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© 2019 MERRY JANE. All Rights Reserved.

Bongreads of the Week: Assholes and Jerks Edition

A collection of great writing about horrible people, plus a reminder that if you want to make things better in the long run, you've got to change the entire system.

The reason your asshole is on your butt — and not, like, your arm or whatever — is so that you don't have to look at it all the time. Similarly, the reason you wear clothes is so that no one else has to look at your asshole. Sadly, however, assholes become famous and powerful all of the time, and once they reach these positions they are free to let loose a steady stream of shit out of their gaping maws that gets onto people who never asked to see an asshole at all, let alone get shitted on by one.

The reason I'm being so scatalogical here is to stress how fucked up a system that gives assholes power and fame is, and that the trick to making the world asshole-free is not to play asshole whack-a-mole, trying to locate and stamp out each individual sphincter-human as if they are the disease and not its symptom. Here, read some great writing about assholes, plus a reminder that if you want to make things better in the long run, you've got to change the entire system so that shitty shit-people doing shitty shit-things aren't rewarded and empowered.

The Short Life And Neverending Afterlife of Rush Limbaugh's Disastrous ESPN Stint
David Roth for

Confession: I'm obsessed with right-wing talk radio. I listen to it in my car most days, not out of enjoyment or even a sadomasochistic determination to "listen to arguments from the other side," but because if you are of sound mind and stern political resolve, right-wing talk radio provides hours of free comedy. Like, the only difference between Rush Limbaugh and Stephen Colbert's blowhard conservative character "Stephen Colbert" is that Rush actually believes his own bullshit.

Having said that, Rush Limbaugh is a fucking monstrosity of a human being both inside and out who should never be imposed upon people who don't willingly subject themselves to him. As the always acerbic David Roth recalls for Deadspin, ESPN made the disastrous decision to force Rush upon their viewers by making him a talking head on their Sunday Countdown Show, a position he held for all of three weeks until he said some very racist things about Donovan McNabb and left the network in the wake of well-deserved public outcry. As Roth writes, the problem here was definitely Rush Limbaugh — he is, again, a racist, and very dumb to boot, and his racism and his dumbness were exacerbated by the fact that he was addicted to oxycontin during his stint at ESPN — but more than Rush himself, the blame lies with ESPN for kowtowing to their most craven capitalist impulses and hiring him to do his very bad thing and then staking out the moral high ground once he actually did his very bad thing.

And, in typical David Roth style, he concludes his verbal pyrotechnics with a healthy dollop of real talk:

The thunderously bad thought and unrelenting bad faith, the amoral corporate cynicism followed immediately by righteous corporate posturing, the blank exploitativeness and howling stupidity, the prioritizing of attention-getting over any and every other thing — these are the sort of human weaknesses that market pressures tend to both amplify and exacerbate, and so it's not surprising to see that they haven't gone out of style in a decade and a half because a glazed ham full of oxycontin said "mungo fuck" to Tom Jackson on cable. But what's queasier than the endless recursive resentment and blank backwards ugliness that fueled this whole thing, and more disheartening than the debasing transactional logic that made this all first possible and then inevitable, is the creeping feeling of recognition that comes with driving down these one-way streets and past the same corroded landmarks. It's realizing that we've somehow come all the way back around again.

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The Making of Sean Hannity: How a Long Island Kid Learned to Channel Red-State Rage
Marc Fisher for the Washington Post

This piece, meanwhile, is a textbook example of how not to write about right-wing talk radio: by pretending there's some sort of equivalency between its hosts' racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. views and the basic compassion for humanity that they exist in opposition to. Even if it's sympathetic, this profile is still worth reading, because it has a lot of information about Hannity's early career that confirms that Sean Hannity is a piece of human shit.

Stephen Miller, the Powerful Survivor on the President's Right Flank
Matt Flegenheimer for the New York Times

Speaking of pieces of human shit that have been pooped out of the butt of society, the New York Times has an illuminating profile of Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old white nationalist who, for whatever reason, is allowed to thumb at all of the soft lumps on Donald Trump's brain until racism comes out of his presidential mouth. (Though I said "for whatever reason" in the previous sentence I think we can all agree that the reason is probably that Donald Trump likes Stephen Miller because he is also a white supremacist, albeit a less articulate one than Miller). The profile reveals Miller to be an abject loser and a ridiculous idiot, which is funny to think about until you consider the insane amount of power he has, after which it becomes terrifying.

People Literally Do Not Understand What Laws Are or How They Work
Oren Nimni and Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs

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If you don't read Current Affairs, you probably should start doing that. Not trying to tell you how to live your life or anything, but the publication does a great job of presenting a wealth of different perspectives and potential strategies for how the political left can win people over to their side, and what the political left should do now that they're receiving a groundswell of support. Here, its editor Nathan J. Robinson and the civil rights attorney Oren Nimni argue that anyone who thinks that the way forward involves making certain forms of speech illegal is going to be in for a rude awakening:

[To] say something is bad and you'd prefer it didn't exist is different from saying it ought to be illegal. There's a huge difference between hoping people develop better taste in cheese and criminally sanctioning anyone who doesn't buy cloth-bound Vermont cheddar. That's because law is a blunt and brutal instrument, one that doesn't simply abolish things by magic, but through a real-world process of enforcement. No matter how serious (e.g. murder) or silly (e.g. squeegeeing) the offense is, the police are the police. While you can tailor the punishment to fit the crime, and there's a difference between 30 days in jail and 30 years, to some degree the process is the punishment: everyone who commits a crime will be arrested and have their life disrupted, everyone will have their life disrupted through a costly and tedious court process, everyone will get the mark of a criminal record following them for the rest of their lives.

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Saying bad stuff is bad, but the way to solve the problem of people saying bad stuff probably doesn't involve putting the power of keeping them from saying it in the hands of the police… who are also bad.

Follow Drew Millard on Twitter

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