What do “documentary” and “newsreel” hope to mean in this benighted age of the Internet, when information threatens to overwhelm intelligence? Though the genre is still hard to fund and difficult to make, there is no doubt but that, in the last 20 years, more documentaries have been getting limited theatrical release. So an orthodox complacency reigns that this is “a good thing.” But is the age of Michael Moore, Ken Burns, Werner Herzog, Frederick Wiseman, and movies like Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job really useful and critical of how we are being run?
Within a week after its official launch, the No Labels movement—which I helped found—has accomplished a hitherto unimaginable feat: It has united a bitterly divided commentariat. Tribunes of left and right have issued issue denunciations and pronounced anathemas. Polarization, they say, is a wonderful thing, and those who would weaken it are at best deluded and naïve. Civility is a euphemism for the prissy repression of uninhibited democratic discourse, and the self-appointed speech police should butt out.
Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review: The American Left has shared this maddened perplexity at its country’s character and this hope for its effacement. Marxists at home and abroad were always mystified by the failure of socialism in the U.S. They thought that, as the most advanced capitalist society, we would have had the most restive proletariat. Instead we have had a broad and largely satisfied middle class. Even our unions, in their early history, were anti-statist, their radicalism anarchistic rather than socialist.
One strange human quirk I’ve just noticed is that people often ignore the substance of what you’re saying and focus instead on how much time you spend saying one thing versus another. A couple days ago, I wrote a reply to Peter Beinart’s much-discussed New York Review of Books manifesto on Israel.
Remember the recent Manzi Soap Bar Beating, in which National Review's writers and editors refused to admit the obvious fact that popular right-wing radio talk show host Mark Levin is a hack propagandist? The Frum Forum's Noah Kristula-Green digs into the obvious follow-up: Do liberal intellectual magazines ever call out liberal entertainers for extremism? A good question.
Mark Halperin and Michael Moore have columns that, oddly enough, express the same essential delusion about American politics. The delusion is that political outcomes are primarily determined by presidential style. Moore's column is a populist fantasy that Obama could have enacted appreciably more left-wing policies if he simply demanded them of Congress. Here's Moore imagining himself as chief of staff: you and I are going to be up at 5 in the morning, 7 days a week and I am going to get you pumped up for battle every single day (see photo).
And Showtime is about to present, in a ten-part miniseries, Oliver Stone’s “Secret History of America.” Don’t you wonder why, if Stone (and Michael Moore, for that matter) is right about the evils of capitalism, an enormous capitalist corporation has produced--and will now show--what is, almost by self-advertisement, a nutcase reconstruction of the American past, focusing on its enemies, who he seems to think have been traduced by historians? Someone named Jackson Creswell, from a website called Collider, seems to think that Stone “revel[s] in political controversy ...
When Vince Flynn recently finished writing his eleventh novel, Pursuit of Honor, he sent an advance copy to Rush Limbaugh, along with some special reading instructions. Upon arriving at Chapter 50, he told the radio host in a note inscribed on the chapter’s first page, “open one of your bottles of Lafite and grab a cigar and savor these words.” Flynn self-published his first political thriller twelve years ago but, today, has a seven-figure contract with an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Democracy Corps has a very interesting survey about the worldview of conservative Republicans. The focus group interviews show that the Republican right, which consists of about a fifth of the electorate, is held together by a set of beliefs that goes well beyond small government and traditional values. "Our groups showed that they explicitly believe [Obama] is purposely and ruthlessly executing a hidden agenda to weaken and ultimately destroy the foundations of our country," reports the survey.
When the world last left Wesley Clark in early 2004, he was a streaking meteor of a presidential candidate. Still fresh from leading NATO in the Kosovo war, he arrived as a savior for the left, who saw a bulletproof patriot that the rest of America could believe in; hero of the netroots, beloved by Michael Moore and Madonna; hope of the Clintonites, delighted by such a clean ideological slate. Alas, after five blazing months, Clark for President flamed out. There are the conventional explanations: He got in too late. He didn't play in Iowa.