Free-Trade Propaganda

Aquarian Weekly 3/28/07 REALITY CHECK


Uncle SamHave you seen the new ad for the Armed Forces? The Columbia Broadcast System has been running it incessantly during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Prime audience. Good demographic. No doubt. Young men 18-35. It is very moving, almost sweet, and dripping with Americana. Nothing wrong with that. It is effective propaganda, the core of any good ad campaign. It shows a decidedly enviable side of the story. Just not the whole story. Nothing new there. However, there is no other voice refuting it, providing an alternative viewpoint, as with the other junk pitched during sporting events. And this I have a problem with.

In the ad we have a young man, white, middle-class, midwestern farmer’s son – healthy, handsome, prideful, articulate. He stands dressed impeccably in his U.S. Army uniform, adorned impressively with shiny brass, a beret slanted upon his shorn crown. We have the proud father, a graying middle-aged man, choked up about his once mixed feelings when the kid came to him for permission to join the service, but how it has made him a powerful, disciplined, respectful young pillar of society. We have the mother gushing. We have the backdrop of wheat fields and cows grazing, a classic field tractor set beside a sun-baked wooden fence harkening to a romantic time long ago.

The tag line is “You made them strong – We’ll make them Army strong.”

It is an excellent piece of propaganda. Truly. I am not being facetious. It is well crafted, drifting towards maudlin but not quite sickeningly so. It is certainly better than all that nonsense about joining the army to learn computer skills and blow up stuff and run around with face-paint brandishing guns and “being all you can be”. It is homespun and relatable, and it honestly depicts the backbone of this country. Without a functioning army and the sacrifices of thousands upon millions, I would not be writing this today. You would certainly not be reading it.

Why not have a wounded veteran, a young, good-looking, articulate soldier tell potential recruitees what happened to him/her?

However, I think it patently unfair to not have an ad running during the basketball tourney that depicts the other side of the pitch. Isn’t that what a free-trade democracy is all about? Isn’t that why we endured the Cold War against the Godless Communists?

I see an ad for Coke. I see an ad for Pepsi. I see and ad for Nike. I see an ad for Reebok. I see an ad for Chrysler. I see an ad for Toyota. I see an ad for this hotel and that hotel, this airline and that airline, this computer and that computer, and so on and so on. All of it is some form of propaganda, some less subtle than the next, but hardcore propaganda at its best. Playful half-truths and a few forgivably blatant lies set to music or basked in humor. People going to great lengths of travel, construction, and emotional entanglement for a goddamn light-beer that tastes like cat piss. It’s silly stuff, mostly. But there is a myriad of choices available. There is a free enterprise, competitive nature to it that makes living and consuming in this nation a hoot.

So why not see an ad displaying the risks of joining the U.S. Army? Otherwise it is flat-out brainwashing, made ever more frightening by the fact that it is bankrolled, produced, and disseminated by the federal government, which is supported and bankrolled by the American people. Isn’t a one-way message forced down the citizenry’s throat one of the prime reasons why our armed forces went all over the globe defeating corrupted governments and blind dictatorships in the first place? Ironically, isn’t that what we are ostensibly trying to build in the Middle East?

Why not have a wounded veteran, a young, good-looking, articulate soldier tell potential recruitees what happened to him/her? How about some of these kids in the hospitals – maybe even shoot it from the lousy conditions at Walter Reed as a realistic backdrop – warning viewers of the very real and consequential risks involved with serving in the military?

Obviously the federal government is not going to trot out a legless victim of war, a soldier with permanent brain damage, or a disgruntled participant in a foreign conflict who was promised computer training and fun in a submarine but is currently barely surviving in a desert halfway across the globe. Maybe there should be a privately funded ad run during major sporting events featuring indentured servants of large universities (basketball factories) trumpeted by ex-jocks and exploitive network freaks streamed to a nation of gambling addicts.

It is not too much to ask from the longest-running democracy on the planet.

I know the other side of my argument: We have to have a strong military, and the armed forces – the Navy, Air Force, Marines – produce fine young people, take kids from bad environments and dead-end lives and gives them important jobs, engendering a sense of pride and accomplishment. Are we to allow this institution, the bedrock of our nation, to falter? And I say, not at all. But if we allow only one side of the story, the young, handsome, middle-class white kid from the sticks, to be the only spokesman for the institution, we are not serving the citizens of this country to its fullest. Not the kids. Not their parents. No one. Not without telling the whole story.

Of course I’m dreaming. This is never going to happen. Run an ad telling the complete truth about service in the U.S. Army? Think of the revenue CBS would lose. The CBS Network News has never recovered from the stink of leftist anti-American slants following Dan Rather’s botched Bush bashing two years ago. Think of the exodus en masse of the sponsors, so afraid of appearing unpatriotic, unthinkably running their parade of deceit next to brutal truths. Think of the furor to be raised by the holy-than-thou NCAA, so filled with phony, money-gorging mutants.

One last thing: People are always whining about stuff on television offending them. Well, allowing a single partisan, biased, and wholly propagandized version of a pitch without refute offends me.

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Snow Day

Aquarian Weekly 2/21/07 REALITY CHECK


Frozen precipitation has a way of bending the mind. Terror rules the day. Otherwise functioning humans with nary a care in the world become jabbering loons, dangerous to themselves and others almost immediately. Motor skills are abandoned and concern for their fellow man forgotten. And those are the lucky ones, the ones that get out. Look Out!The rest batten down the hatches and disconnect the phone lines, light candles, and hold solemn vigils, praying to Jehovah to spare them. Occasionally they draw back the curtains, slightly, to peer into the engulfing white, sigh despondently, and then scramble about to make certain the children are still breathing. It is strangely Pavlovian, a conditioned response to bad weather that devolves the best of us.

I should know. I’ve spent many a grueling hour driving in deep, blinding snow – day and night. I used to deliver medical records at all hours traversing all types of terrain – mountain roads, winding cliffs, city streets (all five boroughs) in and out of the weird and crippled psyches and speed-addled truckers. Adverse conditions have caused me to participate in several multi-car pile-ups and once even forced me to flip a brand new company truck. Upside down. Lying on the cab’s inner roof with my precious contents sprawled about me, serenaded by a radio blasting something by Stevie Nicks.

Still, it is hard for a former professional like myself to fathom the pure fear that grips the hearts of travelers up here. It is as if they had forgotten the concept of pedal/brake. There is no logic to their methods. And when they do manage to operate their vehicles it’s like being led through soup on an anchor. Sideways. Wheels spinning. Cars sliding. The panic visible in the frantic faces of overwhelmed motorists struggling to reroute the random whirl of the steering wheel, locked in a futile wrestle with inertia.

