As an out-and-out liberal, I am celebrating the events of this week by doing not much different. Laundry still needs folded, the sink still fills up with dishes with astonishing speed, and Community is still not back. While I’m delighted by Tuesday’s absolute refutation of the GOP and their backwards, nonsensical way of governing, watching the election coverage reminded me why so many people hate liberals — and why so many liberals turn down the title for the far more sanitized “progressive.” We’re smug. Sure, conservatives can be too self-satisfied as well (check out Sean Hannity on any night of the past decade). But liberals have a special tendency to believe their beliefs make them far more enlightened and fail to cover that up in their personalities. Here is a shortlist of the worst offenders.
6. Ed Schultz
Apart from being a former conservative talk radio host (he regularly made fun of the homeless and once said “I’d like to see the president get all the illegals out of the country, so we can start all over again”), he is absolutely obnoxious to listen to. With far more experience in football than politics (he was an All-American football player and signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders), his blue-collar bluster and snarling “debate” style reminds one of every argument they ever got in at a bar out of town. Liberals have often had a problem gaining a “tough guy” image that could match that of a slew of Republicans, and Ed Schultz is only one attempt to gain the attention of the Bud-drinking masses. With a face like a pound of ground beef you left in the fridge too long, he is often openly rude to his guests. On his radio show, he openly and repeatedly called Laura Ingraham a “slut” in 2009, and that probably represents the largest discord within him: Laura Ingraham is misguided and prolifically wrong, so why call her names? Calling names is for people you hate but don’t know why.
5. Thomas Friedman
Gimmicks are the last resort of either the truly boring or the truly bored. I’m undecided as to which pile New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman falls into, but I do know that if I read another article by him relying on a hackneyed metaphor, stretching it beyond the point of belief, legitimacy, or comprehensibility, I may strip that moustache off of him and wear it like a bowtie. While an intelligent figure, he makes the same mistake many educated liberals make by dumbing down his talk for a mass audience. While there is something to be said for boiling down the more wonkish bits for the layman (a la Friedman’s fellow Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman), Friedman makes one feel like they’re getting “the talk” from Mr. O’Neill from Daria. Take as an example his best-selling book The World Is Flat. It expresses what is a fantastically true and prescient point, that technology is leveling the playing field in world economics and politics. However, the way he attaches this concept of “flatness” reminds me of the media’s use of the word “viral” or my aunt’s use of the word “meme.” It’s a sad attempt to create a buzzword while misusing the very term itself. So a kid in India has the same shot as a kid in the US at making a world-wide business because both have Internet access? Try again, Friedman. Oh, and did I mention how, in 2009, he praised the political system of China, an autocratic dictatorship with literal roaming death vans and a Hunger Games-esque reality show built on interviewing and berrating death row inmates?
The website that originally compared Bush to Hitler (the kitchen-sink vestige of the desperate partisan) and had a mother beg John McCain not to send her baby to war is guilty of a crime that both liberals and conservatives — although especially libertarians — could be charged with. When you ardently believe in something, it is easy to make what you consider is the strongest argument come off as if you are solely striking fear into people. Even when I agree with them they go too far afield to make their case. You will not convince anyone to pick up your position by questioning the birth of Sarah Palin’s baby or rhyming Petraeus with “Betray Us.”
3. Jon Stewart
When I was about 11, I had a severe obsession with Battlebots, which aired on Comedy Central at 10PM. It was followed by South Park, a show I really should not have been watching at 11 years old. It was then followed by a very funny, self-effacing man with a severe hatred of Bush named Jon Stewart. Stewart likely did more to shape my early political views than just about anyone else. However, as The Daily Show gained more fame and more relevance, he became bombastic, entitled, and a bit too self-aware for his own good. In that time, when questioned about his political relevance, he plays the clown-card, citing that he is merely a comedian and nothing else. However, as his guest list now includes former and sitting world leaders and he uses his show for advocacy of political issues (albeit solid ones like veterans affairs and the health benefits of 9/11 first responders), this is becoming a harder argument to make. That, and his comedy has lost much of its sheen. How many times can we watch him go rubber mask after watching a Fox & Friends clip? His former comrade Stephen Colbert is easily surpassing him. While Stewart is still one of the best interviewers in the business, he often takes part in the same partisan hackery he famously attacked CNN for in 2004. While he makes no attempt to deny his bias, he can often reach a point of preachiness that makes his show nearly unwatchable.
2. Keith Olbermann
What I can be thankful for is Olbermann is seemingly banished from television news, going from a sportscaster position with Fox to a bloated pundit role with MSNBC to a bloated pundit role with Current TV to a bloated has-been role on Twitter, telling anyone that questions him how he counts his money. With a skin as thick as a wet paper bag, Olbermann persistently and maniacally believed his ego was the viewer’s prize itself. His idolization of Edward R. Murrow, his self-important and exaggerated “Special Comments,” and his awful sense of humor combined to make him a juggernaut of smug and the liberal equivalent of perennial “Worst Person In The World” Glenn Beck. His irrelevancy in recent years is largely due to his on-air assholishness too closely matching his demeanor with co-workers; one of the great joys of MSNBC’s 2008 election coverage was watching him attempt to argue his fairness with Chris Matthews (someone who makes no bones about his liberalism or focus on the political process alone) and Joe Scarborough (the smartest and most watchable conservative on television). Luckily, he’s tarnished himself down to tweeting about baseball games and just how fantastically he feels about himself.
Aside from his music (U2 being one of those bands it’s safe for Boomers to like mostly because it’s where he works out his messiah complex), Bono is also an avid douche. While I cannot deny him the power of his philanthropy, it’s hard not to wonder how many mosquito nets he could buy if he sold off his collection of designer aviator sunglasses. That, and his humanitarian efforts are often laughed at by charities and economists alike. Take, for example, Product Red, the vestige of every enlightened liberal in your college. Built on the idea that people love buying things for themselves more than they like changing lives, the project to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria was largely a boondoggle, with companies such as Nike, The GAP, and Apple refusing to reveal what portion of their special (RED) products would actually go to charity, not to mention they spent $100 million on advertising for the project and, five years after it’s launch, had only raised $18 million. Also, all three of those companies use foreign labor associated with sweatshops, meaning people with these horrid diseases were likely making clothing for upper-class American teenagers who believed they were actually helping to fight those same diseases. You want to support a cause? Make a direct donation and skip the fashionable t-shirt. Or let’s look at U2’s 2006 world tour for their album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, a tour more largely seen to sell his ONE campaign for international aid. The gross ticket receipts of that tour managed to hit over $448 million dollars (putting it fifth for the world’s most lucrative tour though the top spot is also held by U2 for their 2009 360 Tour which netted the band over $760 million). That’s gluttonous compared to the ONE Campaign’s 2010 earnings of $14.9 million, of which only 1% actually goes to charity (the rest is spent on employee salaries). So remember, when you see his egoistic, holier-than-thou, eternally-unshaven mug on your TV asking for money, donate to an actual charity instead of buying the latest brand because some self-styled Irish demigod told you it was cool.