But I’m actually in the camp of people who thought that Dennis Miller’s abrasive, I’m-smarter-than-you shtick was never, ever funny – and I can’t tell you how annoyed it made me that of all the entertainment-industry types who could have converted to right-wingery after 2001, all we got was him. (Why couldn’t, say, Angelina Jolie have discovered the virtues of pre-emptive war? I’m sure PNAC would have been as eager as the CFR to have her on board.)
I share Ross’ sense of annoyance, though mainly just because I find Dennis Miller to be really, really annoying. Anything that would have associated him, however extremely remotely, with my kind of politics has to be quite unfortunate. Fortunately, most of Miller’s move to “the right” has had a lot to do with becoming a booster for Bush and very little do with anything recognisable as conservative ideas, so the association is minimal. But I think Miller’s shtick explains a good deal about why he joined up with the Red Republicans when he did. If there was one thing that the Bush Administration implausibly exuded for years and years, it was that they were the trusty, competent hands who knew better than we did. How many times did silly war supporters say things like, “The President knows more than I do”? I bet they wish they could take those statements back! Dennis Miller is the embodiment of the continuing war supporter pose of claiming to know a whole lot about the world and claiming to be more firmly in tune with reality than the morons whom he happily derided combined with a stunning lack of understanding of any of the relevant subjects. Miller is, in this sense, the living symbol of the snide condescension that many Bush supporters expressed towards anyone who lacked their profound vision of the future world they were going to create. The government was able to invade Iraq because tens of millions of people were as self-important and ignorant as Dennis Miller and could therefore be easily manipulated into backing the war if it meant that they could brag to everybody they knew that they possessed superior “moral clarity” and idealistic zeal for freedom. Perhaps that sets too much importance by Dennis Miller–indeed, talking about him this much already invests him with too much importance–but it is worth considering.
But Miller was not alone in his political move, even if he didn’t have much company. Ron Silver stands out as one of the more high-profile, post-9/11 “converts” to the Republican cause in the entertainment industry and one who “converted” entirely because of 9/11 and the administration’s response. Silver is an odd character, but perhaps he is one of those socially liberal jingoists to whom a Giuliani ticket would theoretically appeal. He is, as he said to the convention in ’04, a “September 11 person,” which apparently means that he is one of those people whose core values are so easy to ignore that he could embrace an entirely different political agenda because of one particularly traumatic and terrible event. In a sense, the move for Silver was an entirely logical one, if what I understand about him is correct.
I first heard of Ron Silver from an anecdote about Clinton’s first inauguration. The story that I heard goes that there were fighter jets flying overhead in honour of the new President, and Silver was initially bothered by this until he thought to himself that the jets were “our planes now.” It was now okay to enthuse about displays of militarism, because the right people were in charge. So it is not really all that terribly surprising that when there was an actual war on and there was a chance to be on the side of the “war President,” Silver would join the side of that President.