Andy Divine depends on the ignorance of his readers, Episode MCCVII: On Concentration Camps & more pressing Evils. Old Socialist comments

I’ll bypass the first two installments of the Mr. Divine’s encyclical of June 21, 2019:

The Next Step for Gay Pride

The Trump Code

I’ll just read this next segment of moral shaming with which Andy confronts his readers:

The Totalitarian Nightmare the World Is Ignoring

I don’t want a new Cold War with China. But it is, in my view, an evil regime, and we should have no illusions about that. Twitter has been having a great time this past week parsing whether detention camps for illegal immigrants in the United States should be called “concentration camps.” In China, this debate might seem somewhat beside the point. Over a million Muslims who have crossed no border and committed no crimes are being taken from their homes en masse and subjected to brainwashing in vast camps and compounds from which there is no escape. Watch this excellent new BBC piece on these “thought transformation camps” — and feel the fear everywhere. The BBC was given access to a show camp, which is creepy enough. We can only imagine what goes on in the hidden ones.

Somehow Andy has become an expert on ‘concentration camps’: now Andy isn’t very adroit about his attack on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and her very welcome plain speaking on the concentration camps used by ICE to hold the Mestizo Hordes ,that are invading the land of Anglo-Protestant virtue, as articulated by that American political hysteric Samuel P. Huntington: in his Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. The separation of children/infants from their parents , not to speak of caging these human beings, is an action used by Trump and his minions: ‘Give me your tired,your poor ,your huddled masses…’! An utter betrayal of ‘American Values’ ?

Andy likes to engage in the time honored tradition of One-up-man-ship pioneered by Stephen Potter. Virtue signalling is the current term of abuse, but Potter’s old stand-by fully describes Andy’s dull-witted practice . His argument:  You’ve averted your eyes from the ‘Evil Chinese Regime‘  for too long -its Human Rights abuses! In sum, the Concentration Camps used by ICE are by comparison to the Chinese Regime’s forms of oppression/re-education are evil, while the human rights abuses practiced by ICE are subject to a kind of pseudo- apologetic! In sum,  the crimes of ICE are minimized in comparison to the Chinese.

 

On the left, we worry about Islamophobia, or we expend our energies protesting the oppression of Palestinians by Israel’s occupation. On the right, we talk of religious freedom too often as if it only applies to Christians or Jews.

Yet, here is a man and writer whose moral/political enthusiasms for ‘The Bell Curve’ and the War in Iraq are facts that Andy can’t overcome. At least with his readers whose memories reach back to Andy’s reprehensible political past.  Andy achieves his ends by means of hectoring moralizing, in service to Andy’s pathological egotism, wedded to his political nihilism.

Old Socialist

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/andrew-sullivan-the-next-step-for-gay-pride.html

 

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janan.ganesh@ft.com on toxic ‘Period Dramas’ . American Writer comments

Both The Americans and The British love to wallow in the bathos of ‘high toned’ entertainments:  The Pallisers, Upstairs Downstairs, a bit of an anomaly, but still within the nostalgia parameters? And Downton Abbey. Wistful nostalgia for another age, refracted, or is that white-washed? to meet the needs of moderns, awash in the current fashionable cynicism, and longing for the soothing balm of movie/television kitsch. 

Its a pity that Mr. Ganesh hasn’t read Edward Copeland’s ‘The Silver Fork Novel:
Fashionable Fiction in the Age of Reform’ 

In the early nineteenth century there was a sudden vogue for novels centring on the glamour of aristocratic social and political life. Such novels, attractive as they were to middle-class readers, were condemned by contemporary critics as dangerously seductive, crassly commercial, designed for the ‘masses’ and utterly unworthy of regard. Until recently, silver-fork novels have eluded serious consideration and been overshadowed by authors such as Jane Austen. They were influenced by Austen at their very deepest levels, but were paradoxically drummed out of history by the very canon-makers who were using Austen’s name to establish their own legitimacy. This first modern full-length study of the silver-fork novel argues that these novels were in fact tools of persuasion, novels deliberately aimed at bringing the British middle classes into an alliance with an aristocratic program of political reform.

https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/literature/english-literature-1700-1830/silver-fork-novel-fashionable-fiction-age-reform?format=PB

A literary expression wedded to status obsessions, in another Age, that took Austen’s novels as its natural precursor, in an etiolated form.  

