Guns Trump Knives

Remember that famous National Lampoon magazine cover, the one where a revolver is pointed at a dog with the infamous threat: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog”?

Some Tea Party folks are adopting a similar strategy.

Take, for example, this chilling quote from a The New York Times story about the Tea Party movement:

And in Indiana, Richard Behney, a Republican Senate candidate, told Tea Party supporters what he would do if the 2010 elections did not produce results to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.”

Whoa.  Break out the gun Bessy, this here vote is going all wrong.

Yes, many Tea Party folks are mad at Republicans too.  Hell, they’re mad at just about everyone, maybe even each other, but given how the movement is often guided quietly by ninja Republican operatives, if push comes to vote, the Dems lose big.

Democrats are bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Owning the Airwaves

It seems all the likely GOP presidential candidates are getting their own television “news” shows.  At least when it comes to Fox News.

Mike Huckabee, he’s on Fox.  And next on the boob tube and skipping cue cards for an ink-stained palm comes Sarah Palin.  This is exciting news if, like me, you’re a fascinated observer of this political theater of the absurd.  It’s as if the GOP and Fox put their heads together and asked: “How can we make Jon Stewart’s life any easier and give the guy even more material?”

Fox already boasts Glenn Beck, patron saint of the Tea Party movement.  And Sean Hannity, patron saint of those suffering from ROB (Repetitive Obama Bashing) syndrome.  And Bill O’Reilly, who ironically now rises to “the voice of reason” among the Fox talkmeisters.

And where the hell is Mitt Romney?  He’s messing with my theory, not having his own show on Fox News.  What, Fox doesn’t like Mormons?

Obama vs. Congress vs. Everyone

There are rumblings among Congressional operatives that the White House doesn’t get it and is to blame for 2010 looking suspiciously like a replay of 1994.

And there are rumblings in the White House that Dems in the House and Senate don’t get it and they’re costing a Democratic president his chance to repair the mess they see from the Bush years.

The situation is ugly for Dems.  They have no central message, no momentum, just charisma on the part of President Barack Obama and a decided lack of charisma on the part of just about every other Democrat on the planet (and Dems from other planets, such as Nancy Pelosi).

The Republicans have a simple message – it’s Obama’s fault, and throw in Harry Reid and Pelosi for good measure.  The Democrats want to nuance it all, and nuance rarely works in politics.

Okay, So Now What?

If I were Obama or one of his handlers, I’d almost look forward to a Republican Congress.

Of course this may be why I’m a lowly journalism professor and not a highly paid political handler, but I think a GOP Congress gives Obama someone to run against.  Let’s face it, when you’re president, you’re always running.

Remember that episode of West Wing (lovingly called Left Wing by some)?  In it, C.J. Cregg describes how they desperately need someone narrow-minded, partisan, and parochial to challenge the White House to help it win a political fight.

“Am I wrong,” she says (more or less), “or is this a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?”

Same theory here.

Bill Clinton had Newt Gingrich.  Ronald Reagan had Tip O’Neill.  Right now Obama has, well, nobody, except a bunch of television and radio talkers who say whatever they want, whenever they want, to millions of eager listeners and viewers with little chance they’ll have to actually make a serious decision.  It’s a lose-lose situation.

If I were a Dem, I’d work hard to win in 2010 but not be too upset when the election spanking comes.  And that spanking will come – one not unlike the kind the nuns gave me as a bratty kid at Sacred Heart Catholic School.

All we need is a few more television news programs by potential GOP candidates.  And all I need is some popcorn and a comfy chair.

Barry Hollander

Barry Hollander

Former hack at daily newspapers, now hack journalism professor at the University of Georgia, number cruncher and longtime Net user, caffeine addict, writer of weird fiction, and a semi-retired god in an online fantasy world where godhood suits him quite well, thank you very much. He also blogs at

  1. Michael J. Solender

    Maybe it is the clarion call they need to get their act together. Where are the next generation of Dems that don’t bleat like sheep ala Pelosi or Harry Reid. As for the talking heads, this can only work in favor of the Dems in the long run as the intelligentsia is certainly NOT at FOX with Sarah, Glen Beck and and the rest of Rush Republicans. Perhaps some day some of the partisan divide will make us so numb we’ll have to work together. I keep wondering how much worse it can get, how much more divided our nation will become. Maybe O’Reilly can answer that?

