Total Drek

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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 11

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes Rush Limbaugh seem sane by comparison. Last time Molly's mom gave a long, incoherent and pointless speech that- strangely enough- perfectly encapsulates the rhetoric of the TEA party. What happens this week? Yeah... believe it or not? Another bad speech. Sorry?

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for, frankly, a peculiarly apt term:

When did Noah get a beer? Last I checked, Captain Poongatherer had a lamesauce coffee.

"Restore. Not adapt, not transform... restore."

Oh, you mean restore the US back to the good ol' days when you could beat your slaves and fuck your wife like you paid for it? NICE. Thems were the days, folks!

And Toby Keith? Please. What, were all the Lee Greenwood cds sold out? Or not loaded into the mysterious jukebox? Or did the live act not know "I'm Proud to Be an American?" OR! Twist: The live act's band name is "Jukebox!" Everyone wins!

Well. Except women and brown people, assuming this glorious revolution is going to succeed (and could it not?! I mean, they've already met in a bar -- everything else will just fall into place).

I gotta be honest, "Captain Poongatherer" really seemed to fit. I admit, I did wonder if maybe "Captain" was implying too much competence and a lower rank like "Private" or even "Recruit" might be more accurate. But then I remembered that the enlisted man works for a living- something Noah clearly does not. And so, the brave Captain Poongatherer marches on to the sibilant tunes of Jukebox, watching the revolution that will never happen. Bravo! I also want to just give Mister Troll a nod for managing to wrap Molly up in a classic Heinlein short story. Well done, sir! Well done. Keep it up everyone, the "best" is yet to come.

And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Kick it!

Dramatis Personae: In an order chosen by my infant daughter.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly ???: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Not good at talking to women. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead.


Chapter 11: In which the Glenn Beck clone does what a Glenn Beck clone does.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 71, Line 1-6:
Noah had lost count of the refills after his first pint, but by then he was averaging around thirty-two ounces of suds per special guest speaker. He'd briefly considered playing a drinking game with himself, wherein he would pound one back each time he heard one of the dirty words progressive, socialist or globalism, but by those rules he'd have drunk himself under the table within a few minutes. [emphasis original]

You know, beer is not really all that alcoholic. So, really, if he's drinking himself under the table with beer it suggests that either he has a tolerance for alcohol that rivals a seven year old girl* or he has the bladder of champions. I leave it for you to judge which is more likely, but enjoin you to consider Noah's general lack of positive qualities when doing so. Regardless of your conclusion, Noah thinks back over how he decided to keep hanging around the bar even though Molly walked off on him and about how each speaker has been dumber than the last. And then Hollis appears, striding through the crowd like Harry looking for one or more of the Hendersons. Noah invites Hollis to sit down, although with a bit of uncertainty.

Page 72, Line 6-8:
"Though I'll [Noah] tell you the truth, when you've got your choice of a few hundred people here who I guarantee are better company than me, I wonder why you'd decide to sit here.

Oh, Noah! He thinks it takes several hundred people in order to find someone more entertaining than him. I've read this entire godforesaken book and I can assure you that many cereal boxes are better company than Noah Gardner. And I'm not even talking name-brand cereal, either. Hollis takes a Coca-Cola** from the waitress (Yes, the freakishly attentive waitress is back!) and then tells it like it is.

Page 72, Line 12:
"I don't know," he [Hollis] said. "You looked kinda sad, I guess."

Still does unless I miss my guess. And he's gonna be even less happy in about one line.

Page 72, Line 13-16:
As if to drip gasoline on Noah's already smoldering mood, tonight's headliner, the illustrious Danny Bailey, now took to the stage in a swell of heavy-metal music and an ovation that rattled every shelf of glassware behind the bar.

Well, shit on me. Do I really have to listen to another half-assed speech, this time from that jackass? Hell, if I were there, I'd probably be drinking too. Of course, I'd be drinking whiskey or vodka or something, but I'm not a fancy lad like Noah. Anyway, Bailey asks the crowd how they can tell if a politician is lying, they answer that his lips are moving, and then we really get a feel for what the next few pages are going to be like.

Page 72, Line 26-32:
"That's right," Bailey said. "And watch what they name things, especially those bills they're all voting on without even reading them. If they call something the Patriot Act, you can bet it won't be long before they're using it to hunt down us patriots. If it's called Net Neutrality, it's going to be used to neutralize their enemies. If it's called the Fairness Doctrine, it's meant to unfairly put free speech under government control and create a chilling effect on your First Amendment rights." [emphasis original]

Yeah! And if it's named the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act it's about crashing planes full of orphans and baby pandas into veteran's hospitals! And if it's called A bill to redesignate the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge as the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, it's probably going to redesignate the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge as the Pol Pot and Hitler are Gay Lovers National Refuge for Transvestite Wildlife! Wait, what? And why do we suddenly care about the first amendment? Isn't it found on one of the sheets of the constitution that comes after the first four that Molly's mom wanted to make sweet, sweet love to just last chapter? Anyway, Bailey rambles on for a while and then asks if anyone is looking for a job. He asks because he believes that around 20% of the population is unemployed (1).

Page 73, Line 16-19:
He held the printout in his hands at an angle so he could read from it under the lights. "I found this last week on a government website. It's a really good job for what they call an Internment and Resettlement Specialist." (2)

Oh, man. Seriously? I should note that the authors in the afterword do observe both that Bailey is a nutjob and that he stitches innuendo and half-truths together into a seemingly damning fabric. Trouble is, I can't really tell the difference between what Beck does regularly on his show and this shit. Is this, in fact, yet another subtle condemnation of Beck himself? If so, they've done a truly monumental job since Beck himself in his interview about the book on Fox News states that Bailey was included "...specifically to show that those who live on the fringes or who embrace radical conspiracies will never be taken seriously and can never play a large role in any kind of movement." Well, we can all hope, but the evidence is against that notion. Parody or not, we're not done with him yet.

Page 73, Line 21-25:
"Now, calm down, give it a chance. Of all the world's prisoners, we've got twenty-five percent of them right here in this country (3). And hell, the U.S. has only five percent of the planet's population, so there must be a disproportionate number of undesirables in America, don't you think?"

I'd feel a little more comfortable cracking jokes about that passage if I weren't aware of the racial breakdown of our prisoner population. Even in fiction faction cluster-fuction, I feel a tad uncomfortable with the "undesirables" remark, under the circumstances.

Page 73, Line 28-33:
"Oh, wait," Bailey continued, hamming up an incredulous reaction to the new document on top. "What's this? I don't believe we're supposed to see this. This is Army regulation 210-35, dated almost five years ago. And will you look at that? The title is 'Civilian Inmate Labor Program.' (4) Maybe this is what they need all those new internment and resettlement specialists for."

Again... what? Does anyone have any idea what the hell we're even talking about right now? I sure don't but, don't worry, Bailey doesn't either. He goes on to mention a memo written in 1970*** that discusses rounding up African Americans- referred to at the time as "American Negroes" in scare quotes as though that would be all that surprising in 1970- and then mentions Rex-84 again. Just for shits and giggles, allow me to remind everyone that Rex-84 was concocted by conservative icon Oliver North. Bailey goes on to mention the FBI's ADEX list (5)- a set of people who were considered subversive and would be rounded up in case Rex-84 were ever activated- and then goes totally wacky by comparing this to the DHS' terrorist watch list.

Page 74, Line 28-31:
"Have you registered a firearm? You're on a list! Have you made a political contribution to a third-party candidate? You're on a list! Have you visited my website? You're on a list! Have ou given a speech about government lists to a rowdy group of patriots? You're on a list!" (6)****

Have you ever checked out a book from the library? You're on a list! Have you been naughty? You're on a list! Have you been nice? You're on a list! Have you ever entered the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes? You're on a list! What are we talking about right now? You're on a list! I have no idea, but shit am I excited about it! Kidding aside, however, this is as good a time as any to mention what I see as a core oddity of the modern conservative movement: its attitude towards government. See, on the one hand, conservatives often argue strenuously against the government running anything because government is, by definition, inefficient and incompetent. Yet, at the same time, we get paranoid ranting like this which basically takes the stance that the government has the institutional capacity not only to gather and organize all this information- all these damned lists- but to process said information and act on it in a timely and effective manner, presumably be detaining and/or assassinating people. So which is it, crazy assholes? Is the government ineffective by nature, or damned near omniscient? Because it can't be both! Anyway, Bailey then rants about how we can be tracked through our cell phones, and pulls out a copy of the memo that Noah claimed he spiked way back in Chapter 3 (Page 19, Line 7-14). Good to see Noah is awesome at his job, I guess.

Page 75, Line 21-29:
"...if you speak out against abortion," Bailey continued, reading from the memo, "are a returning veteran, are a defender of the Second Amendment, oppose illegal immigration, are a homeschooler, if you've got a bumper sticker on your car that says 'Chuck Baldwin for President' or, heaven help us, if you're found to be in possession of a copy of the U.S. Constitution, then you good American patriots, you moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas, you guardians of liberty are to be approached with extreme caution and guns are the ready, because you may be a terrorist!"

