Internet Memes: the Good, the Bad and the Awful

 

Meme doctored

Even though they are often distasteful and disgusting and downright stupid — or perhaps precisely because they are often distasteful and disgusting and downright stupid —  I have a certain fascination with Internet memes. They often encapsulate for better and (mostly) for worse the current moment in history, the present zeitgeist, the current propaganda-ruled culture of the nation I live in. The meme reproduced above (minus the grading) is one that I found especially noteworthy because it epitomizes, as few others I’ve ever seen, what is so egregious about a great many memes, and what is so awry and foul with the current state of public discourse in America. Let’s break it down bit by bit.

1. “Dear Democrats”

Though cloaked in the traditional salutation dear, giving the impression that this is a communication on the order of a friendly letter, this opening is a signal of the blatant polarization to follow. It suggests that nobody besides Democrats (and “liberals”) are alarmed about the current state of affairs in Washington. But so are independents, Libertarians, people with other party affiliations, and (despite their usual tendency to stick together no matter what) a growing number of Republicans. Even perennially tried and true member of the elephant herd George Will renounced his membership in the GOP when That Guy received the presidential nomination, saying “This is not my party.”

2. “For eight years we put up with”

Perhaps the best response to this is that a few pictures are worth a million words.

3. “your crappy choice of president”

Just about anyone of any ideological bent (present company included) can find something to disapprove of in Obama’s busy two terms in office. But there is no denying (though many people try very hard to deny it anyway) that he was a dynamic, effective and admirable leader. In fact, not long ago a group of some 170 political scientists ranked the nation’s presidents from first to worst. Obama was ranked 8th (up from 18th in the previous survey, when he was still in office), which is especially impressive considering how recently he left office — it often takes a few generations of perspective to fully appreciate a president’s impact. And number 45, by the way, was ranked number 45. But hey, what would political scientists know? They got no slogans.

To call Obama “crappy” is simply to substitute personal sentiment for fact. Which is, alas, something that happens with great frequency these days. “I believe in standing for the National Anthem, so everyone should.” “I don’t think gays should get married, so there should be a law against it.” “I’m a Christian, so everyone should live by Christian beliefs.” “I think abortion is murder so it should be outlawed.” “I love guns, so there’s a right to own one, and they prevent crime.” “I hate Obama, so he was a crappy president.”

4. “We complained about it, but we accepted it.”

“Accepted it” is an outright lie. “Complained” is the understatement of the millennium. See photos above. And see birtherism. And death panels. And he’s a Muslim. And he hates Christians. And he’s a socialist/ Marxist/ communist/ Nazi. And, and, and…

5. “You are showing us that you are weak, spoiled and inferior because you do not have the integrity”

You know irony is officially dead when someone uses a phrase like this while vigorously trying to defend the 45th White House Occupant.  But aside from that, it also is a vibrant example of not only polarization but tribalism and confrontationism.  It’s hard to imagine anything more “weak, spoiled and inferior” or more deficient in integrity than hurling childish insults. Especially ad hominem attacks against a wide swath of people you know nothing about. But this is exactly the kind of thing you’ll see in the cybersphere all the time. And it’s a telling illustration of why public discourse is at such a low state in America.

6. “to do the same thing”

False equivalence, false equivalence, false equivalence. One side is flying blimps of the baby dictator because (among many other things) he apparently conspired with Russia to throw an election, he lost the popular vote, he’s a bigoted misogynist who schmoozes with Nazis, he’s looting the nation for his own profit, and he can’t take a breath without lying. The other side burned effigies of Obama and spread loony rumors about him because he wanted to tax the rich, stop gun massacres, and make sure everyone had healthcare.

7. The Source

And notice who produced this meme: a group calling itself Alaska Patriots for a Free America.  As we’ve discussed before, “patriot” is a popular word used in  the propaganda technique of flag waving by those whose concept of “free” means free to impose their will on others.

This is certainly among the worst of Internet memes, but there are plenty of others to choose from. We previously noted several select examples promulgated by Liberal Logic 101, a fertile breeding ground for straw men.

The Other Side of the Coin

As you probably are aware, there are also plenty of good Internet memes out there. They may be vastly outnumbered, but they do exist. Here’s an example of one way a meme should be constructed. (Disclaimer: I created this one myself. But that isn’t what makes it a good one. It’s the other way around: I carefully put it together based on principles I’ve gleaned from many years of studying this sort of thing.)

liberals

First of all, I tried to be as non-confrontational as possible. The meme is not explicitly addressed to Republicans, “conservatives” or anyone else. They certainly are primarily the intended audience. But I’ve given them the chance to realize the shoe fits rather than try to force it on them with heated rhetoric. The impression I wanted to give them was that I was offering food for thought, for their own benefit — which in fact was exactly what I was doing.

I debated with myself for a long time about whether to add a final line: “And why should you be willing to give it to them?” This is certainly the question that I ultimately wanted them to consider — why should they play into the hands of propagandists, demagogues and hucksters? But I finally decided that it would be much more effective if they asked themselves that question rather than having someone else pose it.

