Thursday, May 24, 2007

Roll Over, Tacitus: A Return to Rome

Olbermann on the "bipartisan betrayal" of the American public (click to view)

I can't stomach the idea of doing the right wing's legwork for them, but I have also been nauseated by some of the punditry on the left recently. Particularly:

  • Maureen Dowd's Wednesday column in the Times, which reduces a discussion of Al Gore's new book to gossip-tainted rumor-mongering, accompanied by a pathetic rant on weight loss. I sent this complaint to Eric Alterman's blog, which he kindly posted. Incidentally, Dowd's strange surface-obsession with Gore goes way back to the 2000 campaign, which Alterman documented in his book, What Liberal Media? Dowd's better than this; much better. But if she can't, for whatever reason, be reasonably objective or focused about Al Gore, maybe she should just shut up and let others review Gore's new book. In fact, that's what we'll be doing here soon.

  • Something is wrong, to my mind, when the Huffington Post has to add a gossip column to its front page, just to (presumably) keep up their traffic and revenue stream. I've written about the problem with this before; so I won't go over that ground again. It's disturbing, that's all. And speaking of disturbing...

  • Roll Over, Tacitus: Back to Ancient Rome

    Morrell Wine

    The Monica Goodling testimony before Congress was a reminder to me that we live under the sway of a theocratic oligarchy. An obscure youth with no outstanding credentials (beyond her religious zealotry) for the position she took at DOJ, she basically revealed her own ignorance of the foundational principles of law throughout her testimony.

    But Ms. Goodling was not hired to advance the understanding or practice of law at DOJ; she was hired to join in mute conformity with the demagoguery of a cultish state based on the rule of a fundamentalist clique that uses the name of God to enforce and perpetuate oppression. In fact, the basis of it is remarkably polytheistic: several gods, multiple ideologies mixed together, and even a cult of the virgin thrown in (how else are we to interpret "abstinence only"?).

    In short, the imperialism of Rome, redux. What they went through under the likes of Nero, Caligula, and Galba. A society defined by excess and the self-indulgence of the ultra-wealthy, employing the tools of belief and oppression under the various names and disguises of God. Now Rome lasted for a long time amid depraved and decadent rulers, because every so often a Hadrian, a Trajan, or a Vespasian would come along to right the ship of state, and persist (and survive) at this long enough for order and prosperity to be restored.

    So is this what America needs now? I have nearly boundless admiration for Al Gore: I'd knock on doors and make telemarketing calls (the ultimate sacrifice) to help him get elected to the office he once fairly won. Yet one thing holds me back, and I think it's something that Gore himself recognizes: we don't need an Antoninus or a Marcus Aurelius here now. What we need is a restoration of the individual citizen in a truly participatory democracy. Our mass media continue to look for the Next Big Thing, the New Savior, the next People's King. They thought they had found one some six and a half years ago, and look at what it's turned into. It became what every such undertaking of public vanity and passive dependence inevitably descend to: a failure.

    If we are to hope to witness a new morning of democracy, we will need to see, above all, the proper relegation of the President, members of Congress, and all government officials, to servants. Right now, they are all petty rulers, each in his or her domain; intent on carving out the greatest arc of power available to them, until such time as they can comfortably retire into the private sector or the perpetual book tour or media pundit's seat. These people are no more public servants than were Nero or Caligula. They are the devotees of a cult of excess who mouth the platitudes of a defunct religion as they descend further and further away from its original teachings, into a dark pit of opulence, excess, and vanity.

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