IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

Posted in Rants on May 20th, 2013 by Ed

One thing I try to impress upon my students in their writing is the under-appreciated value of succinctness. Most teachers give a minimum page requirement for papers; I only give a maximum. I warn them that the world has a short attention span and one does not have the luxury of making a point by rambling on and on about it indefinitely. Being thorough, in their minds, often equates to saying a lot. Being thorough without saying much is the hardest skill to learn but among the best to have.

This little lesson is hilarious, of course, because I am among the least succinct people on Earth. No one who dumps 500-1000 words per day on the internet should be lecturing others about keeping things short. I've made a conscious effort to improve this over the past year – particularly in academic writing, but also here – and there has been some progress. Yet sometimes I just can't find a way to be short and punchy, to deliver the blow without a ton of setup. For the past two weeks I've been working on a post that has turned into goddamn War and Peace regarding the poll in which 29% of respondents, and 44% of Republicans, agreed with the statement, "In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties."

It would be easy enough to mock the results or do the usual "Yep, these people exist" hand-wringing, but my actual thoughts on it were complex – something about the undercurrent of authoritarianism, even fascism, that we pretend does not exist in the United States. And the underlying dilemma that the United States, unlike other democracies, has never really learned its lesson about fascism as a society.

Then I found someone who did the work for me, and far better than I was. And it isn't even an Official Writer, it is a commenter from a Charles Pierce post.

30% of every OECD country polls fascist. That's just always been the case, for 150 years. In most modern wealthy democracies those people are afraid to express their opinions, because its commonly understood that people who hold those opinions are generally detrimental to the common good. That was the political lesson of WWII.

In the US however they get their own news channels and one-half of the political power, because for some reason around 1980 we all started feeling sorry for the narcissistic fantasists and sentimentalists that call themselves "movement conservatives," who told us they felt bad because they were left out of what they called "the Liberal consensus."

The Liberal consensus was really just an agreement not to let the aforementioned narcissists do what they do best, which is to monopolize the conversation and claim its all about *me* and *my pain* and what about *my people*, which in general prevents us from confronting actual real live reality, like genuinely poor people and genuine disasters like climate change. And we let down our guard, forgetting that these 30% always feel bad, because they really have nothing more to their belief system than a heightened sense of persecution coupled to a heightened sense of their worth. Everything else – their politics, economics, religion, sociology – is an attempt to rationalize those two basic principles: "I oughta be in charge, but my inferiors won't let me."

30 years later people in the media think they're entertaining and sell eyeballs so they give them a seat at the table, and they don't realize the fascists want all the seats and have bad table manners besides. And while the rest of us would like to pay attention to the reality we've ignored since Reagan first pretended he was President, the media and the conversation is dominated by these 30%, who refuse to give up their fantasyland, just as we should have known they would.

While we could pick nits with some of the specifics there, that's exactly what I've been fighting myself over trying to say for a fortnight. And this gentleman did it in about 200 words. I have nothing to add. This.