Saturday, January 25, 2014

Things I Don't Understand

That title holds a multitude of things, of course.  From advanced mathematics through the music of John Zorn to arc-welding, there are far more things I will never understand than things I do.  For right now, however, I don't get this and related phenomena.  Quite apart from the obvious aesthetic Stalinism; quite apart from the bulk of Goldberg's column that goes on to disprove his thesis (as Edroso notes); quite apart from dumping more garbage on the dessicated corpse of "respectable" conservative thought; I really don't understand how it is possible to approach life this way.  When I watch a movie, or listen to music, or see paintings, or whatever, I never ask myself, "Is this liberal?  Does it advance liberal politics at all?"  I do these things to be edified or entertained, or perhaps both.

Right away, obviously, I would add that of course how I receive and perceive any art form is informed by my politics, among other things.  I do not, nor have I ever, used a political hermeneutic as my primary, or even tertiary, criteria.  Just to take music as an example, I want to be moved and entertained, usually in equal measure.  I enjoy meaningful lyrics, sure; I also love songs about sex and partying, too.  Most of the time, what I enjoy is a combination of music and lyric that resonates on an emotional level.  I just couldn't care less about the politics either of a song or its writer or performer.  To take an example from a rough contemporary, I still enjoy Megadeth's music even though Dave Mustaine has turned in to a bit of a right-wing crank.  I couldn't care less about that, any more than I care, while listening to Kind of Blue or Nefertiti, that Miles Davis physically abused his wife.

Which leads me to the whole "related phenomena" part above.  Last week, in a search for something about which to write, conservatives decided to go after Lena Dunham.  Now, I don't nor have I ever nor would I ever watch Girls.  From what I've read, both critically and otherwise, there seem to be many problems with the show, not least how it is possible aimless 20-somethings somehow manage to live in New York at a time when that has become difficult for all but the wealthy.  In any event, the attacks on Ms. Dunham have little to do with the substance of the show; rather, it seems too many on the right hate-watch the show just to be turned off by Ms. Dunham's propensity to disrobe.  Of course, they don't question whether such nudity makes any narrative or aesthetic sense.  Rather, they personally attack her looks.  One gets the feeling reading stuff like this that these men all feel that filmed nudity exists solely to excite them.  Lena Dunham not having a model's figure just doesn't seem to do it for these poor men or their simultaneously withered souls or penises.

Now, here's what I don't understand.  If they dislike it so much, if the mere glimpse of Lena Dunham's naked body so disgusts them, why do they watch it?  Turn off the goddamn television.  Watch something else, Game of Thrones, maybe, where there are enough good looking naked women to keep them alert, happy, and erect for minutes on end.  Since they don't criticize Girls for political or social reasons, but rather just want to complain that Lena Dunham doesn't do it for them, the whole exercise is worse than pointless.  It's disturbing in a stalkerish kind of way.  The folks who write these pieces, and they appear with enough frequency almost to constitute a genre, sound like that guy who appears on social media, harassing women they barely know, carrying on about a lack of attention, carrying on to the woman's friends about alleged vices and faults (I think we've all seen examples of these kinds of breakdowns; they are simultaneously sad and frightening).

Most of the time, I just wish these folks would find something else to do.  Hate-watching a TV show then taking to the internet to express your hatred at the hours of video you've just watched . . . that isn't what people do.  You won't ever read a post here carrying on about the hours I spent listening to Yanni.  Do you know why that is?  First of all, I wouldn't subject myself to the time needed to write such a post.  I also know that Yanni has many fans out there who enjoy his music.  Just because I dislike it, and can articulate why I dislike it, doesn't make me a better person than Yanni's fans.  In fact, doing that would make me look like an asshole.  Just like folks who write posts excoriating "liberal" Hollywood, or Lena Dunham's body, or whatever it is.  Find a hobby you enjoy and write about that.  Go to a movie to have fun.  Read a book with the simple goal of enjoying a story and enjoying getting wrapped up with the characters and their lives.  The political hermeneutic is just nonsense.  The hate-watching is just creepy.

Speaking In Tangled Tongues (Sorry For How Long It Is)

A couple weeks back, a man with whom I grew up posted something about Pres. Obama on his timeline on Facebook, and one of his FB friends posted a one-word comment: "Terrorist".  Now, the gentleman who posted the OP had already demonstrated, how can I put this, only a flirting relationship with reality, posting things from, among other places.  It wasn't the post that bothered me.  It was that one-word comment, and the fact it wasn't challenged, that pushed me over the edge.  I went ahead and with a heavy heart blocked further posts from this person.

