Dry Wind | 20 Cases | Gut Shot | Vaccination Clinic | Mexican Outreach | 1908 Ukiah | Justify Doohan | Local Biz | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Big River | Loser Done | Victor Hugo | Siege Footage | Bay View | Enough Trump | Mrs Robinson | Social Justice | Harsh Reality | Neologism Contest | My Dream | CHP Alert | Mendo Visions | Narcissism Culture | Trade Unions | Stereotypical TWK | 1990 Playboy
DRY WEATHER will prevail through at least Wednesday. Offshore flow through Tuesday will result in warm days and cool nights in the valleys, with locally strong winds over exposed mountainous terrain. Temperatures will trend progressively cooler through the end of the week, along with increasing chances for some light precipitation. (NWS)
WIND will be the big story over the next few days.
I don't know about you but strong wind is just one of those things that has few friends in the weather world...very few benefits and lots of downside.
So this is what EVERYONE should be aware of next few days.
TIMING: The wind will pick up hour by hour today peaking overnight in the valley and Sierra. The valley wind might see peak gusts late afternoon but you will notice it at night as well. The Sierra will see strongest winds later tonight and early tomorrow but still strong on Tuesday.
IMPACTS: Gusts will be 35-45 in Valley and 50-80mph for Sierra so now we approach damage level. The valley will see blowing dust, higher fire danger and some tree limbs down with possible local power outages. Maybe some trees will come down as well. The Sierra will see STRONG gusts taking out branches, trees, and power lines in places as well. This is a HIGH IMPACT event for the Sierra so heads up.
MY ADVICE: Take stock of what is going on outside your house/apartment and think of what the wind will do later. Put away things that will blow around...trash cans...light patio furniture etc. Also pay attention to where you walk/park. This may seem silly but TRUST me with strong winds...many things just happen quickly so avoid parking under big tree limbs etc. Power may go out later today and tonight so make sure things are charged and a flashlight near the bed is not a bad idea...especially in the Sierra.
20 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Sunday, bringing the total to 3114.
VICTIM SHOT IN THE ABDOMEN IN THE SPYROCK AREA OF NORTHERN MENDOCINO
About 4:49 p.m., a man called 911 reporting that a friend had been shot in the abdomen in the 53700 block of Iron Peak Road.
ON LINE COMMENT re shooting last night (Saturday) on Spy Rock: "Some kind of shady shit. Messing around and now shooter has regrets. Victim is lucky to be alive, BEYOND lucky they didn’t wind up buried out in the hills somewhere. When it all comes out it’s probably going to be they both have a lot of friends and that’s why victim just didn’t turn up missing like many others do. The evidence and the questions would have piled up too fast. Old Charlie Underhill, rest in peace, he had a similar incident like that years ago. Took a long time he never really did recover, his abdomen always gave him problems after the shooting. And he earned the twisted nickname…”Gut”. The things that go down in the hills while sharing a 12 pack of beer and a joint. Most involving some type of ATV, land disputes, piles of cash, a couple of cows, and your ex. Bad time to be in the hospital."
Mike and Tom standing by with Ambulance 7421 for AVHC’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the high school. We’re proud to be part of this historic effort. (AV Fire Department)
FROM SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS:
I have concern about vaccine outreach to our LatinX/Hispanic/Spanish-speaking population, the community most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Any willingness to partner with me to improve messaging and delivery?
Me preocupa el alcance de las vacunas a nuestra población LatinX, la comunidad más afectada de manera desproporcionada por COVID-19. ¿Está dispuesto a colaborar conmigo para mejorar la mensajería y la entrega?
POLLY GIRVIN: There are neighborhoods in which Mexicans live. South Ukiah and trailer parks on North State St. There are stores Mexicans attend such as Chavez Market and Videotepa. The county should put up notices in these sites regarding how to get a vaccination. I heard my first notice about phoning into the clinic to get in line for a vaccination in Spanish on KZYX.
Don't think many Mexicans listen to KZYX though. Find out the stations Mexicans listen to locally and put out public service announcements. Send Public health officials to the brake fields and get the crop owners to pass out in Spanish flyers announcing vaccine availability and how to get it.
TED WILLIAMS: The 75 and up tier has started (although it will take at least a month to complete as supplies slowly trickle in). Do you know whether the store keepers have email? I'd like to ensure notice is available to everyone without delay and recognize many of the people most at risk might not be online).
DO WE NEED MULTIPLE HEALTH OFFICERS?
Kudos to newly elected county supervisors Maureen Mulheren and Glenn McGourty for questioning the idea of continuing to pay former county health officer Mimi Doohan $100,000 a year to consult with the county on COVID19 from her home in San Diego.
