Jeet Heer Profile picture
13 Sep, 9 tweets, 3 min read
1. I've been reading some Raymond Chandler lately & it clarified something that is maybe obvious to everyone else but had never occurred to me: that pervasive police corruption was a necessary precondition for creation of hard-boiled detective novel as a genre.
2. In High Window, Philip Marlowe tells 2 cops a story about why he doesn't like telling them everything he knows, "the Cassidy Case." TL;dr: A rich guy kills his secretary & himself but cops (to please rich guys family) makes it look like the opposite.
3. The difference between the old-school locked-door gentlemen detective (say Holmes or Perroit) & a hard-boiled dick like Spade or Marlowe resides in different relation to police: for Holmes, cops are idiots, for Marlowe they are corrupt. Different rational.
4. For Marlowe, cops aren't dumb (although sometimes are) but bad: torturers (lots of allusions to the 3rd degree), in the pocket of the wealthy, indifferent to truth. The heroism of Marlowe (which is, in truth, romantic hokum) is he cares about the values they only profess.
5. The social/historical basis for this view is obvious: prohibition created a crisis of legitimacy in policing, reinforced by 1930s social movements focused on police brutality and prison brutality. This legitimacy crisis created no less than 4 distinct genres.
6. To my mind, the police legitimacy crisis of the 1920s/1930s was the precondition for these separate genres: i) hard-boiled detective ii) G-Man (super-honest federal police) iii) mystery-man adventurer iv) super-hero.
7. The G-Man genre is semi-forgotten but it was created at the behest of J. Edgar Hoover & his myth-making promoters: the idea of an elite band of super-competent federal police exempt from corruption of local cops. For-runner to our copaganda.
8. The Mystery Man genre (the Shadow, the Phantom, the Spider etc.) has deep roots but started flourishing again in 1930s, for same reason as hard-boiled detective & G-Men. Add some science fiction to mix & you get the superhero.
9. So: the police legitimacy crisis of 1920/1930s created a raft of genres from hard-boiled detective to superhero. I suppose the question is whether the current crisis will create new genres or cause these older ones to return to their origins.

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More from @HeerJeet

25 Sep
1. Remember the Mueller cult? That seems kind of funny now. Image
2. Saturday Night Live did a regular series of skits featuring Trump (Alec Baldwin) cowering in fear under the stern glaze of Mueller (Robert Di Niro in his gruff tough guy mode). As we now know, it was the opposite: Mueller cowered before Trump.
3. Writing in @newrepublic in 2017, I noted that both liberals & conservatives are addicted to the myth of the heroic prosecutor: the selfless federal lawman who can save us from the messiness of politics & political corruption. Image
Read 5 tweets
24 Sep
1. Having watched this a few times, I have to say it doesn't get any less alarming. It's worth stepping back and think about where this is heading.
2. The pro-Trump -- or at least anti-anti-Trump -- position on this is Trump isn't serious. It's bluster. He doesn't have the brains, will-power, or support needed to pull off a coup.
3. Trump's intent seems uninteresting and irrelevant. As per other authoritarian regimes, the method is "working towards the Donald." He issues broad goals and people try to please him by carrying them out. Doesn't matter what he intends as long as followers are there.
Read 7 tweets
23 Sep
1. It's important to understand that Trump's own words support the Atlantic story. The plan is to use engineered election uncertainty to bring in the courts & do Bush v. Gore Redux.
2. Again, Pence is being admirably upfront about the fact that they want a court heavily stacked with GOP nominees not just for the long run future but also for the November election:
3. Of course, if there is a clearcut electoral college victory in 270+ states, the real nightmare scenario can be avoided. And that's quite possible. But if not this year then in the future there will be close national elections. In that eventuality, the nightmare would happen.
Read 4 tweets
21 Sep
1. The fight over the courts is really a fight over democracy -- and part of longer history of the courts being a bulwark of minority rule which needed to be challenged (and sometimes delegitimized) by democratic mass movements.
2. Lincoln & the radical Republicans have achieved what they did (as @karpmj pointed out in a useful article) without challenging the courts that entrenched slavery (and in the case of Dred Scott, white supremacy) in the very fabric of the law.
3. FDR's court packing gambit is usually treated as a failed attempt to change the make up the court. But in reality it was a highly successful effort to tame the court -- after FDR's mobilizing, Court radically scaled back on overturning New Deal laws.
Read 4 tweets
19 Sep
My colleague John Nichols is right on the money here. This is a time to fight.
2. Anyone who has read me will know that I'm a pretty pessimistic about American democracy, asymmetric polarization and Mitch McConnell. I've never thought that the GOP could ever break in any large numbers from Trump or not support Gorsuch & Kavanaugh. But....
3. I think this time the situation is more fluid than before. There's only 6 weeks till the election, this isn't replacing a GOP seat (i.e. Scalia and Kennedy) but a Dem one, and there's some genuine reasons for some in GOP to be careful.
Read 5 tweets
16 Sep
1. This Danielle Pletka op ed on why she's more afraid of Biden than Trump has been much dunked on -- expertly & hilariously so by @petridishes & @dandrezner -- but it does help clarify limits Democrat's efforts to win over disaffected Republicans. washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-can…
2. The thing is Pletka is very, very right wing. I mean used to work for Jesse Helms. She says she didn't support Trump in 2016 but the fact is she also didn't support Clinton and called herself #NeverHillary that year. Image
3. Obviously Biden has had some success in winning over moderates and disenchanted Republicans, but in 2020 anyone of that stripe who hasn't already jumped ship is not going to. What we're left with is people like Pletka who don't like Trump personally but are like his policies
Read 4 tweets

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