The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


John Hawkins, he of Right Wing News, has compiled his list of the 40 most obnoxious quotes of 2004. You can probably guess which way they slant (for the most part). The usual suspects (certain documentary filmmakers, Korean comedians, and very, very old former TV news anchors) are aplenty.

But my question is this: To what extent does a partisan viewpoint cause someone to misunderstand (either willfully or not) the line that divides pure obnoxiousness from shrillness that carries with it either fundamental truth or a conventional partisan viewpoint that bears the sin of being from -- gasp! -- the other side?

With that in mind, let's grade the 40 quotes John has selected. We'll use good ol' public school letter-grades (except for you Banana Slugs, hehe), with an A being a quote that is universally obnoxious, and an F being a quote that either isn't obnoxious, is fundamentally true, or reveals partisan hackery from Mr Hawkins.

Here's the link again (pops up) so you can read along, as I won't reprint entire quotes here. Let's go!


#40: Howard Dean's "rebel yell" speech.
Frankly, if the American people had heard the speech, and the scream, exactly as those in the room heard it, it would be a different story. Dean's voice was largely drowned out by the enthusiasm of the crowd (made up of Deaniacs who were tired and sad after their man's 3rd place finish in Iowa), yet it was the sound-board mix which made Dean look like a loon. However, when he specifically called out Kerry and Edwards' home states back-to-back, yes, that was a little obnoxious.
TFM Grade: B

#39: Teresa Heinz Kerry, "...let the kids go naked..."
Her point about the necessity of water and food is accurate, guys. This sounds like a case of righties trying to shoe-horn a not-too-harmful quote into a preconceived narrative about Teresa, just as they love to do to her husband, to Al Gore, to Hillary, and so on. Still, the quote is silly. I find it odd that this made the list and "shove it" did not.
TFM Grade: C-

#38: "Go balloons! Go balloons!" from CNN's Dem Convention coverage.
Didn't we all love that? Sure, he was yelling and all, but obnoxious? Producers of live TV events like political conventions and award shows are notoriously high-strung, so stuff like that is a given. It was CNN's fault for thinking that sticking a mic on the guy was a good idea. Stupid? Yes. Obnoxious? Nah.
TFM Grade: D

#37: Andrew Sullivan.
Well, Lott and Zell were there, right? And Lott is still a Senator, and has been chairing the Rules Committee since 03, right? Kidding aside, there is a deeper reason to why Sully said that. Take a wild guess as to what he was talking about. The only reason this isn't an F is because of a rhetorical distinction: The Dixiecrats went out and said "segregation", while the anti-gay GOP dresses up their homophobia with phrases like "moral values" and "protecting the sanctity of marriage". Some hatreds don't go away, they just morph and become more subtle over time.
TFM Grade: D+

#36: MoDo.
I don't tend to read her that much, because for an op-ed columnist in a leading paper, her writing leaves me with an empty stomach. So part of me says, yeah, go after her, see if I care. Then again, if you're taking a comment about the Rapture seriously, then give me a break.
TFM Grade: D

#35: MCA, aka Adam Yauch, of the Beastie Boys.
Well, Adam has done more addressing the plight of others than Hawkins has. But yes, "putting Americans ahead of others" is a value difference between Americans like me and Americans like Hawkins, so from his viewpoint, that would come across as obnoxious. But then again, John's thinking is the same thinking that willfully misunderstands stuff like Kerry's "global test" for mere partisan gain.
TFM Grade: C+

#34: Margaret Cho.
A joke. Yes, a shrill joke, but a joke nonetheless.
TFM Grade: C+

#33: Al Gore.
Now, this one's just true. This one's on the list because, hey, it stung.
TFM Grade: D-

#32: MoDo again. Come on, man!
John's upset because Maureen said Americans chose a theocracy. Fine, it's shrill, or obnoxious, or whatever. Have a cookie. The whole rampant-lesbianism-and-drug-running-in-the-White-House thing that conservatives bellowed about in the 90's is the sister-obnoxious-comment to this.
TFM Grade: A-

#31: "Hitlery Klintoon"'s lone appearance on the list.
Uh, Hil, I love you and all, but this wasn't exactly the best issue-framing you've ever done. Cancelling Bush's tax giveaways that have yet to occur is neither a "tax increase" nor taking anything away from anyone. Sometimes being surrounded by an audience that understands this can cause a person to strip the polish from their rhetoric.
TFM Grade: B+

#30: Dick Cheney's "Go fuck yourself".
On the Senate floor, no less. Yes, this is obnoxious. I loved that Brit Hume interview a couple days later, when ol Big-time said "it was something that really needed to be said", and Brit nodded appreciatively.
TFM Grade: A

#29: Gore again.
Well, the defense of this is longer than a sentence. Everyone on all sides is taking the internet revolution and using it to pressure the media to agree with their viewpoint. The difference with the people Gore identifies, however, is that they seek to prevent the media from reporting objectively on Iraq for the sake of the administration. Still, Gore oversimplified the "mighty wurlitzer" in his quote, and it came out badly.
TFM Grade: B-

Hmm... a decent streak... let's see if it continues...

#28: Linda Ronstadt.
Sometimes I get the feeling that these guys do a Lexis-Nexis search of various Nazi terms, just to inflate these lists. Linda Ronstadt? We lefties don't need Ted Nugent to inflate our lists! So there! That said, there are better ways to make her point.
TFM Grade: A-

#27: John Kerry's "Son of a bitch" quote.
More narrative shoe-horning. This comment was made in jest. Show me a quote from the Secret Service guy saying he was upset or offended, then we'll talk.
TFM Grade: D

#26: A guy from
TFM Grade: C

#25: Paul Krugman.
Shrill? Of course, this is Krugman we're talking about. But obnoxious? Puh-leeze. Again, this one's on the list because it stings. Hard righties do, in fact, hate "multiculturalism". Where do you think this nonsense about "Christmas UNDER SIEGE" came from? (The mainstream righties went along for the ride on that one, I might add)
TFM Grade: C-

#24: Moby.
Yeah, that obnoxious prick. Doesn't he know there are other ways to do that sort of thing? You know, like "Vote this Wednesday!" fliers in urban precincts, or not printing those "Dems want to ban the Bible!" pamphlets.
TFM Grade: B

#23: Hugh Pearson.
Another Lexis-Nexis search result. I would note that the second night of the GOP convention was the night of Ahhnuld's loud, scary speech. ("FOO-UH MOO-UH YEE-UHHS!!") Pearson's point would be less salient if this wasn't the most stage-managed Presidency in American history, whether on an aircraft carrier or not.
TFM Grade: C+

#22: Wes Clark.
Wow, John Hawkins really doesn't like Nixon! This one gets filed under "shrill and partisan, but not the big O". TFM agrees with Wes, who got a raw deal in 04.
TFM Grade: D+

#21: John Edwards.
Uhh, one Presidential candidate supported more money for embryonic stem-cell research, while the other did not. Embryonic stem-cell lines carry within them the potential for treatments for spinal cord injuries, similar to that of the late Christopher Reeve. He, Michael J Fox and Ron Reagan supported Kerry. Stings! But okay, the quote in question was a tad over the top.
TFM Grade: C+


20-1 tomorrow! That's where the real fireworks will be...


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