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No Laughing Matter

The cable-TV program The Daily Show—Comedy Central’s half-hour parody of the evening news—used to advertise itself with the following tag: “More people get their news from The Daily Show than probably should.” The glib self-deprecation called attention to the ironic intent of the show and also took a dig at the network-news broadcasts it satired: More Americans get their news from TV’s big three—and accept it at face value, unanalyzed and unverified—than probably should. Arguably, this is never more true than during a time of war, when lives depend on the decisions made by an administration in the name of its constituents. It’s zero hour—do you know where your government is?

It would seem that the strength and expansion of the cable-news channels would provide a healthy alternative; but as has been widely reported, cable news providers broadcasting in the States have been every bit as partisan—if not outright jingoistic—as the networks. Fortunately, the Internet provides easy access to different perspectives in the forms of foreign news agencies and wire services (check the BBC’s site,, Rueters or an Arab news site like The bad news, however, is that many people are using the Internet only to e-mail blindly patriotic quips and bumper-sticker slogans back and forth, justifying a war that, at the very least, should give them pause.

One of the most recent such missives to hit inboxes was a list written by comedian Dennis Miller, who provided 10 points he thought would help clear up the “hint of confusion” he detected in the newspapers regarding America’s presence in Iraq. In typically snarky style, Miller pointed out that the best advice that anyone ever gave him was to employ the K.I.S.S. method—that’s “Keep It Simple, Stupid”—and so, the former host of Saturday Night Live’s own phony news segment and star of the movie Bordello of Blood broke it down for us, real simplelike. Following each entry you’ll find a reason why Miller is full of shit.

Between President Bush and Saddam Hussein . . . Hussein is the bad guy.

OK, that may be, but not just by dint of saying it aloud. Hussein is the bad guy, why? Is it due to his flagrant disregard for the will and authority of the United Nations? Bush and his administration have made it clear that the collective opinion of the United Nations is just that, an opinion—no more important than that of Congress or the protesting American public. Hussein could, no doubt, claim that in failing to adhere to U.N. Resolution 441 he is just exercising his sovereign right to unilateral noncompliance. More convincingly, attention can be called to Hussein’s brutal chemical attack on Iraqi Kurds in the late ’80s. Surely, any leader who presides over the execution of his own people can be said to be a bad guy. For example, a zealously pro-death-sentence governor who presides over a record-breaking 152 state-sponsored executions, despite protests from both human-rights advocacy groups and a Supreme Court justice that the system is seriously flawed.

If you have faith in the United Nations to do the right things, keep this in mind: The U.N. has Libya heading the Committee on Human Rights and Iraq heading the Global Rights Committee. Do your own math here.

Yes, and if you count on the Bush administration to do the right thing, keep this in mind: The vice president is currently receiving compensation of up to $1 million a year from his former employer, a corporation with a vested interest in flattening Iraq; and the man heading up the Total Information Awareness office, John Poindexter, is a convicted felon. In case you’ve forgotten, he oversaw the illegal sale of weapons to Iran (a fundamentalist Islamic nation) and then lied to Congress about it, under oath. Do your own math here.

If you use a Google or Yahoo search and type French Military Victories,don’t be surprised if your computer panics at its inability to respond to your inquiry.

So, might makes right? You know who did have a pretty good run there for a while, militarily speaking? The Nazis. (Oh, and by the way, you moron, one of the greatest military strategists ever fought for the glory of France. Napoleon isn’t just the crazy guy in cartoons).

If your only antiwar slogan is No War for Oil,’ hire a pit bull lawyer and sue your school district for having allowed you to slip through the cracks and robbing you of the minimum education that any non-troglodyte deserves.

It just fits on a placard better than No Ill-Advised and Costly Invasion at the Behest of Corporate Interests of an Abjectly Impoverished Nation Struggling Under a Despot Whom Our Attack Will Serve to Validate or, At Best, Martyr. Remember, keep it simple, stupid.

You can take this one to the bank: Saddam and bin Laden will not seek U.N. approval before they try to kill us.

No one seeks U.N. approval for anything these days, Dennis. That’s so last century.

Despite common belief among some, Martin Sheen is not the president. He only plays one on TV.

No, Martin Sheen is not the president. And, sadly, Dennis Miller is not the West Wing’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, who gives his audience credit enough for intelligence that he attempts to preserve at least a semblance of the moral and ethical ambiguity involved in geopolitical affairs, thereby suggesting that the vigilance required of patriotic Americans is not of the lock-and-load, but the shut-up-and-think variety. Because a lot of people are going to die.

If you are antiwar and even an outright America Basher,’ to bin Laden you are still an infidelwhom he wants dead.

Be that as it may, we’re currently bombing Iraq. Not bin Laden, a Saudi hiding in Afghanistan, or somewhere. Keep your eye on the ball, Dennis.

If you believe in a vast right-wing conspiracy,’ but not in the danger that Hussein poses, the only job you may be able to get is as an Ivy League college professor.

Hussein’s immediate neighbors don’t even think he’s a threat. Go, Crimson!

Even multi-culturalists who try to browbeat us into believing that all cultures are equally deserving of respect have trouble explaining the past 500 years of Islam.

In the 16th century, the Muslims were constructing mosques in Turkey that many still believe to be among the most beautiful houses of worship ever constructed, and Western artists were just picking up on Islamic art enough to be inspired to create the baroque and rococo styles. Meanwhile, in 1515, the Fifth Lateran Council forbade the printing of books without church permission, Pizarro ordered the strangulation of the last Inca in 1533, and, in 1542, Pope Paul II instituted the Universal Inquisition in Rome. A banner century for Christianity.

Whether you are for or against military action, our young men and women overseas are fighting to defend our right to speak out on these issues. They deserve our unreserved support.

Finally, something we can almost agree on. Our young men and women—and their young men and women—deserve our unreserved support. We express that support—and our appreciation for our freedom to express ourselves and for the comparatively unregulated flow of information—by carefully and soberly assessing the sources and quality of the information. We seek out accurate and balanced information because we understand that lives depend on decisions and decisions depend on thoughtful, compassionate consideration—and not punchline rhetoric.

It’s not a bumper sticker, or a patriotic T-shirt.

It’s not a late-show monologue.

It’s not a fucking joke.

—John Rodat

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