Hurray for P.J. or Islands in the Sea of Madness
Hurray for P.J. or Islands in the Sea of Madness
By Mike Tomano
February 21, 2022
© 2022 Fossil Entertainment Group
The Free Thinker dancing on the fringe of society. Endangered species. Rare breed. The White Buffalo of humanity. You know the ones. The Challengers of the Norm, who raise fist and point finger at the conniving crowned madmen. The Interrogators of The Establishment, who cast arrows into the hearts of hypocrites and slice the tongues of liars. The Throwers of Bricks through opaque windows in quest for transparency. The Unchained Minds of Restless Hearts cast upon The Sea of Madness that crashes tidal waves of confusion upon the zombified hordes fettered to propagated narrative and clandestine agenda.
Asea, are we.
Some drown. Others survive to thrive and paddle to deserted islands, their sage messages in bottles sent adrift toward the dystopian madness in hopes of slapping logic and truth back into reality one lost soul at a time. My people. The Unrepentant Polemicists, for whom the reward of thinking for oneself far outweighs the comfort of blind conformity. The precious few to whom selling soul for safety is never an option.
Hail The Outsiders! We need them. While history shows this is not the worst chapter in our nation’s, or planet’s, history, it can be hardly be denied the description of weirdest. And, as the good doctor Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” We, as a collective society and global family, are homing in on perfection of weirdness. A world-wide bow should be scheduled. Participation trophies all around!
Free-thinking transcends political allegiance. Every Conservative, Liberal, Socialist, Lefty, Right-Winger, Progressive Democrat, staunch Republican, Independent, or any member of the ever-bickering More-Libertarian-Than-Thou *(see tangent adjacent to paragraph) sect realizes they can either call-out hypocrisy or choose to ignore it. What cannot be denied is that we recognize it. The rampant implementation of “Whataboutism” prevalent in public debate bears proof.
Kind of goes like this:
“Your guy did this!”
“Oh, well, your guy did that!”
“Typical liberal double standard!”
“What are you talking about?”
“What the f -, I’m black!”
“That’s simply not true.”
“It’s been debunked. It never happened.”
“I’m not listening to your Communist bullshit!”
“How ‘bout I kick your snowflake ass?”
*(Tangent: First rule of The Libertarian Party: Never define The Libertarian Party! Although, if I were held at guillotine to label my political stances, they would lean fundamentally “Libertarian,” as I’m far too liberal to be Leftist and far too conservative to be Republican. But can I truly be a Libertarian without a giant mustache?)
You can hashtag “metoo” all you want, but when you dismiss Tara Reade’s allegations toward Biden, your “believe all women” mantra loses credibility.
You can scream “antisemitism!” at Maus being removed from classrooms (albeit where Holocaust history is still taught), but when you applaud and promote censorship of dissenting content from podcasts and social media, your anti-censorship stance has no legs.
In a perfect world, we would also stop taking things out of context.
Did we not learn anything from MY COUSIN VINNY?
“When’d you shoot him?
“At what point did you shoot the clerk?”
“I shot the clerk?”
“Yes. When did you shoot him?”
“I shot the clerk?”
When Hillary Clinton uttered the infamous line, “What difference does it make?” in the wake of the Benghazi attacks, her foes were quick to jump on it, claiming, out of context, that she was insinuating the lives lost were inconsequential.
The truth is indeed what became inconsequential.
In a 2013 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Republican Senator Ron Johnson asked her about the cause of the attack. Hillary got pissed at the Senator’s questioning and shot back, “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d go kill some Americans. What difference at this point does it make?”
The context didn’t stop her detractors, including Donald Trump, who cited the quote in debates.
In August of 2017, hundreds gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the decision by city officials to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee from public display. As is wont to occur during such events, mayhem ensued. Protestors clashed with supporters, ending with the vehicular homicide of Heather D. Heyer and injury to two others. Donald Trump, never known for articulation or clarity, stated there were “very fine people on both sides” of the issue regarding removal of the statue.