First of all, it’s a lot of money when we have a full time health officer making three times that much right here in the county. Mulheren made the good point that there are undoubtedly local physicians that could add to our COVID19 team if we feel we need more than one health officer on that task.
Other supervisors talked about needing “continuity” — in other words Doohan’s memory of the things she did. One could argue over the quality of Doohan’s time as health officer, but it seems that the county should surely know the decisions that were made at the time and why.
The county CEO says she would hire three public health officers to work on COVID if she could. It seems to us that if we need more action on COVID19 in the county, the CEO should come up with an action plan to submit to the supervisors on what exactly needs doing and what hires needs to be made to accomplish them and for what amount of money. Since the majority of supervisors voted to keep Doohan on the payroll, we hope that rather then continue to put her activities on the consent calendar, they will present to the public at every meeting, Doohan’s bills with a breakdown of each $125 per hour she earns and what she did to earn it. That should also serve to verify the claim from the CEO that Doohan is a bargain since she works many more hours than she bills.
Simply extending a contract with someone hundreds of miles away with another job to do seems lazy and wasteful.
— K.C. Meadows, Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
MARTIN LUTHER KING. Best biography remains Marshall Frady’s Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life, Penguin edition.
SO WE ALL take a day off, on the off chance we have a job to take off from, to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. The in-school discussion, if there is one about King, will emphasize his commitment to non-violence as a tactic to achieve full citizenship for Black Americans. Memorial editorials will leave out King’s commitment to economic justice. King was routinely denounced in the mainstream media before his martyrdom as a Com-dupe, a libel fed the media by the FBI, these days rehabbed by the Democrats as an heroic, a-political police agency who will slay the Orange Monster's cult-brained followers. King was murdered just as he became outspokenly critical of the War on Vietnam, American imperialism generally, and the multi-ethnic, color-blind class structure of poverty. The way King is remembered these days is as the guy who made corporate faves like Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell possible.
DOROTHEA DORMAN is dead. She died in a single-car accident on Greenfield Ranch last week near where she lived on Radical Ridge. Infamous for a relentlessness of personality that most people who knew her unkindly shortcutted as "major pain in the ass," Dorothea was a pioneer flower child who'd made her inevitable way north from the Bay Area to the infinitely elastic social embrace of Mendocino County. I thought the loss of her children in a custody dispute when the children were quite young had unhinged her, but comparing notes with people who knew her in her salad days say her social sense had always ranged from impervious to impenetrable. “Ruthless if she got your attention. Weapons-grade tiresome,” were two characterizations of her personality I remember. I confess I hid from Dorothea when I saw her coming because I knew I was in for at least an hour-long monologue on everything from global affairs to diet. “You won't last much longer, Bruce, if you don't stop eating meat.” This from a skeletal figure who might have died from malnutrition if she hadn't careened into a tree at, I'm sure, the unsafe speed with which she always hurtled herself up and down Mendo's highways and biways. The old girl had her virtues, though. She was quite generous in her way, taking in, among others, homeless people, some of them obviously dangerous. I always thought one of her charity cases would finish her off, but Dorothea survived, perpetually involved in some legal beef or another, one of them involving a drunk driving charge in Ukiah. (For a vegetarian the girl could put down the booze.) She insisted the DUI was false because when deputy Lockhart arrived Dorothea was out of her car and “pushing” the vehicle, not driving it, a distinction the deputy and a series of judges failed to make.
BEFORE she was Dorothea Dorman, Dorothea was Dorothy Schimdt, becoming Dorothea in an odd 1968 movie called “Gold,” starring Dorothea in nude romps with the later well-known China scholar, Orville Schell, and the musicians, Dan Hicks and Ramblin' Jack Elliot.
Dorothea wrote us a long (of course), rambling letter about the film's “deeper meaning,” which I could have sworn was about big naked piles, nude women, random boffs, and more naked women, one pair of exposed buttocks belonging to the scholarly Schell footnoting, you might say, the action. Dorothea was very attractive in her youth and might have been cast as Eve herself in a more pious film. She insisted to me that the naked piles were actually “nude water ballets” and that I'd missed the film's significance because of my “innate maleness,” as she put it. Well, she's gone, one more unforgettable character in this county's vivid human tapestry. I won't exactly miss Dorothea, but who can forget her?
DON'T KNOW about you but I'm more interested in Trump's departure Wednesday than the Biden inauguration, the latter shaping up as a kind of mega-grotesque Superbowl half-time show with the cadaverous Biden slurring through an address that only confirms he's unfit. Not a peep in msm that Biden's not up to it, and absolute silence on the Bidens' multi-million dollar deals with Ukraine and China. Trump's exit Wednesday will upstage Biden's swearing in, for sure.
