Column: Tolerating the Intolerable: 101

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Mr. Carpenter holds a Ph.D. in American History and is a syndicated columnist.

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The commentariat, membership in which I take dubious pride, is too commonly fond of unleashing a removed, oh-so urbane attitude about skies falling all around us. We have seen this before; things have been worse; the clouds have been darker and weightier ere now; the wise remain calm -- just like us pros.

Ours is an insouciance that impresses, I suppose. But, for those who don't already know this -- and the knowers tend to be the rightly outraged over climatic conditions -- it is also a deliberate gambit: a pompous display of unmatched worldliness intended to awe the great unwashed with our keenness of insight and to confirm our advertised status as power-structure insiders. We've been around, we hobnob with the powers that come and go, and we're in the know. You haven't, you don't, and you aren't. In short, our insouciance contains, to use the colloquial, some sizable b.s.

Sometimes the calculus of a darkening society is simple and obvious enough to even a wet-nosed prepubescent, and that society's exponential decline is equally stark. Sometimes the proverbial sky is indeed falling, yet tuned-in intuitive knowledge gets smothered by the rationalizing and cosmopolitan commentariat. Rather than enlightening, the latter becomes part of the problem -- an active, problematic player -- because it has become a self-satisfied part of the degenerating system.

Take, for example, a few items of interest from the past week. You want exponentiation in your societal decline? One week and you have it in spades. We -- the commentariat -- now tolerate the intolerable at lightening speed. Each of these stories will be dead copy by the time this is printed, just 4 days away; yet each, just 4 years ago, would have been the subject of endless journalistic agonizing.

One. No one who has read so much as the Thrifty Nickel could be, any longer, in the dark about the Bush administration's exceedingly shady relationship with the Saudi Arabian autocracy. Recent exposes leave a reader slackjawed. No longer is there any question that the ever-so-diplomatic and subtle regime has funded, one way or another, more anti-American terrorists than Saddam's regime ever contemplated.

Bill J. got impeached for full-Montying the bimbo-babes Paula and Monica. And today? George W. gets a pass for being in some serious bed with terrorist financiers -- after -- after, mind you -- 9/11.

Two. It was learned that the media gargoyle and federally contracted MCI has been routing government calls through foreign territory to evade domestic tariffs.

Bill J. had only to look at a Chinese and ask for a few bucks and our national security was blown all to hell. The story lasted years. Today? George W. has a friendly corporate hustler zapping sensitive State Department communications through potentially hostile lands, but all is well since his General Services Administration says the matter is under review.

Three. The Pentagon -- right under the putative adults' noses and courtesy Iran-Contra schemer Admiral John Poindexter -- had been hatching a Doomsday Futures Market and Casino. What can one say.

Had Bill J. hired a once-convicted felon with a decided penchant for Strangelovian angles that even Peter Sellers could not have deadpanned, the commentariat would have stormed the White House after first asking General Jack D. Ripper to lead the charge. It would have declared the end of a civilized presidency as an institution. What hit did George W. take? Not even a slap. These days, the commentariat understands that boys will be boys. Nothing to fret about. Only the silly minded, unsophisticated and inexperienced would get worked up.

We, the collective beacons of print and electronic imagery, are the ones permitting the death of outrage. We're invulnerable to the outrageous. We're just too damned suave -- and part of the whole stinking charade.

© Copyright 2003 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and

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More Comments:

Wesley Smart - 8/6/2003

I should amend my comments to make them more accurate. MCI is threatened with a loss of future contracts, not a cancellation of exising contracts. Still, should MCI lose the future contracts at a moment when it is reemerging from bankruptcy, it would spell serious disaster for the company. My critique of Carpenter stands.

Wesley Smart - 8/6/2003

If you can make it through the verbiocity that is this piece, you find a few gems of silliness at the end. The MCI part, for one, is missing quite a bit of the puzzle...the GSA didn't just slap MCI on the wrist, it actually suspended the contract for the duration, in an industry where the federal contract is the principal way in which the company makes money. This is a serious blow to MCI, not some pass for a large corporation. These are very serious allegations and being taken very seriously by people who don't announce what they are doing in the newspaper (read: NSA and DOJ). But Carpenter doesn't know that world and so is not qualified to comment meaningfully on it or draw any real conclusions.

