Opinions Are Like Butts Everybody Has One and Most Stink

Here’s my beef for today; in America, we have become so accustomed to 24/7 access to so much information that the line between opinion and fact have become one and the same for the least informed but biggest slice of our country.

Hell yes everybody is entitled to their opinion, but like butts, everybody has one and the vast majority of them stink.

And of course, the same people who have longed for complete autonomy over their own little world, while enjoying the protection and freedoms afforded them by the government of this country, scream the loudest.

It has also afforded the “New” chest-thumpers on the right new vigor; the same way Joe McCarthy gave them vigor. The same way the John Birch Society gave them vigor. The same way mobs embolden individuals to do stupid things they would not do on their own.

And for all the GOP’s ardent search for the Democratic equivalent of Watergate, for all their bluster and chest thumping, it seems to me that the GOP are actually just sore losers; as well as really bad winners.

Ever since Richard Nixon turned a landslide victory into the first de-frocking of a sitting President, the GOP has become a vindictive bunch of whiney, paranoid, privileged do-nothings with huge chips on their shoulders.

Gerald Ford tripped and stumbled and doo-fussed his way through what remained of the Presidency after Nixon gave Ford his assurance that he’d leave quietly if Ford would just pardon him. Hell, he made Chevy Chase, and in the process Saturday Night Live, famous for bumping their heads so many times. How’s that for a legacy? My Presidency catapulted SNL into celebrityville.

Thern there’s Reagan. Historians, real ones, not the ones in Texas that re-write history more times a chicken lays eggs, will confirm that despite his pleasant persona, Ronald Reagan was a lousy actor and a worse President. He was a tax and spend conservative and the RWNJs have re-written his story so many times one would never know that he would be as unacceptable to this bunch of GOP ne’er-do-wells as Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

George Bush (Read-My-Lips-No-New-Taxes) Sr. went from defeating Iraq in a matter of days to being badly beaten by a rapscallion southern skirt chaser who couldn’t pass up a hummer long enough to get out of the Oval Office, but at least he reduced the deficit while helping to destroy our economy by signing the repeal of Glass-Steagall. 

And of course George W. Bush, of Twin Towers, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and the Great Recession of2008 needs no help from me to be remembered. Sorta like a child only has to stick his hand in fire once not to do it again.

But it’s the extremist wing of the GOP that’s like roaches. You cannot get rid of them. No matter what they do to putrefy the existence of laws and regulations that keep us from being a banana republic, every time you take your eyes off of them they are sneaking out from under the refrigerator to leave their little droppings all over your food.

And the way they’ve given Monsanto impunity over the years to screw up our food supply with no recourse for the damage they do, the metaphor to roaches is quite appropriate.

Articles of Confederation, KKK, John Birchers, McCarthyism, Waco and Fox “News”?

The extremist right in America has always thrived by recognizing actual, legitimate grievances that have either not been given their due attention or are being badly mishandled by the government, and particularly the federal government, and twisting them into the latest wild conspiracy. But for pete’s sake, the government is us. We elect the clowns that enable countries around to world to rightfully attach the word “Hypocritical” to “the United States” when speaking freely.

We attack any country we feel is “mistreating their population”, but allow Tea Partiers to scream “Get a Job” at disabled homeless Veterans sleeping on sidewalks. Our flow of guns not only endangers our own populace, but criminals from other countries take advantage of the idiocy of our “no background check” policy to arm their drug cartels and terrorists.

We are like the rich neighbor who builds a ten-foot privacy wall to keep others out, then throw all our garbage into the front yard for it to stink up the entire neighborhood. No, MIGHT does not always mean RIGHT

In the 1950s and 1960s there were hate groups like ones in the subtitle above. They all professed to believe that any government was “bad” government and extolled the virtues of individualism, Xenophobia and, ugh, shiny metals as a solid means of pegging our currency’s value. But what they really hate is equal equal justice. Wailing for fewer restrictions and regulations are like crooks bitching about there being too damn many cops on patrol.

In the 1980s and 1990s, they successfully re-routed discontent with malfunctioning federal farming and land-use policies in rural America into uprisings like the Posse Comitatus and Patriot/militia movements and their various offshoots, such as the Montana Freemen, the Branch Davidians in Waco,  the Weavers in Idaho at Ruby Ridge, or Timothy McViegh in Oklahoma City. These were all armed standoffs with federal agents during unpredictable waves of domestic terrorism, most of it emanating from the American heartland.

And in ten short years, these same extremists have taken the word “Patriot” and changed it from a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors to someone who screams at disabled veterans to “get a damn job”. 

What these extremists commonly use to foment their base of support is that there are simple reasons for their current miseries—inescapably, it is a combination of a secret faction of elite conspirators running the “gubmint”and crushing the middle-class working stiffs from above, while a freeloading underclass drains the  taxes from his hard-working, 12-hour-a-day meager earnings from below.

Inexorably, the “secret” reason for all of this dastardly government manipulation is sold to the same loyal, albeit woefully misinformed masses, as being part of a secret conspiracy to subjugate “regular” working people and destroy America.

The modern-day versions of course run the gamut from Joe Scarborough’s snarky, everyman self-importance to Glenn Beck, AM Radio and Fox News who are the primary propaganda divisions of today’s conspiracy network of celeb de jeur warning of FEMA trailers as internment camps and black helicopters that will spirit away those who choose to “fight back” against the “takers” to defend the “makers”.

