The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Tail Biting Prohibited
"No aspect of the world and how we read it should be exempt from examination." - Nilanjana S. Roy
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain • 3.10.03

Al Franken is by design a very funnyman with a long history now as a Comedian in the American Entertainment Industry. From his early days with Tom Davis on NBC's Saturday Night Live show to his current cameos there as the character Stuart Smalley the mantra mumbling "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and dog gone it people like me" psychotherapist, Franken has always been a reliable laugh a minute. That's his day job.

His other job is as swaggering stalwart for establishmentarian Democratic liberalism as manifest by his always-unwavering support for fellow Ivy Leaguers Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

So it should surprise no one then that Harvard University, Franken's alma mater, drafted him to research and write about matters related to media and public policy for a year in residence at Harvard's JFK School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The institutional liberal elite in the US has always been slow to respond if at all to right-wing excesses from within whether for example to eventually abolish Slavery or Jim Crow. But respond they can and sometimes do one way or the other much like when the US Army hired Boston Attorney Joseph Welch of Hale & Dorr to represent them versus the right wing excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950's. Squabbling between the two factions of the Business Party is permitted, but tail biting is prohibited because it gives the game away.

Armed with Nexis-Lexis and Google, and funded by Harvard's Shorenstein Trust, Al Franken was able to organize a team of 15 dedicated Graduate Students. He named them aptly enough "Team Franken" to assist him in the research and writing of another one of his hammering books that would (and does) skewer the lies of a lot of the usual suspects at Fox News. He called it: "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". It is currently, despite Fox News litigation efforts, the number one New York Times bestseller and is published by Dutton.

Al Franken had already done something similar with his last Number One best selling book: "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations". In it, Franken humorously exposed this pompous fat ass Reaganaut as the despicable anal wart that he is, even bringing to light Mr. Super Patriot's draft dodging deferment to get out of serving in Vietnam for (you guessed it) anal warts.

But lest you think Al Franken is some kind of uber-radical, think again. His job, whether he knows it or not, is to help keep the snake from biting its tail. And he does it well causing a lot of belly laughs along the way.

For example, in response to Fox News regular Ann Coulter's claim that the American media is in the hands of lefties like Newsweek Bureau Chief Evan Thomas who she said "is the son of Norman Thomas, a four-time Socialist candidate for President." Franken points out that Norman Thomas was actually the Socialist candidate six times and not the father of Evan Thomas. Proof says Al: "Why not call Evan Thomas?"

Here is Franken's transcript of his call with Evan Thomas:

Al: Evan, thank you for taking my call.

Evan Thomas: No problem Al. What's up?

Al: Was Norman Thomas your father?

Evan: No.

Al: Are you sure?

Evan: Yes.

Al: And your father? What was his name?

Evan: Evan Thomas, Sr. I'm a junior.

Al: Uh-huh? And your father, Evan Thomas, Sr., did he ever run for President?

Evan: No. He was in publishing.

Al: And you're sure?

Evan: Yes. Al, is this about that Ann Coulter thing?

Al: Yeah.

Evan: I heard about that. Is there something wrong with her?

Al concludes that yes there is something wrong with Ann Coulter...she is a nutcase: "Particularly considering that when going after the book publishing industry, Coulter complains that 'liberal jeremiads make it to print without the most cursory fact-checking'". *

And he also finds Bill O'Reilly of The Factor on Fox News deeply disturbing when he invites readers to look under the following rocks:

"(O'Reilly) had said it to a Muslim caller who criticized The Factor.

Muslim Caller: There's a lot of anti-Islamic rhetoric on there. For instance, you know, you compared the Koran to Mein Kampf.

O'Reilly: No, I didn't. That's a lie.

Actually, it wasn't. The caller had been referring to a July 7, 2002, Factor regarding a controversy at the University of North Carolina. The school had assigned its incoming freshmen a book entitled, Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. O'Reilly was outraged:

I don't know what this serves to take a look at our enemy's religion. See I mean, I wouldn't give people a book during World War II on the emperor is God in Japan, would you?...I wouldn't read the book. And I'll tell you why: I wouldn't have read Mein Kamph either. If I were going to UNC in 1941, and you, Professor, said, 'Read Mein Kamph' I would have said, 'Hey, Professor, with all due respect, shove it. I ain't reading it.'

