TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2022
And what the Times reported: Over the past how many years, The Crazy has played an increasingly major role in our semi-parodic imitation of a national discourse—in our "imitation of life."
Today, The Crazy or its approximation is back in the news again. For one example, Greg Sargent cites the latest from Elon Musk in this piece for the Washington Post:
SARGENT (12/12/22): Over the weekend, Elon Musk called for the prosecution of Anthony S. Fauci, the leading infectious-disease expert in the Biden administration. “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk tweeted, mocking transgender people for good measure. Musk then endorsed a complicated right-wing conspiracy theory about Fauci’s role in the covid-19 pandemic.
Democrats and other Musk critics reacted with an explosion of outrage...
So went the tweet from Musk, followed by the explosion. For an account of Musk's "complicated right-wing conspiracy theory about Fauci’s role in the covid-19 pandemic," we'll direct you to the rest of Sargent's essay.
Our first question goes like this:
Is it true? Was Fauci "involved in U.S. government funding of controversial early research into covid?" Did he then "lie to Congress about it?"
So goes the complex conspiracy theory, as described by Sargent. What that could have to do with pronouns is pretty much anyone's guess.
Has Musk introduced The Crazy into the discourse through his recent tweet? To a large extent, that would depend on the ability of the public to sort through the facts of the case.
Given the way our discourse currently works, such sorting can never occur. On one cable channel, viewers will be given a highly selective selection of facts designed to make the theory seem true.
On the other cable channels, the charge won't be discussed. As on Morning Joe this morning, Fauci will be thanked for his service, and the matter will end right there.
Within this bifurcated world, The Crazy gets halfway around the world before anything like clarification can even get its pants on. And as it turns out, we humans are highly susceptible to The Crazy, a point we discussed just last week.
We discussed the Taylor family, pere et fille, as described by The Atlantic's Elaina Plott Calabro in a heavily-researched profile. Calbro started by describing The Crazy as believed by the father:
CALABRO (12/5/22): Bob Taylor may not have been overtly partisan, but he rivaled Trump in his tendency to self-mythologize. In 2006, [he] had published a novel with the small publisher Savas Beatie called Paradigm. As best I can tell, this is Taylor’s effort to demonstrate the value of a system he invented called the “Taylor Effect”—which purports to predict the stock market based on the gravitational fluctuations of Earth...
You can read the rest of the passage in last week's report. But much as The Music Man's Professor Hill had once proffered an approach called "The Think System," this father claimed that his "Taylor Effect" was capable of predicting the stock market based on gravitational fluctuations.
There was one major difference between Bob Taylor and Harold Hill. According to Calabro's report, Bob Taylor really believed his apparently crazy claims.
According to Calabro, "He considered his stock-market theory to be 'the Genuine Article.' " Later, in a ghost-written memoir, "he likened himself to da Vinci, Galileo, Edison, Marconi, and the Wright brothers."
(By way of contrast, Professor Hill was a fictional con man in a fictional Broadway musical which later became an Oscar-nominated fictional movie. By the end of the fictional tale, the phony professor was healed by the love of a much younger, conventionally attractive woman.)
According to Calabro, Bob Taylor truly believed in his own Think System! Years later, along came Taylor's daughter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Once she became involved in politics, she apparently believed such things as these:
CALABRO: QAnon followers subscribe to the sprawling conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by a network of satanic pedophiles funded by Saudi royalty, George Soros, and the Rothschild family...[S]ince its inception, in the fall of 2017, when “Q,” an anonymous figure professing to be a high-level government official, began posting tales from the so-called deep state, no politician has become more synonymous with QAnon than Greene. To an extent, Greene had already signaled her attraction to conspiracy theories, questioning on American Truth Seekers whether the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas was a false-flag operation to eliminate gun rights. But with Q, Greene was all in. She has gone so far as to endorse an unhinged QAnon theory called “frazzledrip,” which claims that Hillary Clinton murdered a child as part of a satanic blood ritual.
For the record: Calabro seems to think that Rep. Greene really does or did believe such things, that it hasn't been simply a ruse.
Over the weekend, Greene was back with her latest contribution to the discourse. If she had been in charge of the events of January 6, she said, the attack would have been successful—and participants would have been armed!
Greene later said, not entirely incorrectly, that her remarks were tongue-in-cheek. But these are the kinds of postures being floated about as The Crazy takes over the discourse—and as "Democrats and other critics react with explosions of outrage."
In his essay for the Post, Sargent suggests that these explosions of outrage may not be especially helpful. We're inclined to agree with that view.
That said, it also isn't especially helpful to respond to The Crazy with selective accounts concerning what has and hasn't been said. It seems to us that that's what happened when Tucker Carlson offered these remarks last Thursday night about the release of Brittany Griner from a Russian labor camp.
It was vintage Tucker! Some of what he said this night was blatantly bogus. But then again, on the other hand, some of what he said somewhat possibly wasn't.
In this subsequent news report, the Times produced a selective account of what the disordered fellow had said. So it may go within our blue tribe's reporting elites, even at the highest levels.
Over the course of the past few weeks, we've seen two of those blue elites possibly gone a bit wild. First, an international assortment of cognoscenti produced the somewhat peculiar claim that an unwatchable film from 1975 was the greatest film ever made.
(According to the Times' Manohla Dargis, it was only the third greatest film of all time. According to Dargis, the greatest film concerns a donkey named Balthazar. Trust us! Most Times subscribers would find that film barely watchable, but also esthetically strange.)
That film elite operates "over the heads" of the illiterate masses. But then, along came the New York Times' major book critics, with their accounts of the books which "stayed with them" this year.
The first elite is off in the clouds. This second elite seems to be wrapped up in "memoirs about erotic obsession," but also in "celebrity memoirs."
More generally, as we read the Times' review of the best books of the past year, we were struck by the various genres which needn't apply!
On the reporting side of the New York Times, two major reporters offered a rather selective account of what Fox's Excitable Boy had said about Griner's release. On the paper's critical side, two of the critics were off in the clouds, while others were way down in the valley.
We'll try to get to all these battles among these elites as our week continues. Spoiler alert:
The Crazy is all around us these days. But so is the "what-us-worry" branch of the High Lofty Undisturbed.
Tomorrow: Best books of the year!