Nel's New Day

September 6, 2017

Fight Authoritarianism with Humor

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
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My partner and I get together every afternoon and talk. I drink scotch, and she drinks fruit juice. We start out with each of us listing three good things that happened to us during the day and then continue with wherever the conversation leads. I sometimes talk about what I’ve been reading, and she asks questions that makes me want to delve further into the topic. Often, the subject is politics, yesterday the tragedy of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) rescinding DACA, work permits for children brought illegally and involuntarily into the United States. I segued into how stupid DDT looked when he was trying to load a pickup for a photo op. She asked why it mattered, and we launched into the importance of ridicule to oppose authoritarians.

[Anti-fascist protesters in Wurzen, Germany, last week. Markus Keine/NurPhoto via Getty Images.]

Today, the New York Times published Tina Rosenberg’s opinion piece, “Neo-Nazis in Your Streets? Send in the (Coup Clutz) Clowns,” that followed our discussion. Here are excerpts:

In Olympia, Wash., in 2005, a march of about a dozen brown-shirted neo-Nazis was met by protesting clowns, goose-stepping, Nazi-style. Hundreds of counterprotesters turned the occasion into a celebration of diversity and unity.

Two years later in Knoxville, Tenn., residents countered a white supremacist march with a hastily assembled group calling itself the Coup Clutz Clowns. The clowns pretended not to understand the shouts of “White power!”

“White flour?” the clowns cried, throwing some in the air. “White flower? Tight shower? Wife power!” For wife power, some of them put on wedding dresses.

And in 2012 in Charlotte, N.C., clowns protesting a far-right march held up “Dwight Power!” signs, evoking the Charlotte Hornets player Dwight Howard.

Responding to far-right demonstrators with mockery originated in Europe, where one outstanding recent example took place in the German town of Wunsiedel. Unable to dislodge annual marches with ordinary counterprotests, the town took a new tack in 2014. For every meter the neo-Nazis marched, the town donated 10 euros to an organization that helped people leave right-wing extremist groups. Residents hung silly signs along the route and threw confetti at the end, leaving the neo-Nazis responsible for raising $12,000 against their own cause.

Humor has a long and honored place in American politics as well.

And counterintuitive though it may seem, ridicule and mockery have long been an effective way to disarm protesters who espouse bigotry and racial supremacy. If you want to resist those who would stir up violence, using humor is more effective than staying at home when they march, and far better than rewarding their provocations with a melee in the streets.

Here’s what white supremacists want to do when they stage a rally:

  • Legitimize their views.
  • Strengthen their self-image as part of the downtrodden.
  • Unite their squabbling factions.
  • Attract new people to the movement.
  • Control media coverage.
  • Feel powerful and heroic.

They can accomplish all of those goals when the Antifa, or anti-fascists, respond to violence by throwing fists or rocks.

“For the far-right groups, violence is central to their way of looking at the world,” said Peter Simi, associate professor of sociology at Chapman University. “The idea of having violent confrontation and conflicts fuels and energizes them. They feed off it.

“It also helps perpetuate their own narrative about victimization and persecution —‘Look, we can’t even have a free speech rally without being attacked.’ ”

For the same reasons that violence by counter-protesters helps the far right, mockery hurts. “Ridicule makes the far right look less attractive to the type of people they want to attract,” said Cas Mudde, an associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. “There’s a sizable portion who are there for the thrill. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the broader ideology, but they really enjoy the potential violence. They want to feel dangerous and important. They don’t want to feel like part of a sketch.” He thinks that’s true for the Antifa as well.

After all, which plan is more attractive to young macho men? “We’ll face a small group of masked tough guys” or “We’ll face a large number of men, women and children wearing silly hats and big red noses”?

Humor and mockery are also good strategies for classic political protest — whether against politicians who enable white supremacists, or policies like tax cuts for the rich.

Founded in 1980 as part of the Solidarity movement, [the Orange Alternative in Communist Poland] specialized in surrealist protest, often conducted by people in orange garden gnome costumes. At a protest in 1988, 10,000 people marched wearing gnome hats. One of the group’s common tactics was to mock the state through exaggerated obedience.

On Poland’s annual day honoring the secret police (you can’t make this stuff up), the Orange Alternative carried banners and posters proclaiming complete devotion: “Love the People’s Police!” “Long Life to Undercover Agents!” During the annual celebration of the Russian Revolution, the group shouted Bolshevik slogans, and during a state-supported referendum in the city of Wroclaw, Orange Alternative marchers chanted “Vote Yes Twice!” as they called for a “200 percent voter turnout.”

