There were certainly more than four stories this year to qualify for “most ridiculous story of the year,” but given that I didn’t start chronicling them until April 25, and that I still have to actually work for a living, rather than read all I’d like to read, four it is.
The criteria for selection aren’t easy to meet: Entries must be work that serious writers present in all seriousness that goes far, far beyond the sublime and settle heavily into the imbecilic.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the nominees, in order of their original appearance in C-SM:
First, Naomi Wolf’s “Fascist America in 10 easy steps.” Wolf is, of course, the author of much ridiculousness, much of it ending up in The Guardian, which is a repository of such stuff. But in this piece, Wolf lets lose all her paranoid delusions, not stopping at merely comparing Bush to Hitler, but:
From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And … George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.
She then lists the ten steps Bush is supposedly following to turn America into a dictatorship, stuff like “Create a Gulag,” “Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy,” and “Develop a thug caste,” in this case, “angry Republican men.”
Never mind that mobs angry Republican men have not rounded up scores of Muslims (the internal/external threat) and sent them to Guantanamo (the Gulag), Wolf is, very ridiculously, convinced her home country — which lets her write and publish this filth — is becoming a police state.
Second, Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh in their WaPo column “We’ve Lost. Here’s How To Handle It.” Cuing off the June mosque bombings in Samarra and Basra, Simon and Takeyh decide:
The war in Iraq is lost. The only question that remains — for our gallant troops and our blinkered policymakers — is how to manage the inevitable. What the United States needs now is a guide to how to lose — how to start thinking about minimizing the damage done to American interests, saving lives and ultimately wresting some good from this fiasco.
The authors miss the obvious point: No one loses a war unless someone has won it — and not realizing that makes everything that follows, in a word, ridiculous.
It’s easy to read this in light of what’s happened following the Surge, which proved the authors false again and again, as in this case:
U.S. troops can’t beat the insurgency on their own; our forces are too few and too isolated to compete with the insurgents for the public’s support.
It is obvious that al-Qaeda has lost the public’s support and we helped that happen not by the sheer number of our troops, but by their sheer decency and al-Qaeda’s sheer savagery.
But that’s the easy critique, and hardly the most damning. That goes to Simon and Takeyh’s dismissal of speculation that bloodshed would follow our retreat as “unknowable … In fact, history suggests that the consequences of a U.S. defeat will not be that dire.”
Unknowable? Not dire? Can you say Vietnam? Cambodia?
The two have a solution, though, that they say will make retreat very do-able and positive: Contain Iran; tamp down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and return to realism.
Oh, yeah. We’ll use all our great new credibility, gained by letting al-Qaeda defeat us, to do just that.
Third, This is Your Brain on Politics, by Sharon Begley, an opinion writer for Newsweek, a book by Drew Westen of Emory University, “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”
The book itself is a disagreeable thing with a central thesis I generally agree with: Emotion trumps rationality in opinion formation. But Begley earned her nomination for using Westen’s book as nothing more than a platform for her blind as a bat, emotionally over-amped Democratic bias.
She dismisses GOP policy and its appeal to large blocks of American voters:
After reading [the book] you won’t be surprised that Westen has been approached by the campaigns of “several” Democratic hopefuls (he is too discrete to say which) for advice on how to make use of findings about how the brain operates in the political arena. Why aren’t Republicans beating a path to his door? Because the GOP has already mastered the dark art of psych-ops—of pushing the right buttons in people’s brains to win their vote. (emphasis added)
Have you ever heard a GOP candidate say the Dems would kill Social Security if they were elected? And don’t even get me started on playing the race card. Button-pushing is not a single party deal, but Begley is blinded to reality.
No, she sees Dem mind as a high-minded thing, “dispassionate, making decisions by rationally weighing evidence and balancing pros and cons.”
Our fourth entry is Is Cheney About to Blow Up the Bay Bridge? from Gypsy Taub at the blog Politics of the Heart. I considered not entering this post in the contest because 9/11
Truthers Paranoid Schizophrenics are so overwhelmingly ridiculous it gives Taub an unfair head start.
But then I thought about die-hard Socialists, cut-and-run Dems and blind pundits like Begley, and I thought, “What the heck? Taub’s got no head start with this bunch.”
