too much typing—since 2003


wishful lack of thinking

A week or so ago I went to our award-winning local bookstore, Harry W. Schwartz, to hear Thomas Frank speak on his new book, What's the Matter with Kansas? Frank addresses the question of why the people of Kansas - one of the poorer states in the nation - overwhelming favored George W. Bush and Republicans in recent elections, despite the fact that Republican policies quite obviously do not favor them. The quick answer is that right-wing Republicans in particular have mastered an effective bait-and-switch, running on conservative social positions (which, despite unfortunate "progress" toward such goals, are unlikely ultimately to prevail) while actually enacting conservative economic issues. These are the terms of the compact between the newer, religious-based conservatism and the old-line Establishment conservativism.

The key component of this appeal, though, is the designation of an all-powerful, yet elusive, villain. That villain is, of course, The Liberal. The portrait of The Liberal that emerges in this right-wing discourse is familiar, of course: a latte-sipping, Volvo-driving snob with effete and decadent tastes, disdainful of the rabble, mistrustful of its freedom, and unaffected by the tender feelings that animate regular, God-fearing people. In his talk, Frank noted that switching only a very few of these signifiers gives us the 1930s Popular Front portrayal of The Evil Capitalist (with the economics put back into the picture, along with a plausible line of cause and effect) - and switching only a few more gives us a portrait of classic anti-Semitism. However, what seems to animate everyday right-wingers these days isn't anti-Semitism, and it certainly isn't economics: it's resentment, and mistrust of The Liberal's intellectual voodoo.

For me, one of the clearest illustrations of this anti-intellectual mindset was demonstrated in an incident Rose encountered at work a couple of years ago. A cow-orker (whom I'll call "Julie," since that was her name) was ditto-ing Limbaughisms at Rose, who responded by pointing out that actual facts made mincemeat of Rush's bloviations. I don't remember the specific issue under discussion, only that the facts Rose cited indeed blew Limbaugh out of the water (and this was the younger, larger Limbaugh - so more prodigious force was needed to accomplish such a blow against gravity).

Julie's response, though, wasn't to argue the facts, or their interpretation, or their relevance. Instead, she took off after Rose: "The problem is, you know too much about the situation, so you're biased. I'm looking at it from the heart, so my response is more honest."

Facts, as the man said, are stupid things. And the man knows stupid.


Anonymous said...

the, of course, there's the civil war theory of Kansas voting: whatever Missouri voted for, Kansas would vote against.

2fs said...

'Cept of course, Missouri went 50-47 to Bush in 2000...