You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

March 20, 2008

The Peril of Truth-Telling

By: Bernard Chazelle

I was away and caught only a brief sample of Rev. Wright's sermons. My first reaction was that he would make a great VP. But then I remembered that speaking the truth was the surest way to lose an election. Maybe it doesn't matter. Since, from Iraq to Wall Street, everything is falling apart before our very eyes, looks like the truth won't need any spokesperson for a while. It's what's neat about being kicked in the ass: you don't need to be told about it.

Wright's "God Damn America" got people really nervous.

I wonder why.

Could it be they're worried that God will see the wisdom of that wish and grant it? Conversely, what is this "God Bless America" nonsense? Are people so worried God might forget to do that if he is not duly reminded? How innocent can you be if you have to keep reminding the judge to show mercy?

To summarize, Obama is in the doghouse for knowing someone who's spoken the truth. Meanwhile, McCain is riding high in the polls for his uncanny ability to mass produce industrial-strength crap to the third power. While campaigning in Israel (a swing state), he declared:

If Hamas/Hizbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere.


Obviously a subtle reference to Machu Picchu.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at March 20, 2008 08:32 PM

Obama's got an impossible job. To tell stories that the majority of the electorate want, or need, to hear. Or tell the Truth*. As you said, nobody needs to hear that when they're being kicked in the ass by it every day.

He's a smart politician, he didn't get this far by telling, or even necessarily being aware of, the truth.

*Truth =

Posted by: Bruce F at March 20, 2008 09:02 PM

The Reverend has uttered some truths. So have a few blacks and whites since Henry Adams, but the people won't listen until all of them are selling pencils or apples, and even then they'll wait for another FDR and a war to get the old system going again. We believe, yes we can, I know because I heard it on Oprah.
Obama has no intention of rattling that cage. Most of us are still being fed in it, even though the fat cats get almost all the meat. Circus comes to town again in four years. Maybe a new and daring act then.
In Goddamn We Trust. But not too much, either.

Posted by: donescobar at March 20, 2008 09:06 PM

The speech was sheer BS-- he had a real chance to do what he does best, round off sharp edges, by saying Wright was right but the problem was in his vitriolic style, not the content. And if anybody in politics today could have pulled that off, it was Obama.

Instead, he's playing Hillary's game and chasing the white swing voters who won't vote for him anyway instead of being square with a slightly different demographic, the white swing voters who otherwise might vote for him.

What he accomplished instead was he demonstrated weakness. That when the sacred cows push, he'll let them shove him around, and will disavow his friends for votes.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at March 20, 2008 09:18 PM

Well, let's see, the preacher's been stabbed in the back and granny run over by a bus, Bill's nobber from 10 years ago is STILL important though wearing thin so he'll probably be needing another soon, and the Jews are celebrating Halloween which I WAS almost sure is a Druid holliday, two wars and just the mearest hint of an ecconomic downturn. Is it just me or does the signpost up ahead say, "HIGHWAY TO HELL, DRIVE AS FAST AS YOU CAN"?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 20, 2008 09:54 PM

Listening to the economic tsunami coming, and the weight of disaster rising up before homeowners, and that many of these casualties-to-be are black and brown (as I've read, that in particular the most vicious loans were made to them intentionally), that these people bear our police state control most obviously, that the gover'mint of such obvious cretins and destable politicians has intentionally made the suffering of the poor in LOLA a "tch, tch" condition, that our media mollifiers are now prating about the loss of racial distinctions in this fine, upstanding nation, and that our history is continually repaving the fact that a tremendous brutality over centuries wrought immense wealth -- I believe this vitriol is the spray coming in from what will be a furious concatenation of organized demonstration, protest, and demand for acknowledgement of sins. God damn those who are deniers of these realities, who will lead us toward a real civil war.

Posted by: Woodyeofalb at March 20, 2008 10:33 PM

Soon the Preacher will grant an exclusive interview to Barbara Walters, admitting he had an affair with a white, upper-class Chicago soccer mom. Hey, he doesn't really hate us. If only we could understand his rage, and he our complacency.
God Bless Our Bullshit, for we drink it morning, noon and night. President Obama will forgive him, Rabbi Lieberman will embrace him, and we'll put down PARADE with a big smile on our faces. God bless.

Posted by: donescobar at March 20, 2008 10:42 PM

The FSM does not bless or damn any nation; the Pasta Holiness takes no note of such entities. Do not question the ways of FSM, but rejoice in all he gives you. Praise even the clam sauce.

Posted by: K. Ron Silkwood at March 21, 2008 02:53 AM

oh, Obama's pastor is a pathetic fruitcake who makes Dennis and you people look almost reasonable. One indicator of just how gullible black people can be: some 7% of black taxpayers try claiming the "reparations tax credit," only to end up paying penalties later. KKK owns Snapple? CIA-AIDS? etc etc etc.

But man oh man, the Rev looks down with a dashiki, don't he? My folk are mostly from Scotland. Maybe I'll start wearing yee old Scotch stuff to the office.

