The trouble starts right with the title “Goodbye, All That: How Left Idiocies Drove Me to Flee.” For it leaves one wondering about the missing “to” while evoking Groucho Marx’s seduction of Thelma Todd in Monkey Business — “Come, we’ll lodge with my fleas in the hills.” But Ron Rosenbaum isn’t that sort of joker. And The New York Observer has never sported much of a sense of humor.
Meaning, of course, that his mind was already made-up. With Hospital Corners.
And so one individual comes to “sum up” an entire crowd of anti-war protestors whose opinions Rosenbaum will never know. And that’s because he knows better, you see.
Created with our express assistance and approval.
And that is indeed quite funny. Apparently Rosenbaum feels the Burqua is a newly-minted invention of these Third World Karl Lagerfeld’s. As if there were no history to this garment save the one confected since last year.
Don’t worry, Ron. Vouchers will save their bruised little souls!
Goodbye to all that. The phrase occurred to me when I heard the sad news that Christopher Hitchens was leaving The Nation. Sad more for The Nation, a magazine I’ve read on and off since high school, now deprived of an important dissenting voice amidst lockstep Left opinion.
That’s quite a jump-cut from the trenches of World War I to Christopher Hitchens (scarcely unexpected) departure. Only their country of origin ties Graves and Hitchens together, but you can’t stop a pendant when he’s on a roll.
I don’t know who Hitchens was talking about then and I don’t know now. But suffice to say the death and destruction of September 11th 2001 has led to an undermining of the Constitution of this country by Ashcroft and company that Hitchens and Rosenbaum may feel free to ignore, but others do not. Needless to say those others have been cast in the role of traitors — even if horrified by the
attack, and disdainful of burquas.
Lovely touch that “faint hope.” Need one examine the Left (or what’s left of the Left) any closer? Not if you’re Ron Rosenbaum. After all, you’ve got Christopher Hitchens to speak for you.
The “brilliance” of Hitchens’ “dissent” was everywhere apparent over the last eight years, which found him veering from attacks on Mother Theresa and Henry Kissinger (real hard to do, no?) to cheerleading the anti-Clinton jihaad, and speaking at Freeper rallies — surely the most responsible thing for any “Leftist” worth his or her salt to do.
Before I get into the two idiocies that tipped the scale for me, I want to make clear that saying goodbye to idiocies on the Left doesn’t mean becoming a conservative, neo- or otherwise.
At which point I’m reminded of Fiona Lewis in Strange Behavior in her starched nurse’s uniform looming over Dan Shor with the largest hypodemic needle I’ve ever seen saying “Now Pete, this isn’t going to hurt a bit.”
And what about its history of support and encouragement of genocide abroad, specifically in Latin and Central America during the Reagan era where “Death Squads” were trained on U.S. soil at the “College For The Americas.”
is as bad as embracing the U.S. as if all that “bad stuff” were in the past, and support for murderous dictators like Augusto Pinochet — installed by our hand in Chile one September 11th not all that long ago — was a mere detail.
If it took Abbie Hoffman to “seduce” Rosenbaum into moral reason, then that took place at a relatively late date. I first heard of Vietnam in the early 60’s when I was attending the High School of Music and Art (Class of ’64), a spirted place (we scooped the “Summer of Love” by seven years) filled with “Red-Diaper Babies” like Tim Hunter. The individual who first brought Vietnam to my attention was one Mike Zagarell, a loud and loutish youth who later became president of the American Communist Party. I was never moved to join the party, and was highly suspicious any position Zagarell adopted. But I came to oppose the war on my own — through reading, reason, interrogation and later, action.
Rosenbaum really loses me here. Why he, or anyone else, became attracted to those pretentious showboaters (the forerunners of the “Symbionese Liberation Army”) is beyond me.
Of course he could be lying.
Quite a laundry list there, Ron!
But stupid enough to become a “useful idiot” for the Right.
Oh, why bother?
Let’s begin with the little idiocy, the later one, because I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In fact, I think I came across it shortly before I had heard of Mr. Hitchens’ farewell. One irony of it is that this little bit of idiocy was penned by a former Hitchens acolyte, a sometime Nation writer now living in London who appended a cruel little addendum to what ostensibly was a review, in London’s Times Literary Supplement, of Tom Hanks’ Road to Perdition.
At the close of an uninspired review of an uninspired film (How many times must wannabe intellectuals quote Robert Warshow when speaking of gangster films? Shouldn’t there be some kind of statute of limitations?), the writer graces us with this final reflection:
“Still, if Road to Perdition ultimately fails as entertainment, it offers rich material for allegory. Maybe it was because I attended a screening on Sept. 11, but I couldn’t help seeing Hanks as an American everyman, a pure-hearted killer who will commit no end of mayhem to ensure a better life for his children. Imagine Willie Loman with a tommy gun, and you’ll see what I mean. ‘You dirty rats! Attention must be paid.’”
