October 24, 2004
Return of the Wolfman
I dreamed that it is night and I am lying in my bed (the foot of my bed was under the window, and outside the window there was a row of old walnut trees. I know that it was winter in my dream, and night-time). Suddenly, the window opens of its own accord and terrified, I see that there are number of white wolves sitting in the big walnut tree outside the window...
I thought about the Wolfman recently, since Freud might just be the man to decode Wolves, the new scare ad from the Bush/Cheney camp, released just in time for Halloween (Oooh, Veddy Scary!). There's a raw, hypnopompic quality to the spot: it has the sweaty, blurry feel of a nightmare. (A not dissimilar feeling to this entire gut-wrenching campaign season.)
In History of an Infantile Neurosis (quoted here from The Penguin Classics edition), Freud attempts to tease out just what led Pankejeff , the son of wealthy family that "lives on a country estate which in the summer they exchange for another country estate," to have this terrifying dream.
One early interpretation Freud floats out is Verkehrung, or reversal:
The attentive gaze, which in the dream he attributes to the wolves, is actually to be ascribed to him. [Emphasis mine]
Interesting. So the scary, skulking wolves are, in fact, Bush and Cheney? And the threat they represent are the President and Vice President's own? I'm sold!
Well, not so fast, Doc. Freud moved on from this interpretation and began to favor another: perhaps the dream's meaning lay in the age-old Freudian question "Who's your daddy?":
What was activated that night out of the chaos of unconscious traces left by a memory imprint was the image of coitus between the boy's parents in conditions that were not entirely usual and which lent themselves to observation.
So, it's the old 'witnessing poppy hit it doggy-style made me do it defense'? "The wolf whom he feared was undoubtedly the father," Freud theorized. Sure, the good doctor was a bit hung up on the dad thing, but if you consider that the war in Iraq is a deeply Oedipal gesture on 43's part to symbolically supplant 41, we may be onto something. (Maureen Dowd is quite fond of this formulation.)
If we take it one step further—and you're willing to jump down the conspiracy rabbit hole just a little bit—you could say that Bush Sr. has actually helped terrorists, and is, in his own way, a wolf in Carlyle Group's clothing. (Michael Moore is quite fond of this formulation.)
C'mon!, you're saying right about now. That's the most pretentious shit I've ever heard! All this 'old European' sturm und drang does not speak to George Bush's all-American psyche. What the fuck does Sigmund Freud know about a good-old boy like Bush?
First I'd say, "You kiss your mama with that mouth, Rex?" Second, I'd say, fair enough. Freud might be a bit deep for Dubya, so let's look at a study of wolves that's a bit closer to home, like Jon T. Coleman's recently published Vicious: Wolves and Men in America.
According to Benjamin Schwarz's review of the book in the September Atlantic, fear—and hatred—of wolves led early American settlers to some truly horrifying extremes:
These canids were not merely annihilated: they were dragged behind horses until they ripped apart; they were set on fire; they were hamstrung; their backs were broken; they were captured alive to be released with their mouths or penises wired shut; their intestines were torn open by hooks hidden in balls of tallow left for them to eat. And as the abundant historical record shows, wolves responded to capture (they were regularly caught in traps or in their dens) not by lashing out but by submission; human beings as a matter of course ignored "a frightened creature's obvious pleas for mercy" and proceeded to torture.
The book's called Vicious for a reason.
If you've read this far, you're probably one of those Republican wingnuts who loves to knock down our arguments with the expert precision of The Howard Brothers and Fine Plumbers, you're probably thinking, Terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will not respond with submission, you moron! These are cold blooded killers, not furry fucking woodland animals!
True enough, but what sort of ignorant, disingenuous fool would equate terrorists with wolves?
The answer to that question can be found at the end of the ad:
"I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message."
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