Bob Franken


May 1, 2008
Toxic Gas (Bob Franken)
@ 12:55 pm

Sometimes we fail to ask the most obviously vital question. For instance: What does the Rev. Jeremiah Wright think about that proposal to temporarily suspend the 18.4-cent gasoline tax?

We know that Barack Obama has refused to join the McCain-Clinton ticket in its cheap-shot plan to exploit the gasoline profiteering. We also know that whatever Obama says and does right now is drowned out by the ranting of his former pastor, who is enjoying his 15 minutes of insane fame.

Actually, it’s hard to decide which is nuttier, the summertime reduction in the gas tax or the AIDS-as-a-government-plot paranoia of the Rev. Wright.

They have a lot in common. Both are poorly thought-out attention-getters that have little connection to reality. And both are demagogic distractions that make it more difficult to solve fundamental problems.

Racism and the country’s crushing addiction to energy both qualify as fundamental problems. Both are among the issues that politicians routinely exploit with mindless sound bites and photo-ops. And both are distorted by those who are motivated by desperate ego or financial self-interest. Many of those who are supposed to be leading the struggle against prejudice are really prophets without honor. Those in the oil business are really seeking profit without honor.

As for Obama, his reaction to Pastor Wright’s mean-spirited bombast has typified his carefully calculated image of cool. The problem is his detachment is starting to look like timidity. And that is making people wonder if Hillary Clinton’s questions about his “electability” are valid questions that go beyond racism.

Let’s not forget media’s role in all this, mainstream and lame-brained. We have all succumbed to superficial, emotion-driven coverage and analysis. It doesn’t require much effort or cost very much.

We have created a terrain that is fertile ground for the distortions from loud, know-nothing phrase-mongers, as well as the oligarchs who confuse our energy policy.

We all have a role in this. We embrace triviality and reject substance. So those who can reap a benefit from our laziness are only too pleased to do so. The so-called agents of change continue to operate in the same sleazy ways we always have, and the nutcases are always ready to shoot off their mouths. And we in the media are more than happy to make sure that the informed electorate so essential to this nation’s survival is not informed. It’s no wonder people tune out. Why should they pay attention?

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