Long before the triumph of Stand Your Ground gun legislation, the overlapping Grand Guignols of the Iraq invasion and ISIS’s rise, or the release of the latest cinematic blood orgy at the multiplex, America’s political id was drenched in blood.
We devised all manner of new American-branded mayhem during our long passage from a frontier republic into, well, a frontier mass republic, as historian Richard Hofstadter notes in a strikingly timely essay abridged in this issue: lynchings, riots, vigilantism, and political assassinations, along with garden-variety domestic knifings, shootings, and bludgeonings carried out on a scale of gruesomeness pretty much unprecedented in the soi-disant civilized West.
In the pages of The Baffler no. 28—“Battle Hymns”—we give the last word to the hapless souls targeted for elimination by our nation of carnage-happy hot-heads. David Graeber goes to the heart of the perverse social contract dictating that deserters and war-resisters be typecast as cowards and finds its deeper psychic antecedents in the casual brutalities of the schoolyard. A. S. Hamrah scopes out the cult of the Zombie Apocalypse and descries a self-hating, consumerist fantasia in its flesh-eating cortex. Heather Havrilesky sizes up the new face of high-tech warfare and finds that it bears a distressing resemblance to the workaday commerce of our gadget-happy world. And Alex Pareene plumbs the disingenuous reveries of social peace plied by our best-known vendors of American mayhem: the producers of cable news.
Along the way, there are rumors of dissent in the tightly scripted American war of all against all in Noam Chomsky and Kade Crockford’s unsettling anatomy of the death-dealing trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and in the placid muse of the Amish-themed romance novel.
Hey, in our fast-unspooling uncivil society, poised as it is to implode at the next carelessly weaponized keystroke, you take your fugitive visions of peace and quiet wherever you can find them.