Sunday, May 6, 2012

Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality

The other day my Right Wing Acquaintance Number One linked to this lament about President Obama's thuggishness, because "It has been reported that the Obama campaign this year, as in 2008, has disabled or chosen not to use AVS in screening contributions made by credit card."  The writer, Michael Barone, blamed it on Obama's Chicago background, which I guess is an improvement over blaming his Kenyan anticolonialist ancestry.
Chicago, Obama's chosen political venue, helps to explain this behavior. The mayor of Chicago -- the job he once aspired to before greater opportunity beckoned -- is an utterly dominant figure ...

The mayor is also the one who gets all the credit for all good things that happen on his watch, as Obama is attempting to do on the killing of Osama bin Laden. Even though he opposed the interrogation methods that produced the information that led our special forces to Abbottabad.
That last claim appears to be false, by the way: torture didn't produce the information that led to the execution of Bin Laden; even if it did, it wouldn't explain the Bush junta's curious loss of interest in pursuing him.  But I don't want to quibble too much: the Obama regime has used evidence obtained by torture to convict people of terrorism.  It's not like I think Obama isn't a thug; it's just hilarious to see a Republican complaining about it.

Even better was RWA1's comment on the link: "This needs saying and repeating. No more phony highmindedness." I pointed out that phony high-mindedness is a standby of politicians and propagandists for both parties, and he replied: "Of course, both parties do it, but Obama has made a career out of self-righteous claims of high-mindedness."  What politician doesn't?  And what party loyalist is unable to spy the mote in his opponents' eyes, while carefully ignoring the beam in his own? 

The irony in Barone's article is that what he says about Obama's hypocrisy is true enough, but it basically comes down to the old Nixon ploy that it was okay for him to cheat, lie, and wiretap because the Democrats had done it too.  While there are plenty of reasons to object to Obama, they don't add up to reasons to embrace the Republican Party.  I've often asked Republicans who objected to Democratic pols' lying or corruption when they suddenly decided that lying or corruption were bad things.  Thanks to Barack Obama, I'm now able to ask Democratic loyalists the same question.  I suppose that's progress of a kind.

Barone and RWA1 might have a tiny point if they're just complaining that Democrats ignore Obama's corruption but pick on Republicans', but it can't really be that hard for them to understand such selective vision, since they exhibit it themselves in reverse.  It might be that they notice Republican failings, but party loyalty and Leader worship require them to bite their tongues and save their bile for the next Democrat to take office.  Like most party loyalists, they are unable to take what seems to me the obvious next step: to subject their own party to the same principled criticism they direct at the opposition.

But that's easy for me to say, isn't it?  I don't belong to either party.  Even so, I (like other critics of Obama from the left) am subject to attempted social pressure and verbal attack from Obama devotees who won't tolerate any dissent whatever.  Party membership and participation provide numerous perks to members, from tribal identification to actual material benefits, so I can understand why loyalists find it so scary to stray from the fold, and why they assume that mockery and the threat of being cast out will bring troublemakers like me crawling back.  But I was never part of the team to begin with.  It's like fag-baiting: it doesn't work on someone who doesn't mind being called a fag.

At the same time, I have to remember that this is how politics works: the phony displays of high-mindedness that both are and aren't meant seriously (Orwell's concept of doublethink describes the mental process involved), with the real machinery of patronage and hypocrisy lurking just beneath the surface.  The high-mindedness is like Santa Claus, a pretty myth for the kiddies, to be left behind when you give up childish things for the grimy, corrupt business of adulthood. And I don't know, maybe there's no other way to do politics or run a society.  Maybe if politicians and their supporters spoke honestly about what they do instead of throwing up a smoke screen of phony high-mindedness, the system would crumble.  That might not be such a bad thing; the question is whether it's possible to have a working society without this kind of hypocrisy.   But I consider how reflexively political operatives lie, I'm going to be skeptical of their insistence that there's no alternative to their Realpolitik.

RWA1, Barone, and their Democratic counterparts show how invested in the myth even self-styled political realists are.  I've noticed this in a lot of right-wingers I've talked to over the years (and Obama has continued the Democratic Party's inexorable swing to the right -- I'm not talking about party affiliation here): they fancy themselves to be unsentimental realists, free of illusion about the need to get one's hands dirty in the real world, but not so deep down they still don't like to admit what they and their leaders are supporting and doing.  They still believe that a higher end is being served, somehow.

Still, as I replied to RWA1's defense, his attacks on Obama are transparently self-serving, if only serving his need to feel that he's in the right as well as on it.  The same is true of Democrats' attacks on Republicans, of course.  (I'm getting increasingly tired of my Tabloid Friend's regurgitation of every anti-Republican caricature, infantile joke, and propaganda meme he can find, especially since it's merely the flip side of his Obama worship.  No self-awareness, let alone self-criticism, must be allowed to enter the loyalist's headspace.)  And me?  I'm sure I have my blind spots, but I've rarely hesitated to criticize others on the left, other atheists, other gay men -- this blog is witness to that.  It's because I'm willing to criticize my own side when I think it's proper that I expect RWA1 and the Obamabots to do the same.  And lest anyone ask triumphantly how many divisions I have, I concede that tight conformist organization produces results; just look at the kind of results it has given us.