Monday, November 06, 2006

Arianna Versus Ted

Trying to understand American politics is like stepping out into a blizzard. There are so many more names and faces and the issues frequently seem both exotic and morally overwrought. I had, for example, been vaguely following the story of Ted Haggard - here is the latest BBC account - an evangelical hot gospeller who has been shamed by the revelation that he bought drugs and a massage from a gay escort. Pastor Ted being somewhat homophobic - see this peculiarly scary clip - this is, of course, a good, if routine, story. But apparently it is much more than that. Arianna Huffington's post on the subject expands the significance of the Pastor's misadventures to take in what she sees as the sickness at the heart of the whole Bush administration. (Hellfire Ted has close White House contacts.) 'The fall of Ted Haggard,' she writes, 'is just the latest manifestation of the central disease of President Bush and his cohorts: the pathological refusal to accept reality, and the delusion that reality can be changed by rhetoric.' Is it really? Without defending Bush, Haggard or anybody else, I would point out that none of them can be shown to be deluding themselves. Here is a likelier interpretation: neither is deluded, Bush doesn't believe Iraq is going well and Haggard didn't believe his gay frolics were consistent with his religious beliefs. Both simply find themselves committed by their actions to public postures which they have no choice but to defend and sustain. These cannot be classified as pathological refusals to accept reality, but, rather, as abject submissions to its demands. And neither thinks that reality can be changed by rhetoric, merely than it can be disguised. I may be completely missing the point here, but Arianna's logic does seem painfully stretched. I shall, it seems, never find my way in this blizzard.

16 comments:

  1. Nor will I, but the real uncertainty is that many Americans will be lost to the blizzard as well.

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  2. The human mind is a strange and complex organ. It sometimes believes its own rhetoric. Perhaps you are right - Bush and his cronies are not deluding themselves about anything. They know what is going on but employ the rhetoric so as to stay on message. That said, sometimes we can hold opinions that are blatently at odds with the facts. Maybe Bush sees everything through the lens of his religious fanaticism. As we all know, religion has a knack of making people see and do the most bizarre things on the basis of very flimsy evidence and, more often than not, no evidence at all. Maybe God has told Bush everything will be fine: "Keep up the good work George. There is a grand plan and everything is as it should be".

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  3. A tabloid dream! A political - religious - homosexual cross over!!

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  4. ..Here is a likelier interpretation: neither is deluded, Bush doesn't believe Iraq is going well and Haggard didn't believe his gay frolics were consistent with his religious beliefs. Both simply find themselves committed by their actions to public postures which they have no choice but to defend and sustain...

    I think this is indeed so and we all find ourselves in such positions. To reverse one's direction is beyond all bar the eccentric.

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  5. Honestly, Bryan, you Brits also have some very exotic and gleefully tabloidish political follies. When we were in Scotland this summer, the papers were full of some Scots politician named Tommy something-or-another who was accused of consorting with prostitutes. His wife, standing by her man, said, "It could not have been Tommy -- if so, the prostitutes would have noted the fact that he is *covered* with hair, front and back, like an ape." Tommy even offered to shuck his shirt in court to prove that his wife was correct.

    BTW, whatever happened to Hirsute Tommy? I didn't hear the final verdict on him, but it was great daily reading during ten days in Scotland.

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  6. The choices are either they are deceiving themselves or they are deceiving everyone else. I agree with you. They are both basically just liars.

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  7. Arianna's logic may be stretched but it is by no means unusual. Andrew Sullivan has written a book (the Conservative Soul) which essentially argues that American conservatism has been hijacked by religous fundamentalists. So many people seem to be so appalled by the Bush administration's errors of judgement over Iraq and hurricane Katrina, as well as the use of torture in the war on terror, that your explanation, Bryan , seems to be too small to be even considered. Bush has become too large a figure to be understood in such human terms. The advantage of the "denying reality" arguement is that it makes Bush special. He can no longer be understood in terms that are anything less than epic.

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  8. While I disagree with Tom, I do wholeheartedly agree with Bryan.

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  9. Ariana seems full of cliche, Bryan, whereas your comments make perfect sense to me. There is not necessarily any consistency between someone's "personal" life and their "public" position, as we've seen over and over again.

    Susan, hairy Tommy got off but now more witnesses are coming forward to contradict his account. (Is that a fair summary, anyone who knows more about it than me?)

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  10. I think Bryan is right: Haggard and Bush are just liars and phonies who are in the public spotlight and need to preserve face. Arianna and her crowd of political fanatic naifs are strange sorts. They put huge stock in personal authenticity but they exemplify the same things they accuse Bush & Haggard of.

    For example, Andrew Sullivan, who expatiated on fidelity with great eloquence, was revealed to be advertising his unclothed body on a naughty website. And Arianna married a man she knew to be gay. Don't tell me a sophisticated Greek lady already in her 30s didn't know Michael Huffington was gay. She was his beard; he gave her money. I think her & Sullivan's circumlocutions are way more complicated than Bush & Haggard's.

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  11. When I first encountered Ariana (Stassinopolous as she was called then), she was hanging out with Bernard Levin. And writing a sociology book. (was it sociology?)

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  12. I still want to know: What happened to Hairy Tommy of Scotland, that Shag-gy dog?!

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  13. Susan Balee,
    Hairy Tommy managed to persuade a Scotch jury that he'd been libelled by the press and was awarded £100,000, I think, in damages. He says the recent post-trial allegations against him are as untrue as the first ones and designed to sully his reputation even further in an attempt to persuade the police to investigate some of his witnesses for allegedly lying at the trial.

    Who knows?

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  14. Philip, thanks so much for the update. I found his case a delight to read about. 100,000 pounds! That's nothing to sniff at. He might even be able to buy a detached home in E-burgh! (And get his back waxed....)

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  15. Susan,
    A detached home in Edinburgh? It wouldn't go much further than paying the deposit. He'd need at least seven times that. And he says recently that the newspaper concerned (Murdoch owned I think) hasn't paid yet. He'll need the hair to keep warm this winter.

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  16. Of course you're right, Philip; what was I thinking? 100,000 pounds is a mere $200,000. Well, perhaps he could afford a month's stay at the Caledonian during the Fringe Festival!

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