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Kicking the Habit

Obama keeps sending me emails. It’s been two months since the campaign breakup, and while I appreciate that he still relies on me, talks to me, thanks me — it’s just time for me to move on. He’s getting desperate, I know — even getting his Davids to approach me (the Plouffe, the Axe), asking for help in exchange for… raffle tickets! Bumper stickers! A special edition winter hat! But I’ve had enough.

Obama cigarettesForgive me, Prez-O. We had a heck of a time together, defeated the throes of Clintons and Ayers alike, came together in a historic something or other. I need some me-time now, I need…

Okay, I’ll deflate this already-tired device. As the year anniversary of Iowa-caucus-mega-success approaches us, however, I feel the need to the dark side of our excitement’s shiny coin: exhaustion. Nay, detox. America is awaking from a year-long media bender only to find that Chris Matthews is still in our bed and Sarah Palin’s clothes are sprawled across the floor. All three million dollars worth (or whatever it was).

Ugh. Can you believe we cared that much about what amounts to low-grade D.C. gossip? Remember the fear struck by the mythical “whitey” video? Our shaken fists at Hil’s RFK gaffe? The repeated viewings of Romney letting the dogs out? (Okay, no shame there). The day before the election, Arianna Huffington declared the race for… the internet! YouTube brought us a debate this year (and Mike Gravel’s “Obama Girl” music video. Hm.); reactionary blogger Andrew Sullivan was allowed on television. Seemingly docile outlets finally spouted claws (I’m looking at you, Real Clear Politics) — Election ’08 kept us all up eating after midnight, and oh the gremlins it did spawn.

It was new media’s time. No doubt. Newspapers got a one-hit high in sales on Obama’s V-day, but otherwise the word was fail, fail, fail. When we look back, though, remember that unleashing the election to the forces of the web introduced it to its soulless flaws as well as its supreme grassroots advantage. For every fundraising record shattered by Obama, a million little blog posts emerged about that never-do-well middle name, the “secret Muslim” farce, and Palin’s teen comedy faking-it pregnancy. Yes, 2000 had whispers about McCain’s adopted child, 2004 had swiftboating — and however devastating, these were Big Things dispersed by Important People (hack operatives, mostly).

We owned the internet rumor mill, though – the UrlSA — and never before did we have such a stake in the conversation. We let ourselves fall under a techno spell, thinking McCain’s green screen faux-paus were worthy of distain because he might become the leader of the free world (whatever part we own, anyway). I can’t count the hours I spent scrolling through Google Reader, my RSS feed home, to find the next update on Troopergate, Revve Wright, the wonderful world of electoral math. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, an RSS feed is like a magical internet box that collects new posts from all the sites you crave — from the tower of the Times editorial page to your buddy’s drunken musings on how Palin somehow made Tina Fey less hot. From there, you share: links to blot out like-minded friends’ Facebook profiles, conversation starters, sweaty after-hours obsessions (just like Bill Kristol’s sweet spot for his Sarah).

I’d recommend it, but soon enough you end up in Requiem for a Dream territory, tricked into thinking Jared Leto can act and realizing that Ellen Burstyn is a terrifying old woman. Post-election, that eventually creeps in. And after the horror of time-lost — the crippling boredom of an old addict. Save for a wondrous tech-free vacation to Europeland, I still check my feeds every day, settle on “Countdown” while grabbing dinner, talk transition with old Obama staffers. It’s an old habit now, an unaware biting of nails, and even when IMPORTANT THINGS happen (the economy might be a Terminator), it’s hard to re-spark the fire.

So what now? “Lost” starts again soon, libraries are loaning Wii consoles. I hear there’s a new fad in town called human companionship. Though if all else fails, rumor has it that a shipment of Midterm Electo-Crack is set to hit stateside in a year or so, just in time for 2010.

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