03 October 2011

Hank Williams, Jr. and Poorly Construed Analogies

Hank Williams, Jr. appeared on Fox and Friends today and had this to say, as reported by Andrew Jones of The Raw Story:
In an awkward interview, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Williams if he favored any Republican candidate for president. After saying “none,” Williams claimed his answer stemmed from seeing House Speaker John Boehner play golf with President Barack Obama. He elaborated on his thoughts, the Fox hosts seemed to become rather uncomfortable.
“Come on, come on, it would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu, ok?” he said. “Not hardly. In the country this shape is in, the shape this country’s in, I mean, no, I don’t think so.”

That prompted Brian Kilmmeade to reply, “I don’t understand that analogy, actually.”
Williams continued: “Well, I’m glad you don’t, brother, because a lot of people do. You know, they’re the enemy. They’re the enemy.”
"Who’s the enemy?” Kilmmeade asked.
Williams yelled: “Obama! And Biden! Are you kidding? The Three Stooges.”
“That’s only two,” Steve Doocy chimed in.
Ultimately, Williams admitted that he did have one favorite in the GOP presidential field: Herman Cain.

I'm a liberal and I'm a Kentuckian. I have pretty keen insights into this specific story.

Was this needlessly inflammatory? Sure. But it also underscores how poorly understood analogies are these days. Technically, it's Speaker Boehner whom Hank, Jr. made analogous to Hitler since he was actively condemning the seeming camaraderie between the Speaker and President Obama. Also, people fail to understand that, in an analogy, the intent is to demonstrate a parallel dynamic--not to equate the two. Ergo, Hank, Jr. has not actually said that either Speaker Boehner or President Obama is like Hitler but rather that seeing the two of them be chummy in public is akin to what it would have been like to see Hitler and Netanyahu be chummy in public--it would be entirely unnatural.

He calls President Obama "the enemy." Certainly that's bothersome, but in fairness, I would have said the same about President Bush. I think it's a perfectly fair thing to say about the opposing political party leader.

Naturally, of course, I disagree with Hank, Jr. entirely. I didn't want Democrats defying President Bush at every turn, because that's childish and gets us nowhere. Likewise, I think it's deplorable that any American would carry any kind of political grudge so far that there's no room for civility. I didn't think much of the golf game, but if I thought anything at all about it, it was hope that perhaps the President and the Speaker might find some basis for a cooperative working relationship. But then, I value cooperation, accept reasonable compromises and see no reason for absolutism.

The greater point, though, is not that Hank Williams, Jr. opposes President Obama; that was a given. What's of interest in this tempest in a teacup of a story is that he opposes the current Republican leadership--not on the grounds that it has taken our country hostage thrice since January, but on the basis that it hasn't killed the hostage!I hope my fellow liberals/progressives pay attention to this story and the reactions it will generate. For every one of us who rolls our eyes at this, there will be someone else who cheers, "You tell 'em, Bocephus!" The last ten months of the Tea Party House crippling our government and economy have infuriated us, but this is exactly what people like Hank, Jr. desire. We need to quit acting like there's ever going to be a compromise or reason with such people and become more proactive.

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