It's tough to wrap your head around the notion that the conservative political press hasn't always been the 24/7 clown show it is today. At one time, conservative ideals were served and espoused by guys like William F. Buckley, who, whether you agreed with their worldview or not, prided themselves on being intellectuals. Buckley was a pompous bore, but at least he shunned any attempt to appeal to the lunatic fringe of the conservative movement and tried to create a scholarly stronghold at the center of it which he hoped would stand the test of time.
Unfortunately, it hasn't. With the rise of conservative media as a massive entertainment complex, the most populist opinions, offered in the most bellicose tones, are the ones that stick. And when you're appealing to the whims and stoking the fears of the lowest common denominator that exists on the right, you're guaranteed to be dispensing with any hint of intellectualism.
Still, amid the usual bullshit noise coming from the likes of Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or the couch-of-fail on Outnumbered, there are times when something happens that provides a perfect snapshot of just how bad things are in conservative media these days -- just how utterly unserious the whole endeavor seems to be and how pathetic the politics it fuels have become. One segment on Hannity last night gave us exactly that. It was so fucking ridiculous from top to bottom -- so comical in its conception and so revealing in its show of intellectual bankruptcy -- that it almost achieved a kind of hallucinatory state.
It started with Sean Hannity, who you'll remember can put you into a used car regardless of your credit history, recapping the current situation with the so-called Islamic State. He did a brief rundown of ISIS's recent activity, specifically the group's execution of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The reason for this was to setup a special guest who was joining him to offer some insight into how best to deal with the threat ISIS poses to the free world. That guest: Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson. There was Hannity, introducing a living caricature cynically created for a reality TV show and asking for its invaluable analysis of one of the most complex and dangerous situations facing the country at the moment.
Needless to say, Phil didn't disappoint.
Being that this is the same person who once compared being gay to bestiality and who claimed black people were happier in the pre-civil rights South, Robertson wasted no time in opening up his Bible, right there on the set, and asserting that all you need to know about how to deal with ISIS can be found within it. His solution: convert them all to Christianity or else kill them outright. It's rare that the Christian right's hypocrisy is put on so flawless a pedestal for all to see, but there you have it.
From Talking Points Memo:
"In this case, you either have to convert them -- which I think would be next to impossible," Robertson said. "I'm not giving up on them, but I'm just saying either convert them or kill them. One or the other."
Host Sean Hannity predicted the media would jump on that comment.
"I'd much rather have a Bible study with all of them and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ ... however, if it's a gunfight and a gunfight alone, if that's what they're looking for, I'm personally ready for either one," Robertson later added.
If the ultimatum Robertson is proposing sounds at all familiar, that's because it's exactly the same one ISIS gave to Iraqi Christians after taking control of Mosul and it's the same one a prisoner of ISIS, a Turkish photojournalist, claimed was given to him by ISIS militants during his time in captivity. It's basically a tenet of radial Islam: you either convert or we kill you. If you're not seeing the laughable irony here, you're probably Phil Robertson. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together recognizes that insane fundamentalism is insane fundamentalism, regardless of the faith behind it. But for somebody like Robertson and the people who inexplicably give a shit about anything that could possibly come out of his mouth, their way is the right way and their God is the right God and their imaginary friend can beat up everybody else's imaginary friends and they've got the "truth" on their side.
Fox News has dumb people on all the time offering opinions. Hell, half their staff qualifies as dumb people offering opinions. But there's something truly special about watching a phony reality TV star holding court and ascending to the pulpit on a major American news network to address a global crisis. It's like UBS rolling out "Sybil the Soothsayer" as part of its revamped Howard Beale Show in Network, except instead of serving as an indictment of the media in general it's specific only to the state of the conservative press. Phil Robertson being treated as a legitimate analyst, even for a few minutes, is apparently something that's okay for Fox News and the people who watch it.
Buckley is turning over in his grave. And for once I can actually sympathize with him.