Revenge Of The Nerds

>> Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm not even sure whether or not I'm supposed to feel insulted, because I don't even understand what's been said. But I'm starting at the end, I should rewind.

It appears that some fellow at Daily Kos decided to insinuate that an anecdote Senator McCain relates from his days in a prisoner-of-war camp is extremely similar to an incident related by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago. Which is one of those "okay, whatever" kinds of things, as far as I'm concerned: Senator McCain's account might well be true (it seems like the kind of thing that could happen to just about any prisoner anywhere at any time, really), and even if it's not, it turns out I just don't actually care that much. The Senator says that while he was a POW, a guard etched the sign of the cross in the dirt, which I suppose means he'll balance military spending or has a plan to stabilize Afghanistan now that another pigeon has come to shit on our heads with Pervez Musharraf's resignation in Pakistan. What am I supposed to say? I respect the sacrifices Senator McCain made for his country forty years ago, and I think it's a tough break he had to endure so much serving his country in a war it never should have been in--but it's increasingly hard for me to see what his service has to do with his suitability for elected office. And if he did (or didn't) meet a fellow Christian in the person of a guard, so what of that? So there were Christians in Vietnam--well no shit, that's one of the things that caused us so much trouble to start with--am I missing the point here?

I mean, the only possible significance of Senator McCain's anecdote that I can come up with--true or not--is that it's an emotional appeal to the kinds of people who have a blind emotional reaction to that kind of thing. Significantly, these are the same people who don't really give a crap what Daily Kos says about anything and who aren't going to have their eyes dried by any amount of proof if the story really is untrue, and how would you prove that, anyway? (Parenthetically, there are a lot of people who don't really give a crap about the Kos--I'm a kneejerk liberal and this latest dustup was the first time I've looked at the Kos in recent memory--and I linked into it from a Republican webpage.)

So, anyway: there's this whole thing about a story which might be true and if it isn't it's not like somebody's going to come up with a videotape of Senator McCain's daughter accepting flowers from a North Vietnamese prison guard while Sinbad and Sheryl Crow hang out nearby. But of course the Republicans, naturally, have to reply, a task apparently assigned to Michael Goldfarb at the McCain website--and this is what actually inspired this post and my confusion; Goldfarb writes:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement [emphasis added], but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others. John McCain has often said he witnessed a thousand acts of bravery while he was imprisoned, and though not every one has been submitted into the public record, they are remembered by the men who were there (one such only recently reported by Karl Rove though it escaped mention in any of Senator McCain's books). But as Swindle said, this is a "desperate group of people trying to make something out of nothing."

Now wait just a damn minute... I resent the hell out of that. I think. Do I?

First of all, I have never resided in a basement, and the only gamers I can think of who ever did reside in basements were not living with their mothers, and indeed were renting or subletting the spaces in question (one of them was in college at the time). But I kid--this is mock indignation; more to the point, what the hell? I don't even understand where that came from, and not even from some kind of biased, gamer, played-Dungeons And Dragons-most-of-my-life point-of-view. I mean, I can construct this convoluted explanation--I think Mr. Goldfarb is trying to call the pundits and shitslingers at Kos nerds, but my brain kind of hurts when I try to stretch it around his... point... or whatever the hell it is.

I don't know, have I been insulted? As a liberal? As a self-confessed nerd and geek? As a gamer who's spent plenty of time behind the screen and blogged about D&D? I don't even know.

This reminds me of nothing more than Karl Rove's bizarre characterization/dis of Senator Obama as a popular dude making fun of him at a country club. The smell it gives off is desperation mixed with cluelessness and self-projection (I imagine this smell is identical to the odor of decomposing vinyl that builds up inside an old car that's been parked for awhile). When one read Mr. Rove's comments, one's first reaction was bafflement (how many people go to country clubs?) and one's second reaction was pity, since Mr. Rove was clearly describing an incident (gawkily walking into a country club where he didn't fit in and being made fun of by a cool dude with a hot girlfriend) that had happened to him at least once in his life. (Possibly more--I mean, look at the guy. He's exactly the sort of man who would go to a country club and actually give a shit about everyone there looking down on him.) Similarly, Mr. Goldfarb triggers two reactions: a what? followed by the impression that Mr. Goldfarb is a bit insecure. One wonders if he was one of those jocks who liked to terrorize us nerds in junior high, or whether he still fears he will be outed as a secret geek and dreads the prospect of having to move in with his mom.

Oh, the imponderables.

In any case, we now have an insight into the McCain campaign's new strategy: they apparently want to recast the election in terms of the legendary college rivalry between the fraternities Alpha Beta and Lambda Lambda Lambda. I can see the similarities: Lambda Lambda Lambda had strong ties to the African-American community and the Alpha Betas had a lot of members who were sorta dumb. What the McCain campaign may be missing, though, is that in the end the Alpha Betas were clear losers to the vastly more intelligent and cooler "tri-Lambs," who successfully stole the lead Alpha Beta's girlfriend and kicked the Alphas out of their home (which the Alphas originally obtained by theft and by blatantly rigging the appeals system--ye gods, the ceaseless similarities continue to confound and amaze!). In other words, I suspect this new strategy is doomed to failure: we nerds are much better with computers and music and possess strong bedroom skills despite our obvious difficulties getting laid, and Republicans who keep fighting the last war are liable to end up in history's dustbin.


MWT Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 7:44:00 PM EDT  

Hmmm. I think he was trying to call us losers. We should probably be outraged. Shouldn't we? Hmmm.

MWT Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 7:46:00 PM EDT  

I wonder if all the roleplayers serving in the armed forces are outraged.

(There are a lot of them...)

Jim Wright Friday, August 22, 2008 at 11:42:00 AM EDT  

Well, I'm not a gamer - not since high school when I played Ogre and GEV and the occasional round of Rail Tycoon - but even so, I think I'm insulted. Sort of. Maybe. Ok, not really, when I consider the source.

I saw the bit about the McCain/Solzhenitsyn comparison somewhere, not the Kos, and thought, meh, so?

As a veteran myself, my personal spin on McCain's service and status as a POW is, big fucking deal. My spin on his status as a pious Christian is the same. So what? How do either of these things qualify him to lead the country? I'm not saying they disqualify him, but specifically how does being a veteran and a Christian make him a better or worse leader than his opposition? Frankly I'm a hell of a lot more concerned about his age. My dad is the same age, and we don't leave him alone in the kitchen unsupervised. Seriously.

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