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Posts Tagged ‘Keystone Cops’



Interviewer: My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are beginning to despair. Do you think that we’ve lost reason to hope?

Kurt Vonnegut: I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is “The Mask of Sanity” by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

— Interview with Kurt Vonnegut , In These Times Magazine, February 2003



I recently came across this short interview with the late Kurt Vonnegut from early 2003. He was describing a different set of people in a different circumstance and time but the underlying motivation and methodology of those people in charge remains the same. There is a direct line from those people to the current group of people in power– actually, some are the same folks– who are staging, as Vonnegut puts it, a Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat

We saw that yesterday in perhaps the most insane press conference since, well, the Four Season Total Landscaping affair. The time gap between displays of sheer insanity is getting shorter and shorter. But yesterday was as nuts as it gets with Rudy Giuliani, with his clown makeup running in streams down either side of his face, spewing incoherent nonsense that sought to subvert the will of the American electorate. Talking about Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, interfering in our election among a litany of other absurdities.

I’m no doctor but I believe Giuliani would no doubt fall into the “PP” category referenced above.

The whole thing was comical in its absurdity and ineptness.

For right now. For the moment.

But it sets a dangerous precedent that will linger and no doubt come back to bite us at a point further down the road. It lowers the bar for the next “PP” who is most certainly biding their time in the wings. They will come along with their air of certainty and self-assuredness that appeals to our peasant nature, that part that resides in many of us that deeply desires that someone tell us what to do and what to think. We want to be led and will willingly follow most anyone who confidently moves to the head of the pack.

And sometimes those confident folks turn out to be psychopaths.

What is happening, this Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat, is not an anomaly, not something that we simply get past. We think its just about this one man, Donald Trump. Yeah, I wrote it. But this is about an arc of action that has been forty years or more in the making. And its arc is far from complete, may not have even reached its apex. In fact, we may only be witnessing a preview of what could be on our doorsteps at some point in the near future. 

We now have a large group of folks in our society who have a massive distrust of experts, scientists, and the media and are prone to avidly listening to and following any sure-speaking conman spouting conspiracies and accusations that prop up their own prejudices and worldview. They will create strawmen to sell to their eager followers, foils to blame and knock down even as the facts don’t add up in any way.

There is a whole class of folks like that now. Some of them might have seen the Giuliani dog and pony show yesterday as a prime example of pure truth-telling. Sure, it’s crazy and doesn’t really make any sense at all, falling apart under close examination. But these folks aren’t looking to dispel falsehoods. They aren’t willing to look closer and will take it at face value. After all, it was said with such confidence that it must be true.

That is going to be a problem for a long time to come and how it manifests itself should be of concern to us all. I’ve been worried about this time for decades now. The arc was evident even back in the late 70’s and early 80’s and has been accelerating more visibly for the past 25 years.

Vonnegut could see it as could many others. It’s easy to see but hard to avert or combat. The damage is done to our foundations now and there will be more if we fail to shore them up. Whether we can repair our foundation is in question.

Answers?

You got me there. Just keep grinding, I guess. Keep slogging forward and try to do good things and set good examples. Try not to hate.

It’s all I know to do. 

Have a good day and do something good.

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