Saturday, April 11, 2009

You, Too Can Be a Right-Wing Pundit!

Latest Newspaper Column:

Hey there, loyal readers! Out of work? Retirement fund tanking? Worried about your future?

Well, have I got a job for you! The people who brought you the Dusty Rhoades Serious Professional Journalists School are back, bringing you the Dusty Rhoades School for Right-Wing Punditry! Take your place alongside the true giants of wingnut commentary, people like Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, or even Papa Bear himself, Bill O'Reilly!

Just follow a couple of simple steps and you, too can be one of the Professionally Outraged!

Step One: Find something, anything, that President Obama or some other prominent alleged "liberal" does. It doesn't matter if it's something that every other president in recent memory has done.

Take, for instance the fact that, at recent events, President Barack Obama has used a teleprompter for some of his prepared remarks. It doesn't matter that George Dubbya Bush used a teleprompter (his even had to have some words spelled out phonetically so he could pronounce them, according to a story by Reuters News agency). Bush's daddy used a teleprompter, as did Bill Clinton. Even Ronald Reagan, who was known as The Great Communicator, used a teleprompter.

But if you're going to be a successful right-wing pundit, none of this matters. You can't let facts get in the way of...

Step Two: OUTRAGE! Whatever factoid you've picked, no matter how silly or trivial it is, has to be (1) Proof Positive That Barack Obama is the Antichrist, (2) A Sign of the Imminent Fall of Western Civilization to Hordes of Scary Brown People, or (3) Yet Another Sign That the Liberal Media Are In the Tank For Obama.

It's that simple!

Here's a helpful hint: It's always good if you can work in the phrase "change we can believe in" in a sarcastic manner. You don't even have to be clever or witty. All you have to do, really, is repeat the phrase. Example: "President Obama uses a teleprompter. Change we can believe in."

See how easy that is? It gives the illusion of wit, but requires no thought at all! Don't forget to sneer!

Unfortunately for you, the "Obama is a bad speaker! He's the only president who's had to use a teleprompter!" story is already taken. It's about run its course on the way to becoming another tool in the wingnut commentator's toolbox: The Zombie Lie. It's great for recycling old material.

A Zombie Lie is something that's been refuted over and over. Don't let that worry you! You can raise the lie again and again! That's why it's called a Zombie Lie! You deploy the ZL by reducing it to a one-liner or a stupid nickname that you then drop randomly into other discussions.

Example: In any discussion of former Vice President Al Gore, or of global warming, be sure to mention (with a sneer, of course) that "Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet." It's been repeatedly shown that he never said that. But that's the beauty of the Zombie Lie: Truth can't kill it. So a year from now, you can call Obama "President Teleprompter" and the Zombie Lie will live again.

For the aspiring wingnut pundit, material is everywhere. Suggested topics: Barack Obama claims to be a man of the people, but lives in a very large house with a cook and a security staff; Obama has demanded an airplane for his personal use; or Obama's dog is some kind of "exotic" breed, not a good American dog at all.

Of course, these are just the basics. To learn more, you'll have to take our eight-week program, where you'll learn such techniques as: responding to even the mildest criticism by freaking out and crying that your free speech rights are being threatened; brushing aside inconvenient facts by irrelevant and insulting references to Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, and Sean Penn; and, of course, blaming Bill Clinton for everything that happened from the dawn of history up until January 20, 2009, and blaming Barack Obama for everything that's happened after that date.

You also get free brain surgery at graduation to remove every memory of the past eight years. That way, you can squeal with indignation at "hateful liberal name-calling," blissfully ignorant that you sat on your butt and did nothing while people who dared disagree with the government spent that entire time being reviled as "traitors" and "anti-American."

Sign up today! Call 1-800-WINGNUT. Operators are standing by!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

South Park Season Not a Total Loss

Look, I love South Park. I'd nominate some episodes of the show as some of the best satire of this or any other century. But this latest season has been totally flat for me. It just hasn't been funny. But just when I thought the season was going to be a total loss, I read that South Park has inspired Kanye West to admit that his ego needs checking.

So thank you, Matt and Trey. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Notes On a Championship

In case you missed it or have been living in a cave, in last night's NCAA basketball championship game my beloved UNC Tar Heels laid down an old-fasioned stomping on the Spartans of Michigan State, who were everyones' favorite plucky underdogs. Hey, it's like the man said, the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to place your bets.