But of course! What a brilliant point he’s making in the course of preening his anti-Americanism before his audience of U.K. intellectuals. What does Sept. 11 remind him of? The way Americans are killers. Sept. 11 becomes, in his lovely leap of logic, really about Americans being pure-hearted killers capable of “no end of mayhem,” infinite evil deeds. Doesn’t everybody think that way? (Everybody in his little circle, I imagine). Sept. 11 reminds them that Americans are first and foremost murderers,
No, but Road to Perdition does. For it presents us with a hired killer in the form of Tom Hanks — Family Man. The only thing the film lacks is a scene where the boy playing Hanks’ son is lectured by his father “You’ll understand all of this when you’re older.”
Quite a number of twists there, Ron. Like one of those pretzels Bush so-famously chocked on.
No, dear that’s what the film does. Directed by a Brit named Sam Mendes.
Quite frankly I don’t know what he’s talking about. What “consensus”? People’s feelings about those horrendous events (reduced in a manner of weeks to tear-jerking kitsch by the mass media) have run the gamut from screams of rage to whimpers of pain to total silence, but pointing out the shortcomings (can I use that word without having Ashcroft haul me in?) of U.S. policy, both foreign and domestic is scarcely tantamount to talking off for the caves with Osama Bin Ladin. Or does Rosenbaum feel the haplessly idiotic John Walker Lindh pressages a mass movement?
It was a mixed gathering with a heavy representation of Left academics, and people were going around the room and speaking about the attacks and the response. Over and over, one heard variations on the theme of, “Gee, it’s terrible about all those people who died in the towers and all”—that had already become the pro forma disclaimer/preface for America-bashing—”but maybe it’s a wake-up call for us to recognize how bad we are, Why They Hate Us.” The implication was evident: We deserved it. It would be a salutary lesson. It was the Pat Robertson wing of the Left in full flower: Sinful America deserved this Judgment from the sky. Crocodile tears could be shed for those people who died in the towers, but those buildings were so ugly, they were such eyesores, they were a symbol of globalist hubris—it was as if the terrorists who flew the planes into the towers were really architectural critics, flying Herbert Muschamps, not mass murderers.
My what a bunch of idiots Rosenbaum hangs out with. “Why?” one wonders. Who are these people. Or are they mere fig newtons of his feverish imagination (as Bullwinkle would say)?
“Cruel lockstep”? ” Must have been out of town for that dance class.
When was this? In Fassbinder movies? Is Ron a Syberberg fan? Did you see Die Nacht, Ron?
Now thats a neat one. Objecting to Fascism because it reminds you of Communism.
“Isn’t there an implicit analogy you’re making between America and Nazi Germany?” I asked. “It’s just an analogy,” he said. Well, goodbye to all that, goodbye to the entire mind-set behind it: the inability to distinguish America’s sporadic blundering depradations (dissent from which was sometimes successful) from “Germany’s past,” Hitlerism. It was “just an analogy.” O.K., then, let me make an analogy here, one that I believe goes to the “root cause” of Left idiocy of this sort.
Of course this would be a good time to point out that America’s ‘blundering” has been far from “sporadic” — as Noam Chomsky has been only too dedicated to pointing out. (Oh come on — you knew I had to mention him sooner or later.)
I suggested the “next step” might be Holocaust denial, because the deniers had found a diabolical way to twist the knife, compounding the pain of the survivors by negating and slandering the memory of the murdered.
Mr. Lang demurred, because he had his own notion of what the next step in the history of evil might be. The paradigm for it, he told me, was the postwar career of Martin Heidegger, the Nazi-friendly philosopher beloved to distraction by postmodernists (and Hannah Arendt).
You all remember Hannah, don’t you? Always the first one to raise her hand in Jacques Derrida’s class. Michel Foucault just hated her. And don’t dare to bring her up to Baudrillard. He had to stay after class and clean erasers when the professor caught him dipping her braids in the inkwell.
Oh who has the time to actually read Derrida. Certainly not Ron.
Not history to concern oneself with ….
Here’s the analogy: Heidegger’s peculiar neutrality-slash-denial about Nazism and the Holocaust after the facts had come out, and the contemporary Left’s curious neutrality-slash-denial after the facts had come out about Marxist genocides—in Russia, in China, in Cambodia, after 20 million, 50 million, who knows how many millions had been slaughtered. Not all of the Left; many were honorable opponents. But for many others, it just hasn’t registered, it just hasn’t been incorporated into their “analysis” of history and human nature; it just hasn’t been factored in. America is still the one and only evil empire. The silence of the Left, or the exclusive focus of the Left, on America’s alleged crimes over the past half-century, the disdainful sneering at America’s deplorable “Cold War mentality”—none of this has to be reassessed in light of the evidence of genocides that surpassed Hitler’s, all in the name of a Marxist ideology. An ideology that doesn’t need to be reassessed. As if it was maybe just an accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian and genocidal. No connection there. The judgment that McCarthyism was the chief crime of the Cold War era doesn’t need a bit of a rethink, even when put up against the mass murder of dissidents by Marxist states.
