by carl wilson

This Is Not, In Fact, The Place

Apropos of nobody's big debate: Everyone, including the Arcade Fire (who cover it in concert), seems to call This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) his/her favourite Talking Heads song. I think that may be one of my favourite love songs, in fact, but to like it best as a Talking Heads song is not really to like the Talking Heads, is it? Life During Wartime, Once In A Lifetime, even, if you want a ballad, Heaven... these are Talking Heads songs, while TMBtP seems more like a "I bet you didn't think Talking Heads could do this" song. It is almost a cruelty, like a lover saying to another, "I like you best when you are least yourself." This least-representative, most-popular dyad seems like a commonplace syndrome, though at the moment I'm at a loss to produce another example - Coltrane's Favourite Things, maybe?

Not that both aren't great: They aren't exceptions by virtue of being shit, or pandering for approval or what-have-you. They are happy exceptions, but songs you do not so much have to like the band's inborn pneuma in order to treasure. We could make separate lists for each of those categories. Incidentally, would said lists then be rockist? Or could we name someone whose oeuvre consists of nothing but these sorts of happy exceptions, and would that then be the best popular music records artist ever? It's late Friday afternoon, so let's call that our homework.

Meanwhile on Nipplegate=Death/moral-cultural values/freethought vs. the fundies/etc. - read Frank Rich (if you don't mind pre-empting your Sunday morning - I mind, too, but I got spoiled so now I'm spoiling you) and The Stranger (I don't agree but it's cathartic).

Typically enough, the media have now overcorrected and ruled by sheep-stampede that moral values are defined by religiosity, that the correctness of morality is determined by who won an election in a deeply corrupt electoral system, that this explains the election and the election explains it. Simply put, somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of the population of the United States are scary Jesus freaks. Karl Rove figured out a way to get them out to vote their homophobia, which cancelled out the quite-successful efforts of those well-known satanists Bruce Springsteen and Puffy and MoveOn and so forth because it is a winner-take-all system that only grudgingly answers to the name "democracy." That doesn't mean all America is scared of Janet Jackson's nipple. America is mostly not red or blue but purple (you've seen the maps by now, I won't link them) and the sun ain't yellow, it's chicken. As Leon Wieseltier has written, in as staid a place as The New Republic:

"Perhaps the most odious feature of contemporary conservatism is its equation of success with virtue. In the realm of economics, this long ago resulted in the strange belief in the moral superiority of the wealthy, a vulgar Calvinism according to which money is a proof of merit and riches are a mark of righteousness. How else is wealth acquired in America, after all, except justly? And now, in the aftermath of the election, the equation of success and virtue, the conflation of outer worth with inner worth, has been extended to the realm of politics. We are instructed that the Republicans won because they have 'values' and the Democrats lost because they do not have 'values.' (Or quantitatively speaking, 59.5 million Americans have 'values' and 55.9 million Americans do not have 'values.') Winners are good, losers are bad."

The Writ | Posted by zoilus on Friday, November 12 at 05:41 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)



What Tom Frank didn't get was that there was nothing wrong with Kansas, but that there's a whole lot wrong with alt-journalists who can't figure out why the world doesn't match up with what they were taught by their bitter history profs at the University of Chicago.

And frankly, it's not like anyone at Harper's sent someone out to find out what Kansas thought of being told that there was something "wrong" with it. The Dems could have read that piece backwards and forwards and it wouldn't have helped them a damn bit.

Posted by rick mcginnis on November 16, 2004 09:43 PM



The final word on the election was written last April:

"Lie Down for America" by Thomas Frank originally printed in the April 04 issue of Harpers.

The Dems should have studied his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?"

Just when you thought mentioning class divisions was passé.

Posted by Justin on November 14, 2004 03:22 AM



Whoops. Uh, scratch Carville:

Posted by Zoilus on November 14, 2004 02:36 AM



Fair points, both Stu and Andrew. The whole "moral values" thing is overblown, is what I was trying to say and didn't necessarily say so clearly 'cuz I was just trying to get some good links and quotes up at the end of a workday and was rushing out the door. What I meant was that the moral values thing, the gay-marriage thing, was just one more reason - along with terror of terror and the Bush admin's success in the last couple of years of convincing the public of the fictitious Iraq-al-Qaeda connection (which is still believed by the vast majority of Repub. voters) - that Rove's get-out-the-vote campaign was cleverer and more effective than the Dems. I'm not persuaded that the accidents of statistics in gay-marriage-initiative states prove anything; remember that Bush campaigned (though mostly under his breath) on an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment, so the individual ballot initiatives aren't the whole story. Some Dems. of course would also vote in favour of banning gay marriage, but may not decide their presidential vote that way, especially with Kerry pandering shamefully to them. But the religious base was mobilized as it never was before and in a 51-49 vote, that really, really matters. It does not however mean that the *whole rest of society* should now try to *appease* that religious base. That's insanity.

