Content Creation: What the Shutdown Meltdown Says About Us

Jon stewart Rolling Stone

For those of us who loathe the modern GOP with as much vehemence as they loathe the Obama Administration — with the notable difference that our loathing is rational and based in verifiable, substantive fact — the latest shitstorm out of Washington has ceased to be boring business as usual with this do-nothing GOP-led Congress; it’s becoming something of a cause for celebration. Or it would be if it isn’t seeming that the inexorable decline of the GOP, which would inevitably lead to its reinvention and/or the emergence of a third centrist party, didn’t feel like an asymptote, the geometric term for a line that approaches a curve but never quite touches it, infintely diminishing without converging.

“Republicans have always been assholes,” said a rather asshole-ish Democratic member of my parents’ generation in response to a case I was trying to make for the GOP having been somewhat more palatable and saner back in the days when people like my father and the fictional Don Draper were creating marketing content for them. I don’t think this asshole assessment is entirely true — as much as the GOP has behaved like a gang of brainless thugs motivated by sheer hatred and fear of progress and little more, the Democrats have as often been the gang that can’t shoot straight, mired in navel gazing and appeasements, to the point they have been unable to govern responsibly.

The NewsroomThe current shutdown meltdown represents that moment in the schoolyard drama when the bully gets his comeuppance, and it’s a result of his own tragic flaw. Another reference is that moment at the end of what might have been the first televised senseless witch-hunt the GOP conducted (there were plenty more prior to it that weren’t televised): The Army-McCarthy Hearings. The Army counsel Joseph Welch says to McCarthy, “… You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency left, sir?” And the gallery applauds, a cheer that resonates around the country, and McCarthy is done for. Ding-dong, the witch is dead.

Evil never dies — it just goes on holiday to Florida and gets a facelift. I’m beginning to see it as an evolutionary imperative and impetus: the tribe evolves a little more every time evil is squelched, but it is resurrected years later as some other malevolent set of deeds that usurp the name of conservatism; it is easier to couch villainy behind the mask of ‘tradition’ and ‘morals’ and ‘values’ than it is for it to ride a wave of revolutionary progressiveness — the need for transparency and true intellectual debate would kill it dead. Imagine the Tea Party undergoing the same soul-searching process that stymied its liberal counterpart, Occupy Wall Street. Never gonna happen.

Will McAvoy is the Republican anchorman on Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom. Like many real Republican on-air personalities these days, from former Nixon speechwriter and game-show host Ben Stein to Mitt Romney himself (yes, he qualifies as an on-air personality these days), McAvoy takes relentless potshots at his own party, all in the interest of somehow reforming it from within, a hubristic and somewhat narcissistic tragic flaw if there ever was one. While covering the 2012 Presidential Elections in a recent episode, he is ask by another Republican member of his panel, “Do you call yourself a Republican so you can make a claim to credibility when you attack the GOP?” To which McAvoy replies,

No, I call myself a Republican because I am one. I believe in market solutions and common-sense realities and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world and that’s about it.

The problem is now I have to be homophobic. I have to count the number to times people go to church. I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con.
I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride. And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect…in the 21st century.
But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really the only requirement is that I have to hate Democrats. And I have to hate Chris Christie for not spitting on the president when he got off of Air Force One.

The two-party system is crucial to the whole operation. There is honor in being the loyal opposition. And I’m a Republican for the same reasons you are.

It’s a great speech, but here’s the essential problem: Believing in market solutions and ‘common-sense realities’ and the necessity of defending ourselves are hardly qualities lacking in the Democratic Party. If you can’t stomach being a liberal — and I understand it’s mainly a style and a lifestyle issue, thing more, certainly nothing more that’s rational — then at least be independent. But not Republican. It’s indefensible, Will; you’re being pigheaded.

By now it has been well over a decade of the GOP’s utter lack of common sense that has led us to this dramatic, albeit asymptotic denouement. It’s as if they inherited Reagan’s Alzheimer’s en masse, and it has degenerated to the point where the entire honorable “loyal opposition” needs to be confined to a nursing home for its own good; on the one hand, you’re either part of the frothing, hate-filled lunatic faction that brought about this shutdown in the first place, or you still consider yourself part of this utterly dysfunctional, useless “political party,” and, like Will McAvoy and his fellow RINOs, are deluding yourself that you will somehow affect change from within. You won’t. Give it up. Move on. Go to an AA meeting. One day at a time, and all that…

The demented GOP shenanigans have played right onto the stage of two truly brilliant liberal commentators, namely Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow, who both released some of the most insightful, devastating content they have ever created last night in anticipation of the shutdown. Stewart in particular is lethal — just as pure evil lurks behind conservatism and uses it for its sociopathic ends, Stewart’s signature brand of intellectual liberalism couched in faux journalism, a liberalism gaining ground day by day in this country that is more anti-GOP than it is truly left-wing, uses the mask of comedy to blast its message more effectively in a few minutes than any noodle-brained, daylong Ted Cruz filibuster. Here is his segment:



It pays to remember that Stewart is so influential that he got rid of CNN’s Crossfire by appearing on it and shredding the integrity of the program, unmasking its hosts both liberal and conservative as irresponsible network stooges who undermined responsible journalism by turning it into a gladiator sport of shouted opinions. It should not escape anyone, much less Stewart, that a few weeks ago CNN brought back Crossfire with Newt Gingrich, of all people, representing the Republican side. Of course, Gingrich is the former Congressman responsible for the Contract with America — which Bill Clinton rightly referred to as the ‘Contract on America’ — a proto-Tea Party manifesto from 1994 that helped Republicans gain control of both Houses for the first time since, well, the McCarthy Era (seeing the patterns here, yet?), and which ultimately led to the last government shutdown in 1995/96.

Jon Stewart was being willfully disingenuous back in 2006 when he basically claimed he was just a variety-show host on a comedy channel with nowhere near the sort of influence his more serious counterparts on CNN were meant to have. Nobody knows better than Stewart himself that comedy creates far more devastating and effective content than vitriol. Here’s the nail in Crossfire’s coffin that Stewart delivered:



The new Crossfire is duller than ever, largely thanks to how fuddy-duddy Gingrich is, particular compared to his descendants in the GOP like Michele Bachmann,who is a never-ending source of amusement and a relentless creator of the sort of adverse content that fuels the Democratic cause.

On the serious end of on-air political content, but still what irritating media critic Emily Nussbaum calls “faux journalism,” let’s take a look at Rachel Maddow’s likewise superbly scripted and researched piece on the shutdown from last night. In a nutshell, Maddow asserts that a government shutdown has always been the modern Contract with America, the agenda on which the Tea Party ran for office in 2010 and gained control of “one half one third of the US government,” as we have been constantly reminded over the past few days, but which is a rather simplistic view of the influence Congress has… never mind, here’s the clip:



I’ve always admired Obama because he’s a man after my own heart in terms of the way he plays the long game: he waits for his opposition to be hoist by its own petard. And if you are right in life, invariably this will happen, so there is no need to make any aggressive moves. Obama could not have asked for better marketing content for the rollout of the admittedly limp Affordable Care Act; all that the screaming from the likes of Ted Cruz, all that the witty retorts from Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow have done is make Americans scurry to find out exactly what it entails, myself included.

Newt Gingrich

Ho hum. Burp. Zzzzz.

I’d just assumed that I’d be covered soon, finally; I’m one of those self-employed Americans who has to buy his own insurance at a cost crippling for someone whose income is so erratic. More often than not, I have relied on the fact that I can get emergency-room care in an emergency, which rarely happens because I get off my would-be fast-food-fed fat ass every day and look after myself, and if any serious condition arises I will simply go to Australia for treatment — I am lucky enough to have dual citizenship with that country. But after being forced to read up on Obamacare now that my face in it, the fact is I will still be unlikely to afford insurance on a regular basis. I will probably default to paying the penalty for not having insurance, a fine the government will waive because I fall into that nebulous area freelancers occupy that would so easily be covered if the ACA were simple, straightforward universal coverage like those of other civilized countries of which I am a citizen or a resident. (I had an extremely good experience with the British NHS when I lived there, far better than the exorbitant private care I’ve received in the States over many years.) But we can’t have straightforward universal coverage because the ACA is a mess of compromises made with recalcitrant “common-sense” right-wingers, the very same who tried to stop it from being rolled out, in vain but at enormous cost to the people they purport to represent and care for.

However, I also know from reading the documentation that the ACA is just a start, a pilot program, and that it will be adjusted to iron out kinks — it is likely one day even grey-area folk like me will be covered.

Those same on-air conservative commentators who pretend to despair about their own party are saying that the ACA will be the ruin of the Democratic Party, but it won’t be, just as the New Deal didn’t bring down FDR and his legacy. The only ones who will be damaged by this Shutdown Congress is the GOP itself, and it is likely to lead to their ouster in the midterms in 2014 — as of this writing, twelve Republican reps have jumped ship, no doubt fearing for their seats next fall.

Will it ultimately lead to the seismic change in the GOP that we’ve all been patiently waiting for? Will the Tea Partiers finally understand they have no decency, sir, and pack up and go home, trailed by applause and jeers from the gallery? No. This country was founded by radicals and religious fundamentalists so extreme they were booted out of a Protestant country. No matter how admirable and levelheaded our Founding Fathers, it is the essential American soul, this national dual-personality disorder of ours that keeps us both progressive and so very dangerous at the same time. And thanks to that greatest of our double-edged swords, the First Amendment, the content we so freely create is a constant source of amusement and wonderment, the only true testament of what we have to say about ourselves. And I’m fine sharing citizenship with Ted Cruz because Jon Stewart has my back.



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