QUEEN FOR A DAY
November 2, 2008
“Notice how he gets them nodding...”
You may remember a remarkable daytime TV show from the 1950s. It was called “Queen for a Day,” a spectacle featuring cheap sentiment, pity, and teary confession to elicit sympathy expressed by applause measured on a meter like one you’d use to test a battery. Stimulus and response were straightforward, befitting a time simpler than today: the more sorrowful a woman’s tale of woe the more those in studio would clap. The level of applause implied audience sympathy, the group’s feeling that the woman and her family needed help; the more applause, the higher the ‘applause-o-meter’ registered.
Three women per show would retail their tales of woe so the event was a competition for applause and appliance rewards, a flip side to the Roman coliseum’s bloody displays and the public’s “thumbs down” or Communist regimes public confessions and executions.
The meter dial was shown prominently on screen after each tale so those at home could track the competition and see if the feelings of the audience matched their own: programming for public confession, oceans of group emotion and mediated welfare “courtesy of our sponsors” not unlike modern elections.
Public confession as spectacle, sympathy publicly expressed by applause and measured with technology the show was a classic mid-twentieth century result of the Romantic ethos. If you read Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus (1818; author’s revised edition 1831) you will note that each of its three narratives is a confession of feelings. 
“Queen for a Day” awarded down-to-earth prizes to the winner of the most sympathy: a washing machine or refrigerator, baskets of food, articles of clothing or shoes, etc. Among its vestiges of a bygone era, most of the women had husbands, or had lost them leading to the distress that justified their visit. Last but not least, the lady whose narrative evoked the most applause-sympathy was seated on a simple throne and presented with a bouquet of roses by the show’s host, a fellow with slick hair and a pencil moustache. Her tears trickled down in gratitude for being chosen and the credits rolled to the crescendo of concluding applause. It was bread and roses too!
Americans (and others) already are clapping at the polls and before we are even done, the media will announce the new Queen for a four-year Day; perhaps they will play, “dog save the Queen” or some other pc doggerel to suit postmodern dogma.
Many will cheer the end of the dog-and-pony show, but this relief is not long-lasting. Two years ago we learned that the campaign has become as perennial as the elites are permanent. Barack who? Bill who? The fellow who co-wrote Prairie Fire and Dreams from My Father? Long live the Queen.
The Welfare State and its Fascist managers exploit J.J. Rousseau’s notion that we are all one family linked primarily by feelings of innate compassion, that primitive man’s main feeling is empathy: civilization is the problem, nature the solution. As his feelings evolved, Rousseau decided that the State would ensure that the General Will is fulfilled by policies increasingly presented as “therapeutic.” Psychology and its offshoot, modern education, examine men and women as machines, “imperfect machines” as Thomas Molnar observed, and view “society as a field of experimentation” where we can be ‘fixed’ or re-programmed. This progressive view, a replacement theology expresses itself in popular culture. The entire Age of Aquarius mystique, its manner of selling the sensate; its subordination of reason, memory, and traditional bonds to ‘authenticity’ often pr-cooked; the emergence of Rock ‘n Roll and its devolution to rap, gangsta and whatever the reigning noise now is called; the baring of the body in public; the slaughter of the unborn and newly born, the cult of “self-esteem,” for certain groups, the increasingly ‘hot’ focus on ever smaller bits of time is all part of the playing out of Romanticism, the new Gothic in which the element of terror is increasingly grotesque and pervasive, in which the new grail is the thrill of volatility and breaking norms.
The concept of “progress,” closely associated with Darwinism as a replacement for providence and with Nature displacing its Creator is also relevant in contemporary, junk-science descendants of “Queen for a Day” described below.
During this interminable campaign, a regular feature of the O’Reilly weeknight variety hour is a visit by a “body language analyst” who, with her host examines video of a candidate or media celebrity and offers numbingly banal, pc interpretations of what the human under examination is feeling and what their personality must be like. Please note that this segment is not arbitrary nor simply moronic or ‘funny’; it is menacing, it is prepping us for more clever, less visible ‘social scientists,’ who will analyze and perhaps “coordinate the personality” of growing numbers of people, perhaps as part of a means-based test for receiving governmental favors.
But Bill’s not one to make mountains of molehills; he’s fair and balanced. For goodness sake, he visits “the View” and “Letterman.” To him, Rashid Khalidi is just “a Palestinian guy” (10-30-08). He reads the ratings-meter and eats well.
The body language zombie has learned to allow her face some ‘human’ animation, at times. She herself would be a quaint subject for analysis. Perhaps some day all girls will grow up to be as wise and ‘normal’ as her, after proper engineering in public school. Imagine having a person like her assess you at every airport, supermarket, and office scanner. One will need an access code, no? Her clones will confer or withhold them.
What happens to the expression, and than the feelings of someone under such scrutiny? Dear reader, they become more uniform and repressed; the frightened human examines and fragments his every response. This in turn leads to a greater perceived need for ‘care-givers’ to “coordinate the personality” as Alice Bailey wrote (“Seed Groups in the New Age” 1937). Thus does expression become repression and the cult of authenticity, sensation and compassion leads to regimentation, fear, official cruelty and indifference; thus does Romanticism, winding through the era of industry and the social sciences (Modernism), become “technology” and postmodernism becomes the antithesis of Romanticism its grand parent. Appetite, “the universal wolf” consumes itself via the lust for power which, as in Rousseau’s Social Contract or the Communist Manifesto purports to bring a secular utopia based on nature and the worship of nature. An epitome of this dogma is “change you can believe in,” a slogan reflecting the deification of “progress,” that is, the eliciting and management of sensation, the method of the new totalitarianism.
