It’s a Big Club, and Most of Us Are In It

Jon Boguth

Jon Boguth

Jon Boguth is an attorney in Troy, Michigan, and is the Chairman of the Center for Economic Accountability. You should follow him on Twitter (@jonboguth).

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Not sure whether Carlin was talking about billionaires, or Jews. I have a lot of trouble telling the difference between leftists and antisemites.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    It’s actually not new for Carlin to roll on this kind of rant. He’s been doing it his whole career, pretty much. We just remember the funny-words bits because they were actually funny, not just “peer-pressure laugh” funny.Report

  3. What you’re saying about late Carlin is often how I feel about late night talk show hosts these days. They make things that sound like jokes, but they aren’t actually funny. They’re political rants with the cadence of jokes. They get sited by Vox and HuffPo as “Watch Samantha Bee DESTROY Pro-Life Activists”. But they seem to be more like rousting up a mob than generating laughter. John Stuart knew how to do find the balance; Oliver does sometimes. But more often than not I turn them off. And I remember they razzed Seth Myers because he wouldn’t go all political.Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    The idea that there is a secretive group of elites who run things is of course mock-worthy.

    Well of course there is a group of wealthy people who do make the decisions that affect all of us, sure.
    Groups like ALEC, who gather together with jurists to write templates for states and municipalities to enact, yeah, thats just history.
    And groups like the Federalist Society, which operates a system of networking and influence peddling connections across law schools across the country.
    And the banking lobby which ordered the Senate to pass a tax cut or else face a cutoff of funds.

    And to be sure, entrance into this group is managed by a process of courtiership and networking within elite universities and corporations, nobody’s denying that.

    And yes, none of this really has anything to do with merit of hard work- that is just obvious!

    But still, the idea that they all gather together in secret is just silly.

    I mean, heck, they brag about their influence and power!Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I remember very clearly being told that Enron had no influence over power companies and the idea that they were telling them when to shut plants down was a crazy conspiracy theory.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Here’s the real kicker: Jon Boguth basically ends up eventually admitting Carlin is correct when he works through the logic!

      But that’s just like the net neutrality fight — there are wealthy interests on both sides of most issues, and of most elections. Even if voters pick from limited options (e.g., selecting from the major-party or the best-funded candidates even if their preferences lie elsewhere), that’s somehow supposed to prove that we have no choice?

      That…isn’t arguing against what Carlin said. It’s literally agreeing with what Carlin said. The owners do control everything, it’s just that they sometimes want different things!

      He then pretends Carlin is wrong based on that, while completely failing to notice that Carlin actually didn’t say the owners were always in agreement on everything, or even most things. Carlin merely said they were in agreement on having crappy schools.

      That’s a hard thing to argue against, especially when Carlin was alive. We’ve recently got a few notable wealthy people who have tried to fix education (Whether they are helpful or not is another matter), but that is very new. So I guess Carlin’s prediction is technically inaccurate, but as a statement of what was currently happening, it was entirely true.

      And there’s a lot of other things they’re in agreement on. There’s actually huge swatches of things that have huge political support but extremely wealthy people have managed to defeat, or at least argue to a draw for decades.

      For the best example, the percent of people who do not want their investment advisors to have a fiduciary responsibility is 0.001% or so. This example is pretty interesting, because a lot of time, the giant cash propaganda machine has managed to influence some small percentage of the population (Which is then held up as much larger and hugely important) to a stupid position. I could give a huge list of really dumb positions that random sections of the population believe thanks to a hell of a lot of spending.

      But not this issue. No, this issue is just a bit too hard to obscure. Basically no one, statistically speaking, is sitting around arguing that the guy doing their investments should be allowed to do something that makes the investor less money and the adviser gets a kickback. There is absolutely no support for that position whatsoever…

      …except by investment advisors and investment firms.

      And, somehow, the rule is gone again, after it taking decades to show up.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I recall watching a Whoopi Goldbeg concert from about the same time and thinking “She’s not doing comedy: she’s preaching.” And she wasn’t getting laughs; she was getting “applause” and “right on!”

    Both of them were funny people capable of doing real comedy, of course, unlike. say, Dennis Miller. And Carlin is so brilliant with language you can appreciate that no matter what he’s talking about.

    Also, the ability to appreciate humor at one’s own side’s expense seem to be rare.