I find this sentence in Mr. Ganesh’s essay comic, to say the least: the Queen and Royal Family are still active, if symbolic figures, representative of a long dead Feudal/Imperial Triumphalism:   

Even the good ones make a modern country — earlier than most to smash feudalism — seem past-obsessed to a creepy extent.

American Writer 

https://www.ft.com/content/adb45114-9b42-11ea-adb1-529f96d8a00b

 

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On The Cult of Isaiah Berlin, in sharp decline? Political Observer comments

Nikhil Krishnan reviews three books in the May 15 , 2020 issue of the  Times Literary Supplement: The Philosophy of Isaiah Berlin, The Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin, In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

After an introductory paragraph Krishnan begins his essay with reference to Christopher Hitchens’  London Review of Books essay of November 26, 1998 titled ‘Moderation or Death’ , nearly 13,000 words. Krishnan describes it as a ‘a thunderous philippic’. Krishnan describes it further in this paragraph: 

The tone of the sceptical response was set early after Berlin’s death when Christopher Hitchens produced a thunderous philippic against the man and the type in his review of *Michael Ignatieff’s authorized 1998 biography. The review itself was a mixed bag, playing down (or misstating) Berlin’s philosophical contributions but assembling evidence that his repute was disproportionate to his scholarly virtues. 

Yet Krishnan self-serving in-curiosity leads him astray. Could this Ernest Gellner essay of November 20, 1995 in the Prospect, meet his standard, of a more cogent evaluation of Berlin: the historical commentator on the History of Philosophy, whose transmogrification into a Philosopher, meets an actual critic that trumps Hitchens’ trivialization? for want of a better term.    

Title: Sauce for the liberal goose

Sub-title: Liberalism has become the world’s dominant political theory but its philosophical foundations remain uncertain. Ernest Gellner unravels the flaws in the work of Isaiah Berlin, the champion of modern liberalism.

The fox knows many things, the hedgehog knows one big thing. Isaiah Berlin has preached the virtues of the fox so long, so persistently and so coherently, that he has become the veritable hedgehog of foxiness. He seems possessed by a single dominating idea-that we should not have single dominating ideas. In his view, the system of human values has no all-embracing, unifying apex, which could constitute a kind of final court of appeal for deciding all issues. Thinkers have pursued such a philosopher’s stone, but the quest is in vain. If Tolstoy was a fox trying to be a hedgehog, then Berlin would seem to be a hedgehog striving to be a fox. There is an ultimate key to our condition: it is foxiness, the absence of ultimate keys.

Still, in his own writings, the tendency towards rotund digression camouflages the single-minded preoccupation with the virtues of the fox. Berlin is a relaxed writer, and if a deep tension is inherent in his central theme, a reader might be forgiven for not noticing it. But this is not in the least true of John Gray’s exposition of his views in Isaiah Berlin (Harper Collins, 1995). Gray passionately pursues what is virtually a single theme: can the acceptance of a plurality of rival-or incommensurate-values be consistent with liberalism? Gray enters into Berlin’s system of ideas, identifies with it, and lives out its tensions. He is so involved in the problems which haunt Berlin’s thought, that he pursues them with a determination which is less conspicuous in Berlin’s own leisurely, one might say blas?, style.

Or this review of Isaac & Isaiah by David Caute reviewed by Ferdinand Mount from The Spectator on September 21, 2013

Mr. Caute’s reveals that Berlin was a practitioner of the crudest kind of academic politicking, nothing like his ‘hero’ the passionate, cards on the table Herzen! 

