How We Talk to Each Other


But we’re living in a time of extreme crisis almost nothing on TV or in
the movies is designed to get us thinking about how to fix our
problems. If anything, most of the stuff on TV is designed to jack up
our anxiety level without offering any solutions except the short-term
fixes of buying and eating — witness the endless reality shows in which
ordinary people slave away and scheme against each other for weeks on
end for a 1 in 12 shot at a (pick one) modeling job/date with a
non-deformed, non serial-killing person/chance to be shouted at by
Donald Trump.

To quote Ghostbusters, as I often do these days for no other reason than it’s on one of the basic-cable channels on like a continuous loop and my insomnia’s been rough lately, “We’ve got a city blowing up and you guys are not giving me any answers.”

I think a lot of the crazy teabag rage has come from a vague sense (and as always, a disclaimer: not justifying it, just trying to understand) that our lives are not what we think they should be. We saw this with the purpose-vacuum a lot of people said they felt after 9/11, when they seized on George W. Bush as the man who would give their lives reason for existing, a grand struggle they could be part of, like our grandparents seemed to have.

(Not understanding, of course, that the grand struggles are only really grand in retrospect. While they’re going on they’re just crazy shit that is happening to you that you are dealing with as best you can. War movies aren’t about the war, they’re about how we have to remember the last war in order to survive another one.)

The crazy teabag rage, like the crazy Islamofascist rage before it, and the crazy Clenis rage before that, and I don’t know, I was like 6 during the Carter administration but there must have been some nutjobbery there too, comes in part from this place where we feel we are fucked and no one else even notices. We are losing our jobs, losing our homes, losing our minds, and on TV people are eating worms for money and our politicians are telling us it’s not that bad.

We do not see the world we know reflected back at us and that’s frightening, because like in 2003 when literally no one cared that the president was breaking the law, we start asking, “Am I just totally batshit rice krispie treats crazy here?” And the problem with all that crazy rage is that some of it isn’t crazy. Can you tell me, though, what the difference would look like on television, to someone who just flew in from like Mars or something? The point of the story about the boy who cried wolf is that the wolf shows up in the end and kills everybody. All the noise makes it impossible to tell where the real danger is.

Our escapism is only escapism until it stops being fun, and it’s only fun until you can’t afford the cable subscription or the ticket to the playhouse anymore. Then you’re on the street corner with a giant sign that says THE END IS NEAR and all you see is people rushing by you, on their way to the trains that are taking them anywhere but here.


13 thoughts on “How We Talk to Each Other

  1. During the Depression, movies were all about escapism. Taibbi should know this.

  2. butbutbut how can we have a revolution? the new season of heroes is on!
    we have gotten to lazy. we don’t deserve to be called home of the brave/free.

  3. Escapism and horror, anyway. I think Escapism tends to mean fantasy these days, and not the lives of the rich and wealthy. Confessions of a Shopaholic did poorly, and I doubt you’re going to see a lot of other people trying to push “Lifestyles of the rich and famous” movies. It’s a bit much to expect Hollywood to whiplash this quickly away from reality TV, though. Plus, people like seeing real people on the television.
    Expect even more comic book movies, Lord of the Rings clones and mindless action. Americans aren’t in the mood introspection, but they aren’t really in the mood to have their faces rubbed in how much other people have either. The teen shows like Gossip Girl will probably survive, but only because their target audience isn’t exactly money- aware just yet.

  4. Strange Question: Would the “Left Behind” series be a combination of escapism and Horror in addition to a healthy denunciation of the current injustices?

  5. i note that i’ve seen several ads on grandma’s teevee for “more affordable” cable packages. i believe no matter how bad it gets, the SCLM will find a price structure which guarantees people remain firmly planted on their asses in front of the teevee. it’s too powerful a mechanism for control and propaganda to allow to become less widespread.

  6. A: I always enjoy reading your columns, and I think you’ve kind of hit upon the real problem in America today. As you wrote, “the crazy teabag rage has come from a vague sense…that our lives are not what we think they should be.” The cognitive dissonance is that the voices that appeal most to the working class are no longer the populist agitators of the 1920s and 1930s but the elite, pro-corporate propagandist of Faux “News” and AM hate radio. So instead of directing our rage at those responsible for this mess: insurance companies, commodities speculators, corrupt politicians, war profiteers, et. al., the anger goes out toward “feminists” and “environmentalists” and “Islamo-fascists” and dozens of other groups that, even if they were eliminated, would have no net effect on the decline of our political, economic and social environment. The problem is not the Teabag protesters. The problem is that even if they got their way, things would just get worse, not better. Displaced anger leads to mental repression; our political discourse suffers from a severe neurotic disorder that is both misdiagnosed and exacerbated by the prescribed treatment.

  7. Carter. Lusted in his heart. Killer rabbits and cardigans. Turn down the heat and put on a sweater, like that would do any good (said the press).
    “and all you see is people rushing by you, on their way to the trains that are taking them anywhere but here.”
    Somebody said almost the same thing to me, a few months before he killed himself.

  8. “the crazy teabag rage has come from a vague sense…that our lives are not what we think they should be.”
    Frank Herbert once said an Emperor provides many opportunities for his subjects to fail.
    That crazy rage is there to motivate you to live the way the $ystem wants you too. That crazy rage is blinding you to the real Wolf. You want to not get eaten?
    Calm down, find your target, take aim, and fire.
    The worst that could happen? The big bad wolf takes you before you get your bearings, but that’s going to happen anyway if you keep your eye on the gadflies.

  9. The Marxists have a word for it: false consciousness. Working people can tell they’re getting screwed somehow, so one of the ways the rulers defuse the danger that some of that anger might come their way, is to redirect it at another group. Jews are the traditional target, but blacks and Mexicans work also.
    And yes, poor white people also make a good distracting culture war hate object, for the information of all you smug liberals who think you’re not being played too.

  10. ” … because like in 2003 when literally no one cared that the president was breaking the law …”
    literally not true. maybe nobody who mattered, but it’s false thatno one cared.

  11. I commented this at Balloon Juice the other day on something similar;
    Somewhere I read about a poll that had 22% of Americans (or might be just Xtians) that said they expected to see Jesus return in their lifetime, and another 20% of so said it was only likely. Add in other categories like YECs, IDers and those hilarious people who think General Relativity implicates a moral relativity into some 5 dimensional Venn Diagram and that 27% is right in the center.
    What is needed is some sort of reservation where the willfully deluded can live in peace without the insults that modern society puts on them. Off course, ALL modern tech would be withheld, except maybe Guttenburg printing presses to keep the paranoia high and stimulating. These people miss the Cold War. That along with WW2 really ignited the idea that America is engaged in a battle with evil. They just can’t accept the mundane issues of 21 century life. They need to be soldiers for Xist, or for Capitalism/ Democracy/ Heterosexuality/ Gun Rights/ Free Beer/ Whatever. The political process doesn’t relieve their bloodlust.

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