Ice makes fools of us all. No tread equals no control and no control equals either rapid speed decline or feral abandon. There is no in between. A handful of drivers ignore the conditions altogether. These are your four-wheeling types, splashing and crunching over all kinds of ice and snow with little regard for the space outside their capsule. This causes the already nervous set to recoil in horror, prompting a strange ballet of spastic prudence and reckless assault. But I prefer bravado to caution. At least I know where the bold are headed. The paroxysmal driver is hard to read. Anything could happen, and often does.

We live somewhere in the middle of these extremes: Total, crippling conditions and a minor ice squall paralyzing the entire state. We should, theoretically, be able to handle six inches to a foot occasionally, without widespread mania akin to a Wellsian radio serial.

But it still makes no sense. It snows more than a little around here. You would assume familiarity with vacillating weather patters might have a positive effect on the overall performance of the locals. I know it’s been a light year, accumulation-wise, but it’s not like it hasn’t stormed in half a decade. Down where my parents reside in North Carolina there is a declared state emergency once anything frozen appears in the sky. Dark clouds send weathermen to their knees with convulsion. Clamoring hordes pile into supermarkets pushing and shoving for milk and bread, as if faced with pending doomsday. Schools are closed for a month, the mail stops, and the National Guard is on alert. Once in a great while mistakes are made and people disappear, but the governor is on record as stating, “It is a small price to pay for safety”.

However, we northerners should never be shocked into terminal frenzy over a little snow. We live in the mountains. Yes, the mountains. There are mountains in New Jersey, as I have repeatedly explained to my friend Ani Difranco, who lives in Buffalo, where it snows for keeps. She doesn’t believe me, as I do not buy her horror stories of snowdrifts burying dogs and sheaths of solid ice that crack trees in half. Sometimes, she claims, people don’t come out for weeks on end and even then are armed to the teeth and driven around in heated bubble cars, flashing their ID’s to the authorities whenever they need to transfer through the old Underground Railroad tunnels.

Buffalo is the read deal. Or Syracuse, where my wife’s family lives, pummeled by four, five, six, seven feet of snow in mere days. My poor mother-in-law is practically a shut-in, reduced to recording the fallout in digital photographs to escape madness – 12-foot drifts covering every man-made structure as if the Loch Ness monster was feeding in her backyard. For months no one within a 100-mile radius believes the sun will shine again, much less the vague promise of a beckoning thaw.

We live somewhere in the middle of these extremes: Total, crippling conditions and a minor ice squall paralyzing the entire state. We should, theoretically, be able to handle six inches to a foot occasionally, without widespread mania akin to a Wellsian radio serial. This is not Minnesota we’re talking about here. Out there, the very idea of venturing outside is considered suicide. I have seen video of a man tossing a pot of boiling water and it freezing in mid air.

Ah, but at some point there is joy in the brave snowmobile souls who begin trudging through the tundra outside my house for fun and sport, whizzing down back roads as if chased. I could hear their clarion call. Burrrrrrrr. Look at us, free of fear and angst and embracing nature! “Join us!” they shout with unbridled glee. I am envious, sipping coffee from the relative warmth of my office lair. Then, without warning, “Look out, Junior!” BAM! Jesus, now the cops are here and an ambulance siren wails closer. I’m trying to finish a column on snow and now this. How ironic. How inconvenient. I live here for quiet, not the incessant pounding at my door and these insipid cries for aid; “Help us! Help us! There’s been a terrible accident!” The voices cry out. “Go away you crazy bastards,” I scream. “Can’t you see the storm has rendered me incapable of even the most random act of kindness!”

Their shouting is followed by the intermittent pelt of snowballs, which spurs an angry wave of my fist through ice-streaked windows. I would call the cops but one of them has joined in. There is no law now. The weather has rendered these bumpkins to anarchists. Right in my front yard! They would sooner let their friend bleed to death than let me be.

My wife has gone berserk, ordering the cats to defend our honor and raging incoherently when they do not.

Soon, I remind myself, it will be spring.

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Global Warming

Aquarian Weekly 2/7/07 REALITY CHECK


Polar IceGeorge W. Bush is an oilman. Make no mistake about that. To write or utter anything about an energy crisis and the President of the United States and avoid that slice of information is tantamount to discussing Martin Luther King’s contribution to the Civil Rights movement and fail to make the distinction about his race. – “Oil Men To The Rescue” Reality Check 5/30/01

Superstition does not hit the cut-off man. – Joshua Prager “The Echoing Green”

There is no rational adult alive who really thinks there hasn’t been some form of global warming. They know it, believe me. They just don’t want to admit it for various reasons – selfish political nonsense or pride or some other goofy notion. It’s like the whole Adam & Eve thing. No one really buys the traditional creationist theory as actual truth. They may want it to be true, they may even need it to be true, but they know, intellectually, quite obviously, that it isn’t. This self-con is also not unlike the Flat Earth Society. They know the earth is round, but they choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe I play centerfield for the Yankees. The fact remains I do not. But we are not discussing illusionists or fanatics today, but those who absolutely must accept global warming as fiction: Oil Companies.

This is why during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this past week (revenge of the Democrats!) it has come to light that big oil lobbyists and henchmen of the Bush Administration – bankrolled by and jam-packed with Oil Men – suppressed scientific panic-speak on the accelerated global warming dangers. And they did so by completely rejecting, changing, or expunging scientific facts from the record, thereby keeping the results from mandating any shift in the torrent of cash flow pouring into their insatiable coffers.

Makes sense to me. Stringent regulations and panic will only decrease profits. This cannot stand. Decreasing profits to a business tycoon is tantamount to someone offering to remove your vital organs to help the neighbor’s lawn grow. There really isn’t any point in discussing it. Science? Fuck that. Money beats science every time. These guys would tell you the sky is chartreuse and Oswald acted alone if it could keep the federal government off their backs. And ecology? It’s voodoo, jack. Ecology is the study of available resources yet to exploit.

It is the same battle we’ve been waging for almost ten years in this space: The Beautiful Lie or the Ugly Truth?

The Oil Men stance: If we have to move heaven and earth to keep the spotted owl alive, then why can’t we do so for us?

Legislation imposing controls on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions is a death knell to these people. They would sooner sell their children into slavery than allow that to happen, something Lee Raymond, former chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobile suggested to his attorneys in the autumn of 2002. The whole global warming thing may be a political football to conservative spokesmen or liberal protestors, and a fun debate at parties, but it is Armageddon to Oil Men.

For Scientists?

Oh, it’s big doings. Scientists live for this shit. They love bringing the doom. More times than not they’re off-the-wall, and this is what emboldens the delusional global warming opposition. Face it, scientists can get wacky with catastrophe and then nothing comes of it. Sometimes though, like quite apparently with global warming, they nail it.

