Saturday, May 27, 2006

al Qaeda needs better poetry

In what may go down as the blogosphere's most bizarre historical analogy ever (leaving Bush-Napoleon in the ha'penny place), Powerline's "Trunk" compares a group of "insurgents" trying to take over the Dartmouth College alumni council to the Irish heroes of the Easter Rising. And no, we're not making any of this up.

The backstory is a successful campaign waged by two of the insurgents (sic), now with close ties to media conservatives, to get on the council last year. [There's also a connection to the ill-will towards James Freedman, RIP]. This seemed to set the stage for additional insurgent gains until the alumni council decided to postpone the next election, sending Trunk back to his college poetry books:

In his great poem "Easter 1916," William Butler Yeats reflects with ambivalent admiration on the Irish uprising against the British. Yeats moves from noting how the uprising has altered his perception of his fellow countrymen, to paying tribute to the sacrifice of those fallen at arms, to wondering whether their valor may have required too much hardness of heart, to asking whether their sacrifice might prove needless. Yeats nevertheless finds the uprising a transformative moment. The poem concludes with a tribute to the executed leaders of the rebellion:

[the lines you all know] ....

At Dartmouth College, where green is also worn, the college's alumni council has produced a transformative moment of its own. ... It appears that some people at Dartmouth College, who are opposed to reform-minded newcomers like Robinson and Zywicki, are intent on asserting the rights of an occupying power ... At Dartmouth, all appears to be changed, or changing, but it is something far from a terrible beauty that is born. Working "Easter 1916" in reverse, the college is showing itself to be, in Yeats's damning phrase, "where motley is worn."

So there you have it. "Trunk" embraces the terminology of "insurgents" and
"occupying power" and the chic of Irish nationalism for a row about who gets on the alumni council at Dartmouth, but mercifully doesn't continue back to September 1913 to pursue it further. In a way, it's related to this preposterous list of Top 50 conservative rock songs, an obvious attempt to reclaim some cultural territory long lost in past reaction. In fact the earnestness of these efforts makes one wonder if the struggle to be "cool" is still the one that really matters for the right.

UPDATE: It looks like "Wherever green is worn" is to be the motto of the Dartmouth insurgents. Just in time for Ken Loach's film! And [21 June] the story now makes the New York Times, drawing yet another Yeats reference from "Trunk."

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