A couple days ago, another person posted something about "Benghazi", referencing Hillary Clinton.  When I noted that all the claims on the little meme-poster were factually inaccurate, the poster confessed that he understood that.  He was opposed to Mrs. Clinton running for President.  Then he asked, probably rhetorically, what it mattered.  Putting on my smarm suit, I proceeded to say the difference is this simple (and here I quote what I wrote from memory): Would this person prefer I stop being his friend and tell everyone the reason was he molested dogs, or that I told everyone he was just too damn tall (he's 6'4" or 6'5"; not really too tall, but I hope you get the point)?  If you wish to oppose Mrs. Clinton's possible candidacy, there is so much on the real public record one could use.  Why contribute to the ever-growing flood of absolute nonsense that makes it ever more difficult to have any kind of political discussion without having, yet again, to point out that some folks toss fanciful nonsense around as if it were real.

I will make a move far too many people (including me, most of the time) make and say this is not limited to the American right.  Glenn Greenwald's one-person campaign to erase any and all differences between Presidents Bush and Obama, at least when it comes to issues of foreign relations, is without doubt one of the most irritating and fanciful bits of political theater around.  What makes it even more irritating is, just like with folks on the right who want to criticize the President, or Mrs. Clinton, or whoever else, there are very real reasons to take Pres. Obama to task for his policies regarding on-going military actions, the continuation of Bush-era policies on gathering data on American citizens, foreign surveillance and the far-too prevalent classification of material and information.  These are serious issues; Greenwald, however, is not a serious critic.  He's a crank, standing on a soapbox, calling the President a criminal, that the exertion of American power is a bad thing in and of itself, that surveillance of foreign leaders and diplomats is not just criminal but a moral offense.

Let's just take this last for a moment.  In the documents Edward Snowden stole then dumped without thought or review was evidence that, during the Bush years, the National Security Agency listened to Angela Merkel's cell phone.  Ms. Merkel was, befitting the Chancellor of a foreign nation, put out by this revelation.  There was some chatter between Chancellor Merkel and Pres. Obama on the matter.  The whole time, I was thinking, "Really?"  Listening to the phone calls foreign leaders make is exactly what the NSA was created to do!  It's the kind of thing any country with the capability not only would do, but does!  All the hand-wringing and badgering about foreign surveillance ignores a simple reality - these are the kinds of ugly things countries HAVE to do.  Anyone reading this thinking the Chinese, the Russians, the European Union, and the Israelis  - to name just a few - aren't doing the same, or at least trying to do the same, to our leaders is certainly welcome to believe that.  They shouldn't be let near sharp objects, however.

Like the right's tsunami of crap, the whole Snowden affair and its adoption by some on the Left has created a climate in which it has become impossible to talk about the real issues precisely because the nonsense has become far too deeply intertwined with reality, separating the two is nearly impossible.  I'm hardly a fan of the President continuing the unConstitutional practice of sending American troops in to combat without a formal declaration of war; I'm even less a fan of the use of UAVs in countries with which the US currently has formal diplomatic relations, and those countries have repeatedly demanded we cease such actions (Pakistan and Yemen are two such).  I think far too much information in government circles is classified.  It would be far better if the default position was public disclosure, rather than to classify than go back and review.  These are all discussions we need to have, just as Pres. Obama and Mrs. Clinton need serious, legitimate criticism that doesn't involve, "BENGHAZI!!!" or "DRONES!!!!"

I know Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter has been doing a whole lot of pushback against Greenwald on the whole Snowden affair, not least debunking pretty much every outlandish claim Greenwald has made, not least that he - Greenwald - is a journalist, precisely because, being a real journalist, Cesca demonstrates how a journalist works by showing just how foolish Greenwald's claims, repeatedly shown false yet repeated no less frequently than the birtherism of the right, continue to be.

For the most part, though, this tiny cri de coeur of mine won't matter that much.  It won't matter not least because there are two potent weapons on the side of the constant nonsense - power and money.  At some point reality always wins.  It would be preferable if we reached that point with a soft landing, however.  As it is I just don't see that happening.  The rude awakening coming will be shocking, and that's sad because it isn't necessary.  Like Mitt Romney on Election Day last fall actually stunned by his loss despite all the polling the previous couple weeks that showed him falling further and further behind the President, existing within a bubble of falsehood might feel safe.  When reality pops that bubble, it can be truly shocking.

Virtual Tin Cup

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