November 08, 2006

Giant space ants win control of Congress?

Jonah Goldberg's comment on the election results:

Let Me Just Say...
I for one welcome our new Democratic overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted rightwing personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

The "explainer" that he links to is here, but it offers only the picture. Except for the announcer's simpsonian (simpsonical? simpsoniacal? simpsonistic? simpsonish?) yellow skin, there's no indication of the actual source of the joke.

That's because Goldberg has used this allusion before, to frame another electoral outcome that he didn't like, and he expects his readers to remember the explanation that he gave on that occasion. The date was 2/03/00, and John McCain had just defeated George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary.

Goldberg explained "The Meaning of McCain" this way:

Recall, if you will, the episode of the Simpsons when Homer is selected to be a space shuttle astronaut. News anchor Kent Brockman is scheduled to interview the shuttle crew while they are in orbit.

But just before they "switch live" to the crew of the corvair craft, there's a mishap on board. Homer, unaccustomed to weightlessness, is veering, out of control, straight toward the ant farm the crew brought along for study. [...]

When news anchor Kent Brockman cuts to the live feed from the shuttle, the ants float by the camera lens — momentarily appearing gigantic. Then they lose the picture. Brockman instantaneously reports:

"Ladies and gentlemen, er, we've just lost the picture, but, uh, what we've seen speaks for itself. The Corvair spacecraft has been taken over — 'conquered', if you will — by a master race of giant space ants. It's difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume the captive earth men or merely enslave them. One thing is for certain, there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. I'd like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to...toil in their underground sugar caves."

When it becomes clear that the bugs are in fact not a "master race of giant space ants", Brockman quickly removes his "Hail Ants" sign hanging just behind him, covering the station logo. [...]

The moral of the story is that journalists (and party hacks) love power. Whether it's a new insect overlord or a candidate suddenly surging at the polls, the chattering class works under the assumption that whoever has power now will have it for a long time.

And some people doubt the benefits of a classical education!

Goldberg continued:

If that's not highbrow enough for you, consider George Orwell's 1946 observation that "Power-worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue."

As far as a few minutes' web research allow me to determine, Jonah has reserved the "overlords" allusion specifically for apparent defeats of W, whose opponents are all thus classified as temporarily magnified insects. Rumor has it that researchers at the Rockridge Institute have been toiling through the night to develop an effective counter-allusion. So far the leading candidates are " Nyah, Nyah: We're Back" and "Attach the Stone of Triumph!" More on this as it develops.

Posted by Mark Liberman at November 8, 2006 08:45 AM