Tuesday, October 18, 2011

when dumbasses become the standard

I just listened to a 6-minute clip of the Howard Stern show. Stern had one of his flunkies go out and interview some of the protestors in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and as you might imagine, the protestors didn't come off sounding particularly bright. This doesn't surprise me at all; I'm not a fan of demonstrations or other mass activities (which may be why I rarely attend sporting events or large-scale concerts); people in crowd situations rarely act intelligently, and political rallies tend to attract as many dim bulbs as they do normal folks.

The clip I listened to was on Breitbart.tv, and as you probably know, Andrew Breitbart has a huge conservative chip on his shoulder. It's in his interest to tear liberals down. But I think that, if his purpose in highlighting the clip was to show how stupid the OWS protestors are, he failed: liberals themselves routinely pull the same stunts when conservatives are out in force. Photos of misspelled signs, interviews with the nutball fringe... there are just as many freaks and retards at those movements as there are in the leftie movements.

I could expand the scope of this discussion to note the same thing about how America gets judged in the world. We're constantly judged by the behavior of our bumpkins, and those unenlightened folks somehow come to represent the essence of the American character. But as someone who has lived in two different foreign countries (Switzerland and Korea), I can attest that America isn't alone in harboring an embarrassingly large complement of fools. In the interest of fairness, then, I say to my European and Korean friends: judge us by our bumpkins and we'll judge you by yours. (Here's something I learned while teaching at a university in Seoul: many Koreans have no idea where New York-- the state-- is on a map. The same holds true if you ask them about major African countries like Egypt, Ghana, or Nigeria.)

As for the OWS protests... my feeling is that the whole thing will have lost steam well before the electoral campaigns begin in earnest. The smarter folks at those rallies will get bored; the dumber ones will get arrested or tossed off the lawn. The movement has no particular focus (an accusation also levied against the Tea Party, which seemed only belatedly to flesh out its raison d'ĂȘtre), and with someone like Stern mocking the folks in the park, I can't see how this campaign, if that's what it is, will ever be taken seriously.

Digression: the best right-leaning reactions I've seen to all this are at Chris Muir's website. His shamelessly didactic comic strip, Day By Day, is the conservative's Doonesbury, but funnier. Check this one out; it's reminiscent of Denis Leary's rant in the Sylvester Stallone actioner "Demolition Man." Remember that speech? IMdB has the goods, and I quote the speech below. A quick bit of background: Stallone is John Spartan, a 1990s cop wrongly convicted of a crime and "frozen" for several decades, along with the bad guy (Wesley Snipes as Simon Phoenix) he had been pursuing. When Spartan's thawed out, the future (which includes a constitutionally sanctioned President Schwarzenegger) turns out to be a dystopic nanny state where all seems harmonious on the surface. But the rebellious underbelly of society pops up with annoying frequency to remind the daylight citizens that all isn't well. These rebels are led by Edgar Friendly (Leary). Spartan meets Friendly and discovers he's simply a guy who wants his basic freedoms back, without the Orwellian state managed by Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne, looking very out of place) looking over his shoulder and telling him what's good for him:

EDGAR FRIENDLY: You see, according to Cocteau's plan, I'm the enemy, 'cause I like to think-- I like to read. I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I want high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and buckets of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I've seen the future. Do you know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener."

The parallels with Muir's cartoon are striking. But interestingly enough, it wasn't so long ago that it was the liberal side that sounded more like Edgar Friendly, as President Bush was busily increasing the size and power of government in a way that began to alarm (or at least unsettle) many conservatives.

In 2004, I quoted this from the Tao Te Ching:

The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer people become.
The sharper men's weapons, the more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are, the more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.

--Tao Te Ching,
Chapter 57

And one last Muir cartoon for your amusement.



SJHoneywell said...

That isn't Dennis Miller, my friend. It's Dennis Leary.

Charles said...

I can totally picture Dennis Miller giving that speech, though. Of course, it would differ very much from the original.

Kevin Kim said...

Not only is it Dennis Leary-- it's Denis Leary! My brain knew what it wanted to write, but my fingers took over and my brain never registered that fact.

I seem to be screwing pooches right and left (cf. a recent tweet in which I wrote "prostrate cancer" instead of "prostate cancer"). Guess I have to look no further than the mirror to find a dumbass, eh?


Yeah, Miller could do the rant, but at one-tenth the speed of Leary in his prime.

Charles said...

"A few brain farts does not a dumbass make."

A wise man said that once. Or, at least, a wise man should have said that.

By the way, is it OK to say that I thought Demolition Man was a great film?

I still don't know how to use the three seashells, though.

{Today's word verification: "dencis". That's kind of freaky, actually.)

Kevin Kim said...

I loved that movie. It had an unapologetic sense of fun. Same reason I loved the first Matrix movie.

John from Daejeon said...

I can't believe that you actually thought that someone in the media would play interviews with some of the more intelligent protestors. That doesn't make for good copy or entertainment, especially those being entertained aren't exactly brain surgeons.

Remember, if it bleeds it leads, if it is moronic it goes on Stern or Leno. Now, if it is really, really moronic they make a Jackass movie out of it.

Kevin Kim said...

"I can't believe that you actually thought that someone in the media would play interviews with some of the more intelligent protestors."

I did mention a lack of surprise at the beginning of my post.