Monday, June 21, 2010

Rightists outraged at select quotes from Ebert’s oil spill post

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Dead oil-clogged birds
Dead oil-clogged birds

One thing that’s seemingly endemic to most right-wing bloggers is their tendency to find a nugget they can sink their teeth into, disregarding the rest of the quotes and articles they point to in the (apparently well-founded) hopes that none of their readers will realize how completely contradictory they are. Here’s the latest example: Roger Ebert recently posted a blog entry on the subject of the Gulf/BP oil spill where he recited the uncomfortable truth: that no-one knows what the hell to do about it. He also mentioned all the squawking from the Right about President Obama’s supposed “lack of response” and how he doesn’t appear to be “angry” enough, and spelled it out to them how disingenuous and facile it is to pin the blame on the President as though he were a bloody oil well technician, or as though he could just fly in and solve everything, or as though he and his administration weren’t dealing with what is now an ever-worsening disaster on a scale and complexity level that’s far beyond what anyone ever imagined would happened, let alone what they prepared for.

Naturally, this sort of “stop pinning everything on Obama” discourse didn’t sit well with many Rightists, for whom blaming Obama for all the ills in America (and more) has become their primary M.O.. Chris Yogerst at Big Hollywood, one of Andrew Breitbart’s collection of typical Left-blaming conservative blogs, is particularly peeved at Ebert for his mindless politicized defense of President Obama and his complete lack of caring for the Gulf disaster. Or, at least, that’s what he makes it sound like what Ebert thinks, considering how his response consists of a few select citations from Ebert’s post that border on quote-mining in how he uses them to deliberately portray Ebert’s stance as someone who’s just trying to push a Leftist agenda in waving off Rightists’ attacks at Obama without giving a damn about the ailing Gulf. If only he’d actually read the rest of Ebert’s post or something. Or, more likely, had been honest enough to quote the parts that completely and clearly contradicted his moronic accusations. From the top:

I hate to say this, but Spike Lee was right. We need to “go off” about this oil spill. The slow response is unacceptable at best. Unfortunately, film critic Roger Ebert didn’t listen to Lee’s advice to Obama and is instead the latest apologist for the lack of government response in the Gulf.

And thus, the tone for the rest of Yogerst’s piece has been set. You’d also better get used to his weird and numerous references to Spike Lee, as though a random film director’s comments on such an event were anything noteworthy. For the record, I don’t know much about Lee, though a quick perusal of his Wikipedia page seems to reveal a history of foot-in-mouth syndrome from what I can tell, but I doubt he has much credibility or authority on the matter of an ecological catastrophe.

Roger Ebert (left) and wife Chaz
Roger Ebert (left) and wife Chaz

Ebert appears to be comfortable with the idea of doing absolutely nothing. When you convince yourself that there is no answer and disaster is inevitable, I suppose it helps justify your lack of interest in the crisis. We are lucky that there are actually people who won’t give up and continue to desperately try to save the Gulf (see Bobby Jindal and Kevin Costner).

Like Obama did in his last address, Ebert shows little or no remorse for the environment at stake and instead uses this disaster to push a different agenda. This week in the Chicago Sun-Times Ebert expresses his frustration with criticism from the Right:

Obama is under relentless attack now from the Right. That’s a great help. I have been arguing in his defense, asking, please, what can he do to “handle” the crisis? We are told he hasn’t seemed “concerned” enough. He flies to the Gulf states for his fourth trip and is attacked for having a goddamn ice cream cone. He expresses concern. He says he’s mad. He gives a speech from the Oval Office in which he comes up with no answers because there are none.

No, Obama comes up with zero answers because he refuses to stop campaigning. You can say you wish something could be done all you want, but that doesn’t help, either. We need people who will actually do something. Most people aren’t mad because he went to the Gulf and ate ice cream, they are mad because he continuously “acts” like he is going to make a difference instead of actually doing so. We know it is bad when even Spike Lee sees Obama’s lack of interest.

With all this postulating from the Right about how Obama is doing nothing fast, Ebert’s response that there simply aren’t any answers at the moment is exactly the reason why it seems like not much is being done. Despite the Right’s apparent idealism, you can’t do much if you simply don’t know how to tackle the issue at hand. You can’t build a house without schematics. You can’t start a bank without knowing anything about finances. And you can’t hope to deal with a manmade disaster on the scale of the one in the Gulf if you were never prepared for anything so large and complex. He claims that Obama isn’t even trying; wherein I then paraphrase from Ebert himself: “What would you do, you accusatory smartass?” (Yeah, that last bit’s mine, but damned if it isn’t fitting.)

