Sunday, August 09, 2009

Weimar? No wei!

The protests and counter-protests and mildly violent mobs that are occuring at town halls around the company reminded me of Weimar Germany, and Mark Kleiman had the same thoughts. But a little thinking made me change my mind. What's going on now is nothing like the street brawls between factions of that time, because we live in a wholly different media environment.

You can bet that when Nazis went out to the beer hall after beating up some communists, they were bragging about how many heads they smashed. In our era, when union people and random conservative nudniks mixed it up briefly, each side was bragging about how much they had been victimized. One black conservative goes down for 2 seconds and its a national scandal, amplified to hysteria as only the perverse echo chamber of the right can.

In Weimar Germany the street was an actual locus for political contestation. How much power your side wound up with was directly related to how much muscle you could bring to a brawl. In our time, the locus is the media, and your success depends on whether you can get your YouTube clip picked up by the cable talking heads. Everything is
spectacle: "All that was once directly lived has become mere representation."

I have sometimes complained that Americans these days can't get off their fat asses and protest outrages that demand action. On the other hand, Weimar did not end well. Maybe we are all better off now that the struggle goes on in TV studios and Google's PageRank engine.

On the other hand someone is bound to be killed or seriously hurt at one of these things soon enough. The wingnut hysteria seems like it has to keep increasing, "doubling down on craziness" as some put it, and there are an awful lot of unstable individuals with access to guns out there. What happens then, I don't know.

1 comment:

TGGP said...

I have sometimes complained that Americans these days can't get off their fat asses and protest outrages that demand action. On the other hand, Weimar did not end well.
The other hand absolutely crushes the first. The less people care about politics, the better.

I agree with you on the competing-victims angle. Steve Sailer had an old post on John McCain vs Dwight Eisenhower titled, Heroes of accomplishment vs heroes of suffering.