Those of us in Southern California, in particular here in Los Angeles are familiar with the superannuated ha-ha that we’re living in a land of unreality. Well, we’re barely keeping up at the moment. From government actors to media performers to the landscape of pure fantasy, Washington D.C. is a land of, and producer of illusoriness those of us here must concede has stolen our artificial thunder.
As one with a deep and abiding skepticism of the virtues of what passes for reality ordinarily, I like to know where reality is on a fairly regular basis and stay apprised for my edification before taking necessary measures to avoid it. I have found music, fiction, film and intoxicants, along with an ample surrounding of cartoonish personalities do the trick fine.
The most radical and pervasive unreality in Washington these days is the one that pretends one of our political parties hasn’t devolved into a shrieking caricature of insanity. Were America’s currently constituted conservatism any more conspicuously cuckoo it would be too over-the-top even for idiosyncratic B-film auteur Samuel Fuller’s SHOCK CORRIDOR. When the fundamental grounding of governing reality, a functioning two-party political system has dissolved, nothing is holding it up but scenery chewing and CG. Pretending that more than a small fraction of what the right puts forward as policy, economic theory or justification makes a lick of sense is a thespian’s heavy lifting indeed.
One turns the television on and encounters in the mainstream television press covering politics a fusty and artificial air of seriousness Masterpiece Theater would not deign to promulgate. In one respect at least, here we have eliminated some of our most debilitating anachronisms. Take a look at Meet the Press, or This Week or anything from the best political team in television and one is struck that serious news divisions are stuck in some antiquated studio system with a signed stable of has-beens, dullards and stale factory manufactured scripts.
Why is Peggy Noonan on television? If I want to see Cloris Leachman in Phyllis I’ll watch Cloris Leachman in Phyllis. Transforming some bad Puritan shtick into some saccharine Morning in America shtick for the Gipper no longer is a qualification for airtime. Harold Ford might as well brandish a tape measure on set so determined to find the precise location of the putative center is he. Key to his performances is a convincingly rendered acceptance of premises and assumptions offered by a reliable repertory of ideological fruitcakes in this right tilted theatrical environment.
On the other hand, out here we’re stuck with Kenau Reeves and Christian Slater as excuses for actors, and the lucky folks in DC have the master thespian Wolf Blitzer and the Academy Award winning David Gregory. Pretending two sides of a political debate invariably possess the same merit, but partisans just can’t keep themselves from squabbling, silly geese, could only be enduringly performed with more reliability on a daily basis by the leads in Chorus Line or Cats (not Hollywood per se, but it’s the Biz). One can all but see the scenery moving and the backdrop tableau quivering so unreal is the entire production.
For days one has been able to power up the old flat screen and encounter hour upon hour of dramatized discussion of this confabulated entity known as the Super Committee, about which one cannot hope to suspend one’s disbelief in order to momentarily accept it as a genuine governmental entity connected to reality, or other than a campy, fanciful theatrical conceit from its very inception. The stress apparent for all involved of pretending there’s some sort of meaningful dialogue or ultimate contest of ideas at work is palpable, and the resulting creation has the sober veritas of a Farrelly brothers flick.
We are full of ourselves out here in the original La La Land, and a good deal of our day to day interaction admittedly is tinged with a dose of make believe, an insular world of contrived performance, illusion and delusion. But it is nothing compared to the seat of government, including its media culture, which is a relentless choreographing of pretend reality, where well-paid pros contrive a daily portrait of a fictionalized country, the real one nothing like it, united in name only, a body politic subordinated to the dictates of a powerful political-economic movement proudly unmoored from any foundation of accepted fact or body of accumulated knowledge, a vicious sectarian civil war all but irreconcilable.
The drama of a vibrant democracy yet to be undone by an influential segments’ rejection of rationality, a meretricious media and de-facto oligarchy is a good show, but coming from the wrong place.