The Long View 2004-08-27: Authenticity; Lesser Evils; Death Worms

Berkeley Antifa Protest

Berkeley Antifa Protest

This paragraph was written to describe the 2004 Republican convention, but I think the planned spectacle of modern protests hasn't changed much since:

Then there is this consideration: where are the rabbles of yesteryear?
Until quite recently, all major cities had a floating population of pickup workers and petty thieves, always ready for anything. They could easily be launched against public institutions by demagogues with a sense of timing. You still have this situation in third-world countries and in some shabbier American neighborhoods. For the most part, however, the only place we see a traditional urban mob is on The Simpsons. If Dr. Frankenstein worked in Manhattan, you might be able to get an injunction to close down his monster-factory, but the only people likely to lay siege to it would be a dozen LaRouchies, and no way could they get a permit to carry torches.
What do we have now? We have performance artists, and an equal number of videographers to take their pictures. Then we have the anarchists, who seem less like traditional revolutionaries than like people who have turned political protest into an extreme sport. Then there is the fact the action will be in Midtown Manhattan, where nobody lives. How do you stage a proper urban riot without cavalry hacking at the rioters through the streets of their own hovels?

Almost all protests require transportation of people from somewhere else to fill the crowd. For the Dakota Access Pipeline, the protest became something of a tourist attraction. It was also in the middle of nowhere. Yet even in cities, there just aren't enough people interested in this stuff in the US for this kind of a mob to form spontaneously. Yet.


Authenticity; Lesser Evils; Death Worms

 

Like most people who live in the New York area, I regard the upcoming Republican Convention with unalloyed dread. It's not so much the Convention itself, of course, as the attempt to restage The Battle in Seattle, this time in Manhattan. This isn't going to work, not with the NYPD, but there will be quite a show, even if nothing really bad happens.

Then there is this consideration: where are the rabbles of yesteryear?

Until quite recently, all major cities had a floating population of pickup workers and petty thieves, always ready for anything. They could easily be launched against public institutions by demagogues with a sense of timing. You still have this situation in third-world countries and in some shabbier American neighborhoods. For the most part, however, the only place we see a traditional urban mob is on The Simpsons. If Dr. Frankenstein worked in Manhattan, you might be able to get an injunction to close down his monster-factory, but the only people likely to lay siege to it would be a dozen LaRouchies, and no way could they get a permit to carry torches.

What do we have now? We have performance artists, and an equal number of videographers to take their pictures. Then we have the anarchists, who seem less like traditional revolutionaries than like people who have turned political protest into an extreme sport. Then there is the fact the action will be in Midtown Manhattan, where nobody lives. How do you stage a proper urban riot without cavalry hacking at the rioters through the streets of their own hovels?

It's all very inauthentic, if you ask me.

* * *

Speaking of inauthenticity, I recently got this solicitation from the Bush Campaign:

You can play an important role in the nomination of the President. Several parties around the country will be selected to appear live, via satellite, broadcast on television and on the convention floor. The Convention could broadcast live from your party. Your party, and your guests, could help nominate the President and appear as part of the Republican National Convention program.

Will you join us? Will you host or attend a Convention Watch Party on September 2nd?

Even if I were so inclined, I don't think many other local Republicans would be interested in watching the Convention on my 12-inch portable television. More generally, the campaign's attempt to use the Internet to organize spontaneous house parties reminds me of these lines from Genesis's Supper's Ready:

The order
for rejoicing
and dancing
has come from our warlord.

* * *

Nobody writes better polemics than Mark Steyn, for the excellent reason that what he says is usually correct. I have nothing to ad to this assessment of the sinking of John Kerry's Swift Boat Campaign:

But the party that likes to sneer that Bush never had a plan to deal with Iraq's inevitable insurgents doesn't seem to mind that Kerry never had a plan to deal with the Swiftees’ equally inevitable insurgents. A guy awash in gazillions from Barbra Streisand and co. who can’t see off a couple of hundred middle-aged "liars" and their minimal ad-buy? Is that really the fellow you want to put up against al-Qa’eda, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il?

And while I am handing out plaudits, let me congratulate The Weekly Standard for demonstrating in its August 30 issue that it is possible to be both partisan and fair. I was particularly taken with this passage by Andrew Ferguson, in the essay Marching to November:

Yet in 2004, Republicans find themselves supporting a candidate, George W. Bush, with a slender and ambiguous military record against a man whose combat heroism has never (until now) been disputed. Further--and here we'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing. This is not a choice Republicans are supposed to be faced with.

Obviously, we have to keep John Kerry out of the White House, lest greater evils follow. Still, I can't help thinking what a different world it would be if John McCain were the incumbent.

* * *

One of the irritating things about this year is that there is so much real news this summer that the traditional Silly Season has been cancelled. Here is my attempt to make up the deficit:

Killer Bees Have Reach Oklahoma. In the '70s, I knew a student from Brazil slightly who said that the entymologist responsible for unleashing the African bees in the western hemisphere owned the farm next to her family's in the south of the country. Since then, they have been making their way north. When killer bees were new, we were told that climate would prevent them from spreading north of the Rio Grande. Ha.

Dune Alert: There May be Real Sandworms:

A giant poisonous worm that lives beneath the sands of the Gobi and can kill with the power of electricity can surely only be the stuff of legend. Or can it? Adam Davies sets off into the desert wastes in the quest for the Mongolian Death Worm.

So You Want to Sell Your Haunted House. Admirers of Chuck Palahniuk's novel, Lullaby, will recall that it describes a real estate business that specializes in generating fees from the sale and resale of houses that are so haunted that their new owners can't bear to live in them. It's an ingenious business model. However, I learn that it is bad practice, as we see from this story about the marketing of a haunted house in Oregon:

[The seller's daughter] wonders if it's smart of her mother to include the ghost among the house's features as she tries to sell it, but longtime real estate broker Jean Tate says it's a good idea..."Oh, yes, you always disclose that kind of stuff," Tate said. "You don't want someone coming back later and saying, `You knew about that - you should have told me.' "

Finally, here's a story that one would not dare to make up for April Fool's Day:

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - R&B singer Ashanti and director Quentin Tarantino are set to star in ABC's original movie tentatively titled "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz."....The group's quest to get the Wicked Witch (Miss Piggy) culminates with a fight scene between Dorothy and the witch...As the action is about to begin, the film cuts to Tarantino pitching to Kermit how the scene should be done -- a cameo written specifically for the "Kill Bill" director.

It's true. Really.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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