Thursday, November 13, 2014

When middle class eugenicists saw Democracy itself as 'unfit' , so did the pulp and comic books

From about the 1890s onwards, a whole generation of people who proudly thought of themselves as progressive - indeed Progressives - saw Democracy itself as evolutionary 'unfit'.

At least officially , they were opposed to despots --- as being far too redolent of the bad old (Catholic) medieval times and Eastern cultures.

But modern progressive bureaucratic expert dictators were much more their cuppa.

In their moments of despair , they longed for a reign of 'experts', who would objectively look at all the 'facts' and dispassionately render the best decision for all concerned, to replace corrupt politicians bribing the uneducated unwashed with middle class tax dollars.

More often, the middle class reformers around the world simply wanted these all-powerful unelected experts to forcefully restrain the corrupt politicians and their working class electorate.

A national or international version of the 'strong City manager and weak Mayor and Council' system gaining converts all over North America.

Who bought into this idea ?

Who didn't ? At least until the late 1960s .

The fascists , communists and Nazis all took this idea up.

Academics in the Humanities who really should have known better, aped the rhetorical claims of the physical scientists around them , espoused this ideal of self-evident facts,  experts, dispassion and objectivity.

The once grubby, argumentative, partisan journalists,  now seeking respectability's higher wages, stopped thinking for themselves and became stenographers, seeking only scientific objectivity based on observing the W5.

The university (half) educated , increasing dominating all aspects of life, also backed the professors, scientists, journalists (and intellectuals generally) in supporting the reign of experts.

Technocracy Inc , a once very popular North American political movement of the between the wars period, tried to resemble the newly fashionable business corporation in name but then proposed that politicians and corporate businessmen both be replaced by teams of experts : thinking scientists and doing engineers.

The best studied example of such bureaucratic expert dictators in action is that of the corrupt Robert Moses regime in power over New York for half a century.

He was put into his position of almost unlimited powers and no democratic checks upon his behavior by the politicians and the voters themselves !

All the thousands of objective journalists in that 'media capital of the world' never once cottoned onto Moses' corrupt system because he was always issuing press releases proclaiming his purity - and a press release is a fact,  is it not ? - and so should be reported as is/ where is, dispassionately.

And so it was - for fifty dark dirty years.

So this belief in expert dictators pushing weak democratic practises out of the way was so strongly 'in the air' in New York City in the first half of the 20th Century.

Little wonder then that it strongly , if unconsciously , influenced the writers of pulp fiction and comic books who never wrote directly about bureaucrats.

Instead they wrote about Zorro, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet and Batman --- instead.

And about nominally democratic community after community that was besot by some complex-seeming evil that the community members were unable to democratically and collectively resolve.

In comes a masked lone ranger , an expert --- with the gun or the fist.

Shazam ! A quick  stern-but-fair bit of extreme violence and the evil doers are dead and the problem solved - forever.

The solution and the problem were both actually quite simple, weren't they ?

The lone ranger super hero moves on , to clean up the mess in other democracies.

So let us revise Dr Henry Dawson's tiny team seeking penicillin-for-all , as seen by his Republican Party-leaning scientific opponents : unfit doctors, unfit black and Jewish patients, unfit natural penicillin in an unfit democracy....

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