Friday, December 23, 2005

Kos Kids, Nihilism, and the Ghosts of the Nursery

Yesterday, in a post entitled A Little Reason Free From Passion, Please, Dr. Sanity reviewed the legal arguments for the NSA intercept program, writing that the courts "have unanimously held that the President has the inherent constitutional authority to order warrantless searches for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information, which includes information about terrorist threats."

However, she adds, "Some people don't like that such a clear case can be made for the President's actions. For them, Bush is simply a liar and a fascist; and the law is completely irrelevant." For example, at dailykos, we are assured that fascism "is coming. The lure of fascism is too powerful for men like the ones currently pissing all over our Constitution." This time the targets for genocide "Probably won’t be the Jews. Maybe Arabs. Maybe gays. Maybe 'libruls.' Who the f*ck knows? It almost certainly won’t be recognizable to most people until it’s far too late."

"When it comes to the high anxiety of the Left today," notes Dr. Sanity, "they do not fear Osama Bin Laden or Abu Musab Al Zarqawi--they fear George Bush." Interestingly, the paranoid left is overwhelmed by the "eery parallels" between Hitler's Germany of the 1930's and George Bush's contemporary America. And it turns out that they are absolutely right, but in an unexpected way. She quotes Stafford Cripps, a left wing member of Parliament who warned that if Churchill became prime minister he would "introduce fascist measures and there would be no more general elections." Like our contemporary leftist paranoiacs, Cripps didn't fear Hitler, the true evil, but Churchill, who was devoted to fighting it.

Dr. Sanity also quotes Simone de Beauvoir, who didn't think that Germany was the threat, "but instead worried that the 'panic that the Right was spreading' would drag France, Britain, and the rest of Europe into war."

This got me to thinking. One of the maddening things about the left is that they never engage your argument, but always question your motives. You know the drill by now: if you are against government mandated racial discrimination, you are a racist; if you have reservations about redefining marriage, you're a homophobe; if you believe the strict scientific evidence implies an intelligent creator, you are a religious fanatic who wishes to impose a theocracy; etc, etc.

In the contemporary left, it has become gospel that the so-called "war on terror" is really just an excuse for President Bush to take away our civil liberties and impose a "fascist theocracy." Please note, this is not hyperbole--they really and truly believe this (see my post from a couple of days ago, On the Bizarro World of the Left: Krystallnacht Comes to AmeriKKKa). The left actually believes that President Bush was just waiting for a 9-11 so that he could use it as an excuse to commence the fascist takeover on 9-12.

But Dr. Sanity's diagnosis suggests the opposite: that leftists were just waiting for September 11 so that they could use it to advance their agenda on September 12. And just what is the leftist agenda? Many thinkers, such as Steven Hicks (see my review of his Explaining Postmodernism) have argued that they don't actually have one anymore. That is, they have become purely reactionary. Now that Marxism has been thoroughly discredited, the intellectual pillars upon which leftism rests no longer exist. All that remains is the hungry ghost of Marxism, which involves a radical critique of Western civilization, and an unwavering commitment to the idea that it must be defeated and even destroyed. This is why leftism is so incoherent and contradictory, not to say enraged and angry. It is not about argument but about action. To the extent that language is used, it is deployed as a blunt instrument. Since September 12, they have simply taken every opportunity to use this blunt instrument to question or attack any effort to defend us from those who wish to destroy us.

Yesterday, Washington Monthly published a timely interview with Markos Moulitsas, proprietor of dailykos, the most popular and influential Democratic blog. The interviewer--who was actually sympathetic to Moulitsas--notes that "the most salient thing about" his politics "is not where he falls on the left-right spectrum.... It's his relentless competitiveness, founded not on any particular set of political principles, but on an obsession with tactics —and in particular, with the tactics of a besieged minority, struggling for survival: stand up for your principles, stay united, and never back down from a fight." Moulitsas boasts that “I'm not ideological at all.... I'm just all about winning.”

As a typical--indeed, prototypical--leftist, he doesn't believe that conservatives have any arguments that are worth considering for even a moment. Rather, he believes that conservatives simply possess a more effective “noise machine," that is, "a coalition of coordinated advocacy and opinion media outlets that pressure the mainstream media into reporting, and repeating, GOP-friendly spin."

In other words, Moulitsas' philosophy is admittedly entirely content-free, consisting of pure emotion. It is as if he lives in the animal world. One animal brays, and he will simply bray louder and proclaim victory. “The simplest fact about American politics,” says Moulitsas, “is that Republicans have a noise machine and we don't.” Therefore, he decided that dailykos "would become the Democratic noise machine, pressing the case against the Bush administration and the Iraq war in the strongest terms possible." Even the writer of this piece observes that "Moulitsas's posts are not long or involved—and he clearly has no literary pretensions—but they are clear and consistent. Some news of the day has reinforced either the corruption and evil of Republicans, the gullible incomprehension of the media, or the timidity and incoherence of the Democrats. The site is for the true believers, not the aesthetes; its tone is harsh, impassioned, and frequently humorless.... And sometimes infantile and absurd."

