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October 23, 2007 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 23, 2007 |

Hey there Pajibians. Dustin et al. have kindly plucked me from blogscurity and given me this here fancy soap box to talk about two of my favorite topics: politics and television. We’ve got a long road of electoral shenanigans ahead of us, lots of snark and rage and laughs to be had (and if we’re lucky, maybe a ray or two of hope), so let’s get started:

I’ve watched Bill Maher since his “Politically Incorrect” days and will always have a soft spot for him for saying what he did so soon after 9/11. If only the rest of the media had been so brave/stupid. I often disagree with him, and I happen to think he’s a really bad comedian (thanks to TiVo, I now fast-forward through his monologue), but there’s something about his shows: For all of the blowhard, sensational, “I’m going to say something really unpopular in a neenerneenerneener tone all high-and-mighty like,” he and his guests occasionally get to a kernel of truth that doesn’t get talked about elsewhere on the TV.

“Real Time” is sort of “The Daily Show’s” drug-addicted, drop-out kid brother. “The Daily Show” studied, got his masters and leads a highly functional life, so when he sits down at a family dinner and tells dad that the guy he voted for is, in fact, a criminal, the folks have a hard time writing him off. But “Real Time” stumbles in drunk at Thanksgiving raging about everything from religion to Ellen and her fucking dog, so when he throws in some serious shit about wire tapping and torture, Dad gets to scoff and dismiss it as the ravings of a lunatic. All of this to say, I like Bill. In spite of himself. In fact, last week’s episode offered two moments that got me thinking about the nature of our democracy, how easily corruptible it is, and why we have to keep fighting for the unattainable goal of a functioning system.

The first came about a third of the way into the panel discussion, when two folks from “The Truth about 9/11” camp tried to hijack the show. Now, let me get this out of the way. If you think the World Trade Center attack was a controlled explosion planned and executed by our government, I’m not gonna change your mind, and you’re not gonna change mine. But since I’ve got the mic, I’ll say this much: Your energy, passion and dedication would better serve this country if you focused it on actual crimes against humanity. Anyone who thinks this administration — this totally incompetent, bumbling, greedy, sham of an administration — is capable of that kind of massive cover-up is out of their goddamned minds. Rage in the comments section if you must. I will ignore you.

Moving on…. Here’s the video:

My initial reaction was, “What a hilarious, entertaining circus!” Then came the interview with Russian presidential candidate and chess master Garry Kasparov:

I want to echo what Chris Mathews says: Why the fuck don’t our guys talk to us like that? I don’t know enough about Kasparov to have an informed opinion about him. Obviously, he has an agenda just like every other politician in the history of existence. But how refreshing is it to hear one of them speaking to an audience as if, gasp, they are sentient, adult beings capable of grasping complex concepts? Who’d have thunk it could humanly be possible?

At the beginning of the show, Bill interviewed John Edwards. I like John fine. I adore his wife. If she were running, she just might have my vote. He said all the right things in perfect sound-bite form. Bill asked him why politicians say the same thing over and over, why they stick to rote answers instead of really talking to people. Naturally, Edwards gave a rote answer about the American people wanting to feel confident their leaders have the courage of their convictions. Sure, I guess. That’s important. It’s also total bullshit. The truth is: They give rote answers out of fear. God forbid they show an ounce of unrehearsed humanity. Anyone remember Howard Dean?

More than a leader who has “the courage of her convictions” (no, I’m not a Hilary supporter but it’s hardly fair for her to get the short end of the pronoun stick all the time), I want a leader who can demonstrate a massive capacity for abstract thought, the ability to synthesize tons of information, recognize that shit is not black and white and then take a clear position. The ability to engage, compromise and change. Nothing — not one thing — about the electoral process as it exists today has anything to do with that. It has everything to do with creating an image that will entice folks to open their wallets. (And while we’re on the topic, I’m still on your team, Barack, but those obnoxious fundraising e-mails talking shit about Hilary are giving me pause.)

What about Ron Paul, Gravel and Kucinich, you say? Well, yes, the luxury of being a maybe-if-everyone-else-died candidate is you get to shoot shit straight. No reason to fear the media, they like an underdog. The thing is, when they speak to me like I have a brain, it’s quite easy for me to determine I disagree with them. (I’m still on the fence about Kucinich, actually.)

So here’s the double-edged sword: We’ve got it good. In spite of how incredibly fucked our government is, clearly in the pocket of corporate interests, you can still run for office with out fear of polonium in your salad. And yet, we have so little gratitude as a nation, so little respect for our rights and our potential for good that we squander our attention on Britney’s vag shots and hollering about “Building 7.” Don’t kid yourself, those two things are the flip side of the same coin: Addiction to sensationalism. And yet, in a police state where free press is an oxymoron, we wouldn’t have the luxury of giving a shit about that stuff.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Aaron Sorkin fantasyland in which I wished we lived doesn’t exist. The first to admit that this issue is incredibly complicated with out a magic bullet solution. It’s the media’s fault. It’s the candidates’ fault. It’s our fault. There’s no end of the road. There’s no city on a hill where all this shit will melt away and the system envisioned in our Constitution will click along like a finely tuned watched. But if we don’t fight for it, if we don’t at least occasionally cast our gaze away from the bullshit and towards the man behind the curtain, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we can’t afford health care or gas or heat, when we can’t breathe or go outside with out 185 spf sunblock, when we can’t protest the actions of our president with out the secret service whisking us into a holding area. Oh wait, that last one’s already here. It’s a slippery slope.

To end this inaugural post, I’ll leave you with my all time favorite moment of pop politics — Jon Stewart on “Crossfire”:

(Anyone else noticed Tucker’s since bailed on the bow tie? Advantage, Stewart.)

Beckylooo is an aspiring television writer, aka an assistant. She has a deep understanding of the importance of a pleasant phone manner and a well stocked fridge. Further rantings and ravings can be found at If A TV Falls in the Woods.

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"Real Time with Bill Maher" Edition / Beckyloo

TV | October 23, 2007 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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