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VOL. 43 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 18, 2019

You should run away to avoid Politicon circus

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The temptation is to say a circus is coming to town, but this involves a less appealing bunch of clowns: Politicon arrives next weekend.

“All of your favorite political heroes and villains in one Unconventional Political Convention,” its website states.

I think of the two-day gabfest as the political equivalent of Comic-Con, except the audience doesn’t come dressed as Spider-Man or Captain America. And the speakers are in some ways all villains.

Except Al Franken, who is a hero.*

Politicon’s co-founder Simon Sidi spent 30 years producing rock music shows. Politics is not his thing. Attracting people and extracting their money is his thing. For the first four years, Politicon was held in Los Angeles. He told The Daily Wire this about the move to Music City:

“We are really excited about moving there because it’s a liberal arts city in a conservative state, making it perfect for Politicon.”

What he means is, we hope to make a buttload of money

A buttload more money, I should say. Politicon sells thousands of tickets every year at prices that are not cheap: General admission for the Nashville edition is $49 for either day, or $79 for both; VIP tickets cost $225 a day, $350 for both.

VIP status includes an unspecified welcome gift (Ear plugs? Barf bag?), a commemorative credential, an invitation to the VIP backstage lounge and access to a cash bar “(the only bar at Politicon).”

The bar access alone could make the extra cost worthwhile. I suspect I’d have to have several fortifying belts before subjecting myself to Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity, two of this year’s guests.

Actually, forget the entrance fee: The organizers would pretty much have to pay me to see or hear either of those two, or Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Tomi Lahren, two other guests.

There are dozens of others, most of whom I’ve never even heard of, like Buck Sexton, a former CIA officer who I gather has his own radio show. The website bio says he is “also a frequent guest host for ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show,’ ‘The Sean Hannity Show’ and ‘The Glenn Beck Program,’ and he appears regularly on Fox News and Fox Business Network as a guest analyst.”

It’s no surprise that I’ve never heard of him.

If I seem to be picking on the right in particular: Yes, I am. But the left is not without its faults, including a seeming inability to resist pouncing on every Trump misspelling or gaffe as evidence of the impending death of the Republic.

Pick your battles, folks. There’s a fable about crying wolf too often.

My aversion to spectacles like Politicon has been years in the making. I date the start of the decline in politics in this country to the advent of the 24-hour news and commentary cycle on TV. The round-the-clock format requires that talking heads fill the time with whatever conflict, outrage or exaggeration du jour they can come up with to keep the viewers engaged.

Which is why I am in complete sympathy with the former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart who, in 2004, lambasted the dueling “Crossfire” battling bots Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for their contrived back-and-forth.

“You’re doing theater when you should be doing debate,” Stewart said on their show. “What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery.”

“Crossfire” was soon off the air after that. But Begala regularly pops up as a guest liberal talking head, and Carlson is now second only to Hannity as a presidential toadie on Fox News.

I can’t help thinking that too many of the TV pundits are simply playing lucrative roles for a gullible public, not unlike professional “wrestlers.”

My advice: Stay away from Politicon and its TV roots. Binge-watch “Stranger Things” or “Black Mirror” instead. They’re closer to reality.

*As for Al Franken: I know, I know. But his is a case where the punishment far outweighed the crime. And he’s one actual clown I wish were still part of the government.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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