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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Friday, September 08, 2006

(Not So) Rare Good Form

James Lileks was even more spot-on than usual this morning, tackling the media-spawned miasma of pessimism and Concerned Long-Facedness as well as several specific late manifestations of same. First, on the Dem's late hair-pulling exercise over the upcoming ABC / Disney Path to 9/11 mini-series:

I probably won't watch the ABC movie, because it's been edited to conform to the complaints of complainers and reflect the fact that the MinProd chocorations were always 15 grams, not 20.

I don't think this is the "veiled threat" some are calling it, because there's no way on earth the Democrats would introduce legislation to strip Disney of its broadcast license. It's like threatening to interrupt the broadcast with winged monkeys. Disney lawyers would say, correctly, well, you and what army of winged monkeys? But I don't recall Congress getting so deeply involved in the content of a specific television show before. Chilling effect? Heck no, not if the result is the truth. And who can possibly be against the truth?

Well, the Clintons, for one, who are behind this blatant attempt at censorship. He's right that it will never fly (so to speak), but just the attempt itself betokens the power of the Clintons. They want the MSM to keep bleating, "Nineeleven was all Chimpler-Macaque's fault. There's no blame to throw around, Mr and Mrs America -- it's landed already." 9/11 had NOTHING to do with the fact that the Previous Administration was busy throwing an eight-year pot-smokey bender, renting out the White House, and getting its collective wick shagged (or carpet chewed, as the case may be) by sorority-aged courtiers, while every maggot-bearded islamo-Rasputin in the world plotted killing Americans with zombie-stare fanaticism. No, sir. Nothing at all...

Lileks goes on to tackle the Establishment Media's attitude in general:

While working and doing various things the other day, I lent an ear to the radio. The morning host was talking about pessimism, and how he's sick of it. Sick! I agreed. It's not just specific pessimism about specific issues, which is sometimes apt and wise, but the overall glumness you get from the news media. Of course, you can find glumness anywhere. Swaths of the right are pessimistic about America because immigration will result in the national anthem sung in Toltec by 2018, and chunks of the left are pessimistic because Chimpy McDiebold may serve out his term without impeachment or interment. Everyone's glum about something. But I listen to the news on the radio every hour on the hour, and it makes me want to saw ditches into my wrists. It's the needling worrisome hectoring tone of the newscasters that annoys me. There's a a woman who handles the morning shift on ABC; she emotes every syllable, infusing them with a sense of impending disaster, and then she hands it off to Vic Ratnor, who likewise leans into every phoneme with worried urgency, regardless of whether it's an oil shortage (which could rekindle inflation!), a discovery of a new oil field (which could cost billions to exploit!) or a study on the effect of global warming on popsicles (which could stain the rug!) The two of them could make a flooded antihill sound like the end of the Republic.

The news is never good. If the economy's up, there's an expert on hand from the Institute of the Possible Downside warning about unforseen pressure on the bond market, softening housing, hardening tensions, turgid wage growth, and explosive release of inflationary pressures. Have a cigarette. Was it bad for you?

TV news gives me the same impression, which is why I avoid it. All those earnest faces. Good evening, we're deeply concerned, and powerless to do anything about it. Although we hope you infer from our brows the need to contact someone, and urge action on this issue. Now here's a baby giraffe.

The formulation seems simple: The continued existence of problems at this late date in human history implies that we're regressing. We're screwing up, we've lost it, and we wander confused amongst the morass of the malaise and vice versa. Hard times, brother. Hard times. I'm not saying they should pretend we live in the Republic of Happy Bunnies Who Pee Champagne, but for God's sake, sometimes you'd think the bread lines snaked from the Hoovervilles to the soup kitchens again. I'm probably confusing the sugar-coated recollections of early youth with actual history, but I grew up with a sense of optimism and confidence in the country. That really makes me sound like Mr. McFartus shakin' a whittlin' stick at the jaunty-hatted younguns, I know. But the icons in my dim early youth, either by absence or presence, were JFK and Humphrey. They weren't defeatists, and they didn't give off that rank stink of anger.

Amen, brother! Of course, I've always been a Mr McFartus (just ask my daughters what my bedroom smells like) and 'm durn proud -- proud, I say -- to admit it. I'm a bit more ideologically jaundiced than Mr Lileks, of course: I grew up in Washington; he only worked there for a couple of years. The political climate in the Imperial Capital has never been any different (at least in my lifetime). It's just that the area's pervasive cynicism and/or New York's hauteur hadn't leached out to the rest of the country (outside a few blue-parenthisis enclaves) until the last few decades. The rest of America was healthy and happy, thank you, even if everyone in the smoke-filled rooms and fern-bar coffee houses was Appropriately Glum and Concerned. This has been building for some time. If you don't believe me, read Tom Wolfe's stuff from the 70's. (Like this.) He said many of the same things. The media's attitide goes a long way toward explaining why I live where I do and Lileks lives where he does (the Midwest).

Here's Lileks' brilliant summing up:

The iPod just kicked on that fine messy song “Tubthumping.” I get knocked down. But I get up again. I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down. That's the spirit, ya commie buskers! I don’t listen to that song and wonder “what has he done to get knocked down?” I salute the boozed-up shouting chanty brio of the sentiment, which is the distant cousin of Cagney snapping of "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy." Really. Chest out, chin high, eyes bright, up yours if you're heart can't find the tinder to shout hoorah. Look: there’s always a place for the bitchers, the carpers, the griefers, the snipers, the angry marginal sorts flinging poo from the cages of their own beliefs. But it’s not the pessimists who will save the West. It’ll be those who believe the West is worth saving, and not because it is the least horrible option whose defense must be prefaced with endless apologies, but because it really is the best hope we have. Would you rather be a libertarian in China? A Christian in Sudan? A Zoroastran in Iran? A lesbian in Saudi Arabia?

But - but we supported the Shah, and -

Yes. Interesting how supporters of the Shah didn't storm our embassies or wage a 30 year Death-to-America campaign after we cut the Shah loose. Reset the hands. We can argue about all manner of strategies now, but there's one division that counts more than any other, and it’s fundamental and pervasive. Pessimism or optimism.One’s very satisfying. The other’s hard. I’d say we don’t have any choice, but we do, and that choice may undo us yet.

May, I said. I’m naturally pessimistic, and I hate it, and fight it. Cautious optimism: methadone for cynics.

"Flinging poo from the cages of their own beliefs." Wonderful. It's why I read him, folks.


Update 8 Sep 06
: On the Clintonista Star Chamber's efforts to repeal freedom of the press through the offices of Harry Reid, et al, centrist pundit Glenn Reynolds has it right:

By making a big noise over this film, the Clinton people are implicitly disavowing the "pass" they've enjoyed, and in the process inviting more, rather than less, scrutiny of that Administration's antiterror record, which strikes me as very unwise, politically.

Update 11 Sep 06: Saw the first night. Why the fuss? The show flings poo around all over the place. No one escapes blame, which seems about right to me...

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