The Lileks Zone

Power Flows from the Barrel of a Dunn

I’m still chewing over the Mao-quoting speech by White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. I don’t know if she was telling a joke – a long, unfunny, detailed joke that lacked only a comic premise and a punchline – or whether she’s one of those bloodless sorts who float around government and academia on a warm breeze of reheated 60s cliches. I suspect the latter, especially since she also discussed how Fox is not a real news service, but a right-wing GOP distribution node. Yes, Fox, home to those heel-clicking crypto-Nazis like Geraldo and Juan Williams. She possibly still gets a glimmer of a smile when someone calls them “Faux News.” Man, that never gets old. Sorry, that’s sexist. Person, that never gets old.

The amount of cerebral real-estate Fox occupies on the left is astonishing, and leads to peculiar outbursts of Rumplestiltskin-like rage. Jacob Weismann calls them “un-American,” because they have tilted right and thus caused a great disturbance in the Media Force, heretofore exquisitely balanced between Jedi and Sith. (It was sheer McCarthyism for a blogger to call the left un-American in the Bush era, but such accusations from pundits and politicians are prima facie statements of fact now.) Fox is seen as a frightening mind-control device from which there is no defense, and you can thus understand the left’s unease: more people see Glen Beck in a day than ever picked up a copy of the Nation in the entire 20th century. (More or less. I’m guessing that’s true, based on my ideological preconceptions. Hey, put me on CNN to cover the Limbaugh story!)

But back to Dunne. If she was serious, you might wonder why she regarded Mao as something other than a hideous carbuncle on the face of 20th century history. Could be that iconic picture, with its hunt of an amused smile; it’s the Mona Lisa for the collectivist set. Could be the fact that the man got things done; some people are always been susceptible to a man on a horse, even if their friends in PETA are complaining the horse has no say in the matter. Could be the usual dry historical perspective at work; say what you will, Mao took a country that was quite backwards, and turned it into a modern state that could put two men into orbit. (One to fly the ship, the other to watch for signs he might defect.) Sure, he killed millions, but you can’t make an omelette without nationalizing the chickens, passing laws requiring them to lay six times as much, purging the rural leadership for failing to meet quotas, then banning omelettes as “decadent” and reserving them for private inner-Party functions. The man got things done. He would have know what to do with Fox.

At least neutral remarks on Mao still have the power to make us lift an eyebrow, Spock-like. Not so Che. He’s still the political Jim Morrison of the left, revered for his Noble Expression, looking up to the revolutionary future that lies just over this hill. What’s that? It’s not a hill, but a pile of bodies? Details, details. Proof that Che-worship has reached new levels of absurdity:

The Che jacket, from J. Crew.

Just the thing to a wear while lounging stylishly against one wall, watching your troops shoot opponents standing in front of another wall. But there’s more! Behold the Che candle. Yes, you too can bring the romantic odors of post-Batista Havana into your house. I suspect the smell around those offices was mostly cigars and BO, with hints of dysentery and a top-note of emptied bladders, but who can tell.

The candle is yours for 75 dollars. They same company sells one that smells like the era of Marie Antoinette in her happier, pre-decapitation phase, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can see a Dunne-type buying Che for living room, and Marie for the bathroom. They might even feel a certain kinship with the doomed queen. She liked to dress up as a rustic, head out to her fake farm with courtiers, and pretend everyone lived a simple, honest life. How different are the academics in the colleges who still fancy themselves firebrands ready to take it to the streets?

Well, Marie didn’t have tenure to protect her.

Note: upon looking for the Che jacket in the catalogue, I see they’ve changed the name and dropped the Che. At least over here. Not sure what it’s called in the Oceania or Eurasia markets.

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