Monday, March 2, 2009

The Appearance of Leadership

I don’t often disagree with John Scalzi, but today he is wrong.


Remember that scene?

The one in The Fifth Element?

The cruise ship/hotel Fhloston Paradise is under siege by the Mangalores? Simple minded, single minded, brutish, thuggish, ugly, bald, jowly creatures? Easily duped into fighting for hopeless causes? Yeah, those guys. They’ve taken the bridge, shot the Captain and are holding a dozen hostages. They’ve lost the battle, but they’d crash the ship into the ground and kill everybody rather than surrender. They’re rooting around like feral children, smashing the instruments, fighting amongst themselves, and exchanging gunfire with what’s left of the ship’s crew.

The hero, Korben Dallas, and Ensign Fog are against the bulkhead, just outside the bridge:

Dallas to Fog: “We need to find the leader, Mangalores won’t fight without the leader.”

Aknot the Mangalore (shouting from the bridge): “One more shot, and we start killing hostages!”

Dallas: “That’s the leader.”

You can always spot the leader.

Sure, the details vary and he’s not always the the guy giving the orders, but you can usually spot the head Manglaore pretty easily:

- When you question an organization, the guy who consistently answers loudest, whether or not the organization approves – and in fact there is little the organization can do about it one way or the other - is the leader.

- In a crises, the guy they all turn to for hope is the leader.

- When a guy, speaking for your organization and purporting to represent you, spouts crazy nonsense, provably false information, blatant hate speech, and fixes blame for your organization’s problems on [insert convenient scapegoat: Jews, Atheists, Liberals, Socialists, Homos, Illegal Aliens, The Press, etc ad nauseum] and everybody in your organization nods their head and doesn’t raise an objection, he’s the leader.

- When the supposed powerful of your organization nervously wait to see what a certain guy says, not because they respect him, but because they fear appearing to hold contrary opinions, then that guy is the leader.

- If somebody speaks publicly for your organization without first consulting your organization, and the organization makes no move to either refute his statements or shut him up because they don’t have the balls to do so, well then he is speaking for your organization and he’s the leader.

- If somebody speaks publicly for your organization, loudly, repeatedly, and so often that he becomes the de facto face of your organization, then he’s the leader.

- When the chips are down, and morale is low, and you’re feeling blue, the guy you call to rally the troops is the leader.

- When you give a guy a twenty minute speaking slot in your organization’s very tight agenda, and he takes an hour and a half, and you do nothing about it because the crowd is eating it up – and in fact you actually can’t do anything about it because the crowd would tear you to pieces, so you bump supposedly important people off the schedule to let the guy go on speaking on his own agenda – well then his agenda is your agenda and he’s the leader.

- When a guy proposes no solutions, shows no inspiration, no insight, but excels solely at playing to your organization’s worst fears, when he tells you that [insert convenient scapegoat: Jews, Atheists, Liberals, Socialists, Homos, Illegal Aliens, The Press, etc ad nauseum] are ruining your country, destroying your home, raping your children, spitting on your holy books and your sacred ideals and you cheer him on, he’s the leader. Note: he is a particularly heinous type of leader, a leader of the weak minded, one that we’ve seen many times throughout history, one that our country has fought against over and over – but he is a leader nonetheless.

- When a guy bangs the podium, pounds his chest, and punctuates his speech with fist pumping salutes while misquoting the founding documents of your country in order to make his point – while conspicuously failing to mention those portions of the governing documents that directly refute his points – all while making simplistically mindless patriotic statements in order to pander to the lowest unthinking common denominator and inflame the crowd, and instead of hearing the words “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!” the crowd of young people rise to their feet and cheer at the top of their lungs, then that guy is the leader.

- When a guy, speaking for your organization on the national stage, takes the most dishonorable, extreme, and dishonest traits (and thereby directly acknowledges that these traits are dishonorable and extreme and dishonest) of your organization and blatantly, obviously, childishly, pins those failings on the opposition rather than to own up to them and take responsibility for them, and the people in your organization cheer and do not correct him, he is the leader.

- When a guy stands before a crowd and tells them that their fellow countrymen are in point of fact the enemy, and the crowd cheers, he is the leader.

- When a guy stands before a crowd and speaks proudly of treason, and the crowd cheers, then he is the leader.

The GOP has such a leader.

He is the face of their party.

He is the one they listen to.

He is the one they’ve turned to for hope.

He is their voice, whether they like it or not.

He is the one the official leaders are afraid to challenge.

