Monday, May 28, 2007

Some advice for Mr. Keith Olbermann

Everyone’s favorite sportscaster-turned-troop-hater, Mr. Keith Olbermann, has this to say about the Democrats’ recent face-plant in the tug-of-war game that was the Great Iraq War Funding Debate of Aught-7:

“The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”; the Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans; the Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government; the Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq. You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.”

Anyone can see the problem with Olbermann’s assessment: he uses big words. Words like “asinine,” “caveat,” “benchmarks.” The average American feels the same way about big words as he does about illegal aliens: tolerable when they’re working for you, but a serious threat to self-complacency in all other aspects (it is assumed for the purposes of this analogy that the average American is a white male from Texas).

Anywho, about big words. Olbermann will never get his message out to the “common folk” until he concedes that most common folk are idiots. Fortunately, I have a solution for him, one that I may be willing to part with for a significant “finder’s fee”: make complex and potentially boring political issues palatable to John Q. Public by riddling your discussions with pop-culture references. Hell, it worked for Rick Santorum!

“But Sarge,” Mr. Olbermann is no doubt saying, “could you provide an example that will really drive home how truly brilliant your idea is?” And my answer is, “anything for you, Mr. Olbermann.” Here is your condemnation of the Democratic handling of the war funding debate, re-mixed and illustrated with allusions to director Zack Snyder’s phenomenally successful blockbuster, 300.

Herein lies example 1.

Herein lies example 2.

Herein lies example 3.

So as you can see, my idea is awesome. Mr. Olbermann, I accept personal checks and money orders. And cash, so long as it is discretely placed inside my freezer.

1 comment:

jogagas said...

I agree 100% that the average American is hideously misinformed about domestic politics, and the idea of John Q. Public keeping up with international events is laughable at this point in American cultural life. For example, the most popular videos on today are:

#4 - Beauty Pageant Boo Boo (on the Miss Universe pageant)

#3 - Pregnancy Nightmare (a woman with severe morning sickness)

#2 - Officers cleared in stoning death (about the stoning of a woman in Iraq - perhaps more significant than the previous two)

And our number one story is......

Dancing Cadet! A riveting example of investigative journalism at its finest, as "CNN's Kate Moos reports on an Air Force Cadet and viral video star."

I used to rather naively believe that the American people were simply being duped by the CEOs and elite shareholders of media companies (who, no doubt, sat around in smoke-filled rooms scheming how they could maintain class divisions by keeping people stupid, etc. etc.). But since Bush won the majority of the popular vote in 2004 - Okay, okay, they bought the folksy schtick four years ago, I thought before the election, but this time, no way - I've begun to realize that it's both a top-down and a bottom-up problem. Media corporations want to make money, but they do so by giving people what they want. And what they want, as evidenced by the abovementioned list, is sensationalistic human interest stories, not stories which enable them to effectively participate in a democracy. The loss of democratic values, of course, can't be blamed on the media alone: educational and religious institutions are also guilty.

So, should progressive people like Olbermann dumb down their discourse in the interests of disseminating their message to a wider audience which badly needs to hear it? In the short term, perhaps. But in the long run, Jefferson was right: democracy simply can't work if you don't have an educated, informed populace. Sadly, achieving such a thing is looking less and less possible. So do we revert to paternalistic liberalism? Do we talk down to the public, but unlike the Bush administration and their ilk, do so to bring about [supposedly] benevolent ends? That sure as hell didn't work in Europe after World War I (See Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century by Mark Mazower, a fantastic book on twentieth-century European history from an ideological and economic perspective which I'm sure you guys would enjoy). It's a dilemma. For my part, I'm doing the graduate school thing and planning on teaching in some college or other in order to, in my own small way, increase the level of public discourse/empathy/understanding/what have you. Perhaps a massive increase in funding for education is one answer. Regardless, if the public discourse continues to decline, class divisions will increase and the USA will continue to spiral toward oligarchy/plutocracy and even further away from truly participatory democracy, in the process proving Hobbes right about human nature. And he very well might be.

Ummmm... The Onion! The Onion will make us laugh!