May 19th, 2004

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They did a bad bad thing

The most beautiful thing about the Right Wing in America right now is its ability to not only hypocritically claim credit for things it not only didn't do but actively opposed, but it's ability to do that AND call the Left hypocritical flip-floppers in the SAME DAMN BREATH.

That takes real balls. We're talking HUGE Cojones. Brass ones the size of the boulder from Raiders of the Last Ark.

The New York Times (New Motto: All the News that's Fit for 99% of America to Ignore) reports today that George Bush is taking credit for a police-funding program that he tried to slash by 87%. Slashing a program's budget by 87% isn't trimming it, it's taking it out back behind the barn and shooting it. Now I'm not going to bother arguing about the merits of this particular program, it's not important and there are legitimate reasons why one might think it ought to be gotten rid of. It's the fact that Bush is taking credit for this program that's relevant, and not because it's the exception that proves the rule, because it IS the rule.

I consume a good deal of Right Wing media. Part of it is because buried beneath the layers and layers of bullshit and stupidity there are some interesting and important points. Part of it is because I want to understand HOW they've done what they've done, which is to completely co-opt American politics to revolve around their agenda. I was curious how the right wing spin machine would react to Abu Ghraib. The answer has been rather enlightening.

Their first reaction was slightly mixed. The majority of them conceded that what had happened at Abu Ghraib was probably a bad thing, what with the torture and fatalities and all. Some, such as Rush Limbaugh, did not. They chose to draw their line in the sand pretty far up the beach.

Regardless of whether the individual commentator admitted that torturing innocents was a bad thing or not the pretty much unanimous opinion was that the real scandal was how the media had handled the problem. You know, by, well, exposing it. This might seem a rather odd criticism in a country whose most dearly held right is freedom of speech, but once you remember that these particular right wingers are raging hypocrits it becomes more comprehensible. Anyway, the right wing was up in arms about the release of these photographs and, of course, the gall of the liberal press in demanding that President Bush somehow address this issue.

I would like to note here that there were a few other 'lessons' that we are supposed to learn from Abu Ghraib, and none of them have anything to do with not dehumanizing other people or trying to promote attitudes of humility and humanity. They are things like 'women don't belong in the military' (on account of having Lynddie England among the troops somehow helped to inspire the bad behavior, because of 'sexual tension' and how male soldiers want to impress the female soldiers. I'll concede that men do sometimes do foolish things to impress women, like ride motorcycles, spend outlandish sums of money, or even climb dangerous ledges or pick fights. I have never, on the other hand, been around a group of guys who, when an attractive young woman joined the group, said "Hey, why don't we go sodomize that other guy with a chemical lamp?" Maybe it's just the people I hang out with. Dan and I did once draw competing graphs on a blackboard while trying to explain forgetting curves to a couple of co-eds. That's kind of the same thing I guess.) and that the Bush administration should be MORE secrative. On account of how trustworthy they've proven themselves to be so far.

Getting back to my main point, as it turned out the liberal press DID manage to force Bushie Bushie to acknowledge what had gone on and even go on Arab TV to, if not apologise, do the closest thing that a blue blooded elitist prick like him is capable of. (Why hello there Pot!)

A few days later and the conservatives are spinning this into a "Look how special we are. We are a country where not only do we REVEAL the photographs of what was done but our great leader goes on YOUR television stations to apologise. Aren't we grand?" deal.

What could be more beautiful? First rally around the flag, embracing the time-tested strategy of "Kill the messenger." Next point to the REAL enemy, with a little help from whoever killed Nick Berg. Resist any pressure to change behavior in the face of horrible consequences. Then when behavior does change slightly, well, take credit for it. Declare it an example of American wonderfullness.

Does the Right Wing admit that we need the liberals? Does it point out that they are a source of much of the pressure towards reform and humanity that SHOULD be defining America? Does it acknowledge any of the positives? Hell no. It co-opts like a cuckoo bird. The absolute refusal to admit defeat or even room for bargaining is what defines these commentators, and they drag their emotionally and psychologically invested audience along for the ride. It's a beautiful thing.

Thus we go from "It's not a quagmire, things are already better" to "It's open heart surgery, of course it'll look messier in the middle than it did before you started."

