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The unfunny

rainey BARRETT


Have you noticed that comics in what’s left of our newspapers aren’t funny anymore? They’re really not. Some deal with families and kids. Others have weird characters appealing to narrow audiences. Even my favorite – “Doonesbury” – uses mostly unfunny political issues – but does so with wit and savagery. I love it.

I was brought up with “Dick Tracy,” “Terry and the Pirates,” “Smilin’ Jack,” “Li’l Abner,” “Smoky Stover,” “Little Orphan Annie” and dozens more. Funny and adventurous and memorable for well-drawn characters and good storylines. Even some laugh-out-loud stuff. All gone.

So, what’s a guy who likes daily doses of the humorous do for giggles? Well, I turn to the right wing of what remains of the old Republican Party. If you don’t take the characters therein as seriously as they take themselves, you’ll get lots of laughs. And much of the time, those characters are no more real than a good comic strip. But nearly always laughable.

I used to watch folks on the Democrat left, but they weren’t much fun. Even going back to the ‘60’s, they’d pick a spot and usually stay put. Maybe anti-war. Maybe anti-Wall Street. Things like that. Pretty predictable stuff. No fun.

Ah, but the GOP right. The far right is the amoeba of American politics – always moving, shape-shifting, splitting, re-splitting. Then splitting again. Always predictable – but always different – because that’s how the right was born. Folks who were afraid and distrustful. It hasn’t changed in decades. Fear and suspicion are in the DNA. People drawn to the right move far out on that political limb because they fear government – they fear foreign countries – they fear the United Nations – they fear any monetary currency except gold – they fear people of color – they fear chlorine – and sooner or later, they come to fear each other. Always! More predictable than gravity.

And, because they’re the most fearful of any of our native political movements, easy pickin’s for the Karl Roves, Rick Perrys, Gingrichs, Bachmans, Koch Brothers and all the other hustlers that come along. Full of fear, the far right’s accepted them But, then, they’d trust anyone who talks like they do or “thinks” like they do or says things they want to hear.

Take the Tea Party scam. “Grassroots,” right? “Just we ‘average’ Americans in the street,” right? Yeah, right. Wrong! In spades!

The whole scheme was created several decades ago by the Koch boys and others in the tobacco and fossil fuels businesses. National Institutes of Health – in particular it’s National Cancer Institute of all places – discovered the long-term strategy to promote anti-science and anti-government agendas going back to 1971. Here’s a direct N-I-H quote from the research.

“In 1971, a prominent tobacco lawyer – Lewis Powell – wrote a plan for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to shift the balance of political power to favor corporations. Two months later, Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the U.S. Supreme court. There he worked with other pro-corporate justices to interpret laws in favor of corporate interests – especially corporate ‘personhood’ in several decisions”

Does that last sentence sound familiar? Remember the “Citizens United” decision from the SCOTUS ascribing “personal rights” to corporations? Remember Romney’s “Corporations are people, too, my friend?”

Back to the federal report.

“Corporate lobbying exploded from $100 million in 1975 to $3.5 billion in 2010. Corporations made voluminous donations to pro-corporate candidates at all levels of government and created “think tanks” to influence public opinion in favor of market fundamentalism. The Tea Party was a clear extension.”

I would add American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and several other groups created by corporate money to infect state legislatures.

There’s a lot more in the N-I-H research. It clearly details what the Koch’s and others of their corporate ilk have been doing for more than 30 years to neuter government in various ways and to get their hands on what’s left so they can reshape it. You can find the N-I-H study online and it is damned interesting – and utterly factual – reading.

“What’s this got to do with the GOP far right,” you ask? “Everything,” sez I. Because T-Party is not some cockamamie “grass roots” movement that captured several million people on the right. It was a “top down,” very well-planned assault involving corporate billionaires, members of Congress, professional political hacks and even the U.S. Supreme Court. Money no object. They just needed “cover.” Voila! “Tea Party” was born.

The T-P scam was just the latest incarnation of big monied interests “hiring” the country’s GOP far right to create diversions. The John Birch Society. Liberty Lobby. Americans For Freedom. Freedomworks. Americans For Prosperity. And hundreds and hundreds more. Like phony TV “evangelists,” the Kochs, Dick Armey, Karl Rove and others pick the minds and pockets of people who’re afraid. They count on the inbred paranoia and fear of all things new and different. They know those folks will turn and turn again to follow whatever looks familiar and patriotic and reminds them all the rest of us are taking the country to Hell.

No, my friends. These aren’t the comics of old. And there’s damned little funny about how they behave – how easily they’re “captured” by others with truly sinister motives. Not funny at all. Look at what they’ve done to the U.S. Congress in a couple of decades.

Still, watching the far right in place of daily doses of cartoon humor ain’t so bad. You just have to remember two things. One, paranoia, fear and suspicion of each other will be the cancers that’ll keep these nuts from ever being truly effective. And, two, they and their movements contain no more substance than the funny papers. They’re never what they seem.

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