He is the one the official party leaders debase themselves before.

He is the one that tells them they are right and righteous and wronged.

He is the one that brings them to their feet and makes them cheer.

He is a man of abject ignorance who speaks of divine knowledge.

He is a man who has never served and yet speaks of service.

He has no ideas of his own but he is hailed as idealistic.

He is a man of gluttony who speaks of self control.

He is a man of vice who speaks of virtue.

He is a man of sin who speaks of piety.

He is a man of hate who speaks of love.

He is a coward who speaks of courage.

He is the one they’ve rallied to.

He is, of course, Rush Limbaugh.

Dallas to Fog: “We need to find the leader, Mangalores won’t fight without the leader.”

Aknot the Mangalore: “One more shot, and we start killing hostages!”

Dallas: “That’s the leader.”

Of course, it didn’t end well for Aknot the Mangalore.

And those who followed Aknot had it far worse.

But what of the innocent bystanders?

Why, they had it worst of all, and their bodies littered the Mangalore's trail of destruction.


  1. Dear Republican spies,

    I'm not imagining Rush Limbaugh ending up the same as Aknot. I'm not.

    So leave me alone.

    "Anybody else want to negotiate?"

  2. Well, for the record I'm not advocating, inciting, or otherwise encouraging anyone to make Rush end up like Aknot either - However, to use Rush's own words I hope he fails, and I won't shed a single tear if he does.

  3. Rahm Emanuel was on Face the Nation yesterday. Here's one of the exchanges:

    SCHIEFFER: Rush Limbaugh. We've talked about Newt Gingrich a lot this morning and now you bring up Rush Limbaugh. Who do you think now speaks for the Republican Party?

    EMANUEL: You just named them. It was Rush Limbaugh. I mean, he has laid out his vision, in my view, and he said it clearly, and I compliment him for that. He's been very upfront and I compliment him for that. He's not hiding.

    He's asked for President Obama and called for President Obama to fail. That's his view. And that's what he has enunciated. And whenever a Republican criticize him, they have to run back and apologize to him, and say they were misunderstood.

    He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party. And he has been upfront about what he views, and hasn't stepped back from that, which is he hopes for failure. He said it. And I compliment him for his honesty, but that's their philosophy that is enunciated by Rush Limbaugh. And I think that's the wrong philosophy for America, because what Americans want us to do and what President Obama has been very clear about is work together, setting our goals. We may take different roads to get to that goal, but be clear on what we have to do to build this country, by investing in our people, changing the health care system, having an energy independence policy that clearly weans America off its dependence on foreign oil...

    SCHIEFFER: Do you really think he is that important, that other Republicans are paying that much attention to him?

    EMANUEL: Well, he was given the keynote, basically, at the Conservative Caucus to speak. When a Republican did attack him, he was -- clearly had to turn around and come back and basically said that he's apologizing and was wrong. And I do think he's an intellectual force, which is why the Republicans pay such attention to him.

    I think that's almost a perfect response. It's like saying, "Thank you American Nazi Party for marching in public so we can know who all of you are. Keep up the good work!"

  4. "spiting on your holy books" -- I love that turn of phrase. No, really -- I'm not trying to find all the nits. Believe me, I edit my blog entries all the time. But sometimes I find that (a) typos and (b) unintentional misreadings sometimes reveal deeper thoughts, and I find that fascinating.

    And I love that scene in The Fifth Element. "Anyone else want to negotiate?" And THAT, my friends, is why Bruce Willis had to star in that movie. No one else can deliver that line with both the seriousness and sarcasm that it deserves.

    Definitely guilty pleasure material.

    The first Rush Limbaugh material I ever heard was A Long Time Ago, when he was doing fake commercials for tuna with "more dolphin", because it tasted better. It was pretty funny at the time.

    Dr. Phil

  5. Dr Phil, the Fifth Element is NOT a guilty pleasure.

    The Fifth Element is AWESOME.

  6. "Spiting" is apparently an actual word, meaning "an instance of malicious feeling" - which is why my blog editor spell checker didn't underline it, which is why I didn't catch it.

    Allow me to use it in a sentence:
    Me: How are you today, Rush?
    Rush: I'm spiting, ohhhh am I spiting on the liberals right now.

    So, as Dr. Phil pointed out, the original sentence was technically correct, but only a Mensan would probably know that. It's also not what I intended, so I fixed it.

    Frankly, I blame this on Obama. The guy's only been in office two months and already the language has gone straight to hell.

  7. Oh, and personally my favorite line, Dr. Phil, is:

    Lady I only speak two languages, English and bad English. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for conversation, but maybe you could just shut up for a moment?

  8. Rush keeps waving from the "I am the voice of the conservatives" on one day. And on the next when he's show to be the arrogant ass he is, then he claims, "Well, I'm just an entertainer." Handwaving. All of it is handwaving.

    And I'll agree with John a little bit, lacking any other actual leadership (sorry, the current GOP head, can't remember his name and that's part of the problem, if he needs to jump up and down and say, "No, I'm the guy, really, they elected me," then yeah, you ain't the leader) Rush is defacto the leader. Until he screws up big time and is called on it. Then he'll just be an entertainer again.

    Some more viagra, Mr. Limbaugh. Or maybe some Oxycontin.

    Of course then we could also have a discussion of Republican versus Conservative. As they tend to say they're the same when it's convenient, and then that they're not the same when it's uncomfortable (like after the thrashing they got in the last election, see, that wasn't a conservative problem, it was a Republican problem).

  9. There's an eerie resemblance between Rush and the Mangalores. He wouldn't need a whole lot of makeup or facial prosthetics.

    And spiting reminds me of smiting. Which Rush also needs. Divine or here on earth.

  10. I find it both sad and amusing that the Republican National Committe chose Michael Steele as their new chair, and no one can ever remember his name, even though his is the first Afro-American to hold the office.

    Unfortunately, everyone else is going to forget Steele, and soon. Because he just apologized to Limbaugh, AND said he respected Limbaugh AND called him a national conservative leader. Thus effectively handing him control of the GOP party.

    Way to go Mr-New-GOP-Chairman. No negotiating required, you just handed the keys of your hard-assed party one of the biggest bigots in the country, no, maybe the world.

    I know, let's all go watch a movie...how about "Fifth Element" this weekend?


  11. Well, yeah, in the Steele/Limbaugh relationship, Steele is what they refer to in the General Prison Population as "the bitch."

  12. I figure a guilty pleasure movie is one where, when you run across it on TV, no matter where in the movie they are, you end up watching the rest of it. No matter what else you're supposed to be doing or what time you planned on going to bed.

    And for the record, I liked "spiting on your holy books" as a phrase.

    Dr. Phil

  13. Ah, yes, time for a game of GOP pick up the soap...


  14. I find it amazing that Steele, supposedly a leader, is so spineless. Come on, he didn't even last 24 hours. This is the kind of leader the GOP elected? How could people expect him to fight for their ideals and livelihood?

  15. Well, Steele is the first African American head of the Old White Guy's Party. Then he goes and insults the Mouth Piece of the Traditional Old White Guy's Party. Bet that didn't go over big in the RNC Club House - I doubt they used the word "boy" but I don't doubt some powerful Old White Guys spoke harshly to him, because the guy caved in like the aforementioned prison bitch and has done nothing but apologize and shit his drawers for two days since. "Please Mr. Limbaugh, may I please please keep my job? Please?" If Limbaugh wasn't running the GOP before Steele's abject public self-debasement, he sure as hell is now.

    It probably wasn't necessary in the first place (the apology), if you have to say "I'm in charge," well, that's an indicator that you really are not.

  16. ok, on that note...

    I work in a 3-person office, the other two are out sick today, therefore I are in charge...

    NOT!!! Just had the workload tripled. Guess I'm in charge of a big pile o' poo...I mean legal documents and pleadings.


  17. Pleading, isn't that what Steele's been doing?

  18. I know, let's all go watch a movie...how about "Fifth Element" this weekend?

    Pssst. Watchmen comes out in Friday.

    Also, I'm afraid I'm going to have to out myself at this point: I think Fifth Element is pretty terrible. Nice set design, some cool costumes, shitty movie.


    Back on topic: is it possible to simultaneously agree with Scalzi and Wright? I found myself nodding in agreement at both blog entries.

  19. On Friday, I meant to type. "In Friday"? What the hell does that even mean?

    Stupid fingers.

  20. I think Fifth Element is pretty terrible.

    (suspicious look)

    (scooches away from Eric on the couch)

  21. I think Fifth Element is pretty terrible.

    What. Did. He. Say?

    Eric, Element is something that sort of grows on you, like Bruce Willis shaped moss. I hated it the first time I saw it, especially Chris Tucker's character Ruby Rhod. After a couple of viewings though, you start to realize that it's a brilliant movie, full of sight gags and visual jokes for SciFi fans.

