Monday, October 26, 2009

In Reaction against a Now-obsolete National Review Piece

At last I can leave a response to these fools at the NR, who seem at first not to know what they're unhappy about, but just that they're unhappy. They seem, that is, as mindlessly in rebellion, even when their side is winning--and their side, the side of the obscenely wealthy, is always winning--as any set of high-school freshmen who've collectively made it through about three pages of Sartre or Camus.

There are, of course, real difficulties with the U.S. modes of publicity, and it's a pity (though hardly a surprise) that the NR chooses in this article, as usual, to ignore the structural problems in order to castigate the "tyrannical reign of elite secularism." Seriously, does Lopez even know what those words mean? Does she at least know what secularism means? It's not a threat to religion--or, somehow, it managed not to be during the U.S.'s first couple hundred years of existence--but rather only to the small minority who want to live in a theocracy: a Christian United States like the Ayatollah's Iran.

What strikes me as particularly heinous about posts like this--and mags like the NR in general--is that the fundamentalism seems insincere. It's a bait-and-switch. As in: "Ooh, look, fundamentalist poor and rural people--we're all about Christianity and the liberals are opposed to it! We quote Joshua, and they don't even know about the *real* meaning of giving voice to the voiceless! So vote for our people, and more importantly, buy our products. And, by all means, don't take it into your heads that all poor people have an experience of oppression in *this* world in common, and that there's an awful lot of religious justification for taking that seriously and doing something about it! Instead, just remember that you and us are the real Christians; we're on the same side against this whole batch of godless Commies!"

Insane, and devastatingly effective as a mechanism for continuing to oppress the poor. Effective why? Because Lopez and her ilk rely on the genuine belief and openness of many deeply religious people who are looking for allies in a climate they perceive as hostile to their specifically religious interests. There are, in the United States today, real and difficult epistemological issues--issues about ways of knowing and reasons for believing--that produce real and difficult political tensions. It is a terrible thing that Lopez, the NR, and an entire army of cynical wealthy people play on goodhearted people's faith and trust in order to make sure those tensions *won't* be resolved.

After all, as long as everyone's thinking about religious tensions in "us and them" terms, no one's asking why the same wealthy people keep staying wealthy and the same poor people keep staying poor and the putative Christians of the right-wing propaganda machine (and of the so-called left as well, mind you) aren't doing a blessed thing to change that. If Lopez should be correct that we are "in an era of vague feelings" in which reason cannot live--and I believe she may be--she and the National Review bear much of the responsibility for that fact. What's awful is that she no doubt knows this. What's still more awful is that a good portion of her readership may not.

in reference to: Rage Against Obama’s Propaganda Machine by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online (view on Google Sidewiki)


Matt D said...

A comment on a different tack:
A good choice of article because it's (unfortunately) typical-- lack of focus as an indicator of the inability to limit a coherent field of discussion (much less to do it rationally); vocab in place of intelligence for ethos- vociferous here, boondoggle and other O'Reilly favorites elsewhere; and a COMPLETE lack of self-reflection (which is what makes Colbert so effective).
My favorite gem here is "in order to get people to be the change, you have to get to them early, when they’re in grade school" - no, no, no-- you get them in SUNDAY SCHOOL. Everyone knows that :o)

Ira said...

Haha, Matt. Hilariously on-point :-).