American stupidity -- let me count the ways

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, appear to be lining up closely with the president on foreign policy. It has not helped the neoconservative case, perhaps, that the occupation of Iraq has not gone as smoothly as some had predicted. – Charles Babbington, Washington Post, Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush's Foreign Policy

“The American energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, who met with Iraq’s oil and electricity ministers in Baghdad, had a rosy view of progress here since his last visit in 2003.

“The situation seems far more stable than when I was here two or three years ago,” he said in an interview in the fortified Green Zone. “The security seems better, people are more relaxed. There is an optimism, at least among the people I talked to.””
“United Nations officials said Tuesday that the number of violent deaths had climbed steadily since at least last summer. During the first six months of this year, the civilian death toll jumped more than 77 percent, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June, the organization said.”
- Quotations from the same article, “About 20 Sunnis Are Kidnapped in Baghdad”-

How does one face the enormity of an intelligence that has the scope of a housefly’s stuffed into a colossus the size of a continent? Hows does one grasp something that is as awesome, as hideous, as farcical as American stupidity –the right and real stuff, the strategy behind the atom bomb and the Hummer, the third, impossible division of the American brain - neither left nor right, but an as yet undiscovered dimension, somewhere between Miracle Whip and the world’s biggest human turd?

Here’s what Robert Calasso said about Karl Kraus:

"Kraus’ fundamental experience was acoustic, and it was constantly repeated. Like Hildegarde von Bingen, Angela da Foligno, and many anonymous schizophrenics, he heard voices, but the voices were all the more alarming since they had bodies, circulated in the streets of Vienna, seated themselves in cafes and even put on affable smiles. The inflections beat on him like waves; their deadly horde provided the most faithful company for his “threefold solitude: that of the coffeehouse, where he is alone with his enemy, of the nocturnal room where he is alone with his demon, of the lecture hall where he is alone with his work.”

LI has his own threefold solitude. The enemy is met not in the coffeehouse but on a cheap dialup internet connection, blinking ads; the demon is poverty and a sarcasm that has long gone to the dark side and become pathological, a real heart condition, - a speeding up of the heartbeat, a spread of heat across the chest, the signs and symptoms of demonic possession; as for the work – well, where is the work? An impossibly cheap blog, cluttered with typos, clogged with yesterday’s annulled news, various and sundry highly forgettable reviews, failed projects that have left behind snowdrifts of paper and (wait for it, Prufrock) a graphic novel, of all things.

I’ve chosen to personalize the affront given to intelligence by American stupidity, which is rather like trying to personalize entering the Empire State Building, or entering your local shopping mall. It is doomed to failure – for if it succeeded even once, it would transform that stupidity into something else. The housefly thinks, cogito, ergo Musca domestica sum. But no, the default settings for stupidity are such that the bland language, or language substitute, used by our Energy secretary, and the formulas of WAPO’s ace reporter, Charles Babbington, are all the same thing – they have no external referent, but go on in a dark vacuum forever. They would hardly be real at all – but here we must concede that experiment has shown them to be real. The experiment of, for instance, the three thousand dead in Iraq. And it is LI who is unreal, LI with the ardent wish that tonight and every night, the throngs of those dead crowd about President Bush’s bed and freeze the blood of that pissant lowlife, who has found the dead level of his own incompetence in a clueless and ever more syncophantic court society. Freeze it tonight, and tomorrow night, and tomorrow night. Freeze it eternally.


new york pervert said…
You say it better than almost anybody, but since you brought it up here, are you taking proper care? That's disturbing.
roger said…
Ah, mr. nyp -- thanks for the concern, but I'm just in a raven on a dunghill mood. I want to croak a whole lotta doom.
new york pervert said…
In that case, I am afraid I do agree that the case for incompetence is, after all, very strong. That little business with Blair about Hezbollah proved much more than mild cussing--he wouldn't know how to be engaged in anything complex except by agreeing with somebody else who had figured it out for him. That he's effective for this program thus far is clear enough, but I think the verdict on his stupidity is pretty much now in. His stupidity may be what the group most want, but we might as well know that he is incontrovertibly stupid. What you bring out here for me is an image of a tiny pea (housefly + continent is fine too) brain that can imagine (and imagine no more than this) that it did not require intelligence of any kind to be president and deal with a rather large-ish thing like a world. He has failed to prove this 100%, but he does try very hard (this 'trying,' of course, is done without any exertion.)
tom said…
An inexhaustible theme. I was winding up to do one, but since you hit it out of the park, allow a brief relevant quote, from Trow's "Within the Context of No Context," -- if you don't know it, it's a little book you might enjoy. This bit doesn't represent the larger insight, but comes from an account of his experience working the NY World's Fair of 1964-65, in the Office of the Chief of Protocol. He's talking about the ride in the Federal Pavilion:

"The ride was an event that threw people deep into gloom. There were no amusing automatons, no singing dolls. Rather, a tall, narrow seat, something like a pew, moved slowly past a series of movie screens while an imbecile narration poured out from a speaker lodged in the pew at ear level. This narration had to do with American History, and it had a booming quality. The syntax was of Walt Whitman, within a public relations framework. America was made personal in a way that made her sound like a smug bully. "So you conquer a continent, etc." Emerging from this ride, one wanted never to hear another word about America or any event associated with America, and one wanted never to hear again any sentence cast in the historical present."
new york pervert said…
I did notice yesterday about Bush's blocking the Justice Dept. investigation, but Froomkin said it was carefully introduced on a day with too much other news.
roger said…
Tom, I've never read Trow. He does sound like the type of writer I'm in the mood for.

Mr. Nyp, the disadvantage of being a raven is that sometimes croaking nevermore drowns out the finer shades. Granted, Bush is the symbol of our discontents, but I was talking about a distributed unintelligence. In Bouvard et Pechucet, Flaubert shows two guy who are info downloaders to the max, but they are, nevertheless, imbeciles of a modern type. Sort of the whole Wired aura -- the lack of imagination that comes out in your run of the mill sci fi. Which I have written a post about for tomorrow or the next day. Bush, now, the meeting and his current star turn as the enabler of the destruction of Lebananon didn't impress me with anything new about Bush. It did impress me, a bit, that people were so startled he'd say shit. My god, obviously there is a whole world out there that ain't never been to Texas! The whole game, with someone with a snobby English accent like Blair, is to pour on the Texas countryboy isms. Bush has always been and will always be a back row boy, spitball in hand.

But I will caw about this all later!
Brian Miller said…
I think it's unfair to "blame" W alone. W is merely the symbol of a deeper malaise. A malaise that says "Of course, everyone, everywhere, wants to live exactly like Americans." "Only America is the hope for the world." "We should be saving other peoples from themselves."

Followed by a lazy electorate (or, maybe Joe Bageant is right and the average Joe recognizes things are so corrupt and choices so little that there is no opint in voting.). A college educated manager saying he voted for the Bush team because John Edwards was a lawyer. Because John Kerry is "soft on terrorism." Because Iraq is responsible for 9-11. And, on and on and on. Still to this day, polls I've seen show that 78% of Republicans support the Bush Administration. This is supposed to be the political and economic elite of the country!!!???
new york pervert said…
'I think it's unfair to "blame" W alone.'

Well, I know, but it's important to blame him an enormous amount. Anyway, not really unfair, just insufficient.