• Richard Farr

Tim Allen and the doorknob question

Recently I was sent an opinion-piece written by the comedian Tim Allen; it defends (or anyway announces) a list of "conservative" apercus. It came to me through a Trump-supporting friend-of-a-friend, who prefaced Allen's work with the remark "Every once in awhile, there's actually someone from Hollywood with more sense than a doorknob."

Unfortunately there's little evidence that Mr Allen passes the doorknob test. On the contrary: what we get here is a uniformly vile brew of confusion, careless falsehood, blind privilege, contempt for the less fortunate, and deliberate dishonesty. But close attention to his incontinent eructations repays us with some useful distinctions:

Women are upset at Trump’s naughty words -- they also bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Gray.

This is a non-sequitur, otherwise known as the apples-and-oranges fallacy: the claim is inconsistency, and hypocrisy, but there is none. If Obama had gone on TV to read to the nation with a knowing smirk from the X-rated parts of the book, those women would have been horrified - for the good reason that we have (or had) come to expect a certain dignity and common decency from the President's public pronouncements. Private literary tastes differ, but even those with questionable ones have a perfect right to be revolted by the Donald's public pronouncements - and by people such as Allen who affect not to find them revolting.

And this is not even the main point. Many of the women who enjoy bad prose about bondage were revolted less by The Groper's words than by the fact that he spoke some of those words in the course of boasting about in actual fact being a sexual predator.

Not one feminist has defended Sarah Sanders. It seems women’s rights only matter if those women are liberal.

If women have specific rights that are being violated, they and their rights should be defended. Sarah Sanders has not, as far as I'm aware, had any of her rights violated; at all events she does not have the right, as a woman or as a citizen, not to be called out as the despicable individual she is for voluntarily taking on the job of lying to the American people, over and over and over, about the over-and-over lies of a manifestly corrupt President. If someone had tried to prevent her from voting (Maybe because she's white! But who would do a thing like that? Ridiculous! Eh, Mitch?), there is no evidence that "liberal" women would not have come to her defense; very much the contrary. So what on earth is the point here? The point, of course, is that there is no point: only rhetorical hand-waving designed to get the most ignorant and vulnerable to look the wrong way.

No Border Walls. No voter ID laws. Did you figure it out yet? But wait... there's more.

Figure what out? The hint of conspiracy is conveniently vague; no need to come up even with a coherent story, much less any facts to support it. The truth is, there has not been a Border wall in the history of the Republic. Not even during the Trickson Administration, or the Shrub Disaster, nor even during the time of Saint Ronald of Laissez-Faire - to name just three of the incomparably great statesmen Con Thought has offered us in the recent past. This racist fever dream belongs to the mind of Mr Creepy alone.

There is, however, strong evidence that illegal immigration was far lower before Border security became a law-and-order obsession, for interesting and paradoxical reasons. Malcolm Gladwell has the whole fascinating story of what militarization, too much testosterone, and a hefty dose of racism can do to create tragically unintended consequences for your security; I recommend it: http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/25-general-chapman's-last-stand.

Chelsea Clinton got out of college and got a job at NBC that paid $900,000 per year. Her mom flies around the country speaking out about white privilege

Whether either of these facts is in actual fact a fact, I have not checked, but since Chelsea Clinton is an independent adult it's unclear how they are connected. As for Mrs. Clinton, it's hard for me to defend her, because I've never been a fan. (My reason will not be intelligible to Mr. Allen, but for the record it seems to me that, like her husband, she'd a conservative in sheep's clothing.) But the important point is this: she is no longer in office; whence the obsession? Many of us still hope that there is a special place in hell for Scott Pruitt and Michael Flynn - to take two names at random from the long list of incompetent, corrupt, or outright criminal men put into positions of influence by Dear Leader - but we don't go on and on about them because, thank God, they are no longer in office.

And just like that, they went from being against foreign interference in our elections to allowing non-citizens to vote in our elections.

The lie here is interesting and rhetorically quite subtle.

First: you might hope - but it would be a naive and foolish hope - that Mr. Allen and his fellow faux-conservatives care about both foreign interference in our elections and the Great Cheese-Puff's desire to deny or minimize the truth about it. Those outside the reach of Mr. Disgusting's strong and lugubrious gravitation were , and continue to be against such interference; indeed they are horrified by it, and are in favor of the decisive action to prevent its recurrence that Chapter 11 (to use one of his many nicknames) has consistently stonewalled.

Second: who is it exactly that wants non-citizens to vote - and which non-citizens? (Parisians, maybe?)

Third: even wanting to allow them to vote isn't actually allowing them to vote, and since "they" aren't in power "they" cannot have in fact allowed non-citizens to vote.

But the crux comes fourth: even if (say, per impossible) "they" had somehow rammed through Congress a bill allowing some non-citizens to vote - and had not had their nefarious work immediately torched by the courts - that's not, not even remotely, the same thing as accepting or even promoting interference in the election process itself by a hostile foreign state.

The important question being buried here is whether we have any evidence that "conservatives" (ha!) like Mr. Allen are themselves against foreign interference with our elections. That we even have to ask this question makes the mind reel. But the evidence so far is: No, not really. If it's OK with President Donnie "Vlad" Pumpkin, then it's OK with them.

President Trump’s wall costs less than the Obamacare website. Let that sink in, America.

Apologies if I wax a little harsh here, but this is unmitigated lies and bullshit. Specifically, it's both together.

The lie is that the Border Wall (variously budgeted: according to the Trump Administration's own DHS it will swallow around $20 billion) costs less than the ACA website. In fact an earlier, 75% less ludicrous myth - that the site cost $5 billion, enthusiastically re-tweeted by the Orange Gland, of course, has been thoroughly debunked. (Fake News is the technical term.) But Mr. Allen has learned a key rhetorical trick from his guru: never back down, just lie louder.

The bullshit is that there's a totally different real claim underlying the lie: goodness, Obamacare will cost more than the wall. To which the right response is: Well, in a sense, yes: ACA is a near-trillion dollar program ... but so what? The comparison with a wall - even if you think the wall is a good idea and not a disastrous one - is silly; the only interesting *financial* question about ACA is whether it will cost more or less money than it saves.

We are one election away from open borders, socialism, gun confiscation, and full-term abortion nationally. We are fighting evil.

This is hysterical, in both senses of the word. For sixteen years in total, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama roamed the White House in their Mao caps and fatigues, terrorizing the populace and baying for revolution - yet those two pitiless communist-authoritarian firebrands failed to achieve any of this.

For a dose of reality on the history of "open borders" see the podcast linked above.

They sent more troops and armament to arrest Roger Stone than they sent to defend Benghazi.

Fact check, anyone? I have not done it - I'm not sure what it even means - but again the more important thing in a case like this is the structure of the rhetoric. Roger Stone is yet another in the long list of people closely associated with the Communicable Disease in Chief who have turned out to be criminals - guilty on all counts, in The Bespoke Mealworm's case. He was a private citizen and "they" (the police, in this usage of that overused pronoun) arrested him without so much as a crease being made in his $10,000 suit. The US Embassy in Benghazi was an inadequately protected diplomatic compound; what happened there was a disaster, and it happened under Mrs. Clinton's watch, but for this President and his supporters to complain about inadequate protection of our diplomats is stand-up comedy indeed. (It's spelled Yovanovitch, Mr. Allen.)

60 years ago, Venezuela was 4th on the world economic freedom index. Today, they are 179th and their citizens are dying of starvation. In only 10 years, Venezuela was destroyed by democratic socialism.

The situation in Venezuela is a humanitarian disaster on a huge scale - recently, like Assad's torture chambers and so much else, shouldered from the news. But this comment on it, aimed presumably at "socialists" in America, is so ignorant and so ridiculous that it's very hard to know where to start.

Briefly: I've come to the conclusion that few Americans has any idea what the word "socialism" historically even means. (Bernie included. He talked like a socialist in the distant past and still calls himself a socialist. No on knows why! His actual policy positions just aren't socialist. People who say they are need to get a dictionary, or take a class in the history of political philosophy.) Chavez really was (one kind of) old-style state socialist - or rather, he was one of the many who started that way and then simply became a vicious and incompetent dictator. (Note that this transformation to the Dark Side never happens to "conservative" leaders except in Poland. And Hungary. And Brazil. And India. And .... )

Meanwhile in "socialist" countries such as Finland or France, people to the left of the American political mainstream routinely distinguish between socialists, whose central belief is in direct state control of key industries and who had significant influence in the 1950s to 1970s, and the much more common and vastly more influential social democrats who have actually run these societies, by and large, for the bulk of the past 70 years. Virtually all the predominantly social democratic countries enjoy higher life expectancy, a higher happiness rating, a lower government corruption rating, a better health care system, a better grade school education system, a smaller and more humane prison system, better public infrastructure, less pollution largely due to better renewable power policies and less undemocratic influence from the extraction lobby, and above all perhaps (these ought to be the two most cripplingly embarrassingly facts, for faux-conservative Americans) both far greater inter-generational social mobility and stronger legal safeguards for civil rights against the incursions of an overblown state, than the City on a Hill.  

