Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Ari's Nerd Syndrome

Does Ari Fleischer remind anyone else of a snarky hall monitor revenging himself against the world for a childhood full of atomic wedgies, both real and imagined? I call people like him Unreconciled Nerds. Tucker Carlson, Adam Corolla, and David Horowitz belong to the club too.

The way I see it there are two types of former nerds; those who never got over being shunned by the cool kids and live in pertual haze of I'll-show-them rage, and those who shrugged it off and carved out their own safe places in the world thereby achieving coolness through the total rejection of the standards of others; Unreconciled Nerds and Reconciled Nerds.

Unreconciled Nerds (URNs) tend to be severely insecure which they hide with pomposity. They ping-pong between superiority and inferiority complexes which makes them by turns uptight, angry, and paranoid. All nerds suffer when they are young, so the URNs are to be pitied to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they tend to have delusions of persecution which makes them intolerable.

The good news is you will rarely find a URN in a position of real leadership. The one case of that happening was Nixon. Nixon was your classic URN. He longed for the kind of adoration enjoyed by Kennedy but was too shifty and paranoid to believe he deserved it (he was also evil but why belabor that point?) The results were of course disastrous. Normally you will find them in mid-to-upper management positions with way more leverage than they deserve. They get to issue orders, block requests, and pretty much drive people crazy with their self-important directives. But they also have to answer to someone much more powerful. This is the key to the tortured personality of the URN.

URNs, because they so long for acceptance, are never more happy than when they are carrying out the wishes of someone who matches their ideal of "cool". "Cool" usually matches, point for point, the type of person who made their lives miserable in middle school or high school. The classic URN gets a bitter satisfaction out of serving this person with unwavering loyalty. They don't necessarily like or respect this person. Most likely they hate him/her. What they can't live with out is the idea they, the reviled nerd, are indispensible to the very people that wouldn't let them sit at the cool table at lunch.

Reconciled Nerds (RNs) are a trickier bunch to pin down, though they share a common history with their URN counterparts i.e. persecution for being different at a young age. RNs however got through high school secure in the knowledge that high school is fleeting and the real fun starts at college. College is where they blossom and, in a sense, never leave. They learn not to yearn for the high school definition of coolness once they realize the stifling nature of conforming. Instead, they loosen up and enjoy their Tolkien, poetry, avante garde theater, Gilbert and Sullivan, indie rock, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with other RNs. Unlike URNs who tend to be loners, RNs travel in packs. Both URNs and RNs yearn for acceptance, but RNs are more successful in finding it and accepting others (can you guess where I stand?).

Inevitably, one tends to find more URNs in conservative circles and more RNs in liberal ones. This is because in yearning for conformity, the URN is a firm believer in heirarchy, while by rejecting conformity, the RN cannot but see how the heirarchy is damaging. It is for this reason that, despite sharing a common history, URN's and RN's can never get along.

Ari Fleischer versus the Press, is a classic case of URN versus RNs. The press, despite the conservative slant of late, is made up of relatively liberal-minded journalists. Journalism is a profession that attracts many RNs. Every time Ari spins, brushes off, or blocks a question he's playing out the battle between the URN, who's shaped up and living the dream, and the RN who refuses to play ball. Today's break down might be interpreted as a climax. When the press laughed at Ari, for a brief moment they stripped away the glory of being a White House Spokesman and reverted him back to being a hall monitor. And thus the whole concept of acceptance became a lie.

There is hope for Ari. There are cases of URNs reaching a belated reconciliation with who they are. David Brock is a classic case of an URN finding is RNness after a lot of soul searching. So perhaps we happy RNs are wrong in despising him. We should do an intervention, tell him that we understand him, and that it's time to stop hiding from himself and the rest of the world. There is no shame in nerdiness. There is only shame when you are ashamed.

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