Thus, here is the nagging problem for the Oil Men: Scientific theory is debatable, but scientific fact is not. Evidence also throws a big rusty wrench into the thing. Global warming used to be theory, now it is fact. Network news cameras capturing chunks of glaciers splashing into the Artic Ocean takes all the wind out of the Oil Men sails. So those who once vehemently denied the existence of global warming now spin the argument to its pertinence, shifting it from whether there is such a thing and whether it is happening or not to how bad it will be and how soon it will start to damage our way of life, and, most importantly for the Oil Men, how much the use of their product is contributing to it.

The federal government enters here.

Scientists employed by the government, and paid for by the rest of us who don’t happen to own oil concerns, claim that for the past five years some 435 times, not two dozen or occasionally, but 435 times there was some form of government interference or “pressure” to back off the presentation of findings regarding global warming. Of the 1,600 scientists having anything to do with government work, 308 responded to an independent survey on the subject of “government censoring of pertinent environmental information”.

Here’s the breakdown: Forty-three percent of respondents reported edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their findings. Forty-six percent felt administrative requirements impaired climate-related work. Sixty-seven percent said the environment for federal government climate research is worse now than five years ago.

In other words: Scientists say, “Your house is on fire.” Government officials change it to “A slight incendiary incursion of timber particles.” Or “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

There’s pretty much enough evidence here to safely conclude that the Oil Men of the private sector who put the Oil Men in charge of our government have been getting their money’s worth. Good for them, and for George W. Bush, but not so much for us.

Why is it good for Bush? Well, for starters our Boy President wouldn’t have been born on third base and thought he hit a triple if not for Daddy’s oil money. He doesn’t get a free ride into and through Yale and the National Guard or own a baseball team or run companies while snorting half his salary through his nasal passages without it. He damn sure would not have broken every standing record for campaign coffers without it. And there is no possible way he could be president without it either.

Look, I know how business works. I know how politics work. It’s human nature under a gargantuan microscope. And it is basic human nature to mask bad tidings with cuddly images and superstitious ranting. But the truth still exists. And sometimes the truth is a bummer. It’s a bummer for all of us who like our Hummers and the SUVs. It’s a bummer for those who gain the windfall for the sales and operation of said items. But it doesn’t change the facts and the evidence. Evidence, whether suppressed or bellowed from the rooftops or slapped together in an Al Gore documentary, speaks volumes for rising climate changes, damaged ecosystems, fluctuating ocean current patterns, and a real threat of flooding.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it. But that discussion only begins when we rid ourselves of the fantasy.

It is the same battle we’ve been waging for almost ten years in this space: The Beautiful Lie or the Ugly Truth?

Apply it here.

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Wishes For 2007

Aquarian Weekly 1/3/07 REALITY CHECK


Dumb AssInstead of the usual boring list of self-improvements people begin whipping together at the start of every new year, I thought I’d change it up a bit and search outside. Okay, sure, I could stand for a little self-improvement. Who couldn’t?

For starters I might reconsider eating less crap, cutting down on the absinthe, and curtailing my abuse of the cats for sport. I probably should also quit shooting my pellet gun at speeding motorists on the street in front of my house, or serving “the special Kool-Aid” to the neighbor’s kids, or this childish obsession with sabotaging the Boy Scouts of America. I promised my wife I would no longer co-opt her wild shenanigans for column material like the time last week when she rammed her Jeep into a brand-new Mercedes driven by a middle-aged lawyer while juggling a map, two-lattes, spinning the radio knob, and shifting gears with her knee. When the stunned guy got out, she politely asked, “You got a speed pedal on that shit-box fuck face?” (Hey, it’s still 2006 when I’m writing this – one last one couldn’t hurt).

And I guess it’s time I put silly pranks aside like sending singing telegrams to J.D. Salinger or betting so-called “terrorist organizations” over the Internet they couldn’t obtain uranium by the weekend. Okay, and no more midget porn. Oh, and I should start calling midgets Little People. And positively no more road rage, or at least this terrible habit I have of winging the really big Arizona Tea bottles at motorists trying to pass me on the right when I have my signal going and am clearly attempting to enter a jug-handle. Most people hate that; except my wife, who likens the experience to “an evening with Ben-Hur”.

I will also stop telling everyone I meet that Britney Murphy is the quintessential thespian, when I know she is not. I must cease paying homeless people to moon the Fox & Friends show through the 6th Avenue window behind the hosts. And I will absolutely stop telling anyone who asks if I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior that I am Jesus Christ and I’ll get rid of that phony ID I had made up at the State Fair that proves I’m Jesus Christ.

Hey, but I’ve grown a great deal in the past few years. My public urination and cursing at nuns has gone down considerably.

But enough about me, let’s get rid of annoying societal issues.

No more apologizing for offending people. I am tired of celebrities, political figures, sports goons or whoever speaks their minds rescinding their comments once they realize they’ve offended someone.

1. No more apologizing for offending people. I am tired of celebrities, political figures, sports goons or whoever speaks their minds rescinding their comments once they realize they’ve offended someone. No more reorganizing the pure thought and succumbing to sensitivity. Say your piece and stick by it. Everything offends someone. Everything you hold dear offends me. Do I ask you to apologize? No. 2007 must be conciliatory-free or it will not stand.

2. In the spirit of number 1., let’s not pay attention to Rosie O’Donnell anymore. She is a stupid ass. Seriously. You know the guy on the subway platform screaming about aliens stealing diamonds out of his rectum? Let’s listen to him instead. And while we’re at it, don’t pay attention to any more celebrities. This includes talk-show hosts. People with a camera in front of them will do or say any pathetically futile thing to get you to listen. Don’t do it. Ignore the famous. It’s good for the soul.

3. Oh, and one more thing about the whole talking and listening thing: No more athletes, professional, amateur, or weekend are allowed to say anything anymore. They are not smart people, and they don’t have a scintilla of interesting points to their conversation. Truth is most of them are goofy shitheads. All of them, actually, accept the ones I like, and they’re the ones that don’t do all the talking. Muhammad Ali was cool and funny and revolutionary. These guys are not. They either shut up or we don’t listen. Quiet 2007 in sports.

4. Speaking of sport, and really most of our society, let’s stop saying the latest thing is the Best or the Worst. It’s probably not the Best or Worst. Just because we endured it or saw it or are fascinated by it as an infant by shiny things does not make it the ultimate anything. And while we’re at it, no more Top Lists. Why does every innocuous subject spawn a Top Ten or Top One Hundred List? Who makes these lists? More dumb asses and shitheads, probably. Let’s cut those out this year.

