Whiners and Losers

Both sides get their whacks in this survey of America's two-tiered political culture.

Sore Winners is author John Powers' term for what might be called the cultural politics of gloating. Mind you, this is not the sole province of a president with the moxie to tell Bob Woodward that, "Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." No, Powers sees the entire culture of "Bush World" as a storehouse of sore winners. Examples include the NFL, where 49er Terrell Owens scores, signs the ball, and hands it to his financial adviser. In publishing, Random House CEO Peter Olson shamelessly catalogs to a New York Times reporter the reams of people he's fired. Reality TV serves as a carnival of humiliation, "faux Darwinian games of selection, extinction, survival, and victory" in which society's have-nots enjoy the brief fantasy of success—then are displaced the following week. As Powers says, "Bush Culture has become one long schadenfreude spree." Or, as the Donald says, "You're fired." Winners is stronger in its casual observations than in any overarching analysis. However, Powers—an editor at our sister publication L.A. Weekly—packs more in a quick jab than others fit into an entire chapter. Discussing the post-9/11 media fatwa that "the age of irony is over" (as Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter famously pronounced and recently rescinded), he notes how such a declaration is indicative of the cancer of sanctimony in the mainstream media: "As the British demonstrated during the Blitz, you can fight the enemy and be ironic at the very same time. . . . Only dullards think you must be earnest to be serious." In which case, Jon Stewart may be Winston Churchill's star pupil. While Winners is no more likely to sway a swing voter than would the endorsement of Bea Arthur, it serves as a useful and irreverent cultural scrapbook of American culture ruled by a man who thought Friends was a movie yet still manages to convince many that he's a man of the people. And if Dubya reaps the votes of those red-state Wal-Mart workers who lack health insurance or a living wage, you can be sure the winners will still whine about the "death tax" and tort reform. Even as Powers makes you laugh at their top-down moxie, a serious truth remains: Never have the few been aggrieved by so many. Only in Bush World. info@seattleweekly.com

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