Author John Irving on Bob Dylan and Neil Young: “They’re not afraid to embarrass themselves — and you’ve got to be able to do that.”
That’s my mantra as an artist. When I first applied pen to paper as a dopey kid, I fretted constantly about how I’d be received. It took years for me to rid myself of that ill-fitting hairshirt. Thankfully, I came to the realization that if I worry about making a mistake or incurring the ridicule of whatever audience I have, I’ll never put anything out there.
So, laugh at me if you want, but I’ve got to be able to do what I do.
The Bane That Is Bannon
Just heard the author of the new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency, on Democracy Now. Lemme tell you, this book is a punch in the gut. It chronicles how Bannon read the Fascist theorist Julius Evola and the religious regressivist René Guénon and has absorbed their assertions that the Enlightenment has perverted humankind’s progression through history and moved our species away from a traditional spirituality. This exodus from ancient morality myths threatens to make our species extinct, both Evola and Guénon implied — and now, Bannon flat-out believes it to be so.
Bannon’s mission in life mission in life is to save all mankind (emphasis on man-) from itself. A rather megalomaniacal ambition, no?
The author, Joshua Green, tells a fascinating story about how Bannon essentially created the alt-right, an agglomeration of youthful, aggrieved, helpless, hopeless, pathological self-pitiers that just may have been the difference in the 2016 election (one that, I must remind the world, resulted in Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote). The story goes like this. Some years ago, Bannon heard about a nascent grift called “gold farming.” He saw that tens of millions of young people worldwide were playing massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft that offered successful participants the ability to amass points and virtual wealth, so that they could advance even further as they continued to play over the weeks and months. So Bannon got in on the scam. He formed a company that hired Chinese laborers to play the games all day long and accumulate in-game currency. Bannon then took all those spoils and sold them at great profit to people who wanted to be big shots in these online games but didn’t have the time, energy, or smarts to earn the swag under the rules. The company was wildly successful.
Except that serious players got wind of the scheme and started banding together, pressuring the game licensees to bar this kind of chicanery, which they did. Bannon’s company immediately collapsed. Rather than cry into his beer, Bannon took it as a business lesson — young, disaffected obsessives who live on the internet could be corralled and channeled into a massive, mighty political force.
When he became a big shot at Breitbart News Network (Andrew Breitbart himself once called Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl” of the Tea Party movement) Bannon realized that, although Fox News had wrapped up the older aggrieved, helpless, hopeless, pathological self-pitiers of this holy land, nobody had tapped into the younger generation of similarly sad sacks. Accordingly, he went out and hired internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos and thus began the successful courtship of that hateful young crowd by Breitbart. That group eventually became its own political bloc, tied together by their fears, their loathings, Breitbart News, and dozens — even hundreds — of other fascism-loving, white-skin-revering sites.
Green, BTW, began his career as an editor at The Onion. He went on to work for the The American Prospect and Washington Monthly, and has contributed to Slate, the The New Yorker, and The Atlantic.
Careful What You Wish For
Personal to all those dreaming of the impeachment of President Gag (me included):
If, by some miracle, both the House and the Senate turn Democratic in 2018 and, through some further magical intervention, articles of impeachment are approved, a trial is held, two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, and Li’l Duce is tossed out, there will be — mark my words — blood in the streets. The anencephalics who love the current president will be enraged, and they have guns.
Come to think of it, there just might be blood in the streets if P. Gag loses the 2020 election. Call me cynical if you want, but I see nothing good resulting from our current state of Gag-ian lunacy.