Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Hatred of Speech

Meg Baird--"I Don't Want To Talk About It" (mp3)

Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode. Seriously. It usually comes when I see too much television and when, on that television, there are a multitude of people talking. Just talking, talking, talking, as if they were paid to talk, which they are, as if they were paid by the word, which I don't know if that's true or not.

A given football game has a minimum of 6 people weighing in on the action--the play-by-play guy and the color guy, plus the four fucknuts sitting in the studio in New York City, offering their "insights" before the game, at halftime, and after the game. That does not even begin to include the talkers who have been previewing this game for a week or a month, or the ones who will break down the action after the fact for as long as there are words to say about it.

The same thing with economic recovery or how to fix unemployment. The same with health care or immigration or Afghanistan or the moon mission or the latest Iphone or how much money we think the poor American suckers spent at Christmas. Turn the TV dial (symbolically) or turn the radio dial and it's talk, talk, talk. Sometimes I can't take it.

Here is the modern world in a nutshell: we all wonder what should I, we, he, she, they, it do? In response, everyone in the world has an opinion. And those who are paid to do it spend all of their time telling us what we should do, what we should eat, how we should invest, where we should live, what we should believe, who we should trust. If Hamlet had had all of these spin doctors, prognosticators, and "experts," he'd still be hesitating. How is one to progress in such an environment?

The stupidest man in America is Rush Limbaugh. He's not the dumbest, for he certainly has the business savvy to turn being a bag of hot air into a very, very lucrative and influential career. No, he's the stupidest. Why? Because he wants to pretend that what he and his ilk babble and pontificate about week after week and year after year doesn't affect the way people act.

In particular, of course, he wants to believe that hate speech doesn't make people hate and then act on that hate.

Let me prove you wrong, you stupid ass. Simply. President George Herbert Walker Bush declared one day that he hated broccoli. We all know what happened. Sales of broccoli in this country plummeted. Broccoli growers were outraged that a president would use his "bully pulpit" to impact an industry so negatively. Yeah, Rush, it was just a man who hated a vegetable that his Mommy probably shoved down his throat when he was a kid. But people heard.

And then, of course, his son, in response to a Saudi Arabia-based terror attack on the U.S., created his famous "Axis of Evil" and started, with his staff, hammering home the idea that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. And guess what people believed? Guess who people hated? People hate what they are told is evil. And hated it enough to support an irrelevant war!

Now, I have no interest in making a connection between Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the motives of the shooter in the Arizona slaughter (though I certainly do enjoy that these people are on the hot seat!), but I do want to argue the more general case: people who become well known become influential and have the power to impact the ways that people act. That shouldn't come as a surprise, and for Limbaugh to pretend otherwise is more than disingenuous; it's cowardly.

When the Hannitys and the Becks and the Limbaughs hammer away at a president, not his actions or policies, but at his very being to suggest that he is a "socialist" or a "racist" or a "Muslim" or a non-American or a person who "hates America" or "hates white people," then, yes, Rush, the people who listen to those types are going to develop hatred, and, yes, the less stable of this listeners may be more inclined to take or try to take some kind of confused, misguided action. When a president suggests that those who don't support his war are un-American, he creates the same kind of hatred.

But back to my original problem--there are thousands of bully pulpits out there now. That is no longer exclusive to the president. Sarah Palin has one, Glenn Beck has one, various commentators on ESPN have them (that they used to keep Peyton Manning from winning the Heisman), the Kardashians have one. Heck, even a comedian like John Stewart has one, which he used to break the logjam over a bill that would provide health care for First Responders on 9/11.

So when something like the Arizona tragedy occurs, the opinions from the talking heads come almost immediately and all of the talk, talk, talk, talk, talk becomes the point, becomes the story, becomes the purpose. While people lie dead or injured, those television faces and those radio voices have to be heard and then the story becomes the talkers reacting to what each other has said. It's kind of disgusting.

But I also can't pretend that the spotlights aren't on this situation, and so I have these takeaways: 1) Mrs. Palin is also a coward for hiding behind Facebook and Twitter to respond to the tragedy; coincidence or not, her PAC had crosshairs on key races, had a crosshair specifically on Rep. Giffords' race and she should have confronted this more directly, 2) Much as Mrs. Palin might like to celebrate Alaska as the last American frontier, once again, we see what an incredible mess Arizona is; the last state to embrace MLK's birthday is such a chaotic blend of immigration troubles, racist laws, "maverick" senators who have declared that they were never mavericks, violence, assassination, that it feels like Arizona has never gotten beyond the Wild West, and finally, 3) I wish that all of you professionals on TV, regardless of your professions, would just shut the fuck up for awhile, stop talking, stop backtracking, stop analyzing, stop trying to sell your positions.

If you want to relay the news to us, that's fine. I guess. I won't be watching. But other than that, all of you, from the left, the right, or just from your own ego, I'm really not interested in what you have to say. Maybe if you could think about it for awhile and then write it down, maybe it would have a little more weight. Maybe.

My apologies if you are offended by the highly-controversial editorial cartoon, which has outraged and disgusted some people, but it does make an important point. You might, for balance, take a look at Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre, which was published all over the country in 1770. As for the song, someone on another blog mistakenly identified it as a "Rod Stewart cover." The song was written by Danny Whitten, the Crazy Horse rhythm guitarist in the original line-up of Neil Young's off-again/on-again band, and it appears on Crazy Horse's first album away from Neil. There's a nice version out there by the Indigo Girls.


goofytakemyhand said...

Bob Dylan expressed your sentiments (and mine as well) in the TV Talkin Song. I'll conveniently ignore it was a throwaway track from of his worst albums.

TV Talkin Song

The media is nothing more than polemicists, so called "reality" television, "experts" pushing their own agendas, and politicians aiming for sound bites and buzzwords. Just imagine if the Dick Cavett Show existed today. It'd be off the air in three weeks.

As for Goofy's compound on Woody Creek, he rarely watches what he calls "the tv," for that is what Dylan apparently calls it in private conversation.

cinderkeys said...

I live in Tucson. The best response to the tragedy I've seen so far contains no talking at all. It's a painting called Let This Be a Bridge by local artist Carolyn Anne Anderson.

Billy said...

Bob - While I appreciate and respect your vitriol and certainly share most of your opinion about specific blowhards, I feel it's only fair to call you out on your own inconsistencies here.

You have on numerous occasions insisted that music and other entertainment vehicles cannot be blamed for their influential powers. I find it difficult to believe that you can minimize the power of a Britney (or a Snooki) on younger, less mature minds, yet somehow insist that the Bush family and Rush and Palin can manipulate millions and even potentially incite violence.

I believe all people with the power of a microphone/camera and an audience have this power and the responsibility that goes with it, but you seem to limit your anger towards politicians and news wonks but exclude "entertainers." I'm not sure I understand why/how you draw the line.

Bob said...

Billy, given that I've mentioned football commentators at the start, and the Kardashians and Jon Stewart near the bottom, I guess I'm not sure where you're coming from. I have absolutely included entertainers. My final paragraph offers the inclusive statement "the left, the right, or from your own ego." I guess I've got to give you a "huh?"

troutking said...

Any blog post that starts with Bruce lyrics is a good one in my book.

Yeah Billy, your comments are a "blood libel."