Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anatomy Of An Annoying Conservative

I've been attempting for some time now to rationally justify my dislike for self-proclaimed conservative commentators. Visceral loathing is fun, but when it isn't backed up by actual thought and reasoned opinion it becomes the verbal equivalent of vomiting on someone.

This is especially true when not all conservative commentators operate in a bewilderingly irresponsible manner. Take, for instance, our own Jabawacefti (Jabs, as we've affectionately monikered him). While his positions on foriegn policy and national security are often in direct opposition to my own, he takes care - and dare I say pride - in laying out rational reasons for his opinions, and rarely resorts to the sort of cheap tactics that many other attention-seeking commentators use like trash buckets at a chicken wing-eating contest. He's a good guy, in other words, who just happens to believe different things than I do.

So, why is it that so many conservative commentators irk me? Let's take two recent commentaries and try to figure it out together. Brace yourself - this is long though also (I hope) interesting/provocative.

First up, here are some excerpts from Stanley Kurtz's comments on the Davinci Code. Take it away, Stan!

This movie is a salutary kick in the teeth for conservatives.... the
fact remains that when it comes to exercising influence on the fundamental levers of American culture, conservatives remain in a pathetically weakened position.

Reason #1: Everything is war.

Conservatives are in "a pathetically weakened position." This is only the first of multiple battle/war/fight references to come in what is, essentially, a six paragraph article. This wouldn't bother me in the slightest, except that it appears they're at war with me. More on this further down below.

Reason #2: Conservatives are always the embattled, underdog minority.

The conservatives are underrepresented in film! They don't control Hollywood the way that they control Washington! Something must be done! Narnia and the Passion of the Christ and Spider-Man and Star Wars and Crash and The Aviator and Gangs of New York and the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong etc, ad nauseum are not enough! There were at least four "liberal" films released last year and we were forced at gunpoint to see and discuss them! They must be destroyed!

Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else?

I may not be a professor of “symbology,” but I have taught at Harvard
and studied religious symbolism. So I feel in a particularly strong
position to reveal the entirely unsecret conspiracy against patriotism,
tradition, and religion hiding in plain sight on our movie and television
screens, in our universities, and on the pages of the mainstream
Reason #3: The Great Liberal Conspiracy

I, for one, eagerly await the revelation of the above-mentioned conspiracy. It is, after all, an enormous portion of conservative mythology. If one were feeling "cheeky," one might suggest that this idea of a monolithic, liberally controlled popular culture is eerily similar to the idea of a secret sect of Jews that control banks, or of a white-haired Illuminati that pulls the strings of big business. In other words, crazy talk. But in seriousness, what's this conspiracy all about? What is the goal of the media conspiracy? I await Kurtz's answer with baited breath.

Conservatives have forgotten just how precarious our position is. One
cable news channel, talk radio, and the blogosphere do not an invincible army make. It only seems that way because we also have nominal control of the reigns of power. But lose our foothold in government, and conservatives are up a creek. The other side controls the levers of cultural power in this country, and we are the enemy in their eyes (and on their screens).

Reason #1 again: This is WAR, Mrs. Peacock! Where's our army? They are the enemy! They have come for your children!

I've never met Stanley Kurtz, but I'd like to assure him that he is not "the enemy" in my eyes. In fact, I encourage Mr. Kurtz to live his life in any way he sees fit. I encourage him to take his children to movies that he finds appropriate, and to educate his children as to what he and his wife feel are appropriate values. I encourage him to continue to spend his money on films like "Narnia" if he enjoys them, because economics dictate that a successful product begets more of the same.

I also encourage him to extend that same courtesy to me. If I want to take in the Davinci Code (and I don't - Lord, that movie looks like the cinematic equivalent of a sewage-enema), that's my business and my choice.

Why have Democrats been so angry? It’s because their taken-for-granted cultural superiority has been called into question by 9/11, the return of patriotism, a tough foreign policy, and the open defense of the sort of traditional values they thought were on the way out.
Reason #4: Massive Over-Generalization and Stuff-n-Nonsense
Reason #5: Abuse of the term "traditional values."

