Hot Air: Love Story/Hate Story

Gentlemen’s Disagreement

The Loved One digs Gregory Peck, mainly because he was — emphasis on was — Atticus Finch. Nobody else could have played the crusading lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird.

TKAM just may be TLO’s fave movie of all time. She’s watched it time and again but there’s only so many times you can watch a movie (well, most of us; I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve seen The Godfather, Parts I and II and The Big Lebowski. The Day the Earth Stood Still, too. And Asphalt Jungle. Kiss of Death. Out of the Past. And…, and…, well, okay, so I’m obsessive about certain things.

Anyway, when I got home from having a beer or two at The Bishop last night, she was lying on the couch watching Gentlemen’s Agreement.

To tell the truth, Gregory Peck was Phil Green as well. Nobody else could have played the crusading journalist out to smash the secret — and not-so secret — anti-semitism in America in the immediate post-WWII years.

I’ve seen Gentlemen’s Agreement a half dozen times at least — not as often as the aforementioned faves of mine, but still…. Every time I see it, I pull for Phil to ditch the virginal, upper-middle-class, country-club Kathy Lacy. What a bore she was. Rather, I’d shout at the screen, Anne Dettrey’s the one for you, Phil! The imperfect, creative, ambitious, Greenwich Village-y Anne would have made him a fabulously fun wife. And she was nuts about him, too. But no — he had to go for that prig, Kathy. Bleccchhh.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-35-44-pm

[L-R] Ho-Hum Kathy, Crusading Phil & Exciting Anne

I’ve never gone in for soap operas — not treacle like General Hospital, nor so-called premium TV drama like Mad Men. But I still want romance in my movies. And when the flower girl who’s gotten her sight back finally recognizes the Little Tramp at the end of City Lights, I still cry like a baby, no matter that I’ve seen it a few dozen times already.

Prevarication Verification

Loyal Pencillistas know I’m a big fan of muckraking journalist Matt Taibbi. His Rolling Stone articles on the vampire squid that is Goldman Sachs are must reads for anyone who wants to know what 21st Century capitalism is all about.

Taibbi’s books are so-so. He’s at his best when he focuses his righteous rage on a single topic, as in his mag articles. He tends to meander in his books. The Great Derangement is no exception. Then again, his take on 9/11 Truthers in that 2008 tome is as vicious and spot-on an indictment of the lunatic left as I’ve ever seen. Only a super-lefty like Taibbi can truly and accurately dismantle the wingnutty bullshit of the extrême gauche end of the political spectrum.

Anyway, in Chapter 8, “Conspiracy Interlude I, or 9/11 and the Derangement of Truth,” he riffs on how presidents in the latter stages of the 20th Century became successively more adept Liars-in-Chief — and we were okay with that. He writes:

… America decided that even if it knew that its president was a fraud, it could live with him, so long as he was a skilled fraud. To the rescue came Ronald Reagan, whose virtue was that he told lies that were enjoyable, uplifting…. He shared this trait with Bill Clinton, a bullshitter of Shakespearean dimensions who carried America all through the nineties with an orgiastic smile on his face….

So America went… to being a place where the president was expected to lie always, and at all times. But the one thing throughout this period that Americans could always depend on… was that the lies the American president told would always be the very best lies that science, computerized research, and Washington’s most devious spooks could produce. Our president may lie, but he will lie effectively and spectacularly, with all the epic stagecraft and lighting and special effects available to the White House publicity apparatus.

Taibbi goes on to say that George W. Bush’s lies — specifically his casus belli, Iraq’s never-existent weapons of mass destruction — were cheap and tawdry. Many warhawks of 2002 and early ’03 acknowledged that the WMD claim was bushwa, Taibbi asserts — “It is not a good sign when not even your supporters… bother to take your cover story seriously.”

He goes on:

America by the early years of this century was a confusing kaleidoscope of transparent, invidious bullshit, a place where politicians hired consultants to teach them to “straight talk,” where debates were decided by inadvertent coughs and smiles and elections resolved via competing smear campaigns….

The message of all this was that Americans were now supposed to make their own sense of the world. There was no dependable authority left to turn to, no life raft in the increasingly perilous information sea…. [W]ith no community leaders, no community, no news he can trust, Joe America has to turn on the Internet and tell himself a story that makes sense to him.

Yowser. The man was a seer. He couldn’t have described this holy land in the year 2016 any better. Yet even this far-sighted coffee-grounds reader couldn’t possibly have predicted the rise of Donald Trump, a man of no acquaintance with the truth or facts, to the White House. L’il Duce not only doesn’t lie “effectively or spectacularly, with all the epic stagecraft and lighting and special effects available” to him, he lies astoundingly poorly. He dares us to believe him. He says, in essence, You thought that was a whopper? Wait’ll you hear this one!

Bearing false witness has become a game to the president-elect. And we love to play along. I remember when I was seven years old. I was hanging out in the alley one day with a kid named Jay. A little guy named Brian tried to tag along with us. He was about five. Brian got the bright idea to whip out his little wiener at us and Jay and I fell on the concrete, almost suffocating from laughing. We caught our breath and said to Brian, “Do it again!” He did and we fell on the concrete again. Then we got up and repeated the whole thing a third time. We couldn’t get enough of it.

We — the adult voting populace of America — are doing the same thing with L’il Duce. He lies and we say, “Do it again!” And he’s obliging us! Only we’re not seven and he’s not five.

L’il Duce‘s need to lie is so insatiable, so unnecessary, so not even a means to an end anymore, that his latest fib, that millions of votes for Hillary Clinton were fraudulent — she was the loser, for chrissakes! — is evidence he’s taking a cruel pleasure in watching us lap up his fictions. He’s now toying with us!

You know who does that? A psychopath.

Coda

There ain’t no Atticus Finch or Phil Green around to save us from ourselves.

Ball Of Confusion

2 thoughts on “Hot Air: Love Story/Hate Story

  1. Susan Sandberg says:

    Thanks for this one, Mike, good food for thought…and future action!

  2. Dan Wasik says:

    You mentioned number of fav movies you watch and re-watch. But not the best of them all: Teenagers from Outer Space.

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