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Thomas Frank on Mimesis, Capitalist Fundamentalism and Stealing Liberal Ideas

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I was really looking forward to this interview, and that positive anticipation was well justified. We had a great conversation lasting close to an hour. 


Thomas Frank is the author of  Pity the Billionaire,     The Wrecking Crew  ,   What's the Matter with Kansas?  and   One Market Under God  . The founding editor of   The Baffler   and a contributing editor at   Harper's  , and a former  Wall Street Journal   weekly columnist. He has received a Lannan award and been a guest columnist for the   New York Times  . Frank lives in Washington, D.C. 

Thomas is on a book tour. Tonight, he'll be speaking at the Phiadelphia Free Library. 

Here are my very rough notes from the interview. 

ironic inversion of our politics in the last couple of years. Coming out of a financial crisis, economic disaster, brought on by certain specific policies-- yet the main response to hard times today is that we double down on t hose policies. 

This is the first huge downturn that I know of where

when I went to my first tea party rally, which was the first tea party rally," one of the protesters was holding this sign that said, LET THE FAILURES FAIL. 

It looked and sounded like the real deal". that these guys really did represent some kind of viable and realistic dissent. 

I was listening to Romney's speech last night and he made fun of Goldman Sachs, which is a strange

Mimesis-- in the animal kingdom you have animals that resemble other animals. You see conservatives that resemble hard times protests of the 30s. 

Talk by conservatives of need to mimic the left. 

Saul Alinsky

rules for radicals. 

conservatives are mimicking Saul alinsky

Rules for radical conservatives. 

Went to grad school in Chicago where Alinsky worked. I never heard of him. 

The right has resurrected him. 

Rob: WSJ reports that the tea party gives copies of the book to leaders. 

I knew that they read Alinsky's book at Freedom Works. 

Matthew Continetti: wrote a biography; Persecuttion of Sarah Palin

 The idea of conservatives as  victims-- the conservative class-- the financial ruling class as victims- is really essential to their appeal. 

Favorite book of conservatives-- Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. 

idea is to reverse moral positions of labor and capital. 

Idea is big businessmen built america. The tycoons are the producers and the rest of us are parasites. 

The capitalists are the great victims of society. 

Karl Polanyi wrote history of capitalism-- Great Transformation, about how Laissee faire capitalism failed.

Failure of laisse faire capitalism ultimately destroys society It's folly to push it to its utopian extreme. 

will capitalism destroy capitalism?

What we should be concerned with is people, not a system. 

the capitalism system we've had includes regulations, welfare state. 

If we pursue this pure capitalism" 

rob: Idea of capitalism-- they're capitalist fundamentalists. 

They are moral and religious arguments"

In pity the billionaire-- all the ways that the conservative comeback have left the tracks of shared consensus reality. 

Community re-investment act call on radio shows-- housing reinvestment act-- someone says government forced banks to lend money to poor people. Not the case.. Govt did not require banks to hand out fraudulent loans. 

HOw is that a utopian form of capitalism is catching on as the response to the worst economic disaster in recent times?

They got there first with the bullhorn. 

Where is the left? Where are the Democrats?

There is an alternative explanation out in the streets there now-- Occupy Wall Street. They are supplying a more reasonable answer to the mysteries of hard time-- a more straightforward and plausible answer. 

They didn't show up until three years later. 

The democratic party is really not interested, particularly in questioning the ideology of free markets"

In 2008 all the pundits thought the free market, deregulatory ideology was dead. But deems are funded by the same sources as republicans-- wall street. They were never interested in carcking down on wall street. 

Now Obama is interested in an investigation..

He thought that the great problem facing America was not the great race

Kenneth Greenspan was a member of Ayn Rand's inner circle. 

All these new members of congress think AYN Rand is greatest writer ever, one member of congress required all staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. 

So Thomas read it. IT's a novel about the 1930's-- the a counterfactual story of the great depression as conservatives believe it should have happened. 

Recessions and depressions happen because of government interference. That's what we get in Atlas Shrugged. 

She's very good a describing these scenes of rural poverty. 

Conservatives taking liberal archetypes and turning them upside down. 

workers are parasites.  Guys like Mitt Romney are the real job creators. 

workers should count themselves lucky to get a job from someone like Mitt Romney. 

This recurs throughout the

Rick Santelli's famous rant which launched the whole thing-- which happened on the Chicago board of trade-- where traders trade derivatives. 

IN the old world, whereas farmers and workers were producers, these did nothing and rippled off the farmers.. 

Santelli was rallying at the "losers" who took out mortgages that they couldn't afford-- railing at the people at the bottom of the s ystem, being cheered by the traders. 

Where is this going?

In some ways this already happened. 

The conservatives won the house in 2010. They'll probably take the senate this fall. 

You'll see Mitt Romney increasingly talk like a teapartier-- he's picked up phrases of the tea party movement. 

Lierals missed history's greatest chance what has been going on for 30 years. 

We always assume that our system, our situation. 

Media-- the MSM is a shadow of its former self-- many are dying, with exception of a few. That industry has collapsed. That has a lot of very interesting consequences. It's increasing possible for people to wall themselves off into a world where they watch fox news and read blogs and never encounter "consensus reality." 

Conservatives are very open to the need

Don't believe the liberal media-- by liberal media- they mean media generally. It's all lies. You have to get your info from highly ideological sources. That's a kind of new thing. I haven't seen anything like that before. 

Progressive media? Where's' that fit into the picture. 

MSNBC are great but they don't have the reach of FOX news. 

Progressives model for political combat comes from Academia-- sit in the library really hard and rather than building a movement try to prove the other guy wrong, 

If you have a competition between  

Funding

Rob: right wing media-- their answer-- 

Copy liberals

It's an article about how Mattew Continettis is heading up a new right wing media site, Washington Free Beacon, produced by Center for American Freedom, which is a knockoff for the left's CEnter for American Progress. 

Thomas: and CAP was copied from Heritage foundation, which was copied from Brookings INstitute. 

At the end of the day what gave you a l eft and liberalism was organized labor-- the wealthy and foundations are no t interested in it. 

Unions put everything they had into getting Obama elected and he didn't give them what they wanted-- card check. 

As a result they didn't get it and continue to shrink. 

Ultimately the lesson from the 30s is that you have to organize outside of political parties-- that takes a lot of movement building-- 

Organized labor was the main force in the 30s. There were political clubs that would catch on. 

Huey Long's Share The Wealth and the other was a group that wanted old age pensions, which was the force that led to social security. 

There were radical agricultural groups. 

Today those groups are really dried up. 

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Rob Kall is the host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360, where he discusses how the bottom up mind and bottom up revolution are reaching different areas of the world, of life, of politics, business, society and anywhere else.

Rob is founder and site architect of (more...)
 
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