The Phony Campaign

2008-06-08 Update

Barring surprises, we're left with our three November candidates:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony220,000+5,000
"John McCain" phony195,000-8,000
"Bob Barr" phony39,400-8,500

  • I'd like to say that Hillary went out on top, but in fact she slipped to 217,000 hits this week, which would have put her in second place. I know we're gonna miss her. At Wizbang!, Cassy Fiano notes the particular phoniness of her "exit" speech:
    First of all, let's be clear about everything here. Yes, Barack Obama is the nominee. However, Hillary didn't actually concede. I don't know what the point of that move is, as we all know that Obama's the nominee, but I guess she's hanging on to one tiny thread of hope that she might still get it.
    Well, we'll see.

  • In probably the second-best news for Obama this week, he seems to be on the verge of losing his support from the incarcerated rap star demographic. Namely, Prodigy (half of the hip hop duo Mobb Depp):
    "I wanna like Obama, but he's all about the world government, world banking, war and stuff like that. You know what I'm sayin'? He's a phony," P told "I wish nothing but love and happiness for him. But he's either gonna be assassinated to create chaos and bring about Martial Law or he'll live and then years down the line, at the end of his term everybody will see that he's just like the rest of these plastic Presidents, who does absolutely nothing good. Just another puppet for the Royal family."
    For those of us who find it difficult to keep up, the article helpfully points out that "Prodigy is currently serving a three and a half year prison term for a gun charge dating back to 2006." He expresses fondness for Ron Paul, but the "Royal family" comment might indicate that he's been spending some time with the Lyndon LaRouche gang at the pen.

  • Over at Counterpunch, Tim Wise employs his vast knowledge of feminine psychology in an article headlined (and I am not making this up) "An Open Letter to Certain White Women Who Are Threatening to Withhold Support from Obama in November: Your Whiteness is Showing".

    Yes, Tim knows why Certain White Women ("You know who you are.") are shying away from Obama, and he'd like to tell them about it.

    If it were gender solidarity you sought, you would by definition join with your black and brown sisters come November, and do what you know good and well they are going to do, in overwhelming numbers, which is vote for Barack Obama. But no. You are threatening to vote not like other women--you know, the ones who aren't white like you and most of your friends--but rather, like white men! Needless to say it is high irony, bordering on the outright farcical, to believe that electorally bonding with white men, so as to elect McCain, is a rational strategy for promoting feminism and challenging patriarchy. You are not thinking and acting as women, but as white people. So here's the first question: What the hell is that about?

    And you wonder why women of color have, for so long, thought (by and large) that white so-called feminists were phony as hell? Sister please...

    Calling people racist phonies is … an interesting strategy to get them to vote for your guy. Who knows, I suppose it could work.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 11:00 AM EDT

Political Hypocrisy

[Amazon Link]

Since Pun Salad makes so much of phonies, especially those running for president, it seemed natural to check out Political Hypocrisy by David Runciman. Those looking for cheap laughs at the expense of hypocrites needn't bother; the book is a serious treatise on how views on hypocrisy have evolved over the past 400 years or so in Britain and America.

Runciman takes it a chapter at a time, in roughly chronological order. He starts out with Hobbes and Mandeville, then moves on to the American founding fathers, concentrating on Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams. There's a chapter on Bentham, followed by an analysis of Victorian authors Trollope, Morley, and Sidgwick, then (most appropriately) George Orwell. A concluding essay wraps things up, and Runciman comments insightfully (for a Brit) on the current crop of American presidential candidates.

Runciman makes the valid-enough point that we are all hypocrites, since we know the good, and uphold the good, and yet do not often enough do the good. Most Christians know this, for as long as they've been able to understand Romans Chapter 7. So hypocrisy is a potentially universal charge, and one that just about anyone can make, and (hence) such charges are likely to be extra-hypocritical themselves.

What a muddle! But Runciman does his best, making fine philosophical distinctions among various phyla of hypocrisy, and showing that it's (OK, fine) a necessary evil—and sometimes a positive virtue—in liberal democratic polities. That doesn't mean we should be resigned to it, but it helps much to be aware of the nature of the beast.

Most interestingly for recent events, Runciman considers the hypocrisy of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He makes the point that they're hypocrites of completely different flavors.

All politicians lie, but some, like Bill Clinton, are able to lie easily because they are able to persuade others, and themselves of their underlying sincerity. Bill Clinton was a faith-based politician, his faith being limitless faith in his own goodness of heart. Hillary Clinton is nothing like this; her public persona is too obviously an artificial construct, designed to protect her from her own weaknesses as a politician and a human being (notably a lack of warmth), of which she is clearly all too aware. This is why, in a semi-confessional age, it will be considerably harder for her than for her husband to get elected. But it also means that there is less danger in her case that there was in her husband's of becoming self-deceived. With Hillary Clinton there seems little possibility that she, any more than anyone else, will lose sight of the fact that she is a hypocrite. Hillary Clinton appears to be a mixture of what Mandeville calls "malicious" and "fashionable" hypocrisy, of personal ambition and a desire to pander to the electorate.
Explains a lot, I think.

But—reader, beware—it's not all as punchy as that. For full appreciation, the book (early chapters especially) require a familiarity with British political history that I didn't have. The chapter on Orwell was probably easiest going, since I, and I presume many readers, know Orwell's work and history better than (say) Mandeville's.

Runciman makes the interesting point that, for all Orwell's concerns about hypocrisy, his 1984 dystopia is one in which hypocrisy has been stamped out. Big Brother is a brutal liar, but he's not at all concerned with hiding this reality behind a mask. When the populace is told "we've always been at war with Oceania", there's no effort to "spin" the truth that way. Truth is irrelevant and everyone knows it.

Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:18 AM EDT

Across the Universe

[Amazon Link] [2.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

One of my favorite one-liners from P. J. O'Rourke: "Earnestness is stupidity sent to college." This movie has been to college. A commenter at IMDB claims it to be a breeding between Hair and Moulin Rouge. I'd say: more like Billy Jack and Help!.

Primarily, it tells the stories of Lucy, Jude, and Max, young people of the late 1960s. It is a Beatles musical; the participants routinely break into song, sometimes with elaborate choreography and massive production and special effects. (So, why is one of the kids named "Jude"? Duh, so one of the big climactic songs can be "Hey Jude". Didn't see that coming at all.)

Pluses: It's got a Beatles soundtrack (albeit overproduced and ponderous), so it can't be awful. Salma Hayek shows up as a nurse, writhing to "Happiness is a Warm Gun", so that's pretty good. Bono and Eddie Izzard have small roles as "Dr. Robert" and "Mr. Kite", respectively. (Whoever knew Bono could be funny? He is here.) And Joe Cocker has a blink-and-you'll-miss-him bit as well. (About long enough for me to say: "Hey, I think that's Joe Cocker!")

So it could have been pretty good, except for all the plodding earnestness. Its driving theme is Idealistic Free-Spirited Youth vs. Authority, where Authority is represented by murderous white soldiers, thuggish white cops, and Uncle Sam in Vietnam. It's 60's history as told by the Oberlin College class of 1974.

(To its slight credit, the movie alludes to the Weather Underground, which is accurately portrayed as blowing itself up with idealistic, free-spirited bombs meant for others.)

Last Modified 2012-10-12 6:19 AM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 4:00PM on AMC: Look Who's Talking (Bruce Willis)
  • 6:30PM on TNT: Die Hard with a Vengeance (Bruce Willis)
  • 9:00PM on TNT: Deep Impact (Morgan Freeman)
  • 11:15PM on TNT: Die Hard with a Vengeance (Bruce Willis)

Theory status: unrefuted for sixteen consecutive weeks.