Shit, sorry – back to me for a second. I would like to take a moment to publicly apologize to the Better Business Bureau and the NY Attorney General’s Office, and, I guess, to Maxim Magazine for making several claims that its editorial staff is a secret Nazi Kabal run by the biological offspring of Heinrich and Margarete Himmler. It was wrong. I can’t believe anyone would have believed that. And don’t worry; I’m not really “sorry” they’re offended. It’s just not true. Although, you have to admit – well, you would if you were a freelancer – that it only “appears” that way.

5. Let’s not mention global warming anymore. Let it go. It’s fine. I’m digging this crazy unusual warmth up here in the mountains. No snow, no ice. Sure other people might bake and terrible ecological disaster may befall future generations, but anyone reading this will be long dead or closer to it by then and we have to enjoy every day as it comes. Live in the now. It’s very Zen and quite self-empowering. Plus, I like it. And another thing, Al Gore is Satan and I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to support the Dark Lord’s causes. Go ask David Duke. I’ll wait.

6. I was just tossing this around, but hear me out. Let’s all accept Islam as our religion. Just to fuck with things. You don’t have to actually do it, just let’s pretend to become a Muslim nation and rail against capitalistic demons and infidels. Try really, really hard. A mass ruse. Think about it. All we have to do is say we’re all Muslim. Muhammad is all right with us. We dig burkas and all that other crap. It’s just as silly as anything else we believe or stand for and it’s much safer. Then we get to pull out of Iraq and disband the Homeland Security tax sinkhole and get rid of all the unconstitutional stuff the federal government laid on us and get back to the way things were. Okay, so, let’s get that going for ’07. We can have a slogan – “Islam Yeah!”

Oh, one last thing. This is important to me – I will no longer tell strangers I was raised by freaks in a circus. It was a carnival. Sorry, mom and dad.

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“Buy The Ticket Take The Ride” Review

Aquarian Weekly 12/6/06 REALITY CHECK

“BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE” In Praise Of A New Hunter S. Thompson Documentary

In the labyrinth that became American culture in the sixties and seventies, Hunter S. Thompson just might have been at the center, and in a way, that center still holds. – Opening narrative from “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”

Buy The Ticket, Take The RideFourteen months ago, roughly four months after his subject’s suicide, filmmaker Tom Thurman set out to gather together an eclectic group of artists, writers, actors, and historians, and threw them together with colleagues, friends and family of fellow Kentuckian, Hunter S. Thompson to compile their memories, anecdotes, and critiques on film. The result is the poignant, passionate, often compelling, and thoroughly entertaining “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”, premiering on the STARZ movie channel December 12.

Doctor Thompson, as discussed more than a little in this space over the years, is one of the celebrated godfathers of our aim and purpose here at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, and as such any new material on the late master is wired in. So a few months back I was sent a pre-screened version of the film and upon review was sincerely blown away. For my money, having spoken with Thompson on several occasions and having been a fan for decades, Thurman captured the true essence of the man, the soul of his persona and his work, which more times than not crashed into each other in creative and destructive ways.

Fact is “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is the first significant film biography of one of the 20th century’s finest satirists since his death. Aside from three uneven print biographies, and our pal Wayne Ewing’s cinéma vérité masterpiece, “Breakfast With Hunter”, it is the only complete overview of Thompson’s life and legacy to date. In addition, using the STARZ “movie channel” theme, the dcoumentary also doubles as a study in Thompson’s impact on Hollywood and popular culture through a study of the two film adaptations of his work, “Where The Buffalo Roam” and “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas”.

“As sad as it might be, there are a lot of people who have come to Hunter S. Thompson through the film adaptations, and they know more about Bill Murray and Johnny Depp than know about his writing,” Thurman told me in our recent conversation about the film’s premier. “So the real aim was to be able to discuss these issues and these themes and ultimately try and send many of these viewers back to what’s most important, his writings.”

Here’s where Thurman does his best tightrope act; mixing Thompson’s art with the art created from and about him.

Distinct film clips work as exclamations and parenthetical asides to the wealth of background offered by illuminating interviews, file footage, and rare photographs. The aforementioned Murray and Depp, who both portrayed some form of the author on film, make intriguing observations about their channeling of the Thompson idiosyncrasies and mannerisms to best exorcize the personality from the icon and the words from the craftsman. Their subsequent performances, while both unique, furiously exhibit the fruits of their labor, as does the clips Thurman uses to illustrate it.

Fact is “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is the first significant film biography of one of the 20th century’s finest satirists since his death.

“We wanted to create a sophisticated, evocative interplay between the film clips and the interview participants,” the director points out. “To have one feed into the other for there to be an energy between the people on camera and the film clips that I can use to illustrate people’s attempts to bring Hunter’s work to film, to carefully study the films themselves, so then I can maybe educate people and hopefully entertain them and let them have a little fun at the same time.”

The “little fun” starts with unscripted lunacy from eccentric actor Gary Busey, who opens the film trying to direct Thurman and his crew in a self-styled “scenario” which tumbles uncontrollably from pathetically silly to downright goofy. Then there is the whiskey-gnarled narration ably delivered by actor Nick Nolte, who is joined by an oddly harmonious stew of celebrity voices including Sean Penn, Tom Wolfe, George McGovern, Ralph Steadman, Douglas Brinkley, the late Ed Bradley, and even William F. Buckley Jr., among others.

There is a real sense throughout the film that the fusion of divergent personalities and their swirling examinations is the key to understanding Thompson’s enigmatic ride. But as diverse as the principles are, there is a central premise that runs throughout: Thompson confuses, attracts, reviles, and intrigues, but he is never without title.

Thurman sees Thompson as a kind of sun around which other planets revolve. “People felt the heat from Hunter,” he told me. “They knew there was something unique going on there, and they wanted to get a piece of it, to be influenced by it.”

In many cases, as Thurman points out, some of these planets collided in a very salient way.

“I wanted use a passage about Muhammad Ali as an example of Hunter’s long-standing attraction to an interest in sports, and Ali, like Thompson, was born and raised in Louisville, and came to prominence almost at the same exact time. I also wanted to use it because it seemed to me that Hunter was talking about himself when talking about Ali. So we’ve got Thompson, the original creator of the passage, who’s from Louisville, writing about Muhammad Ali, who was also from Louisville, and was such a key cultural figure at the time, being read by Johnny Depp, who is also from Kentucky, and is one of the leading entertainment-industry figures in the entire world. So there seemed to be an interesting confluence of Kentucky connections right there.”

“Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” covers all the key characters in the Hunter Thompson saga, including childhood friends and his widow, Anita, and all of the author’s major achievements are also discussed. Thurman has done his research, and like every worthy documentarian, he knows where to sniff out the grit. The irony of many of his film’s bad-boy Hollywood line-up is not lost on Thurman either. “Many of the people I selected to participate in this, very few of them are poster children for the wellness center,” he jibes.

