Thirteen years ago, in this tawdry and marginally readable newspaper that recently issued a noncommittal and moronic "double endorsement" in the state Democratic caucuses, I published an award-winning essay called "Just Shut Up." At the time, America found itself embroiled in a "debate" over invading Iraq. I put the word debate in quotes because it was obvious then, and it's even more obvious now, that the Bush administration was going to do whatever the fuck it wanted in Iraq and all the mountaintop fulminating in the world wasn't going to stop them. Shockingly, the collective bleating of our slam poets couldn't prevent the military-industrial complex from raining hell on Tikrit, though it did a damn good job of distracting us all from the mortgage-securities bubble that would ruin our economy.
Well, here we are again at a historical crossroads, facing an election that will determine the future of America and the future of the Supreme Court and the future of the world and the future of who gets to write for Slate. Christopher Hitchens is, mercifully, dead, so we don't have to listen to his Spy Who Came in from the Cold paranoid nonsense about the Clintons. Andrew Sullivan has bivouacked to Provincetown, only occasionally emerging to blather with Bill Maher about the pope and to play himself in crappy Superman movies, where he sounds even more Orwell-manqué than he does in real life. Michael Moore continues to portray himself as Fat Progressive Jesus, here to save us from our original American sins, and Ann Coulter continues to fire off racist missives from her vampire cave. But they are just spoiled fish wrapped in back issues of the Atlantic. Fresh competition has emerged, pretentious voices multiplying despite scant demand, like food trucks selling "Asian-inspired cuisine."
During the first few years of the Iraq War, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Grindr through which people could megaphone okay Guardian articles that expressed an echo of their slapdash political opinions. You read a piece, you forwarded a link to a few people, and then you went about your day in your condo financed with a subprime mortgage loan. Now everybody's still going on and on about bullshit, bleating like sheep that have no idea they're about to be put into the meat grinder, except that their bleatings are amplified by the witch's curse of social media. Any half-assed feminist critique of Ted Cruz is worth repeating a thousand times (with a thousand hashtags), ad infinitum and ad nauseam and ex post facto and 3,000 other pretentious Latin phrases that Hitch and Vidal, the last living literate blowhards, used to deploy. Well, Latin is dead and so is David Bowie. Only the plainest O'Reilly language will suffice:
Everybody shut up!
Nobody gives a crap about your stupid, worthless opinions. They don't matter, unless you are Ta-Nehisi Coates or Roxane Gay. Even then, the number of people who care is greatly overwhelmed by the number of people who don't and never will. There is an election. It will change things. Probably. Or it won't. Regardless, life will go on and hopefully they will let us have an IV drip of potent liquid THC on our deathbeds. In fact, I could use one right now, because people won't shut up.
People, shut the fuck up!
Let's begin with the most annoying American people ever born: Bernie Sanders supporters. Like them, I want free health care, a free vacation to Cuba, and free tuition to Ohio State. Unlike them, I don't go on and on about some old commie atheist Jew like he's the second coming of FDR. Shut up, Bern-feelers!
Berniemania reached its maximum annoying fever pitch when a shitty little finch landed on Bernie's podium during a rally in Portland. A bird! Landed! On the podium! In Portland! Fine, whatever, but people acted like it was a sign from God. This is it, Bernie supporters said. This means our guy is actually going to win. The Sanders campaign actually commissioned bird art, and tweeted it, and hashtagged it. I will quote the most annoying tweet from a supporter to get it out of the way: "Mother Earth recognizes a Warrior fighting for the Sacred Hoop of Life! We are the Rainbow People! #BirdieSanders."
