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This Week in Stupid

by JAMES McENTEER

“Time to state the obvious: Never before in the history of our country have there been more outlets for really stupid people with a lot to say.”

— Heather Havrilesky, Salon

Havrilesky was riffing on the Fox News debut of their newest commentator, Sarah Palin, “a self-congratulatory dim bulb… with a head uncluttered by facts…”   Her hilarious take on Palin’s introductory interview with Bill O’Reilly is well worth reading

Palin’s mindless chatter will only add to the noise machine of misinformation and disinformation that the American media have become.  The point is not whether Palin or O’Reilly has anything worth saying (it’s clear they don’t) but whether or not enough people will tune in to listen to their moronic bloviations to attract corporate sponsorship (it’s clear they will).

Suppose they gave an Idiot Fest and nobody came?  Fox “News” has been doing precisely that for years and their ratings continue to climb.  For most high school grads, the network’s motto might as well be “We disport, you deride.”  But Roger Ailes clings to Phineas Barnum’s maxim: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”  Yes, it’s a profit without honor, but in the USA today, only profit matters.

Ailes has lately been hailed as a media genius for serving up generous heaps of lowest common denominator opinions and inflammatory accusations to rile the least educated among us.  Is Ailes a genius for knowing that televised cant need not be accurate or worthwhile, as long as it’s insulting and demeaning, while baiting and pandering to the racist, homophobic and religious prejudices of its LCD audience?

Anti-intellectualism and yahoo evangelism (Here’s a shout-out to Brit Hume!) have always been meat and potatoes to America’s underclass.  If Ailes has a genius, it’s for paying rednecks in suits millions of dollars to stir up the base desires of those who resent (or think they do) all forms of liberal elitism.  Just point me to the enemy, Roger, cause I’m angry as hell and I don’t have a clue where to aim my righteous bile.

The real villain/puppet master is Rupert Murdoch, who employs not just O’Reilly and Ailes and now Palin but also Karl Rove and other right-wing hate mongers to stir up and dumb down the political and cultural discourse in the United States and around the globe.  Murdoch has no civic consciousness or sense of responsibility for the planet.  It’s all about money and political influence for the trash-enabling union-busting Rupester.

Murdoch is a major corporate polluter, but no one in or out of government has the cojones to confront him.  He became a U.S. citizen just so he could own more media outlets and spread more slime for more profit.  Murdoch should be on the ‘no fly’ list for terrorists.  He’s a much bigger threat to our well-being than the underwear bomber.

Next to the stubborn stupidity of Fox, NBC has appeared bland and irrelevant until its own ineptitude with late-night programming brought Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien into renewed prominence.  Not since the competition between Leno and David Letterman for Johnny Carson’s old Tonight Show spot as anyone much cared about what the networks are doing.

Letterman has shown a certain flair for publicity by insulting Sarah Palin and literally screwing his staff members.  But Leno and O’Brien had long since faded into the NBC woodwork until this current scheduling dust-up.  Was it network executive incompetence or a kind of Ailes-like “genius” that brought the spotlight back to these comedians (whom far fewer viewers are watching now), causing people with no personal lives of their own to weigh in on this “controversy” and choose sides for Jay or Conan?  Does anyone really care about NBC’s late-night line-up?  Afghanistan is burning, folks.

But don’t tell Pope Benedict.  The current Roman Catholic pontiff can always be counted on for medieval and farcical, if not hurtful and divisive opinions.  The ex-Hilter Youth member has dissed Muslims, shunned the Dalai Lama and reinstated a bishop who denied the Holocaust.  Of course Benedict opposes birth control and homosexuality.  And now he has come out against the movie “Avatar.”

The Vatican radio station criticized the film for appearing to say that “Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship.”  A Vatican spokesman affirmed that the Pope is concerned about “the dangers of turning nature into a ‘new divinity.’”  Benedict has warned that such notions “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone…”

You can see where Pope Benedict – the former Joe Ratzinger – is going with this.  If humans respect nature and find their own personal, spiritual path to a communion with the divine, they’d have no need for the ornate, debauched hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church with its Inquisition and Crusades, and Joe, I mean Pope Benedict, would be out of a job.  Whatever happened to the efficacy of the Ten Commandments or the teachings of Jesus Christ?  Movie criticism – even in its most fatuous form – is much easier than promoting genuine peace, love and understanding among all peoples and nations.  But Benedict’s no hippie, okay?  And neither is Chuck Norris.

Former martial arts movie star and TV’s “Walker, Texas Ranger,” Carlos “Chuck” Norris has more recently become a right-wing gadfly and author of Black Belt Patriotism: How to Reawaken America.  Last spring he opined to Glenn Beck’s radio audience that maybe Texas would secede from the union to avoid totalitarian U.S. government tendencies, and that maybe he’d run for president there.  Of course, Glenn thought that was a swell idea.

The ever-vigilant Norris has now figured out the real, far more sinister reason President Obama signed an executive order giving New York’s Interpol office an exemption from the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.  Interpol claims to be compiling a U.N. Security Council watch list of potential terrorists with Taliban or al-Qaida connections, which they want to keep secret so that co-operating governments will continue to send Interpol their intelligence.

“But I think I’ve recently seen behind the veil on the White House’s covert mission and mystery with Interpol,” wrote Norris in his World Net Daily column.  “I have no doubt that Interpol will become Obama’s secret vault for terrorists’ criminal records and evidence – and whatever else he and his Cabinet want to place in there.

“This is just the beginning of what Washington can and will do with this executive order that Obama signed. And it’s just one more example of the way your federal government has got the backs of those who are attacking our country, abandoning our Constitution and dissolving America’s sovereignty….”

With perhaps a lame attempt at levity Norris concluded: “In the end, there appears to be one true advantage for the president’s executive order to exempt Interpol from search and seizure: There will always be a safe and tamper-proof place where Obama can store his original, long-form birth certificate.”  You can just see the campaign poster for his Texas presidential run: “Paranoia with a Smile, Vote for Chuck to Kick Terrorist Butt.”

Chuck, Conan, Sarah and the Pope – not to mention Tiger Woods, Simon Cowell and Brangelina – all compete to be the Sideshow of the Moment, with the hype and blessing of mass media.  This pathetic parade keeps our eyes and minds averted from the Main Tent, where Wall Street corruption and co-option of government functions continues on, as millions lose their homes and jobs to pay for big bank bonuses and the military continues to run U.S. foreign policy, occupying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, attacking others like Pakistan and threatening still others Yemen and Iran.

What do you suppose Lindsay Lohan makes of It All? Or Paris Hilton?

JAMES McENTEER is the author of Shooting the Truth: the Rise of American Political Documentaries (Praeger 2006). He lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

 

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James McEnteer’s most recent book is Acting Like It Matters: John Malpede and the Los Angeles Poverty DepartmentHe lives in Quito, Ecuador.

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