Part 4—From Rush Limbaugh over to Capehart: Did American rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling really do something wrong last week, along with a second such clown?
Possibly! For ourselves, we’d be just as happy if rodeo clowns stopped telling stale jokes about American presidents, as seems to be their wont.
Is it wrong to tell stale jokes? If so, Gessling did something wrong. That said, a more powerful charge quickly pervaded “liberal” circles—and, in accord with current law, it’s a question which answers itself:
Did Tuffy Gessling do something “racial” or “racist” last week? Inquiring minds didn’t want to know. By law, the answer was yes!
Did Tuffy Gessling do something racist? The preordained judgment was quickly stated all over the emerging pseudo-liberal world.
A three-minute tape of the famous event didn’t seem to display the Klan rally vibe which was initially advertised—and yes, that actually was the comparison Lawrence was instantly pimping.
So did the clown do something racist? By law, the answer was yes. The liberal world which is currently forming is built around such stirring claims. As vampires need to drink human blood, we need to hear about racist outrages, whether conducted by rodeo clowns or perhaps by tow truck drivers.
As we pleasure ourselves with these tales, we tell ourselves the world’s oldest false tale: We are the very good people!
Only people who doubt themselves need to tell themselves such stories. We seem to doubt ourselves a great deal, as we plainly should.
Did the clown do something racist? Last Thursday, one of our cable thought prescribers helped us understand and enjoy the racism of The Other.
Alex Wagner, with a scripted panel, began with a pleasing assertion and a strange formulation. To watch this discussion, click here:
WAGNER (8/15/13): To the notion of whether the country has changed. This rodeo clown, the one which ruled up the crowd, this blackface rodeo clown, that’s what he is, at a Missouri state fair last weekend while wearing a President Obama mask, has been condemned by nearly every state official and banned from the Missouri State Fair for life. But what is outrageous and offensive in Missouri and most of the rest of the country apparently is not in the state of Texas.Wagner’s sweeping statement about “the state of Texas” was based on a remark by one Republican congressman. But this gave her presentation its requisite tribal punch:
Those People in Texas are not good people, the way We People are! For millennia, death and destruction have been prompted by such assured declarations.
Wagner is highly telegenic, verbally skilled and completely reliable. She will always recite the tribal creed, as is required for those will carry the proudest of titles: MSNBC host or contributor.
Wagner’s presentation may have been a bit fact-challenged this day. In fact, the three-minute tape of Gessling’s performance didn’t seem to show any crowd getting riled up at all. Nor did Wagner feel she had to explain what was “outrageous and offensive” about a clown wearing this mask, a rodeo practice which seems to predate Obama.
To watch Gessling's clown act, click here. (Do you see a Klan rally happening?)
Newspapers don’t employ rodeo critics. Despite this shortcoming, the Nexis archives contain reports of rodeo clowns wearing masks of other political figures, including Presidents Bush and Clinton and even Hillary Clinton.
In the 1994 rodeo show which involved President Bush the elder, a clown who was posing as a dummy even had a “broomstick shoved up his bottom” too, as occurred with the clown in Missouri last week.
In each of these shocking incidents, people were supposed to think that the broom was propping up a dummy. The joke occurs when the non-dummy dummy, frightened by bulls, suddenly runs away!
Were these admittedly hilarious clown acts offensive? They were if they strike you that way. But was the Missouri incident racist?
Before we examine Wagner’s conception of race, let’s note a trend which is developing as pseudo-liberal corporate employees create a world of Us and Them, a highly pleasing world built around gender and race.
As outrage spread about Gessling’s vile acts, some conservative voices objected. On the Fox News Channel, Colorado native Dana Perino explained how rodeos work:
GUTFELD (8/14/13): Dana, you are the resident expert at Fox News on rodeos.According to Perino, this is standard rodeo fare. A bit later, she described an earlier incident in which a rodeo clown got in trouble for this sort of thing:
PERINO: I might be the only one.
GUTFELD: ...Is this offensive, or is it part of the rich history of presidential parody that occurs in such rodeos?
PERINO: I grew up on rodeos. And my Uncle Tom, who has since passed, he used to go calf roping. That was his thing. And we would go on Friday night...The rodeo clown is there because usually you have a dummy and you use the dummy so the bull can hook the dummy, get it? Play on words? “Dummy?”
PERINO: OK. So every president is always made fun of. They are the subject of ridicule.
“Right before 9/11, eight days before 9/11, a rodeo clown had a mask of Bill Clinton, and someone in the audience got offended, said he was anti-Semitic, made the rodeo announcer resign. He lost all of his sponsorships, all because people don't understand what it's like to go to a rodeo.”
Using Nexis, we find no record of that incident, which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. More broadly, it seems that she may have been right when she said the use of presidential dummies has been standard rodeo fare.
Indeed, it was Rush Limbaugh who took to the air last week to describe the 1994 rodeo involving the Bush dummy. And good God! For one of the first times in modern history, Limbaugh turned out to be right!
The Philadelphia Inquirer had described that show in some detail, although its writer hadn’t suggested that the clowning was offensive. For the text of that report, see part 1 of this series.
How common is this type of thing? We can’t tell you that. But as our cable rodeo clowns build our new pseudo-liberal culture, a remarkable trend has begun to take shape. Pseudo-conservative voices have often turned out to be right!
When’s the last time you ever saw Limbaugh be right on a fact? But Limbaugh was right in what he said about that Bush rodeo dummy! Based on the evidence we found in Nexis, we’ll guess that Perino was also right when she said that this sort of thing has been common practice among the artists still known as rodeo clowns.
