Archive for November, 2010

louise brooks………..an artist who knew

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Louise Brooks, To Know a Veil — 2010 7″ x 9″, spray paint on panel.

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“I don’t paint what I think, I paint what I know”

Pablo Picasso

Thought I’d say a couple more things about (silent film actress, dancer, and writer) Louise Brooks. Prior to my little fora back to the 1920’s these last couple of months, I  didn’t really have good of a picture of Louise Brooks, other than the standard iconic haircut image of the flappers and the long lingering effects that image had on film and fashion. My only excuse is that in the long run I’ve never developed much of an  interest in movie stars, or celebrities for that matter, but as it happened, the more I found out about Louise Brooks, the more I was drawn in and the more I had to know – but now that I did this I see that it’s typical of the Brooksian phenomena – or obsession, depending on what you make of it. So as it now stands, I’ve  seen all of her significant films, read much of the literature and video interviews associated with her, including the (monumental) 600 page Barry Paris biography, and having done all that, I’m left with a little bit more than the generalized understanding of the legend, martyrdom, or the opaque enigma, that has come to define who Louise Brooks was. As it would appear that the life of Louise is fraught with contradiction, being variously described as the life of a beautiful, talented, but self centered hedonist, a nymphomaniac, gin guzzling, alcoholic, and ultimately self destructive nihilist, or contrarily, as an amazing actress that revolutionized film acting, that rebelled against male dominated culture, and routinely and predictably pissed on every hand that pretended to reach out to her, and finally, against all odds, singlehandedly reincarnated herself (yet again) late in life as a writer. Or in other words, Louise Brooks had become the stuff of worthy of an Americanized modern version from Greek mythology.

My take on Louise Brooks is that she was in part and degrees all of these things together, and a whole lot more. Essentially, and accounting for everything she did – seemingly sensible or not – was the fact that the connecting thread of all her exploits – Louise Brooks was an artist, and an artist with a fanatical heart, at that. It wasn’t enough that she was not only mystically beautiful and massively talented, she had an insatiable desire  to “know”, and so used her talent and beauty to burrow deeper yet into what she considered “the truth”, and this necessarily involved her notorious abandon and sexual promiscuity as the primary vehicle to transcend the ordinary, the pedestrian, and most especially, the power elite’s (symbolized by the Hollywood – Wall St connection) sub culture of male domination and control.

In this sense Louise operated in society like a black hole, sucking every scintilla of energy from those around her in order to satisfy her own personal desires as an artist, to “know”, and she did this by and large without effort – which of course made it all the more disarming, confusing, if not ultimately, threatening.

Least we forget, this was all happened in the heat of the roaring 20’s in the midst of America’s first major cultural clash between the forces of traditional  society with its static inflexible Christian based social morality, and the freewheeling dynamism of modernity, and Louise was in all probability, the first woman to step into and assume the  fullest dimensions of what the modern liberated woman without limits or abandon could become.

As it happened, Louise was raised in an unusually progressive modern family in Kansas, by a mother who was entirely spellbound by the liberal possibilities of modern art and progressive ideas. Who got so absorbed in it that she failed to notice she also had children, who were then left to fend for themselves as some sort of miniature Randian individuals.

Which in context if you think about it, is a cultural mirror image of people in general, living in a modern society that fails to replace the old traditional modes of social securities with government sponsored rights and securities, where people are left to face the whims of circumstances and fate as isolated disconnected individuals. It’s in this context that  Louise discovered her mothers vast library of modern music and literature and proceeded to devour it in its entirety. In a sense, Louise’s guiding principals became established by the artists she consumed in her parents library, instead of the typical and expected influences  of traditional parental/family oversight. It was also in this context, that the adolescent Louise was sexually molested by her neighbor, the illusive and mysterious “Mr.  Flowers”.

It’s the confluence of these events that would go on to define the identity of Louise Brooks first and foremost, if not exclusively, as an artist. An artist of natural beauty and physical talent as a dancer for sure, but informed primarily as an individual driven by the events of her life to explore the deeper and darker sources of her (and our) discontent, which of course, led directly to the great nexus of power and sex, as well as the conflict of modern feminine autonomy and  male dominated authority. Louise as much spells this out in her typically self effacing manner, in a letter to biographer James Card:

“There isn’t anything wise or clever in what I do anyhow. If I am drawn to a man, I simply move right into the center of him. I know him immediately and intimately. There isn’t room inside him for me and whatever is phony, so the phoniness has to go.”

