by RIP RENSE
TRUTH BE TOLD
(June 26, 2008)
I know of ever spoke more no-bullshit than George Carlin. Not
even Frank Zappa, the no-bullshittiest speaker I’ve ever heard. It was nice
of George, really. He was a hero for persevering through relentless
absurdity, for keeping his mind facile, for continuing to evolve his
art, for preaching the lonely gospel of No Bullshit.
Oh, to be half as cogent
as Carlin, even for a day. They should make it a game show: Cogent For A
Day! With your host, Charlie “Incomplete Thought” Rose. . .
Listening to Carlin’s
astoundingly concise little discourse, “They
Own You”---which if you haven’t, you should---is a thrill and a half. It is not
often one hears truth so densely packed and shrink-wrapped for your
comprehension pleasure. Especially in a mainstream public forum.
Carlin was a
truth-teller, and with his death, you have the feeling there just aren’t
enough truth-tellers left. But then, perhaps we have been blessed in the latter half
of the 20th century and early 21st with a disproportionate
amount of truth-telling. Maybe today’s mendacious world is the norm, where people go
to school to major in chicanery and dissembling---oh, I mean marketing,
economics, political science, law. Maybe the debunkers, the satirists, the
whistleblowers, the occasional politician acting nobly, the musician
activist---are highly over-represented in the last 60 years or so. The examples come so
easily to mind. . .
Lenny Bruce, Martin
Luther King, John
Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, Douglas Adams, Sam Ervin and all those
guys on the Watergate Committee, John Dean,
Rachel Carson, Robert Kennedy,
Edward F. Ricketts,
maybe Barry Goldwater in his later days,
Bill Hicks. . .
But there are so many
left, really, when you stop to think about it. Bill Moyers, and old Gore Vidal, and
John Stewart, Naomi Klein,
David Letterman, Jane Goodall,
Country Joe McDonald,
Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky,
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Bob Dylan, Susan
Jacoby, The Onion,
Robert Fisk, songwriter/poet
Spinney, Dave Lindorff,
Tom Waits, Keith Olbermann. . .
They're hard at work,
along with many more, mining truth from mountains of bullshit erupting these
days like Precambrian volcanoes. Hmm. Come to think of it, the
U.S. response to 9/11 seems to have spawned as many truth-tellers as
terrorists. It could just be that there are more than ever. But---
Have you noticed?
Telling the truth ain’t gettin’ it done anymore. You might as well throw
corn flakes at rampaging elephants. Pry Oprah’s face off a camera.
I don’t know, maybe it
started with Reagan saying “Facts are stupid things,” but these days, truth
seems relegated to little more than trivia, entertainment. I mean, it's material for comedy, fer crissakes.
Think about that a second, if you can stand it. Truth is schtick.
Heavy, grim truth. You
listen to Carlin’s rant, “They Own Us,” and what is so funny?
The content is beyond 1984ingly horrific. Transcribe it, and
it reads like one seriously pissed-off paranoiac dude going nuts as Homeland
Security drags him off to join a nude pyramid on a U.S. prison ship.
Coming from Carlin,
though, you chortle. Why? He was one pissed-off smart dude, and
he delivered truth with timing. You listen to him, or John Stewart
dispensing simple reportage (add voice, makes its own satire!), or Letterman
telling Scott McClellan, “You told me backstage that Cheney is a goon,” and
it’s a howl. You laugh at
the outrageousness of someone coming out and just laying it out plainly,
profanely. You laugh out of depressurization, joy, solidarity. Comic relief.
Right, but then what?
In the 60’s and early
70’s, truth-telling managed to get a lot of civil rights written into law,
slowed down and finally stopped the Vietnam War, and drove deranged Nixon
out of office. Not bad! Today, truth is about as virile as Larry King with
an empty Viagra bottle. It has no more real impact on Carlin’s “They Own Us”
juggernaut than Rehab on Amy Winehouse. Truth has become a court jester, mocking the
masters who ignore it (and once in a while chuckle)---because they own the
jester, after all.
They own us.
Almost before it is
finished being stated, truth in the USA is devoured by the great, loutish, bloviating reactionary monied elite---via their media
mouthpieces---and sliced and diced until it bears a very strong
resemblance to a lie. I give you: the Fox “News” characterization of Mr. and
Mrs. Obama’s handshake as a “terrorist fist bump.” Speak a simple truth
about, say, the obvious fraud of invading Iraq to “liberate the Iraqi
people,” and the Limbaugh/Rove/Murdoch monster walks, hysterically rendering that
particular truth an “un-American” terrorist-enabling polemic. The
increasingly anemic, preening Fourth
Estate to the rescue? Nah. Most of it just tugs its collar and clears its throat and “reports both sides”
and thinks the job is done.
Yes, one man's truth is
another man's falsehood. But what I'm talking about here is the
opposite of lying. The opposite of obfuscating, deceiving, covering up,
evading, sugar-coating, spinning, fiendishly and cynically and
pathologically saying things you know to be ridiculous. In other words, all
the behavior that qualifies
people to hold public office and head corporations, not to mention make Dick Cheney the
lovely person that he is. By truth-telling, I'm talking about simply
attempting to get at the reality of a given matter, and say it plainly. Now
there's a recipe for social,
political, economic alienation.
