Friday, December 16, 2022


I think Amanda Marcotte gets a lot wrong in this column, but she's on to something about right-wing heroes' lack of coolness.

Marcotte's insight is that right-wingers are fine with heroes who aren't cool because they aren't cool, at least by the standards of people who decides what's cool (whom they hate):
... what is too often overlooked in these discussions is how much [the right-wing] empire of trolling relies on the right's inferiority complex. At the root of the trolling mindset is defensiveness. Conservatives perceive, not always incorrectly, that liberals are laughing at them for being a bunch of tasteless rubes with boring sex lives and expanding beer guts. This perception does not motivate a desire toward self-improvement, but instead a longing for revenge, mostly in the form of imposing their grossness on the supposedly more refined existence of those they despise.

This inferiority complex is why the term "elite" has become common currency on Fox News. They don't use it accurately — say, to describe those who hold excessive wealth and power, but as a swipe at the perceived progressive values of college-educate cultural tastemakers in coastal cities.
This is mostly correct, although I don't believe that most right-wingers think they need self-improvement. They think they're fine the way they are, and that it's the standards of cool that are sick and decadent. Right-wingers were using the term "metrosexual," derisively, long after sophisticates had dropped the term. The right has contempt for gender-bending and multiculturalism and food made from soy. If it's perceived as hip, they hate it -- give them a Budweiser and some meat-and-potatoes blues-rock and they're happy, and they don't understand why anyone would disagree.

(The exception to all this is the incel community, which is built on self-hate. But the hate is then directed outward, toward those who have the societally preferred faces and body types.)

Marcotte is right when she says that right-wingers are fine with Elon Musk's lack of cool.
Childish as it may be, Musk and his fanboys are still agitated about their perceived rejection by the Cool Kids.

... it's a mistake to conclude that Musk's fans simply fail to understand how uncool the Tesla CEO has revealed himself to be. He's created a cult of dork solidarity around him, one committed to a "Revenge of the Nerds"-style fantasy of ruining Twitter for all those blue-checked people who make them feel bad about themselves.
That's correct -- and at a moment when Musk is banning journalists from Twitter, we need to recall that right-wing propagada has always put bylined mainstream reporters (or at least the ones who criticze Republicans) in the "elitist" category, even as (right-wing) billionaires are exempted. (Billionaires are "job creators" and heroes of capitalist innovation.)

Which brings us to Trump. I think Marcotte's take on his embarrassing NFT stunt is all wrong:
But here's the part we cannot ignore: Trump is going to sell a lot of those dopey digital trading cards. As viral marketing campaigns go, this one was a solid win. Not only did all that liberal dunking garner news coverage and dramatic social media spread, but he also conveyed an important message to his supporters: Those liberal elites are laughing at you. And the way to strike back, proving that you're in on the joke and making the liberals cry, is to buy this worthless crap and send Donald Trump more of your money.
No, not this time, because Trump isn't making us cry, and right-wingers know that. What thrills them is when one of their heroes gets away with something that makes us sputter with helpless outrage. Trump did it repeatedly for years. Elon Musk has been doing it at Twitter. But once we're no longer outraged at a conservative hero and all we're doing is laughing, even right-wingers take notice. That's what happened to Sarah Palin. It's happening to Trump now. (For obvious reasons, this generally happens when the hero is out of power.)

But the formula -- conservative dweeb-hero horrifies the swells -- generally works. It's why Ted Cruz was the last candidate standing against Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries. (I'm conviced that if Trump hasn't gotten into the race, Cruz would have won the nomination.) It's why Ben Shapiro is one of the right's favorite commentators. Even Rush Limbaugh was a sad dweeb getting his revenge.

Which makes me wonder why Marcotte never brings up Ron DeSantis. Many people think he's too uncharismatic and unlikable to win the Republican nomination, much less the election. But he's another right-wing dweeb who makes the liberal swells howl. He's nerdy, but he's powerful. We feel outrage at every new DeSantis stunt. If that ever changes -- if his punches stop landing and we start laughing at him -- he'll be a spent force, like Trump ad Palin now, or like Chris Christie after Bridgegate. But until then, DeSantis is a dangerous dweeb.


UPDATE: On the subject of those Trump NFTs, maybe I was wrong and Marcotte was right....

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