Or, one would assume, the man has to go – but, more to the point in this:

“Well, I was crazy about him, yeah (long time flame George Marshall) But the word love – no, I don’t think I ever loved the men I knew. It’s a very strange thing I’ve noticed that very often the men who were best in bed were the men I cared the least about. The men who were the worst in bed were the men I liked the most….I don’t know why… I always liked the bastards”

And it’s here where biographer Barry Paris delivers at the end of the book, the money quote from one of Louise’s favorite authors, Marcel Proust:

” Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces. Never will the world know all it owes to them nor all that they have suffered to enrich us. We enjoy lovely music, beautiful paintings, a thousand intellectual delicacies, but we have no idea of their cost, to those who invented them, in sleepless nights, tears, spasmodic laughter, rashes, asthma, and the fear of death, which is worse than all the rest.”

Consciously or self consciously not, Louise Brooks relentlessly assumed this role of the artist first, in what one can only concur in retrospect, as a kind of performance art, that was to become the connective tissue of the many forms it assumed in defining her life. The infamy of her sexual promiscuity was in actuality, the focus of her art,  by which she kept pure through a self imposed denial of reciprocal love, personal contentment, and success or fame in her professional career. Louise went for the “bastards” in her life precisely because of this – they delivered the essential content – not in love or even sexual gratification, but the means and methods of how male dominated society uses sex for the purposes of power. Throughout her life she sucked men into her charms in order to witness the variety of what they really wanted, power, of some fashion or the other. They desired her for alternative reasons and that by fucking her they would confirm and satisfy these alternative desires and motives. And then she would in effect follow conquest with conquest by fucking  them over, because she had no alternative motives whereby they could exploit, they were never able to dominate or control her.

It’s with this pretext that when Louise answered German director G.W. Pabst’s call to star in his rendition of the  femme-fatale  film, Pandora’s Box (1928), she was most able to unselfconsciously  play the lead part of LuLu, saying only in retrospect, that she “was only playing herself”. This self knowledge of immediately and intimately “knowing”, enabled Louise to play the role of LuLu  by transcending the usual exaggerated affectations typical of silent films of the era. Her beauty and talent of effortless natural motion learned from her dance experience, coupled with her personal sub-text of sexually driven “knowledge” generated a seamless expression that rendered by comparison, all previous film characterizations, imaging, and accepted acting technique – obsolete. Director Pabst, and the context of the more advanced modernist German cinema environment, was more fully prepared to capitalize on the artistic talents and temperaments that Louise was able to deliver. Which by all accounts were, some thirty odd years ahead of its time. But no matter, because true to Louise’s standard operating procedure in art and life LuLu was deemed to hot to handle, and the censors scissors cast the film and especially Louise herself, into a state of disrepute and rejection. Which is of course fuel for  great mystery of her career whereby she thought that because she did it “her way”, against the formality of conventions (which she despised) and failed, that henceforth she would always characterize her film career disparagingly as a non serious attempt and a failure on her part. No matter that when Pabst called her back  later the next year and she willingly and without missing a beat, returned to Berlin and did a repeat performance in Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), that once again true to pattern, was chopped up by the censors and panned by the public. This hardly the behavior of someone who considered herself inadequate, but more of an indication of someone who saw herself on some kind of personal long term (artistic) mission of which the full impact was only temporarily victimized by the usual suspects of power, money, and retarded convention. At any rate Louise Brooks always stuck to her guns – from her meteoric rise in the dance world, to a film actress, to gallivanting high society muckraker,to finally near the end of her life, a writer of significance holed up  in a tiny two room apartment in Rochester New York – and never capitulated to the endless efforts to exploit her or her art for ulterior purposes, which has in the end endowed her a near mythic status far greater than her more conventionally successful peers.

