Conservative is the new counterculture

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There’s Glenn Beck, explaining that progressivism is just revolutionary socialism, only with gradual change instead of sudden upheaval, effort within the existing system instead of violence, and consensus-building instead of dictatorial fiat. So it’s like, um, American democracy. Still, when you really think* about it, progressivism is just radical communism by another name, the same way your uncle is just your aunt with testicles. We can forgive Glenn Beck for confusing an established political idea with its complement, or for decrying the abuses of progressivism even as he praises his local library, since he is speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where up is down, black is white, white is also white, and conservatism—that age-old defender of institutions and tradition—has finally become the counterculture.

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Stronger than reason: David Brooks on the Tea Party

Dear god, please let there be a punk rock branch of the Tea Party.

He’s been wrong before, but when David Brooks says you’re a nationwide movement, you’re either Soccer Moms in the 2004 general election or a real thing. In Monday’s New York Times, Brooks alleges that the Tea Party movement is the latter. After opening with his usual overview of the prevailing sociopolitical winds for the last thirty to 100 years, he gets to the money shot. “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year,” he writes. For the moment, Brooks has declined to enumerate which instruments he uses to measure the popularity of ideas, but he at least sounds right. “The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise,” he says. “The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.” Those committed to responsible argument will object to Brooks’s questionable use of the word so, which makes his theory the cause of his evidence, but as and statements his list still draws an unsettling connection. When Brooks points out that the Tea Partiers are defined by what they are against, and that most of what they are against can be grouped under “the concentrated power of the educated class,” he introduces a framework as useful as it is terrifying.

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Brit Hume seizes the moral high ground against Tiger Woods


Corpse eating crackers Brit Hume appeared on Fox News this Sunday to pass judgment on Tiger Woods’s extramarital affairs, opine that his children might never be able to love him, and demand that he change religions. I direct your props to Ben Fowkles for the link, and your attention to William Kristol at the :40 mark. You know you’re talking crazy when you discombobulate Bill Kristol—the man was chief of staff to Dan Quayle, for crissake. After offering the generous assessment, “It’s not clear to me that he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children,” Hume goes on to speculate that Woods’s professed Buddhism does not offer “the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.” Okay, but will it make me a sanctimonious asshole? Because that’s the last piece of my asshole puzzle.

Brit Hume is not completely oblivious to how he comes off on TV, and he’s aware that certain segments of the Fox News viewing audience—specifically the 40% that watches solely to capture video and criticize it on the internet—took exception to his remarks. That’s why he went on Bill O’Reilly to address the heart of the issue: the way that people in this society immediately freak out if you so much as mention that you’re a Christian. Behold:


For my money, the best part of this interview is when O’Reilly, after showing Brit Hume a videotape of himself saying that they only way Tiger Woods can ever recover is if accepts the love of Jesus Christ, asks, “Was that proselytizing?” and Brit Hume says no, he doesn’t think so. Does Brit Hume not know what that word means? After reiterating his suspicion that Tiger’s family doesn’t love him anymore, Hume opines that what made Woods so notable is not his skill as a golfer, but “the content of his character.” See, I don’t follow golf, so I thought that it was because he was the best player in the history of the sport, but actually it’s because he was such a good guy. But in fact, Hume points out, he wasn’t a good guy at all! In addition to seeing you when you’re golfing and knowing when you’re awake, it turns out that Britt Hume also knows if you’ve been bad or good, so convert for goodness’s sake.

Hume seems unaware that calling on a man to change religions after you’ve gone on national TV to speculate on the state of his marriage might be seen as a little presumptuous. Instead, he ascribes any indignation over his remarks to the taboo on mentions of Christian faith in our national dialogue. “It has always been a puzzling thing to me,” Hume says. “The Bible even speaks of it. You speak the name of Jesus Christ, and I don’t mean to make a pun here, but all hell breaks loose.” I think we can all agree that the worst thing a public figure can do in this country is speak the name of Jesus Christ. That’s why the religious faiths of both candidates for President in 2008 remain unknown, and why evangelical Christians wield absolutely no power in American politics. In a country where 83% of the population identifies as Christian, mentioning Jesus is just too risky.

