Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity

[ Vanity, vanity … etc.: Ecclesiastes 1:2]

© Hart Williams

Hannity, Hannity, fatter than a Manatee…
       ~ John Cleese, from a poem by

Yes, Virginia, this IS a fisking, but a needed and almost never seen in my writings, fisking of a Lonesome Rhodes sort of display in the mass media that ought to shock us, both as an absurdist but dangerous defense of the Madness of Donald Trump, and as a flagrant example of the deterioration — even rotting — of academic standards once held in highest regard by an educated society that considered education the KEY to rising in that society. Just ask Abraham Lincoln, who is peripherally involved in all of this, as we shall see.

I have just had a sort of epiphany of sophistry. This is not hyperbolic, nor is what I have to say controversial, save that it might offend some of those from whom the epiphanic state was engendered. Now, bearing in mind that this sophistry — the tree that produces no fruit whatsoever — is only explainable by laying it out in reverse, I will, withholding certain information until the denouement, begin thusly:

a University of **** law professor and the author of ***

There is first clue. Here is the second, the CONCLUSION of my epiphany:

What’s happening in America is an echo of what’s happening in democracies around the world, and it’s not happening because of Trump. Trump is the symptom of a ruling class that many of the ruled no longer see as serving their interest, and the anti-Trump response is mostly the angry backlash of that class as it sees its position, its perquisites and — perhaps especially — its self-importance threatened.

Because Trump is LIKE all other 44 U.S. Presidents and his raw amateurism is the way that countries are NORMALLY run?

Seriously, this is all but deranged. It flies in the face of observed facts, AND attempts to distract from a constitutional crisis by claiming a false class war. Or, more precisely, pretending that a fictional (and fictionalized) class is responsible for our “class war” of extreme wealth inequality and social immobility.

In the arena of false equivalencies, this is an Olympian performance, worthy of the highest medal and a strutting stance on the highest tier of the podium,  even above the Trumpian … well, pick one. Pick any one. After all, beyond a certain point, outrageous untruths and awkward (if enormous) falsehoods become the same sad and sordid tapioca of malaise as every other ordure-filled bite.

What has LED to this astonishing attempt at Trumpian Apology (in the sense of an apologia, as in a defense, as in Socrates’ Apology, as in extremely unsuccessful and ultimately fatal, save that Socrates told the truth and was condemned to death for it, whilst Trump lies like a backwoods Alabama hound dog, twitching in the shade on a hot, humid August day) was this reasoning:

Suddenly, to a lot of voters, those postwar institutional arrangements stopped looking so good. But, of course, the beneficiaries showed no sign of giving them up. This has led to a lot of political discord, and a lot of culture war, since in America class warfare is usually disguised as cultural warfare. But underneath the surface, talk is a battle between the New Class and what used to be the middle class.

But WHO can these horrible people be? Never fear:

But after the turn of the millennium, other Americans, much like the workers and peasants in the old Soviet Union, started to notice that while the New Class was doing quite well (America’s richest counties now surround Washington, D.C.), things weren’t going so well for them. And what made it more upsetting was that — while the Soviet Union’s apparatchiks at least pretended to like the workers and peasants — members of America’s ruling class seemed to view ordinary Americans with something like contempt, using terms such as “bitter clingers,” “deplorables” and flyover people.

So it’s professional and bureaucratic DEMOCRATS who are in control of all the wealth in our Plutocracy? This is kind of like a bad Ira Levin novel. Minus the craft, acuity of language, ability to plot and logical plot exposition, of course. Just the lurid cover, actually.

In the parlance of Jeff Spicoli: Dude, what kind of harsh reefer hit your bong?

Twenty three skiddoo, as the youngsters say. Groovy.

But where did this madness arise from? Whence these New Class (I don’t know how to make it plural, but if you do, it goes right here — Thx.)?

Gladja asked:

The postwar era saw the creation of international institutions ranging from NATO to the United Nations to the World Bank, along with a proliferation of think tanks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to accompany them. It saw the vast expansion of higher education in the United States, and the transformation of academic degrees into something close to must-haves for the upper-middle class. It saw a great expansion of power on the part of media organizations, and on the part of government bureaucrats and lobbyists, both of whose numbers increased enormously.

Businesspeople having deal with Devil

OK. Something to do with commies, I think. Or Bigfoot. All these highfalutin’ professorial exegeses (and a LAW professor, to boot) make my poor unworthy brain want get the cerebral equivalent of a pedicure. OK.

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected [sic] professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

The logical fallacy here is happily entitled by some as the Glittering Generality. A HUGE presumption has been stipulated and thence forms the factual basis for the further argument. It is a monstrous conclusion on the order of “All Black Persons love tap-dancing, and eating watermelon, fried chicken, and collared greens.”

And it’s also creating a class of scapegoats. Much as was done with “Bolsheviks,” “intellectuals” and “Jews”/”bankers” in 1930s Germany–which eventually became a Despised Class of Jewish Intellectual Bolshevik Bankers, all the more hated for having never existed!

