|Are You Not Entertained?
--an essay by Some Guy--
sick of hearing the
about whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the voice of the GOP, but I'm not, for
a few reasons. One,
hearing them argue
about this is hilarious. Two,
weren’t for this then I would have to try and write about
economics, and I
don’t know anything about economics.
three, it raises important and fascinating questions about the future
American political discourse.
isn’t going to be about the relative
merits of Rush Limbaugh, because he is self-evidently a giant tool. His
shit goes on forever,
grating, and makes no sense.
must be the name.
also not funny.
not a habitual listener, but as far as
I can tell, the meat of his
comedy stylings is that whenever a Black guy gets too powerful he plays
about how he’s Black, and whenever a woman gets too powerful
he plays a song
about how she’s a woman.
interesting part is
that RNC Chairman Michael
Steele felt compelled to apologize for referring to Limbaugh as an
Steele’s perspective, apologizing was the politically
expedient thing to do, and
I don’t care one way or the other about whether he should have. What
is interesting is
that Limbaugh and his
fans took umbrage at the term in the first place.
they regard the label as mutually
exclusive to someone’s being legitimately inspiring or
insightful about the
issues of the day — Limbaugh is, of course, neither of these
things, but he and
his fans are under the impression that he is, so the point remains.
Limbaugh is the
host of a political talk show
that alternates between him pontificating on his own and discussing
guests, all the while trying to be funny at the same time. That
is the exact same
thing that, say, Bill
Maher is on the left, and no-one, including Bill Maher, gets pissed if
Bill Maher an entertainer. I
am a huge
Bill Maher fan. Maher's
beliefs are closer
to my own than are those of any actual politician (as far as I
tell), and what Maher has to say about any given issue usually
resonates with me more than does what any politician has to say. And
yet I don’t
if someone calls him an
entertainer, because that’s what he is.
What’s wrong with being an
entertainer? Shakespeare and Mozart were
“entertainers,” for fuck’s sake.
What would Rush’s
fans prefer we call him? A
no problem. Technically,
I suppose, Rush Limbaugh is a
Bear with me here.
He’s a shitty
philosopher who is wrong
everything, but essentially he is someone who dispenses ideas and
him (through listening to the advertising run on the stations that
him) to hear those ideas because they like them, and that’s
it. Words like
“pundit” are just terms for
subgenres of “philosopher,” like how
“rapper” and “accordionist” are
of “musician.” People
thing on the left are called “public
intellectuals,” but we can’t use that term
for Rush because… well, he’s an idiot.
just being wrong about
mean you’re not a
thought he could
prove the existence of God, and Plato thought poetry should be against
As for the fact
(thinks he) is being funny at the
same time, why should that matter?
is funny sometimes. Not
always intentionally, but still. If
people want to borrow a term from Mel Brooks’s History
of the World Part One and start
referring to Limbaugh as a
“stand-up philosopher,” that might be a compromise
amenable to both his critics
and his fans.
Just make sure you
tell Rush it
won’t actually require him
to stand up, because I don’t think he can do that on his own
for very long.
So, I don’t object
principle to the fact that a
philosopher rather than a politician has become the most prominent
voice in a
major political party — just to the fact that the particular
philosopher in question is
retarded. But then,
the party in question, so I guess
it was inevitable. Anyway,
nothing inherently wrong with the dynamic.
Bill Maher became the voice of the Democratic
Party, I would love
it. Drugs would be legal, and every convention from now on
would be at the Playboy
I can certainly
what Limbaugh says (and do,
quite effectively), but I can’t really object to the nature
of his occupation because
it is essentially the same thing 1585 does:
I have an overarching
mission, and then in each individual piece I try to be as entertaining
possible within the confines of that specific point and how it advances
This is what Air
to do, which is why it just ended up being the news but longer.
kids, do you
like the news,
but wish it lasted five
with way more
silences and chair-scraping?
Boring is a fine
paper, NPR seems like it would be boring too, but
you know that good
feeling NPR somehow gives you?
as if you would like to be listening to it on a porch in slightly
weather while tickling your own arms? Imagine
NPR minus that feeling.
On the whole, I
are funnier than Conservatives. Certainly, most great
liberal. But there isn’t always
necessarily something explicitly liberal about their jokes. The
tricky thing about
comedy is that it needs to evolve beyond:
One reason I
to Air America
is that I couldn’t stand hearing the clips of the
Conservatives they had to
keep playing to set up every joke.
The problem there
means a distinct cultural thing that can exist without constantly just
clips of Liberals and going “I disagree with this.”
the extent that Liberal
means a distinct cultural thing
that can stand on its own,
a station for that already exists, and it’s called NPR.
