Because he is, after all, a mass media big deal to this day, film critic Roger Ebert is comfortable weighing in on other topics besides film, most often politics. I've seen him chide conservative mogul and convicted felon Conrad Black, that liverish-lookin' dude Bill O'Reilly, and others over on his very active blog. His politics, as far as I can discern, are pretty much what you'd expect from any random very affluent urban liberal, and I sympathize with them in large part. And now Ebert's got a Twitter account, which he's recently used to make a couple of dismissive asides concerning Sarah Palin and the emerging "Tea Party" movement.
WARNING: To That Fuzzy Bastard and others who don't like this sort of thing: this is going to be that sort of thing, more or less and kind of.
The thing about being Roger Ebert in the contemporary media climate is, if you make a 140-character-or-less sarcastic remark about Sarah Palin or the "Tea Party" movement, it is likely to inspire some dimwit to reel off a 600-word denunciation of you over at Big Hollywood.
A few days ago, the nitwit in question was one Pam Meister, or, as I like to call her, "The Pam Meister," who noticed an Ebert tweet that invoked not only the "TeaBagger crowd" and "Town Hall" "nutjobs." I guess "The Pam Meister," who first came to my attention writing about a malfunctioning Porta-john on a Malibu property of Bob Dylan's, counts herself as being a member of all said factions, except it's not "TeaBaggers" or "tea baggers," gosh darn it, it's "Tea Partiers," and Ebert's insult really cheesed her off. "If you follow a movie critic on Twitter, chances are you follow him because you admire his ability to critique the many offerings of Hollywood," sayeth "The" Pam Meister. (Incidentally, I was thinking along similar lines the other day, but my conclusion came out different, as in "If you follow a movie critic on Twitter, you're fucking retarded." * But I digress.) It's not because you want that critic espousing politics, particularly politics that are opposed to your own. Okay, fair enough.
Ebert seemingly responded to "The" Pam Meister's exertions with a laconic tweet recalling the quasi-pornographic (or something) origins of the phrase "tea bagger," or "TeaBagger," or, uh, I dunno. And this set off Big Hollywood editor-in-chief John Nolte.
Now I've enjoyed cordial relations with Mr. Nolte in the past. Hell, if I may tell a tale just slightly out of school, we once discussed the notion of my contributing to what would become Big Hollywood. (This idea didn't work out. As you see.) But I have to say, reading his "Regarding Roger" post, I am gripped by a strong suspicion that Nolte's boss Andrew Breitbart has been lacing Nolte's Diet Cokes (or whatever it is he quenches his thirst with on the job) with potent doses of Sandoz-grade LSD-25. It's not just the way that he constructs the post as yet another treacly aria about conservative victimhood, it's the absolutely insupportable assertions he tries to "make" his "case" with. Beginning with the pulled-directly-out-of-his ass meanderings that Ebert's years-long struggles with various ailments ought to have resulted in his becoming "a more tolerant and patient man with a new appreciation for the simple and human things in life." Because, among other things, "those who disagreed with his politics put those meaningless differences aside as we worried and prayed" for Ebert. But hold on. If they're meaningless differences, then why...
Never mind. Then, ostensibly responding, we should recall, to all of two "tweets," Nolte notes, "it's been extraordinary to watch this once beloved critic squander all the universal affection and goodwill he had built up over a lifetime in just a few short months." Whoa. I have nothing but respect for Ebert, and I know that in many circles he is regarded in a way that one might reasonably apply the term "beloved" to, but let's not get carried away here. Ebert is disliked and even hated by some, always has been. "Roger Ebert is fat" jokes (which I do not approve of, and I can't believe I actually somehow feel obliged to say that) were common currency back before Michael Moore was editor of Mother Jones. So this "universal affection" thing is a bit of an overstatement. Give Vincent Gallo a call some time, J.N. As for the squandering, Nolte goes back to an earlier point: "And over nothing." Wait, if it's nothing then why...? Well, Nolte feels that as neither he, nor Sarah Palin, nor any Tea person ever "bad mouthed [Ebert's] mother or rang [Ebert's] doorbell and ran," Ebert's got no standing to be all personally insulting towards them.
And here we remember our good friend the stoned LOL cat.
It gets better though! Ebert is a "multimillionaire" making pronouncements from "the cowardly Olympus" of his Twitter account. From whence he is taunting "mechanics, schoolteachers, gardeners, truck drivers, beauticians, small business owners, military veterans, college kids and senior citizens as 'c**ksuckers.'" (I think Nolte means "cocksuckers.") Wait, what? again: isn't Twitter, in both theory and practice, the most egalitarian of digital social networks? But whatever. What Ebert really needs to do, according to Nolte, is stop being like that bully from Dead End and attend a Tea Party convention, or protest, or what have you. Roger may be surprised at what he sees there, says Nolte, and here the editor launches into what is, for all intents and purposes, his own written version of the coda of Spike Lee's The 25th Hour: "There's sure to be a Tea Party near you before the year is out. Why don't you come down from Twitter-Olympus?...Not only will no one hurt you, we'll be glad to see you. Glad you took the time to look behind the Anderson Coopers and Keith Olbermanns to see for yourself who the 'teabaggers' really are...As a matter of fact, I guarantee that if you don't mind shaking calloused hands, hearing 'I prayed for you' in a Southern accent, signing autographs on hard hats and diaper bags, and discovering you were wrong about thousands of good and everyday people, we won't hurtcha at all."
Now I don't know about you, but the mental image of Roger Ebert signing a hard hat has become my own personal version of the laundromat dryer that Peter Fonda stares into in the freakout portion of Corman's The Trip. But my question is, is Nolte aware of the fact that Ebert's various ailments have left him permanently unable to speak (let alone ingest solid food and drink), and that, hence, pressing the flesh in such a way as Nolte describes above might not just be inconvenient and undesirable and potentially medically dangerous for Ebert, but maybe just downright impossible? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, anything to prove a point, I suppose.
I also wonder, having not experienced the drug in some time (and having only experienced it in diluted and compromised, e.g. speed-laced, mutations), whether the effects of LSD-25 blinded Nolte to the fact that in posting this piece, he was throwing a particularly red slab of meat to Big Hollywood's readers. And to tell you the truth,a few of them sound as if they might actually not be terribly averse to, um, hurting him. "Ebert is now just more human vomitus." "Roger seems to be a self-loathing homosexual." "He's a sick old guy acting the role of a cowardly fool." "When a man comes out of near death without the honor of his life, no one else is going to honor his life." [See "Cat, LOL stoner" again.] "I hope he died." "He knows where he can shove that fat thumb of his." And my favorite, for its passive-aggressiveness and so much more: "Poor Roger Ebert. He has no God. No real hope. Just bitterness. That's not to be hated—just pitied. May he find real Peace before his journey's end." Ooh, yuck, creepy!!!
Anyway, the upshot of all this: a link on Big Hollywood's marquee, reading EBERT TWEETS: I WILL NO LONGER USE 'TEABAGGERS.' This does not mean that he will not, say, employ teabaggers, I mean "Tea Party" supporters, as interns or anything. I think. Anyway, here's the tweet in question.
And that, my friends, is why I avoid blogging about politics. The end.
UPDATE: A friend points me to a very plus ça change 2008 post from Nolte's old Dirty Harry shingle, wherein the author excoriates Ebert for some demonstration of Sarah Palin Derangement Syndrome. So that whole "Oh Roger, we all loved you so much and then you had to go and do this" schtick turns out to be bullshit, pretty much. What a cocksucker!!!