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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

We're the Greatest! (But They Are Out To Get Us)

One of the things that I find most distasteful about modern American political life is the way in which virtually everyone tries to project themself as a martyr. For all the arrogance and chest-beating bravado in politics at all levels, it seems like the core of American political life is paranoia, the sense that, however right you may be, nefarious outside forces are out to get you, and they will stop at nothing to destroy your movement. The classic example of this is Left(ish) identity politics, which sets up the interests of 'people of color' as being inevitably prevented from realization by a 'White Supremacy' that hangs like a fog over daily life. I have always found this sort of 'permanent victim' stuff quite irksome, but that is not what I am going to talk about today.

No, what I am interested in is conservative victimology. Conservatives frequently denounce the 'liberal victim mentality', yet they are eager to paint themselves as martyrs when the need arises. This is most obvious when they see something they don't like in the news and retreat to their corner, mewling about the 'biased liberal media'. One second it's all macho chest-beating, and the next it's tearful complaints about "liberal oppression", and calls for universities to enact David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights, that would force universities to hire more conservative scholars. Whatever happened to a 'free marketplace of ideas'? At least the liberal types who demand more subsidies for 'ethnic studies' and diversity hiring quotas and the like aren't hypocrites in this respect, because they don't profess to believe that 'the market' (such as it is) should be given free reign to make such decisions. For what it's worth, I often agree with conservatives that left-wing victimology is foolish, anti-individual, and of little use in improving relations between different groups of people, yet because I believe this, I am only more disgusted when conservatives use exactly the same tactics to complain that they are being 'oppressed'.

It is a wonderfully successful rhetorical trick, a great means of mobilizing the grass roots, but it's horses**t. This is particular the case when you see people from, say, Fox News mouth off about 'the mainstream media'. You people work for Rupert Murdoch, one of the mightiest press barons in the world, and you are somehow underground rebels engaged in samizdat? Gimme a break. Conservatives have control of the federal government, large amounts of the state governments, most of the corporations, the most vibrant and expansionist part of Christianity in America, and a vast section of the media, and their voices are being strangled by a bunch of columnists on the Upper West Side? Give it a rest already.

One thing that I've always wondered about, given Americans' predilection for neurotic paranoia about how The Other is out to destroy them (whether that other is Whitey, libruls, Christians, corporations, or whoever), is how deep this reaches into our history. It seems to have been a fairly constant factor going back through time, and so I wonder if, really, it all dates back to the Puritans arriving here after being forced out of England (although that is a simplification, they weren't expelled, their power was simply broken there) and in their fear that their project was threatened by nefarious outside forces they did not set a national tone of alternating hubris ("we will build a perfect world!") and paranoia ("as long as THEY don't stop us!") that all of the tens of millions of people to follow them here haven't assimilated to. By this I mean, is fear an essential part of the American identity?

|| RPH || 5:50 PM || |