Simply put, she never sold out, and dually paid the consequences like the good soldier of art,  she was.

happy thanksgiving

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Viewing this clip should become a new holiday tradition, whereby the nation should be forced to watch this piece of high political theater every Thanksgiving. Everything you need to know about America, it’s people, it’s politicians, its media, its domestic and foreign policies are compressed into this tight little blood clot of a metaphor.

todays little rant

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Digby , points out today that the Obama administration is considering a peace offering to that vile organization the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. This, along with his appointment of the deficit reduction cat food commission, and his reluctance to axe the Bush tax cuts for the rich, make it abundantly clear where we’re all headed in this mad lemming like escapade. Carrying forth with what started way back when, with post Reagan Clinton’s economic deregulation, NAFTA, and GATT, and followed by the Bush tax cuts for the rich – all of which went on to create the great bubble illusion of prosperity. All of which of course then  predictably, crashed in an exact replicate of 1929. So then we all voted for Obama as a sure fire come FDR, but all we got instead was a Hoover, Coolidge, and Harding retread rolled up into a gigantic exploding cigar. What they all seem to be  banking  on (literally) is more deal with the devil corporatist economic policy and privatizing social security will be the last easy ox to gore, and as the last drop of wealth drags its wearry ass on up to Wall Street, the economy will probably exhale a tiny little fart of relief.

And the first black president of the United States will go on to exhalt victory, and the American dream will continue for another minute or so. At least until the great unwashed mass of  American somnambulist’s wake up some dreary morning only to finally  realize that freedom, equality, and prosperity Obama style, is nothing more than another step backward in America’s never ending long march back to feudalism and a Jim Crow share cropper’s vision of the future, only this time it’ll be for everybody.

bette davis

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

As Julie Marsden in Jezebel, 1938 – 2010, 7″ x 9″ spray paint on panel.

A great film that won Bette an Oscar for best female actress. The film takes place in the antebellum South just prior to the first great American struggle between modernity and tradition, the civil war. From this perspective, the film narrative is developed through the Davis character and her engagement to a young banker Preston Dillard (played by Henry Fonda). Julie and her family are slave holding plantation owners steeped in the traditional old honor society ways, while Preston is familiar with and sympathetic to the modernist anti-slavery North. The highlight encounter between the two takes place when Julie begs Preston to go out with her to buy a dress for the big “Olympus Ball” where all the young debutantes must wear white dresses, but, he refuses because he’s too busy with business. Julie, in a rage goes out and in a fit of martyrdom chooses to purchase a red dress as a misguided attempt to impress Preston with her independence (or her modernity in the face of tradition). Preston tries in vain to convince Julie to change dresses before the big event and when she refuses, decides to take her there anyway. When they arrive, they of course, create a big spectacle and Julie, now aware of her mistake begs Preston to take her home. Preston refuses, and in response to her obstinacy, forces Julie to dance with him on a dance floor that soon empties out and even the band stops playing. Soon after, with the engagement off, Preston travels north on business, and  returns a year later with a Dr Livingston, and his new  northern bride Amy. Preston brings news foreshadowing the differences between the tradition bound south and the dynamic industrialized north that bodes ill for the south. Julie in another attempt to manipulate Preston into her favor incites a confrontation between Preston and her other hometown suitor Buck, that soon goes bad with Preston’s brother assuming the honor role of his brother in a duel with Buck. Unexpectedly, the brother wins the duel and Julie’s other, secondary love interest is killed. In the meantime, Preston has traveled to nearby New Orleans with Dr Livingston to help deal with a massive yellow fever outbreak sweeping the city. Soon after arriving, Preston himself is stricken with the fever and both Julie and Amy travel to be at Preston’s bedside. In the dramatic conclusion of the film, Julie, in an impassioned martyr’s plea (to recoup her honor) convinces the more rational (liberal) Amy that she can better tend to to Preston’s needs. And the film ends with Julie and Preston being carted off, with the other sick and dying to a quarantine island, and an almost certain death.

Update:

It’s interesting to note that Julie’s personification of traditional southern honor culture is primarily dependent on two courses of action; manipulation and display of commitment. Throughout the film Julie tries to stage events in order to facilitate sympathy to her desires. From the red dress sequence, to gathering up their slaves to sing songs together (to dispel the notion that they were there against their will), or to orchestrating the threat of a duel of honor between her love interests, she is ultimately insecure about  whether to leave other people the freedom to assess the situation and decide  things on their own merits. She then backs up the manipulation with her own honor code  commitment to, if necessary,  escalate the threat of violence right on up to the ultimate degree of self sacrifice and martyrdom. It’s this final act of fanatical commitment that eventually defeats her liberal rival Amy, who  in the end looks weak,  indecisive, and unreliable.

If any of that seems not so unfamiliar to our current ideological debates, it’s because these ideological differences have not passed, and are still actively at work today.

the 1920’s and now, a recap of similarities

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Here’s a list of some of the things that happened in the 1920’s that either parallel, or went on to become the origins of, many of the issues we  confront today. Much on this list is the results of a clash between modernity and entrenched tradition.  The full force of which manifested itself in a multifaceted array of conflicting needs. And judging from the relevancy of the list to circumstances today,  it’s pretty evident that either we’ve been  living in an endlessly repeating groundhog day tape loop for the last 90 years, or have simply failed to make any corrections that might remedy these conflicts so we can move on.

