January 16, 2011

A Liberal subterfuge suggestion

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 4:41 pm

Journalists on the Trend-spotting beat are always searching for questions, facts, or fads that indicate that a quick and significant shift in the national cultural scene has begun. When a new man is sworn in as America’s President, that usually unleashes a tsunami of journalistic pontification about how henceforth things will be different, accompanied by sanctimonious efforts to make specific predictions. Sometimes such a trend-spotting story displays a remarkable level of accuracy such as the time in 1943 when New York based media (and Newsweek in particular?) focused their attention on some innovations being scored by local jazz musicians, such as Charlie “Bird” Parker. Perhaps the most notable examples of accuracy in trend-spotting can be tarnished by allegations of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” kind. Look at the incredulity that greeted the simultaneous cover articles done by Time and Newsweek on the then obscure musician named Bruce Springsteen.

Close counts in certain endeavors such as pitching horseshoes, hand grenades, and (as some curmudgeons maintain) love, but it has no validity when it comes to trend-spotting.

We’ll inject a personal anecdote here to illustrate the point. Back in the late Sixties, this writer and a buddy went out on reconnaissance “bird watching” mission. (Back then young ladies were yclept “birds.”) In the process, we went to a night club that was popular with the college crowd. In a moment of quiet reflection (“Schaeffer’s is the one beer to have, when you’re having more than one”), this columnist focused his attention on the band and was struck by the thought that the young folks were so intent on the “body exchange” aspect of the place, that they seemed oblivious to the possibility that they could be ignoring a band destined for greatness.

Did the young folks in Liverpool’s Cavern Club focus on the potential of the house band, or were they concentrating their attention on the mating rituals of the human species? Could it be, we wondered, that the young people in that Jersey bar were overlooking a band with the potential to sell out arena venues?

The place where we had that thought, we later learned, was the very same place (the Erlton Bowl in Cherry Hill) where Bruce Springsteen and his band worked for years as the house band and polished their musical skills. Were they the band that inspired a comparison to the Beatles? Maybe, but it could also be that Springsteen & Co. got their gig at that place the week after we were there. We’ll never know how close we came to being a few years ahead of Time and Newsweek in their admiration for Springsteen.

The inciting incident for this maudlin example of “wallowing in nostalgia” was a question about the concept of “point of no return.” This columnist first encountered that notion when the John Wayne movie “The High and the Mighty” was released.

Some car crash victims have reported that the event seemed to have taken place in “slow-motion.” If that is true, isn’t there a second in time where thing snap into focus? Isn’t there one particular moment when the mouse’s perception of the cheese instantly morphs from seeing it as a desirable, easily accessible reward to realizing that it is a parcel of treacherous bait that has been used for an ambush? Some mice may never have enough time to appreciate the St. Paul’s moment. But a smarter, more observant mouse may have a blitzkrieg quick moment where he (or she) can (to steal a line from W. C. Fields) take the bull by the tail and face the situation. The mouse notices that things have become unmanageable and that “this isn’t going to end well.” The cheese doesn’t move, but the mouse’s perception of it does.

This columnist isn’t the only American who has been fascinated by the history of the Third Reich. Didn’t “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” make the best seller lists when it was published? Our (apparently autographed by the author) copy of the English translation of Klaus Hildebrand’s book “the Foreign Policy of the Third Reich” indicates that we aren’t alone in regard to an interest in that academic topic.

[Ready for another personal experience story? About a year ago, while savoring a hot white chocolate drink at the Cow’s End Café in the Venice Section of Los Angeles, we started chatting with one of the locals. When he was informed that we write for this website, he became antagonistic in his attitude about America’s first President of Pan-African heritage and eventually we counter-attacked with an allegation that the Republican playbook relied entirely on concepts plagiarized from “Mein Kampf.” That incensed the fellow and he challenged our basis for making that comparison: “Have you read it?” When we said “yes,” he resigned the game snarling that his personal ethics dictated that he couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone who had read that book. Republicans, it seems, only wish to debate people who are not well informed about the topic to be discussed.]

Initially, approval in Germany for Herr Hitler was sufficient to give him a basis for an attempt to form a coalition government. Thanks to some subsequent tricky political maneuvers, the influence of his party grew. Ultimately, Hitler’s approval ratings plummeted in early 1945. We have often wondered: At what point did the German people have their “Mousetrap Moment Epiphany”?

The teabaggers are steeped in unqualified admiration for the Republican agenda. Will they ever experience a “Mousetrap Moment”?

Have you noticed that lately all the Republicans are calling the USA a Republic and not a Democracy? What’s the difference? Does it matter? Will that subtle bit of semantics provide the basis for a teabag party mousetrap moment some time in the future?

Some curmudgeonly pundits are making dire predictions that the USA will follow the German path to national disgrace. If they are accurate in their trend-spotting prognostications, then the Americans will, like the Germans, have a Mousetrap Moment when the majority (some party stalwarts will be enthusiastic about using the cyanide pill) of Americans will have a change of heart about the Republican stealth efforts to scrap the Social Security program and cater only to the welfare needs of the super-rich.

What small (relatively unnoticed) bit of contemporary American culture will future historians say marked the turning point? Will it be the fact that Bill O’Reilly lost his radio show? Will it be the slide in Glenn Beck’s numbers? Will it be the contemporary spin that denied that President Reagan was suffering from dementia? (Didn’t the Wall Street Journal run a feature story about emphatic denials being a symptom of guilt, just before the O. J. trial began?) Will it be something that Rush lies about too blatantly?

This columnist had been assessed as being out of touch with reality for expressing the opinion that future historians will someday determine that the Mousetrap Moment was when JEB Bush was inaugurated as President in 2013.

Who was the German leader who made the decision to accept the Allies offer of unconditional surrender? It wasn’t Hitler. He was “non en case” by that time.

Recently we have noticed that Fox Network of Republican Propaganda seems to be loosing their position as de facto squad leader for American media. Taking a reading of public sentiment in Berkeley CA may not be the most accurate measure of the situation on a national level, but we have noticed that some obstreperous members of the country’s media seems to be making efforts to establish that Fox no longer gives them the lead that they must follow.

When Fox dictates that the media must marvel at a sudden surge in JEB’s popularity right as the Iowa caucuses are scheduled to be played out, will the rest of the national media do what will be expected of them (by their wealthy owners?)?

For those who would refute this scenario by asserting that Sarah Palin has a “lock” on the nomination, we would respond: “Look up the definition of ‘stalking horse candidate’!” She won’t be the first babe to be played for a sucker by the rich guys calling the shots from behind the scenes.

[Here’s a nice irrelevant quote. In the entry for March 7, 1936, in his book Berlin Diary, William L. Shirer wrote: “Their hands are raised in slavish salute, their faces now contorted with hysteria, their mouths wide open, shouting, shouting, their eyes, burning with fanaticism, glued on the new god, the Messiah.”]

What if the turning point turns out to be the invention of “The Malloy Challenge” by an obscure blogger? What, you ask, is “The Malloy Challenge”? Find a staunch conservative friend and make a small friendly wager. Bet them they can’t listen to Mike Malloy’s radio program for a week and not have a mousetrap moment conversion.

They have to listen for a full week. Listening for fifteen minutes and then turning it off and throwing a temper tantrum won’t win the bet. If terrorism suspects can be repeatedly subjected to waterboarding and they can’t listen to a fellow with an opposing point of view for a full week, doesn’t that smack of hypocrisy and wimpiness?

Challenging a conservative to listen attentively to the Mike Malloy’s radio program for a week in return for $10 pay, won’t work; but if you appeal to their macho side and couch the offer in the terms of a friendly wager that might work. If they can’t tune in to Malloy for a week to win a bet, then it is obvious they would crumble like a paper tiger, if they had to endure waterboarding for their cause.

Issuing “The Malloy Challenge” to conservative friends isn’t going to stop the inauguration of JEB, but it is going to give you a right to the “I tried to warn you” example of schadenfreude, when you conservative friends are aghast at what they see happening when JEB gets his hands on FDR’s beloved Social Security program.

Klaus Hildebrand (Ibid page 72) wrote: “Chamberlain’s attitude can only be understood properly if it is seen in the context of his basic plan for peace.” Isn’t that sortta like Obama’s efforts to “reach out to the other side”?

The disk jockey will, of course, play the haunting theme song from “the High and the Mighty,” “Born to Run,” and the Badenweiler March (to see why that is relevant to this column read Shirer’s Berlin Diary entry for September 5, 1934). We have to go look up the explanation for Rupert Sheldrake’s concept of morphic resonance. Have a “Bugaloo, got a bet going over here!” type week.

December 7, 2010

Heard any good gossip lately?

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , — Bob Patterson @ 2:00 pm

John Loughery’s biography of Willard Huntington Wright, titled S. S. Van Dine, contains a noticeable amount of material about art theory which this reader found interesting. That prompted us to leap to the assumption that we would have enjoyed the evening of conversation about that very esoteric topic which was recently scheduled to occur in New York City at the 92 St. Y. Unfortunately, the event was put on a cable TV channel and the viewers were encouraged to e-mail questions. The host group was inundated by requests for celebrity gossip because one of the participants just happened to be the author, comedian, and actor Steve Martin. The event sponsors caved to public pressure and relayed the audience’s wishes to Mr. Martin. That destroyed the event’s intellectual intent and threw it into complete disarray.

We learned about this Manhattan based brouhaha on Sunday morning at the café Mediterraneum in Berkeley CA while we were finishing our first pass on that day’s installment of the Week in Review Section of the New York Times.

Initially, declaring that we were in a genuine beatnik café (hey, if the place was open as the Piccolo and offering bargain meals while Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg were living in Berkeley . . .) before noon may be suspect, but, since that place was the home of the caffé latte, and since we were in dire need of a dose of caffeine, and since we had, while walking there, acceded to an impulse to buy the aforementioned massive journalistic document dump of information and ideas, it seemed altogether proper and fitting to be thus engaged.

