jump to navigation

‘Let them eat peanut butter’ November 20, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics, Wall Street.
Tags: , , ,

… is the word from the Wall Street Journal, arguably the tippie-top of  the “mainstream” media voices considering our world from the perspective of the people running it.

And I am struck by the absolute contrast in two pieces the fine folks at RealClearPolitics led me to this morning. One is Peggy Noonan, and this thoughtful and deeply constructive piece from an adviser to the last president before the current president. The other is today’s sampling from one James Taranto, a commentary that is more a straight play to the cheap seats and a cry into the storm with toes as deeply sunken into the pre-K sand as those he mocks from within a Bank of America branch in San Francisco.

Since Sunday in the fall has a lot to do with football, let me set this up:

Peggy’s piece is a voice in the huddle — thoughts thrown into the mix in an attempt to help formulate a plan of action addressing a clear need: The election of a president up to the task of leading the nation, with a constitution and grasp necessary to cope with challenges known all too well, and others yet to present themselves but sure to require more than slavish dogma to wrestle to submission.

Taranto’s piece is cast from the press box, a morsel of homerism that is at once destructive in its choice of attack line and formulation, and insightful for its open-window revelation of the character of the author.  To him, the game is only there to provide an opportunity for display of his prowess, the acuity of his fragmentary vision and the manipulation of his audience in advancement of the a priori superiority of his chosen team. Truth, enlightenment and the advancement of the society, for him, is not achieved by thoughtful, wrenching consideration and discussion, because there is nothing worthy, nothing provocative, nothing of value in a thought, an opinion, a complaint raised outside of his camp. The only solution to this moment’s trials is total submission to — well, since he offers nothing but scorn and derision, whatever his team would do.

You do not need to read much beyond the headline on this piece to know this: A man who summarizes his thought as about the “brain-dead left” has concluded before striking the first key that nothing of value resides in that direction, nothing of consequence. For him, even if an idea, an objective, an observation, a petition emerges, it is not just mistaken, but subversive, infantile and miscarried. It must be you see, for it is contrary, and all contrary thought is wrong,  and must be attacked — not from the front, not from a thoughtful position that considers, then counters with a different perspective, but from the flank, seizing on the fringe, the aberration, the nuttiest element, then declaring it to be the core thought, emotion and mindset, which then is mocked into submission with rank exaggeration and “adult” scorn.

He begins from a perch that belittles and marginalizes the speaker before a sound emerges, then declares worthless all within the speech largely because of his perception of the speaker as inherently a null set.

Some of his assumptions: Occupiers are just a crew of immature, tantrum-throwing college kids, at one point, or, more tellingly later:

There is no basis to credit the screamers with any thought. We assume they are merely stupid, ignorant, immature or all of the above.    

Yes, you do. And beyond that, you go to great lengths to convince that this “movement” is restricted to this — screaming “shame” inside a Bank of America branch. And this simple declaration is itself empty of value, futile as a toddler’s stamp of a foot at being told it’s bedtime, significant in no way whatever, not for itself and, most tellingly, not for the sentiment within that motivates this “scream,” even if you consider it to be primordial.

Not once from Mr. Taranto’s perch does the question arise: What is it that motivates this scream? Or to postulate: Is there anything here that might be more broadly shared, in need of consideration? Is there a core problem in the body public that brings these people out into the cold, where they endure bad food, bad shelter, horrible sanitation and disease, and the very real prospect of attack from the true fringe criminal element in society?

He “assumes”  they are merely stupid, ignorant, immature or all of the above. Not just those in that bank branch. Not just Robert Reich. Not just Barack Obama. But any and all who wear even a trace shade of the colors his legions face — and any and all in the stands, on their sofas or at their flickering screens who harbor even a trace of a sentiment that would have them stick their heads out a window to scream: “Something’s wrong.”

Not to scream in some sort of instantaneously perfect pitch and choral balance. Not to bleat in some sort of pre-orchestrated logic, with a detailed, documented, carefully chiseled in stone recipe for solution of all current ills. Just perhaps to cry loudly, irrationally, feebly in some instances, for attention at a time when, from their perches, all is not well, and at a time when the nation is considering its future with a great many momentous decisions in the offing, some extremely radical — with no judgments made here of right/wrong, good/bad. Radical meaning things like wholesale rewrites of tax codes, elimination of entire government departments with broad impact today on economy and lifestyles, deep alterations in both services provided by government and scope of government legitimacy. No tickering, no tweaking. Start-overs, which by definition are radical approaches.

These screams out there, in bank branches or shabby park encampments, strike me just as they strike Taranto:  Not particularly coherent in terms of what they offer as solutions to challenges we face. Perhaps this is a “tantrum” bleat from the sandbox.

But the response to it by the “grown-ups,” as Taranto anoints himself, is telling:  He does not seek to understand, he does not seek to counsel, he does not have as a goal comprehension, for he dismisses the possibility of a need to do any of that wholly from a perspective of superiority, of worth, of wisdom by virtue of his position and peer value.

He and his “team” matter; the rabble do not, by definition. Which is the “load in the diaper” that elicits the cries he mocks.

Peggy Noonan would call Taranto a “salesman,” just as she mourns the lack of substance in a Herman Cain, a Barack Obama, perhaps too a Robert Reich. Sher would view Taranto as “unserious,” not for his political philosophy, but for his use of manipulation and approach to critical discussions that boils down to a Coke-v-Pepsi campaign where winning isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing that matters. Along with an underlying conviction that winner takes all and arrives with the only thoughts, perspectives and values of any worth.