What’s a truth-teller to
Even the Internet,
where there is more truth to be found than in most of the libraries in
the world (partly because most of the libraries of the world are on the
Internet), is more or less a security blanket for the alienated and loony.
Never mind that much news and commentary of worth is to be found
there. Establishment muckety-muck pundits such as Cokie Roberts never even
look at it (so she says), and John McCain doesn’t know how to use a
computer. Of course, most Internet users seek to merely reinforce their prejudices and
hatred and misinformation---there's an "authoritative" website
pandering to every
paranoia and ignorance---rather than challenge beliefs or inform themselves.
The 'Net result: it's probably a wash.
(And hey, if the web ever
becomes a threat to guys in the club that you don’t belong to, and
never will, as Carlin put it, The Club will just shut it down. Remember,
a tenet of the Project for the New American Century---the groundwork for
Bush/Cheney/McCain policy---includes “seizing the commons of cyberspace” if
necessary. For security reasons, of course!)
As for the vast $100-a-tank/I’m Lovin’ It/hairy-gutted/ callipygius US citizenry,
well, most of it can no more recognize truth than distinguish Cindy McCain from a
Voodoo doll. Come to think of it, I'd probably stick pins in Cindy, too, but you get my point.
Haplessness, thy name is Consumer. Here’s Carlin:
"A country like ours,
preoccupied with Jet Skis, off-road vehicles, snowboards, Jacuzzis,
microwave ovens, pornography, lap dances, massage parlors, escort services,
panty liners, penis enhancement, tummy tucks, thongs and Odor Eaters doesn't
have a prayer. . .”
Or, as John Lennon so
memorably sang, “Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV/ And you think
you’re so clever and classless and free/ But you’re still fuckin’ peasants
as far as I can see.”
To be fair, consumerism
hardly confined to the USA. We just invented it! China, for example, is
also showing marvelous signs of amoral materialistic emptiheadedness,
blind obedience to authority, its populace ready to angrily denounce France/Tibet/the
U.S./anyone deemed an appropriate target by its leaders. . .
The great thing about
George Carlin was that he had so much integrity that there was no optimism behind
his truth. That’s hard-core. We are fucked was his inevitable (and
accurate) conclusion. There was no implication that if the less powerful
could somehow assume power, everything would be tweety birds and perfume, a
low mortage in every pot. There was no suggestion that if smarter
people could rule the roost, all would be cocka-doodle-dandy. The "smarter
people"---the ones who bought the big educations, Carlin noted, are already
running this fish-fry. As he said repeatedly in
performances, after lambasting politicians, corporate heads, schools, etc.,
we are them. . .this is the best we can do. . .after all, we voted for 'em!
It reminds me of Patrick McGoohan’s brilliant series, “The Prisoner.” McGoohan’s character---the
ex-spy “renditioned” to a perfect little Village (rather like today’s
anesthetized middle-America)---was, week after week, determined to escape,
and to find out who “Number 1” was. In the end, it turned out that Number 1
was. . .McGoohan. As Pogo said, “Yep, son, we have met the enemy, and he is
Yes, save us from
the people. Most would gladly join the Trilateral Carlyle Neocon
Bilderburg Democrap Repugnican
Bebop Tango, and
Carlin knew it. No, he wouldn’t join it, and I wouldn’t, and you might not,
but the point is that those who exalt real human cooperation,
compassion, logic, equanimity. . .can’t join The Club anyhow. Jesus Christ
would be turned away at the door (dress code alone), if not assassinated or
bought off with Pamela Anderson and a crack pipe. Or if they goofed and let
Christ in, he would be co-opted by the existing international megastructure,
and the futility of being able to do little more than move lots of money
and corpses around.
But if you’re a
truth-teller, none of this matters, because the truth itself is a salvation,
or at least a solace. Maybe the only one. Carlin could no more look away from truth than
Clinton can take his eyes off a nice rack. And here is a good truth,
a pull-the-rug-out-from-under-your-Polyanna-ass, Carlinesque truth: greed
rises to the top. That’s the nature of the beast. Liberty essentially frees
up human impulse to reward itself with power and wealth and diamonds and
Dubai. This seems to be the lesson of capitalism. Freedom and Houdini
technology have rendered this wondrous, effervescent world one big market,
one big San Fernando Valley, one big dumpster. Soon it will be time to branch out and poison other
So for now, peasants, you
are very, very free to have all the vicarious movie/computer game
thrills you can jazz your brain with, consume a cornucopia of intoxicants,
slaughter and eat nice helpless animals, engage in libertine sex that
Elton John didn’t imagine, go out “clubbing,” acquire more material marvels
than many kings and queens of history, preoccupy yourself with global
warming and “American Idol,” go to Africa and mourn Darfur, listen to Kenny
G. or Snoop or Beethoven, subscribe to any number of nice fairy tales for a
little “spiritual comfort,” etc.---as long as you don’t bother
the Trilateral Neocon. . .Bebop Tango.
They own us.
But they don’t own good
ol’ George Carlin. Not anymore.
He graduated to the Big
No-Bullshit. The Big No-Bullshit where everyone goes, whether they tell the
truth or not.
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