In case anybody was worried that the year 2020 couldn’t get any zestier, along comes Jeffrey Toobin. Perhaps you missed it because you just got back from hunting moose in the Yukon, and so I will fill you in. The much feted (and apparently fated) Toobin, legal analyst for CNN, was on a Zoom call with CNN colleagues gaming an election night simulation, in which Trump was apparently losing, and the election night simulation got to be something of an erection night stimulation, and Toobin turned on his mute button, which doesn’t turn off your camera come to find out, and began masturbating.
That’s not really how you want a storied career to end, but that’s how his did.
The Challenges of Satire
So then, how does this help us read the moment we are in? I find it hard to escape the conclusion that we have gotten to the point in the novel where the author is starting to make fun of all His characters. The director of this film, were it a film, who was supposed to turn in an angst-ridden drama in French, with the kind of translation in the subtitles that would win whispered kudos at Cannes, decided instead to give us a mash-up version of a Marx brothers/3 Stooges adaptation of Macbeth.
We recently released my novel Ride, Sally, Ride, which we obviously did on purpose. I clearly thought the moment was right for such a treatment, but still, there are some provocative moments in the book. That being the case, an author will naturally brace himself for criticism from those believers who thought it was “not quite necessary” to write a novel about a young man who throws his neighbor’s sex doll into a trash compacter at a recycling plant. One sees their point, of course, and one sympathizes. This Mrs. Grundy line of criticism was taken up, not by pious Christians, but by certain telepathic trolls who decided to review the book without reading it. But the criticism that frequently came from faithful Christians who had actually read the book was more along the lines of “what do you mean, twenty years in the future? This is more like two months in the future.”
In other words, the world has gotten steadily crazier and crazier, until really crazy seems normal, and against such a backdrop, a crazy novel written by a sane person is somehow stabilizing. It somehow seems understated, at least when compared with the evening news. Think about this Toobin episode in a satiric novel written by Tom Wolfe, who would have certainly done it true justice. But nevertheless the editor, after enjoying the read, would most certainly have sent it back for a suggested rewrite. “Too contrived. Too outlandish. Are you kidding?” Karl Marx once said, riffing off Hegel, that history does repeat itself — the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. I don’t generally quote Marx with approval, but I think it is somehow fitting here.
And so why is it fitting?
Lessons for Us All
The lessons of 2020 appear to be that someone wants the progressive left to learn that they have been, and continue to be, the butt of the joke. They are not the children of destiny. They are not the ones that they themselves have been waiting for. They are not the cool kids. They are self-styled progressives, but with extremely hazy ideas of what they have been progressing from, and entirely foggy ideas of what they are progressing to. They are rebels without a clue. On the highway to nowhere, they have dubbed themselves the 70 mphers, which is my translation of “progressives.” We don’t know where we are going, but we are making great time!
They prize nothing more than authenticity, the kind with pre-ripped jeans, and we can tell this because they fake their authenticity all the way down. Following the dictum that sincerity is everything, and that once you can fake that, you’ve got it made, they live in a house of mirrors where all their hypocrisies are projected onto everybody else, and especially on the normals.
I mean, look at the presidential campaign we are in. Joe Biden is the lamest candidate in the history of these United States, and we do not exclude Warren G. Harding. He has pawed and sniffed multiple woman, all on camera. His speeches are solomonic bafflegab that rise to Harding levels. And for a refresher, here is what Mencken said about Harding levels:
That is to say, he writes the worst English I have even encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm (I was about to write abscess!) of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash. But I grow lyrical.Mencken on Balder and Dash
And then it turns out that old reliable, Hunter Biden, left a laptop crammed with incriminating evidence at a computer shop, thereby fingering his father as the head of an epic crime family, It turns out the reform candidate is guilty of absolutely all the things the president was impeached for. The president wasn’t, and he was. Huh, says we. On top of everything else, Trump is holding massive rallies everywhere, back to back, while Biden is conducting himself as though it were just another leisurely day at Sunny Acres, and holding events that draw literally dozens of people, all while holding a commanding lead in the polls. And this tells you a lot. It tells you that the polls are as authentic as everything else, which is to say, not very.
Of course it goes without saying that in a time like this, nobody really knows how November 3 is going to go. I mean, look back at how the first part of 2020 has gone. What was predictable about that? But we do know one thing, on the basis of how the year has unfolded thus far. The one thing we do know is that we are going to be lied to constantly. And we know this because we are being lied to now.
The lies are coming at us tomorrow, we may predict, because of all the lies yesterday. And the lies are told by our society’s organs of speech, which is to say, the media.
Read the story. And even though the story has clowns in it, reading the story is not the same thing as believing the clowns, or repeating the lines.