Harsh. Impassioned. Humorless. Infantile. Absurd. This is exactly the impression one comes away with after dipping into the truly joyless, endarkened, and unhappy world of dailykos. But one could easily add paranoid, shrill, nihilistic, and frankly, delusional (and I use this word advisedly, in the strict clinical sense). As a psychologist, one is trained not just to listen to the content of a patient's verbal associations, but to listen with a "third ear" to the feelings they engender in you (known as "counter-transference"). If one reads dailykos (including the comments) in this way, it's really rather sad.

The tone of destructive nihilism is especially prominent, and very troubling, because it appears to be generational. "As this generation begins to move into positions of power within the progressive movement and the Democratic Party, they don't pose much of a challenge on issues or substance. So the tactical critique takes center stage. Moulitsas's sensibility suits his generation perfectly.... Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn't care about policy."

I won't get into all of them here, but I have a number of ideas and intuitions as to why so many members of this 18-35 generation would be so angry, cynical, nihilistic and paranoid. For example, it is difficult to imagine many of them having had happy childhoods in intact, loving families, where they weren't abandoned to daycare or riven by divorce. Theirs' is indeed a radical critique, but it has the hallmarks of that undying and unquenchable resentment that can only be rooted in the Great Lost Entitlement of Childhood. I can't see anything in it that remotely resembles the leftism that seduced me and my generational cohort, which may have been foolish and naive, but at least spoke of universal love and spiritual transcendence. How different the tone is today.

As a psychologist, I can't help thinking that George Bush is simply a stand-in for the soul-destroying "ghosts of the nursery" that result from having been bitterly disillusioned so long ago. No one is so menacing as the abandoning parent one has internalized. These shape-shifting specters of childhood haunt the landscape of the mind, causing those who harbor them to compulsively search for their symbolic representation in the external world. Better to fight them there than to realize that the omnipotent enemy is really inside one's own head. Thus, the world is full of malevolent traitors who were supposed take care of us! (This is a role bin Laden cannot fill, because he was never supposed to be our caretaker.)

So now there is a Democratic Noise Machine. Now that I have a little Gagdad, I understand better than ever where that shrill noise comes from, and what he's asking for. Except in his case, he's more than entitled to it. I will be pretty surprised if he grows up feeling cheated of the entitlement that is owed to all children, and proceeds to vainly search for it later in life through politics.


Robert Pearson said...

Great to hear you have a little Gagdad! I have a one-year-old New Victorian. He and little Gagdad will be defending our 'way of life' in about 20 years, if my sense of the future is correct. May they both be strong and intelligent and good.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's to the Gagbabes everywhere! Thanks, all you responsible parents, for taking this on.

After a drink or two, a psychologist at lunch the other day was despairing about the time when these "little personality disorders that are running around" have taken the helm. A few smart, secure, now-little folks could hold off that tide.

I have suspected that the theme for the generation coming up is repressed grief: families shredded or threatened, schoolchildren battered and exhausted into hopelessness by liberal doomsaying curricula, and, not least, survival guilt in regard to their aborted cohort.

Much of the affect says "grief" to me. I'd be interested in a Real Professional opinion on the matter.

Gagdad Bob said...

It also works the other way around: children have a way of making their parents better human beings, thus assuring a better future for themselves and for the world. Obviously, not all adults are receptive to the influence.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Raising children awakens conservatism. If the vote were limited to those who were married, employed, and raising children -- the marks of adulthood in most societies -- the Democratic party would carry few districts.

As to the Kos Kids, they must of course imagine it is great dragons they are opposing. How else could they imagine themselves to be brave and noble? They need to pump up the evil of their enemies, or they would have to face the fact that their anger is about... something else.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting idea on what subconsciously motivates our current young leftists, and it makes intuitive sense to me because it reminded me of some encounters that I have had with a leftist friend. Observing how certain political issues would cause her to fly into a rage, I began to suspect that what she was really angry about was her unhappy childhood and that being perpetually angry about politics was a way of not facing her grief and anger toward her parents. In this I was influenced in my thinking by Alice Miller who occasionally writes about that kind of displacement (and I should add that I am not a psychologist, so my speculations are very amateurish here).

However, one thing about this idea confuses me. Why is it that leftists complete the gestalt of "abandoning parent" only with Republican leaders and not with Democratic leaders? Why, for instance, was it impossible to project the imago (if that is the correct term; forgive again my amateurishness) of the abandoning parent onto President Clinton?

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