Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Culturally Tone-Deaf Ideologues

Michael Moore, whose Capitalism documentary goes into limited release today, may be wrong about many things, but he still does a fairly good job, most of the time, of sounding like an aw-shucks regular-Joe populist.

Once in a while, of course, he lets the mask slip and shows an astonishing fondness for Cuba or what have you, but most of the time he manages to stick to the message that he’s just a patriotic, ordinary American fed up with how the country has gone astray from its noble founding principles — though those principles had little to do with the socialism for which he clearly longs.  (In this, he’s not so different from Sander Hicks, the increasingly populist-sounding Marxist turned conspiracy theorist who won our Debate at Lolita Bar this month.)

For good or ill, the complicated but universally-irking financial crisis/bailout(s) is probably the perfect time for this sort of squabbling over what populism means.

As Moore said in his onstage interview by Tina Brown after the premier of Capitalism at Lincoln Center on Monday night, both the left and right will be trying to extend a hand in the days ahead to the very angry people at the bottom of the social ladder, offering competing explanations for their woes (and those explanations are not necessarily mutually exclusive, I should add, given the undeniable fact that government has colluded with supposed titans of finance to pour bailout money into the maws of rich institutions — something that perhaps ought to bring about ideological synthesis instead of just ideological competition, but that would take a lot more work than fighting does).

Much as one might prefer elite, high-minded political-philosophical dialogue that does not pander to the masses at all, this would be an unwise time to be a culturally tone-deaf ideologue.  The public is paying a bit more attention than usual and may be in a mood to absorb some new political narratives, if they’re pitched correctly.  I hope libertarians won’t prove culturally tone-deaf in the days ahead, whether deaf in the right ear or the left.


David said...

Here’s my bold prediction: libertarians and everyone that leans in their direction will, in fact, be tone-deaf and ineffective.

Todd Seavey said...

My favorite line, just as rhetoric regardless of principles, from Moore’s narration in the film is: “I can’t continue to live in a country like this — and I’m not going to leave.”

Todd Seavey said...

P.S. It retroactively becomes less rhetorically inspiring if he commits suicide, of course.