Then there's this gem:
These days, the commentariat understands that boys will be boys. Nothing to fret about. Only the silly minded, unsophisticated and inexperienced would get worked up."

Aren't all of Carpenter's columns precisely vapid exhortations that something is wrong and needs to be corrected? It would seem that Carpenter is effectively calling himself "silly minded, unsophisticated and inexperienced." Which is precisely what he is.

George Oilwell - 8/5/2003

"Regarding AWOL deserter-extremists, I don't suppose you mean Bill Clinton do you?"

No. Clinton didn't desert the military. I meant the unelected fraud in the WH who deserted during a time of war, was grounded because he refused to take the required medical exam which would have shown cocaine (and who knows what else) in his system, and who got a 15 year old girl pregnant (she was only 15, Elia - that would only bother YOU if it was Clinton who had committed statutory rape, right?) and then paid for her Republican abortion.

Care to defend our dear Glorious Leader? Talk to your choir, not me.

Bill Shannon - 8/5/2003

Seems this could fit Bush as well as Clinton...indeed moreso.
The record is clear that Bush went AWOL and his policies, more precisely the policies of his neoconservative handlers, are the epitome of extreme and I'd dare say anti-Americanism.

Elia Markell - 8/5/2003

Miss the point? What point? That no one shares Mr. Carpenters peculiar sense of what an outrage is? That no one is ready to man the barricades in defense of Goddess of Reason?

I never shared other conservatives' disdain for the public when it failed to express "outrage" over Bill Clinton. As pathetic and felonous as he was, I saw then and do now see even more the value in their unwillingness to shake the republic to its foundations over him. They will give George W exactly the same slack (more, because he is far more worthy actually) and we will all be better for it.

When you should start to worry about the republic is when those like P.M. who are burning with indignation and a desire for revenge start to move up from the 1-2% of the population where they mercifully remain lodged. Then we can all run for the hills.

Elia Markell - 8/5/2003

Well, for the record, no, I do not see anything to get riled up about in the Doomsday Futures Market. The idea was simple. The Stock Market is often an indicator of trends. People usually put their money only where their strongest hunchs are. Since this causes the market to predict other things, why not use it to predict various aspects of the geopolitical situation?

Politically, it may have been tone-deaf . Practically, it might not have yielded useful results. But if someone can find a moral issue of any sort at all in it, go ahead. Just don't give me metaphor and hype. People in this nation bet on everything, who will win an election, when Hillary will change her hairdo, what Oprah's next book will be. None of this actually affects who wins, when the hairdo appears or why Oprah does what she does. So who cares. I don't. Why do you? And what in God's name makes any of it "unAmerican"? As I say, the very first Americans do it. The states hector all of us to do it daily. Give me a break.

Regarding AWOL deserter-extremists, I don't suppose you mean Bill Clinton do you? You really ought to get over that, you know. Perhaps you can see a professional about it.

Gus Moner - 8/5/2003

Mr Markell, this comment is valid and witty, too. However you seem to have missed or chosen to miss the point of the article. Was it perhaps because of who wrote it?

George Oilwell - 8/4/2003

Right-wingers who've been upset that Admiral Poindexter (R-Iran Contra Felonies) was viciously, unfairly attacked for his latest bizarro scheme, now know that someone on their side thinks a Doomsday Futures Market may not be as unAmerican as say, stealing an election or having a Commander in Chief who is, according to Military law, an AWOL extremist (deserter).

Elia Markell - 8/4/2003

I will take P.M.'s comments at the level of seriousness they deserve by suggesting a way to reconcile those who favor that "Doomsday Futures Market and Casino" and those who don't. Let's let the INDIANS run it. After all, they've got the experience. Why not.

I think the idea was a lame one. But anyone who would bother to understand it in detail (not P.M. as far as I can tell) and still think there is anything sinster or even worth commenting on about it, does not have a sense of proportion, period.