The Dems do need to learn how to appeal more to mid-America but I think that's a matter of style more than substance. As several people have commented, Barak Obama, for instance, knows how to speak in a way that connects with people's hearts, not their policy checklists. I know many people came around to respecting Kerry during this campaign but it was and remains obvious that he was a deeply unappealing candidate. Not a bad guy but near-completely uncharismatic and dry. In retrospect it's kind of amazing he did as well as he did. He couldn't have if so many people hadn't really really wanted to get rid of Bush. (Personally I think Al Gore is much more likeable, and his popular-vote victory backs me up. It's quite possible Gore could have walked away with this election.) And I couldn't agree more with Andrew on the "where's the Democrat Karl Rove?" - Kerry's team was definitely too squeamish until Sept. when they brought in some ex-Clinton-campaign hands who turned things around. If they'd done it earlier maybe he would have won. But hell, doesn't James Carville have any interest in doing the job anymore? He seems like the closest thing to a liberal Rove.

So in summary: Both parties got their votes out with great success, leaving them roughly balanced. But Kerry didn't charm enough swing voters, the Bush campaign confused them successfully with misinformation, appealed to their weaker and darker sides, and had a candidate whose anxious incompetence has a weird animal magnetism. Which was enough to turn the uncommitted fraction his way. It doesn't prove much about America except that it's an unpredictable hothouse of contradiction, which we already knew.

Posted by zoilus on November 13, 2004 04:01 PM



FYI - It was Charles Krauthammer, writing in the WaPo, who had the stats referred to above. The National Post has reproduced the column in Sat edition.

Posted by Andrew on November 13, 2004 12:32 PM



Why is everyone putting such emphasis on exit polls that say "moral values" was the most important factor in voters' minds, when those same exit polls had Kerry way out in front?

Posted by stuber on November 13, 2004 01:01 AM



Monsieur Wilson,

I read somewhere that Bush increased his vote in 45 of the 50 states - which amounted to a 3% increase nationally. Here's the weird bit: the increase (2004 over 2000) was substantially less than 3% in the States that had the gay marriage referenda. (I haven't actually double-checked this stuff - cos I'm lazy, but I do remember it being in a publication of some repute.)

Wait. There's more.

Oregon went Kerry but still passed the gay marriage ban. So there are obviously some Democrats that don't support gay marriage. Wait. Kerry himself doesn't support gay marriage.

I have no idea what any of this means - other than there doesn't appear to be a DIRECT correlation between ballot initiatives and Bush vote numbers. And that maybe the Democrats, if this lack of correlation is the case, had better stop blaming it on the gay marriage bogeyman and instead figure out how the hell to compete.

Memo to Dems and other sore losers: instead of whining nonstop and emailing around cute "Jesusland" gifs, why not get off your asses and give as good as you got? There's a Democrat version of Rove out there. Find him. Use him. Because last time I checked, Republicans didn't get mad after Clinton won reelection (and to Republicans Clinton-hate is something close to what Bush-hate is for Dems), they got even (and then some).

One last thought: I will take an evangelical who thinks boobies are the devil and who will pray for my soul to remedy my addiction to them, instead of the Islamic fascists who will kill me for catching me staring at their girl's boobs. They're not the same thing. Not even close.


Posted by Andrew on November 12, 2004 11:14 PM



The Arcade Fire play a cover of This Must Be The Place? Have they only played it at that most recent Lee's Palace show? because I've never heard it, but now I'm dying to.

Geez, add that to the Constantines "Thank you for Sending me an angel" and the Rheostatics' "Life During Wartime" and we've almost got an all Canadian Talking Heads tribute album.

Speaking of the Rheostatics, (and staying closer to the topic at hand), isn't a shame that most people don't know them, and if they do they probably only know "Claire" or "Bad Time to be Poor"? And shouldn't we all, each of us, try to make it out to at least one Fall Nationals show this month?

Posted by Matt Alexander on November 12, 2004 10:15 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson