After circling the park a few times, I came across that anarcho punk kid who dressed exactly the same way I did twenty years ago. He had a table of literature in front of him and one of the books was The Communist Manifesto. “Oi!” a gray-haired woman yelled, “What’s THAT doing there?” The kid defended the book, saying it’s just more information. She retaliated that the book did a lot of people a lot of harm. When the punk said all that was long, long ago, some old guy who had lived under Stalin leaped in and said people like him are very much alive and still angry. Things got heated, but soon they all found common ground and agreed that all change starts with the individual. They shook hands at the end and walked off better for it. I know the lady who said “Oi!” and she was a big part of the anarcho-punk movement—she had even been a member of the band on the kid’s shirt. “Why didn’t you tell him?” I asked her. “Because it’s not relevant,” she said.
The green room was filled with chairs, a big TV, and two makeup artists getting guests ready. A brassy broad named Brooke Goldstein was getting her hair done, and Greg Gutfeld was drinking coffee riffing with the rest of them, including comedian Joe DeRosa. I’m told the agenda at Fox News is to destroy anything that stands in corporate America’s way, but in this room at least, the “agenda” consisted of zinging the other guy as quickly and cruelly as possible. Brooke won.
I got the feeling the protestors were going to get lambasted, so I walked into the studio determined to defend them. The show’s guests were all around the same age, and there’s a tendency among us old dudes to trivialize youth culture as a misdirected waste of time. As I anticipated, DeRosa said protests have never changed anything. I conceded that illegal immigrants protesting the fact that they’re illegal is just begging to be arrested and that fighting for pot legalization is silly because it is basically legal. Still, I tried to convey Ian MacKaye’s sentiment: “At least they’re fucking trying.” Instead of the Fox News machine shutting me down, the host said I was starting to convince him.
I can’t speak for all of Fox’s shows and Red Eye is considered their most out-there, but I didn’t feel pressure to sculpt my comments to fit their agenda. They wanted me to be informed and as funny as possible. As with the people I met at the rally, the priority was dialogue. There seemed to be some disappointment in a liberal guest’s performance, but not because he wasn’t conservative. It’s because he didn’t talk enough.
The protestors would be shocked to learn how similar they are to the people I met at Fox. They didn’t want to ram anything down my throat. They wanted to get it all out. I enjoyed hanging out with both groups. Similarly, I see the armchair critics on the right to be just as unlikable as the dinner-party liberals. They’d rather stay at home and shake their fists from afar than step into the fray. Get in the sandbox and make a mess. Contradict yourself and change your mind. That’s why it’s there.
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