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Obama’s Health Care Comedy Tour

If humor is built on exaggeration, Obama's defense of ObamaCare should be hilarious.

by
Duane Lester

Bio

April 10, 2010 - 12:00 am

George Carlin once said, “I believe you can joke about anything. It just depends how you construct the joke, what the exaggeration is. Every joke needs one exaggeration; every joke needs one thing out of proportion.”

That’s really the key to humor. The exaggeration.

On March 25, President Obama began his American Health Care Comedy Tour in Iowa City, Iowa. In his speech, he spoke about the fears vocalized by those opposed to health care reform:

There’s been plenty of fear-mongering, plenty of overheated rhetoric. You turn on the news, you’ll see the same folks are still shouting about there’s going to be an end of the world because this bill passed. (Laughter.) I’m not exaggerating. Leaders of the Republican Party, they called the passage of this bill “Armageddon.” (Laughter.) Armageddon. “End of freedom as we know it.”

So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there any — (laughter) — asteroids falling or — (applause) — some cracks opening up in the Earth. (Laughter.) It turned out it was a nice day. (Laughter.) Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall. People still have their doctors.

The crowd of Obama myrmidons found this to be hilarious. Obama nailed Carlin’s rule. While Rep. John Boehner did refer to the passage of the health care bill as “Armageddon,” clearly he wasn’t referring to the total destruction of the Earth. No one was saying that. That’s the exaggeration.  He took the concerns of those against the Democrats’ “reform” and blew them way out of proportion.

On April 1, Obama again repeated the asteroid joke, but added a new bit to his standup:

Every single day since I signed the reform law, there’s been another poll or headline that said “Nation still divided on health care reform — polls haven’t changed yet!”

We’ll yeah. It just happened last week. It’s only been a week!

Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm? They planted some seeds and they came out next day and they looked “Nothings happened! There’s no Crop! We’re gonna starve! Oh NO! It’s a disaster!”

It’s been a week folks. So before we find out if people like health care reform, we should wait to see what happens when we actually put it into place. Just a thought.

If he is writing this comedy, he’s good.

It’s interesting to note that in one comedic bit, he’s saying nothing negative happened after he signed it and the concerns of the opposition were therefore foolish. Yet in another bit, he says it’s foolish to think that anything positive would really happen this soon after signing it. He’s essentially saying: “See. Nothing bad happened. You guys are idiots.” Then he follows this up with: “What did you expect? Rainbows and unicorns right out of the gate? This thing hasn’t even really started yet, so nothing good is going to happen for a while. But when it does, you’ll love it.”

There seems to be a pretty big flaw in his logic. How can he honestly say bad things aren’t going to happen with this health care reform when he openly admits it hasn’t been fully implemented yet?

The answer is, he doesn’t have to. This isn’t about logic or forming a coherent argument. This is about ridicule, “man’s most potent weapon.”

Those are the words of the granddaddy of community organizers, Saul Alinsky. In his book Rules for Radicals, Alinsky wrote: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

On this, he’s right. Ridicule is a very potent weapon. In his book Fighting the War of Ideas like Real War: Messages to Defeat the Terrorists, J. Michael Waller explains why ridicule is such an effective weapon against one’s enemies:

  • It sticks;
  • The target can’t refute it;
  • It is almost impossible to repress;
  • It spreads on its own and multiplies with each re-telling;
  • It boosts morale at home;
  • Our enemy shows far greater intolerance to ridicule than we;
  • Ridicule divides the enemy, damages its morale, and makes it less attractive to supporters and prospective recruits; and
  • The ridicule-armed warrior need not fix a physical sight on the target. Ridicule will find its own way to the targeted individual. To the enemy, being ridiculed means losing respect. It means losing influence. It means losing followers and repelling potential new backers.

By mocking the concerns of the opposition, Obama rebrands them as fools. He puts his opponents on the defensive. While they spend time trying to use sound logic and facts to refute Obama’s claims, he simply shrugs it off and moves on to the next joke.

Rather than try to refute Obama’s ridicule, Republicans leaders need to help every other American worried about health care reform recognize that he is ridiculing them as well.

Polling shows that after just a week, over half of Americans want the health care bill repealed.

Obama is mocking them.

Nearly 50 percent think the new plan will lower the quality of health care.

Obama is mocking them.

Over 80 percent feel the plan will fail to lower the cost of health care.

Obama is mocking them.

A majority of people think the plan will increase the cost.

Obama is mocking them.

The purpose of Obama’s tone is to neutralize all opposition. If he can intimidate people into not speaking out because they fear being ridiculed, he makes his propaganda campaign that much easier. His American Health Care Comedy Tour is as much about shutting people up as it is about firing up his base. He tames one while galvanizing another.

The opponents of tyranny have to recognize this tactic and neutralize it by shining a light on his contempt for the everyday American’s strongly held beliefs. In this instance, Obama’s greatest strength, his ability to communicate, can be used against him.

Duane Lester is a freelance writer and homeschool dad for his six children. He also blogs at All American Blogger.
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