Who are the smug aristocrats?

Between the horrific earthquake and the reactor problems in Japan, and the operation against Gadhafi in Libya, the war of attrition in Madison, Wisconsin has been pushed off the front pages. (And off Drudge, off Memeorandum, and off almost everywhere else except gloating left-wing sites.)

Shouldn't that cause a collective sigh of relief? I mean, who isn't sick of reading about unending protests in Madison?

The trouble with getting sick of a war of attrition is that the people who get sick of it enable the combatants (in this case the enemies of the taxpayers) to win. Knowing this does not make it any easier to stand up to them. Hell, I can barely stand writing another blog post about the Madison demonstrators. Seriously, the feeling that I am having to repeat myself is Complaint Number One that I have about blogging. The only reason I am doing it is because I know too well that the way the left wins these wars of attrition is because people like me get sick to death of them.

It is one thing to be sick to death of something, but when you've been blogging as long as I have been with the personality type that I have, you tend to get sick to death of everything. (Unfortunately, my being sick of stuff won't make the stuff I'm sick of go away. Even more unfortunately, my not saying anything arguably might help the stuff I am sick of get worse.)

Whether I am sick of it or not, there's a much more insidious aspect of this war of attrition that makes me unable to ignore it. While no one likes wars of attrition, this one is being fought at a level approaching house-to-house and door-to-door. I don't just mean death threats against Republican politicians. Ann Althouse (an Obama voter, btw) has been threatened with violence for the "crime" of covering these protests in her own town. As I've said before, I cannot believe her stamina and sheer determination. She is not being paid for this coverage and does not have to be doing what she is doing. In fact, she is a busy law professor and I am sure that this eats up huge amounts of her time. Yet she is doing it out of a sense of duty as a citizen journalist. In her words:

I know Meade and I exemplify Glenn's concept of "An Army of Davids," but we kind of got drafted. Here we are in Madison, Wisconsin and something big happens. We have to cover it. Or we'd have to justify dodging the draft into the army of Davids. And now that we're in, people are looking to us to be the rough men who stand ready to do journalism on their behalf so they can read peaceably on their laptops at night.

And now we're into the third week of it. It's become a quagmire. I believe myself that... this protest is lost and it is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme aggression in Madison yesterday....

That was three long weeks ago. Since then, she has been threatened with violence, local businesses have been urged not to serve her, her home address has been put online, and of course the left subjects her to an unending torrent of vicious personal insults in the hope that she will just do the wrong (but easy) thing, and go back to home and work. Instead, despite all the threats and abuse, she continues her very courageous coverage of the protests

A sympathetic commenter to her March 2 post warned her:

Ann & Meade - thank you for taking so much time out of your lives to cover this. It is sad to me when those being paid to be journalists abrogate their responsibility to tell the truth. Thank God you are willing to wade into the maelstrom and shine the light of truth.

Please be careful; it is obvious that reality is starting to set in for these folks, and their lashing out will get nastier.

And it certainly did.

It bothers the hell out of me that the efforts of the demonstrators are paying off. According to a number of accounts, the attrition campaign appears to be winning, and the demonstrators are crowing victory all over the world.

Ramrod democracy was working so well until it hit Wisconsin. The news from that state just keeps on coming and growing in significance.

The latest chapter in a month-long struggle came Friday, when Dane County circuit judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order on Governor Scott Walker's hotly-debated anti-union bill - citing possible violation of the state's open meetings law. Now implementation of the bill which, among other things, limits collective bargaining to issues of wages (capped in any case to inflation-only increases), will be put on hold, indefinitely, pending a full investigation of state senate Republicans' heavyhanded tactics.

Walker's critics have good reason to relish in the Governor's Mubarak moment. Despite all those precious dollars lavished on securing Republican majorities in the last election, despite that flood of anti-union messages on state media, some righteous public workers, their unions, some thousands of determined protesters and, now, a Republican-appointed judge managed to stop the state steamroller. Where's the palace guard when you need them?

At the Left Forum, an annual gathering of independent lefties in New York last weekend, news of the judge's stay was greeted with glee. People power worked, they say, and here was people power in action.

