Where have you been all this time? I really missed you!
Dear Dan C
Nowhere. I trust, given the circumstances, that you will not be too offended when I confess that I did not particularly miss you.
It really sucks that you’re not doing your column anymore! Tuesdays are totally dead. Plus, is Fabian unemployed now?
Fabian will never lack for a father figure or income source.
What have you been doing with yourself? Did your book come out? How’s Candy?
Dear Jessie A
My book did come out. No one is buying it. Candy is none of your business. I’ve been enjoying the blessed silence. And eating oysters.
Also, I’ve been watching a lot of FOX.
Mostly because I am a bad person who deserves to forcibly swallow their medicine.
In fact, over the last few months I’ve absorbed hundreds of hours of Channel Clench. I’ve subsumed endless punditry, scroll, and graphic slickness. I’ve attended a master class in studio Gerrymandering–the meretricious, the manufactured and the moronic–all delivered in the deceptively simple phraseology Frank Luntz pulls out of his ass while gnawing a chew toy under Roger Ailes’ desk.
Here’s the setup for every single show on FOX: There’s a host. French cuffs, yellow tie, pancaked in smug. He comes across as slightly more intelligent and informed than your sister’s husband, the one who talks semi-libertarian bullshit throughout the entirety of every holiday dinner. This host has a guest, either a hard-eyed blond or featureless Cato Institute goon, who precisely shares his viewpoint or has been paid to pretend to. After a leading question, the guest calmly insists we must outlaw NPR by executive fiat or disband the Fed with thermite grenades. They call for invading Syria by horseback or codifying torture as the 28th amendment. These veal-blood viewpoints are, of course, poll determined and handed down by a production staff long having decided–correctly–that there’s no percentage in mild inflammation when nuclear provocation will do. The segment ends with a soothingly anodyne slogan, like America is Great or People Should Work Harder. Commercial. Lights dim and scrims cool as we watch ads for gold futures which seem to hint that the Troy Weight of freshly minted bullion will be the sole currency of our coming collectivist dystopia. Then a quick infomercial for the Slap Chop. We return for rebuttal. The host introduces a second guest. The liberal sacrifice. It’s typically a chinless male professor of some off-brand discipline like Semiotics and the Media of Tomorrow, but also sometimes a moist woman aligned with pregnancy planning. This person arrives via shaky video feed, without lights or makeup, looking pale and wan and in desperate need of a raw liver smoothie. The initial argument is restated, and by virtue of nothing so much as its numbing stupidity, the second guest is forced to mouth some variant of the following phrase: “Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. You see, for one thing-”
The host rolls his eyes, cuts them off, and then hands it over to the Washington bureau chief for a breaking story–the rumored unveiling of Herman Cain’s new 14-point plan for the invasion of Algeria.
Hey, it’s a formula, and a formula that works. In pretty much the same way that cesium isotopes dropped into a whistle-blower’s vodka tonic will cause them to die a horribly painful death before having the chance to reveal the connection between Fracking, the Haliburton Loophole, and widespread arsenic poisoning across the Eastern seaboard.
Dissent cannot exist in a vacuum of aphasia.
Just as ideas cannot be raised in the land where the one-eyed dullard is king. Or the pug-nosed coiffure is queen.
In any case, over the last few months of non-stop FOX colonics, I have suffered.
Why won’t you answer my letters? Why aren’t you on the front lines? I’m out in the street, dude. There’s talk and then there’s action. I’ve been dying to hear what you think about Occupy Wall Street, but I’ve been dying to see you man a barricade even more.
As a companion answer to the previous letter, not only have I died for their spin, I have suffered my crucifoxion for a reason. Call it The Martyrdom of Gretchen. Or the Hannity Stigmata. You see, as I withdrew from the world at large, in sweatpants increasingly stained, on a couch increasingly convex, my embonpoint increasingly increasing due to a massive inhalation of Baked Lays washed down with bottles of cheap Merlot that can only be described as dangerously corrosive, I took it upon myself to fully investigate the perception of Occupy Wall Street from the other side. I was not interested in debating TARP, or demanding that the police act less like police, or listening to a chorus of masturbatory angry-left rhetoric that either reinforced or mirrored my already firmly held beliefs. Which, frankly, saved a lot on Astroglide, Kleenex, and my lapsed subscription to Rousseau and Calvino Weekly. No, my role as I saw it was to reify the opinion of the Non-Millionaire Right as it sourly regarded the Suddenly Vocal Left. After all, most of the white, cashmere, lovehandle middle class lost money as well. So why do they continue to swallow, let alone support a laissez faire narrative? Further, was there not a way to swell the ranks of the reformist dispossessed by first understanding the mulishly accepting middle?