Here’s the analogy: Ron’s retreat from the Left (if he indeed was ever part of it, which I doubt) and embrace of the Right in the face of the entire history of American Imperialism and its sponsorship of state terror in countries both far and wide and so close to our you can drive there by car is like —
Nah. Too strenuous.
It’s no accident that Marxist-Leninist regimes turned totalitarian. Likewise it’s no accident that the U.S. sponsored and nurtured totalitarian regimes on the basis of the fact that they weren’t Marxist. Absolute Power Ron. Heard of it?
Well you could have fooled me. But dead Nicaraguan babies — speared on bayonets the way we taught their country’s soldiers to do — tell no tales. At least not the sort of tales “The New York Observer” is willing to publish.
But I’ve already pointed out Ron’s lack of historical perspective (apparently he’s “forgotten about” Reds), so why repeat myself? Oh what the hell!
But noooo … (as John Belushi liked to say). Instead, we get evasions and tortuous rationalizations like the Slavoj Ziz^ek zigzag: This extremely fashionable postmodern Marxist academic will concede the tens of millions murdered by Stalin, etc., but it’s “different” from the millions murdered by Hitler, because the Soviet project was built on good intentions, on utopian aspirations; the tens of millions dead were an unfortunate side effect, a kind of unfortunate, accidental departure from the noble Leninist path that still must be pursued.
But my thoughts turn, as they frequently do, to an unrepentant leftist named Abraham Polansky, a screenwriter whose directorial career began in 1948 with a film called Force of Evil and was not resumed until 1969 with Tell Them Willie Boy is Here followed not long afterwards by Romance of a Horse Thief. Abe was a Communist and was blacklisted. But he was hardly a doctrinare Commie — or doctrinaire left-winger of any sort as Force of Evil (his masterpiece and the most uncompromising political film ever made in this country) shows. And he wasn’t idle all those years. He wrote The Goldbergs starring America’s favorite Communist, Gertrude Berg. And through “fronts” he wrote such films as Odds Against Tomorrow. More important, he lived to see most of his enemies die — and got a chance to work again.
Back when I started writing Open Secret I had a notion that there might be a connection between Hollywood’s schizoid attitude towards leftist politics and its skittishness about same-sexuality. So I went to lunch with Abe at Neiman Marcus, which was walking distance from his condo on McCarty Drive. “It’s McCarty Drive — not McCarthy Drive!” Abe said with a hearty chuckle. The connection I was considering was tenuous at best, and from our talk I saw there was no point in pursuing it. But I got to meet Abe — something I’ll always treasure.
The last time I saw him was at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Banquet where he was being honored for “Career Achievement.” LACMA prides itself on honoring those individuals other orgs would barely consider. But giving it to Abe had a special flavor this year.”Well was it worth it?” he asked on mounting the podum.”Was it worth putting up with the shit you’re going to get for giving me this award? Cause there’s another group in this town that’s giving an award like this one to a RAT!”
He was, of course, speaking of the Oscar being given that year, amidst considerable controversy, to Elia Kazan. Warren Beatty, present at the awards banquet, whose screen career began under Kazan’s direction in Splendor in the Grass, thought Abe’ jibe was hysterically funny. But no one laughed at what Abe said next.
“Everybody says you should forgive and forget. Well I never forgive because I never forget!”
And so to finish with Rosenbaum:
Gays? When did we win a place on the laundry list?
Well they are. But apparently it’s our Patriotic Duty to ignore it.
Only to minds as reductive as Rosenbaum’s.
Goodbye to the brilliant thinkers of the Left who believe it’s the very height of wit to make fun of George W. Bush’s intelligence—thereby establishing, of course, how very, very smart they are. Mr. Bush may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (I think he’s more ill-informed and lazy than dumb).
As opposed to declaring Al Gore stupid.
Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence: Remind me again, was it John Ashcroft or Fidel Castro who put H.I.V. sufferers in concentration camps?
Excuse me dear — just how long did it take for Ronald Reagn to so much as mention AIDS? And are you aware of the Bush administrations ongoing attack on AIDS service organizations because they distribute condoms, and decline to teach absintence and marriage to the opposite sex as the “cure” for HIV?
who Rosenbaum has obviously never read.
Goodbye to all those who have evidently adopted as their own, a version of the simpering motto of the movie Love Story. Remember “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?
I guess today, Left means never having to say you’re sorry.
Goodbye Ron. Don’t let the door smack your lying ass on the way out!
As for me, I’ll have what Abe was having.