The Post In Which I Note That Driftglass More Than Does Steve Gilliard Proud
These past couple of days as we've acknowledged our friend, and—he'd laugh at this moniker, but it's true in many ways—mentor, Steve Gilliard, it has indeed been easy to let sadness take over, and let the tears roll over what might have been. It's like that when someone with seemingly so much more to give exits the stage an act or two early.
But as I said at the services for him, look at what he left behind! A mark. A footprint. Some thing that lets the people still with us know that you were here. Steve more than did that. Yes, he left behind a slew of fantastic writing and recorded insight into this world that we can draw from, but perhaps even more importantly he left behind an idea—an ethos of can-do journalism, and analysis, and plain, old solid, “to-thy-self-be-true” writing that has informed many of us, and inspired others.
I'm one of those others...as is Jesse, and more than a few other “others”.
But before I got into the mix, there was Driftglass.
Now, I may be preaching to the choir here, but if you don't, or haven't much, or damn you—never have read Chicago's own Driftglass, well...you not only need to go check him out, but you need to bookmark “The Big D”. He was the guy who showed up in The News Blog's comments long before I did, and landed on the taut trampoline of ideas and words that Steve laid out—and then turned backflips and somersaults of respondent prose so insightful and so pretty that I'm surprised that then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum didn't also try to outlaw man-word love in response to what Drifty could make you feel about writing.
Driftglass is part of Steve's legacy, spinning off out of comments into his own castle of strong, and carefully thought-out opinion and analysis. We here at The Group News Blog are part of that legacy, too. And in the end, when you've moved from this mortal coil, if you leave a legacy behind—a living one—you have done a mighty thing. And when that legacy grows, and continues to flourish, and yes—kicks ass and takes names even harder than before...well hell, you give it your attention, tip your cap, and shake your head, and go “Damn. Go 'head. Do it to it!” You then point your finger at the original, and say “Thank you!”, and turn back to that continuance/new breed thang and say “Hit it!”
I say that today of Driftglass.
Let's start this the way he did: I came across the same ugly, disingenous NYT column by David Brooks that he did. The column where the flailing neo-con took a fork to the ocean and tried to drink his fill in defending Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign kickoff in the infamous town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were brutally killed in 1964. The place was a touchstone for bigots as it sent a clear message to right-minded Whites who would dare ally themselves with Blacks fighting for equality—that we (White supremacists) will torture and lynch you just the same as we will these uppity n*ggers we so hate. The murders of Goodman and Schwerner very much truncated direct White involvement in the struggle as it was made clear that as opposed to these White faces acting as a protection against violence by their southern brethren against freedom-riding Blacks, they too would be dealt with...and it scared many a fearful, but well-meaning White mother and father into pulling their child from direct involvement in that struggle.
Reagan went there in 1980 and kicked off his Presidential campaign with an odious, but perfectly-pitched dog-whistle call to the would-be, sooty-handed, cross-burners and their children standing there in that hooting crowd.
“I believe in states rights.”
Now, everybody with even the most tenuous grasp of 20th century American history knows about the South's clunky shift from the obvious and heavy handed rhetoric of “Jim Crow” laws to the less-bitter-on-the-tongue re-branding as “States' Rights”. And Reagan's naked, verbal play was to those invisible, pointy-hat wearers across America to vote for him. A Hollywood star, a left coast Governor came some 2200 miles east to a town famous for one thing in the previous fifty years, and blew the racist dog-whistle so hard that every closet George Lincoln Rockwell in America's teeth rattled in response. Brooks...for all his vaunted education, this past week tried to pooh-pooh away what every sane person knew Reagan did. He tried to take that bloody, knife-blade of racism, wrapped it in his just-spun cotton candy, drizzled “out of context” syrup on it, and dusted it with “you don't get it” rainbow sprinkles.
I was going to put on the studded, chain-mail gloves of analysis and club Brooks bloody and into the ground like an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. Even after his own co-horts on the Op-Ed page reacted with their own nail-spiked bats and steel-toed boots to his pasty, naughty bits. Driftglass saw those retorts as well, and noted them. I think he was tempted to walk away and leave Brooks there, all pulpy and scuffed...but then, he went to The Big Guy for words that landed like big, concussion-laden Foreman rights...
So let's get past all the maudlin bullshit and discuss what Reagan really did.
First, Reagan rode to power on a wave of reaction to the Civil Rights struggle. California, a state with a deep well of racial resentment, supported Reagan, who would protect the establishment and call for students to be murdered on their campuses. Reagan was regarded as a crank by many on the left, but his appeal to middle America was strong. It wasn't that Reagan was a racist, as fas as is known, he wasn't. But he sure could pander to them, as he did in 1984 1980 at Philadelphia, MS. For those of you unaware, that is the place three civil rights workers were murdered by the Klan. It would be like a British Prime Ministerial candidate going to Amritsar to talk about the glory of the British Army (the site of a 1921 massacre of peaceful Indian protesters). Reagan pandered to the racist right with ease, even as Barry Goldwater, the man he supported in 1964 with a convention speech, slowly backed away from many of his reactionary views. Instead, Reagan depicted blacks as "welfare queens" leeching off the society, when in reality, white women are the largest recipients of AFDC. Reagan used race like a club to hammer minorities and pander to the racist right.
...And then? Well...how do I say this? Everybody has “their guy”. A powerful nemesis who when the earth opens up, and Ragnarok is on, you square up against because dammit, that's the evil bastard your powers are simply most tuned to battle. It's Avengers #3 from January 1964. The free-for-all! Guest starring The Hulk and The Sub-Mariner—and Hulk of course chooses up against The Mighty Thor, and Subby goes right to Iron Man, because those are the people they're destined to go at. Knuck for knuck.
