Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Have We Reached Peak Yet?

I think it was John Cole at Balloon Juice who originated the concept of "peak wingnut." As I understand it, the rightwingers will crescendo their crazy until it can no longer be sustained. Then the fever will break, and we can go back to a semblance of politics in place of conspiracy theories and frothing at the mouth.

The problem has been that each time an apparent peak is reached, the rightwingers manage to mount one more.

It's a fool's errand to predict peaks, as anyone who has followed the stock market knows. But I've been having the feeling lately that we can't sustain any more crazy in a number of areas. An alternative formulation is that the times, they are a'changing and some behaviors and manners of thought that were once sustainable are no longer. I've been fond of this quote from Anthony Gramsci's Prison Notebooks since I first encountered it, probably in a John Fowles novel:
The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.
I have been fond of it long enough to see that there is an element of this crisis at every moment. The new cannot be born? There are certainly those who would tie the mother's legs together to prevent the new from being born. But the new constantly appears. Whether we take advantage of it, whether we promote it are problematical.

I have had the feeling that a number of things that have passed for common wisdom or that have been unnoticeable as part of the background are indeed dying. The American right wing is on an unsustainable path, although when they will turn from it is not at all clear. Vladimir Putin is trying to stoke a war with tactics that are newish, although they've been used in the former Yugoslavia. But the rest of the world is not responding with war; there are economic tactics and reasons to think that Russia's current path is also unsustainable. On the other side of things, I heard a talk yesterday based entirely on the fear that the Red Menace was coming to get us. The audience, fortunately, was skeptical.

Jack Schaefer, at Reuters, criticizes the New York Times's now almost total use of anonymous sources. That's too easy, though; Schaefer fancies himself a media maverick, and he preens that the NYT is worse than Reuters at this. There's much that we could pray is at a peak in the media. Peak stupidity is perhaps the best description of the rush by the media to hear what the Kagan clan, Bill Kristol, Judy Miller, Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, and other malefactors of the 2003 Iraq war have to say. Unanimously, they agree that more war is the answer. All of those people should be banned from any public statements for the rest of their lives. Many other commentators are available, the War Nerd for only one example. But that would take more work than speed-dialing numbers left over from 2003.

We have to bring in the new. It's hard to know how exactly to do this. I tend to be very direct and confronted the Red Menace scaremonger while others were nibbling around the edges of his argument. He was simply wrong about a number of things. Confrontation can harden positions, but I'm glad to see a number of national commentators saying that the Iraq warmongers have no right to be heard.

People are beginning to call out right-wing terrorism, gun nuttery,  and vaccine scaremongers who have now caused a whooping cough epidemic in California. There's a balance between confrontation and polite disagreement. I'll keep trying to find it.

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