Comment and Tweets on the True Detective Season 1 Finale…

(Comment at Crooked Timber, “Wonders of the Invisible World,” by Henry Farrell)

Nicely done, though I think the critique of the ending is in its own way as too-neat as the ending itself, or simply recapitulates or re-extends the, of course, finally imponderable matters of whether light or dark, or form or void, is “winning,” and of whether the “detective’s curse” is something we can live without, among other problems. To insist that the light is certainly not winning returns you to Rust-Cohle-ist unhappy consciousness, of the always implicitly self-contradictory statement of belief in the irredeemable mistakenness of life itself. In this respect a resort to value presumptions, which may not be wholly unrelated or in themselves wrong, and which may even have been uppermost in the mind of the auteur – I’m referring to the recognizably leftist-feminist critique – seems overly convenient and prejudicial.

Additional: I think Farrell gets a lot right in his critique, posted this morning. Zack Beauchamp’s even more clearly ideologically conditioned judgment turns upon itself, as I suggested in a series of tweets responding to Ethan Gach (@ethangach).

  1. .@zackbeauchamp thinks the True Detective finale “failed.” I don’t think success on his terms was a real option. 
  2. #pt TD doesn’t, contrary to @zackbeauchamp, portray Rust as “satisfied,” but as nearly killed and shaken by the near-death experience
  3. #pt solving the “conspiracy,” much lesss misogyny, is beyond two detectives; it is “for us” by the theory of the (just a TV) show
  4. #pt in the end TD was high pulp – like so much other epic TV, collaborative art that a post-serious culture pretends to take seriously
  5. #pt yet for all that its qualifiedly optimistic, simply and humanely “meaningful” ending of a season, not a series, was a relief…

The narrative results fulfilled natural expectations that a resolution of Rust Cohle’s character conflicts would all but certainly involve a discovery of meaning amidst all the meaninglessness, and would not involve any obviously outlandish plot twists. It should also have been obvious to many with experience in the mystery and killer-thriller genre that the seemingly inoffensive landscaper at the “Tuttle School,” met briefly in an early episode, could well turn out to be much more than he seemed to our hero at the time.

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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