Fans of smug, mendacious propagandists for plutocracy and militarism: rejoice. William Kristol, who cannot write “get milk, rye bread” on a Post-It without doing so in bad faith, has delivered of himself a paragraph, in his quickly-becoming-self-parodistic column in the New York Times, which raises the envelope of dishonesty and stretches the bar of disingenuousness in exciting new dimensions:
The American conservative movement has been remarkably successful. We shouldn’t take that success for granted. It’s not easy being a conservative movement in a modern liberal democracy….
Especially when it’s not remotely “conservative,” but never mind. From the people who put the “con” in Neo-con comes the New Triumphalism: a whiny, self-pitying cry of victory as every element and detail of their project is revealed to have been a lie, a scam, a shakedown, a fraud, and a failure. Except, of course, for the money. Everyone–from Rumsfeld to Cheney, from the chief commander of Blackwater to the Commander in Chief in the White House (who told the unbearable Chris Matthews, in pitch-perfect Idiot Sophomore, that he intends, as soon as he retires, to “replenish the old coffers”)–will have got their money.
What do the rest of us get? Validation: Reading Kristol, our every prejudice is confirmed. Conservatives (i.e., “movement conservatives,” the neo-cons and their fellow travelers, not to be confused with actual conservatives) really are the brainy-but-repressed hyper-dorks of one’s high school memory, for whom political debate is an act of revenge against reality, and feeling-right is inseparable from feeling-vindicated.
It’s not easy to rally a comfortable and commercial people to assume the responsibilities of a great power.
This, with all the explicit pretension of Miss America announcing her desire to “help people,” is the Neo-Con Fantasy: We are the fat, complacent beneficiaries of…dare one call it a too-successful bourgeois society? Whatever. In any case, They are the clear-eyed visionaries, who for our own good must trouble us to attend to History’s summons.
Note, shown here in its native environment, the deep right-wing concern with “responsibility” as, inevitably, it applies only to others. A chicken hawk may be a chicken but, God damn it, he’s also a hawk. He knows your responsibility when he sees it. Bonus points, too, for “…a great power,” hinting at the favorite trope of wing-nut commentators (and hack science fiction writers) everywhere, i.e., that of the “mature society.”
It’s not easy to defend excellence in an egalitarian age.
Tell me about it–especially when so many of those doing the defending–your Kristols, your Podhoretzes, your Goldbergs and, yes, your Bellows–are legacy hires and/or winners of the nepotism lottery.
It’s not easy to encourage self-reliance in the era of the welfare state.
Here, in a mere thirteen words (assuming “self-reliance” counts as one), is a book’s worth of “conservative” hypocrisy and self-serving. First, the lofty moral intent, so beloved of missionaries and imperialists. Kristol has manfully taken it upon himself to encourage right behavior in others. No, don’t bother thanking him. Virtue is its own reward.
But, as is always the case when reading neo-con prescriptions of how others should live, some vocab clarification proves helpful. Clip and save for future reference:
When billionaires get tax breaks, they receive “incentives.” When working class families get food stamps, they’re the perpetrators (and the victims, really) of “the welfare state.” When government serves corporations, it’s “a partnership.” When government serves individuals, it’s “socialism.” When William Kristol rides his father’s contacts and reputation to a sinecure insulated from any commercial or marketplace consequences–and suffers not an ounce of setback for having been wrong about everything–he’s showing “self-reliance.” When you ask that the FTC at least protect your children from poison in Chinese toys, you’re encouraging “the nanny state.” Clear?
It’s not easy to make the case for the traditional virtues in the face of the seductions of liberation, or to speak of duties in a world of rights and of honor in a nation pursuing pleasure.
“Not easy”? Dude, it’s freakin’ impossible. But don’t blame us, man. Where was Kristol on 9-11? Didn’t he hear his beloved Preznit Bush encourage us to go shopping? Even Bush–gun-slingin’, straight-talkin’ neo-con hero and, therefore, exemplar of responsibility, self-reliance, and traditional virtue–conflated “duties” with “pursuing pleasure.”
We have “unpacked” barely two column inches out of sixteen and a half of this smooth-faced boobie’s op-ed, and already it reads like the transcript of the ravings of a schizophrenic. After seven years of sheer failure, corruption, and ineptitude, Kristol sees something “remarkably successful.” In the midst of a titanic repudiation of the policies and personalities he’s championed for a decade, he wags his finger and lectures us on “duties.” At the head of a parade of hypocrites, criminals, and torturers, he wishes to advise us about “honor.” He gazes out his paid-propagandist’s office window at a country beset with anxieties about jobs, money, health, aging parents, plunging real estate values, conniving drug companies, terrorism real and imagined and hyped, permanently high gas prices, rigged elections, and the real possibility of a generation succumbing to an inescapable downward mobility, and what does he see? “A nation pursuing pleasure.”
Who does he think he is? Who does he think we are? And seriously, Pinch: What would this clown have to write to make him unworthy of the Times?
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