Therefore, Caleb, I left the rock-hurling and pepper spray-huffing and carrefour-squatting to those decades younger and instead immersed myself in heavy FOX water. Here is my precis, from flat screen to frontal lobe to you:
What’s fascinating about FOX’s depiction of the Occupiers—not the movement per se but the people themselves, is that it’s so goddamned predictable. From the deepest bowels of Mordor, where the policy rings are forged, a simple and constantly-repeated template emerged: Occupy Wall Street has no leader, no point, no position, no ideology, no purpose, no demands, no clue. Every show lead with it, ran with it, hammered it home. Obvious, sure. Lazy, certainly. But brilliant? Inarguable. Because it truly is not arguable. In the span of the first hour of the first day of protest coverage, FOX managed to permanently and indelibly re-brand an insanely unregulated banking system as a few hours with your dipshit metalhead nephew. It painted wealth disparity, tax fraud, and hedge venality as poetry reading with your nose-ringed little sister. Without ever once acknowledging–let alone actually debating–the merits of any single grievance or issue, it morphed the facts of an unprecedented economic collapse into the dim memory of a kegger followed by a trip to the clinic for a chlamydia swab. The endless footage of bare feet and bongos told the whole story: anyone anti-job creation and class warfare mongering enough to think (shot of skateboard) derivative trading needs regulation (shot of dreadlock) is a lazy un-educated hippie turd who (shot of tramp stamp) only wants to smoke blunts, strum (shot of strumming) guitars and have tent-shaking protest fucks (doomed to result in a slew of uninsured, soy-clotted anchor babies.) You see, the FOX narrative isn’t about what has proven to be an incredibly varied, organic and essential national protest movement, or an investigation of widespread banking fraudulence and systematic economic buggery, it’s the same old condescending and tone-deaf notion that if people are angry enough to waltz around loudly hating the rich it’s because they’re too lazy to amass the wealth required to insulate themselves from having to think about not being rich in the first place.
So the question is, can this impression be fought, let alone reversed? Can middle America be wooed with reason instead of roorback? Is it even possible that sopping up Coors Light while middling through business school and then being handed a Bear Stearns internship by your father’s squash partner really is an indicator of superior productivity and/or heroic market acumen?
Yeah, probably not.
Fine. But what’s next?
We all know how this works. Empire collapses. The royals have their throats slit, the proles slam tankards of grog, and then lavendered bodies are dragged through the streets by the jibbering mob.
Hyperbole you say?
It always is, right up until Bolshevism goes viral and you wake up with some unwashed peasant squatting on your chest while his wife wipes her serfy ass with your Tag Heuer. It’s not so much the suspicion that gated community basements are full of Ponzi cash which galls, it’s the privileged’s arrogance to insist, right up until the end, that their inherited or ill-gotten lucre came entirely from hard work, or superior genes, or more daring investments instead of class advantage or political payoffs or a hopelessly ginned system. Not to mention centuries of owning the courts, the guns, the police, the lobbyists, the congress, the media, the army, the judiciary, the best drugs, and three fifths of any given presidency.
The bottom line is that if you make more than $300,000 a year you should be on your knees, humbly volunteering to pay higher taxes as thanks for living in a country that silently enables you to flaunt such lucre while a vast percentage of its citizens eat Kal Kan twice a week while declining to rise up en masse and machete you into stackable chunks for the hubris of doing so.
I’m not sure who to believe about the Wall Street protests. I mean, of course, aside from you. Who do you get your information from? Also, are you secretly rich? Do you sleep well at night, Dust?
Who do I trust on these complicated social and political matters? Dostoyevsky, that’s who. And Victor Hugo and Budd Schulberg and Frantz Fanon and John Fante and Naomi Klein and Saint Simon and Diderot and Tolstoy and Orwell and Bukowski and Victor Jara. Those who have lived and written brilliantly and lyrically about times of blind greed and criminal munificence.