The police found themselves in a conundrum. They couldn’t let the protesters continue. But by making arrests, they acknowledged that no one could possibly believe in the Communist orthodoxy — and anyone who said they did must have been joking. Most Poles already knew that, of course, but the Orange Alternative forced the state authorities to make it visible.

All of these organizations changed people’s thinking by putting familiar ideas into a disorienting new context….

Soon Congress will be considering proposals to drastically cut taxes for the rich and services for the poor. What’s the message? “No tax cuts for the rich”? “Protect social services”?

Better to do what Billionaires for Bush did during the George W. years. Put on your (fake) mink stole and pearls, or don your tux — look fabulously wealthy, or just fabulous. Carry a cardboard Rolls-Royce door or a Champagne glass and hold a sign that says “Pools, not schools.” Or “Only little people pay taxes.”

The group adopted a logo that cast the Republican Party’s elephant as a piggy bank and described itself as a “grass-roots network of corporate lobbyists, decadent heiresses and Halliburton C.E.O.s.” When President Bush made privatization of Social Security the flagship issue of his second term, the Billionaires, tired of waiting, put Social Security on eBay.

It seems too basic to even say, but the rule is violated again and again: Successful political activists are strategic. They ask: “What will reach, and motivate or convince, the people we need?”

Very often, the answer is: Make ’em laugh.

DDT said that he rejected the Paris Agreement because he didn’t want people in the world to laugh at him, failing to understand that he is the laughing stock of the entire world—sometimes openly and other times covertly as in Saudi Arabia where they consider him to be useful. In his first 100 days, DDT was the target of jokes from late night hosts, with 1,000 jokes about him, and the second 100 days just got worse.

Humorist Garison Keillor wrote about DDT:

“The cap does not look good on you, it’s a duffer’s cap, and when you come to the microphone, you look like the warm-up guy, the guy who announces the license number of the car left in the parking lot, doors locked, lights on, motor running. The brim shadows your face, which gives a sinister look, as if you’d come to town to announce the closing of the pulp factory. Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don’t want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now….

“Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn’t ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.”

As we now know, DDT’s adlibs revealed a high level of ignorance and a low level of vocabulary.

People are afraid of humor and satire because they are effective. Hollywood executives fought Charlie Chaplin when he wanted to satirize Nazism and Hitler in The Great Dictator. Arab airlines helped defeat the U.S. electronic ban with sarcasm. “Fake” news is so commonly used now for real faux news that DDT uses the term less and less. As Mel Brooks said, comedy robs people of their “power and myths.” Director Michael Moore told people to “form an army of comedy” to defeat DDT because “he’ll implode”; it’s “his Achilles’ heel.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) mocked DDT’s small hands and small something else during the campaign, DDT talked at a debate about how he was well-endowed. He may not be reacting as much to the jokes recently because of John Kelly’s tutelage and restrictions of what DDT watches, but John Kelly won’t be in the White House long. The humor will lead to DDT’s destruction.

September 1, 2013

Freedom from Religion Looking Up

This sign made me laugh out loud; I still smile when I look at it. From St. John’s Anglican Church in Niagara Falls, Ontario (Canada): “Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine!” The photo got over a million hits in its first two days of posting.

two dads

Down under in the tiny town of Gosford (Australia), the Anglican Parish church leader Father Rod Bower created this sign: “Dear Christians, some people are gay, get over it, Love God.” Nearby New Zealand has legalized gay marriage, and the Parliament made be considering a similar action in New South Wales, Australia. 


Bumper stickers also have a certain wry humor. Two examples:

  • Religion: You can’t start a war without it.
  • Thank God for the secular United States.

Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert missed the “secular.” The man who pushed through the anti-abortion bill at “heartbeat” over the governor’s veto, said that he ignores the will of his 80,000 constituents because “there’s only one vote that matters and that’s when I stand before the Lord at the judgment seat.”

Religious leaders might think that their god had a vote at the Kentucky-supported Creation Museum that purports people lived at the same time as dinosaurs. An employee was struck by lightning last month while getting guests to leave a zip line attraction during a thunderstorm. The 1,700 feet of cable suspended 150 feet above the ground were put into the museum last spring because the entertainment facility was losing customers.

