Keeping Time with Wingnuts

I own a Soviet wristwatch and a vintage Chinese propaganda poster featuring Marx, Lenin, and Mao in heroic profile. That’s as close to communism as I get, unless you include the first two reels of D.I. Pudovkin’s ‘End of St. Petersburg’, viewed ante-slumber during a film studies class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Yet I have been called a communist countless times, or maybe thirty-three times. This is because my detractors are boobs and ninnies, primarily, but also because there is a vast, primitive machinery devoted to rounding up enemies of the American state. This engine of paranoid jingoism is operated by common folk (very common they are, too), but the spares and lubricants are provided by the same folks that brought you the G.W. Bush Red White & Blue All-American 10-Inch Uncut Minstrel Show currently playing to standing-room-only crowds in Washington, DC.

This leftist-grinding contraption is fueled, ingeniously enough, by ground-up leftists. I’ve examined the basic plans and it seems the Republicans, in whose vested interests it is to ensure there isn’t a single renewable resource in general use (from stem cells to fuel cells), have invented a perpetual motion machine that will run forever on a single trumped-up charge. The essential ingredient is a list of names. Orc-like zealots in the nationalist cause have been writing up a new list that should keep the machine a-grinding for fifty years: see The list includes a variety of persons public-spirited, creative, or well-meaning, born between the years 1910 and last week; there are also genuine communists, and just to throw a little Cajun spice on it, the list includes the occasional actual terrorist (Mohammed Atta, for example, and Roger Ebert).

It is the usual right-wing list-making effort, except this one has pictures and is even weirder than its forebears. The usual suspects, such as Jane Fonda and Jesse Jackson, rub shoulders with such impossibly diverse persons as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ex-presidents Carter and Clinton, Tom Brokaw, and Betty Friedan–not people one would normally expect to find hanging around together. But it’s how the list is presented that really makes it insidious. There are clever interactive charts. Click on a name, up comes that person’s connections to every other left-wing person on the list, or every organization they’re associated with, and all the names of all the organizations associated with that organization, until even I was convinced that Betty Friedan was secretly running the vast left-wing conspiracy out of Kofi Annan’s garage.

You’ve probably heard of the ‘Six Degrees of Bacon’ hypothesis. Everybody on the planet is no more than six degrees removed from contact with Kevin Bacon. Why him, I don’t know. He’s not on the list. I worked with his father on an urban renewal project in Philadelphia. That’s one degree right there. So everybody that has had contact with me is two degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. And everybody that has had contact with any of those people is three degrees separated from same, and so on and so on. It is a compelling argument: everybody on earth is only six points of contact away from Kevin Bacon, even if–and this is the kicker–they didn’t like the movie ‘Footloose’. So this new list of yucky left-wingers is just a variation on the Six Degrees of Bacon hypothesis: you can connect anybody to anybody. In reality you can’t get leftists to agree on anything, and most of these leftists aren’t even leftists, so the notion of some vast web of collusion is specious.

Each entry, in addition to the most unflattering photograph available (Alexander Cockburn’s is priceless), includes a marvelously skewed biography that would have made Joe McCarthy blush. I wouldn’t normally waste a great deal of time on such piffle, except they put so much work into the thing it’s like a school play: you have to say something, just to show you appreciate the effort. I didn’t end up on the list. It makes me wonder what a fellow has to do to qualify. Piss off the authors of the list, obviously. And you don’t have to take my word for it that the list-makers are cranks: take a look for yourself. The categories of outrages to all things American into which the list is organized includes the following:

Civil Liberties
Entertainment Arts
Human Rights

I think these selections speak for themselves. Speaking for yourself is a dangerous activity these days. But as most of the people on this list demonstrate, speaking out for others is the most dangerous activity of all. Get on the list, people. It’s a point of honor.

BEN TRIPP can be reached at

His book, ‘Square In The Nuts’, has been held up at the printers by thugs but will be released as soon as hostage negotiations conclude.

See also

Ben Tripp is America’s leading pseudo-intellectual. His most recent book is The Fifth House of the Heart.