When the Stupid Futility Is the Point

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida questions Attorney General Merrick Garland during a committee meeting in Washington, D.C, September 20, 2023. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/ AFP/Getty Images)

This week yet another government shutdown appears inevitable, because a sizable chunk of the House Freedom Caucus believes, in the words of Tim Mattheson in Animal House, “this situation absolutely requires a very stupid and futile gesture on somebody’s part.”

What situation? 

Before we get to that, it’s important to understand that any situation will do, when you’re determined to deliver a stupid and futile gesture.  

In America, the term “counterculture” is so associated with hippies, beatniks, Bohemians and the like, it might seem odd to think of self-described conservatives as counterculture types. But the evidence is all over the place—from the loopy conspiratorialism and secession talk to the bizarre, albeit selective, defenses of lawlessness and even violence—that a lot of right-wingers have shed the pretense of actual conservatism in favor of a permanent pose of performative radicalism from the right. 

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