In a similar vein, comment threads about the Zimmerman trial often featured conservative commenters, some with an obvious racial jones, making accurate factual statements about the events of that trial. Again and again, we saw a new beast:
Conservative commenters correcting our tribe’s phony facts, knowing all the while that their tribe's facts were more accurate.
The liberal world invented fake facts, suppressed accurate facts and assumed the truth of unfounded facts at a world-record rate in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. In the process, we created a story we found very pleasing. And how strange:
In many settings, conservatives got a more accurate set of facts than we dumbed-down liberals did!
For decades, conservative media worked very hard to dumb down and misinform like-minded voters. As our emerging liberal (corporate) media invent a pleasing racial politics, that appalling, decades-old practice has rapidly spread to our tribe.
Can this possibly be good for progressive values and interests? Sorry. Wagner is an overpaid reader of corporate script who is expected to churn pleasing cant. She may believe the things she says. But that doesn’t mean that her statements aren’t dumb, or simply false.
Concerning the things Wagner said on that program, let’s consider her claim, which she stated three times, that Tuffy Gessling, or his associate clown, was working in “blackface.”
For our money, Wagner betrays a hint of racial throwback with that statement. Here’s how Katheen Parker parsed that concept in the Washington Post:
PARKER (8/18/13): First, let's correct a popular mischaracterization. Wearing an Obama mask is not tantamount to "blackface," which is implicitly racist. When the president's face is "black," then the president's mask is necessarily "black."In this column, Parker agrees at some point with every position anyone could hold on any aspect of this topic. Whatever you think about this event, Parker states your view at some point in that skillful column.
Unless, apparently, the person wearing the mask is white, as was the rodeo clown.
That said, she makes a fairly obvious point in the passage we’ve quoted. To the extent that you think of Obama’s face as black, a mask of his face will, in that sense, inevitably be “blackface.”
Let us tell you a secret about the mind of Wagner:
Wagner thinks of Barack Obama’s face as being black. For people like Wagner, such people are first and foremost, always and evermore, enduringly one key thing: black.
Black is the first and last trait they observe in such people. Put another way, black defines such people. Any comment about such a person must therefore be a comment about a black person. Any such comment must be about the fact that the person is black.
The black is the only thing Wagner can see. Such people, who may be very good people, tend to assume it’s the only thing that exists. By definition, it must be the thing other folk have in mind when they discuss Obama.
But why? Presumably, use of the George Bush mask wasn’t a racial act. Neither was the Bill Clinton version of same.
If the tradition continues with Obama, why is that a racial or racist act? Why would we want to say “blackface?”
In fairness, people like Wagner can answer that question, at considerable length. What they can’t do—it isn’t permitted by law!—is consider the possibility that someone like Gessling might not be a Klan-worthy racist.
We the rubes badly want to be pleased! And in the world of corporate cable, liberal politics is increasingly being organized around the racism of Those People, the people who aren’t just like us.
Go ahead. Watch that tape of Wagner’s discussion, which runs a bit more than three minutes. You’ll see her and her hand-picked panel talking about Gessling’s “blackface,” his “minstrel show”—his “racism,” his act of “minstrelsy.”
You’ll hear that he performed a “racialized clown act,” without any clear attempt to explain what made it “racialized.” You’ll hear Wagner say, “This is a decidedly racially loaded move, to wear a mask of the president and invite yourself to be run over by a bull.”
You may think it’s disrespectful to do such a thing. But why is it “racially loaded?” You won’t see Wagner attempt to explain. Soon, she’ll be saying this:
WAGNER: On the front of the blackface rodeo clown, it’s like the Westboro Baptist Church, right? People accept that they are a hateful group, but they exist because we have freedom of speech in this country.Poor Gessling! On Monday night, he was like the Klan. By Thursday, he was like the Westboro Baptist Church, the craziest people we have.
Wagner may be completely sincere. That said, her comments were extremely dumb. We'd even suggest they were disrespectful to the brutal history of race in this country. No matter! This is the politics being constructed on Our Own Corporate Cable Channel. Soon, Jonathan Capehart chimed in:
CAPEHART: For us to say that this is disrespectful to the president, to President Obama, and disrespectful to the office, is true! And it has racial implications, and for those people who can’t, who don’t want to see that and don’t accept that, well they are completely part of the problem.We sometimes see Capehart as part of the problem, where the problem is plutocrat governance.
Capehart started out as a hack to Bloomberg. From there, he has kissed his way to the top, from which post you’ll never see him discuss the looting of regular people on both sides of the aisle.
Jonathan Capehart will never teach cable viewers to ask where all their health care money is going. Instead, he will hand you this silly mess, in which he may fully believe.
Tuffy Gessling is getting massively looted in the arena of health care. So are liberal cable viewers. But Jonathan Capehart doesn't care. He'll never refer to that fact.
People like Capehart invented fake facts all through the year of Trayvon Martin. As he did, he played the role which was pioneered by Rush Limbaugh and Sean.
For decades, citizens on the other side got misled and dumbed down by trusted talkers. Now, that appalling, destructive culture has come to our world.
We liberals get dumber in the process. The increasing tribal division guarantees that nothing will ever get done.
Not a word will ever be said that upsets the people paying the bills, the plutocrats who pay the large salaries of Our Own Rodeo Clowns.
Tomorrow: Good decent person gets hurt