When I was in college, I was witness to one of the most controversial moments in Utah Valley University’s history when Michael Moore, the liberal icon of Fahrenheit 911 fame, was a guest speaker. The whole campus was in an uproar. There was a film made about it, called This Divided State. I was sure I had written about it somewhere, but I can’t find any evidence of that. Anyway, the whole thing led me to follow both Michael Moore and Sean Hannity for a short time before my brain exploded from the drama fest bullshit. I don’t want to go into too much detail on this post, but the few moments that really got to me were, first of all, during Sean Hannity’s UVU speech he strutted around goading “here, liberal liberal liberal!” at the audience, and made a show of plucking an (obviously planted, as far as I could tell) guy from the audience while completely ignoring our most famous resident liberal (although I’m not sure how he would react to that designation), Dennis Potter, who was trying to flag Hannity down.
The second thing that struck me was how un- impressionable Michael Moore was in person. He really wasn’t a very good speaker, though he had a couple of points, I guess. Mostly I found him boring. His films were another story.
Third thing: In Bowling for Columbine, he makes a brutally manipulative attempt to use emotions against the audience in a way that was so obvious to me that, although I agreed with the overall point he was trying to address, I could not justify in my mind the means by which he manipulated people to try to get his point across.
Fourth: Also in Bowling for Columbine, the absolute most intelligent person I heard from in the entire ridiculous debate makes his appearance: Marilyn Fucking Manson. There he is, in all his freakish glory, speaking with such depth of mind and reason and vitality that he makes every political personality in every sphere of politics I had seen in that particular three- ring circus, look like defunct kindergarteners trying to explain why all the Lincoln logs should belong to one or the other. It shed some light on something else entirely, for me.
The power, and the uselessness, of offending people.
You see, I’d heard of Mr. Marylin Manson before. I have friends who are big fans, but I could never get into the music. I love metal, but his shit just wasn’t my thing. No matter, really. What I had heard more about was his outlandish style and stage acts that are not for the squeamish. And that’s what it is. An act. He is offending people for the purpose of offending people, because once their eyes are wide open and staring in shock, maybe their ears will open, too. Maybe there’s something in the recesses of the human mind that gapes at staged train wrecks because it is wired to gather information on survival.
Unfortunately, folks like Michael Moore and Sean Hannity- cut from pretty much the same cloth, as far as I can tell- use offense in a different way to provoke people to listen and to act. They point at train wrecks that were staged (or real, with staged effects), and tell people they are real, what caused them, and why they should be angry and who they should be angry at. They completely re- route that thinking thing the brain is supposed to do, and plant conclusions so people don’t actually have to look and listen and discern. They dress in tuxes or in blue- collar clothing, a visage of “normal” that fades into the background as they point and shout at those people you are supposed to hate for what they are doing, for what they did. Don’t think, there’s no time! Act now! Be Angry.
It is very effective, especially when it comes to vulnerable people. The elderly, the mentally ill, the socially isolated, the disadvantaged. These are the people who are targeted because they are the ones who are the most easily manipulated. And they are our parents, neighbors, children, and friends. The more desperate a society becomes, the easier they are to manipulate. Soft, mushy, stressed- the- fuck- out brains for sale.
Then there’s the useless form of offense.
They call it trolling these days, I guess. These folks are all over the internet and in your face in public, now and then, being offensive for the sake of being offensive. As it turns out, in my experience, they are also the most easily offended. Usually by you getting offended by their being offensive, because offending people is a fundamental human right. Well, sure, have your say. But there are actual consequences for saying offensive things, because free speech does not begin and end at “I have a right to offend you.” Other people have a right to speak, too. One hopes that the voices of reason outnumber the voices of the offensively offended, but more and more, it seems like the likes of Moore and Hannity (there are way too many just like them) and their ubiquity in the media have swayed so much of the population, that reason is a dull murmur in the background of all the screaming about who to hate and why.
So now there’s just this horrible background everywhere of insane political views so polarizing that I have finally figured out why people pay attention to shit like the Kardashians.
To get their eyes off the omnipresent staged farce of a train wreck that is our political system; a haphazardly painted backdrop of red, white, and blue to the constant bickering between these cartoon elephants and donkeys. Turn your eyes instead to the sparkly people on the red carpet and their pseudo- problems. Then, the two intertwine, and it all becomes the same- it’s all Celebrity Death Match with celebro-politicians. And everyone is yelling on stage, and in the audience.
We need more Marylin Mansons.