What I did do, however, was point out as gently as possible something that they may not have realized: that the “liberals” they are being conditioned to demonize are not strangers and anonymous masses in remote locations; they are individuals with whom one comes in contact every day, and with whom one has had very positive experiences. And it doesn’t quite make sense mathematically that such librulz should be fine people individually, and yet add up to an evil threat as a whole.

This meme may not be perfect; it may not even be among the best you’ll encounter. But it was written thoughtfully rather than reactively, with good, constructive intentions. It’s the kind of meme we need to see a great deal more of — while seeing a great deal less of the first example.

What I Learned From the Media About Clinton and Trump (and the Media)

hillary-clinton-and-trump-hybrid-president-128455

So it’s a choice between “two evils”, two candidates who are pretty much equally flawed . That’s been the official media narrative about the 2016 election for many moons now, supposedly supported by a constant stream of soundbites. But actually listen to the soundbites, and this is what they really say:

Clinton is an “old 68 or 69”. Trump is a “young 70”.

Clinton (who has been married to the same man more than 40 years) has a rotten marriage and is surely impossible to live with. Trump (currently on his third marriage) has a “blended family”.

Clinton (whose statements have been found of questionable accuracy 27 percent of the time, and more accurate than those of any of her opponents) is a chronic pathological liar. Trump (whose statements are at least questionable 69 percent of the time, and are often verifiable, outrageous whoppers) is “very creative with the truth” while “telling it like it is”.

Clinton (on the basis of breathless speculation) is a “crook”, an unscrupulous “lawbreaker” who should be locked up. Trump (who has a long history of verifiable corruption) is a “rule breaker”.

The Clinton Foundation (despite no evidence of wrongdoing) still continually “raises questions”. The Trump Foundation (which has been fined by the IRS and may be investigated for fraud) hardly raises an eyebrow.

By running attack ads that quote her opponent’s own words, Clinton is being nasty, divisive and vicious. By rehashing long-discredited rumors and allegations about his opponent, Trump is being bold, direct and plain-speaking.

Clinton (whose unflappable poise and whose grace under extreme fire are legendary) is “grating”, “shrill”, a “witch”, a “bitch”, a “cunt” – at least when she isn’t busy being “robotic”, which probably isn’t when she’s laughing or smiling or smirking too much. Trump (who interrupted her as many as 51 times during the first debate and has threatened and condoned violence against dissenters) is a “strong leader” who “takes control”.

Clinton (who has cooperated with years of very thorough, blatantly partisan investigations) is “hiding something”. Trump (who refuses to release his tax returns) is a straight shooter and a “genius”.

Clinton (who  has decades of distinguished experience in government in various capacities) carries “baggage”. Trump ( who has zero government experience, zero training in law, and little or no knowledge of the Constitution, but does have a long history of shady business practices) is a fresh face, a maverick, a Mr. Smith.

Clinton (who worked her way up from humble beginnings and has always concerned herself with the less fortunate) is an “elitist”. Trump (who was born rich and has devoted his life to becoming richer) is a “blue collar billionaire”. No, seriously.

Clinton (who has defended the Constitution for decades) is anti-American, a traitor. Trump (who has campaigned on pledges to violate the Constitution and international treaties, and has repeatedly insulted veterans and POWs) is a super-patriot.

The most important things about Clinton are emails, Benghazi, emails, The Clinton Foundation, emails, her laugh, emails, her hairstyle, emails, her dress, emails, her marital troubles, and emails. The most important thing about Trump is his “message” – whatever it may be.

So what conclusion do all of these bread crumbs lead to? Don’t be silly. They prove that the American mainstream media have an overwhelming liberal bias and they’ve gunning for Trump while pimping for Clinton. After all, the liberal media themselves have told us so, many times. So has Trump. And most Americans believe it. So that settles it.

capture-campaign

 

Political Discourse in the Age of Obama

political debate

(From Actual Conversations)

ME

So why do you hate President Obama so much?

THEM

Are you kidding? He’s worse than Hitler. He’s destroyed America.

ME

Then I have to wonder what country we’re living in. How exactly has he done that?

THEM

He’s a dictator, a tyrant, a king, a monarch.

ME

Even assuming that’s true, you surely must realize that Republicans in Congress have opposed him bitterly at every turn – even on things they formerly supported. Wouldn’t you say that rather limits his potential for dictating, tyrannizing, kinging, monarching and Hitlering?

THEM

Well, Obummer bypasses Congress with his dirty tricks. He’s issued all these executive orders, which is absolutely unprecedented.  He should be impeached for that.

ME

Actually, every president issues executive orders. And quite often they’re in defiance of Congress.

THEM

Yeah, well… Ovomit has issued more of them than any other president.

ME

Actually, he’s issued the fewest per year of any president since Grover Cleveland.

THEM

Yeah, well… it’s not just the number, it’s the kind of executive order that matters. I mean, Obeyme has used his office to give amnesty to illegal aliens. Just because he’s a foreigner himself. He ought to be impeached for that.

ME

Actually, many presidents have granted amnesty to undocumented aliens.  Reagan and Bush Sr. did so without Congressional approval. Should we impeach them all retroactively? What makes Obama different, other than his ethnic heritage?

THEM

Now there you go. Why do liberals always have to bring up race?

ME

I seem to recall that a non-liberal introduced the topic of the president’s roots and supposed foreign birth. Whether or not I’m a “liberal” is irrelevant, but race is sometimes very relevant, or at least potentially so. Because sometimes it’s the only reasonable explanation for the way some people behave. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to the obsessive hatred of President Obama.

THEM

Well, I don’t hate him just because he’s a nigger. Makes no difference to me. I hate him because he’s a dictator, a tyrant, a king, a monarch. He’s worse than Hitler. Just look at the whole socialism thing.

ME

What socialism thing is that?

THEM

Come on, he’s a socialist. Everybody knows that.

ME

Socialists themselves don’t know it. They find it quite amusing that some people believe Obama to be one of them.

THEM

Well, what would they know? Rush Limbaugh says he’s a socialist. Just look at Obamacare. It’s socialized medicine. Just like Hitler. He ought to be impeached for it.

ME

What is your definition of socialism?

THEM

Well… I don’t really have one. But Glenn Beck says it’s socialized medicine. And Obarfbag has rammed it down everyone’s throats, even though nobody wants it. Just like Hitler.

ME

It’s true that most Americans will say they oppose “Obamacare”, if you use that word. But if you ask them about what the Affordable Care Act actually does, an overwhelming majority support it. So the president has been placed in the difficult position of giving Americans what they want, even though they’ve been convinced that it’s something they hate and fear.

THEM

Oh yeah? I bet people don’t really want death panels.

ME

Agreed. And exactly what passage in the ACA provides for death panels? Have you actually read it?

THEM

No, but Sarah Palin says it has death panels. And I’m sure she’s read it. She’s very smart.

ME

Moving right along. Is there anything else that prompts you to hate Obama?

THEM

Sure, lots of things.

ME

Such as?

THEM

He lies.

ME

Ah, that might explain the animosity. No other politician has ever lied before. But how significant are his lies? On a scale one to ten, with one being “I did not have sex with that woman” and ten being “WMDs in Iraq” — or reverse the polarity if your values are those of the political and media mainstream — just how damaging have been whatever lies he’s told?

THEM

He’s lied, and he should be impeached for it. Take that global warming crap. It’s worse than Hitler.

ME

So you don’t believe global warming is a problem?

THEM

Hell no. It snowed in Montana last week.

ME

And no doubt it also snowed in Wasila. But other than that, what convinces you that global warming is a hoax? How much professional training and experience have you had in climate science?

THEM

None. But Sean Hannity says global warming is a fraud.

ME

I guess that settles it then.

THEM

You’d realize it too if you weren’t so brainwashed by the liberal media.

ME

Of course. Why do you suppose the president would pursue the effort to combat global warming if it doesn’t exist?

THEM

It’s just one of Hussein’s ways of wrecking the economy.  Just like Hitler. And he needs to be impeached for it.

ME

Actually, the economy has been improving at a pretty steady pace under “Hussein”.  Unemployment is at its lowest since 2008. Gas prices are at their lowest since 2010. Home construction has more than doubled. The deficit has experienced its largest reduction since World War II. Consumer Confidence Index has risen from an all-time low of 37.7 to at least 83. And the rate of growth for corporate profits under him absolutely dwarfs that of any other president – which doesn’t t do much for your “socialism thing”.

THEM

You really like to throw statistics around, don’t you?

ME

Sorry, I guess that’s not playing fair.

THEM

You don’t really believe he had anything to do with any of that, do you?

ME

So he has total power to destroy the economy, but no power at all to improve it?

THEM

Well, I suppose he could improve it if he wanted to. But he wants to make Americans suffer.

ME

Why?

THEM

That’s just what liberals do. They’re worse than Hitler.

ME

There’s a limit to how far you can go in blaming “liberals” for your problems. We could debate how much influence any president has on the economy. But what’s beyond question is that the economy has improved while Obama’s been in office. And since that also happens under just about every other Democratic president, it’s probably not just coincidence.

THEM

Well, the economy may have improved a little bit, but it’s still really crappy.

ME

If so, it indicates what terrible shape it was in when Obama came along. His predecessor demolished the economy along with many other things. If you’re looking for someone to accuse of trying to “destroy” America, maybe Bush would be a better place to start.

THEM

Well, you have your opinion and I have mine.

ME

Unquestionably. But this is not a matter of opinion. If you’re interested, I can provide plenty of solid facts and figures that add up to a blistering indictment of the Bush administration.

THEM

Why do you hate America so much?

Trayvon Martin, and the “Double Standard” Standard (Part 1)

Not long after the news broke about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, many people began circulating reports about another attack on a teen, a 13-year-old boy who was set on fire in Kansas City. What’s the connection? Well, none, really. But while Martin was black, the victim in Missouri was white and his attackers black. So, many people want to know, why hasn’t there been more coverage of the latter? Why the double standard? And surely this must reveal, somehow or other, something unsavory about “liberals” – we must never, ever waste an opportunity to politicize a tragedy.

Well, on one point these folk may be right: perhaps there should have been more coverage of the Kansas City attack. That is, if indeed there should be media coverage of such violent assaults at all, which is debatable. But contrary to what many people claim, there has by no means been a “blackout” in the media on the event – it was even covered by the New York Daily News, the nation’s fourth largest newspaper. And the fact that it also appeared in The Huffington Post. doesn’t lend a lot of credibility to theories about a left-wing conspiracy to suppress the story.

But let’s look more closely at the points of contention, shall we? They illustrate how readily people are often willing to discard facts, even glaringly obvious facts, when they don’t fit an ideological narrative.

Rush to Judgment

Was the Trayvon Martin killing triggered in part by racial factors? Some have concluded it probably was. But many are saying no way.  After all, Rush Limbaugh says it’s all baloney, and he wouldn’t say something that wasn’t true, would he?

The facts about the episode are murky, as there were only two witness who saw and heard everything, and one of them has been permanently indisposed. But what we do know is that the shooter was the captain of a “neighborhood watch” team. Now I’m sure that neighborhood watch teams do some nifty things, but in my experience – and I do have some – they can also be a magnet for individuals who are as capable of causing mischief as preventing it. Introduce firearms into that mix and you have a tragedy waiting to happen.

The shooter apparently referred to Martin as a “fucking punk”  and also commented  that “these assholes always get away”. He was talking about someone he knew nothing about except that he was black and wore a hoodie. Does this sound like a person who is mature and level-headed enough to be entrusted with keeping an eye on a neighborhood – particularly while armed?

For some reason, he found Martin “suspicious” for being in an exclusive neighborhood – where he was visiting relatives. He called 911 and was instructed not to follow the youth.  He did anyway, very aggressively, and Martin ran away from him. At some point they exchanged words, perhaps even blows, and the gunman apparently substituted his gun for his brain – hardly the first time anyone has ever done that.

The killer claims that he was acting in self-defense, that Martin jumped on him and was beating him to a pulp and even threatened to kill him. In which case he surely should show some signs of physical trauma.  The 911 recording does reveal someone screaming for help, but it sounds like Martin rather than his killer. And if, at such close range, he was incapable of shooting the kid in the leg, what business does he have even being armed in the first place?

While all of this suggests that the shooter was a hothead looking for a fight (not to mention a liar), none of it proves that his is a racist. But that isn’t the question. The question is whether race was a factor in his classifying Martin as a “suspicious” character. And the answer, in all probability, is the affirmative.

The unsettling truth is that Americans in general have an overwhelming pro-white bias, and a tendency to regard persons of color with greater suspicion. Whenever I visit the Deep South, which is quite often, I almost invariably hear a comment along the lines of “them Niggers just can’t can’t be trusted”. And that attitude ain’t just a Red State thing, bro.

In his groundbreaking book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses this bias, and talks about the Implicit Association Test, a psychological assessment you can take online, that may reveal more about your own biases than you care to know or admit. Millions of people have already taken it, and the results show that more than 80 percent associate being black with less desirable traits. Interestingly, even 48 percent of blacks who have taken the test also show this result!

But the real kicker is that Gladwell himself has taken the test several times, and he also has demonstrated color bias. Which is fascinating not only because he is a well-educated and highly intelligent Northern urbanite, but also because he is half Jamaican!  He notes that, having a somewhat swarthy complexion, he himself is sometimes regarded as a suspicious character – if he is wearing his hair in his usual Afro style, but not so much so when it’s shorter.

Bottom line: if you’re really convinced that his race can’t possibly be a reason that Trayvon Martin is dead, it is my solemn duty to caution you that you are in dire danger of suffocation from having your head inserted so deeply into your rectum.

Double Double

As for the matter of a “double standard”, we first should observe that quite often when people make such a complaint, they are comparing apples and potatoes. And that, to a large degree, is the case here. The victim in Kansas City, though wounded, is alive, and as yet nobody even knows who the attackers were, much less what their  motive was (it’s presumed to be a racially-motivated hate crime, but that’s only presumption). Trayvon Martin is dead, and we do know who his killer is; yet he has not even been arrested.

So is there a double standard? So it appears – but in a very different way from what some people assert.  The killer of Trayvon Martin, who has an arrest record and has been accused of domestic violence, is being hailed as a hero for killing an unarmed kid.  Trayvon Martin, who had no arrest record, is being portrayed as a villain – again, by people who know little about him except that he’s black and dead. And just which of these conditions is supposed to justify such venom? They’ve even combed through hundreds of his Tweets looking for something to incriminate him with. Seriously. So what if the lad wasn’t an angel? Do you really believe his killer is? The real question is whether on this particular occasion he was doing anything that would warrant paying the ultimate price.

But when people complain of “double standards”, of course, they’re always talking about other people’s rather than their own. In this instance, they’re miffed that the media are paying more attention to the Florida incident than the Missouri incident. But it really isn’t that hard to see why: the Martin killing has garnered more public outrage, and even celebrity protest. Which makes it pretty hard for the media to ignore.

But why has there been such a strong public reaction? If you really gotta ask, we’ll cover that in another post.

Reactions to the Reaction Against Rush’s Reactionism

Let’s be clear: it surely would be much better if everyone just ignored Rush Limbaugh and others like him. Like an insecure brat, his modus operandi is to grab attention by being as obnoxious as possible, and it’s probably a mistake to reinforce that behavior with protests. But some people are protesting in the wake of his latest display of tastelessness, and other people (Rush’s “dittohead” supporters) are responding to that response as they always do: with certain predictable, tried and true catchphrases.

Catchphrase # 1: “Suppressing Free Speech”

It’s hard to believe that there could be so many people out there who truly don’t understand the difference between suppressing free speech and holding people accountable for their actions. But apparently ’tis the case. They just can’t seem to bend their brains around the simple fact that freedom of expression encompasses the right to express displeasure with childish behavior- and to vote with one’s pocketbook. Neither the First Amendment nor the right of free speech in general affords people the guarantee that they can say anything they damn well please. There are laws against defamation, for example; and if Limbaugh hasn’t crossed that line, he at least has balanced precariously on the brink, many many times.

Suppression of free speech would mean, for instance, the government shutting off his microphone or passing a law prohibiting him from making an ass of himself in public. Or maybe someone mounting a high-tech assault on his website. Instead, what’s happening is that the public is using its consumer clout to pressure Rush’s sponsors to dump him unless he cleans up his act.

That’s a time-honored strategy that has been employed by citizens of all persuasions. One of the most notable instances occurred in 2003 when CBS had planned to air the miniseries The Reagans, but after howls of protest from The Cult Of Ron Worship because the series was less than adulatory, the network instead shuffled it off to Showtime. It’s the kind of “free market” social dynamic the dittoheads devoutly revere. Unless, of course, they find themselves on the short end of it. They objected to The Reagans because it portrayed a handful of people in a manner they considered “inaccurate”. (A Hollywood flick, inaccurate? Who woulda thunk it?) People are objecting to Rush Limbaugh because he portrays numerous people in a manner that is not only inaccurate, but deliberately misleading, scurrilous and venomous.

Catchphrase # 2: “Double Standard”

But why single out poor defenseless Rush? After all, David Letterman made a joke about Sarah Palin’s “slutty flight attendant” look, and Bill Maher has also made disparaging comments about the likes of Palin and Michelle Bachmann. And Michelle Obama is appearing as a guest on Letterman.  Where’s the outrage? We have a double standard here, no?

Oh, puh-lease.

Perhaps the best response to this silliness was given by The Provocation, which observes among other things that

Maher’s a comedian by trade and both of these women are public figures. The person Limbaugh attacked, by contrast, was a private citizen simply seeking to be involved in the process of affecting government. And Limbaugh’s no comedian. He’s a political attack dog who appears to relish demeaning and defaming people.

And no, testifying before Congress did not magically transform Sandra Fluke into a celebrity- Rush did that. The article also points out that although Maher and Letterman may step over the line occasionally, with Rush it’s a continuous process and has been for years. The dittoheads are trying to pretend that the furor is all about Sandra Fluke (some have even claimed, I kid you not, that she was a shill planted by the Obama administration for the purpose of creating controversy around Limbaugh); but this incident is no mere fluke. It was just the tipping point.

I might add there is a vast difference between making a tacky joke about someone’s wardrobe and making a tasteless and protracted assault on someone’s character.

Furthermore, neither Maher nor Letterman is a spokesman for a particular ideology. Both of them have hosted as well as insulted public figures of all stripes. Maher is a professed Libertarian who actually defended Limbaugh, stating that the whole incident left “liberals looking bad”, though he didn’t quite explain the twisted logic used to arrive at that contorted conclusion.

Still, if you wanna talk about double standards, consider this: during their time in The White House, George W. Bush appeared on Rush’s program no fewer than four times and Dick Cheney no fewer than five times; Bush has appeared on at least two other occasions.  His father also appeared on the program while serving as president.  And unlike The First Lady’s casual stint on Letterman, their appearances definitely imply approval of the host’s deranged and toxic ramblings. Where was the outrage over that?

Catchphrase # 3: “Liberal Hypocrisy”

To the True Believers, all this outcry over Limbaughism can mean only one thing: them librulz are at it again. Perish the thought that Rush himself might be even slightly at fault. And the librulz picking on him is of course a supreme example of librul hypocrisy. After all, they claim to support freedom of speech (see #1 above) and they’ve exhibited double standards (see # 2) and after all, there are plenty of librul commentators who also spew out hateful invective day after day like..well… er, um… hang on, we’ll surely think of someone eventually.

In the absence of a Limbaugh of the Left, you can always attack Jane Fonda, especially since she has been outspoken about Rush’s offenses. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing her either, of course. She exercises her freedom of speech, and her critics exercise theirs. Dog bless America.  But what’s interesting is that the same people who despise her for her actions four decades ago (and for which she has long since expressed regret) often have no problem with Rush’s continuous daily actions for the past three decades or so. In rejecting Fonda’s apology about her despicable deeds in the Sixties and Seventies, the vigilant watchdogs of hypocrisy and double standards assail those who supposedly reject Limbaugh’s apology for one of his numerous despicable deeds – an apology delivered only after he saw that his paycheck might be impacted.

At least 98 major companies have decided to distance themselves not only from Rush but other incendiary talk show hosts. These include Wal-Mart, Ford, Chevrolet and Sony. To suggest that all these corporations are run by a bunch of flaming lefties would be laughable even by the usual dittohead standards of lunacy.

You don’t have to be a progressive/liberal/whatever to be turned off by Limbaughism (though that certainly appears to make it more likely). After my recent piece on Ann Coulter, I heard from Coulter Watch, which is run by a fellow named Daniel Borchers, who calls himself a “life-long conservative” and, it appears, may actually be a true conservative, as opposed to  “conservatives”  of the Limbaugh variety. Accordingly, he attempted one year to distribute information warning about Coulter to the attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference. And how did the watchdogs of hypocrisy and dual standards respond? They escorted him to the door and made it clear that he was persona non grata in the future.

With a drastically declining listener base, Rush Limbaugh needed a godsend, and he got it in the form of Sandra Fluke, whom his fans are calling “Sandra Fluck” among other unbearably clever things. They’re mad as hell that she became one of the many victims of his schoolyard taunts, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. And his detractors, along with the ever-compliant mainstream “liberal” media, have handed him just what he wanted.

Of Occupying Scoundrels and Tea Party Saints

AP/ Thomas K Fowler

When it comes to covering Occupy Wall Street, the media seem to have a severely split personality. On the one hand, they’re obsessed with declaring that the movement is just like the Tea Party; yet on the other hand, they’re obsessed with painting the Occupiers as booger-eating vermin and the Tea Partiers as noble revolutionaries and defenders of The American Way.

On the first point, there is in fact little in common between these two factions, despite what Joe Biden says. (What, politicians can be wrong?) OWS is a grassroots movement (or as close to it as a movement can get these days) that has no political affiliation, no leaders and no major funding- collecting a median donation of $22. The Tea Party was a sort of grassroots movement in the very very beginning, but it was promptly hijacked by (the extreme batshit loony wing of) The Republican Party, and is heavily funded by the Koch Brothers and backed by other right-wing ideologues. And even though it has no central leadership, it’s comprised of several official organizations calling themselves the Tea Party something-or-other.

But the second point is the reason we’re here today, ladies and gentlemen. One can’t very well deny that the Occupy gatherings have been more unruly than Tea Party rallies. But why? The official spin is that it’s just because the Occupiers are an inferior species. In fact, there are several likely factors contributing to the chaos – factors that are glaringly obvious. But hewing to an ideology, as the media often do, frequently requires ignoring the obvious. So  while we’re not particularly dedicated to defending the Occupiers (especially since so many of them have started slurping the Ron Paul Kool-Aid) and we’d prefer to spend the time pointing out things that are not so obvious, today it appears that the obvious is demanding our attention.

1. The Meaning of Occupy

First, let’s not forget what is involved in “occupying”. These demonstrators are, by definition, hanging out in places where the authorities don’t want them to be. There’s scarcely a municipality anywhere that doesn’t have some kind of ordinance against camping/ sleeping in  public.  By definition then, they are in violation of the law, though enforcement of these measures is at the discretion of local officials; and the protestors certainly would argue that their transgression is insignificant compared to the offenses of those they are demonstrating against, and that their modus operandi the only way to get their message across effectively.

So inevitably there’s going to be some conflict with law enforcement, and even some arrests. Even so, these arrests, though they on occasion number in the hundreds, have been overwhelmingly peaceful. In fact, many Occupiers are trained in nonresistant protest, and taught how to be arrested peacefully.

But of course there is the occasional bad egg – not only among the protestors but also among the police.  In New York, in Oakland, at UC Davis and elsewhere, certain law enforcement personnel have used tactics on peaceful protesters that were highly questionable to say the least (not to mention showing a less than adequate response to civilian attacks against protesters). And mind you, the police, much more so than the demonstrators, have been thoroughly trained in the avoidance of conflict.

So why don’t we hear people offering blanket condemnations of police departments? Because everyone seems to realize that it’s unfair to judge an entire group by the actions of a few irresponsible individuals. Unless that group is Occupy Wall Street, and then it’s no holds barred. But when it comes to the Tea Party, people seem quite willing to excuse irresponsible statements even when they’re made by the organization’s leaders and key speakers.

2. A Full-time Job

At Tea Party rallies, participants attend, then go to their hotels and their comfy homes in the suburbs or small towns. The Occupiers, some of whom have no homes to go to, are in it for the long haul, many of them camping out in tents. That kind of round-the-clock presence is naturally going to result in more unsavory incidents. It’s a matter of math if nothing else. And note that this kind of street presence, particularly in the neighborhoods where it usually occurs, can attract individuals who really aren’t even connected to or supportive of the movement.

3. The Bigger Tent

Another important point to consider is that the Occupy movement is far more diverse than the Tea movement. The latter, despite its claim of populist anti-tax underpinnings, is designed to appeal to those who passionately despise President Obama, and relies on an extensive campaign of misinformation targeting him.  (He was born in Kenya, he’s a socialist, he’s a Muslim, he’s raised our taxes, “Obamacare” provides for death panels, etc., etc., etc.) And oh yes, Michael Moore is worth millions.

OWS, on the other hand, is designed to appeal to anyone who feels disenfranchised by the current economic paradigm, and that includes a hell of a lot of people – even most of those who are so antagonistic toward the movement. Naturally, such a varied demographic is going to attract its share of rowdy, if not undesirable, elements.

And it’s surely not insignificant that there’s a wider age range at Occupy, with an estimated average age of 33 and a median of 27 (at least among those arrested) – compared with a rather consistent fiftyish range at the Tea Party.  There’s more volatility in youth; that may be a lame excuse, but hey, if politicians can plead “youthful indiscretion” for actions in their forties (I’m looking at you, Dubya), maybe we should cut Occupiers a wee bit of slack in their twenties and thirties.

4. Genuine Anger

Listen to a  Tea Party speech, and you’re likely to hear delusional ranting about things that the speakers fear may happen: Obama will hike their taxes, Obama will try to Islamize the country, Obama will confiscate their guns, Obama will mandate death panels, etc.  Such paranoid fantasies can be quite effective in mobilizing mass action; if the Tea Party manipulators ever decide to make good on their implied threat to storm the White House armed with hunting rifles, pitchforks and crucifixes, they might have plenty of backup. But perhaps spontaneous outbursts of inappropriate behavior are more likely to be occasioned by frustration over things that really have happened.

5. Provocation

Let’s face it, Occupiers have had to deal with a lot more in-your-face hostility than Tea Partiers, and it would be naive to expect that some of them would not respond in kind. It’s hard to be perfectly stoic when you’re being sprayed with pepper, whacked with batons, or run down by drivers.  Furthermore, there has been at least one known example of a right-wing agitator infiltrating the group with the express aim of inciting violence. Are there others? I’d bet the deed to the farm on it.

The Courage of their Convictions

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list or a profound analysis; on the contrary, it’s meant to show how easy it would be to discover factors contributing to OWS rowdiness if only the media had an interest in looking beyond the boilerplate narrative.

As for why Tea Partiers haven’t displayed more unseemly conduct, perhaps it is in part because they lack the courage of their convictions. They’ve certainly been urged on by their leaders, who exhort them to hate certain individuals who don’t concur with their ideology, and even to try to drive them out by violent means. It’s a wonder, especially considering that so many Tea Partiers are also gun enthusiasts, that this rhetoric hasn’t led to violence.

Or has it? In fact there have been numerous incidents of violence and threatened violence directly connected to Tea Party-style polemic, and in some cases to the Tea Party itself. Peeing in the streets is nothing compared to this stuff. But the fact that these episodes did not occur at Tea Party rallies completely lets them off the hook. And so the media can look for someone else to demonize – not a hard thing to do since there’s a certain gathering of protestors camped out under their noses 24/7.

Obama/ Osama: The Spin is In

There, it didn’t take long, did it? You might think that any leader who rid the world of a goat-fucking vermin like Osama bin Laden would garner at least a modicum of respect from just about anyone. But you’d be vastly underestimating the infinite capacity of right-wing extremists for hatred,  bitter partisanship, self-delusion. and (more to the point for our purposes) distortion and spin.

A Bit of Nostalgia

Ah, for the good old days of the decade past, when Obama’s illustrious predecessor was in office. Granted, he was far more divisive – not to mention that he permanently pissed off a lot of people by how he got into office in the first place. But after 9-11, that was all swept aside, and Americans of all convictions queued up behind him. He achieved an approval rating of 90%, the highest of any president ever – even though about 50% didn’t even consider him a legitimate president. And those in the media fell all over themselves to lick his boots . Dan Rather (soon to be branded as part of the vast librulmedia conspiracy out to destroy him), declared “wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where”.

Never mind that he’d ignored explicit warnings about terrorists plotting to attack high profile buildings with hijacked planes. Never mind that while the nation was under attack, he dallied at photo ops in Florida for at least 25 minutes (not merely 7) without lifting a finger. Never mind that his eventual response was to invade a nation ruled by one of bin Laden’s ENEMIES. Never mind that he expended several years, and trillions of dollars and thousands of military lives and well over 100,000 civilian lives looking for al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because, as Donald Rumsfeld explained, it had good targets. (Sort of like looking in the bathroom for keys you left in the garage because the light is better in the bathroom.) Never mind that he changed his story at least 30 times about his reasons for invading Iraq. Never mind that his administration lied over 230 times about the undertaking. Never mind that he continued to enjoy cozy relations with Saudi Arabia, a brutal dictatorship that supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers. He was Our Leader, by god, and it was un-Amurrcan to criticize him. The media frequently referred to those who supported his “war on terror” as “pro-troop”, suggesting that those who disapproved were “anti-troop” (as well as anti-American and pro-terrorist, of course).

And when Saddam Hussein was captured, The Leader was awarded a fresh round of accolades. Anyone who dared question Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld policy on any particular at all was guilty of wishing that Saddam was still at large.

