On the show Majority Report there is a common caller named Doug. I think he is from Texas and he calls himself a “constitutional conservative.” It’s always hard to say that is going on at Majority Report — Doug could be a plant. But I don’t think so. And although the producers openly laugh at him, it’s pretty clear that they like him. He’s kind of like a mascot — albeit in an ironic sense.
I’ve always found Doug to be annoying. He’s never said anything I haven’t been hearing from people on the edges of the libertarian movement for decades. And he is allowed far too much air time. But there was one moment in which I totally lost all respect for Doug and for his use on Majority Report. Sam Seder and Doug were discussing something regarding business and Sam asked Doug what he did for a living. Doug said it was none of Sam’s business.
Note: Seder has only ever been really nice to Doug. He even defends him against attacks from other listeners. It was at that point that I got a full picture of Doug. We know that he was once in the military and that’s about it. So I figure that Doug is on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). And I’ll bet that Doug left the military because mentally he has problems and that he’s on SSDI for mental reasons, even if the stated reason is something like a bad back. If Doug can show that he isn’t on the government dole, I’ll pay him a hundred bucks.
None of this is to say that Doug is stupid. He’s what I refer to as a subgenius: smart but not that smart. When I say he has mental problems, I just mean that he has the kinds of problems that stop him from having a job. It is usually some form of social retardation. And his creepy comments toward the one female producer on Majority Report bear that out.
But more to the point, his simplistic (and really: anti-humanist) “constitutional conservatism” is also an indication of this. This is always the case with people who make a fetish of the Constitution as though it were divinely inspired. As such, allowing Doug on Majority Report every couple of days has begun to make me think that it is a form of abuse. I’ve begun to see him as Charlie in Flowers for Algernon.
For those of you who don’t know it, Flowers for Algernon tells the story of a mentally retarded man who gets a medical treatment that turns him into a genius. But it is only temporary and he regresses back to where he was at the start. However, he has lost his naivete and cannot have the relative happy life he had before. I haven’t read it since I was in high school, but the one thing that most stands out to me is a scene early on where his coworkers have Charlie show them how he cleans the toilet. Charlie does so with great pride and they all laugh at him without his understanding.
Later, this is humiliating to Charlie and it is the one scene that best sums up the book. (Or the short story — I don’t remember.) I’m not suggesting that the people on Majority Report are cruel like Charlie’s coworkers. Nor, again, am I suggesting that Doug is stupid. But it is certainly true that Doug is clueless and rarely realizes that he’s being laughed at. Doug clearly thinks that he is right to be spouting his nonsense. But then Charlie thought he was right to proudly show off his toilet cleaning skills. (Actually: I’m with Charlie; cleaning toilets is important work that needs to be done well. Being a faux intellectual and Constitutional scholar is just a joke.)
I really don’t know what to think of the situation with Doug and Majority Report. I suppose Doug has the right to embarrass himself in front of thousands of people. God knows I’ve done it on an even larger stage myself. But Doug isn’t like the libertarians who call in and are just young, silly, or foolish. I think there’s something wrong with Doug and maybe we should take pity on him.