One-man human centipede Grover Norquist, author of the anti-tax pledge that Republicans all have to sign in order to eat at Congressional cafeterias, said a very funny thing on a CBS morning show yesterday.
Tsk tsk, how improper. Thank you for disapproving of that uncivil comment, CBS lady.
(Quick tangent: is it me or is Charlie Rose starting to look more and more like some kind of Death of News Anchors from the Discworld?)
And on some level, she should, because it’s silly. She could have done the equivalent of a 360 dunk by pointing out Fox News has been screaming about Obama promising socialism and to take all of the money from the rich, a campaign platform that is a bit more expansive than “I’m not Mitt Romney”, but we live in a fallen world.
On another level, though, it doesn’t matter. What Norquist is doing is just an extension of what Romney’s campaign was premised on: just lie your fucking head off all the time. And guess what? It works. The Romney campaign lied its fucking animatronic zombie-eyed heads off and the media slurrrrrrped it up. Of course they’re saying now that Romney was pushed too far to the right by a rabid Republican party, which not only contradicts the “Romney has successfully re-branded himself” smegma they were slinging a couple weeks ago but happens to not be true; Romney’s share of the popular vote was very close to what the basic measures of the economy predicted he would get.
It’s clear what the basic strategy is: say what’s most opportune at the moment, and rely on media coverage to fart out enough of a smokescreen (like the stinky and sad “fact check” saga that played out) so that in the end it doesn’t matter. Norquist’s “poopy head” is just extending this past the election; say Obama ran a dirty and hollow campaign enough times and in enough ways and the question of just who really ran a good or bad campaign will become a dense banal cloud that no one can see through.
There’s something else going on here too, though, and it’s just utterly devastating to the typical centrist view of how media and political discussions more generally operate. A view like Jon Stewart’s , a man who loves centrism so much he gave his only rally on the National Mall to its trite and unworkable precepts.
Stewart had Male Oprah Mike Huckabee on last night, and he used the occasion to try and reason and converse together about some of the typical ways conservative media lies to people (I’ll link to it when it becomes available). He let Huckabee weasel out of taking responsibility for the Negro Poll Watch that Fox ran for most of election day with a claim that “there had been voter intimidation in 2008”.
But oh Lord what came after was the big fish.
Stewart ran an ad that Huckabee had helped create and run in conservative Christian areas. Fire it up and see if you’re brimming with a stony confidence to vote.
Stewart kinda-joked-but-not-really about racial memory making him nervous about all that fire, and about the consequences for reasoned discourse across ideologies of an ad that seemed to be saying “vote for me or go to Hell, the literal Hell, way down below ground.” Huckabee just refuses to concede the ad could be taken that way by a reasonable person. (The recounting gets kinda involved so I threw it to a footnote*). At one point Stewart literally says “can you at least acknowledge how someone could have concern about the ad” and Huckabee puts on his best Sunday pie-eating face and says “no, absolutely not, you’ve got to understand me.”
And I’ll be Male Oprah damned if that just isn’t the perfect illustration of why Stewart’s beloved centrism is just a huge crock of shit. In order for it’s vision of “people coming together to discuss their issues and come to an understanding on things, even if it’s not an agreement”, it has to be done in a too-idealized-for-even-Habermas sphere where everyone is operating purely without self-interest and only wants to come to a workable understanding of everyone else’s political ideas. Grover Norquist and Mike Huckabee spell out fairly emphatically that they are not operating in that sphere; bullshitting, in the Frankfurt sense, is the order of the day and you can try your cute little “let’s understand each other” routine and I’ll be over here in the meantime saying whatever I goddamn have to in order for my party and my wallet to do better.
There’s no excuse for falling for this any longer, or for pretending that not acknowledging it is the same as mitigating it. If you do that, you’re a poopy head from shoving yourself into your rectum up to the shoulders, and you should eat a big lump of e. coli so that at least while you’re up there you’ll have a constant change of scenery to look at.
* Huckabee in defending his ad babbles about how 1 Corinthians 10 (he actually meant 1 Cor. 3:10-15, which ends “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames”) means “to every person of faith” that “they have to shape their own values”. (Which is funny, since extensive looking-at-first-google-search-results unearthed this commentary on the passage: “There are others, whose corrupt opinions and doctrines, or vain inventions and usages in the worship of God, shall be made known, disowned, and rejected, in that day.” Which, um, is what Stewart is talking about.) Huckabee starts emitting flecks of spit in saying stuff about “it’s a forge metaphor” and “I’ll have to take you to a blacksmith for you to get this, aren’t I” and so forth. If you turned off the sound and just watched him you’d think he was saying something craven, and you’d be right.