Sunday, April 19, 2009


I had no idea that my favorite Rolling Stone writer's got his own blog. Guess I'll be checking it out pretty regularly now. Anyway, from Taibblog, a nice little rant on the continuing saga of the right-wing descent into irrationality and insanity:

The peasant mentality lives on in America

After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over.


But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

More here.

Taibbi is riffing on an observation liberals started making at some point in the 1990s: most Republican voters are not super wealthy, but consistently support policies and views greatly favoring the super wealthy at their own expense. Many liberal brains have exploded while trying to figure out how this is possible, which makes sense because this dynamic appears to be utterly irrational at first glance. My take is that rank and file Republican behavior has little to do with rationality but everything to do with tribalism. That is, working and middle class Republicans, almost always white, see themselves as being the same kind of people as the wealthy elites who fuck them over as quickly and easily as they fuck over other Americans. Consequently, getting a big tax cut, which most Americans just received from Obama's stimulus bill, becomes some sort of tax injustice because their white brothers who make more than $250k are getting a tax hike. Irrational, yes, but it's also tribal. Don't fuck with the tribe.

At any rate, Taibbi's got a really nice explanation of how this dynamic functions, if not an explanation as to why: Republicans, those without any real power or wealth, are groveling peasants. Pathetic in their authority worship. As sniveling as that tattle-tale kid in fifth grade who you gave a swirlie to because he fucking deserved it.

This is why I love Matt Taibbi: he takes old school liberal observations and gives them the fangs they need.