We noticed that our neighbor at the next table was duplicating our effort to become well informed. We asked: “Why are you reading the New York Times in Berkeley California? He noted that was a profound question and he lacked a profound answer. Fair dinkum. We exchanged a few additional bits of opinion and local information and so when he rose to leave we asked if he knew where in that particular university town, someone could go to find a lively discussion. He listed three possible locations worth, by his reckoning, investigation.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, wouldn’t cha know it; his answer indicated that we might want to reach into the memory bank and use our ability to imitate an Irish accent to augment the search process. In the part of Pennsylvania, where we spent our childhood years, IrishCatholicDemocrat is one word and everyone who used it was of Irish ancestry.

Some naïve folks may suggest that what this columnist needs to do is to turn on the radio and turn the tuning knob to find a smorgasbord of lively discussions revolving around the day’s controversy du jour. Aye, lads and lassies, there’s the rub. The programs available on the radio are comparable to playing a game of chance with a Mississippi riverboat gambler. The programs that are conducted under the conservative banner, will disconnect a caller who is heading toward making a salient liberal point (“to protect the audience from misinformation and heresy” or words to that effect) while the shows that are hosted by a liberal pundit are lately prone to be dominated by callers repeating conservative talking points.

Consequently the result is as bland and boring as if someone who does not give a tinker’s damn about sports, tunes into a radio station featuring sports talk. Don’t the stations in the San Francisco Bay area favor the local teams and don’t the New York City based stations featuring sports talk favor the Yankees, Jets, and Giants football team?

The days when people who wanted a lively discussion would adhere to the guidelines elaborated in Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay “Talk and Talkers” are part of a lost era. Now, shouting matches are foisted on the audience because they are entertaining and help boost ratings.

After departing the previously mentioned beatnik café, we encountered a fellow who, when we had occasion to mention that we do not own a TV set, said: “Someone who doesn’t own a television? . . . that’s as scary as a Steven King movie.” Just a few moments after that exchange, we encountered a group of young hippies in the world famous “People’s Park,” who were deeply engrossed in the process of reading a fresh copy of that day’s edition of the New York Times. We took a photo because the tableau resembled a cross between a Saturday Evening Post cover painted by Norman Rockwell and some photojournalism (by Dorothea Lang?) documenting the last Great Depression.

Could it be that the conservatively owned news media have, with their incessant proclamation of the triumph of the philosophy of the wealthy, only manage to delude just themselves? What if the attitude toward journalism in the United States today matches the levels of cynicism and distrust toward managed news that was experienced in Germany during the second half of 1944?

Every kid knows that hot air and bubble gum will collapse when they meet their limits, but do the best known purveyors of conservative talking points have late night moments of questioning and doubt similar to what Scrooge experienced when he encountered some ghosts in the Dickens tale?

What respected journalism awards have Rush and Glen Beck won?

Isn’t it time for Rupert and the Koch brothers to fund some new news awards which can be bestowed on hapless propagandists to impress gullible teabaggers and to reassure any conservatives vulnerable to moments of self-doubt?

Liberal websites are like the canary in the mine and some of them are looking very peaked these days. Imagine, if you will, that Combat newspaper, which was distributed in occupied Paris during World War II, had suspended publication because of a lack of money. Do Americans still not get the picture?

Does Rush Limbaugh honestly think that capitalists will continue to pay his salary when the last vestiges of any opposing point of view have been extinguished? Capitalists don’t get rich by handing out exorbitant paychecks unnecessarily. When the voice of opposition and lively conversations have become extinct, Rush’s services will be as appealing to the capitalists as the efforts of a union organizer are now.

From a selfish point of view, wouldn’t it be logical for Rush to think that he should sporadically offer subsidy money to liberal media anonymously

Listening to Rush Limbaugh repeat passages from the Republican playbook reminds this columnist of the Twilight Zone episode that ended with the line: “It’s a cookbook!”

Wouldn’t readers of this website love to be the clerk in an Unemployment Office when all liberal media has been extinguished and Rush is given a pink slip and has to learn first hand what amounts of bureaucracy are involved in the paperwork necessary to start an unemployment claim?

Patriotic teabaggers would be the first to proclaim “It can’t happen here.” To which we would quote the closing line from The Sun also Rises: “‘Yes!’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so.’”

Richard H. Dana, Jr., in Two Years Before the Mast, wrote: “Whatever your feelings may be, you must make a joke of everything at sea; and if you were to fall from aloft and be caught in the belly of a sail and saved from instant death, it would not do to look at all disturbed, or to make a serious matter of it.” That’s good advice for conservative talk show hosts too.

Now the disk jockey will play Walyon and Hank Jr.’s “The Conversation,” a bootleg copy of “Cosmic Joke,” written and sung by David Carradine, and (from South Pacific) “Happy talk.” We have to go to the “Going Places” travel agency and ask Tulle if Pan Am offers a stop off in Tahiti if we buy a ticket to New Zealand. Have “smile when you say that” type week.

May 20, 2010

Right-Wingers: Make Money With Your Mouth – The I.B.A. Way!


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