International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: US
Send in the Clowns
& Bluster Tap Into Nation's Anger
two consecutive weeks, the shenanigans of a radio talk show commentator
and a Comedy Central satirist infused their will on the vox populi.
What is business as usual in the world of fringe insights primped
up in mockery became at first fascinating oddities, then frantic
topics of debate, and finally the exposing of some pretty serious
During the first
days of March, right wing radio master showman, Rush Limbaugh made an
appearance at the CPAC convention in Washington D.C. A rabid gathering
of disenfranchised hardliners, the Conservative Political Action Conference
has welcomed heads of state, former and future presidents, old-world
brainiacs, influence peddlers, religious loons, and corporate land rapers,
all movers and shakers inside what until recently has been the rock
solid base of the nation's conservative movement. Ostensibly, Limbaugh
was to rally the troops and continue to defend his assertion that any
conservative and/or Republican worth his salt should root for the current
president to fail. However, the black-clad jock spent most of his lengthy
address bashing the current environment in the Republican Party as weak
and its leadership misguided, making a final stand against what is at
best a designer buffet of worn-out ideologies, the origin and authenticity
of which he claims to hold dear.
Love him or hate him, deny his influence or bask in his megalomania,
one thing is certain, Limbaugh's hard-ass assault on the sinking vessel
of conservatism is warranted and perhaps needed more than ever. And
this became patently obvious in the days following the liberal fallout,
media backlash, moderate recoiling of Limbaugh's diatribe.
Many Republican members of congress, holdovers from the spend-thrift
days of George W. Bush, who'd enjoyed years casting anti-war sentiments
as un-American, began immediately denouncing the notion of "wanting
the president to fail" as defeatist. Having spent the previous
weeks appearing either fiscally responsible or politically petty, they
were in the throes of stridently defending unanimous votes against any
and all versions of the federal government's massive stimulus bill.
It was not the time to appear as merely spoilers or a blockade to the
mad attempts of the Democrats to enact what has been for over a year
now the will of the people to do SOMETHING/ANYTHING.
Then for reasons only known to he and his shrink, RNC Chairman Michael
Steele, who fancies himself something between Kanye West and Henny Youngman,
while appearing on yet another in a seemingly endless array of variety
shows, demeaned Limbaugh's influence on his party and called his act
"incendiary" and "ugly". When Limbaugh excoriated
him the next day as an empty shirt and a myopic vaudevillian, Steele
curled into a fetal position, meekly apologized and disappeared into
the ether. This pathetic performance by the "de facto" head
of the GOP was on the heels of Georgia congressman Phil Gingrey making
an appearance on Limbaugh's show to kiss his sizable but formidable
Limbaugh proved, albeit in an inimitably fractious and juvenile way,
that there is a voice in the Republican Party that has been lost; the
fiscal straightjacket wing; the wing that had been, and in many recent
cases by Limbaugh himself, hijacked by misogynistic social marauder
homophobes from the God Police. In a few well-placed tirades and verbal
jousts Limbaugh vividly exposed the gaping maw in the Republicans' damaged
flanks, something the timidly inarticulate car salesman approach of
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wildly failed to accomplish after Barack
Obama's wiz bang address to congress last month.
Filling the vacuum of Rush Week in the news cycle, Daily Show host,
Jon Stewart all-but dominated the pop culture wing of the news this
past week with a scathing rip-job of the dog and pony shtick known as
CNBC. After Stewart brilliantly deconstructed the now infamous Howard
Beale wig-out by Rick Santelli, in which the network's exchange floor
reporter derided "deadbeats" who bought homes above their
means as the true culprits in the nation's housing meltdown, CNBC's
most visible voice, Jim Cramer crisscrossed the media circuit belittling
Stewart and his "funny little show".
Stewart's "funny little show" is Comedy Central's golden nugget,
a mostly progressive satirical look at the day's news that has been
trumped into must-see college stoner television, and a damned hilarious
pounding of all-things hypocrisy. Stewart, a once journeyman comedian
cum actor, cum host de jour, has helmed the Daily Show's gaggle of fiendishly
intelligent goofiness for over a decade, during which time he's given
birth to the equally witty Colbert Report and more than once playfully
taken on other over-hyped cable pundits like Bill O'Rielly, but never
to this much fanfare and spitefulness.
Before long the Daily Show began gleefully hammering Cramer in a game
of old-fashioned dozens, playing clips of the maniacal prognosticator
demonstratively unfurling one monumentally wrong prediction after the
other for months. This brought the high and mighty NBC family into the
war of words, which continued to make the once proud news organization
look defensive and amateurish, engaging morning show hosts, nightly
anchors and commentators into the fray. All the while providing delicious
fodder for Stewart and his band of cut-up savants and the facility over
each and every show to pull out what Stewart finally exclaimed were
"inept at best and criminal at worst" flippantly proffered
suggestions for investors to entrust their hard-earned money.
story ended later in the week when Cramer, fresh from an ironic
appearance on the Martha Stewart show, visited the Daily Show, where
he stammered like a guilty school kid in the principle's office
as Stewart and crew played streamed online video of Cramer admitting
to an embarrassing series of insider trading malfeasances.
vicious and brutally honest surgery of the nonsense that passes for
sober reviews and previews of the volatile nature of stock market play
was both frightening and illuminating. Cramer, for his part, perfectly
played the exposed Wizard of Oz as the stuttering, befuddled man behind
the curtain. Cramer, Stewart most assuredly pointed out, is the unfortunate
but indisputable face of an unfathomable monster known as speculative
market trading which could no more bring vast riches to the lazy dreamers
of our nation than it can be a thermometer of our economic solvency
or strategic governance.
The Republican Party is still mired in ridiculous mud slinging over
culture wars and fiscal mishaps, and the world of financial journalism
is still blank stares sold as unblinking certitude, but for two straight
weeks a pair of clowns -- one from the Right and one from the Left --
took the best our American free speech and blessed dissent could offer,
wrapped it up in an entertaining brand of fisticuffs, and ultimately
brought to light that which must be illuminated.
This is how the system, screwed as it is, works best.
© James Campion March 2009
Great leap of Faith
After a mere month in office, the president of the United States
placed his nearly two-year, almost robotically orchestrated rise to
power on the slimmest of reeds
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