A friend of mine sent me an email tonight with a hilarious story – did everyone see this thing about John Cusack? Just a beautiful tale about the joys of life in the age of social networking media. It used to take the commercial media at least a day or two to spread a botched news story from coast to coast, but these days, when you add new technology like Twitter to Tea Party paranoia, you can hang a black t-shirt over a web-cam and within ten minutes half of middle America thinks it's a total eclipse of the sun.
It seems Better Off Dead icon Cusack was idly tweeting yesterday and he rattled off this thing proposing the construction of a "Satanic death cult center" outside the Fox News building. The full tweet:
I AM FOR A SATANIC DEATH CULT CENTER AT FOX NEWS HQ AND OUTSIDE THE OFFICES ORDICK ARMEYAND NEWT GINGRICH-and all the GOP WELFARE FREAKS
In no time at all there were serious news stories blasting Cusack for going on a "rampage" and calling for the "Satanic death" of Newt and Dick Armey. "John Cusack Calls for 'Satanic Death' of Fox News, GOP Leaders," blared the Fox News headline. In a flash Fox was calling up academic experts who were taking this tweet that could not possibly be more obviously a joke and seriously calling it an incitement to violence. From the piece:
"His provocative tweets could easily incite a rabid fan to commit violent acts against Fox News Headquarters and others he names," said Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills-based psychiatrist and author of "Coping With Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted."
And like magic, mere minutes later, the tweets from the internet peanut gallery rolled in, with conservative readers unironically ripping Cusack for advocating violence. "Remember lefties warn that Glen B was inciting violence with his rhetoric," tweeted "Uniqname." "Didn't know he was a jihadist," wrote "Taylor Nichols."
"Calling for violence is never the answer to a disagreement, Mr. Cusack," wrote "reaperzilla." And "isn't this incitement?" wondered "Harleybubba" (I swear, I didn't make up that name).
It's not just that Fox totally (and intentionally, of course) misread Cusack's thing – there's a difference between calling for the opening of a "satanic death cult center" at Fox News and calling for the "satanic death" of Dick Armey. It's that a parade of bozo talking heads, even tenth-rate, cardboard-PhD talking-heads of the sort Fox tends to patronize, could be prevailed upon to take this nonsense seriously, and that masses of real human beings who are probably licensed to drive automobiles and may even have procreated instantly bought this as a real call to violence. Exactly how absurd do you have to be before this crowd can perceive that you're kidding about something? If Cusack had called for every registered Republican in Arkansas to be forced to wear hot asphalt underpants, would Carole Lieberman be telling people in Little Rock to lock their doors? I get that some of these folks are dying to find an example of a "liberal" inciting people to violence in the manner of oft-criticized right-wing heroes like Glenn Beck, but even taking that anxiousness into consideration, you'd have to be in virtual brain-death to take something like this seriously.
Anyway, not the biggest story in the world, but funny nonetheless. I still shudder for humanity this midterm season, but leaving the depressing real consequences of all this madness out of the equation, the humor factor of this political season promises to be extremely high.