The Rip Post                                                                                              


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(Oct. 30, 2008)

I can’t write the obligatory glib, analytical “election eve” column. I’m beyond fried on this spectacle. Let Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have a good time dissecting the minutae of the madness.
          What really to say?
          Obama has run a shrewd, calculated, and gentlemanly campaign, with welcome touches of humor. McCain has lied and sneered like a deranged schoolboy. Obama has been poised. McCain has been poison.
          The pandering to fear, paranoia, hatred on the part of McCain and Palin has been a monument to sociopathy. You wonder how anyone who so knowingly dispenses utterly false information to the public can call himself a public servant. (And herself.)
          Their chief gimmick, which works on the ignorant, stupid, callow, frightened---you know, Real Americans like “Joe the Plumber” (now greedily parlaying his carefully staged encounter with Obama into a showbiz career)---is to say they are bypassing the “media filter” and speaking “directly to the people.” All the while announcing that the “media filter” is “biased” toward Obama, of course. This way, when the “media filter” accurately exposes their lies and hypocrisy, true believers can ignore it.
          It’s a juvenile manipulation, but as George W. Bush once all-too-accurately remarked, the voting public is mostly a big ten-year-old.        
          The “media filter” is the cynical new tag for the greatest gift a society can own: a free press, or “fourth estate.” That term, by the way, dates to the early 19th century (at least), and was part of a societal overview that went like this: the first estate was the clergy, the second nobility, the third the public, the fourth the press. In modern parlance, that would be: the televangelists, the corporatocracy, the shoppers, and the media.
          The media, of course, are forever being accused of this or that bias, which is much like accusing Bill Clinton of enjoying sex. There is no such thing as impartial. There is no “fair and balanced.” These are subjective concepts. One man’s objectivity is another man’s rant. What there is, even with all the gum-flapping and proselytizing on the tube, is an attempt to be fair and balanced (outside, of course, of “fair and balanced” Fox News.)
          A huge part of the reason that Real Americans have constantly accused the media of slanting coverage toward Obama (or fill-in-the-blank) is ignorance of how journalism works. Here's an example: when Newsweek ran a cover headline about Palin, “She’s one of the folks, and that’s the problem,” Fox newsbimbos were on their hind-legs, screaming “bias!” They didn’t understand that this was simply a clever headline, a glib way of conveying that Palin’s vaunted ordinary persona isn’t all persona; that she really might be too untried in the ways of the world to be vice-president. This was an existing, major campaign issue, not something Newsweek made up. Real Americans don’t understand this.
          So when the New York Times notes, for instance, that 100,000 people showed up to see Obama somewhere, Real Americans nod and crow about how the paper’s coverage is slanted, and so on. And finally, when the NYT runs an editorial endorsing Obama---a normal, routine function of a newspaper---you get the “I told you so’s.” Never mind that the reporters covering Obama didn’t write the editorial, or take orders to slant their coverage. Then there is the fact that most Real Americans do not know the difference between a news story and a column.
           But Real Americans will never believe or understand this, anymore than they will appreciate the fact that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricts Congress from abridging the freedom of the “media filter.” (A recent poll showed huge numbers of Real Americans favor government controls on the press!) Why?
          Because the free press is the public’s last defense against tyranny.
          Real Americans, of course, aren’t worried about tyranny anymore. Bin-Laden and Bush scared them into surrendering most of their civil rights and privacy, anyhow. What’s more, Real Americans have come to think that government tyranny is when tax dollars are used for programs to help the poor or middle-class. Really! McCain and Palin hysterically call this “socialism,” as if trying to take care of the country is somehow equivalent to communism as carried out in the former USSR and China (which was actual tyranny.)
          Real Americans, by the way, is another Sarah Palinism---another cynical new tag employed to arouse jingoism, hatred, prejudice, etc. Implying that those who do not support childbirth for impregnated teenaged rape victims (a Palin position), or who do not think that leaving the Iraq debacle is "waving the white flag of surrender," are not Real Americans.
          So Real Americans will continue to champion the rousing rhetoric of Sarah Smile, and believe that the “media filter” is preventing her from getting her points across. Why, just the other day, when she recently noted with sinister pauses that Obama had an “associate” named Rashid Khalidi---and then milked rabid boos by announcing that Khalidi had been spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Organization---the “media filter” tried to prevent her from getting her point across. How? By revealing that Khalidi is a scholar, a professor at Columbia University, and that McCain, while chairman of the International Republican Institute, gave Khalidi about a half-million dollars to conduct polls among Palestinians.
          But never mind such facts ("facts are stupid things," said Ronald Reagan)---this is the fiendish, biased pro-Obama “media filter” trying to undercut that Real American, Palin. Never mind that politics and international relations are all part of one web traveled by countless spiders.
          Never mind knowledge. Never mind sense.
          Sense. . .
          The American public---well, mostly Republicans and McCain supporters---is very adept at ignoring sense. Take this “Democrat for Obama” at a Pennsylvania rally who recently said:
          "I don’t want to sound racist here, but I do not want a black man running my country."
          Pretty funny!
          And the country is just chocked full of funny people just like him. These Real Americans make up a group variously referred to as “the silent majority,” “the heartland,” or, to use my term of preference, the chumps. Chumps are people who vote for very wealthy men to represent them in government, men who routinely pass laws and make deals that disenfranchise, betray, and sell out “the heartland.” These are people who enthusiastically voted for Reagan and Bush and watched their jobs disappear while robberbarons turned Wall Street into Monte Carlo. And who would vote for Reagan and Bush all over again. Both Bushes. At the same time. For life.