Thurman, a veteran of 10 original independent documentaries, among them films on Western icons Ben Johnson and Warren Oates, and rough-and-tumble directors Sam Peckinpah and John Ford, understands well the burden of living up to the tall-tale American icon, and how it can shadow and hound its creator. The inventor, purveyor, and keeper of the Gonzo flame was the latest, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, a Baby Boomer hobgoblin outlaw, two-fisted drinking, drug-addled, gun-toting mad poet walking the dangerous line between the ghost of Hemingway and the shoulders of Paul Bunyan.

“Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is a brilliant film about a brilliant writer and an excellent primer into the life and times and art of Hunter S. Thompson. It is required viewing, but I think Mr. Thurman would like to join me in imploring the faithful to read the damn books.

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O.J.Simpson & The Media

Aquarian Weekly 11/29/06 REALITY CHECK


Bill O'ReillySanctimonious, hypocritical, disingenuous media harping.

Only this juicy nugget could make me bag a perfectly serviceable plan to send the demented correspondence I get from you lunatics to press before whisking off into a long Thanksgiving weekend booze haze in Key West. Instead, I send my own departing love note to my pedantic brethren in the fourth estate. Then we get down to shredding whatever passes for common decency on the Gulf of Mexico these days.

Seriously people, calm down.

So Harper Collins and Fox Television attempted to make a buck on O.J. Simpson’s desperate notoriety grab. It’s not like the man was skipping a double-murder charge. This already happened. Outrage then was justified. Now it just seems like collective sore loser whining.

For those comfortable in their bubble existence, and I, for one, do not blame you, O.J. Simpson has scribbled some kind of pamphlet camouflaged as a book called “If I Did It”, which postulates his having committed a crime he actually committed – the murder of his ex-wife and a very unlucky waiter.

No matter how you view this confusing scenario: strange Lewis Carroll jabberwocky or a nifty Abbott & Costello routine, it is fascinating stuff and a guaranteed ratings bonanza for FOX Entertainment, which happens to own the book’s publishing concern, Harper Collins. This is not unlike those interminable Simon and Schuster book plugs masquerading as news on 60 Minutes, a product of CBS News, owned by CBS Enterprises, which owns, you guessed it, Simon and Schuster.

Exactly when did book publishing and TV nonsense need a code of ethics?

But incestuous corporate shenanigans aside, making scratch off of salacious, gruesome, sensationalistic tripe and the tasteless picking of bones is the very aim and purpose of having publishing houses and television production companies in the first place – not to mention the only reasons to endure a mainstream media. The real outrage is that any of you “watchdogs for decency” believe otherwise.

Grow up. What is this Journalism 101 with Professor Tweed Jacket & Elbow Patches waxing poetic about the code of reporter ethics, serving the common good, and ridding the planet of evil? Join us in the new century. It’s the same as the old century, and all the centuries’ prior. Freak shows sell. Reality entertainment is a cheap bilk and has excellent resale value. This stuff is business, not art. It sure as hell isn’t anything that needs a hearty debate on principles.

Exactly when did book publishing and TV nonsense need a code of ethics? And what exactly is a code of ethics? Our ethics? Please. I’ve worked for all levels of the Big Three, jack; television, newspapers, and radio, and not one minute of it did I get the idea anyone was in it for the exaltation of humankind.

All these soapbox soldiers railing against exploitation while working for major newspapers and television concerns is the very definition of irony. This lame pilfering of Rupert Murdock, CEO of Fox Entertainment, and Judith Regan of Harper Collins is as stupid as getting all worked up over another outrageous Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh statement. Murdock and Regan are business buddies who’ve made millions on “shocking” celebrity refuse. Hey, come to think of it, Regan published both Stern’s and Limbaughs’s books, among other cash-grab gems.

Still, the usual low-rent pundits have been checking in all over the joint. I was going to print some of the outrage, but I didn’t want to waste any bitching space.

Suffice to say, you’ve likely read it or heard most of it. And the worst has been coming from sports columnists, who rarely get to play outside the toy department – getting all self-righteous and preachy again, like during the Senate hearings on steroids. It would have been nice of them to get self-righteous and preachy in the late-nineties when all these jock-sniffing assholes were getting rich off of human chemical spills.

But I cease and desist from excoriated sportswriters for anything. It’s like blaming your dog for property taxes. The real silliness began at FOXEWS, where Bill O’Reilly, whom I assume cashes Rubert Murdock’s checks, went ballistic over this thing, threatening to boycott sponsors of the scheduled O.J./FOX broadcast. If O’Reilly really wanted to impress anyone he’d quit FOX altogether. But he didn’t. You know why? Who would hire this performing seal other than FOX? It’s the perfect home for his goofy antics. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, it was also the perfect home for O.J. Simpson’s antics. This makes pious phonies angry. They want the whole pie. Sharing is anathema to media whores.

And this brings us to O.J. Simpson.

Until the events of 9/11, the O.J. Simpson trial was the defining moment of a generation. It had all the elements of true cultural drama and paraded the most important issues of our times in front of the nation: lawspeak, race, and the abuse of 24-hour media coverage. Thus, I believe anything to do with O.J. is news, even this farce. It’s either that or more mindless shit about Tom Cruise or the Royal Family or some dumb-ass football creep like Terrell Owens.

C’mon, O.J. is our gremlin. He’s the ghost in our machine, like these trolls we have in the White House or Michael Jackson. Personally, I have a need to see the fallout. More importantly, I have the right to see it.

But, alas, as I write this it looks like FOX is caving into sponsor pressure or bailout, which are how these things usually get settled. Who is willing to pay for them? My guess is someone somewhere will be willing to pay for this dung eventually. I might. Maybe I can broker an Internet deal. Anything goes on the Internet. Call YOUTUBE!

I’ll listen to offers now. Can’t be worse than taking money to pen this mess.

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Aquarian Weekly 11/1/06 REALITY CHECK


Down in Vineland there’s a clubhouse, Girl in white dress, boy shoot white stuff Oh, don’t you know that anyone can join And they come and they call and they fall on the floor – Patti Smith

Ramones at CBGBContrary to popular wisdom, the Punk Rock revolution did not originate in London – East or West End. The Sex Pistols, widely recognized in the pantheon of pop culture as the purveyors of the genre, with their exploitation of multi-colored coifs, safety pin self-mutilation, ragged anti-establishment attire, offensive blurts, and the gurgling dupe that was Sid Vicious, were merely the fumes of the original New York City movement. It was there, on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, where the famous Bleecker Street careens into the Bowery, in a little dive called CBGB & OMFUG, that Punk Music, Punk Culture, and the next-to-last legitimate street music revolution began.

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, 2006 CBGB officially closed shop. In a city where nostalgia and landmarks always takes a back seat to profit and progress, an American institution bows.