There's already been a lot written about the game, so I'll keep my observations brief:

*This is not the Tar Heel team I grew up watching. UNC's M.O. for years has been: pull out to a lead early on, piss it away in the first part of the second half, then struggle heroically back and maybe pull off a heart stopping win in the last few seconds, or maybe not. I went through the last two weeks thinking "this can't be this easy. UNC doesn't get things this easily. Something terrible is about to happen." But nope, these guys just leveled everything in their way like army ants. You might think that this wouldn't be as much fun to watch as the old way. You'd be wrong. I loved watching UNC decisively kick everyone's ass for a change. You can keep your heroic struggles. As an ex-Special Forces guy I knew once observed: "if someone has to be a hero, that means someone else has fucked up big-time."

*On a related subject, I was getting a little annoyed with all the talk about how Michigan really "needed" an MSU win to raise the spirits of that state's people in "their"economic slump. Hey, news flash, folks. We ain't exactly dining off golden plates and farting through silk here in the Tar Heel State. In fact I read that our unemployment rate is only one point lower than Michigan's. So quit acting like Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson killed Santa Claus, okay? Michiganders still have a lot of sports teams to hang their dreams on. They've got an NFL team...okay, bad example. How are the Tigers doing this year?

*CBS announcer Clark Kellogg is not quite as idiotic or annoying as Dick Vitale, but he's getting close. I lost count of the number of times we turned to each other and went "what the hell did he just say?" One of the things I found interesting about watching British soccer on cable (something my son turned me on to) is that there will be times when the announcers just don't say anything and let the play develop. American sports announcers act like they have explosive collars around their necks that will explode if they stop talking.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Trying to Make It All Make Sense

Latest Newspaper Column:

When Editor Steve Bouser first e-mailed and suggested that I put my usual political stuff aside until next week and write about the recent shootings in Moore County, I balked.

Look, my gig is pointing up the absurdity of the wingnuts by using biting wit and devastating satire. Failing that, I resort to cheap shots and sarcasm.

But wit fails in the face of a something like this.

I can whistle past the graveyard as well as any man, and better than most, but there's a limit to even my capacity for gallows humor.

How do you write about how it feels to turn on CNN while eating lunch on a quiet Sunday afternoon and see a national story about a massacre a mile from your house?

How do you even write about a horror like this occurring within sight of the pond where my kids used to go to feed the ducks?

Eleven shot. Eight dead. A police officer wounded. And to add to the misery, there was another killing, an unrelated drive-by shooting of an 18-year-old young man, in Robbins on Tuesday.

A drive-by shooting. In Robbins. That's the sort of thing you expect to happen in places like New York or L.A. or Baltimore, not Robbins. Not the town where my dad's from, a place that's associated forever in my mind with Christmas dinners (and my Granny's amazing cooking). A place I always associate with Grandpa taking me to the drugstore downtown to buy me comic books. Not a place I ever thought I'd think of in the same sentence with the words "drive-by shooting."

You never think it can happen here, the headlines blare. But it did. And now, as I write this, I can look out my office window and see the flag at the post office, still at half mast.

White ribbons are everywhere you look. And those freakin' TV trucks don't look like they're ever going to leave.

They will, of course. The perfectly coiffed and made-up reporters with names like Christi and Sloane will file their stories, looking oh-so-serious and concerned.

Then the anchor will cut to sports and they'll all move on, ready to breathlessly describe the next crime or disaster, without a thought of those of us who are still here, trying to get past it. Trying to make it all make sense.

There are some things that help, like the story of Carthage police officer Justin Garner, who was the first one on the scene. The prudent thing would have been to hold on and wait for backup. But had he done that, the shooting probably would have gone on and more people would have died. So he went in, shot it out with Robert Stewart, and ended the killing, while getting wounded himself in the process.

We don't know what was going through Corporal Garner's mind that morning as he pulled up to Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center. He was faced with an unknown killer, armed with God knows what. I know that had it been me, my knees would have been knocking together like castanets.

But whatever fear Corporal Garner may have been feeling, he shoved it down, went into the killing zone, and did his duty. You listen to the 911 tapes posted on the Internet, listen to Corporal Garner reporting back to dispatch that he'd taken down the shooter and been wounded himself, and you hear the voice of a guy who's scared and in pain, but who's hanging in there. Doing the job.

Then there's the story of Jerry Avant, the former Coast Guardman who came back to Moore County to become a nurse.

Doctors said Avant suffered more than two dozen wounds while trying to shield his helpless patients from the terror stalking them. You read their stories printed here and in other papers, and you begin to get a sense of who they were. Not steely-eyed, iron-jawed heroes out of a thriller novel, but regular, decent guys. The kind of guys you meet every day.

And that's one thing that'll help us get through this: remembering the stories of these neighbors of ours. Regular guys who were confronted with a threat that would be enough to chill anyone's soul, but who saw what they had to do and did it.

If they can do it, so can we. For their sakes.