Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Daily Show

I like to watch The Daily Show on The Comedy Channel. At times it is truly funny, and nobody in the mainstream skewers the right like John Stewart and his ensemble. However, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, one of the primary functions of the media in America is to define the limits of permissible discourse. The Daily Show performs that role by defining the limits of acceptable dissent on the left. Go to the left of them and you're looney tunes, or dangerous and perhaps even terroristic.

There was a clear example of this not long ago, when Stewart said that President Truman had been guilty of war crimes in dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. At the very beginning of the next show, he apologized for that remark, pointing out that Truman wasn't a war criminal. Bullshit. He was right the first time. I personally don't believe it was his idea to apologize. That undoubtedly came down from the executive offices of whatever media conglomerate currently owns The Comedy Channel.

There was an example of a different sort one night last week. The Daily Show is divided into three segments. It is customary for Stewart to interview a guest on the third segment. On the show in question, the guest was the producer of a clone of American Idol on TV in Afghanistan. That's right American Idol, and this fool was talking about his show like it was some great exercise in democracy because the contestants were expressing themselves and the women weren't covering their faces. This is just the sort of thing that Stewart usually skewers, but not this time. He was taking this guy seriously.

What a crock. Is this what American-style democracy has wrought, the right to appear on a stupid TV show? I would think that this kind of thing would play right into the hands of the Taliban and other Islamist extremists. All they have to do is say, is this what the Americans would give you? They've bombed your country, killed you children, and destroyed your economy, and this TV show is what they're going to give you. Hell, if I were a young Afghani man, it just might send me straight to the nearest madrasa.

As I said though, The Daily Show can also be truly funny. Last week, they also did a segment in which they made fun of those who are afraid to have convicted terrorists jailed near their homes. Like they pointed out, just what the hell would one of these guys do if he did manage to escape a super maximum security prison? At the conclusion of the segment, John Oliver, who was playing the reporter, said that he had a way to protect yourself if an Islamist terrorist escaped from a jail near you. He then showed the camera a pork chop hanging from a rope necklace. Yeah, I know, but you had to have been watching. I got a good laugh from that.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We Humans, We Fools

I'll never understand human nature. Not that I'm meant to, but it still boggles my mind on occasion. Last night, I watched part of an Independent Lens documentary on the local PBS channel. The topic of the documentary was the Jehovah's Witnesses. It left me shaking my head, though I don't think that was the reaction the filmmakers meant for me to have.

At the center of the documentary was a 23-year-old man who needed a liver transplant in order to survive. Finding a liver was not to be a problem. His father was a suitable donor. However, Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden to have blood transfusions, and liver transplant patients have need of lots of blood. There was the problem. However, this young man's family managed to find surgeons who would use an experimental procedure that didn't require transfusions. The surgery was successful and the young man's life was saved. Okay, happy ending and all that, but answer me this. If a Jehovah's Witness's faith prohibits him from getting a blood transfusion, how is it that he is permitted to receive an organ transplant? Both amount to the same thing, the introduction of foreign tissue into the body. This question wasn't asked in the documentary, though I thought it should have been.

A larger issue was also addressed in the documentary. This family apparently had ancestors in Germany who were also Witnesses and were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. Jehovah's Witnesses were apparently tortured horribly in an effort to get them to renounce their faith. Very few, if any, did so. What were they, nuts? They weren't like the Jews to the Nazis. They weren't race enemies, so all a Jehovah's Witness had to do in order to be released from the camp was to sign a document renouncing his faith. Why wouldn't one do such a thing. There are those who think that such people are courageous and to be admired for adhering to their beliefs in the most difficult of circumstances. Christians, for one, love their martyrs and think they are deserving of praise. But why? The sensible thing to do would be to say, okay, I renounce my faith. You can then go your merry way and believe whatever the hell you want. That's what many Jews did in the Middle Ages. In places like Spain, they even converted to Christianity, but continued to practice their faith in the privacy of their homes.

That said, I hope we continue to live in a society that permits beliefs like those of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Live and let live is what I say. No one should be made to suffer for what he believes, even when that others find those beliefs distasteful.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Creative Writing Programs

I came across this article about creative writing programs on The New Yorker web site, and decided to pass along the link. I don't agree with everything in it by any means, but it's well worth reading.