The Ascendancy of Ignorance: Palin’s Rapture
I’m genuinely quite puzzled at the remarks in the Guardian today following the article Rewriting the rules, Sarah Palin-style: how to run for the White House (or not). The thread is dominated by posters despairing of the coverage the Guardian is giving to the Palin phenomenon. Apart from anything else – and before we get to the serious issues – this is news. As the article points out, everything she does defies conventional wisdom (possibly any kind of wisdom at all), and her antics on a stage as large and as globally powerful as the one she seeks to occupy deserve coverage by newspapers – because she is newsworthy (in a car-crash kinda way) and that’s what newspapers do. Surely this isn’t so hard to understand.
Apart from the antics, let’s also consider this matter in context. A poster called oncemanc makes the astute observations that “Palin would never have got as far as she has in a genuinely informative media landscape and with a properly informed and educated electorate…” and indeed, she is in her eccentricity akin to ‘Bedwetter’ Monckton, whose electoral fortunes are determined by the UK’s ability to know a dangerous buffoon when we see one (as opposed to a fake buffoon whose really rather smart and annoyingly likeable and currently mayor of London).
But it’s stacy1904 who (accidentally) hits the nail on the head – well, nearly anyway. She thinks “You hate this woman…”, thus reducing the debate to exactly the emotional level that Palin seeks to exploit. But in fact – and I speak for myself but I suspect there are others who share my view – the fact is that Palin terrifies me. Seriously.
This is why. Capitalism is experiencing some kind of catharsis the outcome of which is very unpredictable. The US in its flag-waving rah-rah glory is going down the toilet while its arch-enemy China (for that’s how I think Palin sees it) grows stronger every day. Relations with Muslim countries remains confrontational and divisive, echoing the intolerance and bigotry of, for example, the demonstrations against the faith centre proposed for the site of the 9/11 tragedy. Meanwhile, the climate is changing fast (irrespective of what’s causing it), we’re running out of energy, the population of the world is growing so fast we will not be able to sustain even a basic standard of living for the majority, and the world’s economy is so entwined, so interdependent, that the butterfly effect of chaos theory probably has more influence on economic stability than the institutions supposed to be running our banks and commerce.
Now, into such a unique, volatile and dangerous situation, put the control of the most powerful military on earth and 8000 nuclear weapons under the exclusive control of a woman who can’t remember which part of Korea is the good part. A woman whose black and white hat simplification of every issue does nothing to foster understanding and everything to encourage intolerance, division and bitterness. A woman whose precepts are governed by fear of the ‘other’, by reds still hiding under her bed like Japanese soldiers on pacific islands still fighting for their emperor, and whose experience – the very thing Obama was so lambasted for lacking when he ran – a woman whose experience is roughly equivalent to mine in terms of running a country i.e. none at all.
We are going to need very wise heads in the coming decades, else another major war will become ever more likely. The last thing we need is an empty-headed demagogue running the (soon to be) second most powerful country on earth, and whose political instincts will constantly veer toward placating the angry right-wing supporters who have no answers but always seek someone to blame. For someone as vacuous as Palin and her tea-party chimps, China fits the bill perfectly.
These are interesting times. We need to be constantly reminded not only how dangerous Palin is, but how close a call it will be whether she self-destructs, or actually gets into the White House. If she does, we may all be kissing our arses goodbye.
However, there is one ray of hope, and for this we need to remember the latter half of the 1990s. Through my close professional association with commercial IT I was constantly surprised at the irresponsible behaviour of the business community. As the investors tried to figure out how to make money from the rapidly growing phenomenon of the internet and e-commerce – a paradigm that showed clear potential but had yet to deliver any return on investments – an astonishing euphoria gripped most of the people I was working with – Venture Capitalists, dot-coms and the like – and we have a rather foolish academic to thank for the rationale that so many believed. I’m talking about Francis Fukuyama and his ‘End of History’. Boy did he, and most everyone else, get that wrong.
I mention this because the Guardian article describes in detail the way Palin and her followers have completely ignored the ‘conventional wisdoms’ of campaigning, of running for office, of garnering constructive media coverage and so on. In every respect, she is ignoring all advice from those she thinks are an establishment out of touch with the common people, in the same way she did when she was running mate to John McCain. Palin believes in another ‘end of history’ and she will likely come a cropper, just like the markets did when reality re-asserted itself in 2000 and the dot-com bubble burst. The establishment is not simply where all the real power and money is, it is also the aggregate knowledge, wisdom and experience of commerce and politics, some aspects of which haven’t changed since senators debated across the Forum in ancient Rome. Perhaps Palin’s chances would improve if she remembered Santayana’s aphorism and learned from history.
Frankly, I really hope she doesn’t, since that seems to be the best bet for some kind of sense to prevail in the US political system. I’d like to see Obama get another term, but only if he was supported by a congress and senate rather less venal, treacherous and corrupt, since their behaviour has largely sunk every good intention he took into the White House. But right now, I’m not sure that’s too likely one way or another, so to the US voters I say this: I don’t care who you vote for, so long as it isn’t Palin. Never trust politicians who offer you exactly what you want: they are the least likely to deliver.