A few less clowns, please.

Remember the class clown? The kid in school that you could count on to say or do something outrageous… obnoxious even… to become the center of attention. We’ve all known at least one. Maybe it was the boy who chugged his carton of milk then burped the alphabet. Or the girl who could make the infamous armpit noise. Usually the entire class got in trouble for laughing. All because someone wanted to be noticed.

It’s not limited to goofy juveniles in the classroom. How often do you hear about a young actress who experienced a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ and suddenly exposed herself, coincidently just when the photographers were there to capture the moment? Or the singer who became involved in a minor scuffle with a fan, and the incident conveniently occurred right when a new album was about to be released? A few personalities have taken it much further, signing up for their own ‘reality’ television show, though more often than not what you’re shown is scripted and rehearsed.

Sadly, the phenomenon isn’t limited to those we would normally refer to as entertainers. More and more, our political world has become dominated by the type of scandalous behavior one shouldn’t expect from adults given the weighty responsibility of operating our government.

Radio and television personalities are well-known for stirring up their followers with one conspiracy theory after another in an effort to boost ratings. Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Michele Malkin, the list goes on and on. They claim to have evidence of secret plots by our government to confiscate our guns or establish internment camps or purposely collapse the economy. They’ll chatter about the creeping influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sharia law… or how you should fear George Soros and Saul Alinsky  It’s all fantasy designed to gather and maintain an audience to whom they can then market products like books, freeze-dried foods, virility pills, and gold.

You’ve got Ted Nugent, a one-time big name in rock who is known today more for his off-the-rails remarks against President Obama. I can’t blame poor Ted for trying to make a living doing something, since his music isn’t really bringing in a flood of cash anymore. The Nuge performed last week in Kansas City for a crowd of less than a thousand in a theater that easily seats three times that many. On a side note: why is Nugent so beloved by the Right for his outlandish (and usually profane) attacks on President Obama but the Dixie Chicks were subjected to protests by talk radio hosts and a nationwide radio boycott for their opposition to war a decade ago?  

It’s one thing when these entertainers and pundits spread their tales of imagination. It’s another when the politicians decide they also want to play the game.

Recently we’ve heard Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, breathlessly claim that the influx of children at our southern border is part of a secret plan by President Obama to: “put at risk the American people, our culture, our way of life, our economic standing, and also he’s willing to allow a pandemic of disease to come into our country.” Mind you, the congresswoman provides no proof to back up her remarks.

Bachmann isn’t alone in the Congressional Cavalcade of Clowns. From the great state of Iowa – land of that coveted prize of presidential hopefuls, the Iowa Caucuses – you get Rep. Steve King, who can be counted on for either making snide comments that are offensive to Hispanics or suggesting that the president be impeached for… well, something. Out of Texas we have Rep. Louie Gohmert who claims to know that terrorists want to have their babies born in the USA to gain citizenship, then whisked off to another land to be: “raised and coddled as future terrorists” so that they could return, programmed I suppose, as adults bent on destruction. Louie must think “The Manchurian Candidate” was a documentary.

And then there’s that reservoir of wack-a-doodle speech, former Gov. Sarah Palin, who looked around the political landscape and decided that what the world needs is a subscription-funded website that, for $9.95 a month ($99.95 for a year), gives you the opportunity to watch a video in which she stands in her kitchen talking about vegetables. No, I’m not kidding.

This is probably where some readers will say, “There he goes, picking on poor Sarah.” Look, I know she was once elected the governor of a sparsely-populated state and was handed the opportunity to be the number two name on a losing presidential ticket… but that doesn’t insulate her from criticism when she serves up her typical word salad of nonsense. Sure, she’s popular… but so is Honey Boo Boo, and I wouldn’t seek out her political meditations either.

Let’s be clear: all of these people have a right to voice their opinions. But we have the responsibility to filter what they say, separating fact from fiction.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald, 8/7/14)

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