhetorically, for yet another day.


Anonymous said...

We use the term "politician" as an inadvertant acknowledgement that these people are not legit. Here's a dictionary definition:

1. One who is actively involved or skilled in politics, especially one who holds a political office.
2. One who deceives or outmaneuvers others for personal gain

Really, we should be using terms like "elected official", "public servant" "fellow citizen" to refer to the people who are supposed to represent our interests as lawmakers.

Sadly, these days, "politician", "celebrity" and "racketeer" seem more accurate.

Anonymous said...

Just got Dawn of Everything. Really looking forward to digging into it.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Sardonicky does well in its aim to shine light on the false values and illusions that immiserate and destroy life. Thomas Merton did the same in his late writing. His output was tremendous and he covered the horizon. His writing had room not only to say NO, but to say YES.

He was also an authority on James Joyce and published articles and reviews about Joyce in leading scholarly publications, even as a monk. I find it amusing that he copied the template of a naughty passage near the end of Ulysses to temper his NOs with many passionate YESes.

If I say NO to all these secular forces, I also say YES to all that is good in the world and in human beings. I say YES to all that is beautiful in nature, and in order that this may be the "yes" of a freedom and not of subjection. I must refuse to possess anything in the world purely as my own. I say YES to all the men and women who are my brothers and sisters in the world, but for this "yes" to be an assent of freedom and not subjection. I must live so that no one of them may seem to belong to me, and that I may not belong to any of them. It is because I want to be more to them than a friend that I become to all of them, a stranger.
Quoted in William Shannon, Silent Lamp, 262.

Erik Roth said...

The political play is beyond farce as reality has become indistinguishable from "The Onion".
I don’t subscribe to, or ever bother to read "The Wall Street Journal", but note this revealing headline:

"Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback —
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have become unpopular. It may be time for a change." candidate.
Jan. 11, 2022 ~ by Douglas E. Schoen and Andrew Stein

Also, notice this reaction to that scenario, posing a truly horrific plot twist:

"Hillary Clinton Is Definitely Running Again in 2024*"
Jan. 12, 2022 ~ by Benjamin Hart

"That Penn and Schoen, Clinton White House veterans who have spent the past 20 years concern-trolling Democrats, have absolutely no insight into the current state of the party does not seem to be an impediment to publishing sweepingly incorrect predictions or advice. What’s more important is that Hillary Clinton, that ambition-mad schemer, is always waiting in the wings, perpetually about to take control of the Democratic Party, despite the fact that roughly zero people in America actually want her to do that.
Enough with the Hillary prophecies. Let’s stick to realistic 2024 ticket ideas, like Biden-Cheney."

"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater."
~ Frank Zappa

Erik Roth said...

Upsetting his usual self-righteously assured stance on everything, the insufferably smarmy David Brooks forgoes his unctuous attitude to admit that now he doesn’t know it all.
Yet, his lament at being baffled by the unravelling of America belies the blatant fact that the cause of our demise is excruciatingly obvious to anyone.
On what and for whom are the oligarchs ruling this country spending our money?
All Mr. Brooks need do is FOLLOW THE MONEY, for the love of that, and control of it, by the likes of him and the corporate plutocrats who own the Republi-crats, is the evil root.
Yes, “the situation is dire” as Brooks recognizes, but he fails to realize the only solution is radical change to restore democracy.

"America Is Falling Apart at the Seams" —
Jan. 13, 2022 ~ by David Brooks

Erik Roth said...

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
~ John Maynard Keynes

“I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken a stronger hold on the affections of men.”
"Americans have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?"
"Individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but in the long run it attacks and destroys all others and is at length absorbed in selfishness."
~ Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"

"Corporate sedition is more damaging to America than the Capitol attack —
Kyrsten Sinema receives millions from business and opposes progressive priorities.
Republicans who voted to overturn an election still bag big bucks.
Whose side are CEOs on?"
16 Jan. 2022 ~ by Robert Reich

Chris said...

"The Dawn of Everything" is biased disingenuous account of human history ( ) that spreads fake hope (the authors of "The Dawn" claim human history has not "progressed" in stages, or linearly, and must not end in inequality and hierarchy as with our current system... so there's hope for us now that it could get different/better again). As a result of this fake hope porn it has been widely praised. It conveniently serves the profoundly sick industrialized world of fakes and criminals. The book's dishonest fake grandiose title shows already that this work is a FOR-PROFIT, instead a FOR-TRUTH, endeavor geared at the (ignorant gullible) masses.

Fact is human history has "progressed" by and large in linear stages, especially since the dawn of agriculture ( ). This "progress" has been fundamentally destructive and is driven and dominated by “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” ( ) which the fake hope-giving authors of "The Dawn" entirely ignore, naturally (no one can write a legitimate human history without understanding the nature of humans). And these two married pink elephants are the reason why we've been "stuck" in a destructive hierarchy and unequal class system (the "stuck" question is the major question in "The Dawn" its authors never answer, predictably), and will be far into the foreseeable future.

A good example that one of the authors, Graeber, has no real idea what world we've been living in and about the nature of humans is his last brief article on Covid where his ignorance shines bright already at the title of his article, “After the Pandemic, We Can’t Go Back to Sleep.” Apparently he doesn't know that most people WANT to be asleep, and that they've been wanting that for thousands of years (and that's not the only ignorant notion in the title). Yet he (and his partner) is the sort of person who thinks he can teach you something authentically truthful about human history and whom you should be trusting along those terms. Ridiculous!

"The Dawn" is just another fantasy, or ideology, cloaked in a hue of cherry-picked "science," served lucratively to the gullible ignorant underclasses who crave myths and fairy tales.

Valerie said...

I don't think any of the politicians in the limelight have any credibility with the public at large - at least those who are paying attention. The Lesser of To Evilism is so thin - yet it seems to be the only thing Democrats have to offer. I hear it from my Democratic friends. They are either pulling out the, "At least they aren't Trump (types)" or "Most Democrats are trying to do the right thing but the Republicans (with the help of Manchin and Sinema) keep standing in the way. The whole thing is so clearly orchestrated as to be like a predictable movie. It always ends the same with most of the politicians from both parties reaping their rewards from the real people they serve.

Meanwhile, the real problems worsen for the 95% - impending war on so many fronts, nuclear proliferation, climate change, income inequality, growing injustice as those in power (and with money) tip the rules and laws in their favour, accepted racism and discrimination and an endless focus on materialism and trivialism intended to keep us all distracted from what is important.

The political play that passes for political leadership wears down those who genuinely care - as it is intended to do.

Erik Roth said...

Bill Clinton’s Role in the Crisis Over Ukraine —
January 18, 2022 ~ by Melvin Goodman