STARTLED this morning to see a daffodil in full bloom outside my office, almost two months ahead of schedule for the appearance of Spring's merry harbinger. It seems obvious that a full-on drought is kicking in, with the Northcoast's two primary water storages, Lake Sonoma at 65% of capacity and Lake Mendocino at 40%, and fire warnings already in effect with powerful winds out of the east. The next time a Jehovah's Witness appears at my door, I intend to say, “Apologies, primitive friend, you were right. The world is ending. The signs are everywhere!”
THE CYBER-LORDS have condescended to allow us back on Kindle via this cryptic note:
We regret for the convenience caused.
Earlier we received e-mail from Mike to refresh the KPP portal and the same has been performed at our end (attached related e-mail for your perusal).
“WE REGRET for the convenience caused.” Not to be too much of an American chauvinist about it, but if Amazon is going to jerk me around I'd rather have a fellow citizen do the jerking.
O YEAH. I watched Netflix's “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer,” the story of the homicidal Satanist, Richard Ramirez, who terrorized LA in the summer of 1985 by murdering 13 people, kidnapping and molesting a half-dozen children who he didn't kill. But it was the San Francisco Police Department, specifically Inspector Falzon leading the sleuthing, that identified Ramirez for the LA cops who finally arrested him. There was only a brief mention of Ramirez's bewildered immigrant parents accompanying a family photo taken when the killer was a kid, the most poignant photo of all in the deluge of mayhem Ramirez was responsible for.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 17, 2021
JORGE IBARRA, Denver/Fort Bragg. Fugitive from justice.
REMO MCOSKER, Ukiah. Failure to appear. (Frequent flyer.)
DEREK MITCHELL, Eureka/Ukiah. DUI.
ANTHONY ROJAS, Ukiah. Leaded cane or similar, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
IT’S ALL OVER
by Jim Shields
As I’ve told you for the past several years, Donald Trump is no threat to the constitutional underpinnings of our Republic.
He’s merely a man — and not a very good man at that— who answered the cry of the past 100 years from many in the business world that “What this country needs is a businessman in the White House.”
Well, we’ve had a businessman in the White House for the past four years, how well has that worked out?
Two entirely different worlds are business and governing. The former transacts what it does privately and is accountable either to the owner of a company or a just handful of people on a board of directors. The latter transacts its business publicly (most of the time) and is answerable to an entire nation.
Trump never understood nor did he care how government worked or the supremacy of our Constitution and its institutional safeguards against anti-democratic threats, especially those that may originate from the Executive Branch, i.e., the President.
Those institutional protections are many in number but the primary ones would be Congress, the federal judicial system, the military, and most important of all, the people of this country who are a hell of lot of smarter and more resilient than our elites think they are. Trump has none of these institutions behind him and his agenda.
There are now over 20,000 National Guard troops assembled in the Capital, and they aren’t there to support a coup. They are one of those Constitutional institutions that will prevent any attempted anti-democratic takeover of our government.
The courts, comprised of a mix of liberal and conservative judges, who ruled in over 60 lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign to invalidate election returns and procedures, dismissed all 60-plus cases. That’s another Constitutional institution that upheld the primacy of the rule of law cannot be perverted by the individual, no matter who that person is.
Another example of a Constitutional institution that worked is the Congressional action this week, when the House of Representatives, including all Democrats and 10 Republicans, impeached Trump for the second time in a little over a year. While I believe and I think most folks would agree the Senate, for purely political reasons, will not convict Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection,” I think the vast majority of Americans agree the House’s charging resolution got it absolutely correct:
“In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government,” the resolution reads. “He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.”
Apparently Trump never took a high school civics course otherwise he would know there’s a bridge connecting the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence that explains a government’s legitimacy and moral right to use the political and governing power of the government is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people over which that political power is exercised. It’s called the “Consent of the Governed” clause found in the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Simply put, the government is the people, and the people are the government.
In a real sense, Trump actually believes that he and what he calls “our movement” are the real government. It’s a short step from there to de-legitimizing an election as a fraud, when you don’t win.
But the good news is the disgraceful spectacle of an aborted, half-assed insurrection carried out by misfits and traitors last week, with their assault on the People’s House, AKA the Capitol Building, proves that our Republic and its people are in no danger of being brought low by a rag-tag mob bent on overturning a presidential election and re-installing someone who is a loser in more than one sense of the word.