Thus we get blame for the California Energy crisis resting ENTIRELY on the state government and not at all on the Bush Buddies who defrauded the government out of billions.

Thus we get railing against outsourcing but great support for Wal-Mart, a company that is probably a greater threat to American Jobs and equality than all of the Indian subcontinent combined.

I shouldn't forget the religious hypocracy. Religion, being the opiate of the masses, is mixed liberally (haha) in to try and make the bitter lies go down a little easier. Invading Iraq was the Christian thing to do. I don't know if these people have even READ the bible (Did Goebels read HIS own propaganda? Probably not except for spellchecking. Of course the bible was written by a previous generation of propagandists for a rather different purpose so it might behove them to check it out) but they sure do find a lot of support for intolerance and killing in it. I know there are some True Believers (and not in a Stan Lee way) who friended me by accident, and that's fine. I've often said that religious faith and the warm delusion of believing that it all makes sense and someone up there is looking out for you are probably a net gain in people's lives. On the other hand religious manipulation has been pretty much a staple of American politics from the get go (see Salem witch trials. See McCarthyism's decrying of godless communists.) Indeed almost all politics. And it's happening now. We've already seen PROOF that just because someone's an ordained minister doesn't mean they are a good person (A whole gaggle of Catholic priests asking generations of schoolboys to Say Hello to their LITTLE FRIENDS should be evidence enough) and we all know power corrupts. A lot of people preach lies and violence from what are, when unoccupied, perfectly good pulpits.

They preach lies, intolerance, and violence while laying claim to the Christian traditions of love, tolerance, and alms giving. A holy war sounds a lot better when you couple it with lovely tales of how the untouchables in India are finally getting some succor by converting to Christianity and availing themselves of those social support networks. You can snip out the whole "turn the other cheek" message and stencil in "Pre-emptive war" so long as you preach about faith-based charities.

The right wing media didn't get where it got by worrying about honesty or accuracy or fairness (well, at least not actually practicing those things. They make a swell slogan!) It got there by being excellent at lying, manipulating, and most importantly co-opting any gains the liberals make. People still think the Republicans are the party of Fiscal responsibility because Bush cuts the very sorts of programs he is now taking credit for while spending even more money on our HORRIBLY bloated military (we could have a much more effective fighting force with better, not more, spending.) That's how good at co-opting the rightwingers are. That's how special their gift.

I wouldn't be surprised if, in five years, gay marriage has proven to have a host of social benefits (reduced HIV infections among gay males, an increase in the number of viable homes for kids who need foster or adoptive parents, perhaps even an increase in marriage rates in general as it is seen as a more equitable and universal institution) the Right Wing media will start co-opting it, talking about American tolerance and foresight.

They may even find biblical justification.

(Yes I know this was rambling and unfocussed but I have a headache and feel kind of woozy, plus it's a massive fucking topic to try and deal with and I didn't want to just re-iterate previous claims.)
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You're not alone outsider

It's important for me to remember my psychological heritage on days like this. Depression runs deep in my family and if I don't pay attention to my psychic wellbeing it might run me over.

Today wasn't particularly special. Yes it was graduation day and that's something I shouldn't just brush aside as if it were nothing. I sort of regret not going now, not because I think it's a big deal or I'll care down the road but just because going would have been sort of inconsequential in terms of its downside and it just reinforces my isolationism. That's one of my major problems right now. I still think it's a rather silly ceremony and the nonconformist in me is proud to have said "fuck it," but from a rational perspective I probably made the wrong decision. Not worth dwelling on though, it's unimportant and over.

On the other hand I had a bunch of chores to do today. Mostly to find out about my registration status for the summer and tuition exemption. It turns out that my registration status was on hold until they got my final transcript, which is sort of INSANE since registration starts tomorrow and I just graduated today (plus they can just CHECK my status on their computer system), but far be it from Columbia to make sense.

