Writer Thomas Frank explores populism - as an American left-wing tradition, a perpetual target of the political elite and the media class, and the only way left to accomplish progressive change for the people in a society ruled by capital for capital.
Thomas is author of the new book The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism from Metropolitan Books.
Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the drink.
When we last left our fictional protagonist, Dr. Dave Pitkis, the Dr. Drew Pinsky doppelganger of this four-part roman a clef, a radio producer in LA had just had an idea to pair medical advice with adolescent stoner commentary.
Mel Kinolla was in heavy rotation on off nights and as an opener at the Laugh Factory comedy club on Sunset, just a block or two east of the strip proper. Let’s face it, everything east of the Chateau Marmont is not really the strip. You can’t say Zankou Chicken is on the strip.
Kinolla was a real workhorse. He had a palette of embarrassing real-life situations he put to good use, or harnessed into service, as one of those self-deprecating comics. Paired with Dr. Dave on the radio show, which was now broadcast out of LA with the name "Dopeline," and for which both were paid, Mel spoke with the voice of the regular guy who understood the stupid urges of teenagers and probably would have been in the same mess as many of them if he'd had the opportunity or the balls when he was their age. Dr. Dave would warn Mel of the dangers of this or that behavior, however fun it might seem on TV or in Grand Theft Auto or in the sexy mass- cultural mythology, and give the teenager under scrutiny advice on how to get out of the mess he or she was in. And Mel would say something like, "Still, I wouldn't mind hittin' some of that. Sounds like James here has it pretty good, diddling two broads." And Dr. Dave would say, "No no no. You really don't want to do that. Not without a condom, and not with a minor."
By teenager, incidentally, I mean to include the numerous twenty-somethings who called in with the emotional problems of teenagers. The mean age of the callers rose and fell, but their median emotional age hovered at around sixteen.
Dr. Dave was the name he went by, as he does to this day. He was called Dr. Dave even when he testified before a Congressional Committee on the advantages of treatment-based approaches to fighting illegal drug use as opposed to the punitive kind favored by the "smaller government" mentality that had come into vogue in Washington. "Punishment doesn't cure addiction and so ultimately does nothing to shrink demand for illicit drugs," Dr. Dave testified. "Under what other circumstances do we punish someone for being sick? You can't punish the measles out of someone, that person is still going to spread the... read more
Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Though I call him the Good Doctor, he's not good. He's not a bad doctor, necessarily. Just a bad person who happens to be a doctor. Or a good person who found a way to opt into a bad system for glory and profit. Either way, the "good" is tongue-in-cheek, or ironic, or sarcastic, or sardonic. Perhaps all simultaneously.
The Good Doctor recently apologized for having repeatedly repeated Donald Trump’s irresponsible talking points that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu, calling it “a press-induced panic” from as early as February 4. On March 10 he mocked people for heeding New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s advice to avoid riding the subway. He continued to mock and downplay legitimate medical advice about avoiding exposure to the virus all the way until he gave a contradictory lie on March 31 to try to cover his ass, and only officially admitted being wrong in an apology via Periscope feed on April 4, less than a week ago. He’d had a change of heart. Or a change of mind. Or the facts changed. Or maybe he was simply making a minor tweak in a discrete component of the overall structure of his brand. I could’ve told him, when you echo whatever echoes in the rightwing echo chamber, you will make mistakes. This time it might turn out to have cost thousands of lives, we’ll never know, although we can assume the damage he did by boosting bad information will have been large.
I always wonder how a somewhat reasonable person transforms into a jolly rider aboard the rightwing bandwagon.
The Good Doctor was in fact a good person at one time. Or perhaps he was a bad person who happened to stumble into the business of helping people. He was a specialist in addiction and addictive personalities. Way back when. And in pursuit of that specialty, he had a clinic where he helped a lot of people, including people who couldn't afford to pay him. Poor people. He helped the poor, that's pretty good. And knowing what he's become, it’s hard to figure out why he was so helpful to those poor people, or to anyone. It was almost as if he didn't know anybetter. He didn't know he had the option to be a thoughtless, selfish person who happened to be a doctor. That's my current theory. The same reason a lot of young people get married and have kids without even knowing why, except that that's what's done, and when they find out later they... read more