Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It isn't LIKE that...

Obama on the inflate-your-tires fuss:

Now two points, one, they know they're lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is they're making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent. It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.

It isn't like that -- it IS that. It is exactly that. Ignorance is a badge of honor.

There is a trend here -- a trend that has been building for more than a decade.

I first noticed it more than a decade ago in some of the magazines I used to read about, believe it or not, bicycles. (Yes, there are more than a handful.) One that I had a subscription to back in the early 90s was well-written and sought to truly understand the technology behind the products they reviewed. Another, which plainly targeted the younger mountain bike crowd, quoted manufacturers discussing their creations (some of which made sense, and some of which was rubbish), then effectively shrugged and said, "Duh... this technical stuff makes my brain hurt, but it sounds, like, totally rad, dude!" Expertise in the subject matter they were hired to write was not merely optional, it was actively disclaimed and mocked.

So, two magazines -- one smart and literate, one wearing its ignorance as a badge of honor. Guess which one went belly up almost a decade ago, and which one still has the largest circulation in the business?

Now the same glorification of ignorance is spreading to all facets of society. You could call it the Beavis & Buttheading of America. You saw it in the way the dead-tree crowd savaged Al Gore in 2000. You can see it in the way the meat puppets and "journalists" continue to avoid coming within a country mile of substantive coverage on any issue and stick resolutely to horse race nonsense. And you can see it in the way they deny that it is their job to debunk any of Bush's or McCain's absurdities.

Most of all, you can see it in the way the press gladly plays along with the Republican gambit of making the debate about arugula and elitism instead of Iraq and Afghanistan and energy and the economy.

Thus have we come to the main thrust of McCaine's campaign right now -- competence as epithet. Which, when you think about it, explains the love affair between McCain and his base -- both of them have many flaws, but in neither case is competence one of them.

I would love to believe that Obama's current approach -- intelligent ridicule -- will work. But I'm afraid the Beavises and Buttheads who dominate the national discourse will take just offense.

Update: Brad @ Sadly, No! echoes my point a day before I made it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to believe that Obama's current approach -- intelligent ridicule -- will work. But I'm afraid the Beavises and Buttheads who dominate the national discourse will take just offense.

I would love to believe it, too, and it may be one way to get past the Beavises & Buttheads: offering a reButtal that is too engaging and entertaining not to repeat and share with your friends.

The reason I'm hopeful is that although both McCain and Obama present targets for mockery--fair or unfair (this is politics, after all)--Obama can deliver a joke and McCain cain't. Combine that congenital inability to appreciate humor that isn't cruel with McCain's constant retreat to his unassailable heroism in the Hanoi Hilton and you have the Republicans' dwindling hopes and dreams boxed in. He can't move, and if his attacks are rendered ineffectual (rendering McCain usually does himself), he can only hope that cheating will get him out of the jam he's in.

McCain does not react well to ridicule. His defenders insist that his service to his country puts his every thought and action beyond question. If Obama can maintain a light touch while pointing out the ridiculousness of McCain's bipolar straight talk while heaping harsher ridicule on his opponents' handlers and surrogates, he can show the Republicans how a real politician exploits wedge issues.

I wouldn't be surprised to see McCain crack up on camera if he has to confront an opponent who outclasses him and outsmarts him every day.

6:01 AM  

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