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Walter Kirn is a writer. Probably his most widely recognized work is Up in the Air because the novel it was made into a movie that starred George Clooney. But he is also an essayist and has a periodic presence on the Gutfeld! show. And he has a weekly (Fridays) video blog, America This Week, with Matt Taibbi. I don’t know that he’s formally a humorist, but his manner of presentation does reflect an ironic eye. Kirn’s pairing with Taibbi is genius because they both share a free speech absolutism while having different political orientations. This is like the mild tang of sweet and sour sauce.
(You can get Taibbi’s newsletter with its links to the ATW video without paying, but then you only get the first 30 minutes. If you have a paid subscription through Substack you can get the whole thing. And I recommend you do so. One, because you get independent reporting from Taibbi, but also the full ATW video.)
What inspired this post occurred just after the 30-minute mark on this week’s video: Kirn highlighted how what is often missed in George Orwell’s 1984 is in the story everything is falling apart — the buildings are crumbling, people dress shabbily, the spirits have very little alcohol, etc. The mind-control that The Party is exercising is necessary to keep people accepting of decay. The old, “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”
Kirn had earlier alluded to, but expands importantly upon after the 30-minute mark, the fact that when government can no longer control reality it shifts to controlling perception. Kirn and Taibbi discussed a number of examples of where media figures are complaining that people just aren’t understanding how well off they are under Biden, or that other media are not doing a good enough job of obscuring what everyone is seeing (Biden’s policy failures). All of this is in service to The Party whose policies are driving popular immiseration and who cannot, as a result, retain power in a system of free and fair elections.
The other day, someone shared with me a New York Times article, “Bidenomics Has a Mortal Enemy, and It Isn’t Trump.” It is behind a paywall, but as he was a subscriber, he could share it with me. For those of you, like me, who do not subscribe to the NYT, the article (ignoring its provocative headline) is really about how Bidenomics is not addressing “income inequality.” (It included the obligatory “it was happening under Trump, too,” but that was pretty much the only reference to Trump in the article.) I responded to the person who sent me the article:
Thomas Sowell in his most recent book takes on the “income inequality” argument. Sowell’s point is that aggregation of data ignores individual movement upward and downward. That is, individuals within a cohort at one point do not remain in that cohort over time. So Sowell argues that income inequality stats are not a valid reflection of how equality of opportunity is working out, as opposed to making it a permanent weapon in the “equity” movement. But inflation really is a problem because it is a regressive tax on the lower end of the economic ladder. And government printing money (or more correctly an unaccountable Federal Reserve) guarantees inflation. It is inflation, not income inequality, that is at the base of people’s concern about their economic well-being. If your money doesn’t go as far and you notice it because you can see the bottom of the pan each week (so to speak) you are not feeling good about things.
This NYT story is an example of what Kirn is talking about: If we focus on income inequality, we take our eyes off inflation. Individuals can and do personally close the income gap through productivity and time. But inflation robs them of the benefits of doing so. And government, not the marketplace, is the culprit for inflation. So it becomes important to message to the people that it’s the mean old hoarders of wealth, not the government’s, fault if your life is challenging; that inflation is going “down” when it is only not going up as fast; that you should ignore the fact that if your wages are not going up as fast as inflation you are losing ground in the struggle to gain/retain financial security.
This is the “your lying eyes” election. There are two strategies at play: (1) obscure what the powers that be are doing to you so you won’t vote against them, and (2) make sure that the “count” comes out right. Tough times.
You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him.