Note that Mount tells of an encounter with Berlin:

And it is not even true that Berlin’s indignation was reserved for his enemies on the left. I hope readers will forgive my recalling once again a personal encounter with Berlin which presents an eerie parallel to Caute’s ordeal in the All Souls common room. I had just written an enthusiastic article somewhere about the conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott, and I was queuing at the issue desk in the London Library, when Berlin buttonholed me, almost shaking with urgency and annoyance: ‘You were far too kind to Oakeshott, far too kind, the man’s a complete fraud, he has no doctrine at all, nothing resembling a doctrine, he has nothing to say.’  This outburst was all the more remarkable, since what Berlin  and Oakeshott had in common, it seemed to me, was that they passionately rejected the idea that a single doctrine could provide all the answers. What they both taught was that the world is a complicated place. And indeed their unexpected antipathy, which was mutual, showed just how true that is.

…   

How many more instances of the particular bad faith, wedded to maladroit academic skulduggery, to engage in hyperbole, of Berlin remain undiscovered? 

What is interesting, if not revelatory, in the Krishnan essay, is its final paragraph, that places the intellectual vogue for Berlin in the past tense.

Berlin’s champions seem to want for him a status akin to the one Auden once claimed for Freud: “if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd, / to us he is no more a person / now but a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives”. The “sonorous music of his sentences”, as Rowan Williams once aptly put it, had their special power, but those sentences, for all their rhetorical virtues, left behind at most a mood, as certain dinner party hosts are able to evoke — and a mood is much less than a “climate of opinion”. It seems to mark a deep difference between temperaments, how easily one is able to shake off the mood when one is no longer in the presence of the man and his sentences.

One of the most important literary/political publications in America, The New York Review of Books, was the headquarters of the Berlin enthusiasts/publicists!

Political Observer 

*Watch the unseemly hero worship, of Michael Ignatieff, on full display:

Sir Isaiah Berlin interviewed about his life by Michael Ignatieff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

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janan.ganesh@ft.com is a Ptolemaic, rather than a Copernican. Political Observer comments

Does the word quixotic define Mr. Ganesh extended exercise in typing, that comes to rest in this sentence, and two paragraphs, that acts as an indictment of both ‘Right’ and ‘Left’? On their ‘cultural declinism’ presented as ‘stark news‘? Yet the very notion of a   concomitant political declinism, better yet named the corruption, of the whole of America’s political class remains outside the Ganesh ken?   

This stark news I address to conservatives but also to the left, as both sides have come to traffick in versions of cultural declinism.

For the first, the problem is several decades of irreligion, permissiveness and the debasement of a national way of life through immigration. For the second, the problem is several decades of unfettered markets and the commodification of people. But both converge on the same bleak picture: an atomised and decadent society, less than the sum of its parts, brittle for all its outward riches. Both are nostalgic for the mid-20th century, when most western nations were more homogenous and more equal.

Theirs is an analysis that makes intuitive sense. In fact, it is strange that it is not true. If liberalism means anything, it is that society has limited claims on the individual. Collective action must therefore be harder to pull off.

In the hermetic world of the pundit Mr. Ganesh is not a Copernican, but a Ptolemaic! Self-congratulation this writer’s ambit, yet where does the argumentative ‘they’, of the above  morph into the writer’s voice, and then back again?  

If Mr. Ganesh, had spent less time reading the latest best selling pop fiction, and intoning on the genius of the late Tom Wolfe. Or the latest craze of the reactionary literati for his successor, he might have read Daniel T. Rogers ‘Age of Fracture’ published in 2011, and winner of the Bancroft Prize:  from the Epilogue 9/11, page 261 

It was in the nature of the crisis to throw up into the air all the culture’s voices and intellectual fragments, old and new. Antagonisms and sentiments forged in the culture wars, preexisting ideas and identities, premade global strategies manufactured after the first Gulf War, newfound commercial ambitions, rage, and crisis-made yearnings for unity and solidarism all swirled together. But after three decades in which the very language for society had grown thinner, in which the “little platoons” of freely choosing selves commanded more and more of the social imagination, in which block identities seemed to have grown more fractured and fluid, in which power and history seemed to have become more pliable and diminished, what was most striking was the suddenly resurgent talk of solidarity, unity, and the public good. Amalgams of ideas have their countermotifs as well as their dominant strains, their points of hesitation and resistance. In the wake of 9/11, a powerful recessive strain assumed new power and urgency. It looked, Appleby mused, like the mindset of the Cold War all over again. 

