It’s A Socialist Life?

One conservative contends that George Bailey is teaching America the wrong lessons.

Boston Talk Radio Host Michael Graham contends that It’s A Wonderful Life, long a staple of holiday movie viewing, is not only the worst movie ever made, but basically anti-American:

The fact is, “It’s A Wonderful Life” is a movie that only an Occupod could love. The story is sweet, but the message is truly awful.

Consider George Bailey. In your mind, you see him after a lifetime of poverty, grief and bad luck, running through Bedford Falls shouting “Merry Christmas you old Building and Loan,” just happy to have a family he loves.

Well I agree that having a loving family can help us all get through crises. (Remember the stewardess in the disaster-film spoof “Airplane?” “At least I had a husband . . . ”)

But the name of the film is “Wonderful Life,” not, “Well, Things Could Be Worse.” And in George Bailey’s case, things are truly tragic.

Smart, ambitious George gets stuck at the modest Building and Loan back in Hickville when his brother marries into a cushy corporate gig and his father dies. After years of dreaming of going off to college, traveling the world and becoming a top engineer or architect, his life is spent scraping by, and helping others do the same.

Somehow the movie — like the Occupiers of today — tries to turn that into a virtue. Despite his wife and kids, George turns down $20,000 a year so he won’t have to work for that “evil banker,” Mr. Potter.

Occupy Bedford Falls!

Then disaster strikes. His addled Uncle Billy accidentally drops the daily deposit into Potter’s lap and guess who happens to show up that day but the bank examiner. As usual George is broke and, well, that’s when the movie really falls down.

Because the obvious solution is for George’s guardian angel, Clarence, to simply tell George that Potter has his money, send the cops to slap the cuffs on him and that would be that.

But Clarence is apparently a counter worker from the heavenly Registry of Motor Vehicles. Rather than solve the problem, he goes the long way around, showing George how lousy everyone else’s life in Bedford Falls would be without him.

And, of course, Clarence is right, but how is that wonderful for George? Sure, his neighbors all bust their piggy banks to help out, but in the end George is still stuck in Bedford Falls, his friends are out their savings  . . .  and Potter still has the 8 grand! You call this “wonderful?”

Instead, Graham wants to see what he says George Bailey’s actual “Wonderful Life” looks like:

Show me George in his New York penthouse, with that hottie Violet dressed to the nines, talking about the new dam he’s building in Central America, bringing power to an entire country. Show me his plans for a big-city skyscraper that will house thousands.

Show me the great life of George Bailey at his unfettered best, with a family safe and prosperous thanks to the wealth he’s earned making the world a better place for the most people. Now that is a wonderful life.

Now, I am not going to argue that It’s A Wonderful Life is the best movie ever made (that title belongs to a film with a far darker plot) but the manner in which Graham tries to apply modern politics to a film made in 1946, just after Americans were coming out of a Depression and War, is really quite ridiculous. For one thing, I think it’s fair to say that Capra had a better pulse on what Americans of the day valued than Graham does, even today. Sharing a New York penthouse with a loose woman may be Graham’s idea of a “wonderful life” but it’s certainly not the way Americans of the 1940s viewed the world. The small-town family life that George Bailey lived was the life that many Americans lived, and others aspired to. The villain of the movie, played quite nicely by the great Lionel Barrymore, represents the forces of modernization that would soon sweep through small-town America, and Capra’s vision of a Bedford Falls without George Bailey was represents what many at the time, and today, still fear about the destruction of small-town life. On another level, the one that most people approach it at I would submit, the movie is about the idea that material success in life isn’t as important as personal success, while Bailey is surrounded by family and friends coming to his rescue at the end, Mr. Potter is alone in his office. Arguing that this is somehow the 1940s version of the Occupy movement is absurd.

Approaching this from a different angle, John Feehrey argued earlier this week, that Mr. Potter deserves a break:

Mr. Potter is meant to embody all that is wrong with the business world.  He lacks empathy for his fellow citizens.  He is mean.  He is bitter.  He is childless.  And worse, he is very, very wealthy.

Frank Capra, the famous director who brought IAWL to the silver screen, would fit in well with the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  The man simply did not care much for bankers.

But think about it from Potter’s viewpoint for a second.

The man has a lot to recommend him, especially as played by Lionel Barrymore.

First, he is overcoming a disability.  He does not let that wheelchair slow him down.