Instead, Ebert echoes Obama by ignoring the crisis at hand and tells us the only thing that can be done:

There’s obviously only one remedy: An energy revolution. We must reduce consumption and develop clean energy alternatives. We try to avoid this overwhelming fact.

Just like the current administration, Ebert wants to ignore the crisis and exploit this crisis to discuss future “revolutions” while our Gulf goes to hell in a hand basket. Replace the oil with a clean energy, fine. I agree, change is probably good in the long run, but why don’t we start by stopping the leak and changing the Gulf back into the beautiful environment it once was? It’s not too late; Ebert’s defeatist attitude is exactly what will guarantee the worst for the Gulf if the same is kept up by our government.

And here, his dishonesty is just flagrant. He takes that short quote and frames it as to make it sound like Ebert really is just trying to politicize the issue, as if he had any reason or interest in doing so. However, if you read Ebert’s actual piece in its entirety, you’ll find that he was not just saying what amounts to, “So, what’s the solution to the biggest ecological disaster in US history? Go green and vote liberal!”. He was merely stating the plain truth, as follows:

The fact is, we need oil. The world is running out. It costs us our treasure to buy it from the Middle East. So we drill off our shores and spend our treasure instead with multinational corporations.Why isn't that our oil? Much of the Middle East dislikes us. Corporations are worse. They don't care. Most modern corporations are managed with three goals in mind: Profits, dividends, and executive bonuses.

No modern American president can afford to halt offshore drilling. We liberals mocked Sarah Palin's "drill, baby, drill!" because she wanted to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If there's anything liberals love more than Sarah Palin does, it's wildlife. Obama called for restraints on offshore drilling, but we see no sign of him doing that. Can he? The globe's oil resources are finite, but much more finite is the U.S. ability to increase its debt.

There's obviously only one remedy: An energy revolution. We must reduce consumption and develop clean energy alternatives. We try to avoid this overwhelming fact. By "we," I don't mean North America, but most of the world, specifically including China and India. In America, we can't even spend money on new energy without lobbyists making sure the money is spent with the right people in the right ways. The ethanol bubble is an example of that. We need to grow more corn no more than we need to burn more oil. [previously quoted excerpt italicized]

“Big Oil”
“Big Oil”

And thus the disingenuousness in Yogerst’s framing becomes obvious. Ebert wasn’t saying that it’s now time for Americans to forsake oil and turn to the greenies for solutions. He’s simply saying that the whole of human civilization itself needs solutions that actually work (referring to the crap that is the ethanol mistake/hoax), yet that in the meantime, we also absolutely need our oil to function as a modern society where everything from our energy and transportation to our clothes has roots in petroleum.

It takes an asshat of a royal caliber to take that and distort and frame it as to make it sound as though Ebert were merely playing political games. There is no “exploiting” going on, least of all by a third party such as Ebert, who has no real say in, and no concrete ties to, whatever happens in the Gulf. Showing pictures of oil-soaked animals and laying out the simple (yet also inconvenient) truth about humans being dependent to oil the same way junkies are dependent on their regular fixes is not advancing an agenda. It’s just being honest, nothing more.

And finally, we get this bit of bullshit:

The truth is the Ebert and the power in Washington don’t really care about the Gulf, wildlife or otherwise. It’s an agenda thing, check out PETA’s homepage. You would think they would be all over this oil spill trying to save animals in danger but instead we are asked to vote for the “sexiest vegetarian celebrities,” now isn’t that courageous?

Wow. It takes either serious delusions or equally serious amounts of just being a dishonest asshole to actually (and so openly) compare the Left to PETA and make it sound like PETA is representative of liberals in general. It’s well known how pathologically and unrepentantly self-centered and downright hypocritical PETA is – just check out the usefully-titled Peta Kills Animals website for starters – and to mention them as though most liberals were all such narrow-minded morons truly is the height of insulting. Really, Yogerst, all I can say is: go fuck yourself with that high horse you rode in on.

(via @ebertchicago)