1 ) 3 consecutive Republican business friendly administrations (the modern counterpart would be economic policies of Clinton, Bush,& Obama)

2 ) Record low taxes on the top percentile – 28% in 1925

3 ) The adoption of what we now call supply side economics.

4 ) The deregulation of financial activity.

5 ) The beginnings of a widespread use of cheap credit.

6 ) High degree of financial speculation, for the first time including the emerging middle class.

7 ) The highest degree of income disparity, until now.

8 ) Massive financial failure due to speculative bubble 1929.

9 ) Prohibition of alcohol, and the rise of violent crime syndicates that deal the goods. (now – Mexican cartels, bloods, crips, etc in U.S.A. along with the glamorization of “gangsta” violence in rap music & hip hop culture)

10 ) Anti-immigration hysteria with harsh new laws limiting immigration passed in 1921 and 1922, limiting to 3% from any country of origin, reaching a total limit of only 150,000 in 22.

11 ) Widespread fear of “subversive” left wing political groups like the IWW, and various communist/socialist organizations. Many leaders arrested and convicted by dubious judicial means. (largely accomplished post McCarthy, decline of unions & demonetization of anything left of Benito Mussolini)

12 )  Foreign military interventions and occupations based on economic criteria, the so called banana wars in Central America, and the Caribbean. The U.S. occupied Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Dominican Republic simultaneously.

13 ) The notable rise and legitimization of nativist right wing populist groups under the banner of restoring Americanism/ white privilege, like the Ku Klux Klan.

14 ) The expansion of tabloid journalism media empires like the William R. Hearst that expanded into the area of yellow journalism,political favoritism, and advocacy. Hearst publishing reached its height in the mid 20’s.

15 ) The rise of large and sweeping Christian evangelical (Pentecostal) ministries such as the Four Square Gospel movement founded in Los Angeles by Aimee Semple McPherson, and the establishment of the first “mega church”.

16 ) Hysteria over the teaching of evolution in public schools, culminating in the Scopes “monkey trial” in 1925.

17 ) Climate of apprehension, mistrust, and fear over the effects of internationalism on American culture and politics. (eekk! the French)

Update on#17

Eric Cantor, incoming House Majority Leader, outlined this latter objection to a new in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Asked about a proposal to fix the nation’s federal deficit co-authored by a Democratic budget expert and noted non-European retired Sen. Pete Domenici (R), which would actually lower taxes on income and corporations, Cantor dismissed it because, basically, parts of it look to him like something a European might consider.

18 ) The emergence of media driven (radio) cult personalities defining dubious political narratives, like Father Coughlin.

horror by occult

Monday, November 15th, 2010

2010, 23″ x 33″ x 2″ oil and spray paint on wood

more on social conservatism

Monday, November 15th, 2010

**just a note to say much of the following is a reiteration/encapsulation of some previous stuff**

I ended the last (most recent) post as such:

“Like their view on government, they don’t mind big government as long as its driven by corporate welfare, as they don’t mind supporting culture and family, as long as its the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind.”

Thought I’d fill out this ending with some further elucidation. When a Jim DeMint talks about social conservatism, what he’s really talking about (beyond the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind) is whats left of the traditional inherited obligation family/social structure. This is the old model family structure that was grounded in the agrarian based past, where its members, as they grew into maturity were given highly structured, restricted, and pre-scripted rolls to play within the extended family and society. There were both, benefits, for those who took upon themselves to assume and protect  their assigned rolls, and punishments for those looking to exercise greater personal autonomy. Like most tribal based social societies, the primary desire and design is toward maintaining the societal status-quo traditions that evolved, and served society over very long periods of time. And also like most tribal based societies they are authoritarian bound and predicated usually, on a set of eternal religious scripture that reinforces authority.The baseline characteristics of these traditions then, are both highly statist and static, in that they are highly collectivist ( with many predetermined expectations) and highly resistant to change ( or very uncreative). This structure should be seen in comparison to the “negotiated family structure” that arrived with the advent of modernity. In the negotiated family structure preordained rolls and participation are held as something to be decided upon by the participants, weighing the potential benefits, costs, and abilities against personal autonomy. Essentially, this is the modern, liberal variant of family and social life  evolved in response to the new found individualism that came with in tandem with the increase in free time, technological advances, internationalism, and scientific orientation. This type of family structure is NOT what Jim DeMint is talking about when speaks of family and social fabric.