https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674064362

As a reader of Mr. Rogers book , he squanders all that he has argued in the preceding chapters, in a search for bourgeois academic respectability, but the above paragraph marks something worthy of quotation.  That presents a very different argument than Mr. Ganesh.  
Dose the last paragraph of this essay, in praise of ‘liberalism’, in small caps, seeks to obscure the fact that this ‘liberalism’ is in fact Neo-Liberalism? In a Keynesian inflected panic, in the face of Covid-19 Pandemic? Austerity has reentered the political conversation, even as we are in the earlier stages of the Pandemic. 

It turns out that liberalism does not by definition breed egoism and irresolution. A lot of the easy calumnies against it (“We could never fight a war now”) appear less certain. And if the “horizontal” bond among citizens is a bit stronger than assumed, so is their “vertical” cord with government. Anti-elitism — the spirit of the age, we thought — is broad but it can also be shallow, or at least selective. The speed with which people deferred to the medical and bureaucratic establishment was telling. The crisis has found nothing more wanting than our cynicism.

Political Observer

https://www.ft.com/content/2073463e-94f3-11ea-abcd-371e24b679ed

 

 

 

 

 

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The Committee for the Defense of Bret Stephens meets at Politico. Political Observer comments

The defenders of Bret Stephens, in the American Political Gossip sheet Politico, are not just one of the authors of ‘Coddling’, but his fellow travelers, who inveigh against homegrown enemies ,of an enlightened political present, and the political cowardice of the New York Times : 

The same defenders and allies of that new manifesto of an ersatz centrism in ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ , read the short version of this newest hysterical homage to its precursor ‘The Closing of the American Mind’ by another political hysteric Allen Bloom. 

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

Note the fashion for publishing these condensations, that give birth to even more bloated Bestsellers: ‘Closing‘, ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ , ‘The End of History’ .

Not to forget that the co-author of ‘Coddling’ Jonathan Haidt is a New Democratic political operative, whose propaganda objective is to paint ‘dissidents’ as the enemy, in a lame pastiche of Carl Schmitt. Note the alliance between the Neo-Conservatives and the New Democrats as part of a toxic realignment in American politics.

Like the English and their ‘Civilizing Mission’ that rationalized their Imperialism, Mr. Stephens believes, even worships at the shrine of his ethnic exceptionalism: “The Secrets of Jewish Genius. This particular expression of exceptionalism allows Zionist Settlers to steal land ,destroy the houses, and crops, kidnap the children and murder at will the indigenous Palestinians. That is prima facie evidence of racism! 

It takes four people to author a defense of  Mr. Stephens? Better yet call it a Manifesto in defence of the indefensible. Carefully rationalized by ‘the real roots of Jewish achievement are culturally and historically engendered habits of mind.’

Stephens took up the question of why Ashkenazi Jews are statistically overrepresented in intellectual and creative fields. This disparity has been documented for many years, such as in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene by the eminent sociologists Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab. In his Times column, Stephens cited statistics from a more recent peer-reviewed academic paper, coauthored by an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Though the authors of that paper advanced a genetic hypothesis for the overrepresentation, arguing that Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average IQ of any ethnic group because of inherited traits, Stephens did not take up that argument. In fact, his essay quickly set it aside and argued that the real roots of Jewish achievement are culturally and historically engendered habits of mind.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/05/14/bret-stephens-new-york-times-outrage-backlash-256494

In sum, the exceptionalism of Mr. Stephens is rationalized by ‘the real roots of Jewish achievement are culturally and historically engendered habits of mind.’ Science is trumped by Belief ?

