The Politics and Culture of the Fact-Free Paradox

DDI never knew so many bad things would happen if I asked for and got a raise on the job. First, I would be told by everybody from HR (human resources) to our highest politicians in the Congress that I can’t be singled out for special treatment. If I get a raise everybody will want one, and fairness will demand everybody’s pay be increased!

That would cut into profits—bad for the stockholders and executives whose bonuses are tied to higher profits; bad for the economy because lowered profits would reduce company growth and therefore national economic growth. My raise would slow down the economic recovery and reduce exports since other countries have a wage advantage. Finally, since wages are tied to the job—and I am doing the same job—why should I warrant an increase for doing the same work?

Thinking about it, maybe I am greedy and self-serving for refusing to accept how my demand for more cash inflicts pain and deficits on important items on the balance sheet—profits, earnings, exports, GDP, the rate of growth.

Maybe I should consider a cut in pay. That way jobs would be created rather than lost! And America would be competitive!

Aah, even Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners, who, in television’s worst case of serial misogyny, continuously threatened to punch out his wife: “one of these days”) and Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O’Connor, who later played a Southern sheriff who romanced, married, and kissed a black woman) the television bastions of America’s iconic conservative confusion, never presented these arguments for the current wage status quo.

What they did present and what the arguments above lay out is another fact-free paradox. The form, and its suspension of reality, was once a favorite of advertisers.

Remember the 1967 Colt 45 malt liquor commercial whose drinker watched a series of short action adventure scenarios unfold right under his (never her!) eyes while being bored, even turned off, by their frivolous intrusions? Women, danger, action simply didn’t measure up to the hidden thrill and experience of the elixir poured professionally into the glass!

Believe it? You see it! You watch each step and desire every temptation.

It’s a great story! It creates an anti-hero to admire and emulate. Indifferent to everything except his special brand of joy; fully confident and unconcerned with the distractions and buzz that are the meaningless noise attempting to intrude on his power and space, his satisfactions are divorced from the reality around him.

The great thing about the fact-free paradox is it involves three strategies in one.

The first is follow-the-liar. This strategy involves an ontological assumption that money is God, despite the Pope being a Marxist (says Glenn Beck).

For questioning the intrinsic nature of wealth as all virtuous, Beck declared the Holy Man to be a hater. Beck, a former alcoholic, now a “dry drunk” (someone who exhibits the attitudes and behavior of a wet drunk), with severely damaged brain cells and weird voices, reduced one of the world largest faiths (and collection plates!) to a closet ideology in which the Bible makes no mention of social justice (or by Beck’s logic, divine justice) and poverty is no longer God’s problem.

For Beck, “the strength and light of his journey” (I’m quoting Pope Francis) models his drinking. Beck’s form of liberty releases him from a dialogue with a God not made in his own image. Continue reading The Culture and Politics of the Fact-Free Paradox

Take Five (Talking Second Amendment Blues edition)

ONE: Apocalypse Whenever

The Internet has really revolutionized insomnia. By 5:00 this morning I had already finished watching a Julian Lennon interview from 1999 and several videos of cats riding Roombas, before rashly moving on to footage of speeches from the NRA’s recent annual meeting in Houston.

The only thing rivaling the brimstone stink of the rhetoric at this year’s conclave was a Zombie Industries product being hawked there, a female target mannequin – christened “The Ex” – capable of bleeding when shot. Another one of the company’s range of charming models – “Bleeding Rocky Zombie” – had been removed from the company’s kiosk at the NRA’s request due to its resemblance to President Obama. “The Ex” was hastily renamed “Alexa” after the marketing geniuses at Zombie Industries finally decided there is such a thing as bad press after all.

The NRA’s rare circumspection over “Bleeding Rocky Zombie” was deeply overshadowed by the vicious, imbecilic sentiments of many of the convention’s speakers, starting with those of the organization’s executive vice president and perennial poster boy for vicious imbecility, irascible pipsqueak Wayne LaPierre.

After a warm introduction from everyone’s favorite America-hating felon, Oliver North, LaPierre manned the podium to talk about gun control pretty much the way people in the 1940s talked about the Axis powers:

We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about. We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or to lose it forever

… we will never surrender our guns, never!

… they’re coming after us with a vengeance, to destroy us, to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom.

LaPierre’s apocalyptic spew was echoed by speaker after speaker after speaker, with frenetic attempts to link any and all gun regulation measures to an undefined but existential threat to The Republic itself. Maybe the NRA was offering a free howitzer to the speaker who could ratchet up the nativist paranoia the highest. Chris Cox, executive director of the Institute for Legislative action, the NRA’s lobbying operation, certainly gave it his all, deftly sounding multiple dog whistles while the crowd bayed for more:

Make no mistake. We are in a culture war. Where we once faced hundreds of voices against us, there are now thousands attacking us every day, from Organizing for America to Code Pink to Occupy the NRA, Wall Street, and for that matter, Occupy Anything-but-a-Job.

Outgoing NRA president David Keene warned of the regulatory Ragnarok to come:

We all know that, as we meet here, our opponents are regrouping, and we know that they’ll be back. They’re as dedicated today as they have ever been to consigning you and me and all those who believe in the freedoms guaranteed us by this nation’s Founders to the outer darkness.

