It’s always seemed to me both more effective and a lot more fun to point out the idiocy of something you oppose from the inside — that is, as someone who purports to support it — than to hurl calumny at it from without. When I was a college boy, before my Rolling Stone review of the first Led Zeppelin album changed my life, and changed the course of popular music in our time, a vile ultraconservative nincompoop called Max Rafferty ran for the United States Senate on a platform of keeping the darkies in their place and ceasing to offer sex education in the schools. In 2015, he’d be regarded as a moderate Republican, but at the time he was perceived as off the scale. Naturally, my fellow hippies loathed him, but I and various others agreed that the more stylish expression of our loathing would be to pretend to think him the bee’s knees. When liberal candidates would speak on campus, smug in the assurance that their by-the-numbers pushing of all our buttons would be warmly received, we would disrupt their speeches by chanting, “Max! Max! Max!” Which very quickly became indistinguishable from “Smack! Smack! Smack!” though I wasn’t aware of any heroin addicts among us. This would invariably discombobulate the sidetracked liberals, hugely amuse our fellow hippies, and annoy the beleaguered Young Republicans in the audience who hadn’t the slightest desire to be seen to support the same candidate as Freaks for Rafferty. [I know. I know. A dreadful name. But we didn’t give it a lot of thought.] A win-win-win situation!
My new Facebook group Christians and Others for Decency andAmerica, which I encourage you to get off your high horse and join, is clearly an expression of the same impulse. The more we change, the more we remain the same.
Nowadays, when someone posts on his or her Facebook age an item about someone else, somewhere, having abused an animal or a child, or about someone from the Christian right having said something hateful or idiotic, dozens of the poster’s friends immediately assure each other of their contempt for the action depicted. Look! I too am against child or animal abuse, or the idea that the children of rape are beautiful. I won’t pretend to understand why people feel called upon to belabor the obvious in that way. Do they imagine that if they make no comment, others will think, “I’m not so sure about Gavin anymore. I mean, I’d have imagined that he’d have shared my feelings about using kittens for target practice, but what if his failure to say so on Melissa’s thread indicates a tacit endorsement thereof?”
It’s my policy whenever I encounter one of these threads to go emphatically against the grain, to emphatically express a view opposite to my own. “Child abuse?” I might muse. “It’s been shown to build character, much like high school PE, from which it’s largely indistinguishable.”
I have never loathed a Facebook meme more than that one from a couple of years ago that said, approximately, “That fat kid you ridiculed at school today? Do you know that both of his parents have Lou Gehrig’s disease, and that he cries himself to sleep at night?” The idea was that bullies would read the meme, think, “Gosh, I’ve been just awful!” and stop peeing on little Fatso at lunch every day. As someone who knows that the only thing that ever deters bullying is the threat of greater reciprocal humiliation, though, I rewrote the meme. “That fat kid you ridiculed today? One more fucking syllable out of you and he’s going to use your face to smash the windshield of your mother’s car.” I noticed a precipitous drop in bullying immediately thereafter. When you’re right, you’re right!
What I call brainbusters makes me even more obnoxious. Confronted with a thread atop which sits a graphic saying, for instance, “Can you name a city without an A? Bet you can’t!” or, “Can you think of a song with a woman’s name in its title?” I make it a practice of admitting that I’m simply not up to the task, though of course Omaha, in the one case, and “Paint It, Black,” in the other, sprang immediately to mind. Maybe my professed inadequacy will make others feel better about themselves, and isn’t that what I’m here for?