Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Perhaps it's the final implosion of a mediocre conservative talent; perhaps not

Over at Blue Oregon, Carla has let P. J. O'Rourke get under her skin in a big way for his latest Weekly Standard article.

In it, O'Rourke fumes that the Obama/Democratic victory last week is proof that American conservatives "blew it." But he doesn't stop there--not even close: He spends at least as much time stewing that the rest of America is not much better than the torch-and-pitchfork bearing mobs of ignorant, superstitious peasants of the old "Frankenstein" films--ungrateful rubes who weren't smart enough to know when they had themselves a good thing under conservative rule (however "blown" it might have been in its execution).

It was that second part that kind of pushed Carla's buttons. You'll see.

Even if you don't like O'Rourke--and I speak as someone who always thought he peaked in his relatively apolitical National Lampoon days, some 35 years ago--it's probably not entirely fair to judge him by this popeyed rant.

True, it's a pretty sad piece of work. As some of Carla's commenters suggest, he may be attempting irony here, although it ends up demonstrating my long-held conviction that conservatives don't really "do" irony because it involves being able to look at yourself from another point of view, which simply isn't one of their strengths. They take a shot at it from time to time, but the whole thing quickly spirals down into heavy sarcasm, either with middlebrow-literate references (O'Rourke and Dennis Miller) or without (Limbaugh and Coulter).

O'Rourke's literary output may not be your cup of tea, but at least you get the sense from his typical essay that it arrived at the end by way of a beginning and a middle. But, as an experiment, try randomly swapping the order of paragraphs in this latest outpouring. It really doesn't make much less sense. In fact, there are passages where you can even randomly swap individual sentences around and not lose much. (However, I found that if you start randomly swapping the words around within his individual sentences, it quickly becomes a lot less clear. This seems pretty clear proof to me that his Weekly Standard piece, dreadful as it is, was still in fact written and not simply spilled across the page like a fifth martini.)

But I'd say it tells a lot more that matters about The Weekly Standard for publishing it than about O'Rourke for writing it. PJ is besotted with rage that life isn't working out the way he feels it should have. We get that. That's his business. But friends wouldn't have let him have the keys under those conditions. (I liked Zarathustra's comparison of his article to an AA confession in Carla's comments.)

It's got to be pretty hard cheese to spend years cultivating your rep as a conservative intellectual and one morning wake up to realize you're sitting next to Mo Rocca on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." For the great unwashed to treat his political ideals with such loutish disrespect might well have been the final straw.

1 comment:

Chuck Butcher said...

I credited your deconstruction of poor PJ in a recent article