Broadcast and social media exploded, with bipartisan condemnation of Trump’s words. He later clarified that the people he referred to were not the tiki-torch carrying white supremacist lunatics and condemned racism. Poorly worded, yes, but to believe Trump deemed Nazis “fine people” is ridiculous. Some of us understood that. Millions didn’t. It didn’t stop Biden from citing it.
Seemingly, context is moot when it comes to “winning” one for your side. It’s sad. Having been raised to apply critical thinking, I find our current shark-feeding frenzy of straight-up making shit up just to land a blow on the “other side” a pathetic trait of our culture, and a toxic threat to our future.
We’ve reached the point where allegiance to political parties is akin to sports-team fanaticism. Lies are accepted currency in the marketplace of ideas. Cognitive dissonance and selective outrage rule the day. We’re in sad shape.
Welcome to 2022. Debate is futile. Nuanced conversation has been replaced by violent psychotic reaction. “Freedom” is a trigger word. And P.J. O’Rourke is dead.
P.J. O’Rourke entered my teenaged life at the peak of my obsession with the comedy institution National Lampoon. He served as the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief for a time and authored some of its most uproariously funny and brilliantly titled articles, including “How to Drive Fast On Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink.”
P.J. O’Rourke was hired by publisher Matty Simmons in 1972. He met Simmons shortly after arriving in Manhattan, carrying with him goals of becoming a poet or novelist. By the time he left the publication at the end of the decade, his work was legendary.
Like National Lampoon’s other contributors, O’Rourke was fearless. He was a writer for their stage show, Lemmings, a scathing satire on the shallowness of Woodstock. The musical send-up put future superstars John Belushi, Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase on the nation’s comedy radar. He and fellow Lampoon genius Doug Kenney coauthored the brilliant 1964 High School Yearbook Parody.
P.J. O’Rourke was a practitioner of “gonzo journalism”, a style injecting the author’s first-person view into the story being reported. Hunter S. Thompson would lead the way in the gonzo movement with his classics Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell’s Angels. O’Rourke, like Thompson and Tom Wolfe, reported from the ground, eschewing press conferences or prepared statements, opting instead for public views and sentiment.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, P.J.’s political bent could be considered Conservative-Libertarian or, depending on day and mood, Libertarian-Conservative. His leanings never persuaded his balance of thought. He knew, “Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit,” and held each office holder accountable, regardless of party.
He despaired of our nation’s proclivity to elect clowns and its growing affinity for big government. Above all, he championed individual liberty and responsibility of actions, noting “no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”
In addition to National Lampoon, O’Rourke contributed articles to Rolling Stone, as international affairs correspondent, as well as writing for Atlantic Monthly and other major publications. His quick wit and sardonic demeanor served him as a regular on NPR’s game show, “Wait...Wait...Don’t Tell Me!”
I loved having P.J. as a guest on my radio show. Our off-air chats often lasted longer than the allotted interview length. He made me laugh. He made me think. He made me want to be better at what I do. He urged me to carry on through adversity and remain vigilant under cloud of doubt. A kindred spirit.
He said what he believed and did so brilliantly. He published 16 books in his lifetime, each a treasure trove of provocative commentary and razor-sharp wit. The Forbes Media Guide Five Hundred, 1994 described O’Rourke’s “original reporting, irreverent humor, and crackerjack writing” as “delectable reading.”
P.J. O’Rourke put the ugly truth on display and on trial. The type of ugly truth that threatens comfort zones. He knew we were being scammed. He knew the game was rigged. He waged war on hypocrisy. He was a patriot, without being a puppet. A fine American, indeed.
His witticisms and insights are good fuel for anyone with a brain yet to be bought, sold, and controlled.
P.J. O’Rourke will continue to live on through his work and, for me, as a source of great words I wish I’d wrote:
“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”
“You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.”
“If you think health car is expensive now, just wait ‘til it’s free.”
“If government were a product, selling it would be illegal.”
“Political leaders are expert at saying nothing.”
“Once you’ve built the machinery of political power, remember you won’t always be the one to run it.”
“Something that confirms all fears and many conspiracy theories about government is finding out what our elected representatives would put into law if they could.”
- Patrick Jake O’Rourke, November 14, 1947 – February 15, 2022
In a time when we cannot afford to, we’ve lost another valuable mind. RIP, P.J.