The Clare Spark Blog

October 31, 2013

Gossip and the gullible

purple batThis representative republic was founded on finding the truth, and identifying liars.  Here are just a few of my blogs on the subject, focusing on Alexander Hamilton, the bad boy of US history for populists and progressives alike (except when Hamilton is seen as forerunner of Big Government):  (retitled “Limbaugh v. Fluke, and mentioning the Crosswell case, one of Hamilton’s great achievements for telling the truth)

While interrogating his own early progressivism, Walter Lippmann proposed rearing a special class of fact-checkers, whose sole role would be to discover which journalists were lying, and who were not; they would not take partisan positions on policy as such, but would simply unmask liars.

These views (Hamilton’s or Lippmann) are unfashionable. Thanks to the Left’s appropriation of close reading, we are left only with the factoids of “race” and “diversity.” Or with “a multiplicity of readings” based on “point of view.” Not just “the Jews” but every enemy is now “a big liar,” yet the (postmodern) accusers are left with no ground to stand on. (I do not minimize the difficulty in pinning down the distortions of perception or locating the exact sources of human motivation. Some facts are settled, no matter how often they are bent into unrecognizable shapes by spin.)

So, bereft of guides or even curiosity, we are left with “gossip,” a game that anyone can play, including on “interactive sites” where experts and pundits define reality, and where facts are irrelevant. It is a form of hero worship (or hero takedown), and “the people” (whoever they are), are free to choose their favorite gurus du jour, then they may leave comments, which are not tested by anyone, but will leave their marks, no matter how improbable.

It is not just the Constitution that is up for grabs, it is the law of the land, and anyone may appropriate “the law” for his own particular benefit. Both populists and progressives are expert at such appropriations, for their aims (as moderate men) are social stability, achieved through the cohesion of the great unwashed as a malleable mass to be shaped at will by their betters.

Don’t look to a pundit to save us. As the Mandy Patinkin character (Saul Berenson)in HOMELAND observed in commenting on the Claire Danes character (Carrie Mathison) , “she has always been on her own.”

positive state

September 23, 2012

HOMELAND and the idea of the Fifth Column

Tonight September 23, 2012 will attract a world-wide audience as the Emmy Awards are handed out. It is likely that the Showtime series HOMELAND will walk away with the trophies, for this was not only a well-written and acted thriller addressing the War on Terror, the theme of the Fifth Column taps into the psychology of the viewer who suppresses the critical faculty, what I would call the inner rebel that all societies struggle to suppress in the interest of social stability. We ourselves tamp down the inner Fifth Column every day, often suppressing thoughts and feelings that could conceivably irritate families, employers, and all others with power over our future welfare. (For a narrower definition of the term, see

Although the Wikipedia entry on the Fifth Column starts its usage with the Spanish Civil War, citing Hemingway’s play The Fifth Column (1940), in effect suppressing Hemingway’s loyalty to the Soviet line that Trotskyists and Anarchists were a “fascist” Fifth Column, and secret enemies to the Spanish homeland that the Republicans and its foreign brigades were defending, the same sort of argument was deployed by Stalin in his notorious purges of the old Bolsheviks during the mid-1930s. Whether or not Ernest Hemingway transferred his loyalty to the U.S. to communist countries (first the Soviet Union, then Cuba) is hotly debated among Hemingway scholars. (For my take on the fight, see

But this blog is not about Hemingway’s conflation of masculinity with the aims of the country he believed was best defending Spain, Spain being his adopted homeland. Rather, this blog continues the theme of my recent essays, that of populist demagoguery and the widespread reluctance to get to know our deepest thoughts and impulses, to the detriment of our own capacities for free thought. It is the contention of this blog that demagogues harness our own unspoken and unacknowledged, possibly divisive, thoughts and feelings, directing them instead to a designated enemy who must be defeated to purify ourselves of contaminants, contaminants that would infect the Good Mother(land).

First, a few words on the text and subtext of HOMELAND (see . The thriller was ostensibly inspired by Hatufim, an Israeli television series shown in 2010, treating the hitherto neglected subject of returning prisoners of war, whose adjustment to family life was often fraught with difficulty, not to speak of some suspicions of their continued loyalty to the homeland. I find a more persuasive precursor to HOMELAND in the American series 24, that dealt with counter-terrorism, with some questioning the morality of its chief character “Jack Bauer,” whose methods subordinated means to ends.

Similarly, the chief argument of HOMELAND is that Americans, while ostensibly fighting the war on terror, committed atrocities (i.e., “collateral damage”) that were covered up by highly placed officials such as the Vice-President (obviously linked to Cheney and his advocacy of American power and a militant response to 9/11) and his confederate, a highly placed officer in the CIA, who obliterated the record of a drone attack that took the lives of 82 children in the attempt to kill a major figure in Al Qaeda, “Abu Nazir.” Nazir’s adorable 10 year old son Isa is one of the casualties, and this tragic loss leads Nazir to wreak revenge by attacking the entire U.S. defense establishment, using “turned” POW Nicholas Brody as his fifth column.  Season one ends with Brody’s suicide bombing attempt undermined by his own “Achilles heel” (i.e. Fifth Column): his attachment to his 16-year old daughter who pleads with him to come home to his true homeland, where he is needed as a loving and protective father.

One of the virtues of the HOMELAND series is the moral ambiguity it attaches to the actions of each of the major characters, but make no mistake: taken in all, it is a strong antiwar, anti-Republican Party statement on current controversies regarding the use of “American power” that puts “America First” rather than respecting the good Muslims who are sprinkled throughout, and who would suppress the terrorists given a more internationalist approach of the U.S. in the wake of 9/11.

[Added 9-24: Backstage after accepting her Emmy Award, Claire Danes assured reporters that the show was not “political” but was simply a “psychological thriller.” Either Danes is undereducated, or she is under orders to transmit that safer line. For a critique that nails the series for “negative images” of Arabs, see We are back in multicultural territory that demands positive images to defeat “racism”–always perpetrated by Jewish Hollywood. The reviewer didn’t understand the show.]

Bouguereau’s The Motherland

March 16, 2012

Index to blogs on popular tv shows

Dick Wolf and Judith Light

I haven’t commented on all the crime shows. It is enough to say that we are to believe that good cops will eventually triumph over bad cops, and that most criminals are tracked down and punished. I.e., the State is looking out for you and me, with all the tools that modern science (including profiling) can muster. Law and Order: Criminal Intent (not analyzed here) adds a flourish: the Vincent D’Onofrio character is often dissatisfied with normal procedures, co-opts Freud, and seemingly obeys a higher (more compassionate) law. (Read this first)

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