More Money Than (Common) Sense

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    Earlier this week, at a private fundraiser for the President in California, an event for which each person attending paid $5000 for the privalege of eating in the same room with the Chief Executive and listening to him address the gathering, free of the toxic news media which follows at his heels, a young woman stood up in the middle of the President’s speech peeled off her top to reveal a teeshirt bearing the smiling image of cri de coeur martyr of the moment, Bradley Manning, and began to sing an ode to Private Manning.

    Within seconds, she was joined by the rest of her party at their table, until the lot of them were politely ushered from the room by attending plain-clothes security officers.

    The President thanked them for their offering and carried on with his speech.

    As protests go, this was tepid. The song was trite, the rhyme awful. It wasn’t even a full-fledged or full-throated protest, in that part of the lyrics stated that the singer and her company would vote for the President in 2012. What was amazing was that these young(ish) people were able to afford a fee which only well-heeled donors were likely to make in order to attend a rally for the President and to contribute to his campaign fund. (That was another oxymoron: They were protesting something for which they clearly blamed the President, yet their song admitted support and, collectively, they’d just contributed a grand total of $76,000 to his campaign kitty). Go figure.

    Later on, the young woman in question described herself as a “trust fund brat and sometime artist.” Well. That says everything.

    The radical chic have returned to live amongst us. Are you old enough to remember them?

    The first time they appeared, forty-two years ago as chronicled by Tom Wolfe in his essay, they’d decided to espouse the cause of Civil Rights – six years after the Act had been signed and almost a decade after the highly publicized demonstrations.

    This particular clique, led by Leonard Bernstein, Baba Wawa and the mother of the fragrant Katrina vanden Heuvel, decided to throw a dinner party, not for the leading lights of the NAACP or the Urban League, but for the Black Panthers. The original real Black Panthers.

    On the afternoon of the day of the festivities, Leonard Bernstein, hosting the event, suddenly realised that his butler and two maidservants were black, so he sent them home and frantically called an employment agency, requesting that they despatch three Latino servants to work for the evening. And when the soiree was under way, the radical chic suddenly found that they were actually sharing the same airspace as real black people, people from the street and from parts of the city they studiously avoided.

    Bradley Manning is the pin-up of this generation’s radical chic. It’s highly unlikely that Miss Trust Fund Brat was even remotely interested in what the President had to say about his budget plan in relation to the obscenity Paul Ryan’s trying to hawk, or the state of the declining middle class – a euphemism, I’m loathe to use, because if you work to live, you’re working class, so own the term and live with it. She obviously isn’t thinking of the masses of unemployed or underemployed, of people who’ve flattened their 401K’s simply to get by or people, heretofore, made bankrupt by medical expenses. She probably is unaware of the situation in which her state of California found itself a few yeafs back when state employees were furloughed and paid with IOU’s. She finds the decaying infrastructure of California a nuisance and an inconvenience, but she and her mates have $76,000 to donate to a candidate they heckle in order to be able to get their point across about someone who’s accused of committing an act of high treason.

    Whether Manning’s guilty or not is for the courts martial to decide, but the fact that he’s attracting such a high level of extremely wealthy people who part with their money so readily and in such a discombabulated way, says far more about these doyens of the extreme Left than it does of either Manning or any of the things these people “protest.” It would have been far better and benefited Bradley Manning far more if this woman and her cronies had contributed the $76,000 paid for the Presidential evening to Manning’s defense fund, which must be accumulating.

    Last week, the day before the President’s speech on the budget, I received an e-mail from Adam Green of  Bold Progressives, having  subscribed to his newsletter ages ago. The e-mail was frantically advising everyone on the mailing list that the next day, President Obama was about to give a major speech in which he would announce that he was cutting Social Security, Medicaire and Medicaid.

    Hurry! Hurry! We had all of 24 hours to stop the President from committing such a heinous act. All we had to do, Green’s letter explained, was send a donation of $5 to his organisation. If that didn’t “stop Obama,” the next step would be for all Progressives to boycott President Obama. The next morning, in the hours leading up to the speech, Green smugly announced that 60,000 people had made donations and pledged to stop the President from cutting these entitlements.