Here's where I realize that Mr. Kurtz and I would likely remain on opposite sides of a dinner party. First, I'm not sure what a "taken-for-granted cultural superiority" means, precisely. That's not me being coy, that's just the truth. In fact...this paragraph doesn't make a lick of sense to me. How does a terrorist attack question cultural superiority? Aren't they in entirely separate realms? Should we even be discussing, say, Pink's new album in the same sentence as 9/11?

More importantly, what's this "return to patriotism" thing about? When did patriotism disappear? Where did it go? Was it on vacation? And there's that "traditional values" thing again. What traditional values, Kurtz? Free Speech?

This portion of Kurtz's screed also helpfully illuminates the most loathesome of tactics: painting an entire spectrum of political thought with one big brush. Yes, Kurtz; all Democrats are opposed to "traditional values" (whatever they are) and have not found the true light of patriotism the way that you have. Frankly, this sort of talk is all-too similar to the sort of extremist religious claptrap espoused by radical Muslim terrorists. But don't take my word for it - according to Kurtz, "the battle" (Reason #1!) is only beginning:

The battle is radicalizing. Big Love and The Da Vinci Code
are far more direct and brazen attacks on tradition than we might have
anticipated just a few years ago. Conservatives are the targets, and
Hollywood is aiming and shooting repeatedly. Give credit to Tom Hanks, by the way. As producer of Big Love and star of The Da Vinci Code, he is clearly one of the captains of the not-so-secret conspiracy.
The not-so-secret conspiracy. There it is again (Reason #3!). Who knew that Tom Hanks was in league with dark forces? And what is Hollywood doing to conservatives? They are brazenly and directly attacking. They are aiming and shooting repeatedly. Everything is war.

And did you notice something? For all Kurtz's talk about teaching at Harvard and studying symbols, he never tells us what this conspiracy is, what the Davinci Code's place is within said-conspiracy, or what this conspiracy aims to do. He just lobs a loogie and takes off.

To help conclude our exploration of why these people bother me so much, let's ask Michael Long about music:

On first glance, rock ’n’ roll music isn’t very conservative. It doesn’t
fare much better on second or third glance (or listen), either....For
conservatives who enjoy rock, it isn’t hard to agree with the opinion Johnny Cash expressed in “The One on the Right Is on the Left”: “Don’t go mixin’ politics with the folk songs of our land / Just work on harmony and diction / Play your banjo well / And if you have political convictions, keep them to yourself.” In other words: Shut up and sing.

But some rock songs really are conservative—and there are more of them than you might think. Last year, I asked readers of National Review Online to nominate conservative rock songs.

Reason #6: Hypocrisy, or, Having Your Cake And Eating It, Too

So...Keep your political opinions to yourself is a sentiment that conservatives agree with? Then why, exactly, is Michael Long writing an article on the politics of songwriting? If "Don't go mixin' politics with the folk songs of our land" is an admirable maxim, why is Mr. Long asking people to nominate "conservative songs"?

What makes a great conservative rock song? The lyrics must convey a
conservative idea or sentiment, such as skepticism of government or support for traditional values.

Reason #7: Bewildering Self-Deception (and the return of Reason #5)

What skepticism of government do conservatives like Mr. Long adhere to? I'd been under the impression, frankly, that skepticism of government was something to chastise liberals over. Is it the same skepticism that's allowed government under Bush to swell to a size unseen since FDR? Is it the skepticism that's forgiven the transformation of a three trillion dollar surplus into a three trillion dollar deficit? Is it the same skepticism that's encouraged the "party of small government" to forward initiatives constitutionally banning gay marriage? To push for the teaching of Christianity in public schools? To tell a woman that she can't decide the fate of her pregnancy?

Are those "traditional values?" Has the idea that "traditional values" may mean different things to different people entered Mr. Long's mind? Is he really so self-satisfied as to presume that what he considers moral/right/acceptable is applicable to all, or that what he considers immoral/wrong/unacceptable is equally applicable? It's one thing to say that you don't like gay marriage. It's another to actively work to forbid anyone from engaging in it because it creeps you out.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” says a lot with a little. It seems so jarring, so goody-two-shoes today not because it asserts old-fashioned values
but because it assumes them: It is, however unlikely, a song about wanting to be married. Note what Brian Wilson and Tony Asher do not say: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have sex? These cultural mores have got to go!” They don’t even say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this without our parents finding out?” No, these are kids who accept that there is a place and time for everything, and that some urges are best delayed—even if we don’t see any good reason past faith to do so.