This is what you want in charge of the United States of America, a great country founded by slavers? I'd rather vote for Darth Sidious than give hippie schmucks like that the satisfaction of victory. Bernie Sanders supporters have taken every online forum on every corner of the internet and have turned it into a screaming, sexless meeting of the Revolutionary Workers' Party. Their rhetoric stinks like stale keg beer and reads like yellowed pamphlets best viewed via microfiche. Let me quote an actual article written by an ostensibly unstoned person on the editorial board of the Nation:
"Sanders has used his insurgent campaign to tell Americans the truth about the challenges that confront us. He has summoned the people to a 'political revolution,' arguing that the changes our country so desperately needs can only happen when we wrest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires."
Come on, the Nation, you pinko scum! Despite what you and Bernie might think, the Nicaragua war is over. Central America is now an inexpensive hipster vacation spot, according to the magazines. No one is going to "wrest" anything from anyone in America, except for maybe an Oculus Rift at Best Buy on Black Friday. Besides, do you people really want a revolution? Did you SEE Doctor Zhivago? People like us, who get paid basically nothing to write for a living, don't fare well in a revolution. We are too sensitive and too beautiful. I, for one, have no interest in sharing my house with a gaggle of Bolsheviks. No way I'm getting exiled to Siberia and then dying of a heart attack on the street after faintly glimpsing the visage of my one true love through the dirty windows of a trolley car. That's what would happen in Bernie Sanders's America. I say no way. Nu-uh!
The Nation! Shut up!
And yes, while I know Susan Sarandon has apologized for saying "Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode," I still have to say to her, revolutions suck, so shut up! "It's dangerous to think," she said, "that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, with threats to women's rights, and think you can't do something huge to turn that around." Sure, those are big problems, but really, go drive off a cliff with Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon. And drink some Lorenzo's Oil while you're at it. Shut up!
As annoying as Susan Sarandon is, at least she is a famous person who probably stays in interesting hotels when she travels. What she thinks doesn't matter. But what you think about what she thinks matters even less. So many articles, shared so endlessly on Facebook. Ya basta, as the Che-worshipping disciples of a presidential candidate who honeymooned in the Soviet Union would say. People of the world, take your Susan Sarandon hot take, shove it in a Hot Pocket, and shove it up your ass! I have had enough.
Hillary Clinton hot takes are no better. Are you hashtag with her? Well, bully for you, you brain-dead moron. She's got my vote, too, but only because I remember the '90s. They were pretty fucking good, overall, despite all the crap!
Many media people spend time telling Hillary Clinton to "stop shouting." To which I say, "You stop shouting, Joe Scarborough, you overstuffed breakfast pastry! She's speaking in basketball arenas in front of screaming, sign-waving crowds. What is she supposed to do, whisper?" Hillary critics are either sexist pigs, right-wing trolls, or commie fucktards. I dismiss them with a wave of my withered hand. Shut up, all of you!
On the other hand, you have Hillary supporters, who, come to think of it, don't really write that much because every time they do, a screaming online murder of bros descends upon them, pecking like evil versions of Bernie's bird-pal. Instead, the Hillary humping is all happening through official comedy channels, where she makes semi-ironic appearances with Lena Dunham, Jimmy Kimmel, Kate McKinnon, and the stars of Broad City. Why, hipster comedy people? She is going to be the president, but she is not your cool friend. The moment you are not helpful to her, she will ditch you. You want to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom? Sure, fine, just pay up—or shut up.
Now we must attend to the bronzed, toupeed elephant in the room, Donald Trump. In a year where no one will shut up about presidential candidates, we have the ultimate presidential candidate who will never shut up. Mexico is not going to pay for the fucking wall, we are not going to deport Muslims, women shouldn't be punished for having abortions, that Breitbart reporter didn't bruise herself, and I'm guessing Megyn Kelly doesn't have a smelly vag. It is all lies, and yet Trump never stops talking, ever. For fuck's sake, Donald Trump, you are the biggest fucking idiot in the history of a country full of them. We all hate you. Shut the fuck up!
