July 10, 2017

ITS ORIGIN AND PURPOSE, STILL A TOTAL MYSTERY:

Shot:

Trying to regain their footing, the mainstays of consensus thought have focused on domesticating the threat. Who are these Tea Partiers and internet recluses, these paleoconservatives and tech futurists, and what could they possibly want? The Atlantic mapped the coordinates of the “rebranded” white nationalism or the “internet’s anti-democracy movement” in the previously uncharted waters of 4chan and meme culture. In Strangers in Their Own Land, Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild peers over the “empathy wall” between her and her rural Louisiana Tea Party contacts, while in Hillbilly Elegy, Ohio-born lawyer J. D. Vance casts a melancholic look back—from the other side of the aisle, but, tellingly, from the same side of the wall—on the Appalachian culture he left behind for Yale Law and a career in Silicon Valley.

— “Final Fantasy: Neoreactionary politics and the liberal imagination,” James Duesterberg, The Point, July, 2017.

Chaser:

Everywhere, they flew the colors of assertive patriots. Their car windows were plastered with American-flag decals, their ideological totems. In the bumper-sticker dialogue of the freeways, they answered Make Love Not War with Honor America or Spiro is My Hero. They sent Richard Nixon to the White House and two teams of astronauts to the moon. They were both exalted and afraid. The mysteries of space were nothing, after all, compared with the menacing confusions of their own society.

The American dream that they were living was no longer the dream as advertised. They feared that they were beginning to lose their grip on the country. Others seemed to be taking over–the liberals, the radicals, the defiant young, a communications industry that they often believed was lying to them. The Saturday Evening Post folded, but the older world of Norman Rockwell icons was long gone anyway. No one celebrated them: intellectuals dismissed their lore as banality. Pornography, dissent and drugs seemed to wash over them in waves, bearing some of their children away.

But in 1969 they began to assert themselves. They were “discovered” first by politicians and the press, and then they started to discover themselves. In the Administration’s voices–especially in the Vice President’s and the Attorney General’s–in the achievements and the character of the astronauts, in a murmurous and pervasive discontent, they sought to reclaim their culture. It was their interpretation of patriotism that brought Richard Nixon the time to pursue a gradual withdrawal from the war. By their silent but newly felt presence, they influenced the mood of government and the course of legislation, and this began to shape the course of the nation and the nation’s course in the world. The Men and Women of the Year were the Middle Americans.

— “Man and Woman of the Year: The Middle Americans,” Time magazine’s cover story, January 5, 1970.

Why yes, the left does churn these “who are these strange aliens on the right” pieces out like clockwork the year after a president with an (R) after his name is elected. (Though the alt-right angle that Duesterberg focuses on makes for interesting reading.) Or as James Lileks wrote in response shortly after GWB was reelected, “once upon a time the major media at least pretended that the heart & soul of the country was a porch in Kansas with an American flag. Now it’s the outlands, the Strange Beyond. They vote for Bush, they believe in God, they’d have to drive 2 hours for decent Thai. Who are these people?”

Note this passage Duesterberg wrote:

Amid the diffuse politics and intractable ironism of the alt right, neoreaction promises a coherent ideology, a philosophical backbone and a political program directly opposed to what we have: they call it a “Dark Enlightenment.” If these thinkers are especially disturbing to read it is because, unlike the meme warriors of 4chan and Twitter, they seem to have reasons for the nasty things they say.

As Fred Siegel wrote in his 2014 book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, “The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. ‘Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,’ Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, ‘and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.’”

That’s been the spoken or sotto voce motto of the left since the days of H.G. Wells and Woodrow Wilson. It helps to explain why Obama was dubbed “President Spock” by his DNC-MSM supporters for his distanced view of Americans, and why he seemed far more eager to wage war against Republicans and the middle class than he did ISIS and Al Qaeda. I don’t truck with alt-right racism or violence, but the left shouldn’t be surprised after decades of openly wanting to “rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” and reporting on it with the distance of Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist (when not viewing it with racist contempt), that some on the right might begin to reciprocate those gestures.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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