He is cool under pressure.  Even George Bailey admired that attribute: “Potter isn’t selling. Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicking and he’s not. That’s why. He’s picking up some bargains. Now, we can get through this thing all right. We’ve got to stick together, though. We’ve got to have faith in each other.”

Potter was a realist.  He knew what people thought of him. “George, I’m an old man and most people hate me but I don’t like them either so that makes it all even,” he said at one point in the movie.

He was a community servant.  His fellow citizens thought enough of him to put in charge of the draft board when the war started.

He pushed for policies that stressed personal responsibility.  He didn’t favor loans to people who would most likely not pay them back.  He didn’t like the Building and Loan because he feared it’s loan policies would create, “A discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty working class.”

You could spin it that way, I guess, but then you’d be missing the entire point of the movie. Besides, in a deliberately melodramatic movie, the villain and the hero are always going to be exaggerated. The real George Baileys of the world aren’t as good as Jimmy Stewart’s character, and the real Mr. Potter’s aren’t as evil. That’s why it’s a movie, and not real life.

Like I said, this isn’t the best movie ever made, and it’s far from being Jimmy Stewart’s finest performance either (for that, you need to go look at the two movies he did with Alfred Hitchcock), but it’s hardly the piece of propaganda that Graham seems to consider it. On the other hand, though, it does have a message that’s seems more valuable than that vision of a New York penthouse that Graham seems so obsessed with:

I think it is a particularly important movie for young people to view because the messages it delivers are so powerful, the principle one being that every single life has value, that every person on the planet has the potential to impact others in positive, meaningful and even life-saving ways. The movie beautifully illustrates that so many times we do this without even knowing it; we are affecting others in beneficial ways without even realizing that we are doing so. The movie tells us, “This is what is important, not that you are well-known, or make a lot of money, or are a super-successful executive/sports star/singer/actor, or have a certain body type or a beautiful face.”

Let’s face it, our kids are growing up in a culture of celebrity. It’s thrust into their faces 24/7. It’s a Wonderful Life is counter-cultural, because it’s a film about doing what is right in life, even if it isn’t glamorous or adventurous or exciting or wealth-producing. It’s a film about loyalty to family and friends, even when money and other temptations are dangled before your eyes. It’s a film about putting your whole heart and soul into whatever task is before you, even if you can’t see the immediate results. This is a message we all need to hear and take to heart, but young people in particular need to be exposed to this timeless truth in the hope that it will become one of the core beliefs for their entire life.

The other option, of course, is that you could just enjoy the movie and not worry about the politics. In fact, that seems to be the best idea of all.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    But Donna Reed was definitely a hottie in her day.

  2. Suggested counter-read:

    [Failure] of expansionary austerity is already evident. Predictions that, once the state got out of the way, the private sector would come roaring back, have proved laughably false. After more than a year of austerity in the US and Europe, there is no sign of any recovery. Rather, the risk of another crash looms larger than ever.

    Expansionary austerity is not simply a zombie economic idea. It forms the basis of a political strategy of class war, undertaken by the financial and political elite (the “1 per cent”) to hold on to the wealth and power they accumulated during the decades of market liberalism, and to shift the costs of their own failure on to the rest of the population. An effective response must similarly combine an economic analysis with a policy program and a political movement to mobilise resistance to the push for austerity.

    It’s striking, isn’t it? Even as austerity slows growth and expands inequality … it’s the old movies that we should worry about. Movies made in 1946 for God’s sake!

  3. @Hey Norm:

    Donna was a hottie for a wide span.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    @ John Personna…
    Is that a Larry Craig joke???

    On the original post…I’m really not sure why anyone cares what that bigot Michael Graham has to say about anything anyway.

  5. Maxwell James says:

    Apparently these worldly fellows are unaware that Frank Capra was a lifelong Republican.

  6. @Maxwell James:

    Frank Capra was a RINO! (first!)

  7. Scott says:

    I also think the message is that building solid communities is hard work and that rampant individualism and capitalism can lead you down a road that is not desirable. Both have their good points but without moderation, disaster can happen. Besides, Potter was shown as unethical and a thief. Just because he was successful monetarily doesn’t mean he is successful elsewhere.

  8. Liberty60 says:

    @Maxwell James: Capra was a 1940’s vintage Republican; today he would be a Soshalist commie-dem anti-colonialist.

    It is odd, that contemporary conservatives seem hell bent on becoming the cartoon caricatures the left always portrayed them as being.