  2. First, fringe leftists love to point out the fringe right-wingers who’ve found a home amongst the tea partiers. They are your wet dreams to prove your delusions about the necessity of statist authoritarianism. The tea partiers are damned right that the gov’t has gone too far and needs to be stopped. Maybe we don’t need to shoot them, but… Why support the lifestyle choices of the rabble of freeloading bums whose state jobs are to siphon tax dollars to a yet lower strata of freeloading bums?

    Hey Professor, where was all the hew and cry when for DECADES all the, er, unbiased mainstream news networks hired exclusively Democratisticaloid political hacks?


    George Stephanopoulos, Bill Clinton’s communications director.
    Tim Russert, Pat Moynihan’s chief of staff
    Chris Matthews, Tip O’Neill’s top political aide

    Note, Diane Feinstein also is a hand-writer:

    I’m glad Fox News is out there holding parade floats of conservative politicians if for no other reason than to expose the rote hypocrisy of traditional news media’s “objective” political commentators. At least Fox News has the balls to actually book the politicians, rather than their boot-licking lackeys.

  3. Barry Hollander

    I’m not exactly sure, Brenden, why you’re fascinated with my wet dreams, but it suggests you have some unresolved issues. Sorry to disappoint, but my wet dreams don’t involve fringe lefties or fringe righties — more likely the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

    And I get more junk mail from the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, based on my voting history, so you’re way off the mark on my partisan predispositions.

    And as far I can tell, the guys you cite were all staff types who are NOT running, or likely to run, or possibly might run, for the presidency. You’re off the mark. By a long way. Try again, maybe you’ll actually score a needless partisan point.

  4. O c’mon. So you, journalism professor, believe it is perfectly acceptable that former staff chieftain of a single party ascend to anchor desks and commentator chairs of the network political watchdogs? And you think this is kosher because they’re not running for office? What’s the difference? These folks owed their careers to the success of the Democraternly party, then they’re interviewing the leaders — the folks to whom they owe all the favors — of same for the Sunday chat shows under an utterly false patina of objectivity.

    No one ever in the journalism intellegencia (er, for lack of a better term… ignorencia?) ever batted an eye about these hacks occupying the anchor chairs. Quite the opposite, Democratishese affiliation and “objective” political commentary is assumed platonic truth in realms of traditional media. But then you have a network who offers stated conservative perspectives and the ivory tower howls, “Outrage! Hypocrisy!” The other networks’ and most newspapers’ unstated political left-wing bias is exactly what resulted in Fox’s existence in the first place. There is an unending spigot of unstated liberal traditional media bias passed off as objective journalism. Merely pointing this out is what has made Fox, Rush, Beck, etc., etc., millionaires.

  5. Charles Walston

    No surprise that Behney is backtracking from his comments. His meaning was perfectly clear but of course no sane person believed he would back up the tough talk.

    If you don’t respect the outcome of elections, you don’t believe in Democracy.

  6. Barry Hollander

    Charles raises an interesting point, so excuse me this PhDweeb moment. If you’re not into academic research, you may want to skip this and try Brenden’s, um, fascinating posts above. They’re better than many hallucinatory drugs.

    I do some research in wishful thinking. Basically it boils down to this: our preference in an election tends to make us predict that candidate will win. It’s not absolute, but it’s a definite tendency. Okay, so I expect my candidate to win. Let’s say that candidate doesn’t win. Wouldn’t I be less trusting of democracy or how elections work, maybe the government itself? At least those who expected to win and didn’t should score lower than those who also favored that candidate but could see the handwriting on the wall.

    I tried this once with data from several U.S. presidential elections and got — nuthin.

    Frustrated me to no end. How dare data get in the way of a good theory! I still think it’s a sound idea, that maybe I need to go back and beat the data into submission. It makes sense that those folks who expected to in and didn’t would be pissed and take it out somehow, if nothing else on their trust of the electoral process (they stole the election!).

    The more you care, the more you engage in wishful thinking. So to put it more current, really angry tea party people, if they lost, would be expected, theoretically, to do … something.

    End of my PhDweeb moment. Busy grading papers and indoctrinating young minds into the dominant paradigm.

  7. So you compared voters who favored candidate A and expected his loss against those who favored him and expected A to prevail? After the election, you compared this against those same voters’ attitudes about the “legitimacy” of the newly-elected gov’t, or their predispositions to take political action for the next election?

    Sounds like quite a dataset. Please tell us more about it. Did you publish something, or make at least a submission to a journal that we might peer review ourselves?

  8. Barry Hollander

    Brenden: ran some initial analyses from the American National Election Studies cumulative data set (surveys of a couple of thousand folks, done every two years, since 1948). Data can be downloaded by anyone at

    But to mess with it, you have to have a lot of patience and a true geek mentality.

    Nope, didn’t publish anything from it. Did do one study on wishful thinking and religion in an academic journal, Journal of Media & Religion, but their stuff is not available online, only an abstract here:

    Doesn’t tell you a lot, unfortunately, except that I know how to write PhDweeby. But that one has nothing to do with trust in elections, etc.

  9. Barry Hollander

    Oh, on a related note, a new CNN poll asked who are the Tea Party folks? To shamelessly steal the lede:

    Activists in the Tea Party movement tend to be male, rural, upscale, and overwhelmingly conservative, according to a new national poll.

    Full story here:

    I need to blog about it, if time allows.

    1. Keith Graham

      Barry: Yes, I do hope you can write about that poll. Maybe I should not be but I am surprised to read that “some 45 percent of all Americans say they don’t know enough about the Tea Party to have a view of the movement.” I saw a more narrowly focused poll in the last week that said 34 percent don’t know enough to form an opinion and thought that figure seemed high in light of all the attention these folks have gotten.

  10. So I read that paper and it was interesting but I see some flaws in the reasoning. It seems that the only “doctrinal orthodoxy” you evaluated was (unsurprisingly) an affiliation toward Christianity. Surely you must realize there are other doctrinal orthodoxies that would lead one to wishful thinking. Take global warmingism, for example. Academics think so wishfully about this orthodoxy they’re willing to falsify their research to “prove” it. Islamist jihadism is another doctrinal orthodoxy. Or less iconoclastic, a strong preference for a particular sports team. But only Christianity appears in your paper.

    This may be an innocent choice of statistical convenience. There is relatively little voting data available on jihadists or those who believe the Pittsburgh Pirates will win the 2010 NLCS. Christians are preponderant in the voting booths, so perhaps it’s a good idea to focus on them. But in doing so, haven’t you only proven a connection between ANY set of narrowly-held beliefs and wishful thinking? That is, a tautology?

    You say wishful thinking compounds when people self-select information that supports their own biases and willfully ignore “cross-cutting” information. Ironically, in your derisive statements against Fox News and the so-called “conservative media,” you encourage this audience to self-select away from such outlets. You never countenance the blazing-neon political bias that occurs in traditional networks and newspapers. You trade on the authority of your job title and academic credentials to encourage the audience to ingore the conservative news organizations in favor of the “objective” liberal ones. Who’s self-selecting here? Who’s promoting the wishful thinking?

    So let’s be honest, you want the audience to understand wishful thinking as delusion. That such delusion results in social distance and high affinity to particular views. This dissonance can reach dangerous levels where someone might profess a desire to overthrow the gov’t violently. OK, fine. But if you sought to criticize such lines of thinking, shouldn’t you encourage more people to watch Fox News, et. al., to expose themselves to more “cr0ss-cutting” viewpoints?

  11. Cliff Green

    To the character “Brenden”: Just to be fair, don’t forget Pat “Diesel Fumes Can’t Kill Jews” Buchanan’s two runs for the presidency and his return to “journalism” after each failure.

  12. Mike Handley

    Barry, did you mess with Brenden’s sister in high school or something?