I’m an old guy. An employed guy. A family guy. A patriot born from a long line of patriots. A responsible man not pooping in the park, not ranting endlessly at granite-walled buildings (though often, it seems, baying at the moon).

And, you know, I’m going to have to agree that Bank of America — and all of its merged Countrywide or Merrill-Lynch inheritances — should “be ashamed.” By the frauds they committed. By the damage done by their woeful leadership, professionalism and two-faced immoral trading.

But Bank of America and others in the financial sector, are not at all ashamed. Why? Because they did nothing wrong, nothing illegal, nothing immoral; rather, they are responsible for none of the wrongs, the crimes, the treachery.  That falls elsewhere — to “the system,” the government, the lack of resourcefulness or diligence of those on the losing end. They have no responsibility for “how things worked out.”

Taranto is correct in one aspect of his assessment: It is wrong to consider the things going on in these parks an Occupy “movement.” It’s more like a spasm — a juvenile spasm. Call it the Occupy “sentiment.”

It’s one shared far beyond those encampments. Some may be of that mind because they truly are members of the “brain-dead” left. Some may be nodding in somewhat embarrassed agreement because they made poor choices, trusted  glib salesmen (and women) in politics, education or investment.  Some may not even know where their inclination to feel the same way comes from.

But that leaning will grow ever stronger if it is met with the dismissiveness of privilege that screams from the columns of the Tarantos of this world.

Because he’s saying “you don’t matter” not because of some flaw in philosophy, reasoning or substantiation, but simply because you are not worthy of a place at the adult table by your very nature.

You are not my equal, thus your voice need not even be considered. No, or ever. Just eat your peas.

That sentiment is coming through loud and clear.

It invites a radical response, and that serves the nation poorly.

As Peggy says,  serious times require serious considerations by serious-minded people.

Let them eat peanut butter really isn’t serious. Except, it could be.



1. Chris V - November 20, 2011

Taranto is flame-throwing from the right. If the flame-throwers from the Left (Krugman, Shultz, Maddow, Cink Yogurt, Charles Blow, and practically everyone else at The New York Times) don’t seem to raise your ire, then Taranto’s daily column shouldn’t. After all, isn’t the Left an endless scream for ‘fairness?’ You either need to disdain Leftist flame-throwers or quiet down regarding Taranto. Your selective criticism destroys whatever objectivity you seek to demonstrate.

WillardWhyte - November 21, 2011

Oh, I’ve touched on the moonbats, and find little solace there. I find no problem with those who harp on “fairness,” as long as it is a cry for that and not equality of results. And while I imagine you would consider a George Will a flamethrower, I take no issue with him, for he does not seek to manipulate with falsehoods. I don’t read much at the Times, though I enjoy Brooks. But perhaps you are right; perhaps I should read the people you cite if they employ the same approach.
I don’t have the time to address it all, nor do I supply solutions. Beyond my pay grade. As I said, Taranto’s philosophy might be interesting to consider. But his attitude is deeply troubling — and to me, anathema to what needs to be done.

2. Bess - November 21, 2011

Your metaphors are out of control. I reccomend Strunk and White. Also, as a nanny who regularly deals with small children throwing tantrums, I’ve always found the only response — for the good of the child and the adults who must listen to him — is a simple order: “Use your words. Then we’ll talk.” Condescending to address the screaming teenagers as if they were behaving like rational adults will simply legitimize their behavior. I know that’s not good for the citizens who have to deal with them on a daily basis, but it’s also not good for the Occupiers. Problem-solving is one of those skills we are supposed to learn by the time we graduate college. If they haven’t learned it yet, will they ever? Or are we simply acquiescing to this new style of, as you put it, foot-stomping, as productive discourse?

WillardWhyte - November 21, 2011

Yes, my metaphors “jump the shark” quite often, mainly because I normally write to a close audience of relatives and similar enablers. So it seems I need to subdue my own inner child and reach for clarity. I only pledge to try.
From what I have heard, the only clear goal of those folks — and I have only spoken to a few myself — was simply to get to the point where the adults did, as you suggest, pay enough attention to them to say: “Use your words.” And they are saying: We matter. And they are saying: More is broken than a deficit ceiling. They are saying: the national debate must focus on more than a balance sheet, more than a quarterly report, more than numbers.
It also must focus on their plight, their frustration, their desire for justice and their perception that those things are somehow unimportant. They want “into the narrative,” as it were.
OK. That’s largely done, mainly by a bunch of folks young and old who had the time to squat in a park. Something coherent will need to emerge rapidly. I suspect it won’t because I suspect it all doesn’t even boil down to a set of simple questions, much less a rational set of wants in a policy sense.
My point with Taranto is that he fails to consider beyond the youthful faces and immaturity that the cameras seek out and distribute. He fails to summon even the slightest curiosity about the iceberg beneath the water line here, and resorts to name-calling and scorn from a posture of supremacy.
And failure to learn problem-solving skills would appear to be a larger societal ailment at the moment, a skill very closely allied to the one where we learn to share. Both needed to arrive at justice — or community — in a larger sense.
Finally, yes, we as a mob appear to have acquiesced to foot-stomping as commonplace discourse, always productive for someone, usually the host selling the tickets — or the 30-second spots. I for one cry against that drift, but as a mature adult recognize that to get a moment to make a point, increasingly I must “play to the cheap seats” as Taranto does (See: Let them eat peanut butter) so the cameras turn to me.
I’d like that to change. I’d like the audience to just say no to the voice, the attitude, the cynicism of the Tarantos — and the Olbermans, too. There just might be a grain of sense in another’s position, if we listen — and approach even the vagrant with respect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: