Thursday, March 27, 2008

Generation Squeeb

Caught Matt Taibbi on Scarborough this morning. I couldn't tell if Scarborough was deliberately ignoring Taibbi calling out the print and TV talking heads (i.e., Scarborough) on the way they very deliberately try to inflame "America's squid heart" 0r if it went right over Scarborough's thick hack head, but I do wish that Scarborough would have Taibbi on more often.

Anyway, Taibbi's current Rolling Stone piece is worth a look. It's all about one of the noxious byproducts of our idiotic pundit culture. And yeah, I really need to stop watching Scarborough, who is precisely part of the problem Taibbi is talking about.
But whether or not any of [Reverend Jeremiah] Wright's "controversial" statements have any validity at all is beside the point. The point is that a country that had any balls at all — that was secure enough in its patriotic self-image to stare vicious criticism right in the face and collectively decide for itself, in a state of sober reflection, what part of it was bullshit and what wasn't — such a country wouldn't do what it did in the case of the Wright flap, which is to panic instantly, collectively leap off the ground in terror like a bunch of silly bitches, and chase the criticism away in a torch-bearing mob with its eyes averted without even bothering to talk about what was actually said...

Now, no one is suggesting that there shouldn't be some reaction to genuinely toxic ideas, or that all criticism of racist or unpatriotic comments is unfounded. But what we're getting with all of these scandals isn't a sober exchange of ideas but more of an ongoing attempt to instill in the public a sort of permanent fear of uncomfortable ideas, and to reduce public discourse to a kind of primitive biological mechanism, like the nervous system of a squid or a shellfish, one that recoils reflexively from any stimuli....

The net effect of all of this is to make the electorate exquisitely sensitive to constant prodding and poking by media stimuli, and what people don't notice is that that prodding and poking is tirelessly moving them in the same direction, toward a safe, inoffensive middle, away from anything that smells controversial. The endless onslaught of tiny scandals trains the electorate to be hyper-responsive to temporary, superficial outrages while simultaneously chipping away at their long-term memories, their inclination to look at the big picture, their ability to grasp subtleties of opinion and policy.
All of this -- and Taibbi's explanation of the Russian word sovok -- are worth your while. (And so, by the way, is this driftglass post, which discusses the darker implications of an increasingly worn, faded, and chipped national long-term memory.) So just go read them both. Your TPS reports can wait.

Update: more on sovok (Совок). h/t NTodd

No comments: