It makes you laugh until you cry - Keith Roulston editorial
After surviving four years of Donald Trump’s presidency of our southern neighbour with so many ridiculous moments that you’d tell yourself “You can’t make this up!”, I fear I’ve become addicted to the absurd.
As I read my online subscription to The Globe and Mail or scan CNN’s website, I find myself clicking on headlines of the sort of topics that make you laugh – or maybe cry.
Take the story in the Globe last week about the Centner Academy in Miami and its instructions to staff about COVID-19 vaccinations. While some employers are insisting their employees get vaccinated if they want to keep their jobs, Leila Centner, the academy’s co-founder, warned teachers and staff against taking the COVID-19 vaccine, saying she will not employ anyone who has received the shot.
Questioned by The Associated Press about her reasoning, Centner, who has been an opponent of vaccines, claimed there have been cases where unvaccinated women have experienced miscarriages and other reproductive problems just by standing near vaccinated people. How could this be possible? Are vaccinated people possibly radioactive? This beats the ridiculous conspiracy theory that billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is promoting vaccines because they’re being used to implant microchips that will allow him to control the world.
But this is just one of so many head-scratchers in the news lately. How about the claim by right-wing media that U.S. President Joe Biden is going to ration red meat consumption as part of his plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This one has its roots in an obscure study by the University of Michigan which talked about how a 90 per cent reduction in beef consumption could cut GHGs. Britain’s largest tabloid, The Daily Mail, in a story on the Biden climate plan, seized on this study as an example of what the plan might mean, suggesting, among other things “How Biden’s climate plan could limit what you can eat to just one burger a month.”
According to Wikipedia, The Daily Mail is “noted for its unreliability and widely criticized for its printing of sensationalist and inaccurate scare stories of science and medical research,” but the suggestion was good enough for right-wing U.S. media like Fox News, which claimed the hamburger quota was part of the President’s proposal. One Fox commentator gleefully suggested Biden’s July 4 barbecue would consist of grilled brussels sprouts and a plant-based beer. (Hmm, I doubt even the most red meat Republican would want meat-based beer).
Eventually, days later, Fox News anchor John Roberts admitted the item was incorrect but by then the story had fueled the sort of outrage that the Republican Party seems to rely on these days to infuriate its base. Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, herself a walking absurdity, dubbed Biden “The Hamburglar,” a reference to a character in McDonald’s commercials that steals hamburgers.
And then there’s the photo someone took of a backpack welcome kit given to migrant children at a shelter in Long Beach, California with a copy of U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris children’s book, Superheroes Are Everywhere, propped up against it. The New York Post, like Fox, owned by members of the Murdock family, ran a front page story and photo claiming all the kits “illegally” contained Harris’s book. Later the reporter who wrote it resigned and said she had been forced to write the story. After it turned out that the book was a lone copy that had been chosen by the child from donations of books given to the centre, The Post kinda-sorta retracted the story.
When I first heard about the Pizzagate conspiracy, I had to laugh. You remember, the right-wing theory during the 2016 presidential election that Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking Democrats were holding children captive in the basements of various fast food restaurants. You’d think it would have died when a man from North Carolina traveled to Washington to rescue the children, invaded the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour, used a gun to shoot the lock off a closet door and discovered the restaurant didn’t even have a basement. Yet apparently the plot is now part of the QAnon list of conspiracies and still being circulated.
But some of the more ludicrous moments simply make you cry, not laugh. Like the fact a recent poll found 70 per cent of Republicans still think Donald Trump won the election, in part because voting machines were rigged to change votes for him into votes for Joe Biden. Or the claim the Jan. 6 insurrection wasn’t violent at all and was probably carried out by left-wingers pretending to be Trump supporters.
There’s nothing funny when absurdities threaten to rile up people enough to support a new attempt to overturn U.S. democracy.