You are currently viewing archive for February 2009
Recently we have expressed some problems with Rush Limbaugh and some of his views.

We regard him as irrationally wedded to the idea of the absolutely Free Market. I think most of us who blog here regard the Free Market as a good thing, so long as it is not absolutly free, that is, we see the need for some rational regulation. Similarly on the related ideas of free trade and Capitalism.

We regard him as over emphasizing "Rugged Individualism," taking insufficient note of the role of communities in the good life.

We regard him as too quick to see conspiracy at work among those he opposes.

I regard him as too cavelier regarding the environment.

Photognome and Martian Mariner also expressed problems with his ability to analyze a problem rationally and to present comment in rational form. I understand their complaint.

Having said all of this, I wish to speak a word in Rush's defense.

First, while I disagree with him on the items listed above, I think that for someone who makes a living talking live for 15 hours per week, he manages to get most things right. Sometimes he spots trends or issues before anyone else seems to notice.

Second, he understands that rationality is only a part of the human make-up. And, that many, many people are not dominated by their rational side. He makes great use of humor, and emotion, in his presentation.

Third, Rush is an ideologue. He has a philosophy, a variety of conservatism, and he views the world through this ideology. He knows what his beliefs are, can explain them coherently, and can persuade others of the truth of his world-view.

As a Christian, and a preacher, I understand what he does. I operate from an ideology also, try to persuade people to see things according to a Christian world-view, and use more than rationality in my rhetoric. I just wish Rush would take a sabbatical and immerse himself in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, or in Church Dogmatics. Since Rush is nominally Roman Catholic, I would settle gladly for Thomas Aquinas as Rush's bedtime reading.
Remember those commercials featuring a hapless employee forced to work with monkeys?

Were those ads playing on deeply coded racial symbols? Were those spots designed to appeal to frustrated white employees forced to work with incompetent African American colleagues? Or was the "monkey business" of those commercials a symbol for working with a bunch of frivolous and mischievous "clowns"?

Pretty obvious answer--and, for the record, they were hilarious.

Just in case you do not know, the New York Post ran a cartoon last week in which two cops shot down a monkey (playing off an actual incident in the news earlier in the week), and the caption reads: “They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The most reasonable point to infer? The stimulus bill was so egregiously ridiculous, it could have only been written by a monkey (figuratively speaking).

A less reasonable inference? The Post advocates the assassination of Barack Obama.

I can only surmise that those who sincerely charged that the cartoon depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee were the ones who did not follow the news very carefully. Key word: write.

“They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Who wrote the stimulus bill? Not the President, unfortunately, or any of his braintrust. The most frustrating and disappointing element of the entire stimulus melodrama was the absence of the President and his economic council of wise men in the drafting of this abominable legislation. As I noted weeks ago, the great ironic travesty of this trillion-dollar bill was that it was farmed out to the lower branches of the Democratic Party's political tree.

If I had to pick one of two options, I would have to choose misogyny over racism--but that accusation rings equally hollow.

However, there are actually two things wrong with this cartoon.

1. It is not hilarious. The gag was not nearly obvious or powerful enough. If this thing had made somebody somewhere laugh (or even smirk), it would have gone down much smoother.

2. No matter how innocent (or plausibly deniable) the cartoon may be, a depiction of a monkey that can be placed any where near this first African American president definitely deserved more deliberation than the editorial board of the NY Post evidently saw fit to grant it.

Really Obvious Observation: this is the last monkey we will see in a political cartoon or any other media for the next eight years.

Having said that, even if the Post should have known better, this firestorm of misplaced indignation does not diminish the sadly obvious fact that we live in a world gone mad.
If you missed the "cold open" for Saturday Night Live this weekend, you didn't really miss much hilarity. In a skit entitled "Republican Meeting," Dan Aykroyd guest-starred in a parody of House Republican leadership. After watching the bit in stunned silence, out of curiosity, I went back and reviewed the archive with pad and pen in tow to count the laughs. Needless to say, my hand did not tire tallying the yuks in one of the longest six minutes in the history of the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players.

Aside from a raucous welcome for Aykroyd, an original cast member and old friend, the best the audience could muster were a few anticipatory laughs in the early stages of the performance waiting for the bit to gain altitude. It never did. The rest of the piece could only generate a few titters and courtesy laughs as the buffoonish Republicans plotted impeachment proceedings and hatched a tone-deaf plan to pick a fight with the President's incredibly cute daughters. The burlesque had some of the elements of comedy (incongruity and irony), but the attempt lacked the essential element of plausibility without which the laughs just never could materialize.

Don't believe me? Watch for yourself--and report back on any funny lines I missed.

During the campaign, I often wondered what the inexperienced Obama crew would do if they achieved their implausible dream. As that fantasy drew closer to reality over the course of the long campaign, I began to wonder what the mainstream media would do if their dream candidate actually became President of the United States.

For twenty-five years SNL has existed as a pop-culture institution dedicated to "speaking truth to power." But what if these snarky anti-heroes finally succeeded in over-throwing the establishment and installing a revolutionary junta? What then? What would be left to lampoon?

Nothing, as it turns out. SNL has NOT come up with one funny line at the expense of President Obama. Most of us don't even know the name of the actor who plays the President. For the record, it is Fred Armisen, but he has not emerged as a star. Why? Because every one of his performances has been utterly forgettable. Why? Because the braintrust at SNL seems incapable of penetrating observational humor the portrays the President in an unflattering light.

That bears repeating: the braintrust of SNL seems incapable of casting the President of the United States in an unfavorable light.

So, what does SNL do now? They make fun of the opposition. They protect their president by parodying the out-party, mocking those who might be cravenly making fun of him behind closed doors. Sarcastic distortion of high-flying politicians, celebrities, and the mega-rich is almost always good for a laugh. But beating up on the underdog gets unfunny fast.

The ultimate ironic end for SNL? Their success in finally bringing down the ancien regime means that laughing at the powerful is now passe. And if poking fun at the president is now off-limits, the market for court jesters is not so lucrative.

Perhaps the Democratic Party will see fit to bailout their increasingly obsolete friends at 30 Rock.