Judge Sumi's decision puts paid to all those who say progress is achieved through any one set of tactics: voting or protest, law or disobedience. Wisconsinites stopped the Walker steamroller through a combination of them all: direct action, legislative action, protest, and finally a lawsuit filed by the Dane County district attorney.

They are even taunting the Tea Partiers for doing nothing while they successfully "turn back the steamroller":

It's going to take every tactic in the book to turn back the steamroller for good. At least, though, we can stop for just a minute and acknowledge what's happening in this country.

When was the last time you heard about a Tea Party rally?

Not only are they getting their way, but I'm afraid that people are helping them get their way by being sick and tired of the whole thing.

I include myself in that category, because I could be writing about it more. As to what I could say that I haven't already said, that's the problem. It is simply a pain in the ass to repeat myself. So I did the next best thing; I donated some money to Ann Althouse, who charmingly calls it "encouragement." It's the least I could do, and I would say to readers who care that it's the least they could do too.

Beyond that, I have nothing new to say.

Well, there is one little thing I noticed that might be worth some historical quibbling. 

Ann Althouse posted a video which is well worth watching in its entirety (even if you're a person like me who gets sick and tired of watching videos in their entirety) as it shines a light on some of the mindsets that drive this war of attrition.

It shows Ann Althouse's husband Meade spending a great deal of time attempting to scrub from a Civil War memorial statue a well-known Communist slogan "Workers of the World Unite." No mere Communist slogan, it has earned its own Wiki post as "one of the most famous rallying cries of communism."

As Meade scrubs, a very smug-looking man appears waving a sign depicting Governor Walker as Marie Antoinette with the phrase "LET THEM EAT CAKE." He identifies himself as an attorney, and gets into a debate with Meade in which he displays amazing ignorance over things which are such common knowledge that he has to be lying. First, he disputes that "Workers of the World Unite" is a communist slogan. As that claim was too ridiculous to pass muster, he shifted to defending it on its merits, and then finally he speculated that it had been written by a "teabagger who wanted to make us look bad." He then feigned complete ignorance of the gay origin of the term, and claimed to be utterly clueless about why anyone would consider it homophobic. After Ann and Meade patiently explained to him why it was, he feigned surprise and said he was going to go look it up.


But don't worry! My quibble for today does not involve the meaning of "teabagger," nor even Marxist analysis.

I want to focus on the man's sign.


I know, it seems like the perfect fashion accessory to go with the man's smug expression, but I have a basic question.

Is that a valid historical comparison?

Forgive me, but I think the situation cries out for a little overanalysis. 

In the court of popular history, what earned Marie Antoinette permanent notoriety was the charge that she was "profligate and promiscuous":

In such pamphlets as "Le Godmiche Royal", (translated, "The Royal Dildo"), it was suggested that she routinely engaged in deviant sexual acts of various sorts. Most famously with the English Baroness 'Lady Sophie Farrell' of Bournemouth, a renowned lesbian of the time.[77] From acting as a tribade, (in her case in the lesbian sense), to sleeping with her son, Marie Antoinette was constantly an object of rumor and false accusations of committing sexual acts with partners other than the king. Later, allegations of this sort (from incest to orgiastic excesses) were used to justify her execution. Ultimately, none of the charges of sexual depravity have any credible evidentiary support. Marie Antoinette was simply an easy target for rumor and criticism.

So she was the victim of a homophobic smear campaign which appears to have been false. (Not that a little thing like the truth ever mattered, either then or now.)

Here's the historically footnoted Wiki account of what the mob did to her alleged lesbian lover:

On 19 August, [Princess Lamballe] and the Marquise de Tourzel, governess to the royal children, were separated from the royal family and transferred to the La Force prison.[6] On 3 September, she was brought before a hastily assembled tribunal which demanded she "take an oath to love liberty and equality and to swear hatred to the King and the Queen and to the monarchy".[7] She refused, upon which her trial summarily ended with the words, "Elargissez madame" ("Take madame away"). She was immediately taken to the street and thrown to a group of men who killed her within minutes.[8][9]