I like money. It’s nice to have. But I’d rather go to sleep at night knowing I wrote a killer paragraph, treated my friends well, fucked no one who did not ask to be fucked, tucked my son in after a lullabye, and generally lowered the misery quotient of those around me by being quietly reasonable and humane in the face of so much profligacy.
On the other hand, what the hell did we all expect? The world has been and will always be colossally unjust, configured as it is for a slow wringing of the downtrodden to the benefit of the luxury class. From Byzantium to Shanghai to Plymouth Rock, as decent people huddled together, trying to hash out what’s fair, Hoarder Dicks sprinted to the top of the mount and claimed all the spoils for themselves.
One theory posits that we should quietly crouch with the goats in the hillocks, eating figs and mapping the stars and attempting to puzzle meaning from a brutish life in the hopes that eventually the gluttons will have stolen and rigged and fund-hedged and droit du seigneur’d themselves to capacity, finally leaving everyone else in peace.
Another theory states six in the mag, one in the chamber, a Molotov and a martyr and a cause.
I sleep quite poorly, as a matter of fact.
I’m so tired of these fucking people camping out in parks and breaking windows and pretending like they have it any worse than I did. Man, I couldn’t find a job after the Dot-Com crash, either. I was crippled with student loan bills, just like them. I wasn’t whining about it and saying anyone owed me anything. I went out and worked my ass off. Just like they did after crashes in the seventies and forties and The Depression. So you put on a funny T-shirt and get interviewed by CNN and suddenly you’re a rebel? Like anything’s actually going to change? It’s bullshit.
You absolutely have a point. But here’s the thing about protesting: when I was in the streets screaming about Reagan’s support of the Contras, or George H.W. Bush’s Willie Hortoning of Dukakis, or the first Gulf War, or the fact that Ed Meese—then one of the most powerful men in the country–was a certified and deranged pig-fucker, I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I was looking to have fun, get laid, smoke pot, yell shit and spray paint vaginas on the side of Baby Gap. But there are only two (2) real reasons to protest: one is to be so hopelessly right that you goad Authority into doing something cruel and stupid, like pepper-spraying the elderly or beating the peaceful or hosing down little girls in white dresses on the streets of Little Rock, and thereby turning public opinion massively in your favor. The other is strictly personal aesthetics, because there is nothing quite like immersing yourself in Mick’s lowbrow rhythm–being a Street Fighting Man is definitely a gas, gas, gas. And it’s just as true in the streets of Cairo today as it was in Chicago ’68. Wrapping a scarf around your face with thousands of other cranked up yahoos and saying FUCK YOU to five hundred riot-geared cops, while knowing for damn certain you’re on the correct side of history, is one of life’s great joys.
But so what? Did spray painting a giant penis across the plate glass frontage of Urban Outfitters because it was fun, as opposed to because it had a specific political goal, mean that I wasn’t right? I was right. Ed Meese was a degenerate criminal worm and rampant cross dressing bottom, and the fact that I said so–loudly and drunkenly, in the middle of a crowded boulevard, when it very nearly cost me a billy club to the head and hundreds of bloody stitches–remains an act of which I am entirely proud.
Being young, semi-informed, and wired with the need to lash back By Any Means Necessary is the single greatest reward for having to spend years trapped in a body that’s young, semi-informed and wired with the need to lash back By Any Means Necessary. Wisdom comes later. Usually in the guise of missed bill payments, evictions, gout, divorce, belt-less pants, and emergency dentistry.
In any case, at some point in the not-too-distant future, the earth will spin once again as a human-free glob, silently orbiting a weakening star and having long reverted to the swath of primordial forests that preceded our existence, let alone our greed.
And what will any of this matter then?
In the meantime, as a country, we can at least come together on a non-partisan basis and do the one thing that we have always and historically done exceedingly well.
Jail the fuck out of a bunch of people.
And then make jokes about throwing away the key.
All banking frauds get maximum sentences.
Ask Me Anything.
Talk Shit. Be Vulnerable.
Go ahead, I know it hurts.
All contact info is entirely confidential.
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