The Muslim caller tried in vain to explain his question. 'Can I just finish, sir? Can I just finish my question?'

'Whoa! Hold it. Hold it.' O'Reilly interrupted. 'No, you can't finish. Because once you lie, you're out of the box. That's the No Spin Zone. Get it? You can't say on National Television, even if it is C-SPAN, 'You compared the Koran to Mein Kamph.' That's a lie, all right? So you're out of the box.'" **

Actually, much credit is due Rupert Murdoch for taking Fox News way beyond Orwell in this land of free market democracy. Not being a native though, he probably isn't aware of what Political Scientists Thomas Dye and Harman Ziegler called "The Irony of Democracy" in America. That is, while the masses in general and rich southwestern cowboys in particular don't for the most part value democratic liberal notions of consensus and fair play, the elite does, especially the very wealthy northeastern kind. That's why they funded the Revolutionary and Civil Wars among others to keep this show on the road.

Like pre-school teachers putting on a morality puppet show, the elite very much want us paying attention to their great charade of oh you Democrats and oh you Republicans. Similar tweedle dee and tweedle dum political party machinations are played out in the UK and Ireland. And like the high school Principal in Matthew Broderick's 1999 movie "The Election" (with Reese Witherspoon at her very best), any radical political talk beyond the norm will soon be met with a "Watch it, Buster!"

Come 2004, we will likely choose between this rich white Yale Skull & Bones man (Bush), or that rich white Yale Skull & Bones man (Kerry). Differences in policy are fine so long as each offers a victory strategy for Iraq and keeps some variant of Bill Clinton's Patriot Act. Any meaningful alternatives beyond that are well beyond the pale. It's a win-win situation for some people anyway.

And that's Al Franken's role. He is the clever court jester for Democrats making fun of the other team's policy arguments within the confines of what will be considered acceptable critique. That is why in part he gives thanks at the end of his book to John Kerry and Al Gore and not Ralph Nader or Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn.

Al Franken is an establishmentarian liberal Democrat with a sharp eye on dishonest right wingers like Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Bernard Goldberg who have gone off the reservation of what our Elite think ought to be considered acceptable political discourse in this country.

And while Franken rightly exposes the pathologies of these prominent political TV & Radio personalities, beware that Al does have a big blind spot for the usual establishmentarian liberals such as Al Gore and Bill Clinton. He lauds them over and over again in his book without any mention of NAFTA, the Welfare Reform Act, the Patriot Act, Waco, Ricky Ray Rector, Susan McDougal, Mark Rich or Leonard Peltier.

For example, at page 140:

The Clintons' energy, their intellectual intensity, their compassion for those on the margins of society, their fundamental belief that the world could be made a better place - the right found all of these extremely irritating. (Emphasis added).

Partly because it just wasn't true. Clinton's Welfare Reform Act was bereft of any compassion. It was intentionally designed by Clinton's Health & Human Services Department to cut single mothers with children off welfare after five years. And that's what it is now doing. Perhaps the right found this to be extremely irritating because Clinton didn't cut them off sooner, but whom is Al trying to kid?

Sure Clinton was a better President than Bush, but that's not a very high bar. And the blowjob was the least of it. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who said: "You can't love your country and hate your government."

That all said though, it's still a funny book by a funnyman. Buy it and you're sure to have lots of laughs.


* Al Franken does mention at the very end of his book on page 379 that: "Evan Thomas is the grandson of Norman Thomas". See what I mean?

** Al Franken's book is filled with numerous like kind exposures just like this and he properly credits Team Franken and many others for helping him out with all the necessary fact checking to make this a scholarly piece of work as well as hilarious.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

3 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


The Rite of Passage
Anthony McIntyre


32 CSM Condemn Abduction of its members
Andy Martin


Irish Republicanism As I See It
Thomas Gore


A Question of Class
Davy Carlin


It All Leads Back to This
Mick Hall


I Dreamt I Saw Joe H Last Night
Anthony McIntyre


Tail Biting Prohibited
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain


28 September 2003


Edward Said, 1935-2003
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Anniversary
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Nothing But Contempt for the Court of the Rich
Anthony McIntyre


Ireland and Post Colonial Theory
Liam O Ruairc


2 Statements on the death of Edward Said


The Letters Page has been updated.




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