Thursday, April 01, 2004
American Elitism

Today I went out in search of birthday presents for my sister (birthday on Sunday) and her husband (birthday today (yesterday, technically, but technically so is the previous 'today' so deal with it)) and ended up at a bookstore. It was the bookstore where I used to work, where I have been only once before since I quit (looking for a Christmas present). The place is still horrid, though they did have the book I was looking for. The 'Social Science' section is crammed full of books about how liberalism is destroying America and equating liberalism with terrorism and bemoaning the new American Snobbishness, including odious spinslinger John Stossel's entirely (and entirely unintentionally) appropriately named "Give Me a Break!"

I viewed it all through the filter of two entirely unrelated articles I have recently been forwarded to. Each on their own raises interesting points, but the two read in tandem bring a kind of revelation about the way the left in America views itself and is seen by others and how it is therefore hamstrung.

Shortly thereafter, I read the Onion AV Club interview with Dave Sim, a striking example of paranoia and monomania. No matter how often the interviewer attempts to steer Sim back onto the topic of his work, he swings right back, like a compass needle to magnetic north, to how feminists are trying to destroy everything and deny the relevance of his work (which he continues to laud to the skies, comparing it to nothing less than Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, and rather inexplicably insisting that it is 'the longest sustained narrative in human history'). The most amusing portion has him, after a particularly foam-spattered paragraph, complain of feminist 'histrionics.' Sim sees himself as a last bastion of reason and thinking standing against the overwhelming tide of feminist emotion and feeling, and yet in none of his infamous anti-feminist rants have I seen anything even approaching the intellectual acumen displayed by such feminist writers as Carol Gilligan or Jessica Benjamin. Rather he spins webs of metaphor and imagery, equivocating between quasi-mystical 'feminine principles' and women themselves, in the end constructing an entirely self-contained ideological world that has little to nothing to do with modern political realities. He then seats himself within its irrational walls and hurls invective like pebbles from an animated slingshot at his presumed enemies -- always a monolithic whole, 'the left,' 'the feminist-homosexualist axis,' 'Marxists' -- while accusing them of failing to grapple with any ideas with which they disagree.

While Sim's paranoia is incredible, his vision of the victory of feeling over reason rings true as it resonates with the two abovementioned articles. There is a definite trend toward unreflective emotionalism in the American public sphere. However it is not the left, as Sim insists, that is using this anti-intellectual trend to its advantage; rather, Progressivism is its most notable victim.
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