If you’re angry at the Republicans or President Bush, says George Will, it isn’t because of Constitution-shredding or torture-justifying or runaway corruption or illegal war-starting or 24/7 lying or election-stealing or Plame-outing or theocracy-enabling or corporate-toadying or for letting wounded troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan fester in rat-holes of filth and roaches without treatment or hope of treatment, and mired in a sea of conservative-inspired red tape. No, he explains carefully, it isn’t any of that causing your rage. You’re pissed off because it’s trendy to be pissed off.
[T]here is a new style in anger — fury as a fashion accessory, indignation as evidence of good character.
No wonder Americans are infatuated with anger: It is democratic. Anyone can express it, and it is one of the seven deadly sins, which means it is a universal susceptibility. So in this age that is proud of having achieved “the repeal of reticence,” anger exhibitionism is pandemic.
And it’s all the fault of us lib-rad moonbats. After noting that a shortage of parking in Frisco causes people to be angry, he concludes:
Of course. San Francisco, a showcase for expressive individualism, is full of people bristling with rights and eager to rebel against oppressive authority, but having a hard time finding any. The only rules concern parking.
[E]verywhere there is the histrionic fury of ordinary people venting in everyday conversations.
Many people who loathe George W. Bush have adopted what Peter Wood describes as “ecstatic anger as a mode of political action.” Anger often is, Wood says, “a spectacle to be witnessed by an appreciative audience, not an attempt to win over the uncommitted.”
Well, there you go. The anger Bush evokes is really just part of a general problem of anger in the society as a whole. We’re pissed at everything and poor George is getting the brunt of it because he’s, you know, more visible. Not his fault, nothing he’s done. It’s just, you know, there, in the air, like pollution.
[A]nger is more pervasive than merely political grievances would explain. Today’s anger is a coping device for everyday life. It also is the defining attribute of an increasingly common personality type: the person who “unless he is angry, feels he is nothing at all.”
That type, infatuated with anger, uses it to express identity. Anger as an expression of selfhood is its own vindication. Wood argues, however, that as anger becomes a gas polluting the social atmosphere, it becomes not a sign of personal uniqueness but of a herd impulse.
So if seeing pictures of American soldiers torturing most-likely-innocent Iraqi civilians (the Army itself estimates that over 90% of those still being held in Gitmo are guiltless, knowledgeless civilians, not terrorists or even terrorist sympathizers) makes me angry with Bush and Gonzales, I’m merely acting on an impulse generated by a pervasive, generalized social phenomenon of the “herd impulse”. If being lied into an illegal war makes my blood boil, that illegal war is not enough by itself to explain why I’m so ticked off at the Bush Administration. The real reason is that “proclaimed anger — the more vituperative the better — is regarded as a sign of good character and emotional vitality.”
Bush is therefore without responsibility and we should all just, you know, stop.
I don’t know, I’m probably just choked with generalized rage, but it seems to me that at the point where somebody – say, just to pick a name out of a hat, George Will – comes up with an idea this lame, this threadbare, this intellectually dishonest, this blind, and so clueless it equates Paul Krugman’s criticism with Anorexic Annie’s authoritarian hatred for anybody who doesn’t pretend to believe what she pretends to believe, at that point any shreds of credibility they might have been hanging onto by their bloody fingernails have been jettisoned from the sinking ship like a guy throwing precious cargo overboard while clutching armfuls of pork rinds and rotting tomatoes he found in the galley garbage bin and then proclaiming to the other survivors that if they don’t agree with his choice it’s because they’re suffering from a social jealousy brought on by their attraction to the heady perfume of maggot-infested meat.
George Will has just signed away the last of his soul for this, and in all fairness, somebody really should have told him the story of Faust before he did it. I mean, devil-deals hardly ever work out well for anybody except the devil.
So long, George. You shoulda knew better but I realize that was too much to expect. I’ll put it in a nutshell for you, George:
Everybody’s angry at Bush because Bush gave us so goddam much to be angry about. It’s no more complicated than that.
And btw, where was your explanation during the last 20 years when it was trendy for the Right to spew anger and invective at anyone and everyone who dared to disagree with them? At the height of that generalized social “herd impulse” when anger was used to “express identity”, people were shooting each other on the LA Freeway. Didn’t occur to you, then, though, did it? How come, I wonder?