The closing paragraph is an exercise in self-congratulation. The reader can only wonder at a reply to those who defend Stephens: the rights of Palestinians to live and prosper within the framework of Stephens pronunciation of  ‘culturally and historically engendered habits of mind. The question might arise, how can the reader think about the Gentile culturally and historically engendered habits of mind? Superiority, no matter how it is inflected,  is always toxic. 

We strongly oppose racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. And we believe that the best means of combating them is the open exchange of ideas. The Times’s retroactive censoring of passages of a published article appears to endorse a different view. And in doing so, it hands ammunition to the cynics and obfuscators who claim that every news source is merely an organ for its political coalition. 

Political Observer

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/05/14/bret-stephens-new-york-times-outrage-backlash-256494

 

 

 

 

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@FT, Ben Hall, William Drozdiak on the political fate of Emmanuel Macron! Old Socialist comments

M. 37% has an ally in The Financial Times, and its reviewer Ben Hall. Mr Hall presents an argument about the ‘baffling’ ‘sheer opprobrium’ that French citizens hold for this arrogant little enarque:

The sheer opprobrium many French citizens hold for their president is baffling to many outsiders, even taking into account his hauteur and impetuosity. It still threatens Mr Macron’s chances of re-election in 2022. But we do not find out much more about it here. This book is not an examination of the state of France or of the low-trust society it appears to have become. There are few critical perspectives or opposition voices.

Could it be that the final vote in the election, in which of voters rendered their ballots counted as ‘abstentions’ and  ‘spoiled’ adds up to 15,461,894?. Greater than the final total cast for Le Pen 10,584,464. Macron’s final vote was 20,257,167. But 16,046,358 of votes ‘against’ Macron, by the aggregates of the these numbers of  votes for Le Pen, and non-votes of ‘abstentions’ and ‘spoiled ballots’, might be a beginning of an honest inquiry into the why of this ‘baffling’ ‘sheer opprobrium‘ of the opposition to Macron’s Neo-Liberalization Project? 

My source for the election figures:

https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/08/europe/french-voters-spoiled-ballots-abstained/index.html

For a very carefully laundered report on that election:

Headline: French election results: Macron’s victory in charts

Sub-headline: President-elect won decisively with wealthier and better-educated voters

https://www.ft.com/content/62d782d6-31a7-11e7-9555-23ef563ecf9a

‘Low Trust society’ ,  the useful vocabulary of the Technocrat , in sum, a term of opprobrium, a descriptor of the lower orders: a gloss on a superior classes special kind of knowledge!     

William Drozdiak a member of the Brookings Coterie of prophets and their advocacy for  NATO and the faltering European Project: its latest episode:

Headline: How can Europe solve the crisis created by Germany’s highest court?

Sub-headline: Berlin, Brussels and Frankfurt weigh response to judgment on ECB’s bond-buying programme

https://www.ft.com/content/2d4a6959-8bdc-4d74-b617-873bba839807

Mr. Hall reduces Macron’s now utterly forgotten gaseous Jupertarian Politics, that has evolved into a beauty contest via Drozdiak, with the garnish of ‘ambitious and visionary’. While the political world has been remade by Covid-19, and a galloping return of  Keynesianism.

Drozdiak’s is a largely admiring account of how Mr Macron recovered his poise after the gilets jaunes protests to become Europe’s most ambitious and visionary leader. Drawing mostly on newspaper reports, interviews with Élysée Palace advisers and the president himself, Drozdiak gives us a tidy primer on Mr Macron’s sophisticated world view. 

Compare the above with this Vanity Fair gush: 

Headline:PHOTOS: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

Sub-headline: The politician takes us behind the closed doors of his Élysée office and shows us what a typical workday looks like, with photographer Annie Leibovitz documenting his every move.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/photos/2018/04/photos-a-day-in-the-life-of-french-president-emmanuel-macron

Mr. Macron’s project is about the Neo-Liberalization of France, the last European bastion of Democratic Socialism. Mr. Drozdiak’s aim is to provide an apologetic for Macron, which uses his talents as a Technocrat, and like the canny Capitalist he has something to sell, his expertise, via his position as ‘a senior advisor for Europe with McLarty Associates, an international strategic consultancy firm based in Washington, D.C.’ Add to this his experience as a newspaperman, at The Washington Post, his very impressive C.V. :

William Drozdiak

Mr. Drozdiak is a Macron propagandist/apologist, with the help of  Mr. Hall. 

