Anatomy of a Postmodern Farce

There is a much quoted aphorism, attributed to Karl Marx, to the effect that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, the second time as farce.

I suppose this statement could be said to summarize the history of Marxism itself, which in its 20th-century economic and political form in the East played out as unbridled state-enforced ideological repression and violence, leading to the torture and murder of millions of people, while in its current 21st-century, "cultural" incarnation in the West it takes the (slightly) less unsightly form of Chaz Bono gyrating uninhibitedly before millions of people on TV's "Dancing With the Stars."

But setting aside his ironic, unintended prescience regarding the future course of the ideology he bequeathed to our unfortunate world, Marx is generally off the mark here. Sure, tragedies do sometimes beget farces. However, it more often seems the norm for contemporary farces to spring from similarly farcical events of the recent past. When history repeats itself, it usually does so, first and ever after, as farce. Yet with each repeat step of this pitiful process, the farcicality gets magnified to an increasingly ludicrious level, until one can only conclude that the entirety of the human race-- or at least 99 percent of it-- is utterly retarded.

Take the postmodern-day institution known as "sexual harassment," and its latest manifestation in the ongoing scandal swirling around GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain. For all of the sound and fury surrounding Cain's "Grope-gate," there's really not much going on here that we haven't witnessed before.

The notion of sexual harassment was first widely broadcast to the public via our cultural commissars way back in the day, when Anita Hill publically accused Clarence Thomas of inappropriately regaling her with hearwarming stories of pubic hair on Coke cans and porn stars named Long Dong Silver. Because Thomas was a conservative Supreme Court judicial candidate, and Hill wished to derail his nomination, the latter naturally became the darling of liberals across the country, who proclaimed their righteousness and solidarity with the oppressed by plastering their cars with "I Believe Anita Hill" bumper stickers.

However, when a certain left-leaning president was accused of much more nefariously lecherous, even violent, deeds by numerous female underlings and acquaintences just a few years later, we found out (surprse, surprise!) that liberals tend to care more about politics than principle. Thus, in the waning years of the nifty nineties, we were treated to the smelly spectacle of the Democrat party and its supporters eschewing all of their Anita Hill-era concerns and avidly whoring themselves out to big-pimpin' daddy Clinton. These same jokers who wanted Thomas's balding head on a platter for allegedly making tasteless jokes to a co-worker now insisted that we give the prez a pass for allegedly feeling up Kathleen Willey, exposing his penis to Paula Jones, and raping Juanita Broaddrick, since to do otherwise would mean letting the odious Newt Gingrich and the evil Republicans have a poltical victory.

So much for the lofty ideal of "speaking truth to power."

And now in November of 2011, with the unfolding accusations against Herman Cain, this farcical triptych comes full circle. Now that a conservative Republican presidential contender is in the crosshairs, the tiresome partisan hacks on both sides have once more switched seats. Fresh from turning their backs on inconvenient victims like Willey, Jones, Broaddrick, and others, the liberals have suddenly decided that it's time to start believing the women again. And "movement" conservatives--those who equate ideological victory with GOP dominance--can only reflexively stand in solidarity with Cain, no matter how much of a sleazy lech he appears to have been on numerous occasions, since to do otherwise would mean letting the odious Nancy Pelosi and the dirty Democrats have a political victory.

And there we have it. "Sexual harassment"--which in previous ages was simply known as ungallant, un-gentlemanly, scandalous, and loathsome behavior, reviled by all decent people--has in our ideologized era become a means of cynically advancing one's own cause and hyper-selectively attacking one's adversary. Leftist feminists are passionately in favor of prosecuting alleged harassers, as long as the accused is a "bad" conservative like Thomas or Cain and not a "good" lefty like Clinton or Ted Kennedy. Movement pseudo-conservatives, for their part, find it useful to believe certain accusers, like those of Clinton, while reflexively impugning the integrity of those who dare to say that one of "their" guys might have gotten indecently fresh or hand-sy with the ladies.

In short, it's little but a political shell game. An appalling, albeit intermittently amusing, farce: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.