Now it’s time for that loser to go away, it’s all over and he’s finished forever, because the American people say he’s done. And that’s as done as you can be.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
A REPORTER’S FOOTAGE FROM INSIDE THE CAPITOL SIEGE
After Trump’s incendiary speech, Mogelson followed the President’s supporters as they forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, using his phone’s camera as a reporter’s notebook. What follows is a video that includes some of that raw footage.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Joe Biden isn’t the most popular president, Donald Trump is the most unpopular and people wanted him to be a one-termer.
Outside of the 40-45% of lifelong Democratic voters who would vote for a tree-stump if it were painted blue, a large number of others (Independents, Republicans) wanted to be rid of Donald Trump, and voted that way. I think it’s pretty clear that there were a lot of anti-Trump votes rather than enthusiastic pro-Biden ones.
The number of troops seems to keep growing rather rapidly, from 12,000 to 30,000 and counting. But whatever, it’s an extremely sad state of affairs for America – where a big slice of the national capital has to be cordoned off as if a war zone.
I don’t know how realistic and dangerous the threat from the crazier end of the pro-Trump crowd is, but they are not being indulged this time; not after 6 January … the state is in control this time.
Donald Trump made four fatal mistakes, in my view:
1. He downplayed the pandemic all year
2. He claimed a lost election was a rigged one
3. He discouraged supporters from using mail-in voting
4. He incited the storming of the US Capitol
You can argue whether all these things are “true”, but their truth doesn’t matter much – it is the perception in the popular mind and the mass media that matter most.
Anyway, in his dotage, sitting around one of his country clubs in a big leather chair, he can bore the pants off his guests about how he coulda been a contender …
On the issue of where are the adoring Biden crowds, I think that can be explained too. Firstly the Dems take the pandemic seriously – and much more like sensible governments and public figures do in most other countries, and secondly, I think the Dems are on the right track – America doesn’t have an appetite for another president with crazy adoring crowds and mass rallies.
Perhaps the people want a period of dull, methodical, and a steady ship … after the experience of the Trump years.
TAX THE MONEY
Many blame Donald Trump for the riots in Washington. The president, supported for years by party leaders, promoted lawlessness. The crowd was mostly white and policed less aggressively than peaceful marchers for racial justice. Many in the shrinking middle class, lacking hope, have become Trump’s base.
As the middle class shrinks, with people falling to the bottom, the wealthy, who are largely white, have enjoyed economic gains and lower taxes. Do CEOs of major companies really need multimillion-dollar salaries and bonuses to live well? Those at the bottom have little to lose by embracing conspiracy theories and supporting Trump.
Why not tax the wealthiest more, then invest that money in infrastructure projects that provide national jobs in renewable energy, bridges and road repair, enabling access to the middle class? Why not invest in nationwide broadband and rebuild public schools so quality education also reaches underserved communities? We need social justice and a way to defang Trump’s mob.
Let’s acknowledge white lawlessness and violence. Let’s consider white greed for wealth and power. Let’s look in the mirror and commit to a makeover. Our reflection bears little resemblance to the values and policies that once made America a great place for all.
WASHPO NEOLOGISM CONTEST, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.
The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, olive-flavored mouthwash
9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
The winners are:
Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these Really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL (CHP) Commissioner Amanda Ray today issued the following statement announcing the CHP would go on tactical alert ahead of the upcoming Presidential Inauguration:
“For many months, the CHP has worked closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the outcome of the election will be respected and that any protests which may occur are free from violence. The CHP maintains strong relationships with our security and intelligence partners around the country and is continually evaluating possible emerging threats to the state. As such, the CHP is prepared to respond to any potential threats which may arise statewide.
“The protection of California highways and state buildings, including the Capitol, are the primary responsibility and jurisdiction of the CHP.
“Due to the potential for civil unrest related to the 2021 Presidential Inauguration, I have placed uniformed CHP personnel on tactical alert for an indefinite period. This allows for the maximization of resources to protect public safety as well as state buildings and infrastructure. The CHP will continue to monitor the situation and plan our resources accordingly.
“For security and safety reasons, the CHP cannot comment further on specific matters involving the tactical alert, local preparedness plans, or personnel deployment.”
The mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security.
ON LINE COMMENT re CHP presser: “Hmm….This issued by Humboldt CHP? So…the reason for this press release is to tell us that they are basically doing their job? Or it means “Don’t try anything we are ready!”? Or… counter-intuitively… it is acting as a signal to far-right groups that “We are ready to engage you so bring it on”?! Not that we have many federal targets here in Humboldt- like what…the BLM?! National Forest?! We don’t even have an interstate highway but hey: we got a press release! So I guess we should all feel safer knowing that CHP is on the case!! At least their public relations department justified their existence and salary…”
HOW MUCH DID ‘THE CULTURE OF NARCISSISM’ GET RIGHT?
by Matt Taibbi
Forty years ago, Christopher Lasch described a soulless society headed toward a "war of all against all." Looking back at a book my readers chose for review.
