Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baseball and humor

This post from Comrade John got me thinking about a few things. Okay, so McCarthy's hot and bothered because President Obama may have bounced a pitch on the plate. Very well. John brings up George W. Bush's successful pitch in 2001, which makes me think of what the reaction among the left would have been if Bush had bounced the ball on the plate? I'm guessing it would have been muted at best--maybe some snickers here and there, at best a subdued Jon Stewart bit. In other words, the reaction would have been bemusement. And the Bush thing would have been funny, because Bush's image was, in large part, based on that sort of he-man bravado--how often were we treated to anecdotes about how Bush worked out all the time, how many videos of him biking around and clearing branches were we subjected to during his term in office? To bounce a baseball would have clashed with that image, and the disconnect would have been a little funny. Obama, on the other hand, has never based his image on a Teddy Rooseveltian ethos of the strenuous life, so had the ball even bounced (I don't even care, so I didn't watch the clip) it wouldn't be absurd. I suppose one could laugh at that out of some sort of hostility that Obama doesn't fit one's standards of manhood, but just because one laughs doesn't make it funny. Indeed, Obama bouncing a baseball would be about as absurd as Bush failing the LSAT exam, which is to say, not much. Obama, however, would look a little foolish if he took, for some reason, the LSATs again and failed them, because much of his image is bound up in a lawyerly identity. So, Obama bombing the LSATs would be a little funny.

I guess it makes me wonder why Andy McCarthy doesn't naturally resort to humor for stuff like this. I mean, it's not funny but neither is most overtly conservative humor. The basic difference between the liberal humor of the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and the conservative "humor" of Rush Limbaugh and American Carol (which I never saw, but I read enough so that I "got it") is that liberal humor has tended to be rooted in a sense of irony, in observing the absurdity of the political order and in conservatives in particular. Most liberals tend to think that conservatives aren't evil, but just wrong and absurd, and pointing out those absurdities has made Stewart a very, very successful media personality. Sure, there are more overtly hostile liberal media personalities--Michael Moore comes to mind--but he has flared out as of late and never had nearly as large a following as Stewart. I don't think it's a coincidence that Colbert and Stewart--who practice a legitimately funny brand of pointing out the ridiculous in the other side's positions--are likely the left's most popular pundits. Their worldview more or less meshes with where liberalism is at this point. The leading "humorists" on the right, however, don't hold a roughly parallel viewpoint--their humor is more like "Can you believe this shit?" while looking down, shaking your head and chuckling. Right-wing humor generally tends not to be funny because it's not rooted in some sort of tension that is dissolved by the humor--indeed, if you take them at face value, most of these conservatives essentially believe that liberals are either intentionally or unintentionally destroying America, and it's strangely comforting that people who believe that, misguided as they are, don't find much humor in it. To laugh at such a thing would be nihilism. It's sort of a strange signpost that their humanity is intact.

I guess, basically, that my point is that there's still a lot of hurt out there, and that it's more on the right than the left at this point. I guess I bought into a lot of Obama's postpartisan rhetoric, and I still think he's a gracious and unassuming leader, but it's now clear to me that the country can't heal until the right manages to find some measure of fundamental respect for the left, which can then become the basis of a dialogue and, perhaps, some sort of settlement. Obama's inclinations won't work until they're met by the other side. And I don't think that's going to come anytime soon. Better to reign in hell, and all that.

On a tangential note, I rather feel sorry for Andy McCarthy. Unless he's faking it, of course. I have a great deal of sympathy for conspiracy theorists, who are always wrong (with the sole exception of Julia Roberts from The Pelican Brief, perhaps) but they fundamentally believe something in their hearts that isn't real, and that they can't shake, despite how much of a fool it makes them seem. Then again, as G.K. Chesterton tells us, such people tend not to lack reason but rather they lack everything but, like judgment and common sense. Faith can be a good thing, but like most virtues there's a roughly equivalent vice, and this is it. I guess I find the whole thing a little depressing, though clearly McCarthy could always choose to rely on factual backup for his various theories. I must remember not to become a "left-wing victimizer".

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.