Oddly, the only thing that really comes to mind here is that this is like a Jeff Foxworthy routine from bizarro world. "If you zero in your .50 sniper rifle from your living room... you might be a redneck terrorist. If your hobby is packing metal pipes with explosives while listening to talk radio... you might be a redneck terrorist." In any case, there's a mention of the fact that Congress hasn't formally declared war in, you know, a while as a way of pointing out that Congress is pointless (7). Then we ramble on a bit, mentioning some of the rather esoteric provisions put in place just in case the country is obliterated by a massive thermonuclear bombardment (8) (9) (10) (11). We also get some weird remarks about the area of the U.S. near the coasts and borders being a "constitution free zone" (12) (13) (14) as well as some not unreasonable complaining about the notion of a "free speech zone" (15). Then Bailey goes in for the big finish, in the process setting Noah up for the one and only funny part of this whole wretched book. And when you read the next passage, yes, we skipped over page 76 completely. You know what? You're freaking welcome.

Page 77, Line 10-16:
"It looks bad, I know it does," Bailey began. "But do you know why we're going to beat them? We're going to beat them because once the truth gets out there'll be no stopping it. When enough people wake up they'll have no choice but to come out of the shadows and fight, and then we've got them. Remember what a great man once told us: First they ignore you- then they ridicule you- then they fight you-"

"And then they win," Noah said.

Okay, that was actually a little funny. What's even funnier, though, is that while that quote has usually been attributed to Gandhi there's no known citation. In other words, "everyone knows" he said it, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence that he did, or even a firm idea on when or where he allegedly said it. There is, however, a known citation to a very, very similar quote from a trade union. Specifically, "And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America." And it frankly just amuses the crap out of me to think of Glenn Beck quoting the labor movement.

Page 77, Line 17-22:
It was one of those nightmare moments, like when you dream about showing up to ninth-grade homeroom without your pants. Just as he'd spoken those four words, out loud but only to himself, the entire room had gone dead quiet in anticipation of Bailey's big triumphant finish. And by some cruel trick of acoustics, Noah's sarcastic twist of that Gandhi quote seemed to have carried to every ear in the room.

Oh, noes! What will happen to Noah? Will they lynch him? Will they blame Hollis? Will they lynch Hollis? As if we could be so lucky. No, they do something to him, but sadly it involves a lot of talking. Regardless, though, it doesn't happen until the next chapter, which means we're done for now.

Come back next time when we get to the dumbest of the dumb speakers at this meeting- Noah Gardner- who is then promptly clubbed like a baby seal. It'll be fun.

See you then!

* No, I actually don't know what kind of tolerance a seven year old girl has. I'm assuming it isn't very great because they're not very big people yet but for all I know they have a freakishly high tolerance.

** Yes, the text really states it's a "Coca-Cola". I'm from the f-ing south and even we don't use the full trademarked name. Seriously, is this product placement?

*** The citation to said memo is for Alfonso Chardy's article "Reagan Advisors Ran Secret Government," in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987. This doesn't appear to be available online so, good luck!

**** Yeah, this reference comes up as a dead link for me in two different browsers. I've checked the printed addy several tiems, that's what the book f-ing says, and a search on the website for the story title leads to the same dead page, so that's what you get.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's bad enough that the writers have clearly never been to NYC, but it's just mind-boggling that they work for Beck and have clearly never been INSIDE A BAR. What, did the waitress just roll up a full keg to his table and let the honor system take over? Because, seriously, how many refills can you even get in a crowded bar on a Friday night in Tribeca?!

Also, whose lunatic idea was it to simply transcribe terrible speeches for entire chapters? That is the worst literary technique imaginable. Speeches work because they play off a crowd dynamic -- a dynamic that is noticably absent when reading a book alone, probably at home, likely surrounded by your stockpile of Wal-Mart guns and ham radio.

Saturday, April 23, 2011 6:01:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Have you registered a firearm? You're on a list!"

Well, one would hope so, because that sort-of maybe is the point of something called registration.

And this whole book falls into the 'Left Behind' syndrome, where "the prophecy which I have made in real life is coming true in a work of fiction which I've written. Therefore, clearly, real life people should accept that my prophecy will definitely be coming true."

In other news, black is white and purple seals dance the foxtrot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

"In other news, black is white and purple seals dance the foxtrot." --Aussiemurf

Your fantasy is way more awesome than the authors'. Maybe they called it 'faction' because they recognized their dire lack of imagination? (While failing to recognize their even more dire lack of common sense?)

Thursday, April 28, 2011 2:44:00 PM  

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