“It is symptomatic of the underlying tenor of American life that vulgar terms for sexual intercourse also convey the sense of getting the better of someone, working him over, taking him in, imposing your will through guile, deception, or superior force.”— Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism
Back in 1979, social critic Christopher Lasch wasn’t buying the idea that Americans in the sex-drugs-and-disco era were actually having fun.
“This hedonism is a fraud,” he wrote. “The pursuit of pleasure disguises a struggle for power. Americans have not really become more sociable and cooperative… they have merely become more adept at exploiting the conventions of interpersonal relations for their own benefit.”
Lasch’s reasoning traced to the beginning of American society.
The Puritans embraced the idea of getting rich, but “saw personal aggrandizement as incidental to social labor” and “instructed men who prospered not to lord it over neighbors.” Puritans gave way to Yankees and their Protestant work ethic, which imagined prosperity as a reward for hard work, but also for “self-discipline, the training and cultivation of God-given talents, above all the cultivation of reason.”
A century later, the ideal of self-improvement gave way to what Lasch called a “cult of competitive industry,” as people like P.T. Barnum began to evangelize a more brutally self-interested version of the Ben Franklin Yankee ideal. The new idea was to strive for worldly success “without Franklin’s concern for the attainment of wisdom.” Instead of pursuing an abstract goal of discipline and self-denial, American society became more openly organized around competing and beating one another to the top.
In the twentieth century, mass media promoted a new religion of self-care that stressed turning one’s whole self into an engine of such competitive ascent. People gobbled up magazine articles about “the art of conversation,” fashion, and “culture,” as the “management of interpersonal relations came to be seen as the essence of self-advancement.” New stresses on “winning friends and influencing people” now replaced the old ideals of self-discipline and thrift, leading, as Lasch put it, to a stage of history where “the pursuit of wealth lost the few shreds of moral meaning that still clung to it.”
By the sixties and seventies, America became an intrinsically performative society, a vast population that didn’t particularly distinguish between public and private life, and for whom image was as important as inner reality. Even foreign policy was understood as an effort to manipulate how other nations perceived us. One of the creepier revelations of the Pentagon Papers was that we even waged war in places like Vietnam with an eye out for how our actions would be perceived by “relevant audiences,” e.g. the Communists, the South Vietnamese, America’s Western allies, and the American public.
As society at home became more organized around corporate climbing, our lives became an endless, round-the-clock effort to “excite admiration or envy,” where everything from “assertiveness therapy” to jogging to est helped the individual be better armed in the struggle for personal advancement.
This, apparently, is what Christopher Lasch saw when he looked at Americans grooving to Saturday Night Fever. These were not groups of people letting loose and having fun. They were profoundly lonely people grinding away the anxiety of life in a market-based society stripped of all its ameliorative restraints, where “pleasure becomes life’s only business” in a dystopian “war of all against all.” In such a society, a narcissistic orientation isn’t deviance or illness, but a crucial adaptive strategy, with the unfortunate side-effect mentioned above: a growing inability to see the words fuck and fuck over as having different meanings.
I started to spot reporters reading The Culture of Narcissism on the campaign trail in 2015. It was one of many books press folk began speed-reading at the beginning of the Donald Trump presidential run. Others included the historical analysis The Paranoid Style in American Politics (written by one of Lasch’s mentors, Richard Hofstadter) and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. Any tracts about narcissism or cults of personality were gobbled up as fodder for Trump analyses.
I didn’t read those and instead read up on corporate sales and businesses like pro wrestling, because Trump was speaking a language I didn’t understand that apparently came from places like that. Reading The Culture of Narcissism now, it’s clear it’s very much worth reading, but anyone who does so in search of a narrow explanation for Trump is crazy and sure to be disappointed.
This is a seething, complicated book that hurls razor blades in all directions, and seems almost to have been written with the specific intent of avoiding appropriation by political opportunists. In what feels like an amusingly familiar phenomenon, Lasch is often bitterly condemned by ideologues on both the right and the left, who seem determined to put him in more comprehensible boxes, even if he doesn’t really fit in any.
For instance, Lasch’s skepticism about America’s cultural advances often led critics to make the incorrect logical leap that he was praising what had been left behind. E.J. Dionne, writing in an introduction to a new edition in 2018, noted that original New York Times Book Review critic Frank Kermode “scathingly” wondered if Lasch by criticizing modern life was proposing to restore the “right to be poor, to be beaten in childhood, constrained by a savage penal system, compelled to suffer through an unhappy marriage, to be openly instead of covertly exploited, and to die young.”
