Destroying the Village

There’s a quote from an unattributed USAF Major at Ben Tre (detailed in personal detail here) describing the logic of destroying an entire village while attempting to rout a deeply embedded Vietcong:

“[It] became necessary to destroy the town to save it[.]“

I don’t disagree with the premise. There is always collateral damage in war. It is always brutal, regrettable, and unavoidable. Sometimes, it is necessary to destroy the old so that the new may prosper. Sherman practiced “scorched earth” on his March to the Sea, and Schumpter theorized about creative destruction. Death and rebirth is the natural order of the world.

So it should be with “The Village”.

For those unaccustomed to the phrase, “the Village” is a theme in lefty blog circles explaining the culture and customs of DC beltway types – be they socialites, politicians, fund raisers, but especially the media – print and TV personalities especially.

From the Seminal:

These phrases are shorthand for the idea that there exists a permanent class in Washington D.C. of people “who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it”. This set overlaps with, but is slightly different than, the set of government employees; the latter ostensibly serve at the pleasure of the people who elected them (or elected the person who appointed them), while the former are unabashedly self-interested (“Certainly the Washington insiders have their own interests at heart. Whenever a new president comes to town, he [or she] will be courted assiduously by those whose livelihoods depend on access to power.”). The seminal article on the Village was written in the Washington Post by Villager Sally Quinn in 1998, during the Clinton impeachment. It’s where I got those quotes above, and it’s where the term ‘Village’ comes from, and it’s full of other descriptive lines. For example:

“This is our town,” says Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the first Democrat to forcefully condemn the president’s behavior. “We spend our lives involved in talking about, dealing with, working in government.”

…Muffie Cabot, who as Muffie Brandon served as social secretary to President and Nancy Reagan, regards the scene with despair. “This is a demoralized little village”

…”We have our own set of village rules,” says David Gergen, editor at large at U.S. News & World Report.

…”[Bill Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place,” says Washington Post columnist David Broder, “and it’s not his place.”

…Presidential historian Michael Beschloss … “When everything is turned upside down it affects our psyche more than someone who might be farming in Wyoming.”

That’s one big aspect of the Establishment mentality – the idea of entitlement, that being part of this rarefied group gives their opinions and feelings more weight than “someone who might be farming in Wyoming”. The other, equally important, part is that the Establishment is out of touch with the rest of the country.

I could easily tally their list of failings – the Clinton Impeachment, WMDs, the Iraq War, and now the economy – and particularly how out of touch they are with what Americans really think. We’re beginning to see it again with all the talks of tax cuts, spending freezes, the size of the stimulus, and a host of other issues. But that’s not the purpose of this post.

No. It’s about the public scolding of Michael Phelps for doing something the majority of Americans have done, with many doing so regularly, and ruining a young man’s life.

Mike Edison, publisher of High Times writes the following in the Daily Beast:

George W. Bush never had to answer for his “youthful indiscretions.” Michael Phelps, not so lucky. Having been caught red-handed with a smoking bong firmly pasted to his maw, the long knives are out for the Olympic hero.

Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Phelps isn’t a future Hall of Famer juicing himself with the “cream” and the “clear,” or getting his gluteus maximus pin-cushioned with designer ‘roids. He isn’t a doped racehorse, or a testosterone-shooting bike nerd trying to turn his Lycra-Spandexed bum into a blur pedaling across France.

He isn’t even the current president of the United States, who freely admits to having toked his share of tropical trumpets back in his Hawaiian hoodlum days, not to mention tooting some of the Big Island’s finest imported disco dust.

He’s a 23-year-old rock star who got caught smoking pot. How is Phelps going to do the breast stroke covered in tar and feathers?

Is this really how they think Americans feel about marijuana use? Or is it how the elitist press thinks the plebes should be acting, lest they get lazy and out of control?

The Seminal closes with this:

It is probably inevitable that a semi-permanent class of entitled and insulated people will assemble around power (think Versailles), but this fact seems to me to be largely unacknowledged in the national discourse (except for blogs, where it’s extremely acknowledged). Just keep in mind when attempting to critically evaluate something you hear or read about Washington politics: a true public servant considers himself or herself to be fundamentally accountable to the public. “Cabinet members Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala, Republicans Sen. John McCain and Rep. Bob Livingston, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, PBS’s Jim Lehrer and New YorkTimes columnist Maureen Dowd”, as well as David Broder, David Gergen, Michael Beschloss, Cokie Roberts, Joe Lieberman, and all the others, are Villagers, and consider themselves to be fundamentally accountable to the Washington Establishment. They’re not the same thing.

The unelected press, as well as our elected government, has failed their constituents. Market forces are doing their part already by smothering newspapers, with broadcast media beginning the death spiral. It is time to destroy the Village in order to save the village.

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