  13. Barry Hollander

    BubbaPicasso: No, I’m fairly sure I didn’t mess with his sister. But then again, there were so many …

    Plus I hesitate to call many of the radio or tv talking heads “journalists” in the true sense of the word, and a lot of them Hannity would never claim the title, nor would Limbaugh — in part because I think by doing so they’d have to take a serious pay cut, and in part because they’re not committing acts of journalism, they’re talking about the news.

    Brenden: yeah, doctrinal orthodoxy could probably be defined lots of ways. In terms of the journal article, assuming you read the whole thing and not just the abstract, I looked specifically at Christian religious orthodoxy as defined by years of earlier research. What’s interesting in that piece is how after statistically controlling for a jillion other factors in a (PhDweeb alert!) multivariate analysis, doctrinal orthodoxy still mattered.

  14. How come this guy gets to write “I’m a PhD!!” all the time and no one accuses him of intellectual snobbery? More liberal bias, I guess.

    Anyway, well of course it mattered. You have, as PhDweebs often do, proven the obvious by means of the obscure. But you falsely apply your findings to draw this audience to the conclusion that Fox News, et. al., are a bunch of deluded moonbats. That is ironic because you note (again, obviously) that “cross-cutting” information sources decrease a tendency toward wishful thinking. Yet here you encourage ignorance by deriding conservative media, then remind this audience, “I’m a PhD!!,” to oblige them to ignore diverse opinions.

    I think the critical discovery is that journalism professors know a wee tad bit of math. You are obviously very proud of that. Good for you. Be sure to encourage your students to follow your example.

  15. Barry Hollander

    Hey, I worked my ass off for that Ph.D — five years of living in crappy married housing making $8,000 a year while teaching and working and also reading piles of obscure research — damn right I’m sure as heck gonna mention it every time I can.

    I doubt you’ve actually read my research, especially on the Fox News audience, but you can use Google Scholar to find a lot of it easily accessible (depending on the journal). Hell, I even appeared on Fox News a couple of years ago to discuss my research on whether young people actually learn anything from The Daily Show.
    And I don’t know much math, just ask my son who is taking Trig right now. I’m no help. But I do know some statistics (though my three brothers-in-law who are actual statisticians would beg to differ on that one too).

    And I watch Fox, and listen to Hannity and Limbaugh, nearly every day. Not all friggin six hours of talk radio for those two (in my market), but bits and pieces as I can. I like Rush a lot. Hannity, he’s a jerk and not very good on air, but Limbaugh is a master of the medium.

  16. Naw, dude, by all means… Rock on. It’s just whenever I mention my CV to bolster my considered authority on one topic or another, the luddite mob here accuses me of academic vanity. “Shut up!” he said thoughtfully, and all that. I don’t mind, of course, just want to highlight another obvious hypocrisy in the prevailing opinion among this audience.

  17. Mike Handley

    I’ve reread this piece several times now in search of this spittlefest’s trigger, but I’ve yet to find a smoking gun. Beyond pointing out FOX News’ choices of talking heads, Barry’s piece is fairly straight forward — engaging in far more slams against Democrats (in power) than at their Republican counterparts. And any essay addressing the likely outcome of the next election would not be complete without a mention of the often cannibalistic Teabaggers (my adjective), many of whom make the Far Right LOOK like Lefties. But the Professor’s recipe contains more honey than vinegar. Brenden, on the other hand, comes off as a raving lunatic with a personal axe to grind. We can only hope that the voices and actions of reason will prevail over the fringe. What Barry failed to mention is that the batshit craziness of America’s newest I’m-not-gonna-take-it-anymore party will seal its fate. Now, on a lighter note, check out this satire:

  18. I have had a hard time parsing some of the sentences in this thread. I will use, just as an example, the last sentence left by the Brenden guy right before me: “just want to highlight another obvious hypocrisy in the prevailing opinion among this audience.”
    Why “opinion,” singular? This joint is crawling with myriad opinions, most of them penned late at night after several scotches. Everywhere you look, another opinion pops up.
    Second, what is meant by the phrase “the prevailing opinion among this audience?” Is there actually a singular audience that reads this web site? I assure you, I do not share opinions with the heavy drinkers who edit this rag — that would be incestuous and that would be wrong.
    In the words of the great John Cleese, “Go away you silly person.”

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