Let’s face it; the past few months have been bad for conservatives and Republicans. After a fairly good shellacking in the Presidential and Senatorial elections last November, which many pundits didn’t even see coming, Republicans have good reason to be retrospective. The recent election postmortem by the Republican National Committee underscores the sober reality that the Republican band is damaged from excessively rounding “an ideological cul-de-sac.” This has led the GOP’s to lose influence among many, including minorities, women, young adults, and the gay community (while still doing well in the “old white guy” demographic). The report states:
The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become experts in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people but, devastatingly, we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.
So, with the realization that the Party needs to modernize and reach out to conservative-minded people who share some of their ideas, though not necessarily their platform, what did conservative outlets do? Did they tone down rhetoric? Did they accept changing demographics in America and make attempts to reach out to once-marginalized groups?
No, they fomented two feigned outrage stories this week to gin up the masses.
I usually refer to these momentary spurts of consumer activism as outrages du jour. Much like the du jour menu at your local bistro, they offer a varied and seasonal selection of rage to get the old ticker pumping and something for work colleagues to discuss or debate around water coolers. This journalism is the lowest common denominator, since it requires nothing more than an already built-in Pavlovian response to whatever wedge issue is currently in vogue to get people buying papers, clicking links, or tuning into the 24-hour cable channel of choice in the breakroom.
While we liberal and progressive types are not immune to this type of sensationalism, it’s rife in the right-wing mediasphere. So much, even, that there are several websites singly devoted to debunking some of the most conniving conservative canards. And with the prominence of social media, these baseless claims spread like wildfire. As of this writing, two notable conservative boycotts stand out: coffee and comedy.
The first involves many Americans’ morning pick-up: Starbucks. At a shareholder’s meeting last Wednesday in Seattle, several conservative shareholders, including one from the ironically named “National Organization for Marriage” confronted Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on his company’s pro-stance on same-sex marriage and whether such views may hurt returns in the coming year. Schultz responded rather bluntly, stating those that thought they could get a “higher return” elsewhere (there was a 38% gain in 2012 for investors) were welcome to “sell [their] shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company,” perhaps one of the nicest middle fingers an executive has ever given to obstinate shareholders.
This has sparked off TheTeaParty.net’s “Dump Starbucks” campaign this Sunday. Chances are you’ve already read it somewhere on your News Feed that your conservative uncle or best friend from high school swears to swear off that sweet nectar of the gods for all eternity. As of this writing, there are 24,000 likes on their Facebook Page and over 56,000 pledges on the Website. And while I’m certain we’ll see many more intelligent folks protest by buying a $7 Venti Skinny Half-Caf Pumpkin Spice Latte and then dumping it down the drain (because irony is completely lost on some people, I guess), we’ll have to wait and see if this will live up to the hype we experienced over Chick-Fil-A last summer.
The second example of outrage du jour involves famous funny man Jim Carrey’s sketch uploaded to the website Funny or Die (clip below). It features a mock-up of the old He-Haw television series, with Carrey playing the part of guest host and noted gun-nut Charlton Heston. They then introduce a music number by Lonesome Earl and the Clutterbusters (who are Abraham Lincoln on bass, John Lennon on guitar, and Mohandas Gandhi on percussion, all of whom were victims of gun violence). Carrey, as Lonesome Earl, sings the vehemently anti-gun anthem “Cold Dead Hand”–a spin on one of Heston’s most infamous quotes during his NRA presidency– which goes on to question the manhood of rabid gun owners. Heston attempts to dispatch them with his rifle only to both literally and figuratively “shoot himself in the foot” at the end of the song.
While this heavy-handed sketch is not pure comedic gold, it is a bit of biting social satire we haven’t seen from Carrey since his old In Living Color days, and quite funny, in our opinion. And his on-the-nose depiction of Heston and other gun nuts were not lost on the rightwing blogosphere either. Carrey was hounded on his Twitter account by Dana “Drop Trou” Loesch, as well as getting his lumps in at Red State and on Fox News by notably unfunny Greg “The Gutless” Gutfield. Carrey’s Twitter response calling gun-rightists “heartless mother*ckers” have only added fuel to the conservative fire (though no comment from the NRA or CEO Wayne LaPierre…yet).
So there you have it: barely a week after the Republican Party has realized that it needs to reach a broader audience to secure its own political survival, the rightwing mediasphere gives us not one, but two non-issues for pundits, politicians, and partisan internet trolls to cleave to, that further alienate those who support marriage equality (which is at an all-time high) and gun control.
While it may not be the best time to gloat, 2014 is looking better every day.