What DeMint is referring to  when he talks social conservative is specifically the old tradition bound inherited obligation family structure.. At first glace it would seem counter-intuitive that in a modernist society, the insatiable wheels of innovation, technology, and capitalism would find a natural ally in  the collectivist,  static, and un-dynamic social element. Certainly, modernity if nothing else, is the epitome of flexible change, adaptation, mobility, and free thinking. What possible connection to the demands of modern society,  could be fulfilled empowering the vestiges of backward looking tribal society? I think the answer to this question is several fold.

First off, the old tribal elements are at once, both the most threatened element  of society – by the forces of modernity  and it’s contrarian  “negotiated (instead of inherited) obligation family structure” – and so, are the most likely segment of society to grasp at any hopes or illusions that promise its preservation. This promise (not unlike, the check is in the mail) is fulfilled in the various identity and dog whistle social issues republicans make and never really deliver on, and why would they? To deliver on these proposals would dry up the need.

Secondly, there is a mirror image connection to the preeminence of hierarchy and deference to authority  in both the the old school and the republican ideal. To the old school, there is in this a comforting distant echo of the feudal past when everything had its place, its honor, and most importantly, its resistance to change and infallible consistency come immortality.

Thirdly, as implied in the first, the right wing tolerates this little deal with the devil (or Christ if you will, depending on how you look at it) because it has no intention of ever delivering, and thus disarming the need, the social wants of the old school. They are well aware that the backward, static, anti-science, and fantasy oriented crowed is no model for a successfully competing modernist society. Because a modernist society, by definition needs a mobile, educated, creative, and inventive population in order to maintain a competitive edge – it is in many respects is the antithesis of the old school.

And fourth, as I pointed out in the modernism post (below), this arrangement above all else,  serves the interests of the economic elite to whom the republican party ( and to a slightly less degree the democratic party) are beholden. Because they never have any intention of directly honoring the demands of the old school – see Tea Party frustration with the republican party old guard – they instead focus on the feared modernism and its dependency on government services. More fully developed modern society NECESSARILY demands greater government intervention into peoples lives in the form of social services, civil guarantees, and security networks. This is clearly the case in the current European social democracies, all of which facilitated the natural growth of government that correspond to the developments of modernism, and the newly created human needs that come with it. People that have personally become an active participant in secular modernist life have, for all intents and purposes,  abandoned the traditional old family and social order. Having left the old order means that, while people have much more personal autonomy and freedom of choice, and the opportunity to innovate and be productive, they also find themselves in a position, contrarily, that  can no longer rely on the fabric of the old social order  to provide basic human needs and securities. And unless government is expanded beyond the narrow parameters of basic national security, police and fire work and into the social realms of education, economic regulation, health care, social security, and the like the chances are pretty good that individuals left to fend entirely on their own devices will sooner rather than later, come to suffer the consequential lack of any or all of the above. This of course, is a more general outline of the modernist dilemma writ large, that is also incidentally, the source driving much of the suspicion within the fine arts on the  effects (loneliness, alienation, depersonalization, etc) of modernism experienced on the personal level. When government fails to step in and take up the initiative on behalf of the very citizens that are the creative and entrepreneurial driving force of its competitive edge, then society becomes progressively dysfunctional, chaotic, and ultimately, irrational. See the popularity of Glenn Beck.

The Jim DeMint’s of this world seize upon this dysfunctionality as a self fulfilling prophesy – cut government social programs and create the means to sow chaos – which then is used as proof that liberal modernity and government are failures. This creates a back draft appealing to the religious old schooler’s who flock to the notion of less government as  a way to to beat back modernity. And at the same time frees up his elite overlords from the the threats posed by big government to business through taxation, regulation, oversight, and economic intervention. While at the same time preserving enough personal autonomy of the individual necessary for innovation, a large multifaceted mobile if not un-rooted workforce, and the necessarily large amounts of unregulated capital and military hardware useful for expansive international financial exploitations.