Ironically, if you think about it, disregarding what was once considered sacred for a slice of the sweet unknown is everything Punk and CBGB once stood for.

However, there is something inherently bittersweet about this passing. Now that NYC has been reborn in conglomerate dreams and media clamor, Times Square mutating from the cesspool of seedy sex dens and rampant drug trade into a Tokyo façade hijacked by Disney and TV Network grabs fused on high-grade speed fashion. Greenwich Village overrun by Starbucks and Barnes & Noble and gutted by gentrified real estate moguls clutching at the bottom-line high.

CBGB has no place there anymore, much like Punk, or whatever is left of Hip-Hop, beyond the plastic macho horde of exploitation. CBGB represents a time of dire calls for eccentricity and upheaval, its voice, the voice of the underbelly of a fume-generation that began to fight back, but fight for what? This was never really crystallized. Revolution rarely is…neatly, anyway. Yet, in most cases, we’re all better for it. And at its best NYC can give you true ground-swelling revolution once and a great while, and most times it comes from the most unlikely sources.

Owned and operated by a West Village saloon proprietor by the name of Hilly Kristal, CBGB opened under the guise of its true definition – Country Blues & Bluegrass – with the subheading OMFUG, meaning “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”, but quickly fell on hard times. That is until Kristal reluctantly agreed to allow an unknown distorted noise-machine to play the club’s dead Sunday night slot. The band’s name was Television, and on March 31, 1974 they took the tiny corner stage and virtually created a three-chord manifesto later dubbed Punk Rock, a term first used by the prescient music critic Dave Marsh in the May 1971 issue of Creem Magazine.

If the Mersey Beat was created inside the sweaty walls of the Cavern in Liverpool, England, then its bastard baby brother called Punk was born here in the badass Bowery.

Kristal, partial to the country-western sound, despised Television, but his new Lower Eastside customers disagreed, not the least of whom was punk icon, Patty Smith, a New Jersey college dropout factory worker cum beat poet. To Smith, soon to join the Punk roll call, and the growing CBGB audience, Television seemed to encapsulate the hangover of the hippy sixties and define the true grit of the nasty, balls-out and broke New York experience to perfection.

The club, and Punk, a true grass-roots urban street movement preceding the borough-bred Rap origins by nearly a decade, were off and running.

But if Kristal despised Television, he was simply appalled when a rag-tag foursome of leather-clad, ripped-jean longhairs first strode through his doors, each one thick with Forrest Hills, Queens mumbles and answering to the same last name, Ramone. His mood did not improve when they took the stage to pummel the gleeful CBGB crowd with a wall of din rarely heard in the annals of music or LaGuardia air traffic for that matter.

In the following months of the soon to become disco-drenched seventies, The Ramones exploded onto the NYC scene and beyond, taking their act to England, where young and impressionable future members of The Clash and a snot-nosed lower-class petty thief, John Lydon lay in wait. Soon after being “transformed” by the Gotham racket, Lydon created his angst-addled alter ego, Johnny Rotten, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There is simply no Punk Rock without The Ramones and their festering incubator, CBGB.

Here is where CBGB rises from a mere cultural launching pad to a place held holy in the hearts and minds of the rock and roll era, or beyond that, the post-war free expression highway, where the sacrosanct gets the shaft, and the ugly gumboots rear their putrid anthems. CBGB then becomes something of a slash-and-burn Jerusalem, a Mecca for the disenfranchised and isolated who flocked to its dungeon as lemmings to the sea. If the Mersey Beat was created inside the sweaty walls of the Cavern in Liverpool, England, then its bastard baby brother called Punk was born here in the badass Bowery.

As the seventies rolled on, and the midtown glitz of a drug-hazed Studio 54 welcomed flash gawkers and the celebrity flock to dance away the malaise of Baby Boomer fallout to another NYC invention, Disco, CBGB reeked of revolution, revulsion, and bare-bones art downtown. The very split in cultures, sprinting for escape from economic strife, violent Cold War lies, and middle-class drudgery, rode the polarized crest.

The litany of performers that tread its stage, reads like a who’s who of the era and beyond: Blondie, Talking Heads, The Police, The Fleshtones, and on and on. Soon, CBGB became something more than an underground rock club, with its placard-festooned walls, dank, dangerous atmosphere, and pungent fog of urine. It was the symbol of motherland primal screams and a fist in the face of Apple Pie.

I was lucky enough to tread its stage once, back in the winter of 1985, as a grimaced-faced shit heel, me and my band, kicking out the jams and gormandizing the history. I remember it being cold, smelly, and an acoustic nightmare. And I remember loving every second of it.

CBGB is gone now, but it did its job for those of us left in the Baby Boomer shadows. The place provided an outlet for something gritty and real, unkempt and unbowed, offering no apologies and getting no sleep. It can now Rest In Peace.

We sure won’t.

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Warren Buffet For Sainthood

Aquarian Weekly 7/5/06 REALITY CHECK


Saint WarrenWhile on the book tour for “Trailing Jesus” three years ago, I was asked time and again how the heck did we get from a murdered Jewish mystic to the massive scope of Christianity, Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush, etc. It was a fair question, one that unfortunately my book does not cover. But I was able to answer a small part of the query by confidently stating that if there is one aspect of the first century Jesus Movement which could be translated to any time and any place it would be charity, sharing, and a complete disregard for personal possessions for the good of the whole community. Many people took that as some kind of political testimonial, like Jesus was some kind of socialist. But that was never it for Jesus, and anyone who claims to act or speak or cull his name in deed and promise need to know one thing: You cannot ignore the idea of chucking riches for the good of your fellow human.

The rest of it is really just a song and a dance or a wafer and a pulpit – uniforms and glad-handing myopia, and nothing really to do with what a preponderance of Christian mouthpieces like to call The Word.

Sorry folks. It is well documented. Far more documented than this pogrom against homosexuality or defining marriage or saving the world with war or damning the sinners or holding up holy relics like Mohammad’s visage or the celebration of Christmas as life preservers of society. Camel through the needle’s eye. It’s all there in black & white. Good to go. Easy to follow.

No one does, of course – least of all me, who charges a healthy 18 bucks for my little tome. But you don’t see me wagging an accusatory finger at the moral fabric either. I know I’m a self-centered ass just like everyone else.

Look, nobody with half a brain is going to give away all of their stuff to homeless, sick, indigents on a lark. It’s insane, which is why, among other prominent reasons, they strung Jesus up in the first place. And, of course, if you’ve read a word of this space for the past nine years, you know that you have a cynic on your hands here. I think the best way to go through life is let the other guy worry about it. Chances are “the other guy” is trying to screw you anyway.

