Don’t Be Surprised

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In the space of one week, we have been subjected to the Met Gala, the Emmys, and the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly—three orgies of preening self-congratulation by disgraceful narcissists. Besides their total uselessness to society, these nauseating pageants have a few other things in common: they feature inane political statements by people with distinguished track records of feckless idiocy, they cost exponentially more money than they are worth, and they are forced relentlessly into our field of vision despite the fact that, if we have even a little dignity, we find them repulsive. 

It has become standard practice to dismiss these sorts of spectacles as “irrelevant.” In one sense that is true: they are the farcical dying gasps of an American monoculture that was long ago hollowed out into a skin suit for entitled mediocrities to cover the nakedness of their souls. Though the Emmys’ ratings ticked up slightly this year, their overall pattern this millennium has been one of steady decline. Your average American has far more pressing things to do than mire his psyche in the interminable transcript of Biden’s speech to the U.N., and practically the only thing anyone has seen of the Met Gala was that dress AOC wore. 

So the high holy days of our secular liturgy no longer attract attention as events in themselves. But that doesn’t mean they don’t attract attention. The function of such affairs now is to get churned up and regurgitated as memes, clickbait, thinkpieces, and viral posts. Did you know the designer of AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress is a rich person who doesn’t pay taxes? And look how the privileged few go maskless to the Emmys while their handlers cringe behind N95s! Can you believe Biden actually presented his shameful withdrawal from Afghanistan to the U.N. as an achievement

As long as they can keep us tittering in disbelief about these outrages, our self-appointed betters remain relevant in a very real way. Like the pompous etiquette of Louis XIV’s court at Versailles, brazen displays of corruption hold us in awe because they are so obviously ludicrous. The arcane ritual, and the apparent obliviousness of the practitioners, is the point.  

The smartest among them realize this and use it to their advantage. Whatever else she may be, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a highly skillful demagogue with a perfectly intuitive grasp of digital media. She knows exactly what she is doing. The message of her idiotic display was: you will pay attention to me. I am powerful, and you are not. This moment, the moment of my most spectacular effrontery, will be endlessly reiterated on your screen—will suck up your mental energy, will live in your head rent-free. And there’s nothing you can do about it

I concede of course that there is a certain cathartic satisfaction in mocking the rich and powerful online. Far be it from me to begrudge anyone getting in a really good dig on Twitter. But after all this time—after all we have seen—I still think we are not treating these sniggering villains with as much contempt as they deserve. If we had really internalized what is going on here, we would disdain to treat their hypocrisy as anything unusual. We would regard it as what it is: entirely in character and thoroughly intentional. 

Can you believe what AOC did? What Biden said? What Stephen Colbert tweeted? Yes. Yes I can. I believe it because time without number I have seen who these people are. I know there is no end of their will to power, their spite for their fellow man. Very little that they could possibly do or say would reveal anything worse about them than what I already believe to be true. I remain appalled. But I am no longer surprised. 

I don’t think you should be, either. Actually I think spending time being surprised amounts to letting them win, letting them occupy your brain space and demoralize you as they long at every moment to do. Snap out of it, friend: the hour is too late for acting as if you had just discovered our ruling classes hate us. They do. It is an established fact. Proceed accordingly.

The post Don’t Be Surprised appeared first on The American Mind.

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