Friday, February 8, 2013

We Should Clearly Label Satire On The Web

Satire is a powerful form of communication. But on political blogs and in comment threads it can often become confusing and counterproductive. It's crucial for a writer to use tags and other labels to clearly mark what he's saying so that the message reaches his audience.

We all know what it's like to read a piece of text in which the author's intent is ambiguous. In which the author is telling us things we know aren't true, but it's difficult to respond, because we can't see whether the author really straightforwardly believes these statements, or actually believes their opposite and is trying to spotlight how ridiculous they are. And as we try to discover the "meaning behind the meaning" we have to slow down and struggle with the words themselves. People in the comment section begin to post other items the author has written and discuss the context of the piece. The real issue just gets lost in a wasteful, meaningless argument over whether to treat every statement the author makes as a simple assertion to be fought or accepted, or as a code to mean exactly the opposite. Labeling something easily and clearly let's the reader hear the authorial voice at work - hear whether the writer is a friend, someone to be trusted. Someone who can find all the new ways to elaborate on the ideas you already have. Or whether the author is someone who doesn't believe the things you believe, and then you can treat him like the last person you had a 154-comment war with in an effort to make sure you fought the words so they went away and you could go back to what you were doing. But it's okay, it's just like the Onion, it's okay. You just think of exactly the reverse of the thing he's saying. Just turn it inside out, and it'll be okay. Look AT THE TAG ASSHOLE LOOK AT THE TAG. I want tell everyone a story about someone in my family, someone close, a family just like you have, only this terrible thing happened, are you upset are you upset THIS REALLY HAPPENED and now I'll connect it to some famous person I know we both hate, and he's at fault, and here's why, and we're all sharing the warmth and the vicious murderous hate at the same time, and isn't that the sugar in the coffee? And when I'm not sure what you really think I can't call you a troll, and the label won't close up over your words and seal them in, and then they get out, and I have to have an argument with you tomorrow while waiting in line. I only have a few minutes to read this, and I want the next thing I can tell the guy who works beside me who'll never agree who won't see I'm right I want to change him, I want to change his mind with the fact, I want the fact, just load it in there. Bullet points I see what you did there.

Someone send me a post about Dick Cheney punching a baby a study that confirms everything my mother said a sneezing kitten clip jesus don't leave me alone don't leave me alone don't leave me alone with my own thoughts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Karl Rove to the GOP: "Please. Please Stop Talking"

We have a plan to fix almost everything, okay? We've taken out our most obnoxious members. We'll control who gets the big money to run for office, and we're going to keep hiding the people who actually donate it. You already know about Fox News getting Frank Luntz on the air to coach us about how to use completely different words for everything we need to say. You see the game? Republicans are going to win with a strategy of completely concealing who we are, what we want, and everyone who supports us. Nothing, absolutely nothing, gets out.

But I'm going to need your help. You, the millions of people out there who still vote Republican. You need to shut the fuck up now.

Because it's no problem to stuff a candidate into a storage locker and give his groin electrical shocks until he stops making rape-baby comments. I can do that, okay? I can make sure every Republican politician is saying safe, vanilla things about marriage equality, so no one knows how much of a whack-job he is.

But I can't stop Republicans, ordinary Republicans, from talking. And as long as you bastards keep talking, people out there are going to continue to have a clear idea of what the Republican party is.

You see how that works? You see how you're ruining it for us?

If you're a 22 year-old who just read Atlas Shrugged, you need to stop blogging about it. If you're a middle-aged white dude who only communicates with his estranged children through racist chain emails, you must promise never to hit the send button again. You need to stop talking about your AR-15, and you need to stop showing up at the Wal-Mart in full camo.

You're a business owner, maybe, and you're kind of pissed about Obama? Take the bumper stickers off your car, and no more sharing in the employee break room. And no goddamn talking about the Rapture ever, ever again.

Are we clear? Because if you don't listen to me, the only places we'll be competitive are districts composed solely of people who plan to shoot someone within the next 30 minutes and actual Confederate veterans. Mostly northern Florida I guess.

You are the face of the GOP, and right now we really, really need to hide that face. Because Michele Bachmann isn't the only problem here. It's that everyone in America knows someone exactly like her. And they realize all those Michele Bachmann clones vote, which drives them to the polls. And we lose.

Quiet down, you freaks. Give me a couple billion and another election cycle, and then I promise you, you'll all be able to come out and play.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Message From Some Bone Fragments In A Place You've Never Heard Of

Did you see Beyoncé? God, that girl can move it. I'm really happy for her, because I honestly think she has too much talent to get caught up in a lip-syncing scandal. It was nice for her to be able to prove that, you know? I'm not justifying anything. But we all make mistakes. Anyway, I thought it was a great show. A really good time for you people to come together.

What about that Ann Coulter? She is awful. When someone says something really hateful about her, I start feeling sorry, and then I just think about everything she's done to bring it on herself. I know she doesn't believe all the horrible things she says. But that makes it worse. The Republicans need to ditch people like her if they're going to stay relevant. They have a hard fight ahead. Especially when people start talking about immigration, which is...