    If in say, 1975, you had said that conservatives would someday write op ed peices valorizing Scrooge and Mr. Potter, it would have been laughed off as silly hyperbole.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Show me George in his New York penthouse, with that hottie Violet dressed to the nines, talking about the new dam he’s building in Central America, bringing power to an entire countrydisplacing thousands of subsistence farmers who barely survive on what little land they have so he can sell that power to Brazil and make billions off of it. That small Central American country won’t even miss what they never had.

    fixed that for you Doug.

  10. PD Shaw says:

    A recent clip on Jon Stewart showed how Its anti-wealth bias could be edited out of Its a Wonderful Life:

    Wealth on Film (starts at 3:18)

  11. Ratufa says:

    Perhaps Mr. Graham would prefer “Ayn Rand’s A Selfish Christmas”:

    In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts — and therefore Christmas — possible.

    From:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2004/12/01/the-10-least-successful-holiday-specials-of-all-time/

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    Graham seems to be equating socialism with not being a sociopath.

  13. mattb says:

    God… does one need further proof that today’s “conservatives” are essentially amoral libertarians? The quest to transform George Bailey into John Galt.

    This reminds me of an excellent essay that ran a few weeks ago about how far Talk Radio “conservatism” has gotten away from traditional, thoughtful, moral conservatism. Why do I doubt that Graham has never read Kirk.
    The libertarian-inspired ideology that is masquerading as conservatism today is just as dangerous to religion as the secular humanism we find on the left. Traditional conservative values are being cast aside, such as humility, reverence, responsibility, stewardship and other moral principles—most of which stem from Biblical teaching.

    http://www.frumforum.com/russell-kirk-would-not-recognize-these-conservatives

  14. Well, the realy problem here is that the original ending to the movie was lost, so the Potter plotline never gets resolved. Thankfully, the missing footage was rediscovered so we can finally appreciate the film in its entirety:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/4267/saturday-night-live-its-a-wonderful-life-lost-ending

  15. mattb says:

    Sigh… #taggingFAIL!

    That last paragraph was a quote from the article in question… it should have read:

    David Jenkins : The libertarian-inspired ideology that is masquerading as conservatism today is just as dangerous to religion as the secular humanism we find on the left. Traditional conservative values are being cast aside, such as humility, reverence, responsibility, stewardship and other moral principles—most of which stem from Biblical teaching.

    The most fervent adherents to this doctrine, while giving lip service to traditional values, family and religion, will only accommodate them until they become inconvenient to their more immediate goals of gain and personal gratification.
    http://www.frumforum.com/russell-kirk-would-not-recognize-these-conservatives

  16. Rob in CT says:

    just as dangerous to religion as the secular humanism we find on the left.

    I’ll bite. Care to expand on this?

  17. sam says:

    @Hey Norm:

    But Donna Reed was definitely a hottie in her day.

    Donna was hot, but Gloria was incandescent.

  18. mattb says:

    @Rob in CT:
    That was the author’s quote, not mine. I tend to be a fan of secular humanists (like Vonnegut and Hitchens).

    That said, I can see the idea that line of thought can be “threatening” to organized religion. The caveat is that the people who are typically threatened by secular humanism are they type who are generally threatened by any type of critical questioning.

    On the other hand, modern “conservatism” is threatening to religion in the same way that the “prosperity gospel” is.

    Of the two lines of threat, as a Christian, I see the latter as a far worse threat than the former.

  19. WR says:

    When you mention the “two films” Stewart did with Hitchcock, I assume you mean Vertigo and Rear Window. There was a third, although it doesn’t compare — Rope.

  20. @WR:

    Rope is interesting from a technical sense though, since it is made in away that the entire film appears to be one continuous shoot, which required a lot of creativity and planning to hide the cuts from one take to the next.

  21. mantis says:

    Is there a single conservative worth taking seriously anymore?

  22. There is a strange need that some conservative types have to get all upset if businessmen are portrayed as villains because business is always virtuous (or something).

    This is the same logic that lead to that bashing of The Muppets on Fox Business Channel the other day,

    Because, you know, people engaged in business never do the wrong thing in pursuit of profits so can never be villains. For example: only in a movie dreamed up by a crazy socialist could a guy engage in a massive pyramid scheme that bilked investors out of billions. That would never happen in real life.

  23. @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s because the GOP has forgotten that capitalism is supposed to be pro-market, not pro-businessness. They still call themselves capitalists, but most of them a really merchantilists who don’t understand the distinction.