In the world we live in right now, and considering the art form of the stock prognosticator and what money, big money, means to people like Warren Buffet, this is Mother Teresa meets Gandhi meets the Loaves and the Fishes.

But then there is the whole “Love your neighbor as yourself” and/or “Love your enemy” stuff that gets in the way of all this Christianity. Dig?

So when I first heard of billionaire stock guru, Warren Buffett handing over the miraculous sum of $37 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, doubling their pot, I was reminded of the two-thousand year old Galilean loon and his small attempt to move the notion of humanity.

And I do not use the word miraculous flippantly. On the contrary, this is a friggin’ miracle. No matter how you slice it. Especially since it is all the rage among philanthropists to mumble under their collective breath about the evil white corporate stock market greed-heads, who carve up the world in a salacious gentlemen’s criminal syndicate. And let’s be clear here, we’re not just talking about nations throwing money at disasters and human rights atrocities or We Are The World publicity parades. This is the greatest show of charity in the history of this country, or any country for that matter.

In the world we live in right now, and considering the art form of the stock prognosticator and what money, big money, means to people like Warren Buffet, this is Mother Teresa meets Gandhi meets the Loaves and the Fishes.

Last week, Buffet made good on a promise to hand over the bulk of his fortune to charity upon his death, only he did it on the heels of his beloved wife’s death. Of his $44 billion, he let go of $37 billion.

And not even my bitching heart can mock someone this generous by saying, “Hey, he has seven billion left.” Sure, but again I tell you: You do not accrue $44 billion dollars by letting even a lousy two bucks get away. It’s the financial equivalent of you chopping off a finger. This man just lopped off every limb, and then some. And never mind the money, if you can ignore this gluttonous figure, because it may just be the act that makes all the difference. For, as stated time and again in this space, and a subject that is often mistaken for doomsayer satirical trickery, I state that although religious theocracy, political philosophy, or other tired forms of human meandering, is all well and good, the only way to shake the foundation of the human collective, the heart of our species, is through personal sacrifice and selfless citizenship. No organized faith or government’s military action, no president, or celebrity, or even grass roots movement is going to make a dent in society like a person making good.

Attach that bit of twisted wisdom with the fact that this column is normally a running commentary on what motivates the great horde of bipedaldom: Cash. Moolah. Greenbacks. Deneri. Sweet, sweet coin, and you got yourself one impressed son of a bitch here.

Hey, this is the landscape we roam. We like to think it is a world run by God, compassion, empathy, and a yearn to be free. We like to think we fight for these concepts and the other guy fights for some bizarre notion of Allah, but we all know it’s about Mighty Mammon. We know what makes this spinning rock go ’round: Money, Money Money.

So now the second richest guy in the world gives nearly all of his money to the richest guy in the world’s own charitable institution: Bill Gates, who recently retired to spend the rest of his days running the organization and making sure the money doesn’t end up in the coffers of some sham artists or a black hole of red tape, but in the hospitals, villages, and bank accounts of needy organizations and persons with so much less.

It’s good stuff. Great stuff. And, as we know, this is a rarity around here or anywhere.

So here’s a note to all those who claim to know “What would Jesus do?”

Check with Warren Buffet, and not some Bible waving idiot for the lowdown.

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Iraq Newspaper Propaganda

Aquarian Weekly 3/8/06 REALITY CHECK


Hot Off The PressesGood news! It turns out the U.S. government is going to continue to pay Arab newspapers to run pro-American propaganda after all. Despite weepy protests from jealous hometown reporters not on the pay roll, more erroneous stories out of the human lying-machine known as Scott McClellan, and the latest pile of steaming feces emanating from Donald Rumsfeld’s craw, things will continue as before. Huzzah for capitalism and free press! It’s time for this space to cash in.

I don’t know whose been previously penning these fancy fairy tales, but they lack a certain grit and verve only a seasoned veteran of journalism can provide. And not any journalist, but one with no discernable recognition of concepts like dignity or integrity, one that has little to no regard for facts, research, or general reporting skills, and one whose mere existence is up for sale to the highest bidder, regardless of crimes against humanity at large. Most importantly, one whose moral faculties are so severely damaged they can only be properly observed by the purest intent for mayhem.


And so, the following is an audition to take over as the home office for world-class pro-war propaganda (cue the dramatic music). I have sent it to the U.S. Department of State/American Foreign Service Association (AFSA).

To whomever it may concern,

I am a big fan of your war. It is a fine war, possessing all the qualities of such: plenty of death and destruction without all the sappy tunes from that Second World War. I was never a big fan of “Over There”. But I digress already; for I am officially submitting my participation in this “yellow journalism” scam you got going over in Iraq. Not only that, I wish to run the entire thing, pick the editors and copy boys, set type, write the headlines, and buy drinks for all the secretaries. I am on board. Completely. And as a proponent of all things bullshit with no conscience to speak of, at least not one usually found in Homo sapiens, I believe I am the perfect fit for this gig.

Mad skills. Gutless pot shots. Questionable grammar. If I don’t get this job I’m off to the NY Post.

Now we all know, if you do your homework, you’ll see my byline over a great deal of, okay – reams of negative commentary on the mishandling of this war, a bunch of crazy stuff about the president being a stammering dunce and other immature anti-military ranting. But I beseech you, in the interest of our future endeavors, to ignore it all. I am a changed man, strike that, not entirely changed, for I still base my opining on who manages to benefit me the most, and if you pay me, that would be you guys. Trust me when I tell you that I am all for whatever dumb shit you’re trying this week. And I will gladly accept the job of making it seem feasible, even heroic in the face of the most pathetic failures.

Thus, to illustrate how I can passionately defend both sides of an argument, expertly ignoring any and all negative aspects of the opposing argument (I was a champion debater in both high school and college – taking the finals with the bold assertion that Abe Lincoln was a Portuguese lesbian – I still have my notes) I have included two potential leads, pro/con, for the U.S. Ports/United Arab Emirates issue.

AMERICA SAFER THAN EVER How The Almighty Dollar Saves Us All

The overtly bigoted attacks on an Arab nation and an Arab security concern cannot mask the importance of honoring free market exchange, regardless of who owns the companies. You’ve been hearing a great deal of sensible talk about how freedom is all well and good, but without our safety, it is non-existent. Trading in a few civil liberties for the right to enjoy freedom is the least we can sacrifice in these difficult times. But freedom and safety must take a back seat to money. Without money, what do you have? No money. And how would that sit with all our debtors and the billions we spend on bribing nations with weapons and handouts. Who the hell do you think pays for all this shit? Free enterprise, that’s what. And if the United Arab Emirates has earned its place in protecting our ports in a free enterprise system, then we must show the rest of the world how to make an honest buck. So now we should all shut up and go back to paying attention to the money pit that is Iraq.