History Fails to Repeat

But that was then and this is now. And with the Rodney Dangerfield president in office, no good deed goes unslimed. This latest accomplishment by the president was viewed by those suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome as just another opportunity to engage in the most vicious, fruity, childish attacks imaginable.

In fairness, it wasn’t entirely unanimous. I was shocked to see that one of the most entertaining Obama attack websites, one that normally features only the most vile distortions of absolutely everything the man says or does, actually suffered a relapse and, for one day, sang his praises. Sure, the praise was tempered with the observation that he’d “finally” kept a campaign promise, and the obligatory reference to his supporters as “moonbats”. Even so, it was a miracle of miracles.

But that was, to say the least, the exception rather than the rule among the ideologues. There was no grace period out of respect for the troops or other Americans, much less the president. It was just hate, hate, hate and smear, smear, smear from the word go. You would have thought that Obama was responsible for bin Laden’s birth rather than his death.

What They Said

They said that he didn’t look jubilant enough when he made the announcement – evidently he should have turned cartwheels or something. One prominent leader of the Tea Party even insisted that he looked angry because he really didn’t want bin Laden caught.

They said that he was arrogant for pointing out that he was the one who gave the order to launch the raid. Maybe he should have said “an anonymous darkie who deserves no recognition whatsoever”.

They said that he really had nothing to do with the mission at all, and the military went behind his back to act on its own. (Never mind that the military itself tells a very different story, and that such a thing would in fact be very much against military guidelines.)

They said that it was really George W. Bush who nabbed the bad guy. Which perhaps is only fair, since they’ve been blaming Obama for all the damages Bush wrought. (TWO DAYS after Obama was elected, and two months before he even took office, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed that the nation was in the midst of the “Obama recession”. Several months after he was in office, when the economy began to perk up, Limbaugh called it the “Bush recovery”. You just can’t make up this kind of stuff.) Never mind that Bush said several times that he wasn’t even concerned about bin Laden, and back up his words by never talking about him, and by closing down the operation in charge of tracking him down.

They said that it was Bush’s torture of terror suspects that led to bin Laden. (Follow the bounding ball, kiddies: Bush didn’t torture. But he’d do it again. Waterboarding is no big deal. But it extracts priceless information out of hardened terrorists. Take notes if you can’t keep up.) Whereupon Sen. John McCain, who during the previous administration would have needed a crowbar to pry his nose out of Bush’s anus (and so, naturally, packaged himself as a “maverick”), nonetheless spoke up and said that it was nonsense to think that torture could lead to that kind of intelligence. But hey, what would a former P.O.W. know about torture or interrogation? Not a thing, according to fellow Republicans who were outraged by the possibility that such an otherwise loyal comrade might not be totally consumed with contempt for the current president.

They said that Obama (though he didn’t really do anything) did it just to get re-elected. Never mind that the election was still 18 months away and the American public has shown repeatedly that it has the memory span of a gnat.

They said that bin Laden isn’t really dead. (Where’s the long form death certificate?)

They said that bin Ladn’s really been dead for years, and has been kept on ice all this time. (Wasn’t it nice of the Bush administration and al Qaeda to go along with the scheme in order to give Obama a boost in the polls?)

They said that it was inexcusable to delay for 18 hours before giving the go-ahead for the mission. (18 whole hours! A real man would have first spent years looking for the villain in the wrong country.) And they declared it a “double standard” by the media for not tearing into him over that (which in fact they did) after criticizing Bush for dallying “seven” minutes (which in fact they totally ignored until Michael Moore threw it in their faces – double standard indeed). Never mind that there was only about a 50-50 chance that bin Laden was actually inside the compound. We all know that biting your nails over a precarious surgical strike to nab a terrorist mastermind while trying to avoid civilian casualties is exactly the same as kicking back in a classroom while people plunge to their deaths from burning skyscrapers.

They said that it was hypocritical/ ironic that this raid was ordered by a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, here’s a man who claims to be working toward world peace, and yet he eliminates a cold-blooded mass murderer who’s a major threat to world peace. Go figure.

They said he killed an unarmed man, poor thing. (Even Michael Moore called it an “execution”.)

They said it was kowtowing to Islamic fundamentalist radicals and/or being too secretive to bury the body at sea. It should have been dragged around in the streets by horses first – that’d show ’em that we’re more civilized than they are!

And so on. And on and on and on and on.

Inevitably, as details of this mission surface, there will be questions. And some of the questions might not have the best of all possible answers. It’s war, pal. But these people didn’t wait for the details, the questions or the answers. They just immediately followed their usual tack of believing the worst about Barack H. Obama until proven wrong – and then continuing to believe the worst.

You can’t help but suspect that this is a manifestation of the so-called “black tax” – the social stigma whereby a black man must do twice as much as a white man in order to receive half the credit, or some such. By that reckoning, the president only needs to kill Osama three more times. No, wait – he’s only half black. So maybe once more will do.

Hey, if he faked it once, he can do it again. And were he anyone else but Barack H. Obama, he just might get away with it, given the demonstrated level of public suggestibility.