One way to deal with vulnerable public figures is to "throw them under a bus." This is typically the expression for people who are supposed to be on the same team, but one gets fixed with blame for the down-turn in the team's fortunes.
In a way, throwing public figures under buses has become its own form of reality programming. After all, that is the focus of most sports talk, entertainment gossip, and political discourse. A few years ago Madonna threw Britney Spears under a bus with a public French kiss and Spears has never recovered. Tiger Woods crashed into a bus and I could not even find him in the FedEx Cup standings this morning.
The President of the United States is supposed to be surrounded by people who will throw themselves under buses with timely resignations in the wake of public outcry. Yet the state of Louisiana seems to be getting rolled over by a convoy of buses, and unfortunately these are not tourists to Mardi Gras. Even so, after "Bush's Katrina" Congress made sure to roll its bus over a few government department heads. Now with media wonks including Anderson Cooper as of May 31, 2010 calling this oil spill disaster "Obama's Katrina," there appears to be a wide-spread call for buses to start rolling again. Whether they roll over the President will help along the comparisons of this administration with Jimmy Carter's.
Ted Kennedy threw Jimmy Carter under a bus in 1980. I don't think there will be any Kennedys to do that to Obama this year, unless Maria Shriver decides to run for President.
There is a new trend to the bus game, which is, the attempt to pillory those who think for themselves rather than along partisan lines. Too many teachers, preachers, scholars, pundits, politicians, and public servants are out of step and, therefore, out of touch with the American People. We all know that Americans are supposed to fall into certain categories for which these designations are fraught with meaning: "Blue State vs. Red State," "Gender Gap," "Blue Collar Swing Voter," "Pro-life vs. Pro-Choice." To think outside these boxes is to, well, think at all, and in a world of five-second sound-bytes thinking has become extremely unpopular.
It might even be seditious. Since we are not sure, we should start assuming it is.
I think we as a society are ready to sink to the next level, don't you? Let us put together a reality television show devoted to satisfying the lust of the public to pull people down and then watch them fall. In addition we obviously have a taste for blood, since Ultimate Fighting is now carried on Cable Television and has become its own computer game franchise. So we should combine the fall from grace with people actually getting hurt, kind of like adding injury to insult. Therefore, inspired by a hilarious little novel for high school kids called Lord of the Flies by author William Golding, I propose a new sport: "Piggy Tossing."
In piggy tossing, we do not metaphorically throw people under buses. We actually throw them off of cliffs! Won't that be fun?
Of course, if people WANT to be thrown off of cliffs that defeats the purpose. We have enough of that with the "extreme sports" anyway. This has nothing to do with the willingness to jump or fly or take the fall. It is much more fun if a person is seized, terrified for their lives, and launched. We could even have a "scream dial" on the right corner of the screen to record the decibels.
To premier this new show I propose two candidates to be the first off the cliff. We begin with Garry Trudeau, the comic strip artist for Doonesbury. Trudeau has a number of strikes against him. His given name is not spelt according to expected standards, and his surname is that of a former Canadian Prime Minister. What is THAT? Most damning of all, of course, is that his comic strip has too many words, and if that weren't bad enough, the punch-line is usually in the middle instead of the end.
Throw piggy off the cliff! Who has time to read all that when we can get our laughs this other way?
The second candidate, in the interest of fairness, is George Will.
Talk about words! Who does he think he is anyway? Thomas Jefferson or something? I want to vote a party line and feel good about it; I don't want to have to reflect on the issues. Throw piggy off the cliff!
Once people get the idea of what this show is about after these two celebrities, we can broaden the scope. People could write to the show with nominations. We would get reports on people like these: A stuffed-shirt sociology professor from a third-tier state school who has the audacity to support a local Republican for the state legislature, an obscure revival preacher in a midwest suburb who refuses to equate patriotic fervor with discipleship to Jesus Christ, a union negotiator who thinks the liquidity of corporate capital might actually play a role in securing the future of the jobs of the workers being represented. These are the kind of people who are confusing us!
Throw piggy off the cliff!
We can have "trials" of these people, in which prosecutors like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Moyers can quote to them their own words, truncated, of course, to fit into five seconds at a time.
Limbaugh: "Professor Smith-Jones, did you not state, in your 200-level Economics course, and I quote, "America is heading down the path of self-destruction?"
Smith-Jones: "Please sir, may I set the statement in the context of my 45-minute lecture?"
Smith-Jones: "But I was quoting you, Mr. Limbaugh."
Limbaugh: "The prosecution rests! What say the American people?"
Anderson Cooper: "Well, Rush, it looks like we have 150,017 texts to 328 which say, "Throw piggy off the cliff!"
As you can see, our hosts and facilitators for this effort have to reflect fairness. We are Americans, after all, and that means we want fairness and equal time. It would be fairest to everyone to have Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilley actually anchor the show, with Moyers and Limbaugh prosecuting, and Anderson Cooper and Glenn Beck on the text tallies and "scream cam." Together they can all be the panel that chooses from the write-ins as to who should be put on trial before being thrown off the cliff. The last thing this country needs are critical thinkers who take nuanced views of their own and others' ideologies. We have to keep it simple, and that is just what Hardball and Factor do.
Funny. So far all my hosts and commentators are white males. Hmm. That might warrant some kind of reflection. Oh well, some other time.
It will be interesting to see how the national debate is stirred when Jon Stewart is thrown off the cliff, and then Stephen ColBEAR is supposed to go next in the "equal time" clause. What does he do? If he protests that he is not at all intellectual, he offends a bunch of neo-Cons who don't get his schtick and think he is a brilliant leader of their cause. If he protests that he is in fact a liberal intellectual who is parodying the entire neo-Con outlook on life, he ends up next in line after Stewart while the equal-timers have to settle on Brit Hume, who has already been thrown under a bus, but only metaphorically.
Between piggy tossings we could have live performances of music and dancing, with a special new "Lord of the Flies" dance team.
As soon as you get Dear Jon's schtick in this article, you will be wanting to throw me off the cliff next. But wait? For "which side?" It's the ColBEAR problem all over again. I'll give you a hint: You can send Garrison Keillor on down after me.