  24. Rob in CT says:

    @mattb:

    I totally misread it the first time, Matt.

    Thanks for the response, though!

  25. WR says:

    @Stormy Dragon: It’s an interesting as an experiment, but not much good as a movie. The actors’ performances are slightly stitled, especially as the reel wears on and they get nervous about blowing the take right before the end. And of course, by removing the possibility of editing, the director deprives himself of one of his greatest tools. Certainly interesting to see once, and I’m sure it was fascinating to make…

  26. I joked the other day after Fox News went after the Muppets movie for “brainwashing children” that conservatives would denounce Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice for its negative portrayal of bankers and capitalism. I guess I should have picked a more modern production for them to attack.

  27. @Timothy Watson:

    The Merchant of Venice is also completely anti-Israel. Shakespeare is just another one of those blame-America-first European intellectuals. Why do you think he’s so popular with the teacher’s union? Because he’s indoctrinating our children with liberal brainwashing, that’s why.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    From a writer’s perpective it’s just really hard to make heroes out of greedy, self-serving swine. Ayn Rand tried and produced laughable work.

  29. Brett says:

    I always thought the second lesson of It’s a Wonderful Life, after the first one about how we all touch our communities in beneficial ways, was simply that you shouldn’t lose sight of humanity in your business dealings. George Bailey made money most of the time, but unlike Potter he valued people and the community he was helping to build, instead of just maximizing his self-interest. That community then saved him when Potter screwed him over. Would anyone give a damn if Potter had made a bad investment and gone bankrupt?

  30. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Really, I take it you haven’t seen the movie Doug said was the best movie ever made.

    It’s a Wonderful Life is an amusing short story with superficial characters. Although George Bailey is a man, he sees his life as a boy. So in that respect, the #OWS can relate. Clarence removes him from his self-centered view and shows him his life from the perspective of others and opens his eyes as an adult. Perhaps the #OWSers will grow up and obtain an adult perspective on their lives and see they should fight for the future rather than wallow in their self-serving despair.

    Potter is not presented as a person but as a boy’s view of his adversary whom he in his heroic view must conquer. Really what child sees their nemesis as a whole person, they only see the stark self-serving moments.

  31. ponce says:

    From a writer’s perpective it’s just really hard to make heroes out of greedy, self-serving swine.

    Michael Graham isn’t just a wingnut movie critic, he’s an author, too!

    Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War

    Forget the mint juleps and the debutante balls, for every slack-jawed yokel who swears he saw The Lizard Man out by the dump, there’s a failed televangelist with a family full of hare-lips holding a position as lofty as, say, the President of the United States. Because it’s America that’s ever more like the South, says Graham, not the other away around. Wafting up from the Mason-Dixon line and spreading like kudzu, redneckery has been absorbed from Bangor to Baha, he claims. The only real difference between Brooklyn and Birmingham is that you can’t get a gun rack in a Trans Am.

    http://www.amazon.com/Redneck-Nation-How-South-Really/dp/0446528846

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Actually, I think Doug said it was not the best movie ever.

    And yes, I’ve seen it.

    And no, the movie is not seen from a child’s perspective.

  33. anjin-san says:

    Although George Bailey is a man, he sees his life as a boy.

    The scenes of Bailey as a boy are there to provide insight into his character and frame the main story line. Your take on this is badly off the mark. Even as a young man, Bailey shows willingness to shoulder considerable responsibility and to make sacrafices for his family. Sorry, but these show maturity and stability, not childishness. If anything, Bailey needs to be a bit more self-centered. He has taken on so much and helped so many that he is adrift as an individual & does not value himself properly.

    Superficial? Physician, heal thyself…

  34. @JKB:

    I suspect that was fun for you to write, even if it does turn reality on its head a bit.

    Yeah, let’s reinforce looting by the financial classes, because that is the way adults to it!

  35. Liberty60 says:

    @Brett: It also should be remembered that George Bailey’s father was a banker, and is protrayed quite heroically.

    He is of course, a conservative in the best sense of the word. He pursues private interest, but his personal ambition is tempered by moral guidelines of respect for the dignity for others; he sees his business dealings within the larger societal duty of providing people with the ability to create a home for themselves.

    He, likewise, would in today’s climate be sent to the Fox gulag for the crimes of soshalism commiedem libtard anticlonialism.

