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August 8, 2004 There seem to be some disagreements on methodology...

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From Deteriorata – as performed by National Lampoon on "National Lampoon Radio Dinner," a 1972 recording by Blue Thumb Records – a parody of the endlessly inspirational and enormously popular Desiderata - "You are a child of the universe" and all that.


The significant passage -


And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot
It could only be worse in Milwaukee.

[ Chorus ]

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.


It could only be worse in Milwaukee?  Perhaps so.

Consider the state of political discourse there.

'Everything is at stake,' Kerry tells riverfront crowd
Race's intensity visible in exchanges with Bush supporters
Craig Gilbert And Alan J. Borsuk , The Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee) - Posted: Aug. 2, 2004

Way deep in the article, this -


About 30 Bush supporters chanted loudly during the speeches by Kerry and his wife, sometimes setting off air horns. The pro-Bush group was on the Kilbourn Ave. sidewalk overlooking Pere Marquette Park, almost a full block from the stage, but it could be heard throughout the park, including on stage.

Tom Lange, 18, of Waukesha said he was setting off an air horn during Kerry's remarks because "we want them to hear us and not hear what he has to say."

Lange said it's "probably not nice, but it's my beliefs."

Michael Gaspar, 18, of Waukesha used a bullhorn frequently before and during the rally to welcome Kerry supporters "to Bush-Cheney country" and to spur on the Bush supporters.

Asked why he was leading the Bush volunteers in loud chants while Kerry was speaking, he said, "I'm doing this to show my support for President George W. Bush."

"I have the right to speak also," he said. "I'm just attempting to get my voice heard."


Mere youthful exuberance?  Perhaps.

There seems to be some confusion here as to free speech rights.  Free speech on any topic left and right should have, at a minimum, some actual content.  Perhaps not.

Perhaps, in a way that Marshall McLuan never envisioned, here the medium actually is the message.  The medium is an ear-splitting blast.  The message is a sort of post-existential statement on the futility of language to offer the resources for expressing the heroic welling up of deep feelings of patriotism and admiration for the one true hero – the new Fisher King who has slain his father and renewed the land.  GWB becomes the hero-king as GHWB fades into ignominious obscurity.  And as any semiotic deconstructionist can attest – language has its limits.  Thus we have a symbolic enactment of the futility of language to encompass existence in any way.  This then is, in a way, deep performance art – a philosophically grounded Cri du Coeur in the deepest sense.  Brilliant!

Or these guys are just thugs.

It’s "probably not nice, but it's my beliefs."  Ah, a deep belief in noise, and not in verb agreement.

Ah well, such things happen.  Not a big problem.

But this might be.

Bush Planning August Attack Against Kerry
Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner, The New York Times, August 1, 2004


WASHINGTON, July 31 — President Bush's campaign plans to use the normally quiet month of August for a vigorous drive to undercut John Kerry by turning attention away from his record in Vietnam to what the campaign described as an undistinguished and left-leaning record in the Senate.

Mr. Bush's advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision.


Humor and calculated derision?  Kind of like the Al Gore thing, mocking him for key vote to move the internet from DARPA to the public (The fool said he invented it!) and his wardrobe (All those phony earth-tones his advisors made him wear!) – and every news source in the country piled on.  It works.  Multiply that by a hundred times.

I suppose that is better than air horns.  There is, after all, more content.

Josh Marshall writes


Now the Bush-Cheney political campaign is telling all who will listen that they will spend the next month running a massive ad campaign (with a price tag of $30 million and no doubt supplemented by on-message talking points sent out to the all the foot soldiers) aimed at mocking John Kerry as a undistinguished and risible figure. According to the Times, this will culminate at the GOP convention where Kerry will be portrayed as "an object of humor and calculated derision."

… This makes sense on a number of levels.

… The more discussion-worthy point, however, is the use of humor as a political weapon -- mockery, derision, diminishment.

Republicans are very good at this. And it can be a tool that is deceptively difficult to respond to or combat. Effective mockery is 'sticky', hard to shake off, hard to parry. And it appeals to people's appetite for fun and humor.

Indeed, it's not just contemporary Republicans who have a knack for this. There seems to be something intrinsic to the reactionary or right-leaning mentality that gravitates toward this method of political combat. Think of the Tory pamphleteers and essayists of the 18th century in Great Britain or others of a more recent vintage in the US.

This is potent stuff.


Indeed it is, and there may be no defense for it.  It works – better than air horns.

Why go this way?

Digsby over at Hullabaloo adds this reason -


I think this is because the right is essentially authoritarian and group derision is one of the most powerful weapons in the bully's arsenal. Frat boys, Heathers, street gangs, insider cliques of all kinds use it to terrorize the loners and coerce fealty from those who don't want to be a target. Indeed, forcing others to join in the cruelty is the actual point. I've loathed and resisted this dynamic my whole life. It may be the single most important reason I am a Democrat. I just can't stand those assholes.

But, it is a very powerful social force that asserts itself in various ways from childhood into old age. Right now, we seem to be in one of those periodic cultural eras in which these kinds of adolescent, anti-intellectual social types come to the fore. (There is no greater example than the president himself --- "Fuck Saddam, we're takin' 'im out.") It's hard to fight in this environment and while I am all for ridiculing them right back, I'm afraid that most liberals are never going to have quite the flair for it that they do. We have way more genuinely funny guys and gals deflating the hypocrisies of our times, but the bullies have that nasty coercive streak that really gives this stuff its punch. "Laugh, you pussies, unless you want a piece of this."

I spent a lot of time interacting with activist Republicans in years gone by and you'd be surprised at how lame we lefties generally are at this game. The bullies have spent their entire lives eating reasoned arguments and pleas for civility for breakfast. Still, I think it's a good idea for us to keep at it. They really hate being made fun of. Even if most of us can't strike that perfect, snarly bitchy tone in our mockery we can still bother them with it.

Unfortunately, however, in the long run the Democratic Party really can't indulge very much in these high school games because the fate of the world depends upon somebody rising above this immaturity. For all of our fractiousness and various feints left, right and center, we are the grown up party. Gawdhelpus.



What are the poor liberals to do?  This will end Kerry’s chances, when CNN and all the rest jump on the bandwagon, for the fun of it.  They will.

As Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta mentioned to me in an email –


After hearing Ann Coulter as a guest on Neal Boortz, and the two of them discussing how interesting it was that liberals stopped calling themselves liberals after the Republicans labeled Dukakis a "liberal,” I found myself shouting at the radio, "That's because you conservatives are combative, and the liberals are cooperators, which means they don't like getting into trivial fights!"

And then I stopped when I realized that Americans, especially right now, don't want to vote for a party that backs away from fights. So maybe what we need are liberals who aren't afraid to kick ass? Or is the concept of a "kick-ass liberal" just way too oxymoronic?  Then again, maybe the real problem with liberals is that they're too sensitive to be "kick-ass", afraid that someone will accuse them of trying to look like Republicans.

I mean, how can you seriously respect anyone who uses the term "oxymoronic" in a sentence, and not turn it into a joke?



Kerry is toast.

Even if we use things like this


Click here...
My GAYDAR is twitching....

From Joseph now living in France…


I disagree on one point: it's not so much that Democrats aren't good at derision, or avoid petty fights.  It's that completely lacking self-awareness, the Bush-type personality is simply impervious to it.


You've seen this - it's the mark of the true bully.


You can say anything you want about them, but no matter how true, clever or embarrassing, they will stand there with this shit-eating grin (not the fake grin of the self-aware person who has momentarily been stunned or shamed, but the genuine, vapid article). They will think of something really witless to say and make you look like the idiot.


Why? Because you have to have some awareness of how others see you, of your own faults and imperfections and some inner acknowledgment of the validity of the criticisms of others.  If not, the remark just slides right off.


When an entire nation admires a bully, I begin to wonder if some psycho-sociological force isn't at play.  Do American men today feel so powerless and ineffectual, so limp-dicked, so henpecked by their wives, so disposable at their jobs, so despised by their children, so scared of the world that they must resort to infantile bully worship?


Maybe so.  Bully-worship is empowering, when nothing else is.  Something about surrogate power, I suppose - as I have maintained for a long time, this has to do with seeing someone doing or saying what you wish you could do or say, but cannot.  When Bush tells the rest of the world to shove it - choose your issue or treaty or international law or whatever (the constitution will do as an example too) - the folks Joseph identifies get at least a partial erection.  That'll do.


His election strategy will be to play to that strength, if that's the right word.


Expect more air horns, and more jokes about Kerry looking French, or gay (Matt Drudge – "John Kerry and John Edwards can't keep their hands off each other!")


The next eighty days should be quite depressing. 


And this is not even considering the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and their recent campaign.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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