It’s a style issue.
A political style issue.
This was the ultimate message of a recent Vanity Fair article titled the Birth of Birtherism. How quaint but how late in the day and how inept this message is for describing the ability of the Birther movement to continue to exist and flourish.
Actually I agree on a superficial level of sociology but I also find that the Vanity Fair article failed to go the distance in describing how and why this issue of political style as they describe it, is bound up with culture and narrative. By failing to recognize the issue as a literary one, the authors and those of their ilk who define it only as a political style issue fail to grasp the whys behind the longevity of the movement.
Narratives are like the life’s blood of any movement. Stories are told and retold down thru the years and flesh out meaning and history for those who imbibe them. Take for instance the story of the Melungeon (meh-LUN’-jun) from the Applicians who are mixed race with African ancestry but developed the story over the centuries that they were Portueguse to hide the fact. One ancestor of this group was so convinced of his Portugeuse ancestry that he had his DNA tested three times before he accepted that the family narrative was false.
Birtherism also trafficks in narratives and in the idea of naturalism as a right given by a divine creator that for the purposes of this article in keeping with my own views is more deist, than Christian. Do I digress or not in saying so? If you didn’t ask yourself that question you should. Now I have digressed.
If you need a reminder of just how close these ideas actually are to the mainstream, have a look at this article from Bloomberg media about a related but not at first glance topic: The UN Law of the Sea Treaty. To quote from the article:
Secretary of State Hillary Clintontook on conservative forces that twice have blocked ratification of the United Nations Law of the Sea treaty, calling it crucial to U.S. economic and strategic interests in the Pacific and elsewhere.
The top American diplomat said some of the arguments against the treaty “cannot even be taken with a straight face.” These, she said, include claims that the U.S. would have to pay a “UN tax,” that it would give the UN power over the U.S. Navy and that it would erode U.S. sovereignty.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey testify at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Law of the Sea, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 23, 2012.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey testify at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Law of the Sea, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 23, 2012. Photographer: Cliff Owen/AP Photo
“Honestly, I don’t know where these people make these things up,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. She chided critics who object to the U.S. joining any UN treaty saying, “Of course, that means the black helicopters are on their way,” a reference to conspiracy theories about a world government.
Republican critics of the treaty bristled. “I hope you weren’t scoffing at us,” Idaho Senator Jim Risch told Clinton.“There’s some good stuff in here, but if we give up one scintilla of sovereignty that this country has fought for, bled for, have given up our treasure and the best that America has, I can’t vote for it,” Risch said.
The Law of the Sea treaty sets out rules for the commercial use and environmental management of the world’s marine resources and sets boundaries for different countries laying claim to assets under the sea floor, including oil, gas and the rare earth minerals used to make mobile phones and flat-screen TVs.
After Clinton said opposition to the treaty was “based in ideology and mythology, not in facts, evidence, or the consequences of our continuing failure to accede to the treaty,” Senator Mike Lee objected.
“My concerns are rooted in something more than mythology, rooted in something more than an editorial page,” the Utah Republican said.
DeMint cited articles and subsections of the treaty as they questioned the impact it would have on U.S. sovereignty and on control of the Navy.
Clinton dismissed those questions by saying, “None of us would be sitting here if there were even a chance that you could make the most absurd argument that could possibly lead to that conclusion.”
The above sentance structure leaves alot to be desired and I would have hoped for a better retort from the Secretary of State. But I think Hillary has her own reasons for getting tongue tied as she learned a few things the hard way in her former presidential run.
Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, questioned the requirement that the U.S. pay royalties to the International Seabed Authority, which allocates mining concessions in areas of the seabed beyond any nation’s control.
At that point, Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate panel, jumped in to say that U.S. business supports ratification because it cannot establish claims to seabed mines beyond the 200-mile territorial limit if the U.S. isn’t part of the convention. No bilateral treaty can cover these areas of the seabed, Kerry said.
“You’re here protecting companies from paying a royalty that they want to pay,” Kerry told Inhofe. “They’d rather have 93 percent of something” than get nothing.
Joining the 160 countries that already are party to the 30-year-old treaty would give the U.S. a seat at the table as decisions are made about how the Law of the Sea is interpreted, Panetta said. It would secure global access for military and commercial ships, aircraft and undersea fiber-optic cables.
Panetta dismissed claims that the treaty would limit the ability of U.S. spy agencies to collect intelligence, saying“nothing could be further from the truth.”
This is not nothing that is going on and both narratives may in fact have a relation via natural law theory ,which I want to point out is a defunct body of law in the USA. However defunct natural law may be, does not and has not changed the way culture interpreted and has continued to intrepret natural law narratives that are embedded in almost every corner of the culture from floor to ceiling. It’s not just or only a matter of political narratives it is a literary issue and in my opinion when people forget this fact, they blame the media rather than confront their own biases. The narratives stir things up because they are embedded in how we define ourselves, our families, our State(s) and our country. Note I didn’t say Nation or Nation State and that I capitalized State(s). (If you already know why I give you two thumbs up!)
As for the Bloomberg article, I harbor suspicions involving the Bush era creation of military tribunals and the application of the UCMJ, that shut out the democratic base while perverting the meaning of liberalism, as to why some of the senators are attempting to stand against the treaty and I while I for one find Secretary Clintons comments offensive, she has my support and sympathy in dealing with obstructionists who would do well to keep a low profile in my opinion and their tongues guarded. A blue dog is the best dog where social change is concerned and these narratives have a disturbing tendency that inclines them towards polarization and I for one question the Secretary’s understanding of the issue if she feels she needs to resort to name calling rather than remembering just what party she is a member of. The Secretary for what it is worth started out as a Republican before good ole Bill came along and I think she is out of her depth if she can’t remember where her husband comes from if not herself.
Now back to the media’s role in this insanity. We go to the media for clear cut answers on the issues of the day. We don’t always get them, but we hope for the best, which is why print media is still registering a heart beat despite the onslaught of the web. The cultural issue in this narrative traffic jam is ultimately a issue with Literary Romanticism. Given how perverted the meaning of liberalism has become over the past ten years, coupled with the tea party ascent on the right, I see little use in casting blame on any party in particular. For me, Literary Romanticism is part of the problem and the solution and my own view on this is not without it’s flaws. To start with, it’s rather like homeopathic prescriptions for what ails you: impotent placebo with a dash of knowledge thrown in for good measure. Rather than ignore this fact, journalists would do well in my opinion to explore the genre and reacquaint themselves with it’s esoteric aspects. And there are plenty to choose from.
As long as civiliation refuses to deal with fringe movements in a literary fashion and find the courage to shape culture with every breath, with every verbal exchange, with every written word, there will be people bitching about the media as the source of the problem till the cows come home. Already there are articles decrying the blurred lines between foreign and domestic audiences as if this somehow explains something relevant beyond Balkanization of the masses. What people are really trying to say is that they no longer understand where the American narrative is coming from and that they feel their culture is built on shifting sands, so they cry out in despair and frustration. Journalism should be a remedy if properly employed and written from the start. It is possible to find good journalism and to be informed. No matter what people say you have only to use your brain and think about what you read. The same should apply to Birtherism. It’s a narrative that feeds on and is feeding a cultural group that believes in a nation state. Not a nation. Not a State. Nor a country. All this makes me think I should have gone into sociology but then I would not have a job after graduation.