Sunday, May 3, 2009

Remembering Jack Kemp, via Twitter

I never really had much against Jack Kemp, except for most of what he stood for. True, once you peeled back his Chicago School economics, his advocacy for the nonsensical Flat Tax, his belief in the gold standard, his aggressive militarism, his support for the Contras, his anti-abortion stance and his bizarre fear about letting homosexuals teach in schools, he had some good ideas, like supporting affirmative action.

Views like this last one go to explaining how the last 24 hours have produced a hagiography of his "bipartisanship." It's a testament to how much conservatism has pushed rhetoric to the far right in America that someone who holds as many as three or four non-doctrinaire conservative opinions resembles something like a charismatically free-thinking renegade. Personally, having a few good ideas amidst an entire spread of noxiously bad ones suggests little more to me than that someone screwed up somewhere. Kind of like going to a salad bar filled with chum, separated organ parts, dead ants, roofing nails and tire-flattened bluejays, except for one dish of shredded carrots: the question then becomes not, "Where did all these ghastly things come from?" but rather, "Who's the dumbass who forgot to throw out these carrots?"

Ordinarily, Jack Kemp's death would have been recognized in my house no differently than the death of any other venerated conservative figure — either not at all, or maybe by pouring out a l'il somethin' on the ground for my homie Malignant Neoplasm who just died because he too-dynamically explored his entrepreneurial interests in an undercompetitive real-estate market. But I was bored last night. Friends have been badgering me to learn more about Twitter and use it more effectively to promote "my brand" and "annoy the shit out of strangers." So I took an hour to figure out the "#" tags and how to browse trending topics, and, lo and behold, here's all this stuff about Jack Kemp.

What I noticed pretty much immediately was that a third of the people praising Kemp for "reaching across the aisle" and being a "true bipartisan hero" also referred to our current president as "nØbama" or "Obonga" or (a few too many times for comfort) variations on monkey/ape/chimp; were tweeting an awful lot about Glenn Beck and the 912 Project; and probably were just one HTML course away from knowing the code to make cyrillic letters to really drive home the horrors of "SФcializt Дmэяiжa." Now, I don't know what was wrong with me, because normally I love right-wing racism and throwing the dictionary and history books into the dustbin, but something just snapped.

It took about ten seconds for my learning process to switch from, "How can I more effectively use Twitter?" to, "I wonder if I can get banned for trolling Twitter?" In between yammering on AIM with a friend who will argue about anything, I cranked these out to see what would happen, changing tags on them to filter them to different Twitter topic groups (or whatever you call them).

During his 14-year career in the NBA, Jack Kemp fathered 7 confirmed illegitimate children & perhaps 10 others with different women. #tcot about 14 hours ago from web

Due to extended downtime following the 1998-99 NBA lockout-shortened season, Jack Kemp arrived at training camp a massive 275lbs. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

A taunter. A showboat. Raw & reckless, Jack Kemp was prone to technical fouls that cost him stature & respect & cost his team...poise. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

In April 2005 Jack Kemp was arrested for marijuana & cocaine possession after a cop smelled pot smoke. He was also carrying a handgun. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

The last few years of Jack Kemp's NBA career were riddled with problems stemming from his weight, as well as cocaine & alcohol abuse. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp's notorious fathering of children out of wedlock were the subject " * " (Asterisk), an episode of the TV series Law & Order. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp was again arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Houston, Texas on July 21, 2006. #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

"At 300 lbs, Jack Kemp [was] hard-pressed to get off the floor, let alone remind anyone of his high-flying Reign Man days in Seattle." #tcot about 13 hours ago from web

After reporting to camp at 300 lbs, the Orlando Magic had to hire a chef & design a workout regimen to control Jack Kemp's diet. #JackKemp about 13 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp's oldest son committed to play basketball for Alabama in 2009. A center, he was named Mr. Basketball in Georgia. #JackKemp about 13 hours ago from web

In later years, "Judas" Kemp was notorious for directing attacks against members of his own raiding parties in World of Warcraft. #JackKemp about 13 hours ago from web

The porn film series, "Well Kemped Slits" 1-22 was inspired by Kemp's unusual endowment and his breakout roles in the early 1990s. #JackKemp about 13 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp's meteoric political rise ensued after a candid filmed moment in which he punched out an otter & screamed, "SUCK IT, HITLER" #Kemp about 12 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp was fired from lifeguarding after mistaking a child's black "boogie board" for an enemy sub's conning tower and shelling it. #Kemp about 12 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp's time experiments opened a portal to another universe where people screamed through assholes in their foreheads 24 hrs/day #Kemp about 12 hours ago from web

Bill Hicks' routine was lifted 100% from Jack Kemp's 1975 spoken-word LP "F*** the Trilateral Commission (Slight Return—to Values!)" #Kemp about 12 hours ago from web

Jack Kemp once had sex with every person in a chinese laundromat. He took underwear from each as a trophy & mounted them in his office #tcot about 12 hours ago from web

"See this, Rog? *Mercury switches*. Haven't seen 'em since the war. This is real Shadow Company/special forces/Jack Kemp-type shit." #tcot about 12 hours ago from web

To answer questions in order, from the least to most important:
1. No, you can't get banned from trolling Twitter, since banning anything for being distasteful, disingenuous or dissociated from fact or accountability would annihilate much of the content thereon.
2. Yes, people will still freak out anyway.
3. No, nobody realized that those first ten updates were my tweeting the biography of former NBA star and Hall of Fame contender Shawn Kemp.
Unfortunately, the freaking out isn't nearly as amusing as on message boards or usenet groups. The 140-character limit naturally keeps people from melting down — half the time, the best reward is the monster wall-of-text reply — and given the kind of people you're dealing with in a situation like this, even the brief replies are limited to "ur a faget" or threats to block you. The fact that you might enjoy the latter (the blocking function also makes all tweets from the person blocking you invisible) doesn't seem to register with these people. Also, I'd reprint the score of outraged replies here, but unlike message boards or usenet groups, when people on Twitter catch on to being trolled, they're able to go back and delete all traces of their biting on your comments, which apparently these people did overnight.

However, as said, most of those replies were pretty pedestrian. The only one that really stood out was a 912 Projecting, Glenn Beckoning, Flat Taxing, stopped-reading-his-Twitter-before-I-got-to 9/11 Truthing paleoconservative who called me a "dumbaozz" for not realizing that Jack Kemp "was in the NFL, not NBA." Of course, this chastisement only raises more questions than it answers.
1. How could a manly man of such masculine man-men (such as this guy claimed to be on his Twitter) not know about the career of a dominant NBA all-star from the 1990s?

2. Why would he be afraid that anyone could possibly think Jack Kemp was 300 pounds of pot-smoking, coke-snorting, gun-toting, child-siring fury?
The only answer I can assume, for him, for the first question is, "The NBA? Aiiiiiigh! BLACK PEOPLE! The game has really been ruined by the 'urban' culture and modern players 'thugging' it up." As for the second, it was always said of Kemp's background and attitude on race that "[as an NFL ballplayer] he showered with more black people than other GOP congressman have ever met." The sad silent codicil that many of his party wishes to append to this statement often seems to be, "And thank God he did, so the rest of us never have to."

In that last spirit, and despite all the above snark, I'd like to affirm Jack Kemp and give him my token appreciation. Jack Kemp was clean. Well-spoken. Despite finding a path to success through athletics, he nevertheless took care to educate himself. He could have bought into that rough ballplayer lifestyle and gotten sucked into drink and drugs, but Jack Kemp pulled himself up by his bootstraps and stood above all that.

Jack Kemp was one of the good ones.