    And last, the pie is fixed in the short term, and the horrific deficits we’re running right now really do mean less for everyone who didn’t make out like a bandit from the tax cuts.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      I think Preaching is a good term for much of this; I also feel that it is countered by Witnessing, such as what Henry Rollings does.

      The difference between those people and comedians is the later is skilled enough to make you laugh. Neither Goldberg nor Miller has that skill anymore.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Contrasting very early George Carlin with what George Carlin is remembered for is very interesting. During the the 1950s and early 1960s, George Carlin was a fairly conservative night club comedian. He wore a suit, he was clean shaving, and his hair was short. Sometime during the Counter Culture he realized he could either be his real true self and still make a living or decided to roll with changing times and tastes. He ditched the suit for something more Bohemain looking as a stage costume, he grew his hair long, and grew a beard. Carlin started telling subversive and political jokes. I’d be interested if this was always the real true George Carlin or whether he became his stage persona.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Schilling says:

    But you know what’s really not funny? Conservative “humor”.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1190617/

    4.3/10 on Imdb.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Michael Schilling says:

      Look up Bill Burr some time.

      I like Greg Gutfeld, who isn’t actually a comedian, but does humorous commentary on Fox News. He’s an acquired taste. His old show “Red Eye” introduced me to Gavin McIinnes and Tom Shillue, both of whom have done stand-up. Then there’s the whole “shock jock”-ish crowd, Anthony Cumia, Adam Corolla, et cetera. They tend to run libertarian.

      Parker and Stone are both on the conservative side of libertarian, and have been successful with explicitly political stuff.

      I used to like Owen Benjamin; there are still some good bits of his on YouTube, but he’s gone down this ugly conspiracy path lately. Steven Crowder can be childishly funny, but I prefer his more serious stuff. And if you don’t mind going a little bit older, there’s Drew Carey and Norm MacDonald,Report

      • Avatar Michael Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

        Bill Burr is really funny; I’ve seen several of his TV shows. They’re not political. Drew Carey is a libertarian and not political.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Pinky says:

        I agree with liking a lot of names on your list, though either now that I’m older or they’re older or both, I do find some of them stale, because they’re doing the same exact thing as they were doing 20 years ago.

        (like really, if the South Park series would have ended with Cartoon Wars II it would have been the perfect ending, and a perfect meta-ending for that show. Sure, do another movie or two or three when you have the idea tank filled up. But there’s no reason for us to still be here over a decade later with them just grinding it out)Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

        Babylon Bee – a conservative Christian website that’s as good as The Onion used to be
        Chris Ray Gun – not a conservative, but a YouTuber on the anti-SJW side
        FreedomToons – libertarian YouTube animated skits
        Jim Gaffigan – practicing Catholic comedian
        Andrew Klavan – crime novelist who discusses politics and culture with The Daily WireReport

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Pinky says:

          I’ll give you the Babylon Bee. And, before them, PJ O’Rourke, HL Mencken, and and GK Chesterton.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Pinky says:

          I like Gaffigan a lot, though (unlike the Bee which is often good) it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of politics in it. Mostly it’s noteworthy for being relatively “clean”, which isn’t something that I demand in any way, but can be a nice change of pace.

          Never realized Klavan has done any sort of comedy. Some of his crime novels are good, though, especially Don’t Say a Word. They seem to be largely unknown these days, as far as I can tell.Report

        • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky says:

          I found the Bee’s humor forced, and quit reading. The Onion, on the other hand, is as good as it ever has been.

          Gaffigan is hilarious. Hot pockets….Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

            The Babylon Bee is only funny when it goes after the specific subcultures that it understands well. Christians, for example: Church Bassist Asked To Play In Darkened Storage Closet (Instead of multiple links that would probably get me marked as spam, I’m just picking articles on their front page, so…find them yourself. ;))

            Believe it or not, this is almost the entirety of Bee articles I see shared…by people I’m fairly sure are conservatives, making fun of their own cultural stuff. They’re usually pretty good.

            And when they make fun of things from a conservative direction that don’t require any cultural knowledge, they’re okay: Police Watch Helplessly Through Starbucks Window As Masked Gunman Empties Register

            When the Bee heads outside that, it has somewhat funny premises, but often falls completely flat, like: Netflix Under Fire For Including Straight Character In New Show

            That could be a very funny article. But instead it…look, I’ll just let this quote speak for itself: “We just assumed the straight person was closeted or would turn out to be the oppressive villain,” said one woman. “But it was just a regular straight dude, oppressing us with all his straightness.”

