I’ve been hovering over my keyboard for a while now. I haven’t written anything for weeks. I just sit here, as the clock keeps ticking, while the stories that I can’t stop reading, the news I can’t stop watching, the punditry I can’t stop eating with a spoon, just keeps on coming.
Where do you even start?
Think of what’s happened in just the last little while. There’s Devin Nunes and the Fox-fuelled three-ring circus around The Memo; the supreme assholery of supposed Adult in the Room John Kelly (with his taunts about the lazy immigrants, while he defends the job of the guy who batters his wife); the ongoing and increasingly craven cowardice of Paul Ryan; the fascist sheriff Joe Arpaio, fresh off his Presidential pardon, maybe running for the Senate; an honest-to-God Nazi vying for the House GOP nomination in Illinois (he’s running unopposed); who even wants to keep up any more?
You start to feel like a rolled-over tortoise under the noonday sun. Just bake me already. I know, I know.
The easiest thing is to pretend it’s all bullshit and not worth your while. It’s becoming the fashion. A couple of days ago I was sitting in the dentist’s office, waiting to get my teeth cleaned – scaled, they call it – reading a column by the Globe and Mail’s TV critic, a fellow named John Doyle. Tired after a weekend of watching all the political tomfoolery on the goggle box, he came on all world-weary and wise, disdaining all sides equally. A pox on all their houses. Worn out and susceptible, I almost bought it, he almost had me going, until I got to this, concerning the latest desperate Republican gambit to discredit law enforcement as the ring closes around Trump (that is, The Memo):
Most of those reporting, commenting and accusing on TV took the same positions they always do. The texture and dimension of the partisan bickering might be a little bit elastic, but everybody knows their role…Over on CNN, Wolf Blitzer was trying to get a word in edge-wise. No luck. The panelists kept on talking, arguing and asserting things about a “dishonest, misleading memo.” Those words actually quoted a tweet from former FBI director James Comey. Inevitably, Carl Bernstein came on, this time on the phone, to talk about “a dark day for American democracy.” His usual thing.
Uh-huh. Same old same old, right? Everybody sticking to script.
I wondered whether you could dig through the archives to find the same sort of dismissiveness in the editorials from prior, similar moments of political crisis:
More of the usual partisan bickering ensued as Senator McCarthy held up a blank sheet of paper and claimed it listed the names of 50 Communist sympathizers in the State Department. More fodder for the hijinks over at the House Un-American Activities Committee, where witnesses try to hide behind their “rights” and bleat about decency. Over on CBS, Edward R. Murrow got on his handy high horse like always, and blathered about the whole thing being an affront to American values, blah blah blah.
No, no no. NO, godammit.
Not to get all strident, and I’m sure you’re a fine fellow and all, but up yours, John Doyle. Up yours with a wire brush, as my sainted mother used to say. This isn’t just theatre, there is no moral equivalence, and screw any poseur who stands off to the side, cracking wise about how annoyingly rote and boring it all is, like nothing’s at stake, like nobody’s right and everybody’s wrong. This is a time for picking sides. There is no decent turf in the middle. And yes, John, those who get so frightened they’re almost sick at the way things are going actually get all upset and bemoan the perhaps irreversible erosion of democratic norms and bedrock values. When Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature talk about removing judges from the bench after the courts rule against their flagrantly unconstitutional gerrymandering, those with their wits about them howl. When the fucking President, more crazed and autocratic by the hour, chuckles as he accuses his opponents of treason because they didn’t applaud his fucking speech, before ordering the Pentagon to stage a fucking military parade down fucking Pennsylvania Avenue, the better to stroke his witless id, those with eyes to see and ears to hear do indeed get all worked up. Those lucky enough to have a soap box like yours may even stand up on it to raise the alarm, even while you and yours roll your eyes and revel in the self-satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re above it all, and that Fox and MSNBC are just the same damn thing. I mean, just look at the dummies, right? One side says the media and the FBI are enemies of the State, yak yak yak, and the other reads from its talking points and says that’s dangerous and scary, yada yada yada, oy, what a farce. It’s so predictable, you know. So tiresome.
Well, this is the way the world ends, Johnny. It’s a slow-motion coup. Those panelists who “kept on talking, arguing and asserting things about a ‘dishonest, misleading memo'” weren’t just hacks spouting faux outrage. That really was a misleading and dishonest piece of hyper-partisan crap masquerading as the work product of one of the most important committees of Congress. It isn’t dreary, it isn’t more of the same, and you aren’t clever because it bores you. You aren’t safe, either. You’re in this, buddy. You work at a newspaper. One side thinks that the free press is a vital bulwark of liberty. The other thinks that you should either praise the Fearless Leader on Rupert Murdoch’s State Television, or get yours along with all the other ungodly elites when the purge finally comes. And you, Mr. Doyle, are just the guy down the mineshaft who laughs at how stupid the caged canary looks when it keels over, twitching and frothing its last.
Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin, but I’m on my back here. I need the guy who doesn’t just stroll on by.