Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – There is even a danger in isolating yourself, which is something to be thought about. Even if you were able to convince people we should break away and go our own way, don’t think that the Obamas, the Feinsteins and the Schumers and Boehners and Lindsey Grahams of the world won’t know you exist and won’t be thinking: Don’t they have oil in that little state that just broke away? I hear they hit a gold stripe. Maybe we can see if we can borrow some. This is what the end result of the experiment in Philadelphia begets. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: William Deresiewicz, The Nation, “What’s wrong with Bill Maher—and the rest of us”. Just a brief passage from this:
Maher must have looked around at his friends one day in 1991 or ’92 and thought—this was half a joint and a couple of drinks into a lovely afternoon, no doubt—these people are every bit as smart as the ones who talk about politics on television. I should give the rest of the country the benefit of their wisdom. Republicans are liars, conservative voters are boobs, the rich should pay more taxes, Democrats need to be tougher: the exact run of received ideas you can get every day from The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Paul Krugman, which is undoubtedly where the celebrities get them, too. The fact that I agree with most of those opinions doesn’t make it any better. The self-importance with which they are delivered; the air of mutual congratulation; the certainty that not the slightest effort of original thought, not the smallest suspicion of self-doubt, will intrude upon the proceedings; the whole circle-jerkery of it all—these are what make the show so unbearable. Maher debuted a new shtick last season called “Dispatches from the Bubble”—the “bubble” being the enclosed universe of right-wing opinion—but he doesn’t seem to realize how much of a bubble he lives in himself.
Maher is an easy man to dismiss. His monologues are mediocre. He has contempt for his audience and sulks when they fail to laugh at his jokes. He thinks of himself as a champion of science but promulgates the most simplistic New Age views of medicine and health. He is narcissistic, as touchy as a little boy, and has no sense of humor about himself. He gave a million dollars to the Obama campaign and didn’t shut up about it for the rest of the year. Anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot.
But we are all Bill Maher today. His simulated dinner parties aren’t that different from a lot of the ones that I’ve been to myself, or the virtual ones we convene every day on Facebook. Much has been said about the Balkanization of public discourse, how we only ever listen now to people who share our views, and what that means for our capacity to communicate across partisan lines. But we should also consider what it means for our ability to think in the first place. Opposition, said William Blake, is true friendship. Never being challenged leads to smugness, complacency, and mental stasis. Maher is right: anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot. And so is anyone who doesn’t.
Mike: I posted that in today’s Pile of Prep. Stephen Masty, writing at The Imaginative Conservative about the Third Kingdom. He describes the first two kingdoms from the foundation at Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, to the foundation of the constitutional order, to now the third kingdom:
Amid and above them lies the Third Kingdom, whose subjects understand little of the other two realms. They have their own internal differences which scarcely matter to us; their own occupations, social strata, pecking-orders and status symbols invisible to net-providers and net-consumers in the other two kingdoms. In America, they can be identified easily when they talk about the “fly-over” states, meaning the terra incognita between the two coasts; places that do not matter to them. [Mike: This story is written about David Cameron and Barack Obama as being rulers of the Third Kingdom.]
His posh and private education at Eton matters less than him living in a socio-economic terrarium inhabited wholly by those whom Britons ironically call “the good and the great.” Everyone he knows, whether meritocrat or aristocrat, commands great power in the modern First Estate of government, the Second Estate of industry or the Third Estate of media. [Mike: I’d say the same is true of Obama.]
Although ostensibly as different as chalk and cheese, Mssrs. Obama and Cameron come from different races, continents and backgrounds, and yet they reside in the same Third Kingdom as surely as if they grew up next door to one another. Moreover, conquering the Third Kingdom is the hope of folly and the folly of hope. The answer comes in the old Southern joke about the parishioner who cheekily tells his preacher that he is fishing “for Baptist fish,” so named because “they spoil so fast once you get ‘em out of the water.” Or M. Stanton Evans’s famous barb that, after reformers get to Washington, “what looked like a septic tank seems more like a hot-tub.”
We are deluded if we think that many commoners, from either kingdom, will reach the Court of the Sun King or join the Politburo and not change for the worse. Those who, after observing the political careers of rare individuals with lasting principles, think that they can elect a plurality of the similar souls resemble those second-marriages in which “hope triumphs over experience.” We remember the name and the principle of Cincinnatus, who abandoned power and returned to his farm, only because he was an anomaly even within his Ancient Rome. [Mike: By the way, George Washington was an American Cincinnatus. What did he do? He could have taken power. He turned it down and went back to his farm.]
Since Adam Smith described the division of labour, the Industrial Revolution expanded the process immeasurably amongst productive people to ever-increasing levels. The Welfare State subdivided it yet again. It is simply not conceivable that Humpty-Dumpty can be glued back together or that modern society can be reintegrated out of its massive socio-economic complexity and division. A porous but aloof and cosseted elite, comprising the Third Kingdom, is now an inevitability.
Equally certain is the protracted assault of policies anathema to one or both of the other two kingdoms, propelled by whatever suits the whims and fashions of the rulers and supports their grip on power. Today in Britain, single-sex marriage is a social glue among elites across all other internal divisions; on the continent the need to consolidate power among similar elites results in the slow crucifixion of the Greeks in order to spare rich bankers from the consequences of imprudent lending. Tomorrow, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, in America and abroad.
Those who are unhappy can only but obey, or attempt to build quiet alternative mechanisms within and around a hostile status quo. Our modern temporal world contains Three Kingdoms and within it we have but those two choices. All else is self-delusion now, onanism of a kind unique to modern democratic states.
Mike: Thanks for encouraging all of us, Stephen. “Those who are unhappy can only but obey, or attempt to build quiet alternative mechanisms within and around a hostile status quo.” He’s basically saying you have to found new commonwealths and empires and break away from the current, corrupt ones, or our fate is sealed. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Let me throw an anecdote in here. There’s an independent film out there called The War of the Vendee. I don’t know if you can get it on Netflix. I would never want my independent film, Road to Independence, about the Declaration of Independence, to make its way to Netflix, because it totally destroys your market value for your DVD product. It’s called The War of the Vendee.
It’s basically about a small village of French Catholics during the French Revolution in France that try to make a deal with the nut job running the French Revolution. They say: We won’t go into your towns. We won’t leave our enclave here. We won’t talk to anyone, we won’t send letters, no mail out, nothing. This is our little county here. We swear we’ll stay in our county, mind our own business, raise our own food, educate our own children. We don’t want anything from you. You’ll never even know that we’re here if you’ll just leave us alone. For a while, the French Revolution lunatics left them alone, but then temptation got the better of the nuts and the insane, murderous Jacobins that were running the French Revolution. They couldn’t resist but going after the Vendee, and ultimately wiped out the entire village and all the inhabitants.
There is even a danger in isolating yourself, which is something to be thought about. Even if you were able to convince people we should break away and go our own way, don’t think that the Obamas, the Feinsteins and the Schumers and Boehners and Lindsey Grahams of the world won’t know you exist and won’t be thinking: Don’t they have oil in that little state that just broke away? I hear they hit a gold stripe. Maybe we can see if we can borrow some. This is what the end result of the experiment in Philadelphia begets. Tragic, isn’t it, folks?
End Mike Church Show Transcript