2004-07-21

"God chose me to write this book"

So begins Al Franken's diatribe: Lies, and the lying liars who tell them--A fair and balanced look at the right.
 
It occurred to me the other day that the most visible proponents of the liberal viewpoint in the US tend to be comedians (Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofalo, Al Franken), while those for the right tend to be journalists--or at least quasi-journalists (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews).  Why is that?  Is it that the innate perceptiveness and insight of comedians leads them to adopt a liberal moral framework?  Does the bleating of right-wing journalists appeal more to a like-minded audience than that of liberals to their audience?  Are liberal audiences not serious-minded enough to watch or listen to liberal journalists?  Would they rather just watch someone funny?  I don't know.  Maybe you can tell me.

3 comments:

Mike Evans said...

Perhaps the point is that the American heartland, ceded by the Democrats to the Republicans in the 1970s, has become so hopelessly literalist (i.e., creationist v. evolution debates, book banning and other absurdist approaches to the complexities of life) that metaphorical thinking -- the essence of comedy -- is unrecognizable to those who would 'conserve' the American way of life. That may account for the rise of fart jokes and other juvenilia in popular film, in contrast to more challenging humour -- White Chicks sure as hell isn't Some Like It Hot. Anyway, Rush Limbaugh, et al, though vicious and hypocritical, also appear to the left as unwitting comedians. To the right, they appear the prophets of common sense. Their ignorance is not a liability with their audience.

At the same time, correcting the profound intellectual errors that have enabled an elitist polity like the GOP to co-opt the traditional Democrat voter is too daunting for most left wing thinkers, which is why the Republicans are successful slandering ranking Dems as "out of touch" and positioning themselves as the party of the common man. Democrats don't seem to know how to engage ordinary people without such platitudes as "I feel your pain," which require an extraordinarily charismatic delivery. Nobody really feels another's pain.

Comedy, on the other hand, is comparatively easy, especially in a country where irony and satire pass for advanced thinking. I don't remember which comedian said it, but he was only half right: sure, dying is easy and comedy is hard, but making sense of life is harder still. 'Getting the joke' enables liberals to feel superior without actually doing anything -- the easiest way to assuage the pandemic of (white) affluent liberal guilt. As long as liberals can feel 'superior' to their surroundings, we can adopt a position of heroic martyrdom at the hands of the ignorant -- which is another facet of wacky American Christianity: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."

In the end, I think we laugh so we need not do. It's also less toxic than being angry but a little anger would be a welcome catalyst among liberals.

At least, that's what this disconnected ramble proposes. So there.

igm said...

"I think we laugh so we need not do." This may go some length to explaining the apathy of some of the left-leaning, but it does nothing to explain the dour faces of equally apathetic right-leaning folk. I don't understand the appeal of the right to the electorate. Lower taxation means decreased services. Jobless rates and deficit spending shot up after George II took office. An Executive Branch that is not just in bed with big corporate interests, but are pursung them themselves! Lax gun control, intrusive surveillance, fear-mongering, unilateral military action...is there anything to like about this regime?!

Mike Evans said...

I think this is a slightly funny way to continue on on-going dialogue, but what the hell.

" 'I think we laugh so we need not do.' This may go some length to explaining the apathy of some of the left-leaning, but it does nothing to explain the dour faces of equally apathetic right-leaning folk."

Except that the apathetic right doesn't want anything to change. They're content to believe in the myth of Cinderalla, oops, Pretty Woman et al, that if their hearts are golden they will be elevated even from prostitution to royalty ... or will be the royal figure to save the hooker with a heart of gold. It's ignorance, profound ignorance, maintained by the artful prestidigitation of modern public relations unconstrained by ethics. Moore's thesis in Columbine that underlies 9/11 is that America has been significantly built on fear and I think he's right. You said it yourself when you cited "fear mongering" as an attribute of this administration. As long as people are afraid they are not critical, so the privileged classes, especially, are unwilling to consider that their own affluence may explain black unrest, or Arabic animosity. It's part of the shift from citizenry to consumer base. It's frightening and it should be. But it's also not 'simply' conspiracy theory. In fact, I don't believe the progenitors are smart enough to develop a conspiracy that moves forward in time -- most consipiracies develop afterward to try to hide wrongdoing.

Anyway, no one explains to Americans, in particular, but Canadians infatuated with the new Conservative party, either, that "[l]ower taxation means decreased services."

EVERYBODY thinks they're going to be rich one day and so the decrease in services won't affect them when they're riding their private jet to their condo in Ibiza. When it finally occurs to people that they won't be rich, most blame the poor rather than the rich hanging more and more tightly on to their wealth. It's those damned OTHER poor people, draining my taxes, that prevent me from driving a Lexus or owning a cottage at the lake. Too few people look in the mirror for ANYthing that causes them concern. And that suits Republican politics very well because their mantra sustains the grandiose delusions of the middle class who've swallowed the lie of the American Dream whole.

And if it's not poor people, it's Satan.

Some of what I'm typing sounds flippant but I mean it. Even secularism is under assault and healthy in very few nations. In America, it is not religion that is on the decline but secularism. How is that different from the Middle East, from Africa, from Indonesia?

In the end, Americans have been persuaded that what this administration does is not reprehensible because, given the chance, they'd do the same thing. This may contradict the above paragraph, but the golden rule has been supplanted: it's no longer "do unto your neighbour as you would have them do unto you" as much as it is "maximize shareholder profits." And even then, if you can con shareholders to maximize your own profits, that's one level higher on the unofficial moral scale.

Jobless rates and deficit spending shot up after George II took office. An Executive Branch that is not just in bed with big corporate interests, but are pursung them themselves! Lax gun control, intrusive surveillance, fear-mongering, unilateral military action...is there anything to like about this regime?!