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Arts Dominic Green US Politics

Puritanism vs Pornography, and the agony of America

‘Tell ‘em Lindsey sent you!’ he squeaked, offering himself up like a human sacrifice on the altar of entertainment

September 28, 2018

8:51 PM

28 September 2018

8:51 PM

As an immigrant to this blessed land — 13 years before the mast — I was spared first-hand experience of the Clarence Thomas nomination and the Starr Report. These events were mediated for me by the BBC. That might not sound appetising to anyone but the most coastal of liberals, but I could at least switch it off. Now, I experience American news like Americans do, and like Malcolm McDowell does in A Clockwork Orange, when they pin his eyelids open for re-education.

I watched and listened to the entirety of Thursday’s hearing, sustained only by horrified fascination and a giant bag of Trader Joe’s Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, the kind of wholesome sustenance that you can only get in this country, God bless it. And what a re-education it was.

For all their demographic and cultural changes, Americans remain torn between their puritan and pornographic impulses. The country remains divided between people who call each other ‘Sir and ‘Madam’, and people whose ideas of sociability is sharing home movies of themselves copulating like demented Labradoodles. These puritan and pornographic forms of entertainment coalesced perfectly in an irruption into proceedings in mid-afternoon, the time of day that the English call ‘teatime’ and Americans call ‘sugar drop’.

Just when I was starting to glaze over, a comical little chap with a face like a boiled ham started shouting and pointing. Having watched some movies in preparation for coming to America, I realised that he was delivering a note-perfect impersonation of Truman Capote, aggrieved at a waiter snatching a tray of canapés away too early.

‘Tell ‘em Lindsey Graham said hello!’ he squeaked, offering himself up like a human sacrifice on the altar of entertainment.

This was hilarious. I shall try to find recordings of Graham on the internet, and cherish them along with those other masters of the extended pastiche Mel Brooks, Kevin Hart and Mr Bean. And though Americans may been half-cracked with partisanship, I next learned that they haven’t lost their sense of humour.

I was heartened to see that even though Republicans had been hurling objurgations and excommunications at Democrats all day on Twitter, they now joined in the fun, tweeting dryly ironic comments in which they called Mr Lindsey ‘heroic’ and ‘wonderful’, and pulling off extended jokes in which they described him as having changed the course of history and even his career.

Any English-speaker who comes to America falls in love with the energy and irreverence of the language. Now, some people might think that, as an immigrant, I should limit my knowledge of American to phrases like ‘Are you done with the fries?’ Or ‘Would you like me to mulch it after the mowing?’ But we immigrants get the job done.

That means learning about job interviews. It turns out that a ‘job interview’ in America involves questions about anal sex, group sex, drinking to the point of blackout, and, of course, mastery of technical terms like ‘Renate alumnus’,‘boofing’ and ‘ralphing’. What a country. Perhaps Brett Kavanaugh really is fit for the Court.

But who could have seen the next day’s plot twist? Just when we thought it was over, the Committee demanded a sequel. It turns out that the FBI are going to redo the whole story, just as a Hollywood studio takes a European film, guts it of character, wit and ambiguity, and sells it on. And the president, the A-lister of A-listers, has made a late entrance too, telling them to keep it short.

The FBI investigation is limited to ‘current credible investigations’. The problem with Blasey Ford’s case is its incompleteness; Kavanaugh’s defense has the same problem. But an American job interview, I hear to my relief, is not the same as a criminal trial. The fact that there are ‘credible’ suspicions of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, and the fact that the nature of the case makes it impossible for either side to prove anything conclusively, means that whatever the FBI finds out, it can neither completely confirm or deny the credibility of the allegations.

I saw a film a while back about the FBI starring someone called James Comey. He overplayed his role, and they don’t seem to be up to much, but they’re probably capable of locating the star witness, one Mark Judge, who is currently believed to be hiding in his parents’ basement or a motel in Delaware.

If I was Mr Judge, I’d face a real test of conscience, just like that hilarious Mr Graham. I’ve had a hard time lately. I’ve already told the Senate Judiciary Committee that I can’t remember anything like Blasey Ford’s allegations, and I don’t want to perjure myself. But what if I made a effort, and remembered some details about the macho, binge-drinking scene that I described in my soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture novel?

Just a few details about a pervasive culture of binge drinking, ralphing and aggressive pursuit of Renate Alumnae. The kind of details that would elicit lucrative deals from the TV stations and the papers. The kind that plenty of people who grew up in all-male private schools in the DC area have confirmed were typical of sporty beer-drinkers like Kavanaugh and Judge. The kind that would confirm the impression that Brett Kavanaugh gave on Thursday in his testimony: That his blanket denials of youthful misdemeanours of any kind are implausible, if not downright false. That he misrepresented the vulgar jokes in his yearbook because he knows that they confirm the unsavory ambience of his friendships.

Now, Kavanaugh may still make it to the bench. But now the FBI are involved, everyone will know more. Some of it might not be true, but some of it will, and the parts that seem true will inform a popular vote about the quality of Kavanaugh’s character. That’s the wonderful thing about America: you get to watch it all in real time.

Dominic Green is Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.


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