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America This is Quite Serious: The Witches

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This Halloween, just over a week before election day, I call forth the recent writings of two women who invoke history to update our understanding of the anger directed toward Hillary Clinton and, more broadly, women.

Stacy Schiff frames the vitriol aimed at Clinton with a look at the historical fear of witches. Schiff, the author of last year’s The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem, digs into the fascination with witches through the ages and why, as she says, “The idea may have evolved; the animus remains.”

Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless: They offer the blessed relief of assigning blame; they allow us to distill spite, that heady brew of vindication and humiliation.

It would be nice if the connection to the 2016 election was only metaphorical, but it seems there is at least one right-wing “thought” leader — Trump supporter and fucking maniac Alex Jones — who thinks that Hillary is possessed by demons.

If that kind of thing sounds familiar to you, then it’s probably because of the history documented by Susan Faludi in “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan.”

One of the mysteries of 2016 is the degree to which Hillary Clinton is reviled. Not just rationally opposed but viscerally and instinctively hated… she’s cast not just as a political combatant but as a demon who, in the imaginings of Republicans like Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Representative Trent Franks, would create an America “where passion — the very stuff of life — is extinguished” (the former) and where fetuses would be destroyed “limb from limb” (the latter).

Faludi notes the long history of this thinking, which started in the early 1990s, for reasons that appear to be an animating energy of today’s rage:

The 1990s produced a generation of men who felt (and still feel) left behind by a society redefining power and success in terms of ornament and celebrity and demoting the value of industry and brawn, while simultaneously challenging men’s value as family providers. Though women weren’t the source of men’s pain, the antagonist conjured up by aggrieved men I talked with in those years had a feminine face, and very often that face was Hillary’s.

Or as someone once said, “Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless.” That resentment gave rise to an entire industry of anger, led by talk radio bullshit from the likes of human foot rash Rush Limbaugh. Today, it is made manifest in Donald Trump a liar, con man and abuser who is supposed to Make America Great Again because that what it says on the hat he uses to cover his freakish comb-over.

Hillary’s biggest detractors may call her a witch, but they’re the ones who are under a spell.

America, this is quite serious, and “Witchcraft on the Campaign Trail” and “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan” are worth a read.

Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

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The Infinite Jest Liveblog: ONANism

This is the latest entry in Words, Words, Words the ongoing liveblog of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” 

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October 31, 2011, pgs 380-418/1028-1031.  I think I enjoy this section most as storytelling strategy. Wallace obviously had to at some point explain the development of his near-future reality of subsidized time and President Gentle and Interlace teleputers. He could have done it with a standard flashback, or obliquely through the development of other parts of the story. It’s possible that Hugh Steeply could have been a narrative vehicle, or James O. Incandenza’s ONANtiad. Instead, we get Mario’s puppet show spoof of his father’s film, viewed annually at Enfield Academy on Interdependence Day.  The format allows for a fleshed out telling of the story in a way that enhances, without undermining, the fundamental ridiculousness of a microbe-phobic ex-crooner maneuvering his party into governmental leadership and his struggling nation into the Organization of North American Nations. I was reminded of Homer Simpson’s rise to Sanitation Commissioner of Springfield, as captured in image and song below:

Then on to Lyle, whose relationship with the hyperhidrostic Marlon Bain seems to have been the basis for JOI’s movie Death in Scarsdale. As Mario’s film plays in the cafeteria, Lyle counsels various ETAers in the unlit weight room. His visitors include Ortho Stice who is struggling (along with this reader, so far) to understand why his bedroom furniture is being rearranged while he sleeps.

At the same time, Hal is ingesting massive amounts of sugar, noticing a toothache, and thinking about his father’s films, in particular The Medusa v. The Odalisque.  Again with the St. Therese, who in this case is “a character out of old Québécois mythology who was supposedly so inhumanly gorgeous that anyone who looked at her turned instantly into a human-sized precious gem, from admiration.”  A deadly, mythical, Canadian PGOAT.

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