Partly, we are at a
because we don’t
construct an extrapolitical cultural nexus to divert attention away
actual policies, because our actual policies actually make sense. But
since when you focus
on the actual laws
the Republicans want to make, pretty much everybody is against them,
had to develop this entirely separate definition of Conservative
that has nothing directly to do with the business of
is the mother of
invention, and the political Right needed to invent Rush more than the
political Left has ever needed to invent whatever the liberal distaff
Conservative being a dick.
something to the effect of “Do you believe this
TALKING ABOUT THE WAR ON
it so you can’t sue doctors.
After all, the majority
are doctors, so this should be a popu— ...They're
Keith Olbermann is an official
journalist and serious
pundit, and Bill Maher and Jon Stewart are
honestly, aside from
the fact that
Olbermann is less funny, I don’t see what the difference
is no logical reason
why if Keith
Olbermann makes a point it counts as something you could cite in a
discussion, but if Stewart or Maher makes the exact same point in a
is as accurate to describe
me as an “internet comedy
writer” as it is to describe me as a “political
pundit,” but this doesn’t
inherently mean I am less qualified as a pundit.
points I make are at
least as good as the points any
news guy makes; it’s just
that I am also funny.
are terrified of this. I
saw a panel show on PBS last night, and
they took the Rush flap as an impetus to go off about the lamentable
what “passes for” political discourse in general,
going off on Jon Stewart, etc.,
here’s the thing: This
show didn’t teach me any more about
politics than The
Daily Show or Real Time
does, and it was boring as
fuck. Funny pundits
(a thing for which
“fundits” would be a horribly irritating term that
people should absolutely not
start using) can do the same thing regular pundits do, but plus other
like how Superman is just as fast as the Flash but can also do a
things whereas the Flash is only fast.
Yes, the Flash won
time they raced, but you know
why? Because the
brass at DC realized
that if the only fucking thing the Flash can do, Superman can do better
a hobby, then what the fuck is the point of the Flash?
You see? I
a valuable and insightful point about the current state of the
explained it via an analogy about Superman and the Flash. Does
Charles Gibson ever
do that? No.
race was much cooler.
the liberal half of the
country, the complaint about
the web is that anybody can say anything. When
someone asserts claims, they are not
fact-checked, and when someone
posits a theory, it is not peer-reviewed. As
brilliant as The 1585 is, if a student cited us
as a source in a
paper, this would almost certainly be considered unacceptable (that is,
instructor bothered to check out the source, rather than just
sure the citation was formatted correctly, which is actually pretty
not going to bitch about this.
to be some method of keeping the students
straight-up lunatics, and if that means throwing the baby of me out
bathwater of snake handlers and 9/11 Truthers, fine.
brilliant, and crazy people are crazy,
if the average college student were able to discern on their own that I
brilliant and that crazy people are crazy, there wouldn’t be
a problem to begin
with, so I guess they can’t be trusted to do so.
But eventually this
going to burst. Someday
soon there is going to be Some Guy
with a Website who is self-evidently irrefutably brilliant, but is
Some Guy with a Website. What
people say then? Sure,
offer him a book deal or an academic position, but suppose he
one? What if he
just wants to be Some
Guy with a Website — would that make him any less brilliant?
Something is going
give very soon, because the
fact is, the web is simply the perfect
medium for the transmission of
and the ideal location of the marketplace of ideas.
can get stuff out to people instantly,
update it as things change, and go back and correct yourself if it
turns out you
were wrong about something. If
philosopher like me who doesn’t want to waste a bunch of time
background information before getting right down to analyzing an issue,
just put some links to background info at the top of the page, or
as hypertext as key terms arise. Others
have, of course, made these points before.
a point I have not yet heard anyone make is
that — perhaps most
importantly of all — the web not only allows, but encourages
you to seek out work by people
with whom you disagree,
if only to take it apart.
If not for the
someone who wanted to argue
point-by-point against a text by, say, Ann Coulter would have to
one of her books,
which a sane
person would likely be unable to bring themselves to do, no matter how
wanted to write a response. But
web, Philosopher A and Philosopher B, who each despise everything the
stands for, will not only read
other, but actually link
other and increase each other’s readership, because it saves
them the trouble
of summarizing or endlessly quoting their opponent.
a consequence of this, the
followers of each will also read their opponent’s ideas,
the chances that the one who is actually right will end up with more
followers. And this
the primary point of
Freedom of Speech. The
internet is the
very thing — the very
thing — the
Founders would have dreamt of, had they been able to, when they first
that whole idea, and anyone who cannot see this probably
doesn’t even tear up on
People who bemoan
the ideal vehicle for the
dissemination of retarded ideas are only looking at half the
picture: it is both
the ideal vehicle for disseminating retarded ideas, and
for combating them. And
can even make it all funny. The
you pay, of course, is that you are just Some Guy.
