George Carlin’s brutally patriotic criticism

| September 17, 2011 | 1 Reply

The First Amendment isn’t worth a damn unless it is actually being used. If it is not being used, then politicians and their rich and powerful keepers will continue to utter long and loud streams of nonsense to financially screw the ordinary working people of America in dozens of ways. They will continue to feed us unending misinformation in order to justify their urges to wage unnecessary wars to help them retain their power. They will continue invading our houses and and minds thanks to their many stenographers in the commercial media.

Those of us who have resisted drinking much of this country’s spiked elixir of Judeo-Christian-consumerist-warmongering-bigotry know that most of what we hear our authority figures uttering, even those authority figures who we want to believe to be on our side, is flawed. Much of it substantially untrue and quite a bit of it is absolute bullshit.  I hate to be writing these words, but I’ve lost a lot of faith in the United States in the past ten years.  Misinformation pours into the living rooms and cars of Americans every day, where it too often takes root, perhaps because it is uttered by people wearing fancy suits and flag pins.

Americans need an antidote to this unending poison. They need the kinds of people who can effectively challenge these messages and messengers–someone who not only can challenge this propaganda but can do it with sharp fast pinpricks that deflate this bloviation on the spot.  They need much more than “news” reporters who don’t have the tools, courage or motivation to challenge all the BS. They need someone who is old enough and thick-skinned enough that he/she doesn’t give a shit about being criticized for being unpatriotic. In fact, this type of person, of whom we actually need many, feeds on the criticism aimed at them by the powers-that-be and even gets even better under attack; he/she feels compelled to speak truth to power because it is the right thing to do, it’s in the blood and it’s the patriotic thing. The types of patriotic people we need to deliver this blitzkrieg criticism also need to be excellent entertainers in order to maintain the attention of large numbers of Americans. As comedians, they can hone their messages into comical memes that their audience members will pass around in viral fashion long after the original message was delivered. To the extent that these funny social critics portray themselves as jesters, they will have more access to the mass media, enabling them more effectively put their verbal swords in and out of those who own and run this country.  Many conservatives consider this iconoclastic feedback to be unpatriotic, of course. They hate it when anyone challenges the prevailing power structure and its standardized sales pitches for taking political power from ordinary people and handing it to corporations.

Image by Erich Vieth

Jon Stewart does a great job at leveling this type of criticism these days. So does Bill Maher, and there are others. But I’d like to offer some quotes by George Carlin, who died three years ago after a stellar career as a comedian and social critic. I’ve posted on his work previously (here, here, and here).

The occasion for this post is that I recently finished reading a 900-page collection of Carlin’s written works, titled 3 x Carlin. This book is filled with Carlin’s many observations about language—focusing on how we so often hide behind euphemisms. He offers hundreds of observations about American culture where he excels at making us look at ordinary things in new ways. I won’t say that I like everything Carlin wrote–some of his material is designed to shock and it makes me cringe. But he was incredibly effective at pulling down facades and cutting through nonsense, especially political, religious and cultural nonsense.   Carlin, who died in 2008, spoke truth to power better than most, and I consider this to be one of the most patriotic things one can do. With that in mind, here are my favorite quotes from 3 X Carlin (each of these is an exact quote):

My first rule: never believe anything anyone in authority says. None of them. Government, police, clergy, the corporate criminals. None of them. And neither do I believe anything I am told by the media, who, in the case of the Gulf War, function as little more than unpaid employees of the Defense Department, and who, most of the time, operate as the unofficial public-relations agency for government and industry. I don’t believe in any of them. And I have to tell you, folks, I don’t really believe very much in my country either. I don’t get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. I see them as symbols, and I leave them to the symbol-minded.

We like war. We are a warlike people. We can’t stand not to be fucking with someone. We couldn’t wait for the Cold War to end so we could climb into the big Arab sandbox and play with our nice new toys. We enjoy a war. And one reason we enjoy it is that were good at it. You know why were good at it? Because we get a lot of practice. This country is only 200 years old, and already we’ve had 10 major wars. We average a major war every 20 years. So were good at it! And it’s just as well we are, because were not very good at anything else. Can’t build a decent car anymore. Can make a TV set, a cell phone, or a VCR. Got no steel industry left. No textiles. Can’t educate our young people. Can’t get

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healthcare to her old people. But we can bomb the shit out of your country, all right. We can bomb the shit out of your country. Especially if if your country is full of Brown people.  That’s our hobby now.  But it’s also a new job in the world: bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya.  You got some Brown people in your country? Then watch the fuck out, or we’ll goddamn bomb them!  Well, who were the last white people you can remember that we bombed? In fact can you remember any white people we ever bombed? The Germans! That’s it! Those are the only ones. And that was only because they were trying to cut in on our action. They wanted to dominate the world.  Bullshit!  That’s our job.  That’s our fucking job.

Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class–the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn’t want you to know something, it won’t be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least, it will be slanted to suit them, and then barely followed up. (Page 122).

Seems to me it wasn’t long ago that when an old person died, the undertaker put him in a coffin and you sent flowers to the funeral home where the mortician held a wake. Then, after the funeral, he put him in a hearse and drove him to the cemetery, where they buried his body in a grave.

Now when a senior citizen passes away he is placed in a burial container, and you send him flower tributes to the slumber room where the grief therapist supervises the viewing. After the memorial service, the funeral coach transports the departed to the garden of remembrance, where his earthly remains are interred in their final resting place. (Page 182).

If you want to know how fucked the people in this country are, just look at television. Not the programs, not the news. The commercials. Just watch only the commercials for about a week, and you’ll see how fucked the people in this country really are. (225)

Sirens, flames, smoke, bodies, graves being filled, parents weeping. My kind TV! Exciting shit. I just want some entertainment! That’s the kind of guy I am. You know what I like the most? Big chunks of steel, concrete and fiery wood falling out of the sky, and people running around trying to get out of the way Exciting shit!

At least I admit it. Most people won’t admit those feelings. Most people see something like that, they say, “ohhhhhhh isn’t that awful?” Bullshit! Lying asshole! You love it and you know it. Explosions are fun. And the closer the explosion is to your house, the more fun it is. Have you ever noticed that? (373)

The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. And it will heal itself, because that’s what a planet does; it’s a self-correcting system. The air and water and earth will recover and be renewed. And if plastic is really not degradable, well, most likely the planet will incorporated into a new paradigm: the Earth plus plastic. (Page 376).

Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. So why isn’t it legal to sell fucking? (Page 378).

“The next time they give you all that civic bullshit about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election”

Anything we don’t like about ourselves, we declare war on it. We don’t do anything about it, we just declare war. “Declaring war” is our only public metaphor for problem solving. We have a war on crime, war on poverty, the war on hate, a war on letter, a war on cancer, a war on violence, and Ronald Reagan’s ultimate joke, the war on drugs. More accurately the war on the Constitution. (Page 387)

I don’t mind leaving my house as long as I don’t have to look at a lot of unattractive Americans in the process. Visors, logo hats, fat thighs, beer bellies, bad haircuts, halter tops, cheap sneakers, camcorders, and unattractive children wearing blank expressions. God, these people are ugly. I stay home a lot. (Page 419)

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I think many years ago an advanced civilization intervened with us genetically and gave us just enough intelligence to develop dangerous technology but not enough to use it wisely. Then they sat back to watch the fun. Kind of like a human zoo. And you know what? They’re getting their money’s worth. (Page 436)

The death penalty means very little unless you use it on people who are afraid to die. Like the bankers who launder the drug money. Forget dealers. If you want to slow down the drug traffic, we have to start executing some of those white, middle-class Republican bankers. And I don’t mean soft American executions by lethal injection. I’m talking about crucifixion, folks. I say bring back crucifixion! A form of capital punishment the Christians and Jews of America can really appreciate. (493).

On election day, I stay home. Two reasons: first of all, voting is meaningless; this country was bought and paid for a long time ago. That empty shit they shuffle around and repackage every four years doesn’t mean a thing. Second, I don’t vote because I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. I know some people like to twist that around and say, “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain.” Where’s the logic in that? Think it through: If you vote and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they screw things up, then you’re responsible for what they’ve done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. (Page 514).

I’d like to talk a little about that “war” we had in the Persian Gulf [regarding Kuwait]. Remember that? The simple fact is that America was long overdue to drop high explosives on helpless civilians; people who have no argument with us whatsoever. After all, it had been a while and the hunger gnaws. Remember, that’s our specialty: picking on countries that have marginally effective air forces. (Page 517).

I find it discouraging–and a bit depressing–when I notice the unequal treatment afforded by the media to UFO believers on the one hand, and on the other, to those who believe in an invisible supreme being who inhabits the sky. Especially as the latter belief applies to the whole Jesus-Messiah-Sarah God fable. . . . What matters is the prejudice and superstition built into the media coverage of the two sets of beliefs. One is treated reverently and accepted as received truth, the other is treated laughingly and dismissed out of hand”…

Here’s how [the story of Good Friday] should be written: Today is Good Friday, observed worldwide by Jesus buffs as the day on which the popular, bearded cultural figure, sometimes referred to as the Messiah, was allegedly crucified and–according to legend–died for mankind’s so-called sins. Today kicks off a “holy” weekend that culminates on Easter Sunday, when, it is widely believed this dead “Savior”–who also, by the way, claims to be the son of a sky-dwelling, invisible being known as God–-mysteriously “rose from the dead.” (Page 575)

I’d say the American people are a lot dumber than they’re given credit for. As one example, just look at the individuals they keep sending to their statehouses and to Washington to represent them. Look also at what they’ve done to their once beautiful country and its landscape.” (646)

Dear political activists: All your chanting, marching, voting, picketing, boycotting and letter writing will not change a thing; you will never right the wrongs of this world. The only thing your activity will accomplish is to make some of you feel better. Such activity makes powerless people feel useful, and provides them the illusion that they’re making a difference. But it doesn’t work. Nothing changes in the powerful keep the power. That’s why they’re called the powerful.

[They] should not be encouraging children to read, they should be encouraging children to question what they read. (722).

And by the way, none of the Bush religious fanatics will admit this, but the distraction of the World Trade Center was a faith-based initiative. (723)

Pardon me for pointing this out, folks, but stock traders, clerks, receptionist, cooks, waiters and building maintenance people in the World Trade Center didn’t die for their country. They died because they went to work. Not one of them would’ve shown up for work that day if you told him they would die as a result. Try to get your heroes straight. Not everyone who died in 9/11 was a hero. “Hero” is a very special word, that’s why we reserved for certain special people. Not every fireman and policeman who was on duty that day was a hero. The ones who risked or lost their lives trying to rescue people are heroes. They acted heroically. The others probably did a good job and were very helpful, but heroes? (Pay 743)

When it comes to God’s existence, I’m not an atheist and I’m not an agnostic. I’m an acrostic. The whole thing puzzles me. (823)

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Entertainment, Heroes, Humor, Media, Politics, Propaganda, Reading - Books and Magazines, Religion, Sex

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Victor Zsasz says:

    We bombed Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia in the 90s, both of which have primarily Caucasian populations. Doesn’t take away from the main point that we like war, just changes the brown people bit.

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