Combat! blog has tended inexorably toward politics during the last year, since that is where the worst habits of the age are inflated to grotesques. In our fixation on all things governmental, it’s easy to forget that politics is only one subset of a larger world, and a subset whose lineaments exist only in our understanding, at that. In fact, politics and popular culture and bears and ethnomusicology are all names we have given to elements of one seamless, coherent whole, and that whole is just as stupid and baffling as everything else, which is nothing. This Friday’s linktacular is largely about popular culture, and if you think politics are dispiriting, have a look at those portions of society run by people who are too lazy to keep up with politics. It’s Friday; the week is almost end; up is down; wrong is right and things that should make us angry give us strange pleasure. Unbuckle your seat belt and rest your teeth gently on the dashboard, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The good news about the roiling pot of oversteamed irrelevance that we call a national discourse is that there is pretty much always, through sheer mathematical imperative, one news story going on that is completely hilarious. For the last week it has been Sarah Palin’s and Rush Limbaugh’s public argument over the words “retard” and “retarded.” As is usually the case when a news story centers on something you’re glad the president didn’t do, this one originated with Rahm Emanuel. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran this news analysis piece about liberal resentment of the chief of staff, including the revelation that, back in August, he dismissed a plan to run attack ads against senators opposing health care as “fucking retarded.” First of all, I sincerely want to believe that if you come to Rahm Emanuel with some idea that turns out not to be so great, he will immediately call you retarded and send you back to your desk. Second of all, everyone can stop accusing the WSJ of conservative bias, because the chief of staff saying “retarded” in a private meeting six months ago has turned out to be hot news. In a Facebook post titled “Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?” Sarah Palin called on the president to fire his chief of staff, saying that “Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities—and the people who love them—is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.” By “God’s children,” she was generally interpreted to mean her own personal child, who—I don’t know if you’ve heard this—has Down syndrome.