"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Out, damned Newt!

rainey BARRETT


I was raised in a Central Oregon, Republican culture when kids were taught certain rules about respectable behavior. I don’t mean just not saying bad things – although I did learn the taste of Ivory Soap at a young age. No, I mean saying or doing things that embarrassed the grownups. Say or do something that reflected badly on the family? Just not acceptable. And swiftly punished.

Whether at home or in school, deviation from rules of respectability often resulted in someone being exiled. Separated from the rest. The teacher wouldn’t call on you for the rest of the day or week. At home, immediate justice often meant sent to a lonely room – often the laundry room in my case. With the door shut. You “ceased to be” for awhile. Silence.

Sadly, rejection and punishment – and silence – are no longer the fates imposed for those who’ve become national embarrassments or politically and socially disgraced voices. How else can you explain the ever-present face of Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Dick Morris, Sanford, Robertson, Orley Taitz, Santorum, Bachmann, McCain, Paul (2), DeMint, LaPierre, Perkins, Dobson, Trump, Gohmert, et al? All have engaged in speech or conduct – or both – deserving rejection. Yet they are ever-present. Even sought out.

In a nation faced with deeply troubling national struggles for all of us, why do these discredited people remain in our living rooms, day after day, spewing the same specious nonsense into our atmosphere? When respectable leaders are so embroiled in terribly important work affecting our lives, why do these same voices of craziness and rejected thought still occupy so much of our national attention?

Gingrich is undoubtedly the most excellent example. Disgraced and forced to resign from the highest office in the U.S. House of Representatives and his Georgia seat in the body, he should have been expected to “go quietly into that good night.” A proven adulterer – at least twice – a consummate liar – repeatedly – a man who has failed every try at elective office since his well-deserved dismissal – a con artist who uses presidential campaigns to hawk his books and videos and to drive up his personal appearance fees. Why is this bastion of all things rejected and despicable in a public persona still being so prominently forced into our consciousness?
What is the national media’s fascination with this guy? He’s on the Sunday talk circuit nearly every weekend. He and his twisted – often warped – thinking are pursued by Blitzer, Cooper, Gregory, Stephanopoulos, Van Susteren, Crowley, Morgan and the rest. Why? He’s become a politically obscene “whack-a-mole” creature.

What you see in this Gingrich over-exposure is our national obsession with celebrity. From statesmen and visionaries with deserved recognition to demented serial killers – and everywhere in between – you’re assured of repeated national media exposure, millions of dollars for the book rights to your story and millions more for the movie or television series.

Think not? Check the speaking fees for ol’ Newt. Nearly double what they were two years ago. Prices up on all his videos and books, too. Way up.

How about disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Sanford? Admitted liar and repeated adulterer. Now he’s running for Congress. So you’ll see even more of him. Ah, love those “family values” types? Shame? Nah!

Has Lindsey Lohan with her immensely troubled life dropped off your kids radar? No? Has any Kardashian done ANYTHING meriting someone’s notice? Ever? Why do we keep getting extended exposure of Ted Nugent on Fox? Notice you’re still hearing the deep “thinking” of that Palin woman on all things national? And Gohmert who believes a teacher with a semi-automatic is the answer to school massacres? And Beck who’s making another media fortune spouting end-of-the-world apocalypse? Ever wonder where he would have spent all that new money if he was right and the rest of us were wrong?

Looking to their elders, our kids see us holding out the ignorant – the violent – the sociopath – as people to be admired and rewarded. Teens know who these people are. They’re exposed to them in school and in their media. Social or otherwise. Since these misfits are granted continual presences in our lives, they’re in the lives of the young, too. For what purpose?

In the extreme over-coverage of the Newtown massacre, several “talking heads” proudly said they would not use the killer’s name in their reporting. Say what? To what end? “Being responsible,” boasted Anderson Cooper. “Being an idiot,” sez I. We don’t know the shooter’s name? Our kids don’t know not only the name but everything they can find on Facebook and Twitter? You think celebrity has not already attached to the murderer’s name and face? Look for a made-for-TV movie in the next 12 months.

If Cooper and his media cohorts sincerely want to “be responsible,” here’s some advice. Dispatch Gingrich and others of his ilk to the garbage heap. Seek out wiser heads – with much wiser voices – to create the important conversations we badly need right now. Give us honest discussions and educated thought. Help us understand issues and the variety of responses to them.

And for Newt – a lifetime supply of Ivory Soap. On Elba.

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