The Moment of Truth — September 15, 2003
Why George F. Will?
Hello and welcome to the Moment of Truth, the owl at the pet store you should have bought and taken home with you because now you and your nation of helpless ankles are plagued by the nipping of a sea of rats.
There is one question in my mind: Why George Will? Why? Why is there a George Will? Why is George Will George Will? And why is George Will George Will in the particularly George Willian way he is?
It’s too simple to say that George Will is a rightwing columnist who appears every other week or so on the back page of Newsweek. The truth is much deeper. George Will, or George F. Will as he is usually bylined, is more like a stifled human spirit clapped up in the bony prison of an irritated-looking head, choked off at the base by a bowtie that dares you to stoop to the pettiness of mocking it. This knob of despair sits atop a metaphorical robot of the mindless insect-like variety and has been set down in a maze of rightwing semiotics where it scurries from obstacle to passageway as if with will and purpose. But it possesses neither will nor the coherence of action a will might bestow. Hence, I suppose, the F. before the surname Will. “F. will,” George Will’s career seems to say. “F. coherence and F. will.”
He begins one of his recent columns thus: “As if it was not already as plain as a pikestaff…” And who cares what comes after that? It’s the bowtie challenge all over again. Will seems to dare us to mock his pikestaff, to mock his diction, yet at the same time he’s daring us to continue reading with any measure of calm intellectual detachment. Because who can pay attention to what this shmuck is talking about when he’s stuck this big clunky bizarre psychotic PIKESTAFF into the beginning of his column? Pikestaff? Plain as a pikestaff? What do you even know about plain if your first example is a pikestaff? And yet there you are, with your challenging bowtie, saying pikestaff. And all with a straight face. And after all you did edit the National Review. I guess after that you can just wave pikestaffs and bowties around like there’ll be no consequences whatsoever. Are you mad, George Will? Or are you crazy like a fox?
Then get this, three brief sentences in: “…Wesley Clark, the retired Army general who fancies himself a president, has suddenly discovered, in his 59th year, that he is a Democrat.”
Just listen to that contempt. I know it’s hard to focus on with the pursed lips and the bowtie and pikestaff. But that is some serious contempt there. Fancies himself a president. Oh, does he? Fancy himself a president, does he? Fancy himself a poet, does he, our little Mr. Floyd? And our Mr. Fredrick Douglass, does this darkie actually fancy himself an orator? And does this poor ragged tailor fancy he can win the hand of the lovely Princess Pendragon?
The reader has been transported in the space of a few lines of prose into an unfamiliar and terrifying universe. It’s a vision more disorienting than that painted by John Lennon in “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds;” there we had newspaper taxis and cellophane flowers, but at least everyone was smiling. There’s something almost reassuring about the plasticine porters’ looking glass ties when compared with the dour bowtie of our Mr. Will. And that pikestaff of his. Good lord! He seems ready to stab you with it! Here’s a universe where an Army general is ridiculed for daring to think that he could one day be president. I mean, an Army general? Okay, maybe a convicted retarded rapist on death row. But to tweak and Army general with such a purple nurple of scorn?
Because, hey, if an Army general is being too uppity by fancying himself a president, who am I? I mean, I’m just a regular joe. Before I’ve even begun the article, George Will has put me in my place with his scorn, threatens me with a pikestaff if I step out of line, and stands angrily behind the barricade of his bowtie like a line of Chicago cops behind their shields at the 68 Democratic Convention. I don’t even deserve to read the article, let alone think about, or — god forbid — think critically about it.
What we are told from the very beginning of the column is that democracy itself is a fraud. In reality, responsible people are either George Will-like in their rarified bowtie and pikestaff universe, dispensing the ideas and judging who is worthy of discussing them, or else they are the rank and file who know their place, which is to keep their stupid mouths shut and pay attention while the George Wills dictate from their bowtie tower.
But remember, the bowtie is only there to keep the feverish head attached to the motorized boll weevil body. He’s nothing more than a peevish little toy, wheeling and skittering about in his box. And the thing that keeps him wound up and his gears spinning is his fear, his fear of democracy. His fear that the people, and not some class of philosopher kings, may possibly have their political way. It’s not that he hates the Democrats or loves the Republicans. It’s just that he hates people. He thinks they’re stupid and dangerous. As I suppose they are. He’s uncomfortable with most of the 300 million or so folks who run around living their lives in the United States, and he’s most uncomfortable with the thought that those very people he fears have some crazy idea that democracy is about THEM putting THEIR two cents into the discussion of official policy.
It’s not that he’s not a man of the people. No. I don’t criticize him because he wouldn’t be caught dead in a bowling alley, because he’s an Ivy League snob. That’s not my problem with him, although it is most likely one of his own private problems. My problem with George F. Will is that he’s a man of fear, anger, frustration, and vast emptiness. And the only reason I can see for someone to read one of his columns and enjoy it at face value is that that someone needs his own distrust of popular political participation validated.
So, as I see it, George Will is about as un-American as they come. His very essence denounces participatory democracy. So again I come to the question: Why? Why George Will? More specifically, “Why George Will in the mainstream media?” Does it have anything to do with over-concentration of media ownership? Or do the readers of Newsweek sincerely think themselves unworthy of governing themselves to the extent that they enjoy being browbeaten into abdicating that privilege and duty on a semiweekly basis?
It is truly a mystery as enigmatic as the legends of lost Atlantis.
Until next time, I’m Jeff Dorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth. Good day.