  36. Liberty60 says:

    @JKB:

    I saw the movie that way, once.

    Of course, the only way I could do that is when I turned off the volume, put on Dark Side of The Moon, and took three hits of acid.

    But yeah, I saw the message you saw.

  37. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t think the movie has anything to do with banking; you could re-write this story and change everybody’s jobs and occupations around as I believe countless t.v. and animated re-tellings have done. The movie is about suicide and despair and a moment of divine intervention (or psychotic break if you choose) in which the main charachter decides he wants to live, despite the dissapointments and hardness of life. George turns out to be the actual angel.

    Potter’s a villain because he’s a thief who stole the money. He also was willing to use his seat on the board of the building and loan to eliminate the competition. The actual counterpoint to George’s amibtions is Wainright who left town and did all kinds of things; Potter is only the richest man in the county.

  38. Hey Norm says:

    From Wikipedia:
    In a 1946 interview, Capra described the film’s theme as “the individual’s belief in himself,” and that he made it to “combat a modern trend toward atheism.”

  39. anjin-san says:

    “combat a modern trend toward atheism.”

    Sounds about right. At its core, it is a story about a good man, perhaps even a great one, undergoing a crisis of faith…

  40. mattb says:

    @WR & @Stormy Dragon:

    As was said Rope is an interesting experiment. I think the film would have been more successful if Cary Grant had stayed in the lead role. Unfortunately he backed out due to concerns about the homosexual undertones of the story.

    Stewart was a great actor but just was a bit too straight laced for that role.

  41. T Green says:

    Sounds like Graham wishes Ayn Rand had written It’s a Wonderful Life with Howard Roark as the lead.

  42. Dazedandconfused says:

    +1.

    I have the feeling this guy wouldn’t be satisfied with a Gordon Gekko Christmas. Greed is good year-round.

    Jimmy’s portrayal of pure fear in Rear Window was fantastic, wasn’t it?

  43. Joel says:

    There was actually a fourth Stewart/Hitchcock movie, the Man Who Knew Too Much remake. I haven’t seen it, though the original (also by Hitchcock) is truly awful. It embodies every negative stereotype people hold about old movies (and I like old movies).

  44. tyndon clusters says:

    I think what gets lost in all this is just how far left and “socialist” 1930s-1960s America really was.

    One of the great achievements of Reagan was to brainwash everyone into thinking that there was no history prior to Jimmy Carter.

    That America before Carter was Burma Shave signs and hard working little capitalists who hated regulation, worshiped an unfettered wealthy elite and who yearned to be free from the yoke of government repression.

    But Carter, his liberal friends and an out of touch Democratic Congress who had just given away the Panama Canal, were responsible for the destruction of the American dream and needed to be repudiated.

    It was brilliant and effective (witness current GOPers who blame Carter and the CRA of 1977 for the current mortgage crises!!!).

    Because of the complete and total abdication by modern Democrats of New/Fair Deal regulation (strict banking oversight, wealth redistribution via fiscal policy, vigorous enforcement of anti trust laws, opposition to NAFTA style foreign trade pacts destroying labor) right wing kooks are free to blather on about how “out of touch” liberals are vis-a-vis traditional American values.

    The singular failure of the Democratic Party to constantly and aggressively champion these liberal causes is the primary culprit in the current dystopian economy the middle class faces.

    In 1950, Charles Wilson the CEO of GM (he of the “whats good for GM is good for America” fame)
    made $586,100 and paid $430,350 in taxes.

    There was no great hue and cry from the masses of America that this was not “fair” or that Wilson was being subject to “class warfare and envy” or that somehow Wilson had no incentive to live.

    After what the selfish bastards of Wall Street had done to Main Street in the late 20s and 30s, the typical american was a socialist, soak the rich, destroy bankers influence, bottle up greed and avarice and in no mood to support Republican plans to rescind any New Deal policies.

    The baby boomers, with short memories ,have forgotten history and as the recent financial shenanigans have demonstrated, are doomed to repeat it.

  45. Clovis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    From a writer’s perpective it’s just really hard to make heroes out of greedy, self-serving swine. Ayn Rand tried and produced laughable work.

    And yet she outsells you. If not laughable, risible.

    From a writer’s perspective Dan Brown is better than Ambrose Bierce or Wodehouse.

    His crap sells. As adult fiction.

