Underside of “the American Hologram”

I haven’t read Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant, but it looks interesting. The “American Hologram” is his term for “the televised, corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life”. From Alternet:

Bageant grew up in a fundamentalist Christian, ultra-working-class family in a claustrophobic little Virginia town named Winchester. Then, in his own terminology, he made his escape. He moved west and made a pretty decent career for himself in the world of journalism. A few years ago, though, he felt a craving for his childhood home and, now deep into middle-age, decided to relocate once more.

So the self-proclaimed socialist, atheist, heavy-drinking, three-times-married Joe returned home, to a landscape dominated by rabid, demon-battling fundamentalists (including his younger brother, a fire-and-brimstone preacher); NASCAR; overpriced mobile homes; greasy food; depressing, dead-end, anti-union workplaces; and gung-ho patriots whose pick-up trucks boast bumper stickers such as "Kick their ass. Take their gas."

Bageant :

“The working class here in what they are now calling the ‘heartland,’ (all the stuff between the big cities) exists on a continuum ranging from complete insecurity to the not-quite-complete insecurity of having a decent but endangered job. It is a continuum extending from the apathy of the poorest to the hard-edged anger of those with more to lose. Which ain’t a lot, brother, when your household income hovers around $30,000 or $35,000 with both people working… Until those with power and access decide that it’s beneficial to truly educate people, and make it possible to get an education without going into crushing debt, then the mutt people here in the heartland will keep on electing dangerous dimwits in cowboy boots.”

Alternet continues:

Part ethnography, part sociology, part just good, old-fashioned storytelling, Deer Hunting With Jesus uses an insider’s perspective to explain, generally successfully, why parts of rural America, especially in the South, are so conservative, so suspicious of “big city liberals,” and so willing to cast their lot with right-wing politicians who swiftly turn around and bite these working class supporters in their collective ass.

Imagine a cross between Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Hunter S. Thompson’s booze-and-dope fueled meditations on Nixon’s political potency, and C. Wright Mills‘ understanding of the durability of the power elite… put ’em all into the hopper, mix them around at high speed, and you end up somewhere about where Bageant did. In other words, it’s informative, infuriating, terrifying, scintillating, and, at the end of the day, when HST’s ghost finally emerges triumphant, it’s just downright fun.

Alternet, on the centrality of fraud to all of this:

A common theme throughout his book is fraud, and the peculiar vulnerability to fraud of closed-in, under-invested-in communities such as Winchester: religious charlatans pushing dodgy theories into the heart of the political process; wealthy, educated men and women deliberately curtailing the educational opportunities of the poor, giving them just enough schooling to know how to dream the American Dream, but not nearly enough to ever be able to challenge their poverty and make that dream a reality; workers "encouraged" by companies like Wal-Mart to be hostile to the "special interests" represented by trade unions.

Bageant’s fraud of "the American Hologram", is the fraud at the heart of conservativism.

11 thoughts on “Underside of “the American Hologram”

  1. A human can endure any degradation, physical or emotional, no matter how random or how sadistic; it has an infinite capacity for stoicism; it will bend and twist and shrink and turn inward upon itself indefinitely; there is no degree of pressure that will entirely crush it.

    But just threaten to make it learn something, and it WILL kill you.

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  3. That’s been the story in American politics over the past thirty years. How do you get people to vote so against their own economic interest in lieu of some ‘social’ concerns. And this isn’t just a little difference, its enormous. How do you convince people that stopping two same sexed people from marrying is more important than decent public schools? The republicans have been masters at this. I can only conclude that it’s the schools in many of these red, southern states. States that have the most effective public schools (as shown through test scores, not the best or most reliable measure) in the upper mid-west and northeast, invariably vote blue. The reddest of red states have crappy public school systems.

  4. “How do you convince people that stopping two same sexed people from marrying is more important than decent public schools?”

    They do it because of course it is not framed that way. The legacy of so many having had it so good for so long is that people have forgotten it can be taken away. A certain minimum is presupposed, and one of the GOP’s great accomplishments is that they have dragged everything down to the basement, and then started digging a hole.

  5. Bageant is a fantastic voice; of Billmon quality, one that cuts through facade. Read everything he’s written in the last 5 years.

    I think the 87 ending of equal time was the beginning of the end of all that had been gained. Once they closed the arena of ideas and controlled the media, they could make the people believe anything they wanted them to believe. The selection process has left large groups behind. We’ve been told/asked to pretend they don’t exist; that all is hunky-dory. when Jonah Goldsberg or Mitch McConnell talk of free speech they mean the kind that only money can buy. None of those pesky ideas.

  6. Moonbat, how did you come across Agre’s article? That was great! Is that little nugget part of some motherlode into which I might tap? Pray tell.

    Was he a prof of yours? I work with a UCLA grad with CompSci MA and will ask him what he knows of Agre.

    I quoted the initial definitions along with a link to the article. You can probably guess what happened. People quibbled over the 102-word definitions and ignored the 13,000+ word substance.

    The discussion degraded into one of labels and definitions, blissfully unaware of the significant fact that the definitions were actually the conclusions, stated first, of a well-supported argument.

    We have dictionary definitions that are ideals and often very fluid and we have definitions of behavior that are more practical working definitions.

    Several fence straddling “conservatives” (whatever that means) actually expressed concern and frustration over the real risks of the iconic conservative label being usurped as a result of damage from the Bush administration.

    We liberals well know how that can happen, don’t we?

  7. Pat, I’m glad you commented about this, because I kind of slipped in Agre’s article at the end, without an explanation, although he’s extremely important for all of us to know.

    I don’t remember where I first came across Philip Agre – and I hope he’s still working and doing well. I have mentioned his article in dozens of comments on various sites, and these almost always draw appreciative remarks like yours. So, spread the word, wherever you can. I really should’ve done a better job of highlighting his article, and maybe I’ll devote an entire posting to it later on.

    For those reading this, who wonder what we’re talking about, click on the last link at the end of the posting: “the fraud at the heart of conservativism”.

  8. Pat, a couple more things – too inclined to write before thinking – to quote Gene Kelly: Gotta Dance:

    1) the article in question is the only writing I know of Agre. There may be more (the mother lode) but I don’t know about it

    2) it’s very typical of winguts to nit-pick small things in an argument, which in their minds invalidates the whole message. Or it at least distracts from its power, and is their attempt to refute it. Theres’s a cute term for this (don’t recall where I heard this): nut-picking. This happens constantly so it’s a well known trap, to be expected, and to avoid falling into.

  9. I get 10 pages of hits when I google Phil Agre.

    The parts I liked best were the very lucid tour through hijacking of language that is so typical of conservatives. I’ve read the works of Deborah Tannen, George Lakoff, Thomas Frank, and Geoffrey Nunberg and other articles from cognitive linguists and Agre’s descriptions are as good as it gets.

    The part about Elian Gonzalez clearly depicts how conservatives perceive a world ordered by absolutes and how they are reduced to sophistry when unable to resolves conflict between the absolutes. With Gonzalez the choice was between returning someone to a state run by a dictator and keeping families together.

    Nuggets like these are simply too numerous to mention.

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