The Grouchy Marxists

There is so much of this flying around our ‘culture’ right now, it can almost be too much. It’s like everyone is walking around dizzy from the constant eye-rolling, but can you blame us?

So this is really perfect, plus an expert book review:

By incoherence I don’t mean an “extreme” position or the shriek of the provocateur, but a specific genre of chin-stroking, brow-furrowing, “eye opening” sophistry that’s now robustly represented in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Fluttering near the political center (they refuse to be pinned down!), the exponents of the new incoherence look at the Right’s mushrooming despotism, then at the enfeebled, regrouping Left—and, with theatrical exasperation, declare that both are a bit tyrannical. These pundits are the opposite of adherents; all hail the Incoherents! Like the dadaists and the X-Men, the Incoherents are bound by a shared mission: in their case, the valiant disputation of other people’s missions (which we now know are really “orthodoxies”). Anecdotes and dazzling inanities draped over an individualist common sense—this is the technique favored by the scramblers of our discourse. Faced with Incoherent writing, the reader embarks on a psychedelic saga: the truly trippy liquefaction of virtually all of social reality, especially those parts that have been politicized by the Left. So if you crave a “fresh” opinion, feel free to open the New York Times—on class, read David Brooks; on gender, read Bari Weiss. And on race, read Thomas Chatterton Williams, who has now published his second book.

It has been interesting, at the very least, to observe Williams’s ascent. His first book, released by Penguin in 2010, was the memoir Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture—the subtitle is now Love, Literature and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd—which strode boldly, if rather late, into the “conversation” about black youth culture. (The Washington Post had run Tipper Gore’s famous op-ed “Hate, Rape, and Rap” a full twenty years before.) The volume’s original cover was a picture of the author in a suit: jacket collar popped, tie whipping in the wind. Behind him is a building emblazoned with graffiti.

Read the whole thing. Actually, read other book reviews, too. Hell, read books – but choose wisely! Thanks for the heads-up on this one, Mr. Haslett.

Live from Hopedale

Best op-ed in the Times this week is again by Bob Herbert.

The risks unleashed by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are profound — the latest to be set in motion by the scandalous, rapacious greed of the oil industry and its powerful allies and enablers in government. America is selling its soul for oil.

Uh-huh. The double-bite of the green metaphor just gets more twisted and foul.

Where’s It Going to Come From?

Moratoriums, schmoritoriums… the oil has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it?

The T-Ridge project is somewhat complicated – a few environmentalists in the Santa Barbara area actually support it – but when asked if an oil spill the likes of what is happening in the Gulf could take place in California, Schwarzenegger said “That will not happen”. Asked why he is withdrawing his support of the project, he said simply, “why would we want to take that risk?”

Why, indeed. The storm continues to build, but do we do, or plan to do, anything differently? Is this massive oil dump just one of those things that happens in the background and meanwhile, we just keep on doing the same things in the same ways? It’s a full-blown catastrophe in just its sixth day and already the States’ Rights Brigade is calling for the Federal government to do something(!). While not exactly hopeful for their redemption, I’m always open to it. But they’ll have to take a moment and reload something other than their fancy store-bought weaponry.

Our energy conundrum is made up of exactly the sort of complexity that the right wing conveniently dismisses. Maybe this is one thing that happens when you ignore implications and complex systems. But still, will they get it? How does it get played on Fox?

This will be more difficult than you might think, especially considering the awful power of an oily coastline to focus the mind. There is a mountain of cognitive dissonance intellectual and ethical incoherence that’s actually a volcano. And it’s rumbling.

Krugman’s column today is a reminder of what it took to bring about the first wave of environmentalism. And this, sadly, might be reminiscent. It’s pathetic that it takes this kind of disaster to allow people to visualize the effects of our crazy, laissez-faire rhetoric. It abets nothing so much as poisoned wells, tainted toys, contaminated foods, financial crises and this is no different.

And if you haven’t read Juan Cole on BP… well, you might want to pour yourself a scotch first.