Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This is Not a Pipe Dream

The language turns in on itself and ferments in both describing this National Review interview with Dinesh D'Souza, and in the document itself.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates notes, D'Souza gets Barack Obama's memoir exactly wrong:

Go read his book, starting with the title Dreams from My Father. The whole book is about how Obama shaped his values, personality, and identity in the image of his father.

This reading is hardly by accident, though. According to D'Souza and his book The Roots of Obama's Rage, nothing the president says is to be taken at face value:

Some people consider Obama very serene because he talks about issues like equality and the poor in a very calm manner. He sounds like he is reading from his tax return. Some liberals are confused, and say that Obama must be a very cerebral guy. But there is an alternative explanation. He sounds bored about these issues because he doesn’t care about them. He isn’t motivated by poverty or inequality. He is motivated by hatred of the rich and the banks and the investment companies and the drug companies. Notice that when Obama speaks about these groups, his lip curls and his face darkens and he shows real passion. That’s when he wants to, in his words, “kick ass.” So there is a sublimated rage in Obama that is reminiscent of the rage of Barack Obama Sr., a man who often sat outside his hut and went into drunken rages against the West for denying him the fulfillment of his anti-colonial dreams.

The end of the interview is distilled negation:

Obama’s father, Barack Sr., was by his own account an African socialist. He wrote a paper in 1965 proposing tax rates of up to 100 percent. He said that there was nothing wrong with 100 percent taxation as long as the benefits accrue to the state and to society as a whole. Interestingly, Obama, who knows everything about his father, has never alluded to this paper in any of his writings or speeches. Even more remarkable, there has been virtually no reporting on a document that seems to throw valuable light on what Obama is doing in the White House, on what Obama means when he says the rich won’t pay their “fair share,” and so on.

Because Obama's very absent father wrote a paper, it follows that Obama has read it and it informs his entire worldview. So of course it's a mystery why Obama and the media have never, ever brought this paper up before now.

In discussing this pernicious anti-logic on TNC's page, I mentioned an idea that had been brought up before, that of Leo Strauss's esoteric readings, whereby an author's true intent is not to be found by reading what he says, but reading between the lines to discern a hidden motive. Fellow commenter Cynic elaborated on it better than I could, and so I'll post the entirety of his response:

Spot on. You can see this in the interview in D'Souza's discussion of "Obama’s suppressed rage." He acknowledges that "some people consider Obama very serene." But, he argues, "there is a sublimated rage in Obama" that surfaces when he discusses the rich and powerful, as "his lip curls and his face darkens and he shows real passion."

Follow the logic. Obama's outward serenity, his preternatural calm, becomes evidence of sublimated rage. It can be discerned only by close observers, able to scrutinize his outward appearance to understand the contents of his soul. (The "face darkens" bit is a particularly nice touch.) It's all of a piece. Obama bursts on to the public stage by offering his own story as an affirmation of the unique splendor of this nation; therefore, he actually hates it. He seems serene; therefore, he seethes.

You can't argue with logic like this, because it takes all contrary evidence, and reinterprets it as a demonstration of even deeper perfidy. He is not what he seems. That conviction is absolute, and unalterable. And the more innocuous he seems, the deeper the hatred becomes.

In nether words:

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