I also had to go check up on my tuition exemption, and after a little bit of a mixup I found out that I CAN take courses for free, although the woman who heads up the program ominously said "for now" and kept repeating how expensive this benefit was for the University. You know, while I appreciate the fact that I was given a $120,000 education for free, and that this is not exactly chump change, my father died in part because of this school. They insisted that he be chairman of the department when he didn't want to and the stress was a contributing factor in his suicide. Given the circumstances it's tough for me to feel guilty or even all that grateful for the free education. It's really the least they could do, PLUS it was written into his contract so it's something that I legally deserve. I recognize that it's an expensive benefit, but it was part of the renumiration for a job he held for 24 years. Why should I feel guilty about taking advantage of that?

And I don't. But today while I was out walking around doing errands all these really uncool thoughts kept popping into my head. Thoughts like "You should kill yourself. This is the best your life will ever get and it isn't that good. You'll never amount to shit. End it." I'm in no danger of actually following through with it, and it doesn't even affect my mood that much. It's almost like an OCD compulsion to think it, just something that I do while I'm crossing the street or waiting for the elevator. I have other ones. Whenever I have to urinate I tend to have romantic fantasies because the pressing of the bladder against the pit of my stomach creates that...well...pit of the stomach feeling that longing often stimulates. They have a rather consistant narration and set of imagery, frequently focusing around the idea of sexless marriage. They are reasonably pleasant and pass as soon as the need receeds or I reach the bathroom.

The suicidal thoughts are more problematic though because I'm not sure where they come from. I'm not going to say it's some kind of psychotic break type thing where I hear voices. That's not it, they are in my head in my own voice and they seem to come from the same place that other compulsive thoughts spring from. They are not particularly pressuring, and in some ways they are reassuring. It's almost like it's saying "Dude, it doesn't matter what happens today because you can always kill yourself and relieve whatever suffering you might face." It's still a somewhat disturbing phenomenon.

I didn't get my diploma because I was too late. It will be mailed to me later but I miss out on the spiffy beach towel and Columbia 250 DVD that I could have gotten with it. It was FREE STUFF, but on the other hand...well...crappy free stuff. I don't want to watch Brian Dennehy's giant floating head, no matter how good an actor he is. As for the Columbia beach towel, I suppose it might have been of use if I was trying to seduce status whore women at the beach (I'm Ivy League in the boardroom AND the bedroom, baby. Where are you going?) Still, FREE STUFF. I was busy going around setting up the summer classes. The woman at the benefits office was surprised to see me on graduation day. She thought I went right over after graduation. I told her that I was the type to never stop moving, and though that didn't used to be true of me I think it might be now. I'm excited about these classes. Excited about the idea of going to film school. It's something I want to get involved in.

I feel pretty good at the moment. This Chumbawamba album is just the bomb diggity. There are certain albums that just click with you and this one has. Amnesia is like the best song ever.

I saw First Blood (featuring Columbia Alum BRIAN DENNEHY of all people) for the first time today. It's a much better film and a much worse movie than I thought it would be. The action was kind of blah (plus no titties, bare or otherwise! Barely a female in it.) but it was actually dramatic and somewhat interesting, and the plot made sense and had characters with complicated and nuanced motivations. No real good guys and no TRUE bad guys except for the deputies. I liked it a good deal and thought Stallone did a credible job as Rambo. I always enjoy Dennehy (except when he's a giant floating head extolling the virtues of my school in a propaganda film about it). His nuances are just picture perfect. The diner scene where his character is talking to Trautman, the understated way he looks around while he talks...it's just great work.

Thumbs UP!

On the really nice side of things a classmate from school sent me an E-card today with some really nice sentiments. These things usually bounce right off my compliment proof chest but this was unsolicited and I respect this guy a good deal so it meant a lot to me. I reprinted it below for your enjoyment, and archival purposes for me, with his name removed so he can maintain plausible deniability for having endorsed a loser like me.

Hi Ben,
Congratulations !
You are without question the smartest and among the most decent clasmates that I have ever shared a classrom with. I am sure that sentiment is shared by all in Judith's class.
I wish you the best and all great success in your post-Columbia life.
I know you will leave your mark on this world.
Stay in touch.

Very best regards,
Mr. Z. (Nobody who reads this journal will remember Dr. X, an ex-reader, ahaha the punnery, who was incredibly juvenile and assholish when she decided she no longer liked me and helped poison me towards the whole LJ friends idea.)
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    Chumbawamba