But the worst thing about Donald Trump is that his verbal diarrhea is highly contagious, easily contracted by people of all political stripes. Most writers offer up smart opinions like "Electing Donald Trump would be bad for America." O RLY, editorial boards? Do you think it would be bad idea to hand over the nuclear arsenal to a walking advertisement for time-share condos and erectile dysfunction? How courageous of you to say so!
I love how the rise of "Trumpism," whatever the fuck that is, has surprised our pundits. Does no one watch television? Take, for instance, David Brooks, my least favorite writer in the entire world, who has spent months feeling sorry for himself for not properly "understanding" the American electorate.
"Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed," he writes. "They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else."
Wake up and smell the oil and vinegar at Subway, you cosseted Beltway fool! We've all—except for maybe Brooks, who has a gig waiting for him at the Foundation Foundation whenever the Times gets tired of his patrician bullshit—"suffered lost jobs, lost wages." And yet somehow most of us resist the urge to beat up black people at political rallies. Trump voters are mostly a coalition of racist morons, reality-TV fans, and grumpy old men. Why would they vote for a xenophobic, philandering strongman? Because he is their Grand Dragon! Just say it, Brooks, you dork. Or better yet, don't.
David Brooks, shut up.
And now this: a special "shut up" dedicated to John Oliver, who has empowered millions of people to call Donald Trump "Donald Drumpf," which is so exasperating that I just killed myself but then resuscitated myself so I can keep ranting. Let me do it in the style of a terrible John Oliver joke. "People who say 'Donald Drumpf' are like that girl running for class vice president who makes fun of their own name so they can get elected ironically. Shut up, Sharon, I am not going to vote for you even if your last name is Fingerhut! And I know you can't put orange soda in the drinking fountains. I will never vote for you. You're lying to us, Sharon. You're lying."
Since I lost your attention 1,500 words ago, let me also just give a special shut up shout-out to Arthur Chu, because apparently I want to get involved in an intractably boring and ultimately unwinnable Twitter bitch-war. Chu, who won Jeopardy! like a boss in 2014, has parlayed his brief Trebekian moment into one of America's most toxically click-baiting punditry careers, mostly on Salon.com. He is the master at making the news about him. It started with a piece called "I'm not 'that creepy guy from the internet': How Gamergate gave the geek community a bad name," and continued horribly from there.
Naturally, the master baiter has cashed in on Trump-mania. The Chu has unloaded thousands of words on the topic, in such masterworks like "This is why Donald Trump is winning: Paranoia brings out the worst in us—and minorities always suffer." And I quote:
"It's harder after watching social media go wild after the Paris attacks, watching some people call out other people's expressions of fury after the bloodshed as knee-jerk reactionary racism—which it often was—and then watching the first set of people be called out for preening virtue-signaling in the wake of other people's raw grief—which they often were."
What the fuck does that mean? How can anyone in the world do anything when they know that Arthur Chu is out there watching, judging, using twisted moral criteria that only makes sense to him? Shut up, Arthur Chu, you were on Jeopardy! No one will remember you when you're dead. I know. Boy, do I know.
Come to think of it, I should also shut up. Shove it in your Alternahole, Neal Pollack, you 12-years-faded hipster has-been ball sack! Oooooh, did you write for McSweeney's? So did everyone else. I wonder why they dumped your third-rate Hunter S. Thompson persona? Go do yoga in hell, you pathetic lickspittle Amazon dick-sucker. No one gives a shit about what you have to say. Shut up!
Our opinions are steaming mounds of garbage fit only to wash up on faraway digital shores. We are worthless meat-slabs, and the ocean will soon swallow us all. Remember that the next time you try to express yourself on Facebook, or elsewhere. In moments like this, silence is the only option.
To conclude, I can only add, in the immortal words of the Black Eyed Peas, the most horrific musical group of all time:
Neal Pollack is the author of 10 books of fiction and nonfiction. His latest Kindle Single, Not Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, chronicles his disastrous attempts to make it as a writer in Hollywood. He lives in Austin, Texas, against his will.