Posted by: xyz at March 21, 2008 03:20 AM

Obama did not say the problem with Wright's comments was the vitriolic style in which they were expressed. He said the problem was that Wright believes the situation is static and cannot change. He, Obama, does not share that view.

Posted by: Aunt Deb at March 21, 2008 08:11 AM

he's playing Hillary's game and chasing the white swing voters who won't vote for him anyway instead of being square with a slightly different demographic, the white swing voters who otherwise might vote for him.

Rev. Wright accused Israel of practicing "state-sponsored terrorism" against the Palestinians. Which "slightly different demographic" does that appeal to?

Look, I agree with Wright's critique of Israel, but let's not fool ourselves. Nobody wins elected office in the US by speaking the truth about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians. Obama knows this, which is why he is where he is.

Posted by: SteveB at March 21, 2008 08:59 AM

We have to keep saying god bless America because no one else will and America sneezes a lot.

This whole silly episode is a good indicator of just how much “change” Obama represents which is to say none at all. But then again the establishment would never ever let anyone who would actually “try” to change anything into the oval office but they never had to worry about that with Obama. In fact the whole election is a joke and represents nothing but a change in guard. It is so important to guard the rich from the poor. Obama knows this and he will obey.

Posted by: rob payne at March 21, 2008 11:34 AM
Conversely, what is this "God Bless America" nonsense? Are people so worried God might forget to do that if he is not duly reminded? How innocent can you be if you have to keep reminding the judge to show mercy?

I think a lot of places with nationalistic fervor go on about this as a form of justification for nationalism.

I had the opportunity to watch the Bosnia thingie, somewhat up close, and the Serbs in general have a variation of it (as translated to me):

Phonetically -- "Bog Chuva Srbe" (all vowels short)

which can be translated to something like "God watches over the Serbs", or "God protects the Serbs" or "God Blesses Serbs".

Which made me think: Really? Because your worldview on the god blessing you has to be severely stunted to buy into that considering reality slapping you silly at every turn. Unless you're praying to be baptized and blessed with shrapnel.

But when you're a heavy drinker, you comfort yourself with stuff like that, which has very little bearing on reality. I wouldn't be surprised to find that many places have slogans and exhortations with nationalistic roots that are attributed to divinities.

Posted by: angryman@24:10 at March 21, 2008 11:52 AM

xyz: This game sounds like fun! I don't have much time, though, so I'll just quote at length.

Of American adults, at least 18 years of age...

65% couldn't describe the basic facts about Watergate
56% think in war, the media should support the government over questioning it
48% say the news media acted responsibly during the Clinton Wars
45% characterized Watergate was "just politics"
43% attended religious services in the previous 7 days
40% believe the media was biased in favor of Bill Clinton
35% say the government should not fund stem cell research
34% think Rock and Roll has had an overall negative impact on America
33% believe a wife should "submit herself graciously" to a husband
30% say the Bible is the "actual word of God" to be taken literally
29% think people will be "more likely" to afford college for their kids in 2020
28% disapprove of labor unions on principle
28% say the government should have the right to control news reports
27% believe divorce is "morally wrong"
26% thought various disasters in 1999 might "foreshadow the wrath of God"
26% think grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank their kids
24% describe themselves as interested in what celebrities think
21% told a pollster they'd never met that they had cheated in a relationship
21% say justice was served in the O.J. Simpson case
20% approve of the how the Catholic Church handles pedophilia
20% believe that the killing of civilians in Vietnam was "relatively rare"
15% were upset at Diana Spencer's death like "someone you knew"
12% think the United States should have a British-style royal family
11% stockpiled food and water in advance of Y2K
11% think "Titanic" was the best American movie of the 20th century
11% would like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" as their personal physician
10% would eat a rat or an insect on a "reality" TV show
10% think it's advantageous to be a woman in American society
10% believe Oswald acted alone
10% say they are "very likely" to become rich someday
8% could not name a single TV network
8% fear they are "very likely" to be shot or badly hurt by a stranger
7% think Elvis is possibly still alive
6% say Garth Brooks is the best male singer of the 20th century
5% are ?very afraid? of thunder and lightning
5% would be "more likely" to buy food labeled as genetically modified
3% wanted to see the questions on "Millionaire" become less difficult

But hey, I'm sure it's all black people awaiting the Second Coming of Elvis.

Posted by: hf at March 21, 2008 12:45 PM

"While campaigning in Israel (a swing state), . . .

Oh, Bernard, that's excellent, just excellent. I plan to use it often, and may or may not credit you.

Rev. Wright sounds like a reincarnation of Dr. King at the end of his life. And probably saying such things will help end his life, too.

Posted by: catherine at March 21, 2008 12:51 PM

hf: can you shoot me a link to those data?

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at March 21, 2008 02:02 PM

In the interest of equal time for alternate religious views, I will mention the Ceiling Cat.
I can haz blessing?