After raging against the Supreme Court’s ruling against DOMA, Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins has explained that this decision is no big deal—that SCOTUS didn’t really help marriage equality.  “[It] “only struck down Section 3 of the law: this means people in same-sex ‘marriages’ who live in states that allow it, can receive federal marriage benefits–technically, once you get beyond the bluster of Justice Kennedy, the ruling accomplishes nothing more.”

Here are some samples of the “nothing more.” The IRS is extending federal tax benefits to all same-sex married couples no matter which state sanctifies the ceremony. A federal judge struck down the VA’s decision not to provide benefits to same-sex couples. Six counties in New Mexico are legally providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and the Pennsylvania AG won’t stop one of the state’s counties from doing the same thing. And that’s in just two months after the downfall of DOMA.

Televangelist Pat Robertson has finally said something so outrageous that his own Christian Broadcasting Network edited the episode out of their program. According to the host of 700 Club, gay men in cities such as San Francisco have special rings that cut people when shaking hands in order to spread HIV/AIDS. Robertson said he “regret[s] that my remarks had been misunderstood, but this often happens because people do not listen to the context of remarks which are being said. In no wise [sic] were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease.” There is no evidence for his outrageous malignant remarks.

People on Facebook may see less vitriolic comments today because of  a proposed boycott. Conservatives claim that they have been “unfairly targeted” by Facebook that supposedly blocked their accounts and censored them when they were “simply expressing their beliefs.” Some of the “blocked” statements were a hit list of liberal politicians to be executed, threats on the life of the president, and people who want unfettered ownership of guns promising to kill anyone who might thwart their wishes.

Conservatives’ approaches toward debating is swearing at people, calling them names, spamming accounts, trolling pages, and being otherwise annoying until complaints force Facebook to enforce its policy against bullying and harassment. Last July Fox News pundit, Todd Starnes, was banned from Facebook for such behavior—but only for 12 hours.

Hate Speech is against Facebook policy. That includes comparing the poor to animals (although Iowa’s GOP Rep. Steve King gets away with it), using crude racist language for the President of the United States, emitting hate toward liberals, Muslims, immigrants, women, LGBT people, et cetera.  The boycott will be welcome; too bad it won’t last longer.

Bradlee Dean is a continuing example of hate speech. Last week, he claimed that homosexuals are responsible for half the murders committee in large cities, citing John Martagh as his source. The quote actually comes from a 1992 newspaper column by an evangelist who never gave any evidence for his crazy assertion.

Another smear campaign is directed at Daniel Hernanez, an elected member of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Pima County (AZ).  Four of the five board members are undergoing a recall, two for supporting the current school superintendent and the other two for opposing him.  A flyer used Hernandez’s photo and these words:

“Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board. Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.”

Hernandez was then-Rep. Gabby Giffords’ (D-AZ) intern and helped save her life after she was shot almost three years ago. His opponents need 1,300 signatures by December 14 to get the recall vote on the ballot. His opponent is blaming Hernandez for the flyers and said that the superintendent shouldn’t be judged on his financial and legal issues.

Evangelist Matt Pitt, 30, is now delivering his rousing messages from to young Christians from inside the county jail after being arrested for impersonating a law enforcement officer. Authorities named the Alabama preacher an honorary sheriff’s deputy and gave him a badge and identification card. In June Pitt told a Birmingham resident that he actually was a deputy sheriff when he confiscated an abandoned rifle. A year earlier Pitt was arrested for using blue emergency lights to speed around other cars. He was recently ordered to take a drug screening.

The New Jersey changed its mind about a vanity license plate after the DMV received bad publicity. Despite the plethora of anti-abortion and pro-Christian license plates across the nation, David Silverman was refused a plate that said “ATHE1ST” because it was considered “offensive.” The day after he appealed and tweeted about the situation, the DMV reversed the ruling, blaming a “clerical error” for its refusal.

Another governmental entity also needs to change its position. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has been putting citizenship applications of Muslims on hold for years, according to an investigation by the ACLU of Southern California. The agency’s secret screening program of eligible, law-abiding immigrants from Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities, called Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (CARRP) was not approved by Congress. Yet since 2008, CARRP ordered immigration officials to deny applications on the basis of “national security concerns.” After lengthy periods of time, most applications are denied without explaining why.

An example is 50-year-old Tarek Hamdi, a legal resident who came to the United States as a teenager. Married to his college sweetheart, an American citizen, he has raised four daughters, worked for decades in the United States as a civil engineer, and paid taxes. Hamdi’s application for U.S. citizenship was rejected because of an annual tithing to an Islamic relief aid organization. The organization was charged with defrauding its contributors, but Hamdi’s application was reviewed for 11 years instead of the customary six months.

In 1952, Congress said in the Immigration and Nationality Act that “[t]he right of a person to become a naturalized citizen of the United States shall not be denied or abridged because of race,” thereby abolishing racism from the naturalization process.

Last week, I wrote about the tax-exempt status of U.S. religious organizations. On August. 19, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that a case presented by Freedom from Religion Foundation against church electioneering may proceed, and U.S. District Barbara Crabb gave FFRF standing in its lawsuit against exempting churches from annual accountability requirements.

In a third case, FFRF was given standing and is awaiting a decision over its challenge of the 1954 federal “parish exemption” law—uniquely gifting “ministers of the gospel” with the right to deduct church “housing allowances” from taxable income. This case is also before Judge Crabb. She wrote that FFRF has been injured:

“The government is relieving an ongoing burden from some taxpayers on the basis of religious affiliation. It is not plaintiffs’ belief’ that gives them standing. Rather, it is their status as organizations that are burdened with requirements not imposed on churches.”

All 501(c)(3) organizations except churches must file the expensive annual Form 990 with the IRS, publicly reporting on disposition of donations, financial oversight policies, salaries of top employees, fundraising versus mission or management, etc. Trying to shut up FFRF, the IRS offered them clergy tax breaks for leading an atheist organization. FFRF said thanks, but no thanks. They want transparency, not money.

The FFRF lawsuits will be interesting to follow.

jon stewart


April 4, 2013

The GOP Autopsy

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:50 PM
Tags: , ,

Occasionally I find a piece of writing that I don’t want to paraphrase because it’s perfect as it. Such is the case of  “The GOP Autopsy” from humorist Will Durst:

Normally you don’t expect to see the words “Republicans” and “introspection” right next to each other. Like supermodel and barbecue. Physicist and polka. Gazelle and ophthalmology. You catch my drift. But that’s exactly what happened when the Republican Party released a 100-page report detailing why their last presidential campaign skidded into the emergency room Dead on Arrival.

The findings were compiled through analysis, interviews and feedback from campaign managers, focus groups, and most likely augmented by clandestine hanging out at bars during happy hour in the proximity of graveyards and funeral parlors. Some paint it as a comprehensive post- election review. Others argue it’s incomprehensible. The media calls it an autopsy. A self- addressed post-mortem love letter in the spirit of Poe.

Hogwash and flummery could also be thrown into the descriptive mix as the dispatch’s theme finds nothing wrong with the party message; the problem is all in the delivery. No need to demonstrate more compassion, the trick is to seem more compassionate. Got to learn how to win Ohio without ticking off Arkansas. In other words, all they need to do is to bleach the leopard’s spots.

The study was commissioned by members of the party’s hierarchy and given the official title–Growth and Opportunity Project. A GOP for the GOP. Although Grossly Obvious Poppycock fits as well. Claiming party purity trumps electoral victory, there is already heavy pushback from the right. “What good is it to win earthly spoils when you lose your immortal soul and your breath still smells like embalming fluid?”

What this really calls for is an independent perspective. You want an autopsy, we’ll give you an autopsy.

Summary Report of Autopsy concerning the corpse of the 2012 Republican campaign. External Examination. Close inspection of the body, an old white billionaire, reveals a serrated knife approximately 9 inches long with the initials, Grover Norquist, engraved on the handle, protruding from under the right side between the 4th & 5th ribs.

Gunshot residue found covering the right hand in excess of ½ inch depth, which considering the holes in the right temple exhibiting upward trajectories, is consistent with what can only be described as a series of self- inflicted gunshot wounds. DNA tests reveal skin samples found under the broken nails of both hands are indicative of numerous encounters between the victim and an unknown woman or perhaps group of women.

The nose is missing which corresponds to the victim’s recent recurring publicized bout of TeaPartyitis, a disease which causes the sufferer to cut off his nose to spite his face. In the rectum, what appears to be a wooden stick 6 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter, has been lodged for quite some time causing a critical backup of feces.

