Right Wingers Unhappy Students Don’t Care About Benghazi

op-american-springAs classes were finishing up at George Mason University recently, an intrepid insipid conservative media reporter lurched at them with questions about Pharrell Williams and Benghazi to demonstrate just how inept relevant scholars are. In other words, once again contemporary conservatism’s anti-intellectualism has come to bite them in the ass.

The first question, “Who made the song ‘Happy’?” was supposed to gauge students’ awareness of pop culture. Easy enough; love it or hate it that song is everywhere and people who never heard of the Neptunes (Williams’ producing collaboration with Chad Hugo) or N*E*R*D* (their rock/pop/future band) have. People who’ve never heard ODB’s “I Got Your Money”, Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You”, Busta Rhyme’s “Pass the Courvoisier, Pt II”, Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, Nellie’s “Hot in Herre”, or Gwen Stafani’s “Hollaback Girl”  have some familiarity with Pharrell’s silly hat and eternal youthfulness now. People may never heard of Clipse or Kelis, but we’ve all seen Ellen and those cute kids dancing to “Happy”.

Ok, but what’s the point, Jasdye?

The point is I’d much rather talk about Pharrell Williams than Benghazi, and so would most of the world. In fact, Pharrell Williams is more important than Benghazi. I’m not saying this to make fun of the Fox News crowd or others not familiar with Williams’ music. Musical and pop culture familiarity really has little-to-nothing to do with values and goodness – things that matter in life to me. I just wanted to focus on Pharrell Williams’ music because, like the students, I really couldn’t care less about the Benghazi of the ultra-right wing. There is another Benghazi, of course. It’s the second-most populated city in Libya and has more than a million people in its metro area. That Benghazi has real people who have nothing to do with rightwing appropriating Americans. Students would be excused for thinking that Dan Joseph of the rightwing Media Research Center is asking about a geographic, physical location, about a city with citizens. Alas, he isn’t. It’s not unlike when gun worshipers talk about “Chicago” as if homicide rates are for NRA talking points and not about our friends, neighbors, and children. As if weren’t not real people, but an excuse to loosen gun control even more (and end up with even more weapons on our streets. Thanks for that).

The second part of Dan Joseph’s quiz/interview is the politics and current event question. Now, you would think that since they’re talking to college students educated in the ways of the world that they would ask them questions relevant to reality. You know, maybe a question about their fear of landing a decent job in the face of a demolishing infrastructure and severe wealth inequality. Maybe Joseph could ask about the recently doubled rates for college loans, because, you know, that actually affects people’s lives. But no, he asked about Benghazi. And nobody, not one single student, got it right. However, if you random Fox News viewers about Muscat in Oman, how many would know what that is? About the same percentage. Why? Because it’s irrelevant to them. It’s a real city with real people like Benghazi. But it doesn’t have the other meaning: Conspiracy theory to take down Hillary Clinton.

The whole bit is about as funny as Jay Leno’s “Man on the Street” bits – which is to say, not funny (ok, maybe you like Leno. We can’t all be perfect). Dan Joseph tries to lead some of the respondents down rabbit holes about cream fillings and some guy named Ben (har har). At one point, a student guesses that Benghazi is in the Middle East and Joseph congratulates him. 

Except, dur, Benghazi is in Libya and Libya is part of North Africa. Egypt is considered part of the Middle East, but not its neighbors to the west. But it doesn’t matter to anti-Muslims anyway, right? They’re all the same to the Heritage Foundation and Fox News anyway.

Was I listening to Neptunes songs on Spotify while writing this? Yes, yes I was. Here, it’s more important than that conspiracy theory.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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