Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rall to Arms

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)

"(W)e've seen since the economy melted down, that neither the Democrats nor Republicans nor any third party is poised to step in. In terms of passive resistance, the American left has been very peaceful since the early 70s, since the Kent State shootings and where has it gotten us? Millions of people marched against the war in Iraq. What did it do? The tanks rolled in just the same." - Ted Rall on Dylan Ratigan's program.

I'll admit that Ted Rall is a somewhat amusing cartoonist. He's not a laugh-out-loud funny cartoonist like The Far Side's Gary Larsen or raunchy funny like Sam Gross or dead-on insightful and hilarious like Dilbert's Scott Adams or Tom Tomorrow. But Rall is a political cartoonist who excels in revealing the absurdity and corruption in politics today with a weary irony and dry wit that borders on the dessicated.

Rall, of course, isn't a mere cartoonist. He also writes political screeds, many of them informative, on The Smirking Chimp and elsewhere.

Still, imagine my surprise when I went to Raw Story before dawn this morning and found out that Rall had advocated violent revolution at the invitation of, in the middle of the Keith Olbermann controversy, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan, the weak musketeer in the Four Horsemen of the Liberal Apocalypse consisting of Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell.

The Anti-American Manifesto is the name of Rall's newest book (even though it came out a month and a half ago) and it makes for an interesting counterpoint and perhaps even an extended postscriptum to George W. Bush's own book that was released yesterday, Decision Points.

The good thing about Rall's proposal is that 5th columns, whether liberal or conservative, have a miserable track record in American history. They may change history, like presidential assassins, or even alter the very face and role of government, such as 5th columnists Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But our government and the democracy that renews it every two years has never come close to being overthrown if you exclude the war of 1812 that set most of Washington, DC on fire and made President James Madison flee the Capitol.

But Rall, and Ratigan, seem to think it's time to recreate history 200 years later.

First things first: Shame on MSNBC's producers and Ratigan himself for playing up the violent overthrow of the government angle. Even a radical like Rall concedes that the violent overthrow of the government is a last ditch scenario. The only difference between Rall and the Tea Baggers, and right wing mouth-breathing bloggers such Red State's Moe Lane take note, is that Rall regards violent overthrow as a last resort whereas Tea Baggers tend to look at it as a first resort and reach for their ammo boxes when they don't get their way at the ballot box.

Secondly, this is what Publisher's Weekly had to say about Rall's book:
When it comes to what follows, Rall, like many revolutionaries, has less to say: "We must take the chance." His revolutionary rants and belief in a green, egalitarian world are compelling, yet a stubborn truth remains: most Americans don't want to revolt, a fact about which Rall seems oblivious, making his Manifesto inadvertently ridiculous. While the cartoonist is right about much of what is wrong with America today, it's hard to take this seriously. For once, the joke's on him.

Which is probably the most spot-on analysis of Rall's book. Indeed, even in the extremely unlikely event that the government and Wall Street and the entire corporate structure is overturned: What will we replace them with? Anarchists, by their very nature and by the very definition of the word anarchy, are pre-doomed to failure for the very reason that Man is an inherently political animal that not only needs but wants to be led by those who are fit to lead.

Rall is an idiot to think that a liberal movement that was cowed 40 years ago after a relatively minor exercise of federal power at Kent State, a nation that mustered a mere 40.3% voter turnout last week during a critical midterm election, will somehow be able to heave itself off its Laz-E-Boys and away from their Apple laptops and overthrow the very apparatus that has made the United States the titan it is in the world (albeit one that's on one knee).

But Rall's call for revolution is a clarion call that the current political and corporate model is plainly unsustainable. He points out the things that have poisoned our nation both ecologically and politically: The Wall Street hegemony; the BP oil spill; Chronic unemployment and the current administration's chronic inability to deal with it; political corruption at the highest echelons of government; the simultaneous subversion and silencing of the voice of the people.

The people have been forgotten and Lloyd Blankfein and other "captains of industry" proved in the fall of 2007 that one whisper from a lobbyist or CEO speaks louder than a million screams in the wilderness. You're damned right something has to be done, especially when the government has InfraGard (the real "invisible hand" of corporate industry), which means our "democratically-elected" government won't even have to get its hands dirty if and when the revolution happens.

Rall's book is nothing more than an extended blog rant that offers no realistic solutions or even realistic means for achieving those progressive ends. After all, the overthrow of the Roman Empire (not at the hands of fat, lazy, complacent Romans but the barbarians of the North, the precursors of today's ever-ravenous Wall Street tycoons) resulted in a centuries-long Dark Ages. The overthrow of the Romanovs resulted in 72 years of misery, death and poverty for the Russians. And the overthrow of a United States, while superficially attractive to some of us, would result in a power vacuum in the world that would just lead to the supremacy of the two most populous nations on earth that have already done more than their part to hollow out the United States like the opportunistic parasites they are.

There's also the inherent absurdity that a cartoonist, a guy who gets paid to draw pictures and amuse a few people, would be at the vanguard of a bloody, world-changing revolution, which automatically flies in the face of one of the most cherished hallmarks of liberal antiquity: Nonviolent change at all costs.

Still, when all is said and done and when used copies of Rall's book get put up for sale on for a penny and $3.99 shipping, after it's been relegated to the dustbin with 99.9% of the books that have ever been sold by brain-dead literary agents and published by equally brain-dead publishers, one has to admit that Rall's book, if nothing else, serves as an almost Cassandra-like warning that, according to Yeats, "the center cannot hold" and that we must change course either through consensus in the interests of mutual survival or revolution of one sort or another.


  1. Damn, I wish something could be done about the red background. It really makes the eyes smart.

    Fred Flintstone


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