Who was I peer
reviewed by. Whatever. Who
was Nietzsche peer
conservative side, as we all know,
is that mainstream media have a liberal bias. To
many on the opposite bank, mainstream news
to have a
a way, everyone is
who believes that
Position X is self-evidently crazy, what it would make sense for the
news to do
in a story about Position X is criticize it — so when the news
fails to do this,
it looks like favoritism.
viewer doesn’t notice is that the news also
refrains from criticizing Position Y (i.e., the viewer’s own
a station runs a story about gay
marriage, the conservative viewer notices that they refrain from
homosexuality and calls the show liberal, and the liberal viewer
they also refrain from pointing out that the religious animus against
it is loony
bullshit and calls the show conservative. So
what does the
show a bunch of footage of couples
getting gay married and point out that people disagree about it, which
something you already knew.
you didn’t change the channel. That
being out of the way, the news can then get back to its real
agenda: bias in favor of being completely retarded.
evening, we are
responsible professional journalists.
What happened last night on some retarded fucking
the news would act as
the referee, and actually
tell you, if not always who is right,
least who is lying. If
this ends up hurting one side more than
the other, it’s that side’s own fault for
lying — it’s not the job of the ref to
call penalties equally,
(as we point out in the FMT
entry for “bias”).
get sick of news that never actually tells you who’s right,
what this resulted in was the rise of the viewer-ego-stroking specialty
networks like FOX News.
have a choice of news that’s completely useless because it
bends over backwards
to reinforce the viewer’s prejudices and news that is
because it bends over backwards to avoid saying anything with which
could possibly disagree, even in situations where there is an objective
bias” meme was invented in the late ’60s,
when the GOP had Spiro Agnew fly around reaming out reporters for
the gall to imply that Nixon was doing a bunch of stuff that
actually doing, just because they had proof.
this made perfect sense to the majority of
Americans because, while
at any other period in our history it might have seemed specious,
at this particular juncture the alternative to believing it was
they might have to live within ten miles of a Black family and that our
uniform had adopted the habit of lighting their cigarettes off flaming
South Asian babies.
since, it's been kept alive by the Spotlight Fallacy: the idea is
already in your head, so when the news says something liberal you
notice, and when it doesn't, you don't.
Now, the problem
news would ideally do — not merely explain the issue and inform
you that people disagree, but examine
social and philosophical roots of the disagreement, analyze whose
evidence holds up better, and bust the people who have told lies in service
their position — is that it’s hard and would take a
long time. And
there are only two circumstances under
which any great number of people are going to sit through an
explanation of an
issue that is long, complicated, and challenges their worldview rather
reinforcing it: The
first is if they
have no choice because they’re in school, and the second is
if the explanation
is also funny.
yes, the lamenting old farts
on PBS were right. Funny
political news is where society is headed.
But this isn’t because society is
degenerating or being dumbed down; it’s
because funny political news is actually the perfect system.
The internet also
uses sex appeal to court an audience,
the real news
speak frankly, I would
hazard that a regular reader of
this site has gained more insight into the psychological and
underpinnings of contemporary political discourse in the past two years
they would have in two years' worth of college courses on the same
subjects, and infinitely more than would have been gained by simply
watching the news.
they've been entertained
in the process (and almost certainly would not have read the essays at
they not been entertaining).
And I am
just Some Guy who is smart and owns a computer.
what a network of
people like me with
resources at our back could do.
whether you call Rush Limbaugh an entertainer
or a philosopher. Same
goes for Jon
Stewart, or for us. Whatever
it, soon it’s going to be the only thing left.
It is way harder to be
funny and wrong at the same time than it is to be serious and wrong.
And it was batshit conservative talk radio that
started it all.
weirdly enough, we
Rush — kind of like how Hippies owe
Nazis for inventing the Volkswagen.
hearts on them in ’38, sunshine...
time after the posting of
this essay, comic genius and national treasure Stephen Colbert began
prominently featuring the term "fundit" in his opening credits.
I'm not saying he or a member of his staff got it from me,
necessarily. It is not so complex a pun that two different
people couldn't have come up with it independently. But I
didn't get it from him either. And hey! You know,
all so good at coming up with puns, maybe we should call
oursel— no, wait, nevermind.
research has revealed that the earliest documented use of the term
"fundit" in fact dates to December 9, 2004, when the term was added to
UrbanDictionary.com by someone calling himself "Poop Face." Which means that, unless
someone finds an earlier use in print, Poop Face will one day be
cited in the Oxford English Dictionary. Congratulations, Poop Face. Now you belong to the ages.