Posted by: Monkay at March 21, 2008 02:30 PM

I think what's not being sufficiently celebrated or admitted in some of these comments is that the speech Obama made was courageous. Whether it SHOULD take courage to give a speech like that is another question. But it was courageous. Obama did express that there are still race problems in this country and that there is rage about it. I'm telling you, and Obama knows this, whites all over this country that get even a whiff of a point like that freak out big time and polls are indicating that they indeed are. And Obama did know it was a risk to make those points even with his chastising Wright's particular comments.

No, it's not the most courageous speech ever made and, yes, Obama does play some politics games. But the speech does definitely indicate something good about the guy compared to most major presidential candidates of recent memory. Lincoln didn't just blow in and say what's what, blacks are equal to us all, and f you all if you don't like it either. Sadly, it took him a long time to say, Okay. Blacks are real people too.

So, saying the speech was "sheer BS" is wrong.
I'd much rather have a guy who thinks Wright is right get to the office than have a guy who thinks Wright is right tell everyone so and unequivocally blow his chances to get in office. And the fact is, Obama's speech, as tempered as it was, may already be incendiary enough to keep him from office.

Posted by: Dirk at March 21, 2008 03:27 PM

"Obama is in the doghouse for knowing someone who's spoken the truth"

and I am going to have to put him in the doghouse for being such a weasel by not standing up for the Rev. about the comments that he did get right. Like 9/11 hypocrisy and the US government's support of state terrorism against Palestinians. And the indifference to dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By the way, the Rev. is inaccurate in other comments, for example it isn't accurate to say Obama isn't rich, he has plenty of money which most Americans would consider pretty well off. And he has been sucking up to special interests, the reason he is where he is, so he is privileged enough to have been given disproportionately more media exposure as opposed to Gravel or Kucinich when he was in the race. I would say that being given an unfair advantage over candidates with policies that better serve the public is indeed privileged. And even "not white" is not entirely accurate since he is half white.

Posted by: Tom at March 21, 2008 05:25 PM

wgg, Bob Harris posted it at and linked to

Posted by: hf at March 21, 2008 08:02 PM

I also thought Obama's "courageous" speech was a bit cowardly -- especially the part where he blamed all of the problems in the Middle East on "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam." I understand that it's a requirement for those seeking higher office to pander to AIPAC and absolve the United States of any responsibility for the clusterfuck that is Mesopotamia, but I just wish that the Obama groupies would quit pretending that the man is something other than a banal, establishment, calculating politician.

The occasional comment about the suffering of the Palestinians notwithstanding (for which he immediately blamed entirely on Hamas -- who, by the way, he now says he wouldn't speak to as president), I see no reason to expect an Obama administration to make any serious break from the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that has been prevalent in Washington since at least the beginning of the Cold War.

Obama ain't no Jeremiah Wright. Unfortunately.

Posted by: Charlie at March 22, 2008 01:17 PM

In the sermon, entitled "Confusing God and Government" aka "God Dman America" Wright asserts that the US government was oppressive, but got better. He calls Bill Clinton (a white man) black america's "intelligent friend". He calls W a step backward, a "dumb Dixiecrat". So obviously some whites are good, some not.

He says America is Damned (in the Biblical sense) because she has be come imperialist, and imperialism leads to a fall from grace. He specifically invoked non-white imperialists as well, and had his entire flock repeat that oppressors come in all colours.

Of course, that doesn't rile up racial tension, so in the Fox version, they cut out all that stuff (there is a lot more).

His opinion, with reference to the Bible (scriptural focus was Luke 19:37-44 (reading from the New Revised Standard Version)) is that God does not approve of the slaughter of innocents, that collateral damage is damning of a nation, that racism is a sin that also damns the nation, that imperialism is a sin that also damns the nation, in the eyes of the Lord.

The basic thrust is that while governments may lie, change (for better or worse), or sometimes fail, and a nation which blindly follows the government risks being led down the path to damnation, but the Lord never lies, never changes, and never fails, and will always lead to the path of rightousness.

So put your faith in the lord for moral guidance, not the government.

He also instructs is parishioners to ask forgiveness for the Damn, although it's in the bible.

Nope, not racist.

Full sermon here

You guys have been trolled by Fox

Posted by: critical thinker at March 25, 2008 11:38 AM

As a Brit. we sing "God save our gracious Queen...and send her victorious, happy and glorious" Do we deserve to 'be saved' as we are told that 'The Queen' is really we, 'The State', when we are lied to by Blair following Bush doggedly to war.....perhaps it was God who made Northern Rock happen just in case we might think he was on our side.......but well said Rev Wright. who is now being declared some kind of nut case.......who obviously believes in the 'religious'adage "Tell the truth and shame the devil." As for McCain and his claim about Hezbollah; I think that this tops by a mile Hillary's silly faux pas about snipers in Bosnia.

Posted by: Mary Fallon at March 26, 2008 11:14 PM