Demolition Man

California screaming: Gary Indiana takes aim at Ahnold

Months have passed and I'm still scared to lift the pillow from my eyes. The hangover to the '04 elections just won't let up, and while it's tempting to choke down a big, greasy breakfast of self-flagellation and doubt, Gary Indiana, bless his bilious heart, is mixing Bloody Marys and sharpening his knives. California's latest humiliation is the erstwhile subject of Indiana's book-length essay Schwarzenegger Syndrome, but his bigger theme is the same one he's been tearing away at for years: the psychopathology of this grand "excremental republic."

So he starts not with the twisted mechanics of California's 2003 recall vote—he'll get to that—but with the appointment to the presidency of a "mush-mouthed, dyslexic, perpetually vacationing cipher." Jump to that cipher's near seamless elevation to eternal warlord in chief following "our very own Reichstag fire" and you're not far from the realm where, "to the bewildered and traumatized who continued to imagine that 'fascism' described a condition other than the merger of the state with corporate capitalism, hasta la vista, baby sounded like as workable a program as anything else."


Schwarzenegger Syndrome: Politics and Celebrity in the Age of Contempt
By Gary Indiana
The New Press, 140 pp., $19.95
Buy this book

Hyperbolic, sure, but if any times ever made hyperbole feel like understatement, these are them. Arnold Schwarzenegger, steroidal cartoon and killer robot, "dream politician for the Time of the Rapture," is, after all, governing the most populous state in the union. When it's not actively drawing blood, Schwarzenegger Syndrome can feel unfocused, but what doesn't these days? And it's hard not to love a man who calls John McCain a "bowel-impacted martinet" and questions his ability to hold up under torture: "If we threw him in a stew pot, he'd stand up and salt himself. That's the kind of patriotism America needs."

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