But these thoughts are dangerous. They might distract us from saving the softly beating heart of liberty from the looming Stalinist terror of poor children having access to healthcare.

Russia donated $0.00 to the Trump campaign. Russia donated $145,600,000 to the Clinton Foundation. But Trump was the one investigated!

I've no idea whether there's anything behind the second claim, but it's worth pointing out that an election campaign and a Foundation, easy to confuse in the heat of debate, are not the same thing. Let's move on: of course Russia didn't donate to the Trump campaign. For one thing, that would have been illegal; for another, there are far more cost-effective ways to destroy a democracy. "Could I speak to General Flynn? Yes, that's right, the gullible fire-breathing nutcase with the criminal tendencies. We'll hold, yes. Thank you so much."

Nancy Pelosi invited illegal aliens to the State of the Union. President Trump Invited victims of illegal aliens to the State of the Union.

Nancy and Donnie are politicians. They were both trying to make a point. Nancy's point was that the people called Dreamers are not to blame for their situation, having come here as children, and are hugely worth respecting and keeping even if only out of naked self-interest and never mind anything touchy-feely like common moral decency. Donnie's point, if you recall, was that immigrants are typically violent criminals. The difference is that only one of these points stands up to scrutiny.

A socialist is basically a communist who doesn’t have the power to take everything from their citizens at gunpoint ... Yet!

See above under "Venezuela."

Also: in the allegedly socialist countries, the slaves of leftist ideology are so unfree that they suffer about a 99% lower chance that a white loner man-boy with a firearms hard-on - the type who buys products only if they have the words "tactical" or "ops" in the description - will put a bullet through their child. But I'm missing the point, aren't I? Freedom is just freedom! It's that simple! Well, it is that simple if you're completely ignorant about the history of political ideas, and thus protected from the capacity to even formulate a question such as "Do Americans have greater overall liberty than, say, the Dutch ... or actually, shock horror, do they actually have in many respects ... less?"

How do you walk 3000 miles across Mexico without food or support and show up at our border 100 pounds overweight and with a cellphone?

I would like to think that Mr. Allen is not a racist, but it's difficult to parse this one under any other assumption. The sub-text is clear enough: since overweight people with brown skins and cell phones do show up - the undocumented premise goes - their stories of oppression must be a lie. They are really just greedy invaders, come to take stuff from people like us who really belong here. Kind of like the Italians and the Poles and the Irish once did, eh Mr. Allen?

Here we have an almost comically hyper-privileged white person reaching for a justification for not feeling - and for handing to others like him permission not to feel - any compassion for darker-skinned people who in many cases are trying to walk out of hell. One tries to imagine the interview: "Mr. Allen! So glad you survived. Now tell us: what was it like to be told that you have three days to hand over both your sons to the cartels, failing which both your kidnapped daughters will be raped, murdered, dismembered and returned to you in little pieces by FedEx?"

I've been reading about the Hmong recently: how, despite being a crucial part of the US effort against the Pathet Lao, at almost genocidal cost, the few who survived and were allowed into the US after the war were (and are) treated miserably - and with absolutely zero recognition of just how much they did. Echoes of the South Vietnamese, the Kurds, the descendants of half a million slaves ... it goes on and on. Where there is such total ignorance of what non-whites have actually done for this country (or, in the case of many Hondurans or Guatemalans right now, simply and unimaginably endured), and when you hear a rich white entertainer mocking them - where is the shame?

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wants to ban cars, ban planes, give out universal income and thinks socialism works. She calls Donald Trump crazy.

Don Trumpeone might actually be crazy, in the medical sense of the term - or more charitably perhaps he is just suffering from cognitive decline: at all events, he suffers from tantrums, cannot tell a truth, and has the speech coherence of a drunk approaching blackout. AOC's sharp intelligence and rhetorical flair could not be in greater contrast, and as far as I can see Allen's score on the truth-meter here is 2-in-4.

#3 is true; whether good or bad policy, it has been tested in various places with mixed results and certainly isn't crazy.

#4 may be true, though I don't think so: I think she'd a relatively radical social democrat. But this is splitting hairs when Mr Allen thinks that the Clintons are socialists, which is roughly like mistaking a banana skin for a sock.

Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to Paula Jones to get her to go away. I don’t remember the FBI raiding his lawyer’s office.

Bill Clinton's personal life was not the most savory, but an affair is not a criminal matter. People like Mr. Allen, with their painful case of Donnorhea, would be wise to change the subject.

The same media that told me Hillary Clinton had a 95% chance of winning now tells me Trump’s approval ratings are low.

I struggled to find one of Mr. Allen's points that I could respond to by saying: OK, that's fair; that makes me think. This one was the nearest, because he's probably right that those of us who read the communist papers, like the New York Times or even (horrors) The Guardian, are consuming a lot of desperate, end-times wishful thinking.

But the correct moral to draw is not "Them lamestream media is a Deep State socialist conspiracy" but rather "Be careful what you believe." Ah, yes indeed - be careful what you believe. There's the rub, Mr. Allen! But I fear that he, allegedly a comedian, is beyond the reach of irony.

“The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”— Margaret Thatcher

A nice slogan, this. Something to warm the heart of every freedom-loving entrepreneur-wannabe. But, also, complete nonsense.  (A) See "socialism" above. Actual socialists really do have a history of running out of other people's money - though let's pause to tip our hats and note that it was actual socialists who contributed so much to, or arguably created, the idea of the weekend, the idea of ending child labor, the idea of ending slavery, and many other things including for instance the UK's second-most beloved institution after the monarchy - by conservatives as well - the National Health Service. (B) The "socialist" (social democratic) countries have not run out of anyone's money; indeed they've mostly had world-leading economies for decades. Paradoxically, because that money was generated under much lower levels of economic inequality, even the rich in those countries tend to enjoy higher standards of living. (See Pickett and Wilkinson's thought-provoking "The Spirit Level" for copious analysis - combined with, shock horror, actual facts on this. In almost every graph of progress and well-being, the US and UK are radical outliers - and not in a good way.)  (C) Last time I checked on the Panama Papers story, or the LIBOR fraud, or larger issues like the British extraction of untold billions from India and China and the issue of reparations to Native Americans and the descendants of slaves - or the more general mystery of exactly how it is that the richest 1% are, like an aristocracy of old, simply better than the rest of us to the tune of 23% of all income and 39% of all wealth ("Born smart! Got up early! Ate healthy breakfasts! Worked late! Took risks! Read Ayn Rand so that I could feel good about becoming a selfish shit!") - there was not surprisingly very little angst in conservative circles about the danger of the rich running out of poor people's money. Indeed, research indicates that opportunities for stealing from the poor and giving to the rich are without end.

Maxine Waters opposes voter ID laws; She thinks that they are racist. You need to have a photo ID to attend her town hall meetings.

See under "non sequitur" above. Whether voter ID laws are a good idea or a bad one depends on balancing the alleged threat of voter fraud (hyped endlessly by Tiny Hands; repeatedly debunked; hyped some more) against the threat that these laws will make it hard for legitimate voters to vote. It should go without saying that this has nothing to do with whether asking people to produce ID is a reasonable requirement outside a bar, or a political Town Hall.

President Trump said — "They’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in their way."

I'm reminded of the classic Mandy Rice Davies zinger in the Profumo trial - perhaps the most devastating response from a witness that an over-confident courtroom lawyer has ever had to endure. Was Miss Davies aware that Lord Astor entirely denied having an affair with her? (Pause for comic effect.) "Well 'e would, wouldn't 'e?"

President Runt has now lied - to you, dear reader, and to me, and to you too, Mr. Allen, you chump - more than 16,000 times since ascending to the throne. Here Mr. Allen is promoting one of the biggest and most obvious of the Orange Toad's whoppers.

"They" presumably are liberals, immigrants, the free press ... or possibly, as we discovered recently in Lafayette Park, any citizen with the temerity to claim first amendment rights. The rhetoric of the internal threat against "real" Germans, sorry I mean Americans, is painfully familiar. Never mind that "real" Americans such as farmers, miners, and so many others have been among the most comprehensively shell-gamed by the Silver Spoon Administration. It's actually Runt himself and his Fascism-curious apparatchiks who are after us, especially the most vulnerable, and it is we, especially the less vulnerable, who must stand in the way.

* * *

If Mr. Allen cares about freedom, or democracy, or America, he might consider laying off the slogans, which soften both the mind and the spine, and joining the fight. Doorknobs are useful things: perhaps one will lead us back into the light again from the haunted house of Donnie Darko.