To a lover in the thrall of blissful delirium, there is nothing that doesn't relate to his beloved. Frank Rich is the morose mirror image. Not a leaf falls but that it reminds him of Iraq and the perfidy of the Bush administration. The ostensible topic of Rich's sub-req NY Times column of this morning was Time magazine's solipsistic choice of "you" as person of the year. What this has to do with Iraq might not be apparent to you. But you're not Frank Rich.
Let's see how Rich managed to make the connection with some annotated excerpts:
- "Like Time today, Life in the late 1960s was a middle-of-the-road publishing fixture sent into an identity crisis by the cultural revolution that coincided with a calamitous war."
As bad as Vietnam was for us, it was much worse for the millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians who were killed by the dictators who took over once we pulled out.
- "As our country sinks deeper into a quagmire — and even a conclusive Election Day repudiation of the war proves powerless to stop it — we the people, and that includes, yes, you, will seek out any escape hatch we can find."
Rich sounds his major theme here: the rise of the internet reflects the escapism of the American people in reaction to the bad news of Iraq.
- "Compulsive blogging and free soft-core porn are not, as Time would have it, indications of how much you, I and that glassy-eyed teenage boy hiding in his bedroom are in control of the Information Age. They are indicators instead of how eager we are to flee from brutal real-world information that makes us depressed and angry."
Depressed and angry? Speak for yourself, Frank.
- "The often uproarious farce that took its name from that hopelessly dense and bigoted fictional TV correspondent from Kazakhstan was the year’s most revealing hit movie. It was escapism incarnate, and we couldn’t eat it up fast enough. 'Borat' also encapsulated the rising xenophobia that feeds American fantasies of the ultimate national escape: fencing off our borders from the world."
So not only are we escapists, we're Frank Rich's moral inferiors. A bunch of paranoid xenophobes. And Rich proves this by pointing out that we flock to a movie mocking . . . a xenophobe?
- "The second most revealing movie hit of this escapist year was “Casino Royale.” . . . There could be no happier fairy tale for a country looking in the eye of defeat. The movie was nostalgia for the cold war, which America won unambiguously, was visible everywhere this year as we lost a war that has divided the country."
Note Rich's use of the past tense. As far as he's concerned, it's ov-ah.
- "The most revealing index of our lust for escapism this year cannot be found at YouTube or the multiplex, however, but in the sideshow villains who distracted us from main news events in the Middle East: James Frey, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and Judith Regan. Something is out of whack when these relatively minor miscreants are publicly stoned and the architects of a needless catastrophe that has cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives escape scot-free."
Great point, Frank. As everyone knows, before Iraq went south, America never had any taste for miscreants' misdeeds. No wonder no one paid any attention to the OJ trial. And what's this, the morally superior Mr. Rich fantasizing about the public stoning of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Co.? How . . . atavistic.
Finkelstein was in Iraq last month. Contact him at email@example.com