Keene’s successor, Jim Porter, kept it old school, treating his audience to the sort of seditious innuendo he knew they craved:

You know, last fall just before the elections, as community organizer-in-chief, President Obama demanded that his followers extract “revenge”. I can’t remember a president ever publicly using that word against fellow Americans.

Porter probably meant to say “exact” but it hardly matters since everything else out of his mouth was incorrect, much of it deliberately so:

[Obama]‘s now threatening Democratic senators who are friends of NRA. He will destroy them if he can… you know, Obama is meeting and plotting with the “who’s who” of the gun ban movement, scheming to create a gun control by bureaucracy.

Threatening, scheming, plotting… yes, that sure sounds like Barack Obama. And Porter brought some dog whistles of his own:

President Barack Obama is AWOL on virtually every critical threat facing this nation… but there’s one issue where Obama is not AWOL: gun control. But there’s something Obama will never, never understand: you, me, our friends, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues and family, and the larger family of patriots who know that the Second Amendment, the freedom of our Republic, trumps the Chicago political machine and its gun ban agenda every time.

Now, as basic frothing at the mouth goes, that’s not bad, but the NRA’s in-house cranks all lack a certain vim, a certain telegenic je ne sais quoi. For that, they turned to the inimitable Glenn Beck, who obliged in spades, oozing fake sincerity all over the floorboards of the stage for 100 white-knuckled minutes. Beck’s was a soliloquy equal parts hair-on-fire millenarian sermon and triumphalist Thousand-Year Reich chest-thumping. He seemed to draw inspiration from a smorgasbord of conflicting sources: the Bible, the Constitution, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Atlas Shrugged, the Port Huron Statement, and perhaps even the cover of Sgt. Pepper:

Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King. Hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome. Let us not talk any more about our cold, dead hands, but rather act, rather be the people who have a cause to use our hands…

Yes, because people who don’t have a cause to use their hands might as well not even have hands. Like, why are the most self-evident truths the ones most in need of repeating by visionaries like Glenn Beck? But what the hell are they all going to do with their hands? Beck had it covered:

… we will work together as Americans, not only to preserve our rights, but the rights of our children to be safe, our wives and our daughters to not be held at gunpoint, not be raped…

Possibly sensing that he was stepping on his own message with the “held at gunpoint” bit, he tacked vigorously toward the sublime:

We will not be the generation that loses mankind’s freedom. Instead, let us declare to one another that we, instead, will be the generation that historians look back to with awe and wonder, and say: How did they do it? They’ll look back for inspiration, that even in our darkest times, with the greatest reason for doubt and fear, we rose above it. We pushed the darkness back. We held the torch of liberty. We held it high for all men to see and aspire to…

And – bonus! – made damned sure that universal background checks would never spoil anybody’s Constitutionally enshrined firearm fun. Win-win! Keenly aware of the zealotry hanging moistly over the room, Beck shrewdly pitched his closing comments like unto a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal for his audience:

Jesus was a man of love. He was a man of peace. He was a man of forgiveness. But make no mistake; Jesus Christ was also immovable. The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and we will win by strapping on the full armor of God. We shall stand firm with the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, with the shield of faith, with the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. We will fight their tactics of fear, we will fight their tactics of darkness, we will fight their lies, and we will counter them with love, peace and equal justice for all mankind.

And as much ammo as they can hoard, I expect.

TWO: Nonsense and Sensibility

Beck’s unusual wardrobe tips weren’t the only practical advice on offer in Houston. There was also this, from the “Home Defense Concepts” seminar by Rob Pincus: Continue reading Take Five (Talking Second Amendment Blues edition)

Well, If the STFU Fits...

Self-proclaimed rodeo clown, patriot extraordinaire, and Official Crybaby of the Far Right Glenn Beck is – oh, sweet Jesus – once again claiming to have something to cry about.

Describing his family’s attendance at an outdoor showing of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps in Bryant Park on Monday night as a “hostile situation”, Beck claims that he, his wife and daughter were greeted by a man yelling, “We hate conservatives here!”

Well, first off, I don’t believe a word Beck says. That’s because Beck is a well known liar. That’s also because the average, more-than-likely liberal-minded New Yorker would never be that polite to Glenn Beck – not to mention being that short on words. Had this tale been told to include a phrase like, “We hate fuckin’ racist idiots here, and that means you, ya dumb fuck” or “We ain’t got no patience for shit-spewing jerks, and you can shove that blackboard of yours up your ass” I might have accepted Beck’s version of events.

But a simple “we hate conservatives here” just doesn’t ring true.

I have no doubt that Beck is “greeted” by all kinds of unpleasantness whenever he attends an event where decent people might congregate. That’s a given. But to whine over it as though it isn’t warranted is. well, as I said, he IS the Official Crybaby and as such, has certain duties to perform.

Said Beck:  “I apologize to anybody who had their movie experience wrecked because of the people that found it so necessary to spew hatred.  But there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Well, you’ve been spewing hatred for years now, Glenn – and there IS something that can be done about it. And decent people did it. And that’s why your TV show is history, along with what’s left of your career.

So if the STFU fits, Mr. Beck… Continue reading Well, if the STFU Fits…