Drozdiak’s aim in this book is to distill Mr Macron’s thinking about how, in an era of great power competition between the US and China, Europe needs to be more strategic and assertive in protecting its own interests.


Mr. Hall’s final paragraph is instructive. In sum the Macron Project is the Neo-Liberalization of France, that becomes the sine qua non of Mr. Drozdiak’s propaganda intervention.  

The bigger impact may be domestic. Mr Macron’s mission to end the French people’s overdependence on a bloated state had become a political liability. The pandemic calls for reimagining the protective state. It is, as the president put it in a recent televised address, a “chance to reinvent ourselves, me first of all”.

For Mr. Hall, Mr. Drozdiak and M. Macron, the Neo-Liberal Project is an idée fixe . The vexing question is what will happen after the end of Social Distancing, as The Covid-19 crisis abates ? Will the gilets jaunes protests begin anew? Or will the cementing of the rules governing public congregations/demonstrations , be used as a weapon against dissidents, in the name of a fragile public safety? 

Old Socialist 

https://www.ft.com/content/b673e494-8fae-11ea-9b25-c36e3584cda8

 

 

 

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gideon.rachman@ft.com on the imperative ‘It’s time for a liberal fightback’. Old Socialist comments

The  ‘as if’ of his the latest political/economic intervention with the comic bellicose frame of It’s time for a liberal fightback’ signals the abandonment of Liberalism’s revered rationality? Two books, in the political worldview of Mr. Rachman, do not exist:

Liberalism: A Counter-History by Domenico Losurdo

https://www.versobooks.com/books/960-liberalism

And the revelatory history of The Economist, that even mentions Mr. Rachman, as part of the Posh Boy Network, that supplies newspapers with the apologists for a political present, ruled by the variant of ‘Liberalism’ named ‘Neo-Liberalism’   :

Liberalism at Large: The World According to the Economist by Alexander Zevin

https://www.versobooks.com/books/3090-liberalism-at-large

Mr. Rachman in high dungeon, another seriocomic moment, in extended play. The Enemies of the Moment ‘ nationalist right and radical left’  :

If the liberal creed had entered this crisis with broad popular support and understanding, it would be easier to ensure that all these infringements on freedom are temporary. But the opposite is the case. Liberalism has had a miserable decade, with the financial crisis and its aftermath turning “liberal” into a term of abuse for both the nationalist right and the radical left.

Another book ‘Europe Since 1989’ by Philipp Ther , in its Chapters:   4 titled ‘Getting On The Neo-Liberal Bandwagon’ &  5 Second -Wave Neo-Liberalism explains in detail the toxicity of Neo-Liberal’s benighted reign in Mitteleuropa.

Another ‘as if’ : Colloque Walter Lippmann of 1938 didn’t mark the alliance of ‘Liberalism’ with ‘Neo-Liberalism’! Mr. Rachman defensive anger , that morphs into rhetorical bellicosity, at those who expose this benighted history, is not unexpected from a member of  a very exclusive club of apologists! But this next paragraph is part of an almost canny acceptance, of the other’s arguments, an expression of ‘Liberalism’ argumentative tolerance?   

The liberal willingness to see the other side of the argument, mocked by Frost, means I am happy to accept that the critiques of both left and right have some merit. The liberal urge to roll back the frontiers of the state has contributed to increased economic insecurity in the west. And the right is correct to say that many liberals were too relaxed about the consequences of globalisation. 

My patience with Mr. Rachman’s political intervention is at its end. But I can’t resist quoting this sentence, a kind of wan apologetic for Tony Blair: possibly a representative of  the Liberalism/Neo-Liberalism that he defends as the epitome of political rationalism?

