Meet Oliver Willis, third-rate sleaze merchant

Perhaps the main thing you need to know about the opinion writer Oliver Willis is that he spent a formative part of his career at Media Matters for America, the sleazy left-wing propaganda factory run by David Brock, who has variously been called a smear artist,” “poisonous” (in The Nation, no less!), and a “slippery snake” (by Maureen Dowd).

Oliver Willis

Willis is black. His parents were Jamaican. He is obsessed with race. Shortly before the 2016 election, he dismissed Trump supporters as “knuckle dragging racists.” He also dismissed the idea that working-class whites in flyover states had any legitimate grievances, whether about the economy or anything else: no, these people were “table-slamming racists,” “the absolute gutter worst of the country,” and didn’t deserve a hearing. They “lack the capacity to have any sort of empathy for anyone who doesn’t look exactly like them.”

The mentor: David Brock

In today’s America, Willis maintained, “you still start out several lengths ahead if you’re white and male than if you’re brown and female. The system is still set up for you to have a home field advantage, and the rules and many of the referees are still rigged for the outcome to tilt in your favor.” Needless to say, some people who’ve been denied jobs or rejected from colleges because of affirmative action would disagree strongly with this statement.

The devil: Donald Trump

But in Willis’s world, affirmative action isn’t a matter of systematic victim-group preference but of being “more inclusive” of “well qualified — sometimes overqualified — people [who] have been sidelined for eons because they didn’t buy the winning genetic lottery ticket.” Anyway, when Trump won, Willis attributed it to racism, pure and simple. Just the other day, he tweeted: “i see we’re still pretending trump’s rust belt wins were about effing trade agreements and not racism.” 

Houston hit by a hurricane: hilarious

Sometimes his race obsession manifests itself in a particularly ugly way. When Houston was struck by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Willis asked on Twitter: “where are the right wing memes ridiculing houston evacuees like w katrina? many of the photos of people from houston are white. ahhhhhhhhh.” And sometimes it comes out in a way that’s just plain bizarre. Retweeting an item about the early 1800s slave trade, he wrote: “I am told daily by conservatives that the founders were perfect.” Huh? In 2018, who on earth describes any of the Founders as perfect? Doesn’t every history textbook these days emphasize that several of them owned slaves?

Thomas Jefferson, a slave holder? Who knew?

Willis thinks of himself as smart. Exceedingly smart. His website is headlined “Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid.” “I hate being smarter than the leader of the free world,” he tweeted only a few days ago. The purported stupidity of conservatives is a constant theme in his work. “For #WorldBookDay,” he tweeted on March 1, “I would like conservatives to know that they are the scary piles of paper with all the forbidden knowledge and one day you should crack one open.” Back in 2010, the Huffington Post ran a piece in which Willis took on the charge that liberals who look down their noses at conservatives are elitists: no, he argued, liberals should treat conservatives like inferiors, because the latter are, quite simply, morons.

Tea Party movement: morons

The Tea Party crowd, he explained, are “cretins,” “the lowest common idiotic denominator,” and a “roving band of conspiracy nuts” who are preoccupied with “idiotic” issues. In sum: “we owe them no recognition or inclusion in the important discussion about the direction of American society.”

Pause for a moment over that last sentence: as far as Willis is concerned, a whole huge chunk of the American populace deserves no voice in the public square. Implicit in this claim is an assumption that he and his ideological confreres have, or should have, the right to silence those who disagree with them. Willis smears white conservatives as exclusionary racists, but he’s the one who’s the exclusionary racist.

More on Thursday.

 

“Once a meathead, always a meathead”: Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner is one lucky fellow. First, he was born into the highest rung of showbiz – the son of the brilliant director, writer, and actor Carl Reiner, the man behind the classic Dick Van Dyke Show plus a whole bunch of very funny movies. Second, Rob’s family connections got him into acting – and his first big acting job, as it happened, turned out to be in the seminal sitcom of its time, All in the Family.

