Crouch: Trump, Miley and culture killers

Special to The BeeSeptember 5, 2013 

As the obnoxious cliche goes, Bill O'Reilly spoke truth to power last week after offering his latest easily disproven falsehood.

"Last night during my discussion … about the Martin Luther King commemoration, I said there were no Republican speakers invited," he told viewers on Fox News. "Wrong. It was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined, and that was a mistake. They should have spoken."

He continued: "Now, the mistake is entirely on me. I simply assumed that since all the speakers were liberal Democrats, Republicans were excluded. So, here's the 'Tip of the Day': Always check out the facts before you make a definitive statement.

"And, when you make a mistake, admit it."

His correction didn't quite hit the mark. In fact, all members of Congress were invited to attend, and many Republican leaders were invited to speak — but remained as immobile as the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Still, O'Reilly's idea of admitting to mistakes would cause a serious revolution among right-wing talkers at his network and beyond.

We would see a shift in the opinions of Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and the third national force in the projection of factoids, Rush Limbaugh, the fake right-wing tough guy. All of them are sinking in the ratings and in sponsor money. This means little to these millionaires in the short term, but it hits them where they feel it the most: their desire for attention.

They are joined in their descent by another old master of the intellectual and political belly-flop, the man with unreal hair, a big mouth and many claims to have very important information the country needs to know: the Donald.

Trump is now furiously fighting a $40 million suit, brought by the attorney general of New York, alleging that the fast but inaccurate one bilked 5,000 "students" out of as much as $35,000 each, the cost of going to what was called Trump University but is now renamed The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, since it's not a university.

The Trump part, says the AG, was also less than advertised, as marks who were led to expect a personal appearance by the Donald but had to settle for pictures next to a cardboard cutout of him. A woman at Bloomberg News joked that the cardboard figure was essentially the same as the real thing. Uh-oh.

Our pop-media millionaire is little different from Miley Cyrus, who created automatic and intentional controversy with her pursuit of a rock version of the car-crash fame our ambulance-chasing media can't resist.

All these Fox News people and Limbaughs, and their minor-league imitators, benefit from the same thing: the obsession with electronic speed that has grabbed the masses, and the media.

The bigger the blizzard of lies, the more digital attention. It takes too long to check facts, so they are dismissed as just opinions. That is their real power: It rhymes with national laziness rowing on a rubber raft of factoids.

When this young woman Cyrus seeks to tongue and vulgarly gesture herself into the seat of success, it's a reiteration of Madonna-style trash. It also brought to mind heavy metal's misogyny and hip-hop's way of stereotyping black youth as urban savages overcome by their hormones, males and females too hot to wait.

Cyrus and her ilk sell the same thing: not content or depth, only mud, paranoia and shallow self-righteousness, shaped for profit.

On our polluted American island, the decline into the superficial charts the descent of our culture into the fetishistic love of lifelong childish rebellion. Follow the children to Fantasy Island, where profit rears its head over human value, featuring the "art" of the factoid deal.

That is not new. It is what made the Crockett Almanacs of the 1840s so popular, with their bigger-than-life accounts and illustrations (him, gun in hand, and one leg each astride two racing buffaloes). He served in Congress and fought Indians before dying at the Alamo in 1836. He was there defending, among other things, the Lone Star's right to resist the abolishing of slavery by the Mexican government.

This is not well known, but it is a fact, there if one wants to know.

Maybe O'Reilly is right about the too far right, that correcting a factoid lets them claim some sort of integrity. That may be beyond the Donald and the others, and we'll be grimly amused to see their followers turn away as they crash and burn, if so.

On our polluted American island, the decline into the superficial charts the descent of our culture into the fetishistic love of lifelong childish rebellion.

Stanley Crouch is a nationally syndicated columnist with King Features. Email: crouch.stanley@gmail.com.

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