Some reports allege that she was raped and that her breasts were cut off, in addition to other bodily mutilations,[10][11] and that her head was cut off and stuck on a pike. Other reports say that it was brought to a nearby café where it was laid in front of the customers, who were asked to drink in celebration of her death.[10] Other reports state that the head was taken to a barber in order to dress the hair to make it instantly recognizable,[11] though this has been contested.[9] Following this, the head was replaced upon the pike and was paraded beneath Marie Antoinette's window at the Temple.[12]

Those who were carrying it wished the queen to kiss the lips of her favourite, as it was a frequent slander that the two had been lovers. The head was not allowed to be brought into the building, but the queen's guards did force her to look out of the window at the sight, whereupon she fainted almost immediately.[12]

You know, I'm going to stick my neck out here and pose a question. Might there have been an element of homophobia present among the mob? Is that something the left considers commendable?

I find myself wondering whether the attorney who claimed ignorance of the Marxist origin of the slogan "Workers of the World Unite" and of the homophobic implications of the word "teabagger" is also ignorant of the homophobia that drove the French mob.

He is certainly comfortable presenting a victim of it as worthy of blame. But even in that, he is woefully inaccurate, for if we turn to his sign's phrase "LET THEM EAT CAKE," there is absolutely no evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said it:

In popular culture, the phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there is no evidence to support that she ever uttered this phrase, and it is now generally regarded as a "journalistic cliche".[103]

Hmmm... Does that mean it's OK for journalists to display their ignorance?

As has been pointed out many times by her biographers, it would have been out of character for Marie Antoinette to have said it.

But even if we indulge ourselves in journalistic cliches and assume it's true, what about Governor Walker? Does anyone in his right mind believe that he would mock starving Wisconsonites by suggesting they eat cake? Do they really believe he is a profligate spendthrift and the equivalent of a sexually promiscuous (and incestuous) French lesbian?

But maybe I am being too harshly literal in my analysis. So let's cut this ignorant attorney some slack and allow for the sake of argument that he is not literally comparing Governor Walker to Marie Antoinette, but that he is merely attempting to draw a more general political analogy between Republicans and the pre-revolutionary French aristocracy. Might that be it?

It is not open to serious dispute that two of the primary causes of the French Revolution were massive public debt and a privileged aristocracy that continued to live high on the hog while the country faced bankruptcy. 

Is Governor Walker behaving like a French aristocrat? Hardly. He and his political allies are trying to reign in public debt. And unlike the French ruling classes, he has to run for office and is subject to being defeated or recalled.

I would argue that if any group resembles the French aristocracy, it is tenured state employees who cannot be fired and who are able to retire with full pensions while regular taxpayers have to work and pay for it.

He may not be aware of it, but the man smugly waving that Marie Antoinette sign is simultaneously:

sanctioning dishonest mob violence,


supporting Wisconsin's ruling class artistocracy.

Obviously he is unaware of this contradiction, for the man is still waving the Walker-as-Marie-Antoinette sign.

I think he should be careful what he wishes for.

I'd also say he was trying to have his cake and eat it too, but does one bad cliche really deserve another?


posted by Eric on 03.23.11 at 12:14 PM


"I'd also say he was trying to have his cake and eat it too, but does one bad cliche really deserve another?"


Kathy Kinsley   ·  March 23, 2011 7:18 PM

Better a teabagger for liberty than a butt-boy for statism.

Bilwick   ·  March 23, 2011 7:31 PM

Kathy, I'm glad I didn't say he was trying to have his tea bags and eat them too!

Bilwick, you are EVIL!

Eric Scheie   ·  March 23, 2011 10:56 PM


Aside from whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said the phrase, it is always incorrectly quoted. It is my understanding that the actual phrase would have been "Let them eat cakes."

At the time, meats were served on loaves of bread (called "trenchers") to sop up the grease. These grease laden breads would then be fed to the animals (dogs, and such). The "cakes" are either the "trenchers" themselves or the cut-off ends of the trenchers.

Thus the phrase "let them eat cakes" is essentially translated as "let them eat what we give to the dogs!"

T   ·  March 24, 2011 11:57 AM

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