Mike Stivic (Reiner), left, and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor in All in the Family

All in the Family‘s success owed nothing to Rob: playing Mike Stivic, the son-in-law of the show’s protagonist, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), and Archie’s wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), Reiner was, in terms of acting chops, the weakest link on the show. Mike was also the series’ most insufferable character. While producer Norman Lear, a card-carrying leftist, had meant for Archie, a working stiff who labored on a factory loading dock, to be an anti-hero – a typical hippie-hating “hardhat” of the early 1970s – Archie was, for millions, a lovable hero.

Hey, look at which cast member of All in the Family didn’t win an Emmy

Meanwhile Mike, a social-sciences student into whose dialogue Lear shoved many of his own political opinions, was insufferable: although he shared a bedroom in Archie’s house in Queens because he couldn’t afford to support his wife – Archie’s daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers) – Mike plainly considered himself to be Archie’s intellectual and moral superior of Archie. For Archie, his son-in-law wasn’t “Mike” but “Meathead,” a mindless mouthpiece for an ideology that Archie considered pernicious.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally

After All in the Family, Rob Reiner moved on to directing. His oeuvre contains some of the most entertaining movies of the eighties and nineties: This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men. His more recent product has been less memorable. In any event, what all of his best films have in common is that he didn’t write them. (The one exception is This Is Spinal Tap, on which he shared screenplay credit with funnymen Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.)

Ugh!

His old man, Carl Reiner, is a writer-director, and is terrific at both; Rob is good at figuring out where to put a camera, but his efforts at writing have been disastrous. We still remember, for example, the horror show that was the 1978 TV movie More than Friends, a fourth-rate Annie Hall ripoff that he co-wrote and in which he starred with his then wife, Penny Marshall.

Anyway, the reason we’re looking at Rob Reiner is that over the last quarter century or so, even as his directorial career has faltered, he’s become increasingly visible as an exceedingly shrill, far-left political activist and major megaphone for Democratic Party talking points. He was a prominent supporter of the presidential candidacies of Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. A few years ago, when the Tea Party movement was at its height, he likened it to Hamas.

Reiner’s Malibu manse

Critics have often pointed out his extreme hypocrisy: a resident of Malibu, one of the whitest, richest, and most exclusive municipalities in America, where he lives behind high walls and gates, Reiner has supported open borders and was among the Malibu residents who decided to declare it a sanctuary city – a decision that was, in practice, given the cost of property in the town and the high level of private and public security there, a thoroughly meaningless exercise in virtue signaling. Indeed, pretty much the only illegal aliens who ever set foot in the seaside enclave are the rich locals’ cooks, maids, gardeners, nannies, and chauffeurs.  

But it was the entry of Donald Trump into politics that really sent Reiner into activist overdrive. Ever since Trump began running for the Presidency, Reiner has been shouting from the rooftops that a “constitutional crisis” was in the offing. In a tweet written last December, he urged his fellow citizens to “prepare to take the streets” in response to Fox News’s criticism of the Robert Mueller probe into claims of Russian collusion by the 2016 Trump campaign.

At the January 2018 Women’s March in LA

Speaking at a Women’s March in Los Angeles on January 20, Reiner noted that Trump had been in office for a year and had “corroborated every one of our fears….And we cannot whitewash this anymore. We have a racist in the White House. We have a sexist in the White House. We have a pathological liar in the White House. And he is tearing away at the fabric of our democracy.”

Rod Rosenstein announcing the results of the Russia probe

In mid February, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Russia investigation had concluded that no Americans had “knowingly cooperated with the Russian interference” and that the Russians had “in no way impacted the outcome of the 2016 election,” Reiner, instead of throwing in the towel and admitting he had been hysterical over nothing, chose to take an Orwellian approach to the truth, tweeting as follows: “It is now crystal clear that Russia had a profound impact on the 2016 election. They have attacked US, they are continuing to attack US. If Trump is unwilling to acknowledge this and unwilling to protect US, the word TREASON is now center stage.”

Trump, the “traitor”

We need not comment on this shameless effort at disinformation, because Reiner’s Twitter feed soon filled up with apropos reactions. “Did you even WATCH the actual press conference?” wrote one of Reiner’s followers. “No impact on the election.” Several people commented that if there were any White House treason, it was committed not by Trump but by Obama, since the Russian meddling had, according to the Justice Department, begun in 2014.

One Reiner follower summed it up all this way: “Once a meathead, always a meathead.”