Friday, July 16, 2010


Matt Taibbi has a great post at Rolling Stone.

He quotes from the Gulag Archipelago

The basic dynamic here is something Solzhenitsyn described in Gulag I, in a story about a district party conference of the CPSU during Stalin's day. At the end of the conference a tribute to Stalin was suggested and the hall erupted in "stormy applause rising to an ovation." Three, four minutes passed, and still the hall was applauding; palms were beginning to hurt. As Solzhenitsyn wrote:

However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform and it was he who had called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD [an early form of the KGB] men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first.

And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks.

This terrible scene went on and on until it became clear that while the applause would eventually stop, that stopping would cost someone his life. And so, at eleven minutes, the director of a paper factory sat in his chair. Everyone followed him. That night the factory director was, naturally, arrested.

This is where the consequences portion of the formula enters in. When being the first one to stop kissing ass will cost a life, the ass-kissing will basically go on forever. When it will cost you your job, it will go on probably as long as you have a job. And when the consequences are merely that other people may secretly suspect that you have a mind of your own and a spine, the outside edge of the ass-kissing will generally max out at seven days, which is about how long the standard ex-presidential Slobituary lasts here in America.

He uses this formula to calculate how long everyone will slob over Steinbrenner,


Anonymous said...

Taibbi is pretty much the master at making you laugh about things you know you're not supposed to.

P M Prescott said...

This was the first time I've come across his writing. I'm impressed.