Thursday, September 28, 2006
I Can't Stand Bullies
The following entry contains no discernible traces of actual journalism, even by the admittedly unexacting standards that generally prevail in this space. It shouldn't be necessary to say so specifically, but the opinions expressed herein are mine alone, and I alone bear liability for them. And the most incendiary things said herein are not to be taken literally, any more than are most of the insults exchanged on the playground or in internet chatrooms. This entry is equal parts self-dramatizing memoir, self-aggrandizing puffery, pointless but hopefully diverting bloviation, and – quite frankly – an act of calling out the people who provoked what follows, if they're interested. And, in what I intend to be a unique departure from my rules of decorum, this essay will include a few examples of mild vulgarity.
Once again, reader discretion is advised.
Roughly a decade and a half ago, when my abortive career as a professional musician was winding down and my prospects as a journalist were firming up, I was briefly the lead guitarist for a band called “Antithesis,” based in Provo, Utah. (Yeah, the choice of name was my idea, and I fully take the blame for it.)
Our debut occurred at an international festival of some sort held on the campus of Brigham Young University.
We attracted a large and very receptive crowd, and with the consent of the people responsible for the room we'd converted into a concert hall (part of the main cafeteria), we played just a little longer than was customary. The audience was appreciative, and the faculty on hand seemed to approve, as well.
Then campus security showed up, led by a guy in his late 40s who was about 6'5” of petty authoritarianism. This guy seemed to think that playing past the established curfew was our idea, and that we had engaged in a minor act of defiance.
After we had shut off the power and started to strike the stage, this guy got in the face of the bass player, who as our frontman was somehow responsible for our supposed offense.
I busied myself with the task of wrapping mike cords and putting away my own gear, while listening to the unfolding verbal smack-down of our bass player. My friend was a mild-mannered, inoffensive sort, and he kept trying to explain that he had nothing to do with the decision to run a little long.
But Mr. Alpha Male Security Man wouldn't let my friend get a word in edgewise, cutting him off, shouting him down, and using his size advantage (more than half a foot in height) to intimidate a young kid who hadn't been looking for a confrontation.
Try as I did to stay aloof, I felt my mercury rising, which – in someone of Mexican-Irish ancestry – can be a dangerous development. “I'll just keep out of it,” I told myself. “Well, I'll stay out until and unless I hear the right word.”
Just then, I heard the “right word”:
“... you little smart-ass,” snarled the Security Chief.
That's the word, I thought, rising from my crouch and thrusting myself between my friend and his tormentor.
“Hey, Curly, why don't you just back the hell off?” I hissed, poking him in the chest. “We did what we were told, and you've got no right to treat my friend like this, you foul-mouthed, swaggering martinet!”
Or words to that effect. I specifically remember calling the guy a “swaggering martinet.”
The Security Chief (to whom I later apologized, and who wasn't really a bad guy ) snapped his head back and treated me to a look that was equal parts astonishment and evaluation, the former over the fact that he had been called out by a guy who called him a “martinet” (which isn't usually part of the ritual insults that are a necessary prelude to a fist-fight), the latter a natural male instinct when assessing whether you can take the other guy.
After the slightest moment's hesitation, the Chief shook his head and backed down, largely because he was in the wrong and he knew it – but also because he was pretty sure pushing the matter further would have immediate and disagreeable consequences. My bandmates had stopped what they were doing, gaping at me in amazement: I was the easy-going guy who spent our breaks with his nose in a book (at the time, I recall, I was reading George W. F. Hallgarten's Why Dictators?, an interesting if tendentious look at tyrants from Dionysius II of Syracuse through Mussolini).
Even though my right hand is permanently mangled from a street fight I had as a freshman with a guy two years older and twenty pounds heavier than myself (I put him down, but broke my hand in the effort), I've not been in many scrapes. Part of that is because I really hate fist-fights, as does any other rational man. Part of it is because as a believer I'm commanded: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
When possible I'll simply walk away, and for decades that option has been readily available to me. Frank Shamrock, who knows from fighting, likes to point out that true self-defense often involves nothing more than the wisdom to avoid bad situations, and the conditioning to run away if necessary.