But Tony Blair — also often accused of “neoliberalism” — supported higher public spending and redistributive taxation.

I’ll close my comment with this collection of telling sentence fragments: a collection of his closely held beliefs/suppositions that define his ‘Liberalism’ from the remainder of Rachman’s angry polemic, as representative of Liberal Rationalism?  

Sensible liberals understand that…, But, real liberals differ from the communitarians of the far right and far left…, That means liberals also know …, That belief in the universal rights of man…, As the extremes of the left and the right limber up…, …liberals do not believe in destroying their enemies.   

Old Leftist 

https://www.ft.com/content/07f29a7e-9363-11ea-abcd-371e24b679ed

 

 

 

 

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On the fictional valorization of Hillary Clinton, just in time ? American Writer comments

How opportune! As Senile Old Joe marinates in his cognitive decline , sequestered from public view. His campaign, such as it is, carefully managed ‘interviews’ with friendly media, and short videos. Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘Counter Factual Biography’ of Hillary Clinton, to be published under the title ‘Rodham’ adds what to the American political conversation?  Here is her picture provided by The Sunday Times:

 

Here is a quote from Bryan Appleyard  about the ‘why’ of the book:

Sittenfeld writes women better than anybody else, and women read her in huge numbers with the joy of recognition. If anybody can turn Hillary into a fictional heroine, she can.

And she really is the heroine. This book is a counterfactual — a “what if?” way of studying the past. The big “what if” here is what if Hillary hadn’t married Bill? Her answer, thanks to the deft way she combines fact and fiction, is wholly convincing. This is clearly how she wanted Hillary to be. And, crucially, about how much she wanted her to become president.

The book, and the timing of its publication are suspicious, to say the least, so it is important that Sittenfeld establish her distance from Hillary Clinton:

She has not met Hillary, although was once “in the same space with her” at Stanford University. But she springs to utterly convincing life in these pages.

“I do feel it’s important for me to emphasise that I’ve never spoken to her. It’s not as if I have any inside scoop. Any research I did was publicly available. I never interviewed someone behind the scenes. But there is a lot of information that’s out there.”

Appleyard probes a bit :

If she did meet her, what would she want to ask? She emails her question: “If you hadn’t become a lawyer and politician, what do you think you’d have done instead?” My question would have been: do you think marrying Bill Clinton held you back? That’s the one that looms behind the book. However, I can tell Sittenfeld doesn’t like that. She’s a detail person, and if that is the looming question, it’s up to the reader to ask it, not her. 

Should the reader of this interview come to the conclusion that Sittenfeld has written counter factual fan fiction?

Did she like Hillary more than when she started this book more than three years ago? “Yes, more, more! You know, for a lot of the last three years I’ve put on a pant suit and blond wig, metaphorically. I would never write a book from the point of view of a character I was unable to sympathise with. I feel very emotional about her. There’s this reflexively negative way of talking about her. Yet she’s such a hero and role model to so many people, especially many women, which doesn’t get acknowledged as much as it should.”

She says she ended up loving her. But she had also fallen for Bill during her research. She had read his big, swaggering autobiography, My Life.

“I mean, this is the thing; while reading it, I felt like I fell in love with him. And it was very surprising to me. But I think a writer needs to be able to feel the emotions her characters feel.”

This is voice of the true believer, or to be pointed, an apologist/propagandist that has produced an ‘imagined’ Hillary Clinton, rendered more palatable by Sittenfeld’s adolescent ‘crush’.  

Even Appleyard provides a bit of gush about ‘Bill’ , and Sittenfeld confirms : 

I tell Sittenfeld about meeting the real Bill at a party. He charmed me in about three seconds, and there was some weird visual effect that made everybody else blur into insignificance.

“Exactly, I’ve heard he has this very particular kind of magnetism that most mortals do not have.”

Not interested in the remainder of the interview focused on Sittenfeld life and literary career. One final comment, neither Appleyard  nor Sittenfeld  have any relation to Graham Greene!

American Writer 

 

 

 

 

 

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