Friday, October 21, 2011

A Creeping Wreck

There are times when a political commentator gig seems worse than useless. This is one.

Take Qaddafi. His execution stokes typical American manias, most prominently self-righteousness and revisionism. Resisting the main torrent is exhausting and distracting enough. Making counterarguments in the face of flying bullshit requires patience and strength, two qualities largely absent in our discourse.

I couldn't do it -- well, I could, but man, what a waste of energy.

Perhaps it's a younger person's game. I enjoyed tweaking blowhards back in the day. It was fun. The confused expressions I'd receive made me laugh. Calling John McLaughlin a loud shill to his face, on his show, into his cameras remains a satisfying moment. McLaughlin stumbled over his text for a beat. I don't think anyone had spoken to him like that. He froze me out for the rest of the show, snubbed me afterward and never invited me back. Like I gave a shit.

There were many others. Mostly on panels. I felt I had nothing to lose. I also thought I was telling the truth. As close as I could get, anyway. I was considered extreme, unserious, crazy, conspiratorial. Reactionaries sputtered when I trashed Reagan and Bush. Liberals shouted when I trashed the Clintons and even John McCain (who once was a liberal hero). None of it bothered me. It became a challenge. Nothing serious, but a form of exercise nonetheless.

I can't imagine doing it now. The information system is stacked against alternative views. You need to be either a masochist or egotist to engage it. And to what end? Average people don't watch political chat shows. The educated class is too indoctrinated to consider heretical arguments. Professional clowns are there to make noise and wave flags. Political lunacy is so mainstream that someone like me would sound like the real lunatic. Potentially fun, yes; but again, only if I were younger.

The Qaddafi death circus lacks the heat of Bin Laden's murder rave. But some sizzle exists. Tyrant though he was, Qaddafi was nothing like the global monster portrayed in popular fiction. It's comic how inflated his reputation became. The real story, where Qaddafi essentially danced to the neoliberal tune, serves no official interest.

Like so many before him, Qaddafi was an imperial speed bag. To be pummeled when needed. Qaddafi helped in his own demise. His personal flamboyance owed more to Siegfried and Roy than Mussolini. His violations of human rights were rewarded and played down until he had to be Hitler again. Then he was the worst ruler on the planet. Beyond civilized norms. A mad dog loose among peaceful nations. There's only one way that narrative ends. As we've seen.

A nagging concern must be, Who do we get to replace Qaddafi? Not in geopolitical terms, but as a propaganda savage. Syria's Assad seems like the next target, though that would be a tougher production.

Despite official hostility, Syria and Israel have sought to normalize relations. Overthrowing Assad's regime would lead to regional instability, something I doubt Israel desires. But who the fuck knows. Once crazy is released, it quickly morphs into something deadlier. Especially when it's continually fed.

Qaddafi's straitjacket doesn't quite fit Iran's Ahmadinejad, yet tailoring continues. The most recent effort, a Master Plan employing Mexican drug cartels to whack a Saudi ambassador, was inspired. I'm not sure who the target audience for that was, but its creators committed to the premise.

It was reminiscent of the Soviet MiG scare in Nicaragua. More closely, the fabled Libyan hit squads that roamed Washington, DC, somehow undetected, but armed and ready for action. (This was dramatized in the popular science film, Back To The Future.) When does Iran ditch its surrogates and sends its own hit squads stateside? I'm sure we'll be the first to know.