They are looking forward—something rarely done anymore—to a time
when what they want comports with the rules they trust, rules more important than an impulse or a wish, rules that preserve civility and order and life.Get this: They’re looking forward not only to the carnal pleasures of being married but also, one assumes, the entire set of joys and responsibilities that marriage brings. Who knows if kids really felt this way in 1966? Maybe a lot of them didn’t—but maybe a bunch did. Perhaps a few still do. And if they do, wouldn’t it be nice?

Reason #8: The Politicization of everything.

Why does "Wouldn't it be nice" have to mean anything political? Ordinarily, I'm content to let protest music be protest music (see, for example, Neil Young, Eminem, Bright Eyes, Green Day) - overt about it's political bent. What's nice about this tact is how it allows me to buy albums I want to hear and not purchase other albums I don't support or agree with. For me, it means that I own more Steve Earle than I do Toby Keith. It doesn't mean that Toby Keith should shut the fuck up about his opinions because the existence of his record offends and repels me.

Reason #9: The Ignoring of Reality

"'Wouldn't It Be Nice' was not a real long song, but it's a very 'up' song.
It expresses the frustrations of youth, what you can't have, what you really
want and you have to wait for it."

That's Brian Wilson, quoted in a 1996 interview. You can find it HERE. "Wouldn't it be nice," as written, isn't about the thrill of waiting for the "carnal pleasures" of marriage - it's about the frustration of wanting to sleep together, and of having to wait til' marriage to do so. That doesn't mean it isn't romantic - because it is. It's a gorgeous piece of pop music, welded to the sort of simple-smart lyrics that look ridiculously easy to write but are, in fact, almost impossible to do well. Ira Gershwin lyrics.

But it's not a hymn to marriage. It's a musical ache of longing for something you aren't allowed to have yet. Age is an obstacle to be overcome in the song, not something to be treasured. Wilson may recognize a need to wait for marriage, but that desire stems from a regretful adherence to socially accepted norms, not the celebration of them.

Reason #10: The fight is all.

I don't think anything I've written above is particularly offensive. I do think that some of it is opinion, and some of it is simple fact. What I know is that none of it matters to the sort of commentator I find so distasteful. The fight is all. Whether or not the Davinci code poses any actual threat, a threat must be created. It is not enough, apparently, to be fighting an ideological war with religious extremists (and to be doing so using ideologically blunt instruments). No, we need a second war for our short attention spans. The Culture War.

Well, we don't need your war, Colonel Kurtz. We don't need "conservative" songs identified (wrongly) for us. Responsible adults understand that "culture" involves a variety of viewpoints, attitudes, fashions and fads. We have met the "enemy" already, and he is us.


At 11:18 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

You so smaht! That's why I love this blog. (Love Jabs too brw.)

At 12:11 PM, Blogger namaste said...

nice piece of writing. seems too many people are happy enough to have their information force-fed to them without questioning the validity of the statements/iamges/arguments. keep on fightin' the good fight.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

First of all, I don't get Kurtz and his culture wars, so I won't pretend to, but of course, I agree with most of your post. Probably because I see so much of it also taking place on the left as well.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

Thanks for all the kind words, folks.

They're appreciated. It's nice to have someplace to throw all of my rants/musings/whatevers.

Jabs, as you know, I'm just as frustrated by many Dems as I am by many Reps, but I see their problems as being significantly different.

The biggest problem I see is in this doggedly-insistent use of mile-wide generalizations like "The Left" and "The Right."

It's absurd to assume that simply because you favor a more/less liberal approach, that you can be shunted into a neatly prepped ideological box and packaged up.

At 7:55 PM, Blogger Seven Star Hand said...

Hello Codemorse and all,

Here's a stunning insight into the threat posed by the DaVinci Code and other symbolic narratives and sources. This is why they're livid about someone questioning their spin on ancient history...

