James Kunstler: Idiot Savant?

Consider this a “case in point” relative to the prior post. 

I’ve had reason to cite Mr. Kunstler’s insightful thinking and commentary in the past.  Notably, his works “The Geography of Nowhere” and “The Long Emergency” are shockingly relevant to our awareness of a number of rather critical strategic trends, particularly the evolving housing crisis. 

I might, of course, quibble with his convictions regarding matters relating to peak oil and/or the free market’s ability to provide a reasonable solution.  Still and all, any reasonably thinking American should, by now, have reason to pause before blithely extrapolating their lifestyles and expectations in perpetuity.  (Hello, McFly….)

Kunstler’s above-noted works present both useful and innovative challenges to the mainstream American status quo.  Again, the applause you hear is qualified to the extent that any well-considered reading should easily reveal the author’s, often merely aesthetic, bias against suburban sprawl.  Regardless, there are practical implications to such lifestyle choices and Kunstler does enumerate them admirably.  Do read them if you get the chance.

Sadly, Kunstler all too frequently exhibits a tendency towards sputtering exaggeration, hyperbolic prevarication, and boorish invective.  As a case in point, consider this recent post on his unfortunately named blogsite “Clusterf**k Nation“.  (And, yes, that might serve as our first clue regarding the state of either his character or his temperment, perhaps both.)

In this recent post, Mr. Kunstler broadcasts such nescient propaganda that we might reasonably rank the man with likes of Kieth Olbermann or Ed Schultz.  Maybe he’s looking for a job at MSNBC.  (And, yes, I know you also get bias on other networks, but I might recommend reading this study before making up your own mind on the matter.) 

Still, the point here, really, is that we might expect a bit more from those who have previously impressed us with their talent.  To fall of this particular cliff is disappointing, to be sure, but also disheartening. 

Of particular concern is Kunstler’s automatic and unfounded assertion that the theme of Glenn Beck’s recent “Restoring Honor” rally reflect’s “tea party code for  the otherwise unutterable idea: get that nigger out of the White House!”.  It should be obvious, upon any reasonable thought, but this sort of crass, knee-jerk, sputtering is both fallacious and unproductive, especially to the advancement of racial harmony.  Racists in the Tea Party movement?  Oh, sure.  In the NAACP?  Sure.  A shocking percentage of American voters either supporting or opposing Obama on the basis of color?  Really?  Who’d have guessed.  Do we really need to waste time on this?

Sadly, this sort of spurious bloviating is just the tip of the iceberg in this rambling tirade intended, first and foremost, to discredit Beck, but, which still takes the time to castigate both Sarah Palin (“a corn-pone Hitler”) and Obama himself (“weenie”).  As it happens, I can actually sympathize with some of these observations, notably Kunstler’s evident frustration with society’s suicidal tendencies.   

Rejecting Beck’s “invoked prayer against this prospect, which is what people resort to when they don’t understand what is happening to them”, then, it is somewhat ironic to close the article with what I can’t help but characterize as a modern, secular version of the same plea.  To wit:

“The bigger mystery in all this — if I may perhaps engage in some nostalgia of my own — is: what happened to reasonable, rational, educated people of purpose in this country to drive them into such burrow of cowardice that they can’t speak the truth, or act decisively, or even defend themselves against such a host of vicious morons in a time of troubles?”

One answer, Mr. Kunstler, if I may, is that America has rejected the sort of value system that might otherwise have protected us from all (or many) of the dangers you are so gifted in identifying for us.  Sadly, in your own rejection of a clearly earnest yearning for “honor”, perhaps because of it’s natural relationship to faith, you risk something far more dangerous than the mere ability to survive economic hardship.  I dare say, if your worst-case scenarios do come to pass – and they might, I’ll grant you that – you might want to revisit these higher-order concerns.

In the meantime, however, the stark and stunning contrast between Kunstler’s sporadically amazing insight and, perhaps more generally, stupefying ignorance and intemperate brutishness should concern any potential fan.  Whether hampered by some dark and malevolent character flaw or the more banal forms of self-indulgence that we’ve come to expect from success in this country , here is a man that, in my view, fails utterly to impress after that first admirable glance.   Idiot savant?  He’s surely starting to look, sound, and walk like a duck.  Might be a duck. 

 Harry Tuttle

Side Note:  While addressed ad nauseum, I also recommend a quick review of this article on the matter of media bias.  As always, consider the source.

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