Friends, I hope you had a good Labor Day Weekend, and aren’t too shaken up by the loss of Van Jones to the administration, and to America. And aren’t you excited to hear President Obama address Congress, and the schoolchildren? He has been absent from the scene for a while, and I miss the sound of his voice! Not to mention all the post-partisan, post-racial, well-nigh post-human wisdom.
Have you received your new National Review? I hope so. It should be in mailboxes (and homes), and it is definitely available in digital version: here. The issue is chockfull of goodness, I must say, and I point you in particular to Rob Long’s parody — about CIA interrogations in this new age — and Mark Steyn’s essay, which is about social welfare (an aspect of). It is an exquisite piece of writing, and thinking.
My own contribution has to do with protesters, and perceptions of them. You know how people are saying that the anti-ObamaCare protesters are scary, un-American, dangerous, and so on? You know how these same people said that the anti-Bush, anti-war protesters were noble, patriotic, brave, and so on? That’s what I’m talking about.
I have written a hypocrisy piece, which is a very easy thing to do — political life is rife with hypocrisy, like life in general. But some of the current hypocrisy reeks to highest heaven — even the hypocrites themselves should smell it.
For years — eight years, to be specific — we heard that “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” As Michael Mukasey pointed out to me in a recent interview, the Left thought they were quoting Thomas Jefferson. Actually, the words come from Howard Zinn, or so it seems. (Zinn is the contemporary hard-Left historian.)
And what stupid words those are. Dissent can be a form of patriotism, yes, but the highest? Really? As I say in my NR piece, where does that leave what Sergeant York or Audie Murphy did?
One thing was sure during the 2008 presidential campaign: If Obama won, dissent would no longer be the highest form of patriotism. One wag suggested — this was a reader of mine — “No, dissent will be the highest form of racism.” And it is becoming true, as charges of racism fill the air. (See Congresswoman Diane Watson and others.)
As Obama and the Democrats started to spend massively, some citizens got restive. They held what they called “tea parties,” in honor of the original tea party, in Boston. Anderson Cooper, the greatly respected CNN anchorman, said that these protesters were “tea-bagging.” He was alluding to an exotic sexual practice. And I’m afraid the expression caught on. Janeane Garofalo said of the tea-party protests, “This is racism straight up, nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks, and there is no way around that.”
If you say so, Janeane. But I know, personally, many of the tea-partiers, and there’s not a tea-bagging redneck or racist in the bunch. Maybe Janeane should get out more?
Just the other day, a Democratic congresswoman, Carol Shea-Porter, referred to anti-ObamaCare protesters as “teabaggers.” What a disgusting development. The word has gone mainstream, and I see it even in the columns of conservative commentators. Great.
We’re reading a lot lately about “right-wing rage.” As I say in my NR piece, funny how you never hear about “left-wing rage.” Could be that “left-wing rage” is not alliterative, as “right-wing rage” is. Or it could be that dominant commentators think of left-wing rage as mere righteous indignation.
Orwell observed that you could never be a “rabid anti-Nazi” or a “rabid anti-fascist.” You could only be a “rabid anti-Communist.” The word “rabid” was reserved exclusively for anti-Communism. These days, “rage” seems reserved exclusively for conservatives.
We are also hearing about “the angry white male” — “the return of the angry white males.” Funny how people get all race- and gender-minded on you. There are many non-whites and non-males among the conservative protesters. And what about that terrible word “males”? Have the anti-conservatives ever heard of “men”?
I think back to one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, ever. It showed a smiling, slightly dopey middle-aged man. And it said (something like), “Carl was an angry white male until he figured out that his pants were two sizes too small.”
They say that “hate” is rearing its head, and that President Obama and the Democrats are the victims of it. Let me make a couple of predictions: I predict that the chairman of the Republican National Committee will never say, “I hate the Democrats and everything they stand for. This [politics, basically] is a struggle of good and evil. And we’re the good.”
Howard Dean said that about the GOP: “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for. . . .”
I predict that an editor of a conservative magazine will never write a piece called “The Case for Obama Hatred,” beginning, “I hate President Barack Obama.”
A New Republic editor did this, about Bush.
And there is increasing worry about assassination: that someone will take a shot, not just at the president, but at the first black president, which would be extra-catastrophic for the country. A few protesters have carried signs urging violence against Obama, or smacking of violence. Let me make some more predictions:
I predict that a network talk-show host will not show a video of President Obama giving a speech and put the following words on the screen: “SNIPERS WANTED.”
Craig Kilborn of CBS did that to George W. Bush.
I predict that U.S. senators will not joke about killing Obama.
In 2006, Bill Maher had a conversation with John Kerry. He asked Kerry what he’d gotten his wife for her birthday. Kerry said he had treated her to a vacation in Vermont. Maher said, “You could have went to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.” Kerry replied, “Or I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.”
This is the same Kerry who, in 1988, said, “Somebody told me the other day that the Secret Service has orders that if George Bush is shot, they’re to shoot Quayle.” Then he said, “There isn’t any press here, is there?”
I predict that a New York official will not tell a graduating class about assassinating President Obama.
Also in 2006, comptroller Alan Hevesi said to students at Queens College that Sen. Charles Schumer, his fellow Democrat, would “put a bullet between the president’s eyes if he could get away with it.”
I predict that no columnist for a leading European newspaper, and leading world newspaper, will write, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?”
Charlie Brooker of the Guardian did that to George W. Bush.
I predict that no major writer will write a novel debating the morality of killing President Obama.
Nicholson Baker did that to Bush, with Checkpoint.
I predict that no filmmaker will make a “fictional documentary” that fantasizes — and I’m afraid that is the word — about murdering President Obama.
Some Brits did that to President Bush with Death of a President.
Dear readers, I have made very, very safe predictions. If a CBS talk-show host pictured President Obama and said “SNIPERS WANTED,” he would lose his job, of course. He would never work in the media again. I wonder what else would happen to him.
I could go on, but you’ve heard enough.
There is a website called “zombietime,” and its materials make for pretty rough, discomforting viewing. Here, the site has gathered many pictures taken at anti-Bush and anti-war rallies — and Obama rallies. They show signs and such screaming for the murder of Bush. They show pictures of Bush with a bullet through his head. They show depictions of Bush being guillotined. They show Bush being burned in effigy. Etc., etc.
This is awful, vile, jacobinical stuff — stuff you are not supposed to see in this easygoing, constitutional, non-extremist country.
And the collection reminds us, not just of the hatred directed at Bush for all those years, but of the murderous hatred directed at him.
Regular readers may be sick of hearing this story — I think I’ve told it twice — but let me tell it again. I tell the story, not because the person featured in it is evil, but for the opposite reason: She is basically wonderful. She just had a fever, that hate-Bush, kill-Bush fever.
I was at an Upper East Side dinner party, and talk turned to 9/11. I mentioned that the “Pennsylvania plane” was apparently destined for the Capitol or the White House. My hostess said, “I wish President Bush had been killed that day.”
“zombietime” is an amazing site. According to Wikipedia (here), it is “maintained by ‘zombie,’ a pseudonymous photographer,” and “documents apparent [!] far-left, antisemitic, or anti-American views and public indecency at political demonstrations, street festivals and other public events.”
And the photographer himself, or herself?
“zombie” . . . spells that name with a lower-case “z,” and has never revealed their real name, gender, age or profession. In a winter 2006 interview with the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, zombie states that they did not initially intend to set up a website at all; rather, having been “left-wing” their entire life, and having attended many protests and rallies, zombie decided to go to the anti-war rally in San Francisco on February 16, 2003, bringing a digital camera purchased the day before. The signs carried at the rally “shocked and mortified” zombie.