Here is the key to understanding what the Vatican and Papacy truly fear...

Pay close attention, profundity knocks at the door, listen for the key. Be Aware! Scoffing causes blindness...

Here's a real hot potato! Eat it up, digest it, and then feed it's bones to the hungry...

There's much more to the story of the Vatican's recent machinations than meets the eye. It's not the DaVinci Code or Gospel of Judas per se, but the fact that people have now been motivated to seek out the unequivocal truth about an age of deception, exactly when they expect me to appear. These recent controversies are spurring people to reevaluate the Vatican/Papacy and the religions that Rome spawned, at the worst possible time for them.

Remember, "I come as a thief..." ?

The DaVinci Code novel and movie are no more inaccurate as literal versions of history than the New Testament. The primary sub-plot involved purposeful symbology being used to encode hidden meanings, exactly like the Bible and related texts. In other words, none of these stories represent the literal truth. This is the common and pivotal fact of all such narratives about ancient Hebrew and Christian history. Debating whether the DaVinci Code, Gnostic texts, or the Bible are accurate history is a purposeful ploy designed to hide the truth by directing your inquiry away from the heart of the matter.

There is a foolproof way to verify the truth and expose centuries-old religious deceptions. It also proves why we can no longer let the Vatican tell us what to think about ancient history or much else. It is the common thread connecting why the ancient Hebrews, Yahad/Essene, Jews, Gnostics, Cathars, Templars, Dead Sea Scrolls, DaVinci Code, and others have been targets of Rome’s ire and evil machinations. The Vatican and its secret society cohorts don’t want you to understand that the ancient Hebrew symbology in all of these texts purposely encodes and exposes the truth about them. Furthermore, the structure of ancient wisdom symbology verifiably encodes the rules to decode messages built with it. This is what they most fear you will discover.

If the Bible represented the literal truth or even accurate history, there would be no need for faith in the assertions of deceptive and duplicitous clergy and their ilk. It is undeniable the New Testament is awash with ancient Hebrew symbolism and allegory. The same is evidenced in the Old Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic texts, biblical apocrypha, Quran, DaVinci Code, and other related sources. All ancient religious, mystical, and wisdom texts have been shrouded in mystery for millennia for one primary reason: The ability to understand their widely evidenced symbology was lost in antiquity. How do we finally solve these ages-old mysteries? To recast an often-used political adage: It’s [the] symbology, stupid!

It is beyond amazing that the Vatican still tries to insist the Gospels are the literal truth. Every miracle purported for Jesus has multiple direct symbolic parallels in the Old Testament, Apocalypse, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other symbolic narratives and traditions. Recasting the symbolism of earlier Hebrew texts as literal events in the New Testament is one of the central deceptions associated with Christianity. This is part of the secret knowledge held by the ancient Gnostics, Templars, Cathars, and others, which is presented with dramatic effect in the DaVinci Code. None of these narratives or stories were ever intended as the literal truth. This fact is the key to unraveling many ages-old mysteries and exposing the truth about the Vatican's long-term deceptions.

Moreover, the following Washington Post article (The Book of Bart) describes how many changes and embellishments were made to New Testament texts over the centuries, unequivocally demonstrating they are not original, infallible, or truthful. When you combine proof that the New Testament Gospels are not wholly literal with proof that these texts were heavily reworked in the early years of Christianity, you are left with only one possible conclusion. The Vatican has long lied to everyone about the central tenets and history of Christianity. This revelation also proves they are not the Creator’s representatives but Her longtime opponents. The recent hoopla over the Gospel of Judas and DaVinci Code demonstrates they are still desperately trying to deceive the world and obfuscate their true nature and activities.

It's no wonder the Vatican fears the truth more than anything else. As further proof of these assertions, seek to understand the symbolic significance of my name (Seven Star Hand) and you will have proof beyond disproof that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have long been duped by the great deceivers I warned humanity about over the millennia. What then is the purpose of "faith" but to keep good people from seeking to understand the truth?

Now comes justice, hot on its heels... (symbolism...)

Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk...
Here is Wisdom!!

Revelations from the Apocalypse

At 11:49 PM, Blogger codemorse said...




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