Not renowned for originality, and very renowned for living in the past, mythical or real, the right’s reversion to the Ancient Book of Slurs, Smears and Caricatures in response to the Occupy Wall Street eruption is about as predictable as the autumnal equinox. These guys are reflexive in the way of antiquated automation creaking into action long after new and better products have hit the shelves. Hippies, communists, sex and bongos, oh my!
Occupy Wall Street is like a shrapnel bomb out of which a piece is sure to strike more than one of conservatives’ abiding multitude of resentments. Not surprising for a “philosophy” that essentially is a collection of resentments masquerading as ideology, the right has a remarkable capacity to hold a grudge. In fact, its minions have a Balkans-like propensity to carry resentments and grudges down through the generations, as though embedded in the DNA, and flowering anew among the driving animosities of the new sprouts.
The Sixties are still the white whale to the right’s Ahab, that decade of progressive cultural and political advancement still swimming elusively free of their ability to quell their anger. Expansion of civil rights and the safety net were bad enough, but the flagrant outbreak of people having heady fun and thumbing their noses at convention was the straw that broke the fogey’s back.
Of course, while conservatives can’t come up with a sentence that doesn’t have the word freedom in it, they don’t particularly like the real thing. Their response then was to get all serious about ‘law and order,’ convention, tradition and ‘values,’ all of which are fine, but tend to hem a lot of freedoms in. Of course, if your idea of brutal repression is progressive taxation, banking regulation and the Social Security system you probably weren’t much of a libertine to begin with. And of course conservatives weren’t, opposing every modern movement expanding freedom, whether civil rights, women’s rights, or gay rights, and advocating every expansion of police or surveillance powers to come down the governmental pike.
The right’s wounds about the Sixties movements also are salted by the realization about and perception of them as having been well on the right side of history, powerful precipitators of change for the better. Now, with conservatives’ love of hierarchal structures (military, corporations, patriarchy), order and convention, and having thrown in their lot with the new plutocratic structure and Randian dichotomy of sublime producers (job creators) and disposable worker bees, the prospect of a new, youth-based onslaught against social and economic inequalities, unaccountability and rigging of the system is enough to incite an epidemic of cerebral hemorrhages, which is pretty much what we’re seeing now.
But the right’s reversion to atavism has been extremely intriguing to watch and an occasion for abundant mirth. Expect more references to hippies, hair, drums and Marx (public sex and urination are also sure to appear frequently on the list of particulars in the prosecution’s indictment). Untimely as the specifics may be, this excavation of caricatures and stereotypes remains Plan A for the horse and buggy types. Demonizing and stigmatizing is their bread and butter. The demise of welfare owes no small debt to the Reagan administration’s abuse of its users as “welfare queens,” and Newt Gingrich’s arsenal of anti-government, anti-progressive buzzwords accounted for no small number of gained Republican congressional seats in 1994.
Slurs, smears and caricatures and tried and true false generalizations and mythologies are what you run with when the facts are demonstrably against you, and you can’t go there, whatever you do. Since the facts for several decades have been demonstrably against conservatives’ arguments the nasty slights have flown fast and furious. How much mileage they have left I’m not sure, but you get the sense they’re seriously diminished now. Hippies? During the upheavals of the Sixties “hippies” may have touched some insecurities, but now? It’s about as scary a term as “rock n’ roll.”
More important, even if they don’t know the technical particulars, too many Americans are aware the financiers got away with murder, businesses are exporting American jobs overseas while enjoying lavish incentives and tax breaks, that the wealthy are responsible for the soaring deficit with their inadequate contributions to the tax system, that their own wages have had no hope of keeping up with inflation for decades now, that growth of the economy isn’t benefitting them, even as banking and energy companies reap historic profits, CEO’s and financiers back to astronomical pre-crash level bonuses and salaries…all of it rubbed in the 99 percent’s nose, while the Republicans merrily defend the status quo, “Let them eat cake,” all but their new motto.
So name call with the golden oldies all you want conservatives. These economic realities are blowin’ in the wind and everybody knows it.