    Sixty thousand people paying five dollars apiece … In a space of less than 24 hours, Green had accumulated $300,000. As the Brits would say, that’s a nice little earner. And – oh yes – President Obama, after all, didn’t “cut” Social Security or Medicare or even Medicaid. He made a seminal speech, with Paul Ryan sitting in the front row, where he politely but firmly, trashed Ryan’s handiwork as irrelevant.

    But the politics of fear had garnered Adam Green a tidy $300k. Adam’s a graduate of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, known for having a stringent, student-patrolled honour code. Had Adam tried that scam as a student, he’d have been given 24 hours to pack his bags and leave the University. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect $300,000.

    Instead, Green continued fear-mongering. Just because Obama (he never actually calls him “President Obama”) didn’t do that there and then, we’ve got to ensure he doesn’t cut entitlements in the future, so … a request was made for further donations of $5 from e-mailed recipients.

    Until that moment, I’d largely ignored Green’s panic-driven screeds as spam, in much the same way I’ve ignored his amateurish political punditry as some remnant of a drunken evening spent in the company of the Jefferson Debating Society for lack of anything better to do; but in reading those two e-mails and thinking about his grifting accumulation of more money than most people see in a year in the space of one day, I had an Oral Roberts epiphany.

    If Bradley Manning is the 21st Century radical chic’s Black Panther, then Adam Green is the Left’s Oral Roberts. Growing up in the South of the 1950s, as a small child, I remembered Roberts’s frightening radio rants, which promised salvation, if only you put one hand on the radio and the other in your pocket to reach out the princely sum of $5 to send ol’Oral. Now I’ve come full circle, with Adam Green promising all our social and political wet dreams would come to fruition if only we keep one hand on the keyboard and the other clicking the credit card payment details in order to send dosh to Adam who’ll personally ensure that the Obama horde is stopped at the gate.

    My father was a lifelong Democrat, who stuck with the party from Roosevelt, for whom he cast his first vote, to Clinton, for whom he cast his last. Wherever he is, seeing these grifters and shifters from his side of the political equation, parting with money which could be better aimed at other causes, he’d be hard put not to utter one of his many stock phrases: that a fool and his money soon part. It’s just a shame the fools in question all seem to be from the Left, and that these same people are proving to be as unyielding, unthinking and close-minded as their brethren from the Right.

    • Teddy Goodson

      I do happen to be quite old enough to remember what you call the radical chic, which, in my experience, are descended from what my generation referred to as “parlor pinks.” These were the Oh-so-socially conscious ninnies who drove their Rolls (or were driven in their Rolls) to the New York Communist Party’s office to contribute to, and even to enlist in, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, who applauded Mr. Snow when he wrote his paen to Mao and the Long March, entitled Red Star Over China… and who eventually “matured” into the neo-conservatives fond of Realpolitick, who were such a pain as they took over the Republican Party (and eventually drove me out of that Party).

      This Byzantine path to pseudo-enlightenment among the chic, if I read you correctly, had another branch which ended up embodied in the politics of such as Adam Green. The tactics of the Communists were well learned by the parlor pink intellectuals, and were carried over by them into Republican-land.  Hence, they have front organizations, righteous indignation, use of hysterical fear and loathing to extract money, character assassination (even physical assasination, like that of Trotsky), and ruthless party discipline. That little branch which went further Left rather than further Right exhibits many of the same tactics.

      As it happened, the fads of the parlor pinks were occasionally worthwhile causes, but the taint of extremism and the company they kept inevitably invalidated the cause. I think the same result is often as true of today’s far left as of the far right (both evangelical and tea party). We must not, therefore, spurn the Far Left and whatever cause about which they currently obsess, since they may in the long view be correct (sad but true: good manners fall by the wayside when human beings become obssessed). Therefore, I find your comments intriguing (not so sure Oral Roberts is a good comparison, but let it pass)…

      There is a template for begging letters floating around out there which is used universally, and it requires creating a frightening scenario to create the proper emotion for making the “ask,” and endless repetitions for asking for a descending order of donations (“$1,000, or $500, or $100, or even $5, as much as you can…”). It is such a familiar boiler plate I no longer hold it against the author, I see it everywhere, including from the Red Cross or Haitian Relief. You make a good case for your contempt, but perhaps you, too, should not obsess about it.