I now know why Elvis shot that TV set.
If you missed it, Stephen Colbert’s special guest last night was conservative pundit George Will. I almost typed “addle-headed pathological liar George Will,” but didn’t because I think a cursory look at what he actually said will make that clear enough.
Show, don’t tell, as I always instruct my writing students.
So let’s start by watching the segment.
WARNING: people with above-average intelligence who have eaten a greasy meal in the last couple of hours should grab a barf bag before clicking play.
Now, let’s consider some of what he said.
Conservatives tend to favor freedom and are willing to accept inequalities of outcome from a free market and liberals tend to favor equality of outcome and to sacrifice and to circumscribe freedom in order to get it.
First, let’s examine those first five words, and let’s do so explicitly within the context of GOP policy over the last few years. If you would, please explain to me how the Patriot Act favors freedom. How about FISA? Tell us about the NSA/telecom program designed to conduct covert, warrantless spying on American citizens? What about the continuing insistence by Republican leaders on retroactive immunity for the telecoms that willingly engaged in this program? Gitmo? Waterboarding? Rendition?
As the Department of Pre-Crime says in Minority Report: “That which keeps us safe will also keep us free.”
We do love to hear about free markets, but such rhetoric seems not to address the full breadth of America’s freedom problem these days. Mr. Will.
But, since we love talking free markets so much, would you take a moment to wax eloquent about no-bid government contracts for the White House’s close corporate friends?
The second half of the statement here is where things get tricky, because Will attempts to sneak a bald-faced lie past us in the form of an assumption: “…liberals tend to favor equality of outcome…” Ummm, no. Sure, some “liberals” (more on this in a moment) believe we’d be better off if our economic spectrum reflected a bit more equity in the quality of living standard, but I know a lot of “liberals” and pretty much none of them are telling me that everybody needs to be equal. I know that’s what Ayn Rand would have you believe everybody to the left of Goldwater thinks, but it’s just possible that somebody been trying to shove a straw man up our asses, you know?
Fact is, I know a number of full-on un- and semi-reconstructed Marxists who don’t go that far. So let’s play a game. You find me as many libruls who want to assure perfect equality of outcome and I’ll find you as many as I can who don’t think that at all. We’ll settle up – call it $5 per head? – and I’ll go buy myself a nice island in the South Pacific to vacation on.
No, George, what libruls favor is equality of opportunity. When we talk about a level playing field, we’re not saying guarantee us victory, we’re saying give us a fair chance. Sadly, way too many conservative policies, especially in the last couple of decades, have been explicitly predicated on denying the majority of our citizens equality of opportunity.
Nobody likes to lose, but most folks can accept a bad outcome better so long as they know the game wasn’t rigged.
“What conservatives say is ‘we will protect you against idealism. We will protect you against the liberal faith that we can make something straight from the crooked timber of humanity.’ We understand that the government’s job is to deliver the mail, defend the shores and get out of the way.”
Wow. He begins with “we’ll protect you from idealism” and concludes with as raw a statement of idealist, ideological dogma as you’re likely to hear in this lifetime or any other. He does so using a neat little rhetorical trick, too – “we understand that” makes clear that this isn’t a belief or a posit, but a fact, a truth, that need not be examined in the same way you would any other theoretical proposition.
Not only is Will a liar, he’s a clever one.
Paraphrasing this one: The reason people can’t afford health care is because of state mandates. and then this:
“[Political parties] organize our animosities.” [riffing on Henry Adams]
But George, if the free market were working to provide affordable health care for all (or most, anyway), why would any state legislator propose mandates in the first place?
“We have two parties because we have basically two kinds of people.”
At this point I’m almost too dumbfounded to reply. All the brilliant people out there desperately trying to find an audience for their insights and this fuckwit gets to be on TV every week?!
Still, I’m grateful he said this. I’ve argued on a number of occasions that America has been victimized by a cynical divide-and-conquer strategy. As I said my obituary for Hunter Thompson:
Although I never heard him say it in these words, Hunter S. Thompson I think understood the artificial Red/Blue, Conservative/Liberal divide that most Americans seem to have bought into for the cynical construction that it is â€“ a rhetorical fluff job that turns Americans with common cause against each other and that serves the power elites in both parties to the detriment of the public they take turns fleecing.
In Will’s remarks we see a flagrant, full-monty example of what this divisive rhetoric looks like. Hopefully we’re also smart enough to see it, when it’s this shallow and transparent, for the forked-tonguery that it really is.