Taub apparently missed the fact that the Bay Bridge was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake, so a new bridge had to be built. (That earthquake occurred in 1989, a bit before (take your pick) Bush/terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.) As part of this process — and of construction not going as planned — the Bay Bridge was closed for four days in August.
I’m too harsh. Taub is aware of the earthquake … it’s just the conclusions he draws from it in his muddled mind:
Don’t quote me on this, but I have also heard that the old Bay Bridge is not earthquake stable, so if that is true [it is, my gypsy friend], then it sounds like the World Trade Center that needed to go because of all the asbestos that it was filled with.
Anyway, the bridge’s temporary closing was enough to set off a
Truther’s Numskull’s paranoid fantasies:
Bush’s term is coming to an end. The public is pushing to ban voting machines. The power of the Bush administration is deteriorating with major figures resigning, almost daily scandals on the news and constant threat of impeachment. Their only weapon is fear, it’s their last hope. I can see them really desperately needing a terrorist attack in the near future. 911 [I thought that was an emergency number] did them a great deal of good. 911 was, of course, the work of the Bush administration, the Pentagon, and others connected tightly to the Bush administration.
This is a bit muddled. If Bush wants to stay in power, what do voting machines have to do with it? If he doesn’t want to stay in power, why does he need to (it’s hard to even type this) concoct another 9/11? Well, let’s not let rational thought get in the way of the ridiculous:
Getting back to the Bay Bridge, it being shut down for 4 entire days sounds suspicious. They are also demolishing a section of the bridge, so that gives them a green light to bring in a demolition crew. According to their official website they are doing seismic safety work which can, as far as I understand, involve drilling holes in the structure to test it for safety. Also, the new bridge being close to finished would be a convenient time to blow up the old one [sic].
Got it. Close the bridge for four days so as not to raise suspicion, then put your Black Ops crews out in full sight of all to drill the holes. Oh, those tricky bastards! Taug goes on to accuse the Bush administration of crashing a fuel tanker so the 880 freeway in Oakland would collapse:
As soon as 880 collapsed the mainstream media [those famous Bush allies] started screaming about steel melting from fossil fuel fires and comparing it to 911. I knew they were going to say that. That seemed to be the whole purpose of this incident, to “prove” that the WTC really did collapse from the jet fuel fire.
Purpose? There are no accidents? And the Minnesota bridge collapse? A training exercise for the upcoming Oakland explosion, of course! Then, suddenly, a near brush with reality:
Having said all this I would like to hope that I am wrong, that it is indeed a legitimate bridge repair work. But if the bridge does get blown up in the near future don’t buy the “terrorist” story! Investigate, document, take pictures, samples of soil, water, anything and don’t let them institute marshal [sic] law or sign Patriot Act 3!
It didn’t blow up; there were no charges of a new terror attack. And there’s no “marshal” law … yet.
So, which story is the most ridiculous?
Wolf, and her countdown to Bush’s dictatorship?
Simon and Takeyh with their primer for a win/win defeat in Iraq?
Begley with her insights into the GOP and Dem mind?
Or Gypsy Taub, with his deep, deep insanity over police emergency numbers … oh, I’m sorry, not 911, but 9/11.
I have to reject Taub because his rants are more bizarre than ridiculous and are too narrowly focused on the guilt of the Bush administration. He says nothing that is broadly applicable.
Simon and Takeyh get a pass because history has so quickly proved so much of what they wrote to be wrong. Yes, history has made them appear even more ridiculous, but it has also made it easier to gauge their ridiculousness.
Between Begley’s blindness to her own prejudice, which is such a lovely metaphor for the greater MSM’s blindness, and Wolf’s senseless but vivid paranoia about Bush, it’s a tough choice.
But Wolf gets the honors because she took the care to identify ten separate steps, a primer for despots, and figure out how to connect each to Bush. In the process, she managed to ignore the fact that the American democracy remains balanced and protected by its three branches and its no-nonsense public, and that a campaign for the next American president is in the works.
But mostly, Wolf won because she didn’t share Begley’s blindness to her prejudices … she lays hers right out there, for all to see, and she glories in just how bright and insightful she is — failing to see just how ridiculous she and her views are.
Congratulations, Naomi. Keep up the ridiculous work.