"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 11, 2022

The Bloated Blogger–Soggy Ideas Wrapped In Intellectual Finery

Harold Blaine had created what he considered a worthy media site, one which was intellectual in spirit, temperate in tone, and eclectic in its range.  He, an ardent progressive, was as angered as any at the misogyny, racism, and homophobia of Donald Trump, but he never let his emotions erode the very East Coast feel of his site.  He chose contributors with the prudence of a respectful caretaker – no bile should leak from his pages; but as was his design, progressivism should seep through every literary pore.  Take this poem recently published on Blaine’s site

A philandering mind of flourishing whores

He of postured stature and circus robes

Exposes himself to three-headed dwarves

Who cheer


The nation cries

Puerile, but penned in earnest by a former classmate, turned from his storied New England patrician heritage to ‘making a difference’, a nouveau recruit to environmentalism, women’s rights, and the transgender epiphany. Blaine thought for a while over this poem and despite first misgivings, he chose to ignore meter, rhyme, and verse and go with his gut.  The poem emotively and accurately elicited in a careful, metaphorical way, Donald Trump’s crimes against humanity.

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The poem would have not withstood any serious parsing and criticism; but Blaine’s contributors and readers had already suspended disbelief.  There was no hyperbole too exaggerated, no ironic insult too subtle, no bilious hysteria too wild when it came to the former President. 

In keeping with the composure of the site, Blaine carefully curated it to avoid any suggestion of partisan politics.  He, his contributors, and his readers were above that; so he chose to address the most salient issues of progressivism without harsh edges, ad hominem attacks, and visibly one-sided views.  Yet, the insistently deformed notions of his contributors – all of whom were unpublished anywhere else, but who, because of Blaine’s very authoritative-looking format that gave it a peer-reviewed feel, could cite publication on their CVs.

Yet anyone outside Blaine’s cabal of true believers could quickly and easily see what he was up to.  For all the artful intent, the content was unremittingly fantastical.  Take this opening paragraph of an article entitled, ‘Thoreau, Transcendentalism, And Global Indifference’

There is nothing at Walden Pond these days but trodden paths. Those hoping for an environmental epiphany have found only waste and detritus.  The very soul of One Earth, one planet environmentalism has been despoiled and ruined.  There can be no enlightenment here in the Boston suburbs where the very technology that is the agent of global insult is put on the altar of corporate and capitalist enterprise. 

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The author did give Thoreau and the Transcendentalists some ink, although only on the margins of his central theme, man’s inhumanity to the planet, the urge for self-immolation, and the ignorance of the high and mighty.

Blaine, however loved it, and edited only the nastiest bits of overwriting.  He in fact featured it prominently on his Monday morning blog, the issue that had become heralded for its particular acerbity.

“I must be more inclusive”, Blaine said to himself one Sunday evening while he was putting the final spit and polish on his Monday morning edition, and turned to an article written by another classmate, this one archly conservative and which had been spared from the trash only because of fond college day memories.  

Blaine and Harvey Knight had launched water balloons across Marshall Street into the impressive Yale-Harvard style courtyard of McDonald Hall, a space fashioned with a grant from Billy McDonald, agricultural whiz kid and genius behind the Iowa agricultural revolution.  Blaine’s university was a far cry from the Ivy League, but his four years there, many of them in the company of his now-right wing friend, were some of the best of his life.  He learned about friendship, camaraderie, and pulling together.

So, why not feature inclusivity with the piece by Harvey Knight?  It would show his readership that he was not simply the old, progressive hack that some were alleging, but a true intellectual. However he, despite his best efforts, could never really ever wear that mantle.  His graduate work at a minor Midwestern university known more for softball (its team had made it once to the Finals) than for academic excellence, and eager to shore up its academic reputation, took Blaine into its Comparative Literature program.  

There the course of study featured the works of pioneer women, former slaves, union organizers, and agricultural farm workers.  In that sense it was ahead of the ‘inclusivity’ curve; but in reality its offerings catered to the less ‘intellectually provisioned’ than, say, Harvard or Yale.

Blaine loved it, and his dissertation  Women, Race, And The Environment – The Holy Triad Of The Modern Era won him the Jackson Potter Award.  Although his academic credentials were not sufficient to get him a university posting, his graduate experience stayed with him and influenced his latter-day social media presence.  He like Wallace Stevens, was an insurance company executive specializing in annuities.  Nothing had prepared him for this career, but he came to accept it as an ideal fit.

Image result for Images women Pioneer Journals. Size: 150 x 222. Source: link.ppl.lib.in.us

So he decided to print Harvey Knight’s ‘screed’ on his Monday morning site.  He gave it a cursory look before pushing the publish button, saw only the buzz words common to right wing conservatism, and prided himself on the intellectual courage to include the piece on his site.

Had he read Harvey’s piece more carefully, he would have seen its real intent – a satire of Blaine and his progressive claques whose faux intellectualism, lack of any sense of humor, and immunity to irony - made for hilarious reading.  It was a ‘Brutus is an honorable man’ classic, full of dripping, treacly praise for the wobbly contributors on Blaine’s site, but it discredited the illogic of the site’s transparent utopianism, and  savaged the premises of anti-historical revisionism, gender transformation, and MeToo feminism. 

Knight’s piece was indeed a literary tour de force, a scathing satire so beautifully wrapped and ribboned that only the few conservative readers of Blaine’s site got it, and howled with glee.

Image result for images mark antony speech brutus is an honorable man

Blaine got praise from many readers who, like Blaine, had never really read Knight’s piece, or at least never got past his click-bait opening line, “Donald Trump had it right”.  The hits on the site increased significantly, and Blaine vowed to increase his political diversity, but without ever overdoing it.  

However, after a few desultory and then fitful tries, he gave up the idea and returned to his roots.  His latest post was this poem, the first verses quoted here

Blimey, it’s good, said the tranny to the straight

Made for me, well and good

But what about you?

That dangling irrelevance

That engorged joke…

Blaine’s media site looked good, felt good to his contributors, and sounded good when read out loud.  Blaine was proud of its academic rigor, its catchy  graphics, and eclectic mix of progressive ideas. He never managed more than a modest number of hits per day, and those were repeaters; but that never mattered to him.  The good fight must be fought, the word must be spread. Great ideas are infectious. 

His site was unnoticeable in the blogosphere, now grown to unimaginable proportions, but to him it was noticeable, important, and an expression of a lifetime’s thought and commitment – or so cynically said Harvey Knight in his satirical piece that Blaine never actually  read.

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