Every now and then, someone tells me, through email, or comments, or in person, that bottomfeeding is an unworthy pursuit. Why, I’m asked, do I write about people who post to places like Free Republic, or Redstate, or Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government? They’re all crazy! Irrelevant! Who cares what they say?
And then I learn that CNN has hired Erik Erickson as a “political contributor.”
Because, you see, he’s an “agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washington.” He’s an “opinion leader” and an “important voice.”
This is the man who tweeted that Supreme Count Justice David Souter was a “a goat f*cking child molester.” The guy who called Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy.” The blogger who suggested that people should beat politicians “to a bloody pulp.”
His is such “an important voice” that he now has a gig on CNN.
How did this happen? The answer lies in the power of what many call “Teh Stupid.” How “Teh Stupid” works is often a mystery to liberal and conservative non-Stupids, who imagine that rules of logic within reasoned argument are as iron-clad and impossible to circumvent as physical laws like gravity and matter. To them, Erickson’s elevation to a national outlet is as baffling as watching an anvil fall up.
And this is the advantage of my hobby of bottomfeeding. It offers an overhead view of Teh Stupid, how it works, and from whence it derives its diabolical power. Those readers who get dizzy and a bit nauseated when they attempt this kind of scuba diving might as well give up reading this right now, because we’re going to go on a quick tour of the depths. Unpleasant, yes, but Erickson’s recent promotion indicates it’s not a total waste of time. We’re going to investigate how Teh Stupid emerges and survives to the point where, like “Hitler was a liberal,” “Obama is a Kenyan,” and “John Kerry is no war hero,” it starts to bob to the surface of mainstream politics:
1. The Unveiling of Teh Stupid: “Robert Gibbs is sending secret signals of solidarity to the SEIU by wearing a purple rubber bracelet.”
We begin with the unveiling of Teh Stupid, in this case, a post by one Kyle Olson (“vice president of Education Action Group Foundation, a non-partisan non-profit organization with the goal of promoting sensible education reform and exposing those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo”) entitled “Robert Gibbs’ and Andy Stern’s Purple Bracelets a Mark of Clintonesque Solidarity?” Olson had spotted a sinister similarity in accessorizing between White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and SEIU president Andy Stern. To be specific, both were shown wearing little purple bracelets. Olson did what he could to get the word out:
The bracelet is kind of a signal to tell Stern that the administration has it under control and ObamaCare will be delivered. Just a few more Democrats need to be shown the Chicago way.
Of course, he’s a responsible writer, so he adds just the faintest soupcon of skepticism to his premise that White House officials are sending secret messages to union officials by wearing colored rubber jewelry. “Am I making too much out of nothing?” Olson muses.
“Maybe,” he says, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully and pursing his lips. “Who knows.”
2. The Frenzy: OMG…!
His readers, of course, know exactly what to make of this. “Those cutsey little Purple Bracelets?” asks the first commenter “That is how they recognize each other in lieu of the secret handshake, or the more familiar Zeig Heil!? Remember, everything is relevant”
Another commenter wails in anguish at the blindness of Americans who fail to see this obvious sign of collusion.“What other evidence to people need to see that this President is corrupt? Really? Is it that hard to see?”
I mean, my God, if the White House Press Spokesman wearing a purple bracelet doesn’t wake people up, what will it take?
A commenter who lost his wife to ovarian cancer does pipe up with the observation that purple bracelets are a gesture of solidarity not to union bosses, but to cancer victims. He’s quickly assured by a commenter called “motley” that even this would indicate something nefarious. See, it’s a mistake to assume that anyone who works for the Obama administration could possibly be motivated by empathy. “…these guys are users,” says motley “and would where one of your bracelets to get a rise out their enemies, which are Americans.”
Then “motley” adds, with positively supernatural prescience, that Gibbs probably put on the purple rubber bracelet on purpose to upset people like motley…:
…Then laugh and show how wrong and trivial we are by showing it is an ovarian cancer band. It is all a set up. It is all orchestrated mind games and we are walking right into the trap. They are going to have the biggest laugh and constitutionally illiterate Americans are not going to want to associate with us buffoons. They will have been programmed that the purple and gold guys are the smart, sane, non-judgmental, wise Americans. But make no mistake, Purple and Gold are their country’s colors.
As you can see, there’s already a teensy bit of awareness that this could turn out to be an embarrassing online pratfall and motley is provide early cover for that by reminding everyone that the notion of an Obama official caring about someone with cancer is just plain ridiculous. For heaven’s sake, it’s not like Obama administration officials are human beings with human feelings like Big Government readers.
And the purple bracelet is not just a secret signal. It is an obvious, deliberate, intolerable affront to patriotic Americans that Gibbs commits at his own peril. As a commenter who seems to be trembling with rage puts it:
I am getting sick and tired of all their smug faces even though I know the smugness is orchestrated to get an emotional, irrational response from us so we are at a deficit arguing logically. It is classic head games and I know it and it bugs me. You know the look…..the kind our mothers would have slapped us for and when we asked why the slap when we did not even say anything, the answer was, :Well, you were thinking it!”.
Maybe my mom needs to wipe those smug little grins off their faces. Would be nice if she accompanied it with a, “Now listen here, you impertinent younggggg maaaaaaaaaN, you are too cocky for those little britches of yours. Until you can fill them with adult-size respect, keep you mouth shut and don’t look at me with that smug grin!”
After which, one presumes, she’d backhand Robert Gibbs hard across the kitchen before returning to the pot she was stirring over the stove, muttering curses around the ever-present, lipstick-stained cigarette still tightly clenched in her thin, embittered mouth.
So, here we have it. Teh Stupid has been set out, Teh Stupid is being gobbled up and digested by the faithful. To those unfamiliar with how Teh Stupid works, this looks like a house of cards about to be blown down by..
3. The First Whiff of Reality
Robert Gibbs took a second or two to twitter an explanation:
Some chatter on my bracelet http://bit.ly/9Yu7eX it’s for 9yr old daughter of friends she is bravely fighting cancer – say a prayer for her
So the supposed secret signal being sent by Gibbs is simply a gesture of solidarity to the sick child of some friends. No doubt Mr. Olson will admit his mistake, and there’ll be some embarrassment and apologies on the blog as Olson and his fans acknowledge the lesson they’ve learned about jumping to nasty conclusions.
Anyone who imagines this just doesn’t know how Teh Stupid works.
4. When Faced with an Undeniable Screwup – Brazen It Out!
Olson’s reaction is to say, in the words of Pee Wee Herman:
“I meant to do that!”
He publishes an update with a headline denouncing Gibbs for taking two seconds to respond to the rumor Olson was floating:
And congratulates himself on the amount of justified derision he generated.
I scored the lefty trifecta: MediaMatters, DailyKos and a blogger for Salon.com all responded.
A rash of hysterical e-mails also came through.
The “hysteria” of course, being largely comprised of hysterical laughter.
Now, people unfamiliar with Teh Stupid might point out that Olson’s original posting of the “silly theory” generated 301 (at this count) comments, a large portion of which were from loyal readers who not only embraced this “silly theory,” but dramatically expanded on it.
Aren’t those folks a little insulted? Aren’t a few of his commenters, reading a theory described as “silly” that had earlier inspired them to write agonized posts about the bracelet as proof of the insidious depravity of the Obama administration, going to scratch their heads and say “heyyyy….?”
This presumes that “Teh Stupid” has some sort of linkage to either logic or reality. What it’s all about is the Stupids looking around at all the other Stupids, ie, the mass, the powerful gestalt that is “Teh Stupid,” and making sure everyone’s got their story straight. If other Stupids aren’t embarrassed or ashamed, why should they be?
Some of the commenters just echo Olson’s premise that Gibbs responding to a 334 word post (not to mention the thousands of words in comments expended by Olson’s excitable right wing readers) with a polite, 24-word explanation on Twitter is evidence of suspiciously thin-skinned defensiveness that borders on incompetence. The same commenter who invoked secret handshakes and insisted “everything is relevant!” bobs his or her head vigorously and declares, apparently with a straight face:
…with all the attention the White House, Bob Gibbs, Andy Stern are paying to your thread, tweeting and blogging, they sure do not exude a lot of confidence. Are you sure these are the type people WE should entrust Health Care, and 17% of the economy to?
They certainly appear juvenille, and are sure worried about the court of public opinion.
For some, the very denial arouses suspicion that Olson’s theory about secret signals is in fact true. “Textbook example of ‘doth protest too much,’ one of them sagely observes. “Remember the old Elementary school saying, ’Whoever denied it, supplied it?’’” asks another.
Others ridicule the gesture itself as unmanly:
I’m still snickering at rich, powerful, presumably adult men going on TV wearing pastel plastic bracelets, and not as some sort of comedy sketch or MTV gender-bender schlock. Sure, I loved my jelly bracelets, spent a lot of “riding my bike around picking up pop cans” money on them….when I was an 8 year-old girl.
Gibbs, thin lips, weak chin and a ‘purple bracelet’, not a good look for ‘man’. Does Andy Stern own a coat and tie? We all ‘get it’. The comrade look, communists shiek, ‘man of the people’, street mob[ster], more like a ‘gamin’.. a street urchin… a person that will say or do anything for a buck… it’s right here in this alley, don’t be afraid…
Others decide to denounce the cancer bracelet campaign as a Democratic pro-union conspiracy. One commenter posts:
Weren’t the cancer bracelets made popular by Lance Armstrong yellow? Why the change in color to purple, the color of SEIU evil? And most important…how does wearing a purple bracelet help a little girl with cancer? This is just like the democrats saying they support the troops yet hardly any of their actions prove this.
While another says:
Wow. That bracelet actually represents everything that the Obamacare campaign is about: SEIU (color); Baby Human Shields; and Medical Sob Stories. We are talking synthesis on an epic scale.
And some even denounce Gibbs for making the gesture for a sick little girl instead of a soldier. “Why doesn’t he wear a bracelet with the name of a soldier killed in action?,” asks one. And another asks; “How about Gibbs wearing a bracelet for 1LT Michael Behenna, who is now serving a sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for SERVING his country honorably????”
In short, Teh Stupid – as demonstrated by this little online kerfuffle — is completely undeterred by facts, decency, or shame. No matter what is revealed, no matter how damning their own behavior, Teh Stupid marches serenely on. That makes it a powerful tool for the GOP.
Which is why Erickson is now working for CNN. Sure, the commenters on Olson’s blog will probably never get a gig on any nationally broadcast cable network other than Fox.
But the man who inspires them and eggs them on just might.
If Eric Erickson can make it…