I like to think of myself as a fairly smart guy. I don't claim to be the genius my parents always say I am (which is a subject for a whole other therapy sess--I mean, blog entry). But I believe I can say without fear of perjuring myself that I am not a complete idiot. It distresses me, therefore, when my intellectual shortcomings are pointed out by people whose opinions I respect.
Like most of the people I know, I am a good and devout liberal. I am less afraid of terrorists than I am of the Bush administration. I think it is funny if a sitting President gets caught receiving a hummer in the Oval Office, but I find it distressing to have a President with a cocaine addiction and DWI convictions, along with a First Lady who killed a guy with her car (swear to god! Look it up!), and a VP who not only has DWI convictions of his own, but recently MISTOOK A MAN FOR A SMALL BIRD AND THEN SHOT HIM IN THE FACE. Furthermore, as a good liberal, I believe that rich people should pay more in taxes than poor people because the Reaganesque "trickle-down" analogy is fundamentally flawed--money is not water; it is the cream that floats to the top. I believe it is the government's job to give the jar a stir and keep things as even as possible, not skim the cream from the top and give it to Halliburton in exchange for building "detention camps." (Again, not kidding. Check it out.)
I could go on. Perhaps I will, later. But to the subject at hand.
As a person of the liberal persuasion, I read Al Franken's best-seller Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and it brought me great joy. I knew in advance, of course, that Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh were all full of shit, but now I had it explained in concise terms. The book even had empirical facts, like dates and names and charts and graphs, and lots and lots of dollar amounts. I remember none of them, but I sure was impressed when I read them. And, as an added bonus, Mr. Franken included many funny, funny jokes. Oh, the times we had! The handful of bus rides I spent reading that book just flew by. When I finished, I felt invigorated, justified in my liberal beliefs. I even donated fifty dollars to General Wesley Clark to help him in his campaign for President. Alas, the good General dropped out of the race before the Illinois primary, depriving me of the opportunity to actually register a vote for the man. I want my fifty bucks back.
Like many of you, I was disappointed, although not actually surprised, when John Kerry lost the election in 2004. To be honest, I wasn't completely distraught; I was on my honeymoon, and didn't think too hard about the election until we got home. But eventually I had time to register the fact that a handful more than half the population of the United States had bought into the idea that George W. Bush is actually making us safe by invading random countries for made-up reasons while chipping away at the civil liberties--the actual reasons for which this country was founded--we enjoy here at home. But I had to be honest: The election was the Democrats' to lose, and they did a bang-up job.
In 2005 we liberals got to enjoy a certain schadenfreude as the Bush administration traipsed from one fuck-up to the next. Iraq just kept getting worse, Osama still hasn't been found, Bush learned that they won't let just ANYBODY sit on the Supreme Court, and, lest we forget, we basically misplaced New Orleans and a number of other Gulf Coast communities for about six months. Oops.
And then I learned that Al Franken had a new book out: The Truth (with jokes). Yes! I thought. Kick 'em while they're down! Put 'em out of our misery! Little did I know that among the list of targets Mr. Franken had selected for his book I would find none other than myself. To be sure, at no point does Mr. Franken mention me by name, but I cannot help but take his comments as anything less than a personal attack.
In spite of all the fun I had reading Lies, I had one complaint. I did not think it was major, but it stuck with me enough that I would mention it when people asked my opinion of the book. My complaint was this: I didn't get all of the jokes. Mr. Franken's medium is humor, which is fine. He's a funny guy. But some of his jokes confused me. You see, occasionally he would make a statement, site a fact, or present a quote which turned out to be completely made up because Mr. Franken thought it was funny. Maybe it was. The point is, I could not always tell when it was a joke and when it was real. It annoyed me a little, but I still enjoyed the book overall and recommended it to friends. Furthermore, I expected more of the same in Truth, and I was fine with that. What I did not expect, after one of these jokes, was this:
"After my last book, some of my younger and/or less bright readers complained that they couldn't tell when I was joking and when I was merely reporting true things in a comedic manner."
Ouch. Burn. As I will be turning 32 this year, I don't think I qualify as one of Mr. Franken's "younger" readers. I must, therefore, fall into the "less bright" category. I will not lie; that stings a little.
In response to this unwarranted attack on a loyal reader, I shall now discharge my mind in regard to certain observations I have until now kept to myself regarding the role Mr. Franklin and others like him play in the American political landscape. I submit to you that the Presidential election of 2004 was lost by the Democrats, with the help of Al Franken, Michael Moore, Robert Greenwald and others of their ilk. Their smug, smarter-than-thou pseudo-journalism became the face of the liberal movement in America, and the all-important swing voters took one look and said, "They may be right, but do they have to be such assholes about it?" And in this image-obsessed culture of ours, that was all it took.
I will admit that the right wing has its own media dickheads--the afore-mentioned Coulters, O'Reillys, Limbaughs, etc. But the Republicans have somehow managed to use these idiots to spread the message without directly associating the party or the movement with them. It helps, too, that the administration has a cast of characters we all know like we know everyone in Star Wars. Unfortunately for us liberals, all we've got are these comedians. The roles that should be filled by star-quality powerhouses--the Democratic Presidential candidates--are being filled with B-list character actors. And sure, the play you go see in a thirty-seat house in the middle of nowhere on the North Side of Chicago might have ten times as much passion and truth as the show playing at the Cadillac Palace downtown, but who the hell is gonna go see it?
I think I've lost track of my metaphors in there somewhere. All I really wanted to say is: Al Franken is a dick. I was going to put his book down and never pick it up again, but that would be stupid, because while he may be a total jag-off, he's still usually right.
But I'm not going to buy his next book. Mr. Franken won't get another penny from me. Instead, I'm going to find someone else who has it ... and I'm going to borrow it.
That'll show him.