In his column today in The Washington Post, Michael Gerson takes Senate candidate Al Franken behind the woodshed for being a potty mouth. This is the opening paragraph:
In the razor-close and nationally important Senate race in Minnesota, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman is presented with a unique political problem. Should he raise in his ads the issue of comedian Al Franken's offensive vulgarity? Or would this risk a backlash against Coleman for coarsening the public conversation? Remember that when Ken Starr detailed Bill Clinton's most repulsive antics -- stained dresses and such -- it was Starr who was accused of sexual obsessiveness.
Gerson manages to implicate Bill Clinton with that magical tough only conservatives obsessed with the former President's peccadilloes can attain. Yet, his first question contains the loaded modifiers "offensive" and "vulgarity" to describe a piece Franken wrote in Playboy magazine (already, for some conservatives, we are in "offensive vulgarity" territory, because Playboy publishes pictures of women in "the altogether", with boobies and everything).
Further along, Gerson takes issue with Franken's description of his work as "satire", by the neat trick of providing his own definition of the term.
Satire has been called "punishment for those who deserve it."
What's neat about that trick is it allows him to ignore the fact that satire has a real definition that might actually encompass Franken's Playboy piece. From my very own Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language - Student's Edition that my parents bought for me 25 years ago as I made my way to college:
satire - (1) the use of irony, sarcasm, and humor to criticize or make fun of foolish or immoral actions, customs, etc. of people (2) a) a novel, play, etc. in which this is done b) such literary works as a group
With me so far? On the one hand, we have Gerson's very own definition; on the other, we have an actual dictionary definition. Let us peruse a sample of Franken's piece, and see if it fits. Funny enough, Franken is quoted by Gerson (In a family newspaper!!!!):
So what is Franken's "provocative, touching and funny" contribution to the genre? Consider his article in Playboy magazine titled "Porn-O-Rama!" in which he enthuses that it is an "exciting time for pornographers and for us, the consumers of pornography." The Internet, he explains, is a "terrific learning tool. For example, a couple of years ago, when he was 12, my son used the Internet for a sixth-grade report on bestiality. Joe was able to download some effective visual aids, which the other students in his class just loved." Franken goes on to relate a soft-core fantasy about women providing him with sex who were trained at the "Minnesota Institute of Titology."
While one can argue whether this is funny or not (I am not, um, titillated by this particular blurb, but that's just me), I do believe that it qualifies as "satire" according to an actual dictionary, because it uses exaggeration to expose the hypocrisy of so much of our current discussion concerning porn, the internet, and the so-called "coarsening of our culture".
The plethora of pornographic websites is a monument to the free market and its willingness to provide a supply wherever a demand exists, something a conservative like Gerson should understand. Yet, as with all political ideologies, contemporary American conservative thought contains this little bit of cognitive dissonance (oh, no, a two-word phrase that contains big words!), viz., they don't like the fact that the market for porn happens to be bigger than the market for Bibles or website with excerpts from Jonah Goldberg's book. So, it's liberals fault for coarsening the culture and creating an atmosphere where pornographers thrive.
See, it's all our fault.
The real funny comes in the following bit. Gerson's punchline, unlike many of Franken's, isn't that funny.
Why should political discourse be any different? For at least one reason: Because vulgarity is often the opposite of civility.
In the interest of fairness to those with delicate sensibilities, let me just warn everyone reading this that what follows is laced with various four-letter words that might cause Michael Gerson to faint and blanch.
What a bunch of fucking bullshit.
Civility is a bullshit rule for those who want to make sure that we don't get out of line. Kind of like my mother as I made my to college. I didn't listen then, and I drank, I experimented with illegal chemicals, and I had sex (I'm still having sex, but now it's OK because I'm married; I no longer drink, and I don't use illegal substances anymore) and yet, somehow, I managed to turn out OK. Furthermore, our discourse is chock-a-block with offensive vulgarities - "Bring it on!"; "A dictatorship would be fine as long as I'm the dictator"; "Mission Accomplished" - that are far more serious than the occasional "C-word" (catalog? corroborate? To which c-word is Gerson referring?) or (heaven forfend) the dreaded "Eff-Asterisk-Asterisk-Asterisk". I could swear from now until the moment I died and it wouldn't equal the offensiveness to our common life of the rhetoric, and the results, of the Bush Administration.
So, Michael Gerson - shut the fuck up. And, I do so hope you are offended. Because Granny-State conservatives like you really piss me off.
UPDATE: Holy fucking shit. Seriously. Via atrios, we have this wonderful piece by Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts in The Washington Post:
Washington is a town filled with boobs.
They're everywhere, from the bare-breasted ladies who decorate the fountain at Dupont Circle to the peekaboo statue in the Justice Department's Great Hall to the countless nudes in our museums. But while those of us who live here hardly blink at the public nudity, it can shock some of our visitors. Such was the case for Robert Hurt, who last week tried to add the issue of artistic indecency in the nation's capital to the platform of the Texas GOP.
"You don't have nude art on your front porch," the Dallas Morning News quoted the delegate as telling the platform committee at the state party convention. "So why is it important to have that in the common places of Washington, D.C.?"
Hurt, 54, a Kerrville, Tex., rancher and father of 14, told us in a phone interview he first came to Washington a decade ago for a gathering of the evangelical Promise Keepers on the Mall. "It was probably not much different than 'The Beverly Hillbillies' going to Beverly Hills," he joked. At the National Gallery, he was appalled to see statues of unclothed people. "I found it very inappropriate," he said. Returning a few years later, he discovered Arlington Memorial Bridge, flanked by the bare-chested figures of Valor and Sacrifice.
He's a father of fourteen so I'm assuming he's seen a boob before. Furthermore, he's all atwitter about statues including statues in an art museum.
Why is an ignoramus like this even interviewed about his stupidity? To make us all feel better about our own open-mindedness? I can't imagine the depths of stupid here. That he's complaining about this, and the the Post put two reporters on this is unreal.