          That’s because these folks---these chumps---are very good at ignoring the “media filter” and allowing themselves to be rendered glassy-eyed and mush-brained by their heroes’ appeals to “America First” (the McCain slogan), xenophobia, Old Glory, racism (implied or otherwise), references to God, and fear.
          Thus the chumps came to put Bush 2 in office. Twice. The chumps are responsible for the war in Iraq, the bankrupting of the country, the financial ruination of countless millions (around the world), the massive surrender of privacy and rights, the further selling out of the American worker, the further selling out of the American middle class, so-called “free trade,” the transformation of the American marketplace into one big “Made in China” emporium, and probably the fact that TV now costs about 70 bucks a month.
          The chumps mainline Fox News, which is staffed almost entirely by chumps, and yet they do not think that Fox News is part of the “media filter.” This is because Fox News flagrantly reinforces chump attitudes. Which is to say, if another channel presents information or a point of view that is at odds with Chump Think, they reject it as “socialist,” “commie,” “Anti-American.” So when Fox News presents information that is in sync with Chump Think, they believe it is “unfiltered.”
          How and why did the chumps become chump-like? Probably it has to do with brain chemistry that is predisposed to authoritarianism, and admiration thereof, compounded by intelligence lurking somewhere a little bit above “dog.” I don’t know how else to explain it, and believe me, I’ve thought about it. Why, I used to believe, in a humanitarian and open-hearted sort of way, that the chumps could be reasoned with.
          Pardon me while I laugh for a moment. Ha ha ha. Thank you.
          Yes, I believed that if you presented the chumps with facts, statistics, irrefutable persuasive evidence of a point of view contrary to theirs. . .that they would find it edifying. They would suddenly take off their Peterbilt caps, scratch their heads, and say, “Wow. Is that right? I never knew that.” And “I now see what you mean. It isn’t just black and white, is it?” Or “Gosh, I’ve been wrong about that!” Or even, “I still feel the same way, but I do see your point.”
          Why, there was a time when my column was deluged with e-mail from The Heartland. (A very ironic term, considering that most of the mail wished me very ill, including the occasional death-threat.) I remember one fellow who said that I “would be cast into the Lake of Fire” for my commie-liberal-socialist beliefs (I’m actually neither liberal nor conservative, as should be the case with any thinking person.) That fellow turned out to be a Mormon pastor in Utah. When I discovered this, and castigated him for his hatred, he sheepishly apologized. Say hallelujah!
          I engaged every single chump who wrote to me over a two-year period---pretty generous of me!---and I had the audacity to point out that some of their conclusions were based on erroneous data. Oh, boy. That was like snarling at a rabid Rottweiler. It prompted an inevitable torrent of gap-toothed profanity and flawed grammar.
          And now the chumps have put us all in danger, once again. They want to put into the White House a daffy, nasty, filthy-rich, mendacious, bellicose old man who is probably on the slippery slope to senile dementia. At least he is dealing without a deck from having been tortured in Vietnam; witness alone his sudden and Freudian address of a campaign crowd as “My fellow prisoners” instead of “My fellow Americans.” (Really.) Never mind that McCain wants to reward the rich and stiff the poor. The chumps don’t mind. The chumps don’t believe it, anyhow. That’s why they’re called chumps.
          We are in even greater danger, though, from the Frankenstein that McCain has loosed on the American villagers in the form of Palin. He really is her Ygor, complete with the stiff neck—the perfect couple for a post-Halloween election. This woman belongs in the choir of a holy-roller church deep in an Alabama swamp, but instead can---quite miraculously---see the White House shimmering in the 2012 distance. Obama’s “measuring the drapes,” she says? Well, she has measured them every night in her dreams for years. She might have a sub-normal IQ, but the genes for narcissism and megalomania were not spared in her DNA spiral, and that makes up for smarts. She cares nothing about anything except acquiring power, and abusing it.
          As much as the chumps deserve Sarah Palin, well, I don’t. And neither does the rather baffled majority of at least partially educated people in the country who aspire to think and coexist with cooperation and civility.
          So. . .
          One can only hope. Hope all is well. Well, all is hope. In that sense, Obama seems smart and right. The educated and civil are badly in need of a little optimism. It’s been a psychologically brutal eight years. At least Obama impresses as a conscientious, equitable, restrained fellow, and his statements about this being one nation, neither liberal nor conservative etc., are badly needed. They are, in fact, the original American Dream.
          That’s right, chumps, the American Dream was never to allow you the “freedom” to drive environment-gobbling SUVs and own mansions for your wantonly begat children to grow up in and drive environment-gobbling SUVS and own mansions for their wantonly begat children to grow up in. The dream was that persons of all backgrounds, intelligences, ethnicities, politics, religions, etc. could aspire to live together in relative calm and civility. That they might “pursue happiness.”
          If any chumps are still reading this column while entertaining thoughts of sending me to Guantanamo without dinner, please bear some of these points in mind when you go to vote. Just so you can feel extra righteous and angry and venomous when you mark the space for McCain.
          As I said, I can’t write the obligatory glib analytical election eve column.
          So this ramble will have to do.
          Obama for prez.
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