    Writers want to sell books. The ones who want to change the world by their powerful words,well, there’s a couple of names for that:
    1:Diarist
    2:Self important blowhard who can’t get on television
    3:Dunce

    Your smug layer is obscuring your vision, and that’s a bit of a shame.

    What we are talking about this instance is Narrative Inevitability. The pig-herder is the Prince and the Princess is the the Scullery Maid.

    It feels right.

    Graham and Feehey are merely emphasizing the fact that all stories have more than one edge.

    The best villains are not intentionally evil, they think that they are good. The heroes of literature can just as easily be cast as heels. It’s a bleeding market industry with talentless clowns writing the old Oz stories from perspective of the antagonist. Hey,throw in zombies or aliens or vampires .Toss in a couple of pod people for the vegetarians and you’ve got a cassoulet of stale. Or Young Adult fiction.

    Stop being such a pretentious bag .

  46. Barb Hartwell says:

    It`s a wonderful life is one of my all favorite movies. I do not feel they made George or Mr. Potter. out to be an unrealistic characters. This was a small town in a different time. He certainly was not made out to be a saint. He drank, he liked the ladies. He was torn between his Family obligations and his dreams. Who here has not thought of doing something wrong knowing it could make you a-lot of money, but decided not to because it could hurt your family and your soul? I have to admit I never met a man like Potter, but I do know they exist. However I know men like George exist because my husband is like him in many ways. I hope people do not think they should have any sympathy for this Devil Potter he may be lonely but he would have had the people of Bedford Falls living in the streets. Kind of like the banksters of today.

  47. Barb Hartwell says:

    @Clovis: You`re sounding pretty pretentious yourself. I like what Michael has to say and now I will buy what he writes too.

  48. anjin-san says:

    Writers want to sell books. The ones who want to change the world by their powerful words,well, there’s a couple of names for that:
    1:Diarist
    2:Self important blowhard who can’t get on television
    3:Dunce

  49. anjin-san says:

    Let’s try that again:

    Writers want to sell books. The ones who want to change the world by their powerful words,well, there’s a couple of names for that:
    1:Diarist
    2:Self important blowhard who can’t get on television
    3:Dunce

    I can think of a few other names.

    James Baldwin
    Anne Frank
    Mohandas K. Ghandi
    Alex Haley
    Geroge Orwell
    Bill W.

    Lots more where that came from.

  50. Liberty60 says:

    @Clovis:

    L. Ron Hubbard probably outsells both Ayn Rand AND Michael Reynolds.

  51. steve says:

    “And yet she outsells you.”

    You can fool some of the people all of the time.

    Steve

  52. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Clovis: Wow! A little envious of Michael, are we?

  53. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I think the most important thing here is that Doug is fueling his own self-denial about the moral connundra associated with Libertarianism. In essence, we have two quotes that depict the world from Doug’s own avowed worldview and one that represents a view that would best be identified as the one from the “parasites.” Doug’s response is to note that the best way to solve the problem is to just watch the movie and enjoy it.

    Denial is the river in Egypt in Dougland!

    For the rest of us–the picture is becoming clearer: do you really want to live in the world that the “conservatives” are advocating? It’s time to decide folks–and right now we will have a conservative running against a slightly less conservative.

  54. Trumwill says:

    @ponce: So are you under the assumption that Graham’s book is pro-south? That is really, really far from the case. It’s rather vicious, actually, and in sum a complaint that the rest of the country has taken on the south’s worst attributes.

  55. An Interested Party says:

    And yet she outsells you.

    Well of course Rand is superior to Reynolds using a Randian scale…oh, and Clovis, surely you have heard of that little idiom about pots and kettles…perhaps you might want to reflect on that before you criticize someone else…

  56. ponce says:

    It’s rather vicious, actually, and in sum a complaint that the rest of the country has taken on the south’s worst attributes.

    Slavery?

    And poor taste?

  57. Trumwill says:

    @ponce: Not slavery (in any formal capacity), but segregation, poor taste, a disdain for education, proud ignorance, victim-mentality, theological kookery., and so on. He holds the “Redneck Nation” in utter contempt.

  58. mattb says:

    @Clovis:

    Writers want to sell books.

    Not that Michael needs any help defending himself, but I thought I’d fix this for you and dispel a ton of mistakes along the way:
    [Writers want to connect with an audience. Professional] writers want to sell [enough so that they can live comfortable and continue to write, more or less, what they want to write. However, many professional writers end up writing what will allow them to live and continue to write].

