It’s finally time for me to go on a diet. I’ve been cramming myself to the gills with this manufactured, over-processed crap for weeks, and I just can’t take it anymore.
Food? No, I haven’t been getting fat. Well, I have, but that’s not what I’m talking about. (Also: shut up.) I’m talking about an information diet. I’m so fed up that I’m just not showing up for dinner.
I’m not sure, exactly, what political ‘vibe’ I throw off. Because I was very liberal and very politically literate at a young age, I got used to most people thinking of me as “that liberal kid.” This goes double because I was born and raised in Texas, where even mild liberal tendencies are regarded as joining a free-love commune built entirely out of tie-dyed hemp and recycled beard trimmings.
I’m actually quite moderate. My main political revelation over the last few years has been to realize that both parties, Republican and Democrat, are filled with whining, cringing, short-sighted, intellectually dishonest muppets of an utterly corrupt nature. At no time is this more obvious than during an election year.
I present to you exhibit A: the bulletproof teleprompter. A few days ago, Republican donor Foster Friess was speaking on Fox News describing the political campaign as a battle. Friess used a lot of gun terminology, noting that after a long primary of fighting with each other, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had now trained their rhetorical and political “guns” on President Obama. Laughing at his own dumb joke, Friess then added, “I hope Obama’s teleprompters are bulletproof!”
Friess immediately added, “I probably shouldn’t have said that,” and Lou Dobbs answered, “We understand that you meant that metaphorically, but no, you should not have said that.”
Boy howdy, were they right. The uproar was immediate. USA Today. New York Times. Huffington Post. Everywhere the headlines blared ROMNEY DONOR HOPES “OBAMA’S TELEPROMPTERS ARE BULLETPROOF.” Left leaning blogs screamed for a Secret Service investigation into this threat against the president (too bad those guys are already pretty busy, nyuk nyuk).
Was it a joke? Yes. Was it in bad taste? Not particularly. Either words have context and meaning, or they don’t. The same people who claimed that you should NEVER talk about people shooting at the president because of JFK and blah blah blah are the same people who roll their eyes when someone gets arrested for saying “bomb” in an airport. We can’t decry a zero-tolerance policy that ignores context on one hand and then fly into a rage because we have a zero-tolerance policy about statements of the “president+gunfire” variety. Friess’s sin was to say three or four words that could be strung together in a headline — something every news editor just. fucking. loves. His only crime was saying those words all together, out loud, and on camera.
I present to you exhibit B: Ann Romney’s workload. Mitt Romney claimed that his wife, Ann Romney, had informed him of the economic concerns of American women. Responding to this, CNN analyst Hilary Rosen dismissed the idea, saying that stay-at-home wife and mother-of-five Ann had “never worked a day in her life.” Rosen was not only tone-deaf, but she was also making the mistake of attacking the source of the argument rather than the substance of it.
The uproar was immediate. USA Today. New York Times. Huffington Post. Everywhere the headlines blared HILARY ROSEN SAYS ANN ROMNEY NEVER WORKED “DAY IN HER LIFE.” Right leaning blogs screamed for a presidential apology for this assault on the very fabric of motherhood itself.
Both of these incidents share some things in common. Both comments came from talking heads arguing a point completely tangential to the ongoing campaign. Both comments are basically harmless and have no real-world application in the realms of policy or law. Both ignited widespread bullshit-hurling matches on the nature of violent rhetoric and/or the value of a working mother.
Both were also taken as a serious source of overblown outrage, and everyone saw in them an opportunity to score political points. It’s only a hop and a skip between Hilary Rosen saying that Ann Romney has never worked (which, in the sense of “going to a job and getting a paycheck,” is objectively true) and a Republican attack with a Don LaFontaine impersonator saying “In a world… where liberals called a mother of five ‘lazy’. Obama is a liberal. Vote Romney.” Because elections are high-stakes games, this outrage rose and ebbed and flowed to the point that the responses to these innocuous comments were frequently ALSO “outrageous.” An excellent example of this is world-class douchebag Bill Donahue, who was so incensed by Rosen’s comment that he fired back a Tweet insulting adopted children all over the world.
No, it didn’t make sense to anyone else either.
There’s an undeniable spiral effect going on, and in my brain it looks a little like this:
I despair because the only reason I know any of this is that I read and watched it all in exhaustive detail as it was happening. There’s no reason for any of this information to be in my brain. None! Over the course of the past weeks and months, I’ve devoted hours and hours of my life reading blogs and commentary and Facebook posts from every angle and ideology. I do it because I find politics to be interesting. I do it because I was taught to be informed. I do it because every once in a while my wife asks me, “so what’s the deal with the Rush Limbaugh thing?” and I like knowing the answer. But this isn’t politics anymore, it’s theater. It’s a bunch of noise carrying on so that everyone thinks that a conversation is happening, but no one has to think about the fact that we keep killing brown children with billion dollar space drones or that the global economy is in some really serious trouble right now, and we won’t be able to hide from it for very long.
The sad thing is that the general election — the actual election that actually matters — is only a few days old. There’s months and months and months of this to come, and thanks to some interesting rulings by the Supreme Court, this year’s election is going to be better funded and nastier for the duration.
I can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up. There’s too much, and it’s all just vapid fluff. I’m going on an information diet because, more than anything else, I know I can find a better use for those hours. We all can.
Let me know in the comments how much time you spend keeping up with political goings-on, and how much time you think it’s worth. If you’re feeling adventurous, let me know what you’d rather be doing instead.