But I can't stand bullies.
Which brings us to the point of all of this.
Last night (September 27), while running errands, I made the mistake of listening to Mark Levin's syndicated radio show. For the mercifully uninitiated, Mark Levin is a squalid little fleck of snot who pollutes print, cyber-space, and the airwaves with his bilious brand of neo-Trotskyite bloodlust. He has a face for radio, but a voice that sounds like Joe Pesci on helium.
Had he not attached himself to Sean Hannity, Levin – who I gather is an attorney of sorts – would be panting after ambulances, handing out business cards at funerals, selling his brackish blood for a few bucks, and otherwise doing what he had to in order to scrape together enough money to pay his monthly NAMBLA membership dues. (I'm kidding, of course. Levin isn't a member of NAMBLA, never has been, and never will be. Even despicable pederasts have standards, of course.)
Levin makes a point of maintaining a discrete phone line for self-identified “liberal” callers, whom he invites on the air and immediately begins to insult in a way that calls to mind the proverbial nasty little kid who hides behind the playground bully. Almost without exception, the “liberal” callers are well-mannered, like the fellow from New York who called last night to offer a polite rebuke to Levin for calling people names.
“How big are you?” bellowed Levin to the caller, apropos of nothing. When the puzzled caller said he was about 5'11”, Levin – an audible smirk in his voice (yes, there is such a thing) replied, “Well, I'm six foot one! How much do you weigh? It doesn't matter – I could kick your ass all over the state.”
That's the word, I thought, wishing devoutly that I had about five minutes to administer a much-needed attitude correction to little Marky Levin.
Hey, Marky, you shiny-pated dweeb, you witless suck-up and Quisling, here's an official invitation:
I'm about 5'11”, too. I weigh about 275, and none of it jiggles. I can tear off 100 pushups in pretty strict form in roughly the amount of time it takes Sean Hannity to compose an intelligible sentence.
In a moderated debate forum in which you don't have your grubby little finger on the kill button, I would tear you apart like warm bread. If you wanted to take it to the ring or the mat, I'd beat your arrogant ass so hard it would make your queer lover die from a broken heart. (I'm kidding about the "queer lover" bit, of course, since no self-respecting queer would have Levin.)
You want to make this happen? Drop me an e-mail, bee-yatch.
The same offer is open for Sean Hannity, who's obviously too busy pruning his unibrow to crack the cover on a book, including the two he supposedly wrote.
Anybody who's seen the documentary “This Divided State” probably remembers the nauseating spectacle of Sean waddling across the stage at a speech in Orem, Utah, playing to a crowd of thousands of Republican partisans (the type of people who would have done “the wave” at a Nuremberg Rally), mockingly taunting the few liberals who had dared to attend the rally: “Here, little liberal; here, little liberal,” sneered Hannity as if calling a dog.
C'mon Sean – come out from behind the mike and throw down with a Bush administration critic in a forum neither you nor your buddies control. Or just come and throw down. I'd snap you like a dry twig.
The same deal is extended to self-designated “Culture Warrior” and supposed tough guy Bill O'Reilly, although I think Al Franken's got dibs. I don't respect Franken's political views, and his humor is hardly to my taste, but he's a former collegiate wrestler -- and that I respect. If O'Reilly were foolish enough to get in Al's face, Franken would ground and pound the splotchy-faced Prima Donna faster that you could say “loofah.”
I've had more than a belly-full of the preening, smirking, self-enraptured bullies who represent Bush-era, Fox-centered “conservatism,” and I'm sure that millions of others would say the same thing. They suppurate unearned, insufferable self-regard. And they've infected most of the Right with their arrogance. All of these guys are about two dozen stout ass-whippings shy of being civilized people, and I would gladly volunteer to help each of them catch up.
at 11:00 AM