About a week ago, a minor, humor-oriented blagueur called Manhattan Offender (hereafter referred to as MO) published a brief, jokey post ("How gay is this guy?") about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, pointing out all the things in Roberts' background that he shared in common with MO himself, and speculating that, since MO is gay, Roberts must be gay, too. An obvious gag, of the sort that gets posted at LJ all the time. A bit of the old reductio ad absurdum. Not particularly funny, but pretty obviously intended to be funny. Everybody gets it, right? Well, maybe not. The gag might have stopped with MO's limited readership, but it was picked up by the much more popular Wonkette, and became a bit of a minor meme among leftist blagueurs, who (of course) got the joke. But the more popular blagueurs are read by lots of other blagueurs, some of them not leftists, and that's where the weirdness began.
Many of the rightist blagueurs picked up the meme, and transformed it into a new meme, all about a supposed whisper campaign against Roberts started by The Left (into the very essence of which a mere handful of leftist blagueurs had suddenly been transformed), intended to damage his reputation and reduce the chances of his nomination being confirmed. Filled with outrage, the posts of the various rightists condemned The Left for hypocrisy, for invasion of privacy, for child abuse, and for practically every other nefarious, culture-shattering vice but leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Of course, as soon as this nouveau-meme took off, it was countered by leftist blagueurs, all displaying either outrage or sarcastic glee over the humorless denseness of conservative blagueurs and Republicans in general. As I read the various posts and replies to posts, the whole thing looked more and more like some huge, virtual intellectual circle-jerk.
Now, being one who has posted multiple thousands of LiveJournal entries, I'm hardly in a position to shout something such as Do any of these people have real lives?, but... do any of these people have real lives? Surely, there is comedy in the overwrought reactions to the original silly post by the rightist blagueurs (overreaction being a staple of comedy), but do their rantlets really require the swarms of responses that they have engendered? Must teh Intrawebs be flooded with this nonsensical blathering? Apparently so.
MO himself today commented on the events, with his post called "Conservatives up late looking for hot gay action." It was there that I discovered that this accumulation of utterly unimportant spewings back-and-forth had actually already spawned its own Wikipedia entry! Well, nobody can accuse the blague-o-sphere of being small-time when even its minor brain-farts can result in events that are worthy of being noted at Wikipedia! "Oh, virtual world, but that thy strange mutations make us hate thee, life would not yield to ague!" Shakespeare might have said that, had he been a blagueur.
Anyway. It happens that I am no stranger to the propensity of American conservatives to indulge in conspiracy theories, and their tendency to see tiny and trivial things as evidence of the existence of conspiracies, and as harbingers of the great evils about to befall their benighted yet beloved Republic. I,ve had decades of watching this sort of thing. One of my closest friends in high school was a conservative conspiracy theorist, and the son of parents who made Robert Welch look like a namby-pamby lefty fellow traveler. For me, after all this time, the manifestations of paranoid thinking and the repetitive jargon it generates, are of little significance, and about as stale as unwrapped Twinkies that have been sitting on the shelf over the oven since the Eisenhower administration. (Eisenhower was an active commie conspirator, by the way, just like Nixon and Kennedy and the rest of the Presidents between Hoover and Reagan. Hoover and Reagan were just fellow travelers, but still not to be trusted. Arthur's mom told me so.) Thus, no conclusion at which some of the loopier rightists may arrive about the secret intent behind any action perpetrated by a representative of The Left, no matter how far-fetched that conclusion might be, really astonishes me- or so I thought. After all, I've known the heritage first hand, and I've observed its workings through many long years.
But it occurs to me that humor is a funny thing (no pun intended.) People are only apt to get a joke when the joke is about something with which they are very familiar, something with which they are so intimate that they need not even think about it, but merely respond automatically when that bit of wordplay or that familiar image suddenly seen in an unfamiliar context evokes laughter. If something isn't part of a person's culture, they simply have no means of knowing what the joke is. If you don't know the difference between a rabbi and a Catholic priest, you simply won't find anything to laugh about when the rabbi says "I was just checking- spectacles, testicles, watch, wallet." Jokes are, to a large extent, secrets held by the members of a given cultural group.
Now, I must make it clear that I'm not implying that the rightist blaguers are so out of touch with American popular culture that they can't spot a joke when it involves teh gayness. Quite the contrary. At least one of the rightist blagueurs who responded to MO's joke was himself a 'mo, and had to have known what the joke was about, but he displayed as much righteous indignation over it as did the others. No, the point I'm trying to make is frighteningly different, and is the result of a horrifying thought which came to me as I was reading one of the offended conservative blagueurs.
The thought was this: What if they are being disingenuous? What if they know that MO's post was a joke, and they did get it, and their responses to it were all faux-outrage, done with humorous intent? What if I am the one who isn't getting their joke? While it is true that I have observed the rightists for many years, and have long believed that I understood the seriousness with which they approach the world of politics, it is entirely possible that they are simply too subtle for me, and I've been missing the joke all along. What if neo-conservatism itself has been nothing but one big troll? What if John Roberts really is gay, and secretly having it off with Rick Santorum, and after they finish their passionate lovemaking they go on-line and chuckle at the smug and scandalized liberal dweebs who think the whole outpouring of rightist outrage over the "John Roberts is totally gay" thing is serious? What if it has all been a genuine conspiracy? What if there really are no American troops in Iraq, and Dubya and Saddam are buddies, just like Dubya's dad and Saddam were during the Reagan years, and the whole "war" is, like the infamous "moon landing," actually being performed on a sound stage in New Mexico?
How could I have been so stupid as to fall for this? Even after all my experience with LiveJournal trolls, I failed to recognize the tell-tale signs- the outrageous exaggerations, the mocking tones, the absurd claims that trivialities are of momentous importance, the bloated insults... it's all so obvious, I now realize. And the leftist blagueurs- at least some of them must be in on it! Why else would they spend so much time on a war of asinine words with a bunch of pipsqueak e-pundits- time that could be spent writing about actual issues? Oh, the shame of it all! Well, that does it! From now on, I'm not visiting the blagues of any of those blagueurs. I'm staying right here at LJ. Those other people are simply not to be trusted! Accursed Internets!