Last spring, the body language, sensation-and-analysis routine budded to produce a new-old feature for Mr. O’s variety show. An eternally young pollster, Frank Luntz has been “wiring people for emotion” to gauge, via their pulse, their feelings about a candidate or his or her message. As in Queen for a Day there is a meter that shows, via red and blue lines, the pulse of registered Republicans or of Democrats quickening and slowing as the subjects watch and listen to footage of the politicians.
There’s no applause, no roses, crown or scepter, yet, but winsome Frank never stops smiling and emoting with Bill about the ‘leanings’ or maybe one should say, tendencies of the crowd, or mob, or persons assembled in his peanut gallery.
From Buffalo Bob to Frankenluntz in five painful decades: what a ride. And William Ayers grew up to be “a respected Professor of Education,” yes.
“They’re reacting on a second-by-second basis” Dr. Frank says excitedly. That’s science at work; what a great show! No wonder its grabbing market share, as Bill often relates.
Thus do human beings and citizens dwindle to emoting voters, stimulated pulses and a line on a meter: the new Minister of Psychology is a meter-reader who explains what makes us tick, and gets annoyed when we don’t tick as he believes we should. Perhaps in the next cycle he will wield a cattle-prod as his subjects ‘follow the bouncing ball.’
The week of Mischief Night, Halloween, and Ballot Bowl, Frank was smilingly perturbed that the undecided voters viewed the entirety of candidate Obama’s vacuous infomercial and emerged alive and still undecided! He thought it was preposterous; he couldn’t understand it. “They got the idea that he [Obama] worries about them,” he said with his usual energy, “but they still wanted specifics.” This even though BHO had intoned platitudes such as, “when you make promises you should keep them”; “you earned your pension” and said, in his suave swooning tones that “I’m worried about the single mom who…” proceeding to enumerate a list of social types about whom he said he was worried. The man has feelings, lots of feelings; he “worries” about all kinds of people; with his sound-byte cadences and relaxed gestures “he gets them nodding” in agreement, Mr. Luntz said of the subjects of his ‘wired-for –emotion’ experiment and yet, and yet still they say they’re undecided; 1/3 even switch to McCain!
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Not to miss a beat and as if some guiding hand was scripting a multi-channel, culture-wide total art work (gesamtkunstwerk) CNN had a prime time feature on “the undecided lobe” in which they showed a cross section of the brain and launched into discussion of what part of it led people to stay in the muddled middle rather than become bobble-heads for Obama or bop to the GOP. Ten years from now you can tell your grandkids, if they’re not on TV that you were present at the launching of the physiology of the undecided program; perhaps it will become a “War on the Undecided Brain” akin to the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, War on Terror, or War on Global Warming, etc. There will be grants for sociologists to identify, psychologists to name syndromes and surgeons to fix the misfiring organ. Might that be a problem in an era of free universal health care supported by tax cuts for 95% of the people? Maybe it depends on what you mean by “people?”
Ever get the feeling that you’re being mobilized for some great quest for some great goal somewhere? The fainting communards at the messiah’s rallies get the drift. After all, General Colin Powell, a crossover consensus-type endorsed Obama saying “we need a transformational figure.” Clearly Obama is a bridge to the future, whatever it is; looks like a toll road crammed with free college, health care, tax cuts, jobs, ethanol and change. The Queen will be waiting, roses and all. Applause! Off with their heads!
What if Frank’s response-a-meter was wired to the players in the H & C shout-fest that follows the variety hour? Would it remind body language experts of that New Age classic, “The Beast with Two Heads” starring Ray Milland and Rosie Greer? Does the finale of that film (loosely based on Frankenstein) with Rosie driving into the sunset singing ‘O Happy Day’ augur well for our approaching climax?
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Like the theft by Prometheus of divine fire this gambit won’t end well; the attempt to fuse communism and capitalism, providence with programming is not synthesis but negation; not peace but war; not boundaries but an oceanic broth of emotion churned by ‘world servers’; not grace and beauty but horror, the key word of Frankenstein, of this election cycle and of the coy imperialism and intolerance of postmodernism, the cult of insincerity and the cynical imposition of theories veiling a lust for power.
Yes, “he gets them nodding.”
1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus (1818; author’s revised edition, 1831; Penguin Classics 1992). The novel, trivialized by its many film versions offers a tonic for our era, especially as Shelley revised it in 1831, strengthening the message that the Romantic – modern ideal of ‘going it alone’ leads to disaster including loss of ideals; that sympathetic and understanding mentoring is essential to education; and that a cult of boundless progress is a delusion that destroys those who pursue it and all close to them. It also shows that remorse without repentance leads to despair and that the simple human bonds of family and local community are the bedrock of happiness. There is much more relevant to our situation.
© 2008 Eugene Narrett - All Rights Reserved