December 20, 2009

Really Sen. Whitehouse?

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Democrat, Rhode Island, describing Republican opposition to the health care bill, today's debate on CSPAN2. First, the Senator points us to the essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (which is a 1964 rant about haters on the Right). And then this;

"Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees."

That last, "strange fruits" is comparing Republicans to lynchers. The broken glass refers to Nazis... tumbrils (wheelbarrows) -- what is it, plague? Dead bodies in wheelbarrows? I'm not sure... Baudelaire wrote of a vision of seven old men pushing tumbrils down the street, but it's unclear what he was symbolizing. I think Whitehouse must either be citing a line of an unfamiliar poem, or referring to plague victims ("bring out your dead!")...

In effect, he says those against the bill are paranoid haters and then promptly tags those on the Right as Nazi lynchers who, by fighting against this big, government program, are causing people to die by the thousands in the streets.

Who's a paranoid hater again?

Update: Robert Stacy McCain has similar thoughts over at the American Spectator and HalifaxCB, in the comments, points me to the French Revolution for "tumbrils rolling through taunting crowds."

Another update: Reading some references to tumbrils and the French Revolution... those were the big carts with cages on top in which the blue-bloods were wheeled to the guillotine. And the French people lined the streets taunting them on the way to their deaths...

The only thing that makes sense in Whitehouse' speech is that he's trying to say Republicans are taunting the sick on their way to the grave. That's a horrible thing to say.

Of course it doesn't hold up, the French were taunting the rich ruling class and Whitehouse would have you believe the Tea Partiers are mocking the poor and sickly.

Still, despite the failed metaphors, a horrible thing to say about anyone.

One thing is clear... poetic language allows you to pack a great many powerful insults into just a few words.

10 comments:

Toaster 802 said...

NATIONAL STRIKE JAN 20, 2010 to coincide w/ STATE OF UNION SPEECH NATIONWIDE STRIKE over Obamacare...

Call into work sick. Buy nothing. Find a union hall, congress creature office, State or Federal building and form picket lines. Come ready to party...

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE! Put that right back in their face!

NATIONAL STRIKE JAN 20, 2010 to coincide w/ STATE OF UNION SPEECH NATIONWIDE STRIKE over Obamacare...TAKE BACK AMERICA!

HalifaxCB said...

Sevens - the "tumbrils" refer to the French Revolution, and in particular to the period known as the Terror.

The speech is just bizarre.

Dan said...

Thanks, Halifax... I appreciate it... I'll look it up.

Jamie said...

As post-modern philosopher Slavoj Zizek illustrates, It's necessary for fascists to create demons to justify their tyranny. In fact, it's one of the greatest signifiers of a fascist: watch them otherize and create absurd fictions about an enemy that nobody else can see.

It's one part delusion (nearly akin to seeing imaginary small animals around that others cannot perceive) and another part calculating totalitarianist control. Republicans and tea baggers are both incredibly stupid retrograde neanderthal while at the same time are brilliant, conniving and calculating obstructionist capitalists seeking the blood of innocents and children.

It's an incoherent message when rationally evaluated, but fascism is never rational. It does require both forms of otherization, as in the end, Sen. Whitehouse and the Democrats must seek to kill their scapegoats. Fascism inevitably leads to the physical violence and extermination of the other as its terminal conclusion.

Those who don't subscribe to being in the fascist elite or being its useful herd need to recognize Whitehouse and the Democrats for what they are and vigorously oppose them now.

Dan said...

Thanks, Jamie. I suppose it's common to demonize your opponent -- Lord knows the best players in sports do it on a weekly basis to motivate themselves -- it just seems so... career-ending ... to demonize so much of the population you serve.

That national strike day on 1/20 is starting to sound like a good idea... if it catches.

HalifaxCB said...

Your welcome, Dan. (And thanks to RSM for linking your site!).

It was surprising the Dems referenced the French Revolution - although it really gave birth to (and set the pattern for) socialist "transformation", including the use of terror for social control. Our own notions of Left and Right come from it. There are a lot of similarities to what is being pushed now though in lite form - for example the rise of Militant Rationalism and the destruction of religious institutions; the oppression of ex-urban society; attacks on the middle class; even the counter-intuitive (temporary) political union of many of the elite with the extremely poor, similar to what one sees in the great urban dependencies of the US today.

Anyway, Simon Schama's book "Citizens" is a good read on it.

Jamie said...

Dan - I'd have to believe there's a pathological need to demonize as it provides the necessary rationalization for the extreme steps being taken. I'd have to believe Sen. Whitehouse has some shame and subsequently needs to create false extremes and fictional others in order to justify his otherwise unacceptable actions.

It's interesting studying the pathologies of totalitarianists: they see themselves as almost victims, feeling great disgust that "jews" made them do such dishonorable things. Whitehouse is remarkably true to this abhorrent personality type in his outrage that the "jews" are blocking their necessary steps to fix what ills the "jews" caused society. The introduction to Zizek's "Introduction to Lost Causes" provides a good explanation of this fascist dynamic.

I don't intend any exaggeration over the classification of the progressives. These are remarkably serious developments and historically led to unfortunate outcomes. Many have estimated furthermore that the capacity for this to occur in the U.S. is great, given America's lack of moderating experience with the horrors of the French revolution, Fascist Germany, Italy, Spain and other radicalized progressive movements which gave most of Europe a distaste for extremes.

Jamie said...

and correction, that's Zizek's "In Defense of Lost Causes" (in my previous post)

Dan said...

Thanks, Halifax, Jamie, for the specific references.

Dan said...

Gee whiz... reading some references to tumbrils and the French Revolution... those were the big carts with cages on top in which the blue-bloods were wheeled to the guillotine. And the French people lined the streets taunting them on the way to their deaths...

The only thing that makes sense in Whitehouse' speech is that he's trying to say Republicans are taunting the sick on their way to the grave. That's a horrible thing to say.

Of course it doesn't hold up, the French were taunting the rich ruling class and Whitehouse would have you believe the Tea Partiers are mocking the poor and sickly.

Still, despite the failed metaphors, a horrible thing to say about anyone.