Sunday, August 26, 2012


I suppose Frank Bruni may be on to something in his latest column -- he's writing about Compliance, a new indie film based on a series of horrifying incidents in which a telephone caller posing as a police officer would persuade workers at fast-food restaurants to strip-search, degrade, and sometimes sexually assault female employees. Bruni sees the film, and the incidents that inspired it, as evidence that we're all too willing to accept the word of authorities -- a problem he links to our politics.

Bruni finds this tendency on the right, of course -- but watch him struggle to try to make this a character flaw shared by liberals (emphasis added below):
People routinely buy into outlandish claims that calm particular anxieties, fill given needs or affirm preferred worldviews.... someone like Todd Akin, the antihero of last week's news, illustrates it to a T. The notion that a raped woman can miraculously foil and neutralize sperm is a good 10 times crazier than anything in "Compliance," but it dovetails beautifully with his obvious wish -- and the wishes of like-minded extremists -- for an abortion prohibition with no exceptions. So he embraces it.

People also routinely elect trust over skepticism because it's easier, more convenient. Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction; the climate isn't changing; Barack Obama's birth certificate is forged; Mitt Romney didn't pay taxes for 10 years. To varying degrees, all of these were or are articles of faith, unverifiable or eventually knocked down. People nonetheless accepted them because the alternative meant confronting outright mendacity from otherwise respected authorities, trading the calm of certainty for the disquiet of doubt, or potentially hunkering down to the hard work of muddling through the elusive truth of things. Better simply to be told what's what.
Excuse me -- who among liberals believes without a shadow of a doubt that Harry Reid is telling the truth regarding Mitt Romney's taxes? Who sees him as an authority one dare not question?

I've seen a lot of liberal condemnation of what Reid said; I've seen it argued that the story may be true but "no taxes" really means an embarrassingly small tax burden for a rich guy. Most of us on the left, I think, believe that it might be true or it might not be; that Reid really might have a source or might not; and that the source (if this person exists) might be in a position to know or might not be. What we believe is that this is politics played as if it ain't beanbag; it's successfully rattling Romney's cage, and we like that. It keeps the story in the news. It makes Romney look defensive and evasive. It reminds people of how easy it would be for him to clear all this up, and makes the point that his failure to do so means he appears to be hiding something that's really bad -- something that quite possibly has nothing to do with an income tax rate and everything to do with tax-avoidance strategies that, regrettably, are perfectly legal.

By contrast, do religious conservatives really unquestioningly believe that rape can't lead to pregnancy? A lot of them do -- and have believed this since the 1970s. Did the right (and most of the center and some of the left) believe that Saddam had WMDs in 2003? Absolutely -- and the right still believes this. Republicans absolutely believe climate change is a hoax. And they absolutely believe Obama was born abroad (or are "not sure").

There's no balance here. Both sides don't do it. Right-wingers believe crazier things than we do, and believe them unquestioningly.


Victor said...

Ok NY Times, back in the day, you took a great Theatre critic, and made him an Op-ed writer.
And, for the most part a great one - except the 2000 election, but look who he was paired-up with back then - MoDo, The Neurotic Fallen Nun of New York - so, I'll give him a slight pass for the horrendous damage he helped cause by making Al Gore the victim of stupid jokes and fabricated stories.

And now, you take a decent food critic, and make HIM an Op-ed writer too.

How would you feel if, when he was writing about food, he wrote something like this,
"The steak that I got at the diner at the bus station on my way home late last night, allegedly a t-bone - and I write that with a lower-case "t" because it 't'iny - only about 1/4 of an inch thick, and probably weighed a molecule over 1/4 of a pound, and would have served me better if I had a hole in my shoe which needed patching. To say it was tough, would be redundant. And an understatement. So, I didn't just say that, ok?
And it's simply amazing what places can do with powdered potato's nowadays - like make mashed potato's that you could use to fill cracked concrete with. And I never realized that broccoli, cooked long enough,
could still maintain it's physical appearance and structure, even when cooked to a color of gray even a battleship would call dull.

And how can anyone possible ruin something as simple as an apple pie?
I don't know, but if you really want to know, what pass for cooks at this restaurant are experts, so you might consider asking them what they do, and then do the opposite.

In summation, this meal was memorable only in the sense that it was one of the 2 or 3 worst meals I've ever eaten.

Of course, once at Cafe Boulud, the 'Ch√Ęteaubriand, With Sauce ala Escoffier, for 2,' prepared by the him HIMself, was a tad under-salinated, and I had to ask an embarassed waiter to bring a salt shaker out of their safe.

So, all things being equal, as a meal, the late dinner at the diner filled me up."

Would you let him compare a dinner at a bus stop diner to a meal prepared by a 4-star Chef, and say, "all things being equal?"
You'd fire his ass - and the editor who let him print it.

Well, that's how the press coverage is nowadays regarding issues vital to the country.

One party wants to prevent black people from voting, herd brown immigrants into trains and deport them, and either let women die, or force them to carry a child, no matter whether she was raped, or screwed by some relative, or will die in the process. It's also willing to let the country die rather than work with the other party to help make the country stronger.
And countless of their anti-sex, anti-gay politicians and religious leaders get caught ever year with live AND dead girls AND boys.

But, Liberals say "fuck" a lot, and did you know, do you remember, oh, surely you must - THAT BILL CLINTON GOT A BLOWJOB IN THE WHITE HOUSE!!!!

So, both sides do it.

Right Mr. Bruni?
What is he jealous that Douthat is the one beloved by David Brooks, and not him?

Send him back to the food beat, where he'll do a hell of a lot less harm!

Victor said...

Jayzoos H. Kreeerist with a dictionary, can we get "Edit," PLEASE?!?!?!?!?!?!

BH said...

I think the key factor of differentiation here, which Bruni misses for whatever reason, is "belief". That is, the average rightist is in general more susceptible to "belief", on little or no evidence, than is the average liberal. That's borne out by, if nothing else, the comparative degrees and types of religiosity of the two camps. Example: I imagine I'm fairly typical when I say that all that I actually "believe" about Reid's charges & Mitty's taxes is that (a) it's certainly plausible, but unproven, that Mitty has paid little or no income tax over the past 10 years, and (b) it's a highly effective hardball political tactic on Reid's part, given Mitty's continuing refusal to show the returns. Conversely, you won't have to search long to find a righty who in fact believes any number of outlandish, unproven assertions to be fact - about Obama, about you, about me, about the NY Times, you name it.

Peter Janovsky said...

Victor -- You may remember that before he was a food critic, Bruni was a political reporter for the Times, and providing fawning coverage for Bush in 2000, including writing on the day after the first debate that Bush held his own, and then admitting in a book two years later that he thought Bush was terrible.

His phony equivalence is not at all rescued by any "indie cred" because he say "Compliance."

Peter Janovsky said...

("saw" compliance.)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I happened on this blog. Great post. I was just complaining on Faceboook about Frank Bruni's stupid editorial "Truculence Before Truth," where he points out that Republicans have been flagrantly smearing their opponents with whatever lies they can come up with for decades, but Democrats have started acting "truculent" too, so it's a wash. I guess claiming Obama wants to kill old people with death panels IS pretty similar to speculating about what's in Mitt's tax returns.