Conservative-kido: A Shrink Sidesteps a Scribe

by A. Jay Adler on September 10, 2009
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ShrinkWrapped is, well, a shrink. A self-described libertarian-conservative psychoanalyst who blogs. We read each other – I think a little like peering into that backyard telescope at a galaxy far, far away. He says he attempts to be a reasonable libertarian-conservative, as he kindly offers that I attempt to be a reasonable liberal blogger. It’s the “attempt” I have a problem with, along with other of his words, as if we’re both trying to overcome a disability.

The good doctor has responded, in part, to my jauntily entitled post “GOP: Gone Off Prozac.” He entitles his own “Liberal Elitism: Liberal Fascism?” More of those problem words, but to them anon.

In fact, Doctor Shrink doesn’t get to me for some time in his post, first hauling off a good deal on Tom Friedman (I’m spit shining my remaining hair in the mirror – the company I’m keeping these days), elites, fascists, and other arrogant ignorances. As foundation, he offers Jonah Goldberg’s sublimely idiotic Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change. When I wrote in PinoCheney of “The televised mouths and the prattlers in print – the B.A.s or M.A.s in journalism or public policy or international relations who get fast-tracked into publishing and institute affiliations and media punditry” and who “never met a logical fallacy they didn’t fancy” Goldberg was one of the people I had in mind.

In this faux work of political analysis he actually operates in the manner of a literary deconstructionist, digging out of long history the inevitable, available contradictions, and the political misalliances of the few, and torturing vague, indeterminate language so as to establish that the text of Liberalism means in fact the opposite of what the surface purports to show. Unlike a literary deconstructionist, who would perform this operation only to undermine any stable sense of meaning at all, Goldberg is content to rest with the disruptive contradiction: Liberalism is, in fact, its opposite, fascism. From this I conclude imprecisely (but who’s being exact about anything around here) that Goldberg is, indeed a deconstructionist, and thus a fey continental theorist, who, via this connection to Derrida and de Man is (I’ll show you my work later) a cousin thrice removed by second marriage of Clara Petacci, Mussolini’s mistress.

From here Shrink goes on to assail the “the fascistic impulse at the core of [Tom Friedman’s] liberalism,” a conclusion that would well align Shrink with those on the far left who disdain Friedman as a mouthpiece for neo-liberal (oh, my god) elites. Come either the revolution or its reaction, Friedman better take to the sewers because his head will be a rollin’. As for Shrink being curiously aligned here with the Chomskyan anarcho-syndalists, and the Maoists who,too, despised the intelligentsia elites, hmn… what would Jonah Goldberg make of that.

Now, in this particular, Friedman, case of liberal fascism, the evidence is found in a column in which the-world-is-flatter (thinking that the GOP is AWOL) knocks what he considers the current, ineffectual, American one-party democracy in competing economically and futuristically with the one-party autocracy to be found in China. It seems not to occur to the Good Doctor that Friedman is not really praising and advocating autocratic governance, in a fascist New York Times editorial salute, but poking at the currently dysfunctional democracy to get its act together. It’s appropriate, I guess, that after my proclaiming the Republican Party to be a “raging Id in the guise of a political philosophy,” I would be challenged by a psychoanalyst. It appears, though, that Shrink more naturally recognizes psychic resistances than he does rhetorical ironies. But we’re all coming from somewhere.

Especially remarkable is that Friedman is quite a moderate liberal, well recognized by any who read him as a fervent global capitalist, and not remotely what could be described as far left. If, rather, it seems unfair in the ideological balancing act, to go as far left as Chomsky and various European code talkers, we might speak of the range of views represented by the ideological pool over at The Nation magazine, from which if there is voting done for the Dems, it is done with fingers over nose and scrunched up faces. This is a band on the spectrum that is either outside the Democratic party or at its left edge, with varying degrees of mostly rhetorical influence depending on the issue, and that has never, much to its consternation, come anywhere near the party controls. However, their ideological opposites on the right have, gradually, over a period of thirty years, actually become the Republican Party. Yet it is the Democratic mainstream that conservatives, even our fair physician, are compelled to demonize as fascists – hell, Nazis, and un-American born – so that they can direly raise the political difference to a foreign threat. Goodness, a good and decent American couldn’t possibly believe in a public role in health care.

Finally (How long, Oh, Lord?) Shrink gets to me. He accurately describes me as decrying “the vituperative quality of the Republican attacks on the Obama administration and its policies.” But then – oh, they are clever these psychoanalysts, subterranean in their calculation, invisible like the wind with their easy, soothing “tell me more”s – Shrink does not deny my charge! No! He does not oppose. Rather, he steps to the side, grasping my verbal arm in an attempt to lead me forward into stumble with my own aggressive energy. Base fiend! “[N]ot only is such intemperance and irrationality not a cause for alarm,” he claims, “but we probably could use more of it”! Yes, more business for him.

Read it all; I’m sure you’re welcome in the waiting room.

Shrink says he would take me to task for a “descent into the same kinds of ad hominem attacks and exaggerations that he assigns the Republicans.” However, it is not ad hominem fallacy to call a man a fool if the subject of discussion is his foolishness and you offer evidence of his folly. Shrink offers no refutation of my litany of ugly behaviors, though he pretends all of the uproar in the current political surf is among Democrats and between them and the public, and conservatives have been home mowing the lawn. I did not declare the Republican Party to be The John Birch Society as hyperbolic flourish. We can run through the racist, xenophobic, violence-flirting, impending-liberty-and-life losing hysteria perpetrated, praised or merely tolerated by Republican leadership over the past year and compare that to the history of Birch Society policy and rhetoric, and we can hope to find the differences. And still I did not call Republicans fascist, Nazis, or, to make the situation truly absurdly equal – socialists.

Shrink is right to say that neither he nor I nor anyone else has a monopoly on reason. We all do, collectively, if we work at it. The left, the right, and several other directions, will all at times be right or wrong, and with some luck, we’ll continue to work out who and when – with some good, reasoned debate, and not a good wad of spit. That is how the truth, or some human approximation of it, is arrived at.

In closing praise to the “sum of our irrationalities,” Shrink offers up the wisdom of Freud:

“The first man who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.”

Freud was a brilliant man, but I have already said what I think of the political leadership of brilliant men. By Freud’s lights, here, civilization could just as well have  begun with the first dog that barked instead of bit. I’d rather focus on whoever it was who observed the world and reasoned from experience that the planted seed by the river would  spring up food, and do it again next year.

And we could all do this again, maybe, another time, Shrink’s couch or mine.

AJA


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