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Petrified Forest (laphamsquarterly.org)
55 points by prostoalex 175 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

I find this author's writing style very hard to digest. I'm a native speaker and sentences like these give me impostor syndrome, making me wonder if my literacy is lacking:

> The force of mind rooted in the soil of adversity didn’t take hold in the flower beds of prosperity; placed under the protective custody of the atomic bomb and sicklied o’er with the pale cast of money, the native hues of resolution lost the name of action.

> Why and wherefrom the trigger warnings, and whose innocence or interest are they meant to comfort, defend, and preserve?

It's just an old school style of writing. We've moved on from the elitist styles to a more democratic one. The cool thing to do now is to use simple sentence structures with excellent word choices, rather than trying to weave something very complex for the sake of poetry.

I'm not sure it's necessarily "old school". It strikes me as self-aggrandising, and speaks of someone uncomfortable with their place in the world. Much as old money asks for the toilet, and new money asks for the rest room.

The first passage is a weird mixed metaphor. I think the part before the semicolon is relatively straightforward. The force of mind is a plant (though, who ever heard of a plant thriving in adverse soil but not in a prosperous flower bed?). The part after the semicolon refers to the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet, and now the mind is a person whose natural red-cheeked bravery and decisiveness have become pale because of the illness of money.

It is bad writing.

The first passage describes toughness of spirit which is honed by adversity rather than prosperity. Now that we have the relative safety (status quo) and money, our toughness has given way to complacency.

About 5 years ago I wondered when we all became so afraid of everything - and while I cant believe the premise that its a master plan by unknown forces to sell more weapons of war - it is pervasive and does seem to be media driven.

I'm gonna go with, yeah, it's planned. Here's why...

We all know by now we can't "win" a war in Afghanistan. President Washington spelled out why in his Farewell Address (and proved it prior to that as a General) and warned us against partaking in this kind of stupidity.

Being there in Afghanistan for 16 years now is pretty rock solid proof that for us citizens paying for weapons of war was, and is now, a longterm plan that's already been hugely successful for those who sell them.

The excuse "We must fight the terrorists over there" sounds great on TV but makes no sense to anyone that has any. Especially when the nation your warring on is landlocked half way around the planet, has no air force or navy, and is one of the poorest nations in the world.

But people all around me are scared of them and I live way out in the boonies in the middle of the strongest nation on earth. Don't matter, they're still scared.

So, yeah, I have to say it's planned and it's working good.

I think he fact that things have become a lot safer also plays a role. If you live in a society where many kids die before they are ten years old, mothers dying at child birth is 'normal', survivors of diseases such as polio and smallpox are common in the streets, and quite a few factory workers get seriously injured in the work place somewhere in their career, a disaster maiming, say, 10 people, barely sticks out from the background noise, so isn't really worth worrying about (in even more extreme circumstances just a century ago, some soldiers who lost a foot or leg in the trenches in World War One were happy because it meant they would be sent home)

I always liked this Gore Vidal quote:

> The political-science professors, perfectly sane men, look at me with wonder when I talk about the ruling class in America. They say, “You are one of those conspiracy theorists. You think there’s a headquarters and they get together at the Bohemian Grove and run the United States.” Well, they do get together at the Bohemian Grove and do a lot of picking of Secretaries of State, anyway. But they don’t have to conspire. They all think alike. It goes back to the way we’re raised, the schools we went to–after all, I’m a reluctant member of this group. You don’t have to give orders to the editor of The New York Times. He is in place because he will respond to a crisis the way you want him to, as will the President, as will the head of the Chase Manhattan Bank. http://davidsheff.com/article/gore-vidal/

The interview it comes from, in Playboy, is pretty great. They're talking about how that now that the commie threat is spent, they'll need a new threat to keep people scared (they, as in the, the conspiratorial they). He jokes about Nicaraguan imperialism. We now know what we got instead.

It goes a lot further than that. People that are afraid are not rational, it is a lot easier to get them to agree to things that are not exactly in their interests if you can spook them first and then promise that these little changes to society will make them feel safer again.

As per the quote from Goering which I'm sure you already know, but I will paste here for today's lucky 10,000.


We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”

“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”


Gilbert, G. M. The Psychology of Dictatorship: Based on an Examination of the Leaders of Nazi Germany. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979. Print.

I don't think it's necessarily planned, but used (by those it suits) and encouraged via second-order effects. Normally someone would step in, but terror can be used by politicians and suits media profits. Who else has a significant voice? I'd say celebrities, but how many of those play things carefully so as not to frighten sponsors?

It really doesn't need to be a conspiracy to be effective. "Manufacturing Consent" is worth a read.

I clicked around a few pages on this site, and every single one of them threw up some fucking fixed-position popover soliciting me to buy something, listen to something, or subscribe to something, or whatever. This trend is such a cancer on the web.

It also makes me wonder, is the conversion rate on these god awful popups really that good? I've ever entered an email address into one of these boxes, and why would I? More often than not they shove them into your face before you even see the page content, then again when you try to leave. It's terrible.

I almost didn't look at this, because of the title. It would be better served by the subtitle, a subject I am very interested in:

Fear, says Lewis Lapham, is America’s top-selling consumer product.

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