Flowers for Algernon at Majority Report

Majority ReportOn 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.

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.

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.

16 thoughts on “Flowers for Algernon at Majority Report

  1. “Actually: I’m with Charlie; cleaning toilets is important work that needs to be done well.”

    Took the words right out of my mouth.

    • Boy, that is how the GOP looks at us, isn’t it? They praise our hard-working values and think of us as fools for being stupid enough to have to work. At times I feel very much like Charlie. (And I have a bad back to boot!)

  2. I am not a big fan of humiliation comedy. One of the reasons I never could enjoy The Office because I know what being humiliated time and again feels like. And maybe this person doesn’t feel like that because he doesn’t know. However why take that risk?

    • The US version or BBC version? The US version I could never watch either, for the same reasons. The BBC version is more sad than comic. The awful boss ends up getting treated by his superiors the shoddy way he treated everyone else, and you don’t feel glee at his downfall, merely a loathing of the whole rat race.

      The one humiliation comedy I adore is “Fawlty Towers.” Because the hotel owner who keeps making a fool of himself is such a hilarious narcissist, nothing he ever does that backfires can possibly hurt his feelings. He’ll just go on forever blaming the entire world besides himself, so laughing at his pompous twittery never stops being a blast.

      • I don’t like either of them. Again, it is about the fact that they are humiliating someone for laughs. In the British version the Gervais’s character makes the receptionist cry. That isn’t funny, it is cruel.

        As for Fawlty Towers it is not as nasty but not that funny to me. Even a pompous ass doesn’t deserve that kind of behavior so frequently.

    • I called him a subgenius for a reason. What really defines them is that they think they are smarter than they are. So he looks done on those who laugh at him. He will probably never have the realization that Charlie has. And it’s also true that whereas Charlie is a very nice guy, Doug is a jerk. But I still think he is mentally ill. The problem on MR is that they all think he’s funny because he’s a perfect example of an idiot “constitutional” conservative. I don’t find it funny. I imagine Doug living a solitary life in his Section-8 housing. His main human contact is calling MR and other radio shows and probably sending out silly messages on Facebook.

      But he can’t learn anything. Sam Seder will make pointed arguments and most of the time Doug just doesn’t get it. It’s like arguing with a Dog.

      • He probably does have a more than good for him solitary life. Loneliness is a huge problem in this country and so his taking what in person contact he can is sad.

        But it is something he could do something about, he won’t because then he might be exposed to new ideas that he cannot argue away.

          • Every time I go to examine mine, it stays the same. So I stopped because I am lazy and there are books to read and 106 year old dancing ladies to watch.

            • You’ve never struck me as terribly ideological. You are an example of something I used to write about a lot: the Democratic Party isn’t really ideological. It’s practical. It just wants to get things done. It’s like the myth that Republicans are for small government. They aren’t; they just want a big government made up of all the worst things governments do. But Democrats don’t care about the size of government; they just want a government big enough to do the things that we agree the government should do.

              There is a risk of becoming too ideological or too practical. I naturally struggle with the ideological side of things. But you seem to have a good balance.

              • Thank you, that was a lovely compliment.

                I once heard that women have a list of things in their head at all times (and mine just popped back up so I am going to have to leave to go do some of the tasks) and constantly are checking off items as they do it. I think that is how a lot of Democrats govern.

                And I know most Dems don’t care about the size because it is about the results. It could be I think that because I just had an argument with a guy complaining about how people who help the poor who do so for the kudos they get rather than for the simple sake of helping the poor. But regardless it is “problem, solution, issues with solution, resolve of issues, new problem…” instead of “I want to have 4 million people working for the government muwahahahah!”

                • The whole “I want government to be small” is just a way of not thinking. What about government do you want to be small? We all want the parts of government that we don’t want to be small. I want the military to be smaller. And I want more public libraries. The things that conservatives claim the government shouldn’t be doing all turn out to be really small programs anyway. Ask almost anyone (lib or con) what government program we should cut and it’s always, “Foreign aid.” Then ask them if we should stop giving aid to Israel and suddenly it gets complicated for people. It always gets complicated when you get specific. “Do you think government should be bigger or smaller?” Well smaller, always, right? Do you think we should end Social Security? Stop having a military? Not fund fire departments? Conservatives love to keep it theoretical because they know it is the only place where they win the argument.

                  • I once did that to someone who was demanding cuts in a local government budget-I pulled up the budget online and demanded to know exactly what he thought should be cut and why.

                    I am really not very nice. :D

                    • I remember the debate about Prop 13. Howard Jarvis just kept saying that nothing would change because we would get rid of “waste, fraud, and abuse.” I’ve started hearing that line again. It is meaningless.

                      And conservatives always claim they want government to be run as a business. Well, businesses understand that there will be a certain level of leakage. But that’s never acceptable for the government. The truth is that they just don’t want to pay their taxes. And guess what: no one has ever wanted to pay their taxes. Cervantes was a tax collector, and he went through hell negotiating with towns over the taxes they owed the crown. Nothing changes. But now we get this rubbish about how the government is wasting money. Of course, conservatives are most willing for the government to pay for things that have the highest level of waste, fraud, and abuse: the military.

                      Our biggest political problem is that we can’t have a serious discussion with conservatives because they are disingenuous.

                    • There is something to that and the weird thing is that even though Trump lies like Done It Duncan, it is so obvious that even conservatives get mad about it.

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