The legacy right-wing media is working hard to breathe life into the story about Joe Biden sexually harassing a women decades ago. Tara Reade has been turning up on conservative chat shows to tell her story. Evidence to support her claims has been circulating around the internet. One can’t help but be impressed by the effort to locate old television show clips and old acquaintances familiar with the event. That, of course, raises suspicions about who is behind this effort.
As usual, the so-called conservatives are flabbergasted to learn that the media is working hard to ignore the story. The same people who were hyperventilating about the goofy old women accusing Bret Kavanaugh are now too busy fabricating stories about hero nurses to bother with politics. Here’s a piece by Reason Magazine wondering why the media is ignoring the story. Here’s a post by National Review about the media’s double standard. They are shocked by the hypocrisy.
Most people on this side of the great divide no longer pay attention to this stuff, as it is like watching an old movie that you liked at the time, but you now realize was not very good after all. The Legacy Right has not aged well. In fact, a lot of people struggle to admit that there was a time when they were really into this stuff. The truth is though, almost everyone on this side of the great divide used to be really into these tales of left-wing hypocrisy. It mattered for some reason.
That’s the thing though. Why is anyone still fascinated with this angle of attack at this point in time? If you are under the age of 90, the so-called double standard has been a feature of politics your entire life. The complaining about it has been a staple of your politics until you made the journey over the great divide. The complaints never change and they never have the desired impact. It turns out that the people in charge are not swayed by appeals to their virtue or appeals to their sense of fairness.
It is one thing to play the long game. It is quite another to keep performing the same rituals over and over expecting some miracle, only to see nothing change. Even the truest of true believers starts to doubt after a while. Yet, the Official Right never seems to waver on this stuff. When Brett Kavanaugh was being assaulted, they did the same things they did when Clarence Thomas was assaulted. In fact, they were giddy. It was like they were working from a script.
It’s not an age thing either. It would be understandable if the people performing these rituals were old guys who spent their life doing this dance. The Reason writer is in his 20’s according to his bio. The National Review writer looks like he may still be in high school, but is probably fresh out of Hillsdale or Yale. If you are over 50, you have seen three generations work from the same script with the same results. A cynical person would suspect that this is not entirely an accident.
There’s no doubt that the people paid to stand around yelling at trains perform these rituals because they are told to do so. The people funding the Official Right are the same people funding the Official Left. This level of politics is intended to be theater to sustain the illusion of choice. You, the active citizen, are supposed to pick a team, put on their jersey and yell at your television every night. The political-entertainment complex has its formulas just like television and movies.
The puzzle though is why so many people fall for it. You can be sure that the people who read Breitbart will be fully enraged by the hypocrisy. The comment section there will be full of ritualized grunts and groans to signal unhappiness over how this poor woman was treated by old hairy legs Biden. They will be in ecstasy when Trump retweets a story about this or maybe likes a Tara Reade tweet. The campaign probably has that event on the calendar for this summer.
It may seem pointless to wonder about this, but any effort to alter the political dynamic must first start with breaking this conditioning. Simply pointing out to these true believers that their outrage is wasted does not work. If you went into the comment section of Breitbart and pointed this out, you would get shouted down as some sort of commie liberal. The same is true with social media. Confront these people on Twitter and they will just block you. They are programmed that way.
For a very large swath of right-wing people, even many on this side of the great divide, valiantly losing is a powerful narcotic. That’s at the core of the “let it burn” chorus regarding the coming economic depression. There’s some deep-seated belief that only through utter destruction can the sins of the modern age be washed for the collective soul of the people. It’s the other side of following the hypocrisy script. Instead of shared outrage, it is shared despondency.
That probably is the real narcotic of these quixotic battles we keep seeing. They provide a sense of security and community in a world where being “right-wing” means being an isolated individual in perpetual competition with his fellow citizens. The alternative to the Left has always been the lonely isolation of individualism, with the exception of these outrage rituals. Like solitary woodsmen coming into the village for a festival, it is a time to reestablish their humanity.
This is the trick of alternative politics. It’s not about grand plans or sophisticated meta-political discussions. It is about offering an alternative community. Libertarians, despite the ridiculousness of their cause, hang together because membership in the community provides a sense of belonging and bestows upon them a sense of dignity. That sideline they imagine to be the high ground is not a lonely place. Imagine a similar movement built around something based in observable reality.
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