THE OLD WAYS! The Old Ways pull us back toward Bush—and they pull us in a much-lauded film:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2004
THE INCREDIBLES (CONT): Incredible! Why dont we all just agree to say that Clinton and Gore murdered Laci Peterson? That would only be slightly less daft than Kevin Drums claim in the L. A. Times—the claim that he and his poor abused cohort were misled about SS by the twin Dem terrors. To see a real journalistic obscenity, gaze again on the words the great blogger penned when the great L.A. Times came a-calling:
DRUM (12/29/04): I used to be a Social Security doom-monger. Like everyone else my age, I knew the familiar drill: Social Security is a demographic time bomb. Life expectancies are increasing. The baby boom generation is getting ready to retire. Every year we have a smaller number of workers supporting a larger number of retirees.Politicians were eager to feed my fears, Drum wrote—and then, he quickly named Clinton and Gore! Incredible! According to Drum, it was Clinton and Gore who fed on the fears of his poor abused g-g-g-generation! But how about that famous Frank Luntz poll, the one in which Generation X-ers said they believed in UFOs more than in Social Security (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/21/04)? That poll was taken in 1993, cranked out by the anti-SS propaganda machine that actually shaped the views of Drums cohort, and that had already done so for years. It would be seven more years before Candidate Gore would (intelligently) suggest that the surplus should be placed in a lockbox. But so what? In Drums bizarre world, it was actually Gore—arguing that SS was viable—who fiendishly fed on the fears of his friends. And what about the generation of conservative agitprop which actually misled Drums abused cohort? That was buried beneath the waves, as Drum—for reasons he needs to explain—simply lied to his L.A. Times readers, blaming a generations confusion on those established twin demons, Clinton/Gore.
Yes, we might as well agree to say that Clinton and Gore caused that wave in Sumatra. And readers, if you ever doubt the thing weve long told you—that careerist writers will do and say anything when the larger journalistic world comes a-calling—just gaze on Drums phantasmic words, in which he pretends that Clinton and Gore were the ones who misled his generation.
Why would Drum write such nasty nonsense? At THE HOWLER, we dont have the slightest idea. But just like that, the e-mails came rolling, with resourceful writers looking for ways to defend the words of their lying hero. (No, we dont believe—not for a moment—that Drum could believe the strange words he penned.) Several readers wondered why we focused on what Drum got wrong (in his first two paragraphs!) instead of looking at what he got right. Going beyond that, some writers struggled to find the glass one percent full:
E-MAIL: I agree with all the things you said today about Drum's article and SS. However, I think it misses a visceral rather than logical point.Because Clinton and Gore didnt (falsely) say that all was well, Drums account was at least partially correct! Another reader took a similar tack:
E-MAIL: Sorry, but I disagree with your Dec 30 column. I don't remember Clinton telling us that Social Security wasn't going bankrupt. And Gore's lockbox plan was a big part of his campaign and his statements still left me with the idea that Social Security was in trouble.Because Clinton didnt make the agitprop go away, Drum was apparently right to say that he caused it! The mailer continues: Even if Drum is incorrect to start with Clinton, Gore, and Bush II he is not incorrect that they didn't dispell the myth. But Drums account is incorrect—wildly, nastily, obscenely incorrect. A generation of polemicists actively worked to mislead Drums generation. But if you read Drums ugly piece, you were told it was actually Clinton and Gore! It was Clinton and Gore who played on their fears! Translation: Before Drum dares to challenge bogus CW, he has to bow to the reigning gods and pretend that it came from Clinton and Gore! Who fed the fears of a whole generation? We think you know the rules of this craft. Drum has to bow to the gift-giving gods and say that Vile Bill and Al caused the problem! And he has to pander to Bush, who apparently said something wrong for the first time earlier this month.
We dont know when weve seen a more disgusting passage. But big bags of money get stuffed in the pockets of weak little fellows who type up such work, and Kevin Drum—lying right in your faces—always will have his defenders. Theyll pick through his words, looking for ways to pretend that he was partially right. In the meantime, readers of the Times are grossly misled in a well-scripted way—even as Hero Drum sets them right.
THE OLD WAYS: This past year, we thought we saw one great movie, Maria Full of Grace, and one interesting movie, The Passion of the Christ. (Cue e-mails from readers who didnt see The Passion, but know that it was anti-Semitic because Chris Hitchens said so in Scarborough Country.)
In short, this is the ultimate male-wet-dream/girl-friend-as-mommy flick, in which male writers and directors fail to see the odd alignment of their characters. In Sideways, a female character—no matter how impressive—exists to make it OK for the male, no matter how baldly disturbed he may be. At the end, Miles is knocking on Mayas door, and were apparently supposed to think its all lovely. Why dont reviewers note the obvious? That Maya should be barricading bookcases against the arrival of Miles?
Why dont reviewers note this point? Because Sideways actually reflects the Old Ways. In this world, male writers and directors construct odd fantasies built on male privilege while the bulk of reviewers, male and female, fail to note the resulting absurdity. In this mornings New York Times, Stephen Holden is the latest who fails to notice. In this passage, he describes the amusing character Jack, Miles womanizing buddy:
HOLDEN (12/31/04): The compassion that the director, Alexander Payne, and his fellow screenwriter, Jim Taylor, extend to Jack makes their portrait all the more devastating, since he is such a likable rat. By the end of the film, when he has broken one woman's heart and carelessly messed with another's marriage, a dirty little secret is revealed: some men, through looks and charm, have it so easy with the opposite sex that they never grow up because they don't have to.But in fact, its Payne and Taylor who dont have to grow up because critics like Holden hold them blameless. Why would a woman as accomplished as Maya spend time with a man as disturbed as Miles? There might even be a answer to that. But for Payne and Taylor, the question doesnt arise. Nor does it arise for the critics.
In any society, the Old Ways pull hard. They pull us back toward a world in which the powerful have their way with the others. They pull us back toward the Bush agenda—and, reflecting a pampered and privileged age, they pull us back in Sideways.
DONT ASK, DONT TELL: Decades ago, a female friend told us how shed viewed The Honeymooners as a child. She couldnt get past the revulsion she felt when she thought about Ralph and Alices unseen bedroom, she said. How horrible must that little room be! And how awful was it—that a woman like Alice had to go there each night with her loudmouth, sweaty husband! We thought of that decades-old critique when Miles knocked on poor Mayas door. But Sideways is built on the ancient male ways. By this time, Maya has already telephoned Miles to boo-hoo-hoo about how tough he has it. But why would a woman like Maya do that? Thanks to the privilege of the Old Ways, the makers of Sideways dont ask.