Friday, October 26, 2012

The Embodiment of the Machine

Thomas Frank has an excellent examination of Paul Ryan ("All the Rage") in the November 2012 issue of Harper's. Money quote: 
"A telling incident in the life of [Paul] Ryan: back in April, the New York Times reported that he was a fan of the Nineties alt-rock band Rage Against the Machine. The members of the band, however, are well known for their leftist causes, and in August their guitarist, Tom Morello, declared that Ryan "is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades."
This exchange represents, I think, something more than an amusing cultural clash: it is a metaphor for Paul Ryan's career. His meteoric rise over the past four years is partly due to his appropriation of symbols and rhetoric and, indeed, rage that used to belong to the left. Raging against power is how the machine--which is to say, the conservative movement itself--gets its business done."
A wolf in sheep's clothing, Ryan's public persona very eloquently masks his quite extreme position on many things. Frank does a good job pointing out some of these positions and tying them into the larger scheme where Republicans couch their support for moneyed power in the voice of indignant outrage. One example he chooses is Ryan's argument that corporations use regulations to stifle competition (he posits that small companies can't afford to comply with the fees and regulations that large companies can, so large companies gladly pay fees to keep their smaller brethren out of the picture), so all regulations are bad. This argument  sadly, misses the lesson that so many missed in our most recent financial crisis, namely that a certain amount of regulations are needed to protect society from powerful companies and industries. Hiding this support for the "machine" behind passionate & progressive-sounding rhetoric is a cynical yet powerful tactic that progressives have yet to find an effective way to combat.

No comments: