Part 2—Hardball versus Samoa: We only wish that the great Margaret Mead could have seen what happened last week.
First, a famous old cult struck hard once again, as we reported on Monday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/11/12). President Obama made a somewhat ill-advised offhand remark, as everyone does on occasion.
Everyone knows what happened next. Adepts of that famous old cult jumped all over his comment!
And that was only one part of the mess! When pundits behaved in this tiring way, banging Obama for his remark, leading liberals swung into action, complaining that Obama’s remark had been taken “out of context.”
We only wish that Mead, our friend, could have seen this liberal behavior. For months, some of these very same liberal leaders had of course been treating Romney’s offhand remarks in the very same way! But now, these liberals bellowed and wailed, denouncing the vile behavior they had engaged in themselves!
How obvious was this role reversal? Even Barbaro was able to spot it! He describes a bit of this flip at the start of his “news report” in today’s New York Times:
BARBARO (6/13/12): Mitt Romney understands the power of the verbal gaffe, real or perceived. During the Republican primaries, he offered up an all-you-can-eat buffet of them: his wife’s “Cadillacs,” his friends’ Nascar teams, how he liked being able to fire people.When it came to those “verbal gaffes, real or perceived,” allies of the Obama campaign had been “eager to pounce,” engaging in “context-removed” behavior! But now, Mr. Romney was turning the tables! Even Barbaro was able to spot the comic reversal in roles!
Every time, the Obama campaign and its Democratic allies were eager to pounce.
Now, having absorbed the painful lessons of the hyper-magnified (and context-removed) political blunder, Mr. Romney is turning the tables on President Obama.
Does Romney “like being able to fire people?” Barbaro repeated one of the earlier offhand comments which had been removed from its context even as he moved ahead to discuss Obama’s “gaffe.” But so it goes in the modern U.S. as we pretend to conduct a political discourse.
As we saw last week, liberals complain about this behavior—when it is done to them.
We only wish that the great Margaret Mead could have seen this unfold. At last, we’re are able to report the fact that Mead returned to earth last year, determined to analyze the emerging culture of the New Liberal World.
For many years, we liberals had happily napped in the woods, doing, saying and noticing nothing about the drift of our politics and journalism.
Now, in the wake of the war in Iraq, a new liberal world had begun to emerge! Mead, the famous and great anthropologist, thereby chose to return to earth, determined to record the folkways, practices, mores and patterns of this exciting new culture.
Why did Mead want to return to the earth? We are free to answer that question in only the most general terms:
For Mead, the Elysian Fields couldn’t compare with Samoa—with the Samoa of her youth, where she conducted the deathless work through which we learned that American teens often fall out with their parents because they have malls to go to. (We’re oversimplifying.) She tired of the endless discussions with her fellow anthropologists; Bronislaw Malinowski was especially “overwrought in paradise,” she reported, although she made extensive use of his work on the kula ring when she returned to earth to record the ways of one modern tribe.
Mead was drawn to us at THE HOWLER thanks to a stray remark by Tony Kornheiser on CNBC in 1995. Through this happy coincidence, we gained a window onto the world of her latest great work.
What did Mead find when she studied the folkways of the emerging liberal world? Sadly, there were disappointments.
In her first life, Mead has been a liberal icon, a bête noir for some on the right. One conservative group even picked Coming of Age in Samoa as the worst book of the entire last century! Kinsey came in third!
Poor Mead! After leaving the earth in 1978, she imagined that successor liberals had begun to smooth the social disorders which had roiled the America of her youth. In our view, Wikipedia does the best job explaining the “gist” of her original project, a project she undertook when she was just 23:
WIKIPEDIA: Mead described the goal of her research: "I have tried to answer the question which sent me to Samoa: Are the disturbances which vex our adolescents due to the nature of adolescence itself or to the civilization? Under different conditions does adolescence present a different picture?" To answer this question, she conducted her study among a small group of Samoans—a village of 600 people on the island of Ta‘ū—in which she got to know, lived with, observed, and interviewed (through an interpreter) 68 young women between the ages of 9 and 20. She concluded that the passage from childhood to adulthood (adolescence) in Samoa was a smooth transition and not marked by the emotional or psychological distress, anxiety, or confusion seen in the United States.You’re right! As far back as the 1920s, Mead was part of the “Blame America” crowd! But after her death in 1978, she assumed that successor liberals were paving the way to a modern culture which more closely resembled that of her beloved Samoa. She assumed that we liberals were building a world in which adolescents and adults could avoid being “vexed” by the types of “disturbances” she had observed in her declining years.
We’re oversimplifying here. But it’s for a good cause!
Margaret Mead returned to earth trailing these preconceptions behind her. But the great anthropologist was caught up short when she began to record the actual folkways of the new liberal world. She would have howled at Joan Walsh’s remarks on Hardball last week. And trust us, she would have spoken at length about that darn kula ring!
What did Mead see upon her return? Tomorrow, we’ll plow quite a few non-Elysian fields. Also, coming Friday: In search of the kula ring!