My guy, for some reason is Rudy Giuliani...maybe because I'm a New Yorker who lived through his special awfulness.
But Driftglass's guy? Well, it's been David Brooks...for quite some time. And instead of walking away and leaving it at that, because it was pretty rough...my friend Drifty effectively told everyone else to stand down for a minute. He walked right up to Brooks' rhetoric, his defense of the smiling, benign hatchet man that Reagan was...
...and laid waste to him as no one else ever could, starting off with his commentary on what Steve wrote:
...Which demonstrates, if nothing else, the true, sad state of American journalism: that a deceased and relatively obscure blogger named Steven Gilliard is still a vastly more vital, thoughtful, passionate and powerful writer from inside the Narrow House than is the allegedly-living New York Times columnist named David Brooks.
And which, in the end, leaves nothing left standing to debunk or refute.
Indeed all of the above would be an embarrassingly one-sided exercise in bouncing the rubble of where Bobo’s career used to be were it not for this simple fact: Bobo still works for the NYT.
Punching most days so desperately far out of his intellectual weight class that he can barely climb up the Big Boy stairs into the ring, Bobo nonetheless continues to punch clock every damned day on the most valuable piece of real estate at the New York Fucking Times.
He worked for them last year.
Work’s for them this year.
Will work for them next year.
And through the smoke of Hellfire prose tearing his idiocy to flinders, this became the part of the story-behind-the-story which began to fascinate me.
And going from there...
The headlines of his own newspaper are precisely the very public intersection where Bobo’s eyes-clamped-shut masturbatory fantasies about what he wishes his ideology were…
…collides violently with what it actually is.
And he cannot stand it.
Can’t stand that every Schiavo, every veto, every fraud, every freak falling out of every wingnut closet, every day and every dollar and every life lost in Iraq, every pilfered election -- all of it -- has all been brought to us courtesy of the Party of David Brooks.
That it is the conglomerate of bigots, Dominionists and “Fuck everybody but me”-libertarians all pulling in harness towards the abyss that makes Bobo’s machine move.
And the Grand Illusion that this is somehow not really true works specifically because modern Conservativism is not a rational ideology where all the facts are laid out like dry goods, sorted, weighed, counted and then action is decided upon.
Bobo’s runty, privileged, gated-community self-image could not bear up for one second if he were ever obliged to lock eyes in the clear, noon light with the vast, greasy army of bigots and madmen to whom he offers pastel-toned cover-fire from the good, gray pages of the New York Times.
And yet all around him he sees the Conservative Revolution evaporating not from external threats or Dirty Hippy sappers inside his perimeter, but in a toxic cloud of wholly internal corruption, incompetence, delusion, fascism, demagoguery, racism, homophobia and a slimy and hateful perversion of genuine Christianity.
There is, in the end, no one to blame for the ruin and failure that Conservatives have left in their wake but that army of bigots and lunatics who have always been at the core of the Modern Conservative movement.
The title of this long essay comes from one of the finest American short stories ever written: William Faulkner’s tales of cosseted delusion and Southern gothic horror -- "A Rose for Emily”.
And rather than being a pedant and beating the point home with a rock, let me instead tell you the story…of the story…and you can judge how apt it is...
That's just a sampling. I don't dare spoil it. I want you to go there and read it all. It's a four-part essay. You can trust me, it's more than worth your time. Because Brooks? He's just the starting point—the lame, hyped “heavy” at the door of the Bond villain's lair, and Driftglass just smashes him from stem to stern, with blood spattering the lens and the sounds of howls, and the wet celery-twisting sounds of bone giving way under blows, and kicks, and head-butts and wall-pulled pipes. Once he's “done” with Brooks, Drifty's real mission begins, as he tackles something bigger—the right-wing's rotten core of power—its very identity. He tears through their recent navel-gazing and existential identity crisis evidenced in books like Andrew Sullivan's “The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back”, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson's “Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't).”
He rips through all of that recent, bogus “Get Back” harkening to the failed policy's “roots” and takes you down the rabbit hole and out the other side, where he then pulls a “2001: A Space Oddity” on you—the Brooks battle is just Dave vs. Hal 9000, a simple battle that's easy to digest, as he pulls Bobo's psyche apart bit-by-bit, until he's babbling as incoherently as the brain-wrecked Hal.
After that, you're whooshed along on a wild, and unexpected, eye-opening ride through the cosmos, where your head whips around at the wonder of it all as he dissects the right wing down to it's very protoplasmic essence. And at the end? True awareness. Clarity. The Goddamn Star-Child.
The truth is revealed. You understand it all. And it is one of the best things I have ever read on the internet. If David Brooks has friends, they'll keep him from ever finding this thing, because I believe it would make him actually cry. Not just for himself, but for his fellow travelers and how thoroughly it exposes them as the moldering, hooded, death-worshipers they really are. It's that powerful.
He has tipped his cap to me in the past, but all of Lidsville gesturing at once can't say what needs to be said about this piece.
Go. And read it. And take that journey. Get a cup of coffee. And if you're a wingnut, get a tall, stiff glass of some strong spirit—but hide the sharp stuff first.
Start here and go down the page. William Faulkner(!) takes the tag from Drift and they both finish the match with simultaneous power-bomb drops to the right's solar-plexus from opposite corners of the ring, and there's no other way to say it than to say—the carnage is almost beautiful.
Go there, and see it. Read it. And sing for it's rightness, and pray for its poor victims. Then tell me if that celestial food-service drum of concentrated whip-ass he kicked open doesn't remind you of this: