Dave Sim's blogandmail #398 (October 14th, 2007)
Bruce Thornton's essay, The Passion of the Left: CIA's new revelations fan the flames of "progressive" myths of our past must have impressed Victor Davis Hanson as much as it did me. Darrell Epp includes it as the entry for VDH's private papers for June 29. The underlying thesis is that the left has been gradually developing its own mythos in the United States primarily centered on Watergate and Vietnam:
You know the story, since it continues to be told non-stop by the media, television, movies, and half the curricula in schools and universities: evil American corporations and their lackeys in government were (and still are) brutalizing the Third World in order to maximize profits and strengthen their hold on power. This nefarious capitalist plot was sold to the oafish American people under the camouflage of Cold War rhetoric about resisting Communism (now "terrorism") and protecting American "freedom" which was in fact an illusion masquerading the uptight, repressed American's servitude to consumerism and mindless entertainment. A handful of doughty college professors, "activists" and journalists, however, bravely unmasked this wicked conspiracy, and despite the counterattack unleashed by corporate government henchmen in the FBI and CIA, eventually exposed the capitalist conspiracy. A neo-imperialist war in Southeast Asia was ended, the crypto-fascist Nixon regime brought down, and limits placed on the CIA, the FBI, and the Pentagon. Pulitzer prizes, tenure, flattering movies, and six-figure book deals followed, not to mention what South Park calls the "huge cloud of smug" polluting the bicoastal liberal enclaves and every university campus.
This is very well realized stuff which tends to refute the view that when you don't believe in God you don't believe in nothing, you tend to believe in anything. It's a kind of substitute for religion for the irreligious, a core narrative that is as real to them as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are to monotheists. Woodward and Bernstein are still the mythic figures, the prophets of the left. Larger than life and possessed of superhuman abilities: a kind of deconstructionism writ large, not only dismantling narrative and the Age of Reason but bringing down presidents to destruction. Hubris R Us. The failure of Dan Rather to imitate their success with the forged evidence in the George W. Bush "draft-evasion" fiasco only further magnified their own mythic stature. The purpose of journalism, the purpose of the New York Times, the purpose of the Washington Post is to set about the task of driving George W. Bush from office as soon after his inauguration as possible. When the direct attack fails, the sights are lowered. If you can't bag yourself a President, aim for the Vice-President. If you can't get the Vice-President, aim for the Secretary of State. It's Watergate as template. All we have to do is find out where George Bush's John Dean is hiding out and we can build the scaffold from there and from there we can get everybody (except Henry Kissinger. Harvard, you know). I think they were pretty sure that Scooter Libby was either John Dean, John Ehrlichman or H.R. Haldeman. Pull the thread and the rest of sweater will unravel.
It's a kind of nascent faith in the cyclical reality which under girds Greek mythology. All Republican presidents are Richard Nixon, every Washington and New York journalist is potentially Woodward and Bernstein. The fact that "-gate" thirty-five years later is still appended to every scandal high and low points in the same direction. It's of recent vintage, as well, I think. The Tea Pot Dome scandal was the Tea Pot Dome scandal. Whatever the next scandal that came along after it wasn't saddled with "Tea Pot" as an appellant term.
I suspect, because for the left everything has become movies. Not "movie-like" – that was decades back – no, we are now seen by the left to actually be living in and functioning within the movies that everyone remembers. Something happens in Washington and the first response in the liberal press is "It's like that scene in The Godfather." And consequently everything is seen as a sequel to what has gone before. If you had the scene from The Godfather already, then all you're doing is waiting for the next scene from Godfather II (or maybe Goodfellas or The Sopranos – "movies move in mysterious ways!"). The idea that something might be an entirely new event, an entirely new set of circumstances requiring an entirely new set of solutions is so foreign to leftist thinking as to constitute a kind of blasphemy. If their encyclopaedic recollection of incidents and dialogue going back to the 1940s can be so easily undone by a non sequitur (and what else is the experience in Afghanistan? In Iraq?), then what was the value in seeing and memorizing all of those movies in the first place?
Hey, you tell me and we'll both know.
Fortunately General Petraeus isn't cut from that cloth so he was able to take the surge of troops he was given by President Bush, try some new approaches to deploying those troops and almost instantly casualties dropped by 50% over the summer. And I bet he didn't once say, "Maybe it's like that scene in Saving Private Ryan…"
"The net result has been a four-decades-long projection of American weakness and self-loathing that has convinced the jihadists that we believe in nothing other than our own physical pleasure and psychic comfort. Having heard our own elites tell the world for decades that we are corrupt and our freedoms an illusion, why shouldn't they despise us and find us worthy of contempt? And when our major media, our icons of popular culture, and the Democratic leadership all are competing to declare the war against jihad a corrupt failure, why shouldn't the jihadists continue to fight on, since they are winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the blue half of the United States? The jihadists are excellent students of history, which has taught them that the road to September 2001 in New York passed through Saigon in 1975, Tehran in 1979 and Beirut in 1983."
"The proliferation of such pseudo-religions – faith-based narratives of meaning and value disguised as rationally derived political systems – is the tragic story of modernity, polluted as it is with the mountains of corpses sacrificed to failed gods. The 21st century progressive church may appear less lethal than fascism or communism, but its eagerness to don the hair shirt of Western guilt and self-loathing is, in the end, as suicidal as the rants of Jim Jones in Guyana."
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