This is a preposterous reading of a book whose descriptions of Yankee morality were as absent of enthusiasm as is possible without being insulting. At most, Lasch seemed to be saying it was better to have a few “shreds” of private spiritual ambition than to be completely consumed by image, appearance, and competition. For this, critics on the left denounced him as a hater of modernity and appear to have assumed, by the transitive property of whatever, that he was also an enemy of everything from feminism to education reform.
Critics on the right, while approving of some of Lasch’s defenses of family, honed in on the more urgent criticism of the book, its deep concern about competitive capitalism as the organizing principle of society. Here again, critics assumed that by leveling a complex, nuanced criticism of A, Lasch was stumping for simplistic solution B. In this case, they thought he was pushing the “ancient dream of the Left,” a big-government remake. Even the most superficial reading, however, makes it clear Lasch was no cookie-cutter leftist.
The Culture of Narcissism didn’t predict Trump exactly, but it did a pretty fair job of predicting the tensions of the Trump era. There’s a section at the start of The Culture of Narcissism that seems like it describes the two poles of modern American culture:
“Narcissism thus appears simply as the antithesis of that watery love of humanity (disinterested “love for the stranger”) advocated by [Erich] Fromm under the name of socialism.”
Lasch was interested in the problem of rising anxiety in a society that struggles to integrate the goals of personal fulfillment and meaningful social change. Post-sixties Americans lost the ability to view these goals as anything but contradictory, a state of mind that resulted in alternating cycles of despair and aggression. Trump, far from just representing the narcissism side of a see-saw that had socialist activism at the other end, seems in retrospect to be both a product of, and a reaction to, a slew of breakdowns in society that were visible even forty years ago.
Lasch is brutal in his autopsy of sixties radicalism, especially when it came to looking at the post-sixties vocations of the leading revolutionaries. He describes how Jerry Rubin, the “Yippie” partner of Abbie Hoffman, left radical politics at thirty and moved across the country sampling – “on an apparently inexhaustible income,” Lasch acidly notes – consciousness fads like bioenergetics, gestalt therapy, rolfing, hypnotism, and acupuncture. He lost weight, got in shape, and talked incessantly about how at 37, he looked more like 23. As far as his inner life went, he stopped chasing women by learning “to love myself enough so that I do not need another to make me happy.”
More than that, however, seventies Rubin learned to look back with disdain at the “puritan conditioning” that in his sixties radical days occasionally made him uneasy with the rewards of fame and money. His new smorgasbord of spiritual tools made him realize that “it’s O.K. to enjoy the rewards of life that money brings.”
Revolutionaries like Rubin were essentially learning to embrace selling out, a message that would become attractive to people who came of age in the “Me Generation.” Formerly scruffy, bearded anarchists were now shaving, grooming, and working their abs, because as Lasch noted, the “fear of growing up and aging haunts our society.”
Trump with his weird scalp-reduction and unnatural electric-rust-mustard hair (or whatever color it is now that isn’t gray) would later be symbolic of this, too. This is not to say he’s an age-advanced Jerry Rubin, but elements of his personality were clearly shaped by these trends that consumed people of his age in the seventies.
Meanwhile, another wing of society was reacting to sixties upheavals with a different pose. The earnest confessional novels that dominated the sixties were looked back upon with embarrassment ten years later. To some, it had become clear that the trajectory of the intellectual celebrity of the sixties was seemingly sincere critical self-reflection, followed by open commoditizing of self-absorption:
“Once having brought himself to public attention, the writer enjoys a ready-made market for true confessions. Thus Erica Jong, after winning an audience, by writing about sex with as little feeling as a man, immediately produced another novel about a young woman who becomes a literary celebrity.”
In reaction to this, the seventies produced irony by the truckful, not just in goofy hedonistic musical genres like disco, and in increasingly schlocky TV, but even among the minds that would have been serious social commentators a few decades previously. Lasch singled out satirists like Donald Barthelme and Woody Allen as being preoccupied with “[waiving] the right to be taken seriously, at the same time escaping the responsibilities that go with being taken seriously.”
Allen’s books and movies in particular were romps about the absurdities of intellectualism and analysis, with lines like, “What is it that bothers me about death so much? Probably the hours,” and, in Sleeper,“Political solutions don’t work.”
Reading this criticism from forty years ago, you can see the outlines of reactionary movements in both directions. The modern progressive left seems to have grown up feeling special hatred for the Allen types who stared into the void and made glib jokes rather than trying to do something about life’s injustices (it’s notable that a lot of the irony-merchants mentioned in Culture of Narcissism are now pariahs).