    After that point, all bets are off. And, as many have already noted, judging “success” in terms of sales is always a flawed mechanism (and repeats the same mistake that Graham made at the start).

  59. michael reynolds says:

    a) No clear idea what the hell Clovis is ranting about. Is there a translator?

    b) Lots of people outsell me. Stephanie Meyer and her sparkly vampires outsells the hell out of me. She also outsells the hell out of Ayn Rand. Not sure what the point would be of all that, but whatever.

    c) There are a whole lot of writers who are better than me who should be outselling me, but don’t. My wife’s upcoming ONE AND ONLY IVAN should outsell me, but it won’t.

    d) Jealous? I’m amazed at the career I’ve had. A high school drop-out who didn’t start writing until he was in his 30’s? And I make more than a partner at a major law firm while working 4 hours a day? In sweat pants? On my deck? Or sitting in a bar? Only an ungrateful assh0le complains that he’s only 90% of the way up the pyramid. (I may be an assh0le but I’m not an ungrateful one.)

    e) As I mentioned in some thread, motives are always plural. I write for money, and because it’s something I’m good at, and because it beats my next career choice (really old waiter) and because I get a huge rush out of making it all work, and because it’s an ego boost, and because it’s cool that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy what I write, and because I’m a pedant by nature, and many more reasons.

    f) Ayn Rand is a shi-ty writer. That’s not exactly a minority opinion. She’s incompetent as a writer of fiction. Her novels are turgid dreck. It’s eye-rolling, oh-my-god-this-sucks, tedious, just-shoot-me, there’s-not-enough-whiskey-in-the-world, drivel. To say that her characters are cardboard is an insult to corrugated paper products. Incidentally, her philosophy is sophomoric nonsense. But that’s an aside. I don’t think much of Stephanie Meyer as a writer, either, but she’s still better than Ayn Rand. You know who else is better than Ayn Rand? Any random page Google produces when you click on “I’m feeling lucky.” You want to be a better writer than Ayn Rand? Pull your d-ck out and pee random words in the snow and you’ll be a better writer than Ayn Rand. Rent a monkey, give him a computer, and you’ll get better prose than you’ll get from Ayn Rand.

    g) But wait, why ask me? Let’s hear from Flannery O’Connor — also a better writer than me, though God help us all, she probably sold fewer books: Author Flannery O’Connor wrote in a letter to a friend that “The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail.”

  60. ponce says:

    Ayn Rand got the fan boys she deserved.

  61. James H says:

    I’m sympathetic to the argument of the second critic, but from a different angle. I wonder if the Building and Loan would have been more solvent if instead of working out deals with individuals to keep them in their houses, Bailey had charged fair interest rates on loans and insisted they be paid on an agreed-upon schedule.

    I’m not Ayn Rand — I don’t argue that altruism is a bad thing. But I do think that if a person is too altruistic, he puts himself at risk. And when that altruism comes in a person to appropriates a financial institution’s assets to subsidize that altruism, the net effect may indeed be negative.

  62. James H says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The Merchant of Venice is also completely anti-Israel.

    Actually, yeah. Although modern productions try to portray him in a different light, Shylock was originally an anti-Semitc caricature.

  63. WR says:

    @Clovis: “From a writer’s perspective Dan Brown is better than Ambrose Bierce or Wodehouse. His crap sells. As adult fiction.”

    I don’t know who you are, Clovis, but there are two things I do know about you: You are not a writer and you have never met a writer.

    It is true that Dan Brown sells jillions of books, and that every one of us who toils in the same fields looks on that with astonishment and envy.

    It is also true that there is barely a writer out there who can say a good thing about Brown’s writing — not out of envy, but because it is truly atrocious.

    People who write for a living love and respect great writing. They yearn for great sales, but that hardly means they blindly worship any hack who becomes inexplicably popular.

    And I say this as a writer — who had six books in the Kindle top 30 as of last night — and a teacher of writers and a colleague of writers.

    If you want to make a claim that Ayn Rand is the most splendiferously wonderful novelist in history, go ahead and make the claim. But don’t attribute that to other writers. You just don’t know what you’re talking about.

  64. Stan says:

    @Clovis: Balzac. Flaubert. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Checkhov. James. Conrad. Ford. Mann. Proust. Faulkner. Fitzgerald. Hemingway. Bellow. Updike. Roth. What a bunch of losers.

  65. Neil Hudelson says:

    To say that her characters are cardboard is an insult to corrugated paper products.

