Charlie Sykes was in high-whine victim mode last week after he was called to task by the Interfaith Council of Greater Milwaukee for re-posting a so-called "parody" of a popular bumper sticker by fellow nut-job Tom McMahon on his vanity blog. The week-long episode featured all of the usual wing-nut defense mechanisms – double standards, attacks on the innocent messenger, lies about those concerned, complaints of "political correctness", etc. In the end, Milwaukee’s Teflon Charlie moves on to the next outrage, with the full blessing of the cowardly Journal Company.
McMahon – a minor player in the kook-right cheddarsphere – took the religious icons that make the word "COEXIST" in the bumper sticker and stuck in a hammer-and-sickle for the "e" and a swastika in place of the Star of David. The idea by McMahon (who Sykes strangely calls "brilliant" in his re-post) is apparently that those who believe in coexistence among people of different faiths are silly and would also choose coexistence over confrontation with Communism and Naziism. This is what passes for humor on the right-wing lunatic fringe. Get it? Ha ha. Ha.
Sykes – who rarely writes more than a couple of sentences, filling up his vanity site with e-mails from his favorite Republicans, Scott Walker and David Clarke, and links to dreck like McMahon, Jessica McBride and the strangely omnipresent Owen Robinson – took most of the heat for McMahon’s juvenile production because of his high mainstream radio (MSR) profile and his corporate sponsor, Journal Communications. After the Interfaith Council wrote to his employer asking that the post be deleted, Sykes basically told the distinguished group of clergy to stick it. Journal Communications, which pretends to be a good corporate citizen, stuck up for their fair-haired wing-nut. "I stand by Charlie’s response," said Sykes’ chief enabler, station GM Jon Schweitzer, who has presided over the transition of TMJ into an all-right-wing-all-the-time GOP propaganda vehicle.
Sykes’ response to the Council was remarkable for its smug sense of pretended outrage and disrespect for the Interfaith Council’s usually uncontroversial membership of reverends, rabbis and priests. Playing the "I come from a Jewish family" card, Sykes waxes indignant about the letter’s accurate description of the parody and the Council’s more-than-legitimate complaint that putting a swastika in the place of a Star of David as particularly offensive. He repeatedly calls the Council members "ignorant", accuses them of "bullying" and even summons up a self-righteous "shame on you". As such recklessly offensive wing-nuts always do when they get caught, Sykes wants to pose for holy pictures on the subject of anti-Semitism. "I have consistently spoken out against anti-Semitism and have been a strong supporter of Israel," and blah blah blah. Well, when it’s convenient for him anyway. He also slings more than a little straw-man mud, calling the Council to task because they supposedly failed to protest "this particular tactic when it has been used by the left," without mentioning that such a thing has never happened.
But Sykes’ primary point in his written response and during the long woe-is-me blabbering on his radio show on Wednesday appears to be that his posting of offensive nonsense on his vanity blog is a "flagrant act of free speech" and he gets to do it and you can’t stop him and na-na-na-boo-boo. "It is free speech that provokes more free speech," he says from his imaginary moral mountaintop. Except when someone disagrees with him, of course. Sykes and his ilk are more than willing to use whatever bully tactics they can to shut down speech at a festival in San Francisco that dares to be held near a Catholic church or to demand that professors who get out of line be fired.
Aw, poor Charlie – for all of his sanctimonious posturing about what anyone else might say, he is so put out by anyone who would dare hold him (or his employer) responsible for his own stupid statements. He declares the Council’s request as an attempt at censorship, conveniently forgetting that only governments censor. There is nothing wrong with concerned citizens who are understandably offended by the in-your-face dancing wing-nuts to ask their employers to get a grip and to avoid unnecessary offense.
Although fully ensconced in his knowing sanctimony and his cozy corporate cocoon, Sykes showed a bit of defensiveness by calling out the usual gang of idiots to offer tactical and predictable support and made sure he summarized all of it in a long post on Thanksgiving Friday. Always-helpful right-wing Marquette professor John McAdams did the dirty work of attacking the Interfaith Council itself for its apparently offensive social agenda of feeding the poor, health care for all and other traditionally religious concerns and for not clearing its members with Nut-Right Inc. Talk about "politically incorrect". The attack-the-messenger-to-get-the-focus-off-the-message tactic is standard stuff for the win-at-all-costs wing-nuts when they can’t win on the underlying issue, which is always. Rick Esenberg likewise gets into his defense-of-the-indefensible mode. Jessica McBride hilariously claims Sykes was being "phony soldiered", meaning, in her usual pretend-world, that lefties were "victimizing" Sykes the same way they supposedly "victimized" Limbaugh when he called all anti-war soldiers "phony". The only thing similar between the two flare-ups is that Limbaugh really did say the offensive thing that we said he did and Sykes really did sign on to an offensive parody. Lefties and Democratic politicians get hammered by wing-nuts through their echo chamber all day, everyday for things they said and didn’t say. But try to parse something out of their stupid mouths and you get more victimhood-squealing than anything the left has ever put together. Note to Sykes: Read your own books, especially the parts about false victimhood, being offended at every little challenge to yourself and excessive whining.
The bottom line on this whole imbroglio is that Sykes, McMahon and all their various defenders are, shockingly, against coexistence. "...there are some things – evils -- that we cannot simply ‘coexist with.’ These would include Communism and Nazism," writes Sykes. Fine, and the COEXIST sticker implies nothing like that, but that’s not the point of the parody. The point of the parody was that McMahon’s "lefties in Madison" whose cars bear the COEXIST sticker (by the way, there are plenty of them around here) are a bunch of naive nincompoops who are silly to think that we should all at least try to get along – or "sing Kumbaya", as Sykes puts it. To these deluded few, Islam - the faith of billions that happens to include a small minority of violent nut-bags - is the enemy. They prefer permanent war to peace – and a holy war, at that. That's the real shame and the real scandal. Stomping your feet and holding your breath until you turn blue about "free speech" and "political correctness" doesn’t change the fact that you are just plain wrong.
P.S.: And what is so bad about Kumbaya, anyway? It happens to be a great summer camp sing-along, and a religious one at that (Someone’s praying Lord...). I’ll take that over Lee Greenwood’s pathetic "God Bless the USA" (I always wondered about this: "where at least I know I’m free." "At least"? It’s like he’s miserable but "at least..." The guy seems to have other issues, does he not?). I think one response to this should be that more people get the COEXIST sticker and put it on their car. I get my favorite bumper stickers here in Milwaukee at the Peace Action of Wisconsin office in Riverwest, at 1001 E. Keefe.