Of course, a big part of the humor of the Barthelmes and Allens came from the post-sixties conclusion that after all that upheaval, it turned out the only things that still mattered were, as Allen put it, “sex and death – two experiences that come once in a lifetime.” (Incidentally, to the extent that Lasch supports any point of view, the idea that love, family, wisdom, and humor are immutable keys to life seems to ring true with him).
However, world-weary humor today is seen as a stalking-horse for inaction, or worse, bigotry. Meanwhile, the Rubins of the world who left the joking behind to become earnest apostles of modern progressive life grew up to be the people at the center of another trend described in a Lasch book from 1994, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy. That book — which was significantly about the ex-concerned who became self-indulgent, stateless elitists in the End of History age — ripped the Clinton-era professional class as having “retained many of the vices of aristocracy without its virtues.” By previewing the disgusted reaction to such people, it predicted a lot of the themes of Trumpian “drain the swamp” rhetoric.
Lasch looked at the evaporation of noblesse oblige far more in the spirit of a book like Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges, than through the lens of someone like Trump. He was concerned with the growing economic distance between the wealthiest citizens and everyone else, and argued that globalization made the managerial class increasingly like tourists in their own countries. The decision of that key stratum of educated, upper-class, largely urban members of society to distance itself from responsibility to participate in the upkeep of society as a whole, while becoming expert at self-care, made it unable to see widespread problems of income inequality, collapsing cities, etc.
The people David Brooks would later call “Bobos in Paradise” (i.e. “Bourgeois Bohemians”) were, like Rubin, great cultural shoppers who were brilliantly attentive to their own images. Their idea of being socially responsible was having good taste, whether in politics or furniture. They succeeded because they were the most accomplished at fusing their political ideas and inner needs for fulfillment with the limitations of modern capitalism.
Trump built a movement around blaming these people for inattention to decaying Middle America. That he was himself an extreme caricature of someone raised in the Me Generation was immaterial. He scored points with the vast population of people left behind by this generation of aristocrats-turned-tourists, who now lived in wealth archipelagoes with little real connection to the rest of the country.
Trump preached two big ideas, both designed to strike a chord with the latter group. First, he promised a cliché reactionary return to the good old days of “Great” America, which either meant a return to privilege (the left conception) or a clearing from the “swamp” of plutocrats who’d sold out the nation to fluff their own little nests, replacing them with Patriots who’d restore a strong America (the Trumpian version).
I don’t think it’s necessary to litigate which description of “Make America Great Again” was more accurate, since to me it was always the less important of Trump’s promises. No one watching the pussy-grabbing braggart-hedonist Trump could imagine people accepting him as the leader of a “conservative” movement celebrating family and traditional values. What he really represented was a more honest recognition of what America was really all about, a less disguised cultural ideal.
Trump’s route to power was through the Republican Party, whose last presidential candidate had been Mitt Romney. Everything about Romney was fake. When he wore jeans to try to tone down his Wall Street vibe, they looked as natural as chaps or a hoop dress. His pitch was that Barack Obama was a statist who didn’t understand free enterprise and that he, Romney, would bring “jobs” back, especially for the little guy, the only problem being that Romney in fact was a private equity vampire whose expertise was in liquidating jobs, not creating them.
In retrospect, Romney might have won if he’d kicked off his campaign bragging to voters about how he became fabulously wealthy as a greed-sick finance pirate somehow paying a lower tax rate than teachers and cops. After all, he had the exact same job and morals as takeover artist Gordon Gekko, a fictional character many Americans to this day don’t understand was supposed to be a villain. Romney’s real message was Gekko’s: “Greed works.” Americans by 2012 hated upper management enough that they might have bought a speech like Gekko’s famous “survival of the unfittest” speech reaming the parasites at Teldar Paper.
Romney wimped out and instead hid behind platitudes like “the promise of America,” and “making trade work.” The phoniness paved the way for Trump, who had the stones to try the Gekko act for real. He was the human embodiment of “greed, in all of its forms… greed for life, for money, for love” (well, sex with porn stars) that by capturing “the essence of the evolutionary spirit” would save “that other malfunctioning corporation, called the U.S.A.”
Just by tossing out the pretense that politicians are beacons of rectitude and being undisguisedly himself, Trump won over Republican voters, crushing the old fake Republican message. Just like Gekko, he promised he would restructure America by draining the crooked deadweight. Most of all, however, he sold a proletarian version of the dream of unrestrained self-indulgence the city-dwelling Bobos in Paradise had already claimed for themselves, as Lasch described in Revolt of the Elites.