Seriously, this is historical and logical nonsense. Sheerest codswallop of the highest odor of ordure. It is so strained as an analogy that it threatens to sunder by the sheer weight of its mendacity. I cannot tell whether the professor is conning us, however, or himself. Let’s see what he begins this outlandish and surreal exercise in historical analogy with:

Much of the current tension in America and in many other democracies is in fact a product of a class struggle. It’s not the kind of class struggle that Karl Marx wrote about, with workers and peasants facing off against rapacious capitalists, but it is a case of today’s ruling class facing disaffection from its working class. [Emphasis added.]

But, really, if you’ve studied any Marxism, this is just old American Right Wing cant about them evil Commies (totally different than Marxism), and their collectivism and failure to live up to Marxist ideals, et cetera, et cetera. If you were born in the Sixties or earlier, you often heard these long, seemingly “educated” discourses on the failure of Communism as an “ism” and the Soviets as a “communist paradise” of “collectivism” etc.

In the old Soviet Union, the Marxists assured us that once true communism was established under a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the state would wither away and everyone would be free. In fact, however, the dictatorship of the proletariat turned into a dictatorship of the party hacks, who had no interest whatsoever in seeing their positions or power wither.

This is known as a straw man argument. You state (in the manner that best suits your refutation) the proposition you wish to refute and then, voila! you–like The Incredible Hulk®– SMASH!

It’s not a fair argument, or even a scholarly argument, but considering the distance the author has to travel from this old Bircher hash to defending Trump as just an EXAMPLE of this “New Class” of Rich Commissars living in the Washington D.C. suburbs, and not, say, the Kochs, and the DeVoses and the Adelsons, and the Mercers, the Friesses, the Singers, the Soroses, the Kennedys, teh Fords, the Rockefellers, the Bransons, the Bezoses, the Buffetts and the Gateses, et al, et cetera, ad very finitum, well, that’s a LONG HAUL up the Sisyphean Pinnacle of Sophistry that this tale clings to.

Evidently, the “Technocrat/Bureaucrat” class is not only RESPONSIBLE for our current state of oligarchic torpor and legal anarchy, but completely overwhelms and overshadows our-needing-shelter-and-tax-breaks plutocrats. OK, OK, kleptocrats*, but actually controls the lives of all the OTHER downtrodden common workers, millionaires, ‘blue collar billionaires’ and and tenured law professors. Oh, my stars and garters! 

[* klep·toc·ra·cy
(klĕp-tŏk′rə-sē) n. pl. klep·toc·ra·cies A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption.
[Greek kleptein, to steal + -cracy.]

klep′to·crat′ (-tə-krăt′) n.
klep′to·crat′ic adj.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition, 2016.  emphasis added]

But wait! A Hero arrives to SMASH communism! Huzzah!

Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas called these party hacks the “New Class,” noting that instead of workers and peasants against capitalists, it was now a case of workers and peasants being ruled by a managerial new class of technocrats … Djilas’ work was explosive — he was jailed — because it made clear that the workers and peasants had simply replaced one class of exploiters with another. It set the stage for the Soviet Union’s implosion, and for the discrediting of communism among everyone with any sense.

And we are left with the CLEAR impression that the Soviet Union imploded because everybody realized that a jailed Yugoslavian dissident made a fateful observation? All right, then. As the Queen of the May (which I undoubtedly am), I grant you pi wishes, with the irrational fractional portion being the first wish.

Pie Chart

And how can one begin such a train-wreck of straw men, false history, specious argumentation, false equivalency and absurd exoneration of Trump as LIKE ALL OTHER WESTERN LEADERS?!?? (In chess, ?!?? has a specific meaning.)

I am sorry. But from my position as having been born in the Fifties, this is an academic embarrassment to any University that receives tuition funds at all, let alone being a Land Grant University. It seems rather disrespectful to Abraham Lincoln (who signed the first legislation) that this monstrous argument should indirectly devolve from his work, but there we have it.

A “new class” of commissars are now oppressing the good pipples (to honor and pay homage to Zorro, the Gay Blade) pretty much as the apparatchiks of the evil old Stalinist Soviet Union used to (you know, imprisoning Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn and the rest) and they are (by implication) Democratic bureaucrats, which is why Donald Trump isn’t the problem. It’s the pipples‘ FREEDOM that’s on the line.

A better entertainment experience
than the essay we’re discussing. Rent it.

Meantime, any law student who wants to challenge the Professor’s scoring of any argument can present this essay as an assay of the abstruse and absurd.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and the author of “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

And the title?

Donald Trump is a symptom of a new kind of class warfare raging at home and abroad
USA TODAY Published 6:00 a.m. ET Jan. 15, 2019 | Updated 8:52 a.m. ET Jan. 15, 2019

Dear Ghod, what has happened to the intellectual life of this nation? Even our sophistry is lame, which was my epiphany after reading this monstrosity of an “appeal to reason” column.

And where is Jesus in all of this? Inquiring minds want to know.

Courage.

Postscript LATE NOTE: Please don’t give away the newspaper and the author’s name. It’s kind of a spoiler. The point is to only know who they are AT THE END.

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