He or she said, “There were overtly anti-Semitic signs, banners blaming 9/11 on conspirators in the U.S. government, guys dressed up as suicide bombers, and all sorts of craziness. I took out my new camera and started clicking away. By the time the march was over, I was a changed person. If that was what the ‘Left’ had become, then I wanted no part of it.”
This is what may go by the name of being “scared straight.” Something similar — not the same, maybe not as dramatic, but similar — happened to me, years ago, in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. “Liberal” as I was, or thought I was, I knew I did not belong with a nasty and extremist crowd. (I have written about this several times, and will not bore you with autobiography now.)
A final word (for the moment): You remember Cindy Sheehan: big anti-war protester. Had lost a son, Casey, in Iraq. Dedicated herself to hounding President Bush. Attracted a lot of attention. Became a media star, vulgar as that term may seem. All the biggies put her front and center. One of them was Charlie Gibson of ABC News.
The other day, he was asked about Sheehan. She was going to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama was vacationing, to continue her protests. What did Gibson think? He said, “Enough already.”
And that, it seems to me, is the view of the “MSM” where anti-presidential protest in general is concerned: Enough already. Bush is out, Obama is in. End of protest.
Well, “poo on that,” as a friend of mine used to say.
‐Okay, I’m going to be a square, and frankly — like Rhett — I don’t give a damn. The coarsening of our culture is an ongoing shame, sadness, and outrage. I’m walking through the streets of New York and I see signs on city buses for a show: The Puppetry of the Penis. Ha, ha, so cool. I continue walking and I see a poster for a TV show. The poster shows a man clinched up against a woman and reads, “Tuesday’s the New Humpday.”
You know how they say “Nothing is sacred”? Well, nothing is vulgar anymore either. It’s just normal. Let me try to explain what I mean. Used to be that you shared, and enjoyed, vulgarity in the locker-room — among the guys, with your buds. You knew you were being gross, but this had its place. Now the same vulgarity is everywhere: out of the locker-room, into the streets, on television, etc. As a result, nothing is really vulgar anymore, or enjoyably vulgar. It’s just . . . normal. Just everyday life.
WFB once lamented about Norman Mailer (I paraphrase): “What a talent — if only he could lift his gaze from the world’s genitals.” I sometimes feel that way about American culture at large.
Does this make me unpatriotic or a friend of the jihad? Sue me, or get lost.
‐I weary of entering the Paul Robeson fray once more. The miserable old Stalinist will always be lionized, and people like me will always utter peeps of protest — but you get weary of peeping. The lionizing is a roar; the peeps are — well, peeps.
But I was touched by a note I received a few days ago. It came from Berkeley, Calif., and the man said,
As a longtime liberal reader, I have often disagreed with your columns, while enjoying them. I have certainly come to read the newspaper differently. A New York Times article on Thursday set my teeth on edge.
He was referring to an article, here, lionizing Robeson, and our reader sent a letter to the Times, making a criticism. The Times piece called Robeson an “uncompromising human rights advocate” and also “an enthusiastic, unflagging admirer of the Soviet Union.” Our reader wondered how you could be both. “Did human rights not apply to the unfortunate citizens of the Soviet Union?”
Bravo to this Berkeleyite, and thank goodness for all who aren’t weary.
‐Are you weary of language? Good, me neither. In last Thursday’s Impromptus, we talked about some common errors: “hair-brained,” “baited breath,” “real trooper.” Some readers contributed some others: “tow the line,” “hail fellow well met,” “housing track,” “My interest is peaked” — etc.
‐I loved this: I was talking about WFB’s line about being the tallest building in Wichita, Kansas. A reader said, “I like to say, ‘That’s like being named mayor of your shoes.’”
‐I loved this too: A doctor reader said, “Hope the NRO crew has a great weekend. I am on call, waiting to cut off legs for $30K-$50K, unless some kid with a sore throat passes by, then I rip out their tonsils.”
(And, yes, I even like the “their” — makes it better.)