            Like, first of all, make up the name of the Netflix show and character, guys! Or use a real one. Not having names just makes it seem too obviously fake. (This is sorta a problem with all the Bee’s articles.)

            Second, it should be a straight _white_ guy. Good grief, how did you get that wrong?

            Third, if you’re going to insert a made-up quote, you need at least the word heteronormality in there, and then use the term ‘cishet’, and then go ahead and make up another word in that vein that sounds real but is not. The quotes, which make up most of the article, are _really_ stupid and fall completely flat because they don’t sound like how the people who would be protesting this actually talk about these things, much less how _parodies_ should talk about these things, which obviously should be absurd exaggerations.

            This is because the Bee does not understand the culture they are mocking there. I suspect this is 90% of the reason that conservative humor doesn’t work well…conservatives are often somewhat bad at understanding other cultures, which means they have a lot of problems figuring out where the funny parts are. (Whereas liberals have been pounded over the head with conservative culture 24/7.)Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DavidTC says:

              The thing that The Onion gets that most other parody-news sites don’t is that sometimes the entire joke is in the headline and you don’t really need to go past that.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to DavidTC says:

              Titania McGrath disagrees!Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to George Turner says:

                I’d never heard of that, so I found it on Twitter and read it, and…there you go. Exactly. Whoever is writing that account has clearly _actually_ been exposed to left twitter, and can turn the dial up to about 14.

                As opposed to the Bee, which thinks ‘But it was just a regular straight dude, oppressing us with all his straightness.’ is a reasonable satire.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC says:

                Fun fact: Right after I posted that, Twitter broke.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                I assumed Twitter broke when someone Tweeted about Congressional black Democrats sending out a mass e-mail slamming AOC’s progressive wing for saying Nancy Pelosi was trying to shut them down because they were people of color, and I figure the progressives at Twitter assumed it must’ve been a program glitch.

                But perhaps it was something else.

                Titania is so good at what she does that for maybe six months to a year nobody on any side of an aisle could figure out if she was a really woke person or a brilliant parody of woke people. She turns out to be a Spiked columnist Andrew Doyle.Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    This was interesting. I wasn’t sure where you were going with it, which is a bit refreshing these days.

    I think Adams whole ‘Trump and the art of persuasion’ schtick is one of the biggest post-hoc fallacies, but I have thought for a while that Trump does have a ‘stand-up comedian’ style when he goes into his stream of consciousness off the cuff ramblings, which are were a big feature of his presidential campaign and his current rallies. (I thought I made a comment here a few years ago to that effect, but can’t find it.)

    In that, it’s not ha ha funny, but the ramblings do have connective tissue from one thought to another, like any good stand up act is able to do. And so it can be entertaining. (and was, until the punchline in November 2016)

    A podcast I listen to that discusses Saturday Night Live will refer to this phenomenon as ‘clap-ter’. You’re just setting up a positive audience reaction instead of an actual laugh line.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe says:

      It is often like Trump is doing a stand-up act on the theme of “That Trump, what a character – and so is everyone else!” while he is standing up there… actually being Trump.Report

  9. If I were writing my own post and not commenting on yours, my argument would be, “maybe many of us are actually the owners/the elite/the ones in power.” I probably wouldn’t say “most of us,” but I do suspect that some of us who complain about “those in control” actually have ourselves a lot of control/power over others.

    Note my hedge word “some.” I actually can speak only for myself and perhaps a few people I know who complain but have very comfortable, even commanding, circumstances that belie their (usually implicit) claim that they’re not one of the few who own/control.Report

    • If you see it as fighting over positional goods, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the 23rd percentile. All you see are the 22 percentiles in front of you. 22 percent! That’s a *LOT*!Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Notes from my diary:

      Year 19, day 125.

      “I’m not in control of anyone. I’m merely the organically chosen grass-roots voice for those millions of souls who are devotedly erecting giant statues and monuments to me, to show how much they appreciate the adequate food rations I give them when a good growing season makes that possible.

      All the senior managers in these monumental building efforts are just cogs in a wheel. Well fed cogs because of their importance, but cogs nonetheless. If a project falls behind due to their incompetence or malfeasance, I sometimes have them shot to let the laborers know that I’ve got their backs and that we’re all on the same team. My people’s expressions of love and devotion after I clean up such management messes are truly heartwarming.”

      Good times. 🙂Report

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