Thursday, August 13, 2009

The silly season of politics returns, just when you thought it was safe... Swift Boats and death planels

We have certainly entered the silly season in politics. Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the bomb shelter, after the crazy months of primary campaigning, just a few months into Barack Obama's first term, the honeymoon ends and the silly season begins, yet again.

It's enough to make you wonder if American politics will ever be serious again. The very notion that somehow the American system could be coerced into creating something like death panels, or death counselors, is absurd. But absurd, in the silly season, sells.

Somebody in America will go for anything. And if that somebody has access to a blog, let alone radio waves, others will go for the same malarkey. And then the damage is done. You can refute absurd claims until you're blue in the face. They stick. It's amazing, but they stick.

I read a poll a couple of years ago which suggested nearly half of New Yorkers believe 911 was a setup. These are, presumably, the same people who think government can't possibly run any portion of health care. Let me get this straight; the same government which can engineer something as spectacular as 911 can't get your doctor paid for your colonoscopy.

I interviewed a fellow once who was the supreme commander of some strange political sect which didn't believe in paying taxes but did believe they have the power to make citizen arrests. He was a believer in the old Tri-lateral Commission conspiracy. I talked with him about it for two hours, took notes, listened attentively, did my best not to betray amusement. It is difficult to be amused when the person you're interviewing has a shotgun within arm's reach and a German shepherd is lying at your feet in the very space you figure you might make your retreat.

When it was finally time to conclude the interview, and we stood up to shake hands, he looked me in the eye with genuine sincerity, and he said this: "John, if you ever get into this, I mean really get into this, be carefully, because it can take your mind."

I think he meant that as a sincere warning. What he meant was that the deeper you got into conspiratorial thinking the farther you got from reality, and the more terrifying the world seemed. That's where we are headed, just as fast as we can run.

Perhaps this current mania is reaction to the election of our first black president. For many, this has turned the world upside down. This is not necessarily racism; it may just be a reaction to the earth shifting beneath their feet. And unfortunately, Swift Boating candidates -- good American candidates -- and Swift Boating ideas -- sincere American ideas -- is nothing new for us, but finds a much greater, more gullible perhaps, audience in the age of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle.

The good thing is the semester will begin soon. The only hope, lies in education. At least in the classroom, we'll be doing something to combat yet another silly season.

-- Lofflin

1 comment:

  1. Amen, John. It seems like the trendy thing to do these days for this certain (very large) group of people is to go to a town hall meeting, scream at the politician speaking at the podium and try to get on Fox News. The only ones complaining now are rich white people who can afford the best health care - and, of course, this has been the critical voting bloc in every American national election until the most recent one, and as you said, those folks had their world rocked last year. Everybody else is nodding in agreement with the politicians or being silent to avoid the wrath of the rich white people.
    -Matt Kelsey