Too Scared to Think

Introduction to The Baffler number 30, published in March 2016.

Since this is the first issue of our new quarterly cycle and you will be hearing from us more frequently, we have dispensed with the conceit of a long introduction to explain our whereabouts between issues. Suffice it to say that in the pages that follow, you will discover an array of stories, articles, graphics, and poems pertaining to the supreme political values of liberty and security, while also delineating certain fearful efforts to subvert them. Naturally, this means diagnosing the overlapping plagues of scapegoating, xenophobia, and demagogic posturing that afflict our body politic—especially in a presidential campaign year.

Butwe also spotlight some symptoms of a derangement brewing in the culture. Read a new analysis of sex hysteria within the 4chan Internet enclave, take in the craze for cryonics, apprehend the dread logic of be-glad-you’re-not-there cults, enjoy a story about the enemy within families (that would be incest), and look aghast at our report of municipal corruption in California’s state capital; it will set your hair on fire.

Over the year we will give you columns that gingerly dismantle consensus thinking about imponderables such as activism, technology, and corruption, and light the way toward reason. Still, this issue leans toward the irresistible proposition that the country, high and low, writhes in the grip of a collective panic attack, a case of the sweaty palms, a crack-up of faith in the near future, a claustral terror that our bipolar political system—trapped amid competing but mutually outmoded visions of sanity in the baby-boomer gene pool—cannot hope to allay, but can only stoke to greater furies.

Sober pundits intone, how do we balance liberty and security, freedom and safety? We? Balance? The bywords of America in 2016 are more like plutocrats and jittery. Not since the late 1950s has a sense of impending doom so twisted the nation’s mood. While the Dead Kennedys went on to lament, in the first flush of the punk era, that they were too drunk to fuck, we say the country has now become too scared to think. Enjoy.