Thursday, February 02, 2006

We Are the Enemy (cont)

I've avoided thinking much about the Oprah controversy over James Frey. He swerved, she marked, he got caught, she apologized to her lemmings. I mean, beyond the con getting conned, what's remarkable, if a con being conned can be considered remarkable? The sanctimonious outrage against Frey, the hosannahing of Oprah's (business decision) apology, the autopsies of the affair as a signal event in American cultural history? Snore.

Still, the conjuncture of two seemingly unrelated items in today's paper does deserve remarking. First, Anne Applebaum, in this column in today's Washington Post, comparing the Frey affair to another famous public spat when Mary McCarthy eviscerated Lillian Hellman's memoir in the 70s, concludes her column:
We used to admire people who claimed to fight the Nazis. Now we admire people who claim to have fought their own drug addiction -- and we really, really admire them if they beat up priests, fight with cops, frequently find themselves covered in vomit and spend lots of time in jail while doing so.
Her point: rewards now go to fighting the little fights, the more personal, the better, regardless of what big fights need fighting. And the nastier the little fight, the more coinage awarded.

Second, the Joint Chief of Staff is outraged, outraged, at a Tom Toles cartoon published in the Washington Post. Ignoring the context of the cartoon - more likely, diverting attention away from the contxt of the cartoon, the lunacy of SoD Rumsfeld - they've penned angry letters to the editor complaining to an anti-military bias, and how that bias undermines the military.

How can the US miltary possibly defeat an insurgency in Iraq, capture Osama bin Laden and defeat al-Qaeda, properly arm and armor the troops, meet the military's recruiting needs, provide an intimidating counterweight to the ambitions of North Korea and China and Iran, fight the drug war in South America and on America's borders, when Tom Toles in drawing anti-military doggeral in the Washington Post? Do Liberals have no shame!!!!!

And poor President Bush. How is he to defeat those nasty terrorists when Michael Moore and Al Franken and, most sinister of all, that evil, t-shirt wearing, tent-dwelling Cindy Sheehan, all conspire to undermine his very rule? Yet he does! He does. Think of all he's overcome. It's inspirational, and it's inspirational the way the Right fights the Liberal devils.

And the narrative: by holding off traiterous Liberals in America - a 24/7/365 job, one no one really knows how hard unless you're in the trenches too - Bushco bravely perseveres, Bushco overcomes horrifying obstacles that would daunt lesser mortals. Before all else, Bush must rescue America from its addiction to Liberalism. Covered in the vomit of partisan wrangling, Bush emerges recovered, resilient, clear-eyed, unbowed. Still, it's no wonder OBL is still free to taunt America from his caves in Afghanistan. Aargh! does the weight on this President ever ease?

The only sin is getting caught. Perhaps Oprah, when she went on Larry King and defended Frey before she reconsidered her position, before she realized her continuing existence as Queen of Media depended on her accepting unpleasant truths, considered her own desire to remain deluded before she recognized her very survival required her to face those truths. If Frey had not been caught, Oprah would have happily lived in obliviousness. The only sin is getting caught. Perhaps there is a broader metaphor in the episode after all.


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