Pending toxicology results from the lab, internal examination reveals organs in a state consistent with the victim’s age, with two conspicuous anomalies. A steady diet of bunk and bamboozle has dulled the senses creating a milky film that covers the retinas. Most exceptional was the astonishing discovery of the total absence of a heart.

It is the opinion of this office the cause of death was this myocardial void along with the aforementioned complications from various acute traumas. In other words, the victim was probably dead for a long time, just didn’t know it.

Thank you, Mr. Durst.

August 2, 2012

Addicted to Addicting Information – Jenny’s 10 Most Wanted

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:22 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Last weekend a reader of my blog asked me which newspapers I like to read. Although I do read two state dailies and our local twice-a-week newspaper, much of my inspiration comes from Internet news sources. Recently I have become strongly attached to a blog called Addicting Information. Signing up for it, I discovered that it sends up to a dozen emails a day, but my email delete finger is quite strong, and I find many of the blog entries to be well done.

Reading one from “The Bucking Jenny,”  I decided that it’s time for a somewhat lighter look at the news.


We all have a crazy uncle convinced he knows where Bigfoot lives, or a mean sister-in-law who thinks that everybody on welfare drives a Cadillac on her dime. [Editor’s Note: My sister believes that people who refuse to pay for health care all have very large cars.] Well, folks, I’m not convinced.  The next time a nutty right-winger says that they actually know or have seen any of the following mythological creatures, or if you yourself believe that you have, please help me verify this by contacting me immediately.

Please remember that every stipulation of each creature must be met.  I don’t want to see any jack rabbits with antelope horns duct taped to their heads.  I don’t want to hear about a finding that you think meets the qualifications for #2 unless that creature meets ALL the stipulations either, so check your facts carefully.  That said, a serious Jenny reward is offered for the capture and presentation of any of these mythological right-wing creatures:

Jenny’s 10 Most Wanted 

1) A woman who had an abortion in her 3rd trimester to fit into a particular dress OR to go on a cruise OR because she got tired of being pregnant.

2) A person legally living on welfare (defined as the  program TANF–Temporary Aid for Needy Families) for more than 5 years, who does so without performing any mandated work search AND has no disability AND who somehow affords at least two of the following: recreational drugs, acrylic nails, vacations, OR expensive property.

To be fair, I will also accept an individual who uses the Food Stamp portion of their state issued EBT benefit card to actually purchase alcohol or cigarettes at the counter of an established business in the United States–to verify this I will need a receipt.

3) An accredited scientist who can refute the fact that the glass in windows on our cars or greenhouses act like carbon dioxide and react to infrared radiation.

4) A gay person who threatened the sanctity of the institution of marriage solely by seeking to be married to the person they love.

5) A single enlisted person who is responsible for the ability of our nation to be at war or not at war.

6) A rich person who runs a business in America who got rich without using any of the following: public roads, public schools, the Internet, anything invented by NASA, a bank loan backed by the FDIC, or paper money. (*Special note: For a bonus prize bring me a creature that fits the previous qualifications for #6 AND runs a business that pays their workers such that NONE of them use food stamps.)

7) A parent who had 10 or 12 children SOLELY for the purpose of receiving a huge tax return in April of every year.

8) A person who purposely committed a crime AND purposely got caught specifically to go to college while in prison and for no other reason.  This must be the declared motive in a court of law, or in a notarized deposition from the offender for me to accept this creature.

9) A fisherperson who tells and has always told the truth about every fish they’ve ever caught in public AND in private setting. This includes, but is not limited to, size/species of fish, bait used to catch fish, date, time, and other pertinent details.

10) Jackalopes must be brought in alive as it is difficult to determine if they are real when taxidermied. Photos and other representation of the creature, including specimens of canned Jackalope milk will not be accepted as evidence.  To qualify as a Jackalope the creature must be a jack rabbit with naturally occurring horns or antlers.  Two antlers must be present to make positive identification.

IF you can positively identify any of these mythological creatures, please contact me immediately. I will help you document them so that the rest of the world will understand that the right wing, and your friendly neighborhood fisherman, are not ALL compulsive liars.

In the meantime  I suggest we try living our lives in a reality where these 10 myths remain understood to be myths and conduct ourselves accordingly. Except maybe in the case of Jackalopes and half honest fisherman, because I kinda like them.


Richard Cionci added two more: A teacher who made a million dollars off of tax payer money and union contributions; and the president who has a magical button that creates gas prices around the country.

Some of you may have other additions. Thank you, Bucking Jenny.

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