But the special traction that gives them such wide appeal and longevity is their capacity for finding unaddressed grievances and exploiting and developing them as ersatz illustrations of a conspiracy, by which they end up manipulating working-class people who have legitimate problems. Their agendas come wrapped in a charm or appeal by telling people that they not only feel their pain but have the answers to end it. And their strategy works, time after time.

And they NEVER have any proof. Like Darrell Issa’s latest, “We’re getting to the truth about the IRS cover-up”, or Miss Lindsey Graham-McCain’s, “They are obviously hiding something about Benghazi”, or Bill O’Reilly’s, “Sounds Shayyyyyy-deeeeeeee”. Good lord. Come back if you ever have any proof boys. But the proof never comes. Just more innuendo, rumors, or in the case of Fox “Commentators” just make some crap up.

The New Millennium Brought New Means to the Same End

Historians will theorize, speculate and postulate over how the most powerful country in the world could even seriously debate whether the president of the United States was a Muslim, a socialist, or foreign-born. They’ll marvel at U.S. political “leaders” questioning whether global warming was real, and whether discredited, and failed  policies of austerity thatdidn’t to address the problems of the Great Depression, and was destroying the Eurozone in present, real-time,  should be embraced to address the problems of the Bush’s Great Recession.

Historians will be obsessed,  not with understanding Americans having arguments, but over the sheer level of intensity and abject hostility to scientific reasoning and the shameful ignorance of facts. And they will be forced to conclude the same thing that I believe today; that a huge faction in America in the early 21st century was simply, undeniably delusional.

But right-wing denial could not have taken hold had it not been for another component of American life — one that frequently operates on the left as well as the right — the reverence placed on opinions.

In America today, opinion is the new fact.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think that it is commendable that, in hypothetical terms, no person is better than any other person. But here’s the tricky part:  It is a very short step from “all men are created equal” to “all opinions are created equal.

In a society that admires the individual’s right to say or do whatever he or she wants, within the limits of the social and legal constraints necessary to prevent fraudulent and deceptive practices, you can wind up democratizing solipsism. And I cannot emphasize this enough; not every opinion, however foolish, dressed up, and absurd, is just as good as any other opinion. It’s just not.

But even if opinion has always been consecrated ground in America, there was also a respect for expertise which mitigated the worst extremes of opinion-mongering.

“Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but everyone is not entitled to his own facts.”Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Facts used to constrain opinion so that the most idiotic opinions seldom got traction in the mainstream. They simply came and went….like a bad fart. It’d stink up the place for a minute or two, might even take your breath away, but then it was gone and all was right with the world again. Things made sense again.

But the discipline that facts exerted in the past have been gnarled and beaten down by the opinion-mongerers. And no single invention, development or discovery has done more to challenge expertise and falsely overstate individual opinion than the Internet.

Among the principal offenders are the Twitterverse, Facebook and every political website’s comment chains. The Internet is an opinion-generating, 24/7, perpetual machine that doesn’t have to eat, sleep or defecate. The biggest problem with it, however, is that it exists without caretakers, mediators, gatekeepers if you will;  to determine whether an opinion is knowledgeable or not, worthy of our consideration or not. The Internet doesn’t arrange, prioritize, or organize; it simply delivers, and it delivers everything. A shit sandwich sits at the same table as a rib-eye steak.

In the so-called Age of Information, The Internet has morphed into the Age of Opinion, and while, as Moynihan observed, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they are both competing for the same space; for your eyes as well as your brain. Certainly facts can overwhelm ideas. But so can opinions overwhelm facts.

When every single opinion is deemed worth expressing so that each of us is besieged with thousands of them every damn day, opinions can–and have already begun in many cases–to replace facts.

This is the new age America.  If you want to understand how climate change, evolution, and President Obama’s birth are all subjects of discourse, even of debate, it is because they are all considered a matter of opinion, innuendo, or speculation….but never, ever, proven by facts.

Rationality has given way to declaration. Thinking it is good enough. Saying it often enough makes it true.

Honest to god, last night a man vehemently and– I honestly believe that he believed what he said–without hesitation or doubt, stated that he KNEW for a FACT  that “most illegal immigrants were fleeing Mexico to America to escape Mexican drug cartels”. And his undeniable source of fair and balanced truth? His son-in-law and a movie he’d seen 20 years ago!!!

Anyone who categorically repudiates reality and believes whatever the hell he or she thinks is true, regardless of its basis or absence of fact, is certifiably ill and needs treatment. When abundant individuals deny reality, the illness turns into social dementia of sorts.

Unfortunately, in a society gone nuts, a society where critical mass creates an entire alternative, bizarro-world reality, the illness is probably too entrenched to be treated.

Even people who know better than to deny global climate or birthers, troofers or advocates of Intelligent Design — or for that matter, people in the media who stand to profit from fanning the conflagration — aren’t willing to call these people what they are for fear of being accused of taking sides, or worse, losing profits. 

So we buck along in our collective psychosis, living in worlds of our own conceiving, and proving Mr. Moynihan wrong because innuendo, rumor, and most forms of fiction have replaced facts, evidence, and reason in America.

Everyone is entitled to his own facts. Or, as Bill the Cat from Bloom County might say,  “I think, therefore I Ack!!!!”


Harvey A. Gold

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