Trump voters wanted to give just as little of a fuck as the rich phonies in organized politics who long ago bailed on America as a national idea, shipping jobs overseas, sucking wealth upward, and allowing Wal-Mart and Amazon to decimate towns even as they wept for our national symbols. Romney was symbolic of this, a man with a perfect mannequin-like exterior whose Bain Capital liquidated companies like KB Toys and the jobs that went with them, then turned around on the campaign trail and saluted the Statue of Liberty, Neil Armstrong, and the “greatest military the world has ever seen,” as if he were some kind of patriot.
The Culture of Narcissism predicted that the various strains of permissible thought in modern America would eventually be fused under one demented, (literally) sadistic state. Combine a culture of unlimited consumption and an increasingly open cult of the self, and you get a future indistinguishable from the fantasies of the Marquis de Sade. Lasch wrote about how Sade’s ideal society, in which no one had the right to refuse to be the object of anyone else’s desire, was the apotheosis of “the capitalist principle that human beings are ultimately reducible to interchangeable objects.”
I don’t think it’s an accident that the dominant political trends on the left today denounce as corrupt, if not as actively exploitative, nearly all of our previous liberal traditions stressing a separate and protected inner life, from the nuclear family to religion to the Bill of Rights. The fashion is to view all human interaction as power contests where even in sex someone always wins and someone always loses. Openly now, no difference between fucking and fucking over.
This vision of equity as promised in woke ideology is a lot closer to Sade’s idea of a world “where everyone has the right to everyone else,” and people have a “universal obligation to enjoy and be enjoyed,” than it is to the far tamer-in-comparison Marxist concept of economic and political leveling. This Brave New World doesn’t just target private property, but privacy, and all bourgeois conceptions of it, as anathematic to progress, and needing to be wiped out. The current America that is divided into two permanently competing groups, with no other individual identities recognized as legitimate, is a symptom of the elimination of private, inner life as a political goal in itself.
The Culture of Narcissism doesn’t envision a brake on our journey toward that hell. The right can be expected to promote the ideology of unrestrained greed, in both financial and (as in the case of Trump and the ex-sixties sellouts) personal forms. The ostensible opposition to this on the progressive left will attack as corrupt even the most natural private traditions, be it parental rights or respecting elders. Both movements will end up being sublimated to something not much different and certainly not better than what we’re leaving behind, as Lasch puts it:
“Ostensibly egalitarian and antiauthoritarian, American capitalism has rejected priestly and monarchical hegemony only to replace with the hegemony of the business corporation… A new ruling class of administrators, bureaucrats, technicians, and experts…”
How and why do we give power over to those experts? By being impressed with their ability to handle extreme situations. This is why, Lasch writes, in a passage that is eerie in how correct it turned out to be, that “propaganda seeks to create in the public a chronic sense of crisis.” We’re whipped into a panic, then relieved by the apparent competence of this or that group to lead us out of it.
In fact, however, we’re just being led into a purer version of our sadistic “war of all against all,” in which human beings and their traditions are replaceable, but the corporate state remains. The latter grows stronger as we battle each other for envy, admiration, and things, in a utopia of mandatory competition and self-absorption.
Even truth is now settled in trial-by-combat fashion, by the competition for attention. Lasch in addition to everything else predicted a future in which being correct or incorrect, right or wrong, would become secondary to the ability to “command assent.” Truth becomes a numbers game: the person who can demand belief, either by force or by the creation of the most successful image, is right.
I devoured this book, but can see why so many critics couldn’t stand it. The Culture of Narcissism isn’t a friend to anyone’s movement. It’s just a description of where we are and where we’re going, and the news isn’t particularly great, though it’s expressed in a fascinating way. This might be why he’s out of style, to some. Food for thought isn’t worth much, in the performative state.
WHAT’S THE POINT, TWK?
To the Editor:
I read the article by TWK about personal choices in food and medical care. I dislike Kale too. But I think everyone has a right to eat what they want.
I guess he thinks his opinion is best…of course. If you’re not just like him, in your food or healthcare choices…you’re wrong.
And no farmers, ranchers, loggers, park rangers or nature lovers, or sportsmen, fishermen, live in them… they’re hills. It’s all drug people?? Like any neighborhoods in cities ..all the people are one type or group. I believe that’s called, stereotyping.
And it reminded me of a story in my younger years. A friend and I went to a certain bar on Friday nights to dance. We sat and said “all the same people are here, every Friday night.” Disappointed. Then we looked at each other and laughed. “And so are we.”
He is a Mendocino county resident. If he dislikes it, he dislikes himself. He lives here, so he must be the stereotype he describes. So someone tell me, what’s the point of his article?