    This wins the internets for the day.

  66. Eric Florack says:

    Mr. Potter is meant to embody all that is wrong with the business world. He lacks empathy for his fellow citizens. He is mean. He is bitter. He is childless. And worse, he is very, very wealthy.

    So, we’re talking about a Scrooge, no?

    Look, even my detractors on this site will suggest that I am probably about this and I socialist a person as they come. That said, this was not an attack on the rich, nor was the solution governmentally based. A bunch of neighbors stepped in and did the job without governmental intervention. Without the central authority.

    Mike is off base on this one, I’m afraid.

  67. Eric Florack says:

    Damn… I gotta keep the MP3 off when I’m dictating. Sorry.
    I’d correct it but I figure you get the idea.

  68. JKB says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Well, if you actually looked at Scrooge and the impact of his life, you don’t find the one dimensional character assumed by most readers.

    Few writers seem to be able to offer a businessman character that shows the reality of many who worry about their business not just for the earnings but because it is what provides for the families of his workers. I suppose it is to complex and remote from their experience just like the current crop of television and film writers who cannot present leadership and the military in any way but as stereotypes they learned from their English professors

  69. Eric Florack says:

    @JKB:

    Well, if you actually looked at Scrooge and the impact of his life, you don’t find the one dimensional character assumed by most readers.

    Had you actually read some of my stuff, you’d never have said that. Example: http://bitsblog.florack.us/?p=34945
    (keep reading, you’ll see what I mean… the reference is about 3/4 down the page .)

    Few writers seem to be able to offer a businessman character that shows the reality of many who worry about their business not just for the earnings but because it is what provides for the families of his workers. I suppose it is to complex and remote from their experience just like the current crop of television and film writers who cannot present leadership and the military in any way but as stereotypes they learned from their English professors

    True.
    Indeed, by and large, that is the truth of the matter.

  70. Eric Florack says:

    I think what gets lost in all this is just how far left and “socialist” 1930s-1960s America really was.

    True. Which is the only reason the left can claim Obama is a centrist, now.
    The fact is, that lean to the left was a huge mistake, one we’ve paid for many times. And we’ll keep paying for it till the lean gets righted.

  71. anjin-san says:

    Look, even my detractors on this site will suggest that I am probably about this and I socialist a person as they come

    Can you run that through a babble to English translator for us?

  72. sam says:

    @JKB:

    I suppose it is to complex and remote from their experience just like the current crop of television and film writers who cannot present leadership and the military in any way but as stereotypes they learned from their English professors

    God, but you’re full of shit. Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Generation Kill. I’m genuinely curious — have your ever worn a uniform? Ever?

  73. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: as i said…. it got garbled by the music i was playing.

    what i was saying is that im most likely the most anti socialist regular here.yet i dont see this as mike does.

  74. Eric Florack says:

    God, but you’re full of shit. Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific, Generation Kill.

    Interesting examples , but unfortunately they constitute a flawed list. That’s because they tended to draw a different crowd …. one that understood what wearing a uniform means. The supposedly a stream movies, do tend to fall into the description of the writing that JKB describes.

  75. Liberty60 says:

    @James H:

    But I do think that if a person is too altruistic, he puts himself at risk.

    Being Christmas morning and all, I can’t help myself from pointing out that a certain Palestinian named Jesus would agree with you, for perhaps different reasons

  76. sam says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Interesting examples , but unfortunately they constitute a flawed list. That’s because they tended to draw a different crowd …. one that understood what wearing a uniform means.

    Not surprisingly, you’re even more full of shit than he is. You know, I’ve been reading your boneheaded ravings for years, but with this last, I am fvcking done with you, Bithead. You’re a waste of bytes.

  77. Eric Florack says:

    And yet you say nothing to substantiate this claim.
    are you really suggesting that the type of movies that JKB describes droll rather different crowd than the ones you list?

    If so I suggest you come back to reality.

  78. anjin-san says:

    That’s because they tended to draw a different crowd

    What crowed it that? I saw all of them. Ryan three times and The Pacific twice.

    one that understood what wearing a uniform means.

    I assume you include yourself here. What uniform have you worn?

    what i was saying is that im most likely the most anti socialist regular her

    Your comments show pretty clearly that you don’t really even know what socialism is.

  79. R B says:

    @mattb: I see you haven’t yet read “Moral Minds” by Marc D. Hauser. Not a fan of Noam Chomsky as well, are you?