Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Remembered For What?

In ten years, no one will even know who he was.

I saw this "tweet" reproduced from Twitter (Note: Not "X" - nice try Elon) online.  And it struck me that it was fundamentally true - and not only that, could apply to this whole generation of snarky commentators, such as the Odious Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, or Tucker Carlson.

Or anyone who comments on politics - including me.

Political humor or commentary is like fresh fruit - it goes stale very quickly.  When I look over the 5,000+ postings I have made over the last decade or so, I realize that the ones commenting on contemporary issues or politics don't age well.  Who cares about Hillary Clinton anymore?  Who cares about Barack Obama?  All that stuff is yesterday's news and past its sell-by date.

I think the same is true for these political commentators on the right - and left.  They say outrageous things and generally just run down the opposition for superficial bullshit.  I still don't understand the whole "Joe Biden - Ice Cream!" thing, like we're supposed to laugh at him because he likes ice cream?  Notably missing: any serious discussion of policies.

The same is true for Trump.  Yes, we all mock him for his orange skin and dyed hair.  People make fun of his "small hands" which is a penis joke, apparently.  There is a lot not to like about his character and history, but these criticisms are just playing to the bleacher seats - the part of the crowd who doesn't understand policy decisions, but understands tribalism.  Our side good!  Other side bad!  It is what drives the whole MAGA thing as well.

You see, policy decisions are boring.  Moreover, if people really start to examine them, they might realize they are voting against their own self-interest.  Granted, sometimes voting in favor of the general interest of the public is better in the long run.  Maybe increasing taxes or deficit spending (same thing, really) to pay for our military doesn't profit you personally (and actually decreases your wealth) - but on the other hand, if we didn't at least have some sort of military, we would not have a country, in short order.

But all that is complicated and hard to explain in a sound-bite.  So political commentators use this shorthand of "Joe Biden - Ice Cream Cone!" and the plebes lap it up, much as any comedian worth his salt uses, "Donald Trump - Cheeto Skin!" and vales of laughter ensue.

The real issues are there for anyone to see, but few want to bother.  Tax cuts for the rich are nice - if you are rich.  Funny how the "middle-class tax cut" under Trump was set to expire (and did) while the tax cuts for the very wealthy never did.  Funny how Republicans never bothered to re-institute the tax cuts for the middle class.  Meanwhile, Biden proposes a tax program that would help working families, but the right is more concerned about transgender bathrooms - a much easier message to sell.

But getting back to Limbaugh - and every other political commentator out there, can you name one quote by any of these clowns - right or left - that resonates today or will be referred to, tomorrow?  Because I can't.  I can rattle off a dozen or so quotes from the likes of Samuel Clemens, Abraham Lincoln, or H.L. Mencken, but I can't think of a single thing that Bill Maher or Joe Rogan has ever said.

Sure, people tune into these shows, to listen to the "zingers" and throw-away one-liners that these commentators make. But none of it is memorable.   I noted before, that on a long cross-country trip, we tuned into Rush Limbaugh on a scratchy AM station, and I was interested to hear what he had to say about conservative politics.

He said nothing.

Instead, it was just cheerleading.  He would say "Hillary Clinton" with such a snarl at to make it an insult in and of itself.  There was no real commentary or analysis, and I think that was because his listeners would tune out if he did go that route.  Rather, it was all about tribalism - hooray for our side! Too bad for the other guy!  Our team wins! (even as it is losing!).

There is this mentality that if you just repeat the same lies again and again, they become truths.  Or failing lies, just general cheerleading for your tribal elders.  It appeals to emotions, not intellect, and in that regard, it is a smart move.  If you can bypass logic and go right for someone's gut, you can ensnare them.  That's why so much of "news" today is just rage-bait.  Did you see the Tick-Tock video of the lady who tortures cats!  I am outraged!  Never mind that it isn't true!  I am still outraged!

That is the sort of nonsense that has no lasting power.  No one will ever remember what was said by these emotional testicle-grabbers.  No one will write a book about them (other than a self-promoted tome).  No one will remember them in the coming years and decades.

Because, when you get right down to it, they really had nothing to say.