Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Great Congressional Phone Flap

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I've written before in this column about a mental disorder which I've dubbed SWORS -- Spasmodic Wingnut Outrage Syndrome.

In case you've forgotten, SWORS is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes impairment of higher brain function in some American conservatives. Sufferers from SWORS experience a near-total loss of any sense of proportion and become prone to manic outbursts of indignation and outright paranoia over the smallest subjects.

Subjects such as the "hold music" on the congressional phone system.

We all know about "hold music": the tunes (usually instrumental) that play incessantly in your ear while you're waiting for the person you called to pick up or, more often, for their secretary to tell you they're out while they finish their game of Solitaire on the company computers.

Hold music varies widely. Some offices play country. Some play classical. Most play the treacly, string-heavy stuff known derisively as "elevator music." Some don't play music at all, but instead run peppy, annoying little ads to tell you how great the company you're calling is, and how important your call is to them, only apparently it's not important enough for a real, breathing, human person to actually, you know, PICK UP THE FLIPPIN' PHONE...

Sorry, I got carried away there for a minute.

For years, it seems, the U.S. Congress' phone system has had "patriotic" music as its hold music. A few days ago, however, the House's chief administrative officer, or CAO, a fellow named Daniel Beard, decided to test a new system whereby various Congress members could choose their music. The CD or tape or whatever that they decided to test the program with was one of "smooth jazz."

I'm no fan of the whole "smooth jazz" genre either, but I don't get all heated up about it when I hear it on the phone. As research has shown, however, nothing is too trivial for a SWORS sufferer not to see it as evidence of a multi-tentacled conspiracy (with, of course, the evil Nancy Pelosi at the controls) to deprive us of our precious freedom or pollute our bodily fluids or sell us all to the Arabs, or something.

The right-wing blog The New Ledger picked up the story first, blaring: "Why Does Nancy Pelosi have a Problem with Patriotic Music?" in big, Omigod-this-is-the-end- of-the-world headlines.

Others, like the conservative flagship blog RedState, followed suit. Republican Rep. Fred Upton (R-Wingnuttistan) wrote an indignant letter to Beard protesting the change. The CAO apparently decided "meh, it's not worth the trouble," and popped the old CD back in.

As usual, the SWORS-afflicted could have controlled the symptoms of the disease by performing an act that used to be standard procedure for journalists, but which now only seems to be practiced by left-leaning bloggers: picking up the phone and asking some questions before you shoot ff your mouth. Which is exactly what blogger Amanda Terkel of the liberal blog Think Progress did.

"The music was changed during recess," Beard's office explained to her, "as a pilot program in an attempt to offer offices a choice of hold music. This had nothing to do with the leadership, not in the beginning or the final outcome."

It does seem rational that the speaker of the House, the person third in the line of presidential succession, would indeed have better things to do than pick the hold music on the phone system. A primary symptom of SWORS, however, is a profound resistance to rational explanations, as well as the belief that those offering them are part of the very evil cabal they're railing against.

By Wednesday, FOX News had picked up the "Nancy Pelosi hates patriotic music" story and its resolution. Morning Host Steve Doocy was beside himself with glee over the victory of the forces of Lee Greenwood and John Phillip Sousa over the encroachment of Kenny G and his Smooth Jazz Legion of Doom.

"America Wins!" he enthused.

Sean Hannity was equally happy, gloating, "Don't mess with our patriotic music!"

Celebrating imaginary victories in imaginary wars: If someone you love does this, he or she may be suffering from SWORS.

Unfortunately, there is no cure, and no help for the afflicted. But you can always do what I do: amuse yourself by making fun of them.


David said...

Ye ghods. They're so desperate for a win at something that they'll punch at a shadow on a wall, and clain a great victory over the shadow when the Sun goes down.

Tom said...

Remember the equal time news and opinion provisions under the old FCC rules?

I don't think infantile for-profit tantrums or scary ghost stories from seventh-hand sources (told at night around a campfire) really qualify as news.

It would be so nice to see old-fashioned facts and figures Republicans again – people with the intelligence to work line by line through data and planning.

But as Lee Atwater and his demagogue heroes knew, resentment and outrage are an easy sale. Sales and profits are what media is all about.

And them as makes the profits gets to call the tunes.

JD Rhoades said...

They're so desperate for a win at something that they'll punch at a shadow on a wall, and clain a great victory over the shadow when the Sun goes down.

Quote of the day.

Unknown said...

Isn't jazz (smooth *gag* or otherwise) American? How about a smooth jazz rendition of God Bless America, how would that go over with Hannity and Klan?

Gerard Saylor said...

Or rock and roll? That's an original American form of music. You could play AC/DC all day (and probably should do anyway) and claim it's an Australian love theme to America.