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I’m done now

A Dull Ache column by W.R. Marshall

When I started writing this column a while back, I thought it’d be good for a few laughs, and every now and then something would be added to the political debate that wonks and readers are supposed to engage in.

Turns out there is no debate.

In the Bush/Cheney “I’m right and you’re wrong, so f#%* off and die” era of political dialogue (and Dubya was worried about his legacy), I’ve found people are rigid and calcified, and there is no room for discussion and certainly none for compromise.

Over the years I’ve heard from many readers; many in support, many seething at what I’d written. But precious few were actually interested in dialogue. Most were far more interested in calling me everything from a “comic genius” and “a patriot” (my ego is grateful to you all) to “commie” and “idiot.” (One of the brain trust who reads me actually called me a “Nazi” – proving the history-challenged are everywhere.)

In the end, though, all I’ve become is part of the noise that is the Internet. The great democratic experiment of free access, which is still in its infancy, has become not a marketplace for honest debate and exchange, but an electronic Hyde Park, where anyone can jump up on their soapbox and rant. And because it is so expansive – and so anonymous – it’s an easy rant, and easy to find others who want to rant right along with you. It seems no one is interested in honest debate or forthright exchange of ideas.

The Internet is the great postmodern souk, where any truth you want can be found and verified by nonvetted postings written by people who agree with you. I’ve tried to have civil debate with a few of my readers who disagree with something I’ve written, but they’ve never been all the interested in discussion; they just want to be Limbaugh or Hannity and yell at me. Initially I ignored them, but more and more I found myself yelling back … and that was never my intent.

I consider myself a court jester. Someone, as my British friends might say, to “take the piss out of” people in high office. I bashed Bush plenty – not as much as he deserves – because he’s the guy in the big chair, but I’ve done my share giving it to the Democrats as well. (Interestingly enough, the people who write me and tell me I’m a “hater” when I write about the Idiot-in-Chief, are silent when I call the Democrats “sackless wimps.”)

The level of discourse in this country is appalling. The few institutions left who should be defending it – newspapers – are in fact joining it. We see all manner of journalistic embarrassments every day. Network news is a joke, and cable news networks are either shills for a political party (as Scott McClellan revealed about Fox News and the Bush administration … and here I was thinking they were “fair and balanced”) or shamelessly seeking ratings. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but, quite frankly, no one cares, and more importantly, nor do they, when shown the exception, choose to believe it. (Please refer to: “I’m right and you’re wrong, so f#%* off and die.”)

So I’m f*%#ing off. I have not intention of dying, however. I’m going to back to writing for a smaller, thoughtful, quieter audience and leave the ranting to others.

I want to thank Chris Graham for giving me space every week. Chris is one of those exceptions I was speaking of earlier. He is as decent a human being as you will find, and his journalistic integrity is beyond reproach.

(Even though I’m still hoping to go on a golf junket with him, I mean every word.)

…and in the time it took for the few of you who read this piece to the end, someone has already taken my place.