Pretty nifty, huh? I especially like the way I wrapped it up by distracting everyone with a bigger problem. That’s what’s called a “tie-in” in the business, just one of the many buzzwords and axioms you get from a seasoned pro. But let’s say you’re not a fan of our ports being run by terrorist sympathizers. Check this out.


AMERICAN PORTS A SIEVE Another Sad Example OF How The Federal Government Blows

You want to know what should frighten us to the very core of our beings? The president is vehemently defending a deal he didn’t even know about until the Washington Post told him. Hey everybody, the Washington Post is running Foreign Relations! Cool. Now if we can just get the NY Times to balance the budget. I have a better idea, let’s get the Chinese to run the Central Intelligence Agency. Maybe those nuts who won the Palestinian election can take over the Secret Service. Perhaps then one of the highest members of our executive branch could make it through a weekend without shooting anymore of the elderly. And let’s try and remember this was the party that won a national election to protect us. It certainly wasn’t general competence, leadership, or economic wizardry. I guess its time we all move to states no one gives a shit about like Idaho or Montana and leave the port cities to the capitalist martyrs.

So there you have it. Mad skills. Gutless pot shots. Questionable grammar. If I don’t get this job I’m off to the NY Post. But before I conclude, I would like to thank you for your time and consideration. I think you guys are doing a bang-up job. Literally. So as a bonus, I leave you with additional pro-American headlines for no charge: SOCIAL SECURITY IS DOOMED & OTHER BUDGET SAVING SCHEMES FEMA & YOU: DON’T CALL US, WE’LL CALL YOU HOORAY FOR GOD! FIND BIN LADEN? WE’RE BUSY SPYING HELPS US HELP YOU TOM DELAY: WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE? OUR MOTTO: THE LESS YOU KNOW, THE BETTER WE FUNCTION

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Religious Extremism vs. Free Speech

Aquarian Weekly 2/15/06 REALITY CHECK

LOONY TOONS Another Sordid Tale of Religious Extremism vs. Free Speech

Hip-hip Allah!And kill them wherever you find and catch them. Drive them out from where they have turned you out; for Al-Fitnah (polytheism, disbelief, oppression) is worse than slaughter. – Qur’an 2:191

True revolutionaries never bomb buildings. – Dan Bern

Just when you think you’ve written about the dumbest, most illogically asinine subjects known to modern man, this happens: Months ago some Danish newspaper prints satirical cartoons depicting Muslims and their fancy prophet Mohammad in a “bad” light. Initially, no one gives a shit. Then riled up clerics take a fieldtrip around the Middle East with the things, along with additional non-published heretical material to raise the collective ire. Extremist Muslims, who need little motivation to do so, predictably freak out. Threaten violence. Wreak violence – big time violence and destruction. And what are the predominant responses to this whole pile of steaming sociological horse hockey and babbling religious fanaticism? Defend the vicious protestors or bow to fear. We truly are living in an age of enlightenment and intellect, I’ll tell ya.

Let me begin by respectfully stating that what Islamic loons do on their own time with their own set of wacky dogma is their business. I have been pretty consistent on this issue with Christianity, Judaism, Scientology, Wicca, the Promise Keepers, the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, those desert hippies who worship The Burning Man, whatever. Believe what you will. We’re all proud of you. But what any of it has to do with a free press or freedom of expression in purported free societies is anyone’s guess. Although who the hell knows what goes on in Europe these days, where Muslims carrying a grudge against the British government can be deported or some insanely illegal shit.

We have to quake because Muslims are pissed at their icons being battered in art and/or satire? How about someone from the State Department getting upset that apoplectic religious freaks are running amok over a goddamn cartoon?

And as far as ultra-violent activity in the Middle East…well, who really needs a cartoon for this to go down anyway. A stiff breeze and a burp could buy you weeks of flag-burning, chant-addled frenzy in a dozen theocratic monarchies. Let’s face it, after awhile its white noise and test patterns; the boy who cried riot.

Normally I wouldn’t even get too crazy about this brand of raging stupidity until it reaches these shores. But now we hear American newspapers are backing down from printing the cartoon and network news organizations are blotting out the images in its reports, despite the clear fact that it is news – big time news. And then there is the case of the United States government, which, by the way, is on a well-documented mission from God to spread freedom and enlightenment throughout the world, making mind-bendingly goofy statements.

To wit:

Our State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper: “These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”


How is it that Christian icons and Jewish Biblical Characters are fair game in print, film, music, art, comedy, and not Mohammad? Because we don’t know shit about Islam and are infinitely afraid all Muslims are crazy or this confused white bread government of ours has depicted most of the Islamic world as radical hate-mongers of freedom, while also conveniently passing lip service to the “normal and peace loving members of Islam”?

Honestly, who cares if Muslims are offended? Boo hoo. Get a helmet. Have we gone complete off the rails with this religion crap now? We have to quake because Muslims are pissed at their icons being battered in art and/or satire? How about someone from the State Department getting upset that apoplectic religious freaks are running amok over a goddamn cartoon?

Of course this is another superlative example of why George W. Bush should be sent to prison for using the United States military to now force-feed the Middle East democratic ideals. We should have sent Snoopy in as an emissary.

Here’s the argument from the other side: Muslims are prohibited from depicting or creating renderings of Allah or Mohammad in any way, good, bad, or otherwise. It is an anathema to their customs and beliefs. Well, once again, goodie for them. But what in the name of all that is holy and idiotic does this have to do with the Danish Press or the French Press or certainly the First Amendment laws of the United States of America?

Another salient question at this juncture might be: Were the people who wrote, drew and/or published these cartoons even Muslim? If not, what are we getting nuts about? What’s next, everyone at the New York Times is now forbidden to eat meat on Friday or the entire editorial staff at the Washington Post has to be home by sundown later that afternoon? Maybe we should let Billy Graham run NBC news.

Hey, I’m well aware that people who make the most noise and break the most things get their way on this planet. This is business as usual, like religious violence. The Crusades and the Holocaust are fine examples of forcing religion on others and the persecution of religious cultures. But have we learned nothing from their fanatical crimes? This is 2006. Why are religious fundamentalists even allowed to debate this subject, much less burn and pillage unchecked and then defended in the press?

I’m offended. How about that? I worship at the altar of free speech and expression. And these lunatics are trampling all over it. But that’s not new. That kind of God reasoning for wreaking havoc on everything is as old as it is crazy. But it doesn’t make it right, and it is even less right to apologize or give into virulent oppression. Believe what you want. Fine by me. But keep it to yourself.

Of course I have my doubts 90% of these maniacs give half a fart about Mohammad anyway. How many of those conveniently enraged fuckers stealing televisions and ransacking grocery stores during the Rodney King riots had even heard of Rodney King?

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