So, in my last post I mentioned my recent insomnia. I was so tired I felt drunk. Here it is five hours later, and I'm wide away. Well, "wide" may be the wrong adjective there. I'm narrowly awake, awake by a bare sliver, yet it's a vital sliver. A voice in my head just won't shut up. What kills me is that other people probably get voices in thier heads that worry about important stuff. I'm kept awake by the worst kinds of trivia. I don't know if you've ever seen the comic strip "Syvia." Nicolle Hollander has a running gag about "The Woman Who Worries About Everything." In these strips, the woman is awake in bed thinking about some new political development--Friday, the woman wakes up her husband by worrying out loud about pharmacists refusing to fill prescription drugs, for instance. I identify with this on so many levels. "Sylvia" is one of my all time favorite strips with a political bent. I like Doonesbury and the Boondocks, but seldom do I find myself laughing out loud over their particular brand of humor. They usually devote thier energies to making fun of right wing politics, which is fine by me, but "Sylvia" usually has a more absurdist spin on things. She's making fun of right-wingers, often savagely, but there is also a subtle recognition in her political commentary that recognizes that outrage and fear over a lot of political issues is funny in it's own right. I think she's aware that waking up in the middle of the night to worry about the FDA or Tom Delay or Halliburton is a fairly absurd reaction to most politics. She's making fun of politics, but also making fun of people who take politics seriously.
Which brings me back to my insomnia, and the stupid stuff I worry about. Tonight it's Bill Bennett. By now, most people have probably heard about his suggestion that we abort all black babies to reduce crime. I read about it on Buzzflash, on Democratic Underground, and on Media Matters. Deomocratic Underground has a thread calling for this racist cracker's head on a platter--or, short of that, demanding that he be taken off the air. There's a petition going around, yadda yadda. I heard the clip played on the Alan Colmes show, and thought it was pretty amazing that Bill Bennett had said such a thing. It was also puzzling, because I thought he was opposed to abortion. Sure, maybe he hated black people, but didn't he also hate abortions?
So, driving home yesterday, I heard a longer version of the quote, and more about the context of the quote. Turns out, he doesn't support aborting all black babies. Nor was it even his argument--he plainly states that it's an argument he read in a book called "Freakanomics." And then, in the sentence immediately following his presentation of that arguement, he goes on to call the argument rediculous and morally reprehensible. It's a common defense of politicians to claim that they've been taken out of context--but all the outrage over these remarks plainly requires that his comments be taken way, way out of context. To spin this like this is Bennett's belief requires a level of intellectual dishonesty that makes me ashamed of my fellow human beings.
This isn't just something the left does to demonize the right. The right did it as well with their spin that Gore claimed to have invented the internet. It's a claim he never made, based on spinning a factual and much more modest claim that Gore had been supportive of legislation that funded development of networks while he had been in congress. This is an easily verified, totally non-controversial statement for Gore to make. So, of course, the right wing spin machine yanked his comments out of context and eventually rewrote them to turn Gore into a liar, based on a lie that he never told.
What kills me is how well this works. I don't have any hard polling data, but I would guess that the number of people who believe Gore claims to have invented the internet is up around 70 or 80 percent. The number of people who believe that Dan Quayle went to Latin America and lamented that he didn't speak Latin is probably higher than that--once again based on something that he never said. And now this Bill Bennett thing--a year from now, all people will know about him is that he's the guy who wants to kill black babies.
So, tonight I'm blaming my insomnia on my concerns about the collective ignorance of Americans. Now that that's out of my system, I'm going back to bed.