If a mode of rhetoric has defined American culture since 1967, presenting the majority position as if it were a rebellious minority is it. Consider the quote-unquote rogue who is America’s second-most admired woman, or the vast, decrepit sales team that calls itself rock ‘n roll. Americans like to think of themselves as bold nonconformists, especially when they’re safely in the majority. It’s no surprise, then, that Christians in a position of power should trot out this argument when they need to excuse crass behavior. What is surprising is that people still buy into it. A marketing strategy that has come to be derided as a means of selling Mountain Dew or Jeeps still works as a means of selling bad behavior—maybe because 83% of the country has a vested interest in believing it’s true. Thank goodness for the internet, which gives us access to the Cypress Times outside of Houston, and their response to the flap: “Mr. Hume may have been speaking metaphorically, but his words were literal and they were the perfect explanation as to why he is now being vilified.” I’m not sure what the actual words in that sentence could possibly mean—although, being words, they are probably literal—but the implication is that the country is somehow persecuting its Christian majority.

I say a majority cannot be persecuted. Like those frat boys in Borat who lament the inordinate advantages enjoyed by black people and homosexuals, people who claim majority-group persecution are usually trying to cover up personal failings. In the case of Britt Hume, he didn’t fail by saying the J-word on national television; he failed by being a dick. He treated another man’s vulnerability as an opportunity to take charge of his soul. Personally, I’m an atheist. If I saw a man crying in the bar because he lost his job, and I went over there and said that the thing he needs to do to get his life in order again is to abandon his misguided belief in the existence of gods, I would rightly be regarded as the biggest asshole who ever lived. We don’t do that kind of thing here. This is America, where we shut up about religion—not because we’re embarrassed or because people persecute us or because we’re not sure about it, but because it’s decent.

Tea Party beats GOP on three-way generic ballot

The Tea Party candidate for President in 2012. N.ah, I'm just kidding—they would never nominate a Jew

The Tea Party candidate for President in 2012. Nah, I'm just kidding—they would never nominate a Jew

Okay, this is weird. Rasmussen Reports announced yesterday that their most recent poll shows the Tea Party beating the Republican Party by a five-point margin on a three-way generic ballot. A generic ballot pits nameless candidates against one another in a theoretical election; in this case, Rasmussen asked “If congressional elections were held tomorrow, would you vote for the Republican, Democrat, or Tea Party candidate from your district?” Democrats led the pack with 36% of the vote, the Tea Party got 23%, and Republicans finished third with 18%. Astute observers will notice that leaves 22% of those polled undecided, and also that the Tea Party does not, uh, exist. I assume the same poll found that Americans overwhelmingly reject cap-and-trade in favor of having Bigfoot drink carbon out of clouds, and want the government to stay out of health insurance so that costs can be determined by the invisible hand of David Bowie in Labyrinth.

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Friday links! Nation of fops edition

Heavens! I shall be late for the book-signing!

Heavens! I shall be late for the book-signing!

It’s Friday, November 20th, and it is on such crisp, bright autumn days that our nation should pull on its jodhpurs, bundle itself in its most worsted wool, hike to the crest of the nearest hilly meadow and take a long, hard look at what pussies we’ve become. Mammograms, books, movies about vampires, books by vampires—one look at the news of the day tells us that the whole country is beset by dandyism. If we’re not debasing ourselves with effeminate pursuits like reading and getting cancer screenings, we’re shrieking in outrage at the latest public perfidy and then doing absolutely nothing about it. Ours is an era in which scoundrels run roughshod, and the righteous must content themselves with their indignation. Some might call it a more civilized society, but I—having left my mountain fortress for temporary lodgings in the comparatively urban Castle Faswell, where I am dogsitting—know that the company of strangers is not an obligation to be borne, but an opportunity to be seized. Strangers are morons, as all polls and YouTube comments sections indicate, and they must be corrected. What does Stringer Bell Faswell, excitable labrador, do when he is confronted with a stranger? He leaps into the air and licks him on the inside of his gaping mouth, or bites him on the ear, depending on the quality of his character. No dandy Stringer Bell, and the rest of us fops might take a lesson from him. When a fat morning radio DJ who has found Jesus and therefore gets to be on television gibbers lies from his greasy lips, must we simply press our handkerchiefs to our mouths and swoon? Or can we draw our rapiers, which we presumably have in this analogy although the time period is kind of fuzzy, and challenge him? The truth is in fashion no matter how ruffly our shirts, and I, for one, demand satisfaction. In the meantime, though, I guess I’ll just keep doing the blog.

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