Like I said in the previous post, it’s a pretty neat trick where the rich get to eat their cake and keep it too. The rest of us either go back to the static life or take on modernity without the benefit of oversight or security.

jim demint confirms anna missed

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Yesterday on Fox news conservative leader Senator Jim DeMint confirmed pretty much everything I’ve been saying lately about how the right  political wing has an “arrangement” with retrograde (traditional) social identity in order to promote the interests of the economic elite – and how this phenomena is what we can confidently call American exceptionalism. And he did it in three remarkable sentences:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) doesn’t think you can be a fiscal conservative without also being a social conservative — or so he said last night on Special Report:

BAIER: Some of your fellow Republicans — Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, has suggested calling a truce on social issues while the country deals with the emergency economic situation. What do you think about that?

DEMINT: Well, you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative. A large part of the expansive government is to make up for a dysfunctional society because our culture’s falling apart. The family’s falling apart.

What DeMint is saying is that, in a democratic society like ours (where you rely on votes to rule), you can’t simply  champion the interests of the economic elite unless you also champion the interests of the retrograde traditional social structure (who are under constant threat from modernity) – hence, the aforementioned deal with the devil I’ve been harping on (see post back to the future down page).

However, the most interesting thing about DeMint’s admission is that he goes right to beating heart of what makes this deal with the devil tick,  and that’s a big fat fucking CATCH 22. You see, the reason that our “society is dysfunctional, that the family’s falling apart” – is because we’ve been living under 35 years of essentially republican deal with the devil policies. Its not so much that the republicans want smaller government (there’s simply no factual  evidence of this) it’s that they would rather spend the money on the interests of the elite, with their bailouts, welfare, and wars, as opposed to spending money on policies aimed at shoring up the collective welfare, education, economic rights, and the basic security needs of its citizens.  This is a self fulfilling prophecy that on one hand willfully eviscerates the social fabric of the nation, then on the other, woefully bleat and wail like spoiled children over the consequences (they created) like they are the upstanding and wholesome victims of an some dark and evil conspiracy.

Like their view on government, they don’t mind big government as long as its driven by corporate welfare, as they don’t mind supporting culture and family, as long as its the complicit to authority, retrograde, and backward looking kind.

But you gotta admit, it’s a pretty clever trick.

veterans day

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

my vietnam, 1987, 59″ x 121″ mixed media

collection: National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, Chicago IL

exceptionalism, again

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The other day Andrew Sullivan posted a piece at The Atlantic, called The Big Lie, that took a whole bunch of the village gas bags to task over the issue if American exceptionalism. Sullivan’s complaint is how these folks had taken out of context, for their own dishonest purposes, Obama’s recent public declaration championing the concept of American exceptionalism:

This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies – “death panels,” “out-of-control” spending, “apologies for America” etc. – designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people’s minds in the midst of a brutal recession. And integral to this process have been conservative “intellectuals” who should and do know better, but have long since sacrificed intellectual honesty for the cheap thrills of enabling power-grabs. And few lies represent this intellectual cooptation of talk radio/FNC propaganda better than the lie that Obama has publicly rebutted the idea of American exceptionalism.

Sullivan continues by illustrating the full text of the speech, where Obama endorses what he thinks are the central tenets of this exceptionalism:

“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don’t think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we’ve got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we’re not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

What the pundits have done, as Sullivan points out, is to clip out the first sentence (or paragraph) of the speech in order to construct a false narrative that a) Obama has the wrong idea of what American exceptionalism is, b) so that he doesn’t think America is exceptional, c) and by implication, Obama cannot be a real American.

What the pundits are  doing here (and Sullivan is right about this) is to equate American exceptionalism with sense of simple national pride – as either the British or the Greeks might think of their country, or even how a community might feel about the local high school football team. But what they are really doing here is using this simple notion of exceptionalism to screen out, demean, and ultimately eviscerate  the more complete definition of Obama’s following description of American exceptionalism, which is a text book liberal description of that exceptionalism. Liberal exceptionalism is basically faith in the rule of constitutional law that in the end is suppose to produce a fair, egalitarian, and meritocratic society unbound by the need of overwrought government oversight (aka socialism). But of course on the other hand (and Sullivan is no where to be found), the right wing’s version of exceptionalism is an altogether different animal, that is grounded in the unique concept of a Christian based nation where freedom equates to a right if not the obligation, to make shit up, lie, cover up, deny, or use any other extra legal means necessary to prop up the illusion of a shining city on the hill fairytale notion of itself to justify the pillage the world in the name of being the last great hope for the mankind. Which is exactly what the before mention pundits are doing in taking Obama to task.