The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

As the presidential election campaign plods onward, I've written a number of posts on the abject failure of the western elites. In the main, the elites encompass progressives in the media, senior executives in certain companies in the tech space, movers and shakers in politics, professors in academia, and of course, performers in the arts. These elites view themselves as the smartest gays in the room—sophisticated, nuanced, well-informed, witty, forward-looking, multicultural, left-leaning, and above all, contemptuous of anyone or any group who questions the rightness of their worldview. The elites in the United States are led by Barack Obama, soon to be replaced by Hillary Clinton, but there are other leaders in other places (e.g., Angela Merkel).

Richard Fernandez compares Barack Obama, the leader of the elites, to Florence Foster Jenkins—a Pennsylvania socialite of the 1920s who thought she was an accomplished singer and performer. Her only problem was that she couldn't hold a tune. She performed only among her friends who lauded her work, but never allowed real music critics to listen, lest they tell the truth about her many musical failings. Fernandez writes:
Barack Obama bids fair to be remembered as the Florence Foster Jenkins of politics. Like that socialite he can't perform his job for beans. Like that socialite his friends are covering up for him. According to a Twitter whistleblower the social media giant's CEO ordered the employees to protect Obama from hurtful Tweets. "According to a former senior Twitter employee, Costolo ordered employees to deploy an algorithm (which was built in-house by feeding it thousands of examples of abuse and harassing tweets) that would filter out abusive language directed at Obama. Another source said the media partnerships team also manually censored tweets, noting that Twitter’s public quality-filtering algorithms were inconsistent. Two sources told BuzzFeed News that this decision was kept from senior company employees for fear they would object to the decision."

But the curtain has gone up and now the audience is in shock. How? How? Even the administration's supporters were left totally surprised by the trail of disasters so intense it propelled Donald Trump to a presidential nomination. Jesse Bernstein in Tablet thinks that the root cause of the blindness was insufferable smugness of the intellectual elite. Jon Stewart’s "Culture of Ridicule", Bernstein wrote, kept the best and the brightest from seeing the train wreck coming. "No single event or trend initiated the takeoff of Space Shuttle Trump. ... but there is one culprit who ... deserves his due: Jon Stewart. Let me explain. ... As Emmet Rensin so perfectly put it:
Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. … Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style … and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid.
But to anyone outside the echo chamber the joke was on Stewart and his cronies. The average person could see the invidious contrast; how easily the email accounts of 100 Democratic bigwigs could be hacked, with what contemptuous ease someone could make off with the DNC's emails, steal all the OPM records. They watched as time after time suspects "well known to the police" executed successful terror attacks in Western cities despite the assurances of the laughing men.

They saw ISIS run off with billions of dollars of foreign military aid; saw the "smartest people" in history rolled. They were regaled by the spectacle of Putin booting Obama out of the Middle East with a midget air force and a rustbucket navy. They witnessed a bunch of armed thugs torch a US consulate in Benghazi without the dying ambassador even able to make that 3 am call to Hillary Clinton. They watched Turkey wobble and Europe overrun by migrant tides.

It hit them: it was these ineffably superior people who were the jokers, the clowns whose only tangible skill was to make fun of everybody so nobody would notice that's all they were good for. In fact the only person they could stop with any probability of success and only if they ganged up on him was Donald Trump. That was it. They can't see the audience in darkness beyond the footlights heading for the exits.
Brexit was a classic example of the blindness of the elites and the viciousness with which they reacted when the vote didn't go their way. Obamacare, a creation of the elites, is imploding before our eyes. Russia and Iran have reached a tentative alliance. Syria is a nightmare and ISIS—well ... heads will role, literally. The smartest guys in the room have demonstrated through serial failures that they deserve neither respect nor allegiance.

Because the elites have been wrong on just about everything over the past decade, their current gleeful dismissal of Donald Trump (and their increasing celebration and relief as he sinks in the polls) makes one wonder whether there's something more to Trump than his idiotic comments and lack of discipline. Is it possible that the elites are frightened of unfiltered, politically incorrect truths? Is it possible that—uncontrolled immigration by people from the Arab crescent is a threat, and "extreme vetting" is in order; the political system is rigged in favor of dishonest and corrupt politicians like Hillary Clinton, who can act with impunity; the media is blatantly biased in favor of the elites' narratives; the trade deals crafted by the elites are poorly constructed, hurting rather than helping many American workers, and need to be revisited; the foreign policy of the current president (aided and abetted by Hillary Clinton) is an unmitigated disaster in almost every respect; taxes do nothing to stimulate the economy and everything to prop up the elites, and government-encouraged dependency is a scourge that keeps those in poverty in poverty.

It just might be that Donald Trump is the only nationally-recognized person willing to speak these harsh truths. He doesn't do it well, he lacks nuance and depth, he is often crude and unfocused, but if you cut through the bluster, he speaks basic truths nonetheless. Maybe that's what had the elites so worried. Maybe that's why they're so relieved by the belief that his message will die along with his campaign. But then again, maybe the message won't die, even if Trump's campaign does. Maybe the smartest guys in the room are nothing more than "the clowns whose only tangible skill was to make fun of everybody so nobody would notice that's all they were good for."

It is tragic that in the end the elites will win. We'll have a dishonest, corrupt, elitist "clown" in the White House in 2017. Or maybe it might be better to say we'll have the 21st century version of  Florence Foster Jenkins, lauded by her sychophantic supporters, protected by a biased media, and singing off-key every step of the way.