Me? Oh, don't worry about me. I'm just a few pieces of skull. I think there's a bit of tibia over there by the scorch marks, but I can't be certain. You don't know my name. You don't know how old I am. You don't know where this happened. Why start asking questions now? You have other issues after all, what with your economy, and the gun control thing, and all those episodes of House of Cards you haven't gotten to. Besides, it just doesn't make sense to talk about this stuff. If you're a Republican, you sound like a hypocritical tool, and if you're a Democrat, you sound like you're criticizing the guy you support. And if you're some third party whack-job nobody listens to you anyway. Go hand out pamphlets near the library, chump.

 I will say this, and then we'll move on: Somebody knows my name. There are people out there who are crying and enraged, and they don't care what your reasons were. God, what if I were a kid? Ugh. That's just wrong. Anyway, they're probably putting it on some crap-bag TV channel in a country whose name you can't pronounce. There are probably plenty of people who are going to remember this for a long time. They will make a plan.

That's, of course, what happens. You guys do something, and then just walk away, and they don't even teach it in your schools. The administration's drone program is a kind of anti-education initiative. A way of keeping you from learning your own history. Believe me, it's been done before. So it's left to the locals in a thousand foreign places to keep the record. To keep score.

Then one bright, beautiful morning, you'll learn who I was.

But that will be kind of exciting for most of you, right? You'll all unite as a nation or somesuch, and you'll see what heroes your firefighters are, and your police. And your EMTs. And there's going to be a concert. A concert! You can see it all, can't you? Best not to dwell.

Does Boehner look less orangey, or is it just me? I can't tell anymore.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Glad President Obama Usually Respects Human Life

I'm a progressive, so I voted for Barack Obama. I support him. I don't always agree with the guy, but I think he's doing a pretty good job. He usually respects human life. I mean, he doesn't seem to be the type who'd ordinarily want to kill a large number of people with an awful fleet of flying death robots.

That Paul Ryan frightened me. During the last campaign, he was entirely too eager to use military force. I thought he and Romney would implement an aggressive foreign policy - we'd be launching military strikes all over the world, with who knows what consequences? I guess I'm just more comfortable with the number of targeted killings President Obama wants right now. That's what it is. I think what I support is the current number of missile strikes that incinerate people on the other side of the world.

He was my choice for president. You have to pick one of them.

The two parties are not equal. That's simply not true. Obama's Republican predecessor opened a string of CIA black sites across the world, where our intelligence operators tortured people. He invaded Iraq and allowed the mission in Afghanistan to turn into a quagmire. Obama's done a great job reversing these things. Most of them, anyway. A good number. And I'm sure he's trying to have as few people as possible shot in the face or hit by a powerful warhead under shadowy, quasi-legal circumstances.

I won't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I voted for this president, because I knew he'd put more controls on our global drone strikes and covert operations. He allowed rendition to continue, but there's some oversight, and it's probably enough. And we're working on getting a playbook with some rules on whose life we can unofficially end. It doesn't include everything; our military console operators sitting in air conditioned rooms thousands of miles away can still launch what's called a "signature strike," in which the victim's identity isn't even known. But you can't have everything.

Baby steps.

I'm positive that this president is a good man, and he's doing what he can. And I'm positive that the people who actually kill our enemies, and those who look like our enemies, and occasionally anyone standing adjacent to our enemies, including children... I'm sure they are good too. They're all trying to minimize the horror and tragedy we deal out on a daily basis to people we barely know in situations we barely understand. I mean, I'm a good person, and I voted for this administration.

Yes. This, I guess, is the best we can do.


Monday, February 4, 2013

The GOP Will Sell Their Hideous Agenda With Fresh New People

I don't believe the Republican Party is dead. They may have lost the presidential race with a lackluster candidate. But their bench is deep. It's packed with talent and charisma. In the coming year, the GOP will be making their horrifying policy arguments with an exciting new group of people.

Although Mitt Romney failed to connect at the convention, many of the speakers on that stage were clearly emerging stars at the beginning of what promise to be long careers making backward social policy and disastrous fiscal decisions. Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie inspired the crowd with their wit, charm, and obvious talent. They're going to use those skills to put an entirely novel spin on their appalling right wing views on abortion and gay marriage. Backed by depressing corporate ghouls like the Koch brothers, they will no doubt find a riveting way to promote extreme deregulation and strip social services bare.

Believe me, these people will spend the next election cycle appearing all over the media, flirting with young-earth creationism and shilling for the NRA. They're really going to shake things up with the interesting, awful things they believe.

I even think one of these four are going to give the GOP response to the State of the Union. He or she will perform beautifully: Look for an impressive personal story of gumption and triumph against all odds coupled with a disingenuous apology for letting corporations cheat and poison us under the guise of some stupid slogan like "getting the government off your backs," but with totally different words. And then Peggy Noonan will praise the "energy" or "verve," and if the speaker is Latino, she'll write about how she really likes Latinos, and it will be condescending and creepy, but it will make people feel just great.

All over this nation, these people are going to be generating the kind of passion they did at the convention when Susana Martinez talked about having a .357 Magnum as a young girl, and the audience erupted into one of the longest ovations of her speech, which really ought to sicken anyone who isn't a complete sociopath, only it doesn't.

Don't count  Republicans out! Not with this team. This year is shaping up to be a period of real turnaround for the GOP. Their spokespeople come from all walks of life, and they're going to find a new language to make the same terrible argument for turning this country into one large gated community for the wealthy and one massive vacant lot for the poor.

If they really play this right, one of them might even go all the way to the White House and get us into the next war.

Exciting times are coming. Just you wait.
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