Originally posted at Iqra’i.
Mr. Suderman, trapped in the super-reified genre of the blog post (see note below), mistakes the lede for the kicker and therefore misses the point.
Perhaps that’s uncharitable. More precisely, his review of David Mamet’s political U-turn and subsequent Village Voice mea culpa/Sister Souljah foregrounds his clucking over the ways in which punditry and playwriting are methodologically different, but saves the observation that politics and drama have cogent substantive similarities for a mere punchline.
Of course a discipline based on “complicating motivations” and one based on “revealing them” will bear little resemblance to each other — it’s a simple matter of constructing the message versus deconstructing it.
Dyed-in-the-wool journo-pundits, of course, enjoy characterizing this divide as insurmountable because they like to think of themselves as being on the side of Truth (and therefore assume that their counterparts must be on the side of Falsehood). Most pundits, however — Mr. Suderman himself among them — have done their time on the other side of the message machine, and should know better than to turn the distinction between synthesizing its input and analyzing its output (a mere matter of geography, after all) into a meaningful difference of professional jurisdiction. If you understand how the machine functions you can probably work either end pretty well.
As for politics: yes, of course there’s more to its performativity than “intricate deception and vaguely suggested menace.” To begin with, of course, there’s the whole matter of motivations, implying the gaps between word, thought and deed that consume much political analysis as well as a good deal of modern drama (pretty much everyone from Chekhov onward relies on it, including Mr. Mamet, but it’s also the reason Richard III is so much fun). Then there are the scenes of politics: the public monologue of oratory, the dialogue of an interview or a negotiation, the Greek chorus of reporters at the end of Eliot Spitzer’s press conference a week ago. (“Will you resign?”)
In fairness, to me, everything is performative. But the way in which politics is performative is particularly well-suited to pundits from the world of performance themselves. Maybe Mamet isn’t any good (and I’m fully aware that not everyone likes Frank Rich, though I do) but it’s not because he’s a playwright.
Suderman, on the other hand, might consider moonlighting as a playwright — his faux-Mamet shtick is adorable.
Re “super-reified”: The compositional rules for blog posts are ridiculous. The hook, represented by a link, must be included within the first three or so sentences of the post; the main point must be the leading point of the post (though not necessarily the opener); only one argument may be introduced and developed in a single post, though the blogger can fudge this by adding a point to an ongoing discussion via linking; style must be direct, sharp, accessible and conversational; and the post should if at all possible end with a witty remark. In terms of degrees of articstic freedom, it ends up somewhere between Restoration comedy and pantoum.