It's Anger Week on the Intarnettz this week, according to my experiences jumping from site to site and message board to message board to see that the humidity of summer has made people go, "Bzzzt furious rage!" at just about anything. Seeing AICN melt down over something as innocuous as The Clone Wars and hearing that Latino Review was being targeted by Microsoft for posting a couple of pictures for a movie that isn't even being made was enough to disturb my equilibrium quite badly, without all of the other random snippiness and bullying that comprises about 56% of internet interaction over the past few days, so I shall attempt to make the online world a happier place with an inconsequential post filled with joy over the release of a new book by my intellectual mancrush Thomas Frank.
I'm all a-dither with excitement. In the past I have railed against the iniquities of The Market, and the peculiar popular belief in its impassive, emotionless benevolence, which is something that has irked me long enough that I can remember being very uncomfortable watching pretty much any movie or TV show from the 80s featuring Michael J. Fox in a shirt (i.e. almost all of them). Maybe that discomfort is why I have such a problem with money, and talking about money, and any kind of economic thinking. Or maybe it's the other way around. It's hard to say. What is obvious to me, though, is that my understanding of what money is and how to make it work is so embarrassingly immature that any kind of balance sheet or bill or bank statement looks to me like this.
In an attempt to get over this I read two books that I have mentioned before; The Lexus and The Olive Tree, by Thomas Friedman, and One Market Under God, by Thomas Frank. The utter worthlessness of the first book was obvious even to someone like myself who once thought that newspaper headlines about the IMF were referring to The Impossible Mission Force (I really really wish that was a joke). One of Friedman's arguments, that The Market is riddled with democracy-germs that rub off on countries that make out with it, is backed up with statements barely more substantial than, "this is what will happen because... because... just because, damn it!", not to mention conjuring up the image of goat-herders in the Middle East giving up on their traditional work in order to sit on a rock with a laptop and trying to eke out a few tiyin here and there by day-trading (an exaggeration, but not much of one).
There was a lot of other unconvincing stuff in there, but don't take my word for it. My man Paul Krugman dishes out an entertaining review of it here. My dislike of Friedman's populist drivel is such that recently I potentially alienated a friend of Canyon's after seeing a copy of The World Is Flat on her shelf, which triggered a ten minute rant from me that scared her cats and made her back away from me while reaching for a baseball bat. If you ever read this post, Friend of Canyon, I apologise profusely. The anger management classes are going well, you'll be glad to hear. The point I was trying to get across, behind all of the "GRAAAAR!" and "Noooooo!" and "Banish him to Uzbekistan!" statements, was that if Lexus was anything to go by, I wouldn't be surprised if Friedman was actually trying to argue that the world really was flat. That's how little I respect him.
One Market Under God, on the other hand, was a revelation; funny, angry, and filled with shocking examples of pro-Market propaganda hurled at we, the people, by those who would benefit most from our mute acceptance of the status quo. It was just the tonic I needed. His next book was called by two names What's The Matter With Kansas? in the US, and, rather uncharitably, What's The Matter With America? in the UK, because we Brits have never heard of Kansas and might think he is talking about some village in Greenland or something. It might be even better than One Market. I don't know. I tend to have internal debates about which book is better, like the comic fans who debate whether Superman or Thor would win in a fight (it's Thor, obviously). That said, while One Market made me angry, What's The Matter just made me depressed. Recently I read Matt Taibbi's disappointingly slender but undeniably hilarious The Great Derangement, and it conjured up similar feelings of desperate misery of a "Hell in a handbasket" kind of way.
The Wrecking Crew might make me feel just as bad, but I can't wait for it anyway. I thought it was coming out next week, but it's out now, and I've already ordered it, though my eagerness for it is so intense it's even made me crave a Kindle so I can immediately download it and read it instead of chunter on about it. Until then, check out Frank's homepage, and watch the interview with Stephen Colbert. As a big fan of both of men and their Amazing Powers of the Brain, it was a treat to see that last night (what? Our PVR is full of old Daily Shows and Dexters and we got behind with watching!).
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