    Plus, Brion James is just freakin' hysterical (the guy who played Leon in Bladerunner, and it's too damned bad he died so young, because he was one of my favorite actors). When the President (Tiny Lister, for crying out loud, how can you not be laughing at this point) asks about military action and all the Generals nod in unison behind James? Or the look on his face when Leeloo slams his head into the bioreactor? Or the look on his face when Dallas shoves him into the freezer? Major Iceborg? "Did you check your messages? Could be important" "You rigged the contest?" "Uh huh! [grinning]" Ruby shooting the Mangalore in the head point blank "Sorry, Sorry!", then asking Dallas "Do you think he'll be alright?" Or Tucker screaming like a girl during the firefight? Fuck, Eric, I'm laughing hysterically just thinking about it.

    And the Diva performance? That was just damned amazing, if opera was like that I go see it more often.

  22. And the cross-eyed cat. I loved the cross eyed cat.

  23. I heard rumors of a cultural car crash over here--and it's true.


    ::staggers backward like Ben Kenobi and grabs head in hand::

    No. No.


    "I hate warriors, too narrow-minded... Now a real killer, when he picked up the ZF-1, would've immediately asked about the little red button on the bottom of the gun."


  24. Eric, Element is something that sort of grows on you, like Bruce Willis shaped moss.

    Well, okay. I agree that Fifth Element made me sick. And now I'm starting to think maybe it induces a high fever that causes brain damage, or perhaps it's a form of meningitis.

    How else can I explain how a bunch of obviously intelligent people have come to such a dire place?

    Sorry, if I want to see a SF taxi driver of the future saving the world after a scantily-clad chick stumbles into his cab and his life, I think I'll rent Heavy Metal. Not only is their version of a similar plot better, but that segment is followed shortly thereafter by one of the best performances of the late John Candy's career. Plus HM soundtrack is pure awesome despite an nearly-complete lack of actual heavy metal in lieu of songs by Cheap Trick and Devo, et al. (okay, there's one song by Sabbath and some people might count BÖC, although I don't).

    But I loves youse guys anyways, okay?

  25. Eric, would it help you to know that not only is Fifth Element an overt homage to Heavy Metal, one of the magazine's most famous artists -- Jean "Moebius" Giraud -- was its Production Designer?

    I hope so, because I'm about to compound the trauma you're experiencing being so wrong today: I saw the Heavy Metal movie a few months ago after a span of some 20 years and it hadn't aged well at all. Kind of cringe-worthy, really. And the only good song is the Devo song (Akron represent!)


  26. God Lord, Eric has gone insane!

    Here, I'll get him in a headlock, Jeff, you grab his tongue so he doesn't swallow it and choke to death (don't panic, this is a common malady in the lawyer breed).

    Michelle, look in the medical kit, see the BIG syringe of Thorazine, we're going to need that - left ass cheek. Just jab it right in there and push the plunger. Hard.

    Janiece, don't just stand there, you're a biker chick, get over here and help me hold him down before he hurts himself.

    Nathan, keep an eye out for Zombies. They're around. They're always around and this is when they attack.

  27. Bitch bitch bitch.

    Ok, you grab his tongue, Jeff can jab him with the syringe. Sheesh, there's no pleasing some people.

  28. Hrm. I think Fifth Element would've been much improved if Chris Tucker hadn't been in it. Or at the very least died a horrible death halfway through. :p

  29. Thank you, MWT. Agreed. In a fire.

    Jeff, sorry: I knew Mobius worked on 5E, and was already giving it credit for nice costumes and production design.

    And I said I'd rather watch HM: you're right that it hasn't aged well, though I still think "Den" is one of John Candy's best moments (then again, my very favorite Candy moment goes back to his SCTV days).

    And Jim, put a rat cage on my head and I might concede 2 + 2 = 5. But I still won't say I like Fifth Element. :-P

  30. Somebody hand me the other syringe. No, the other one. The one with the red and black stripes and the skull and cross bones. The zombies must have bitten him, there's no saving Eric now. Best we can do is put him out of our misery before it spreads. I'll miss him, but that's how it is with zombies.

    Oh, and somebody check MWT for bite marks.

  31. Eric: Yes, you did say that about the 5E's dressings. In hindsight it was a weak argument on my part. Your match, esquire.

    (psst, Jim: don't waste the good stuff just yet. Go get the rat mask, and let's run him through some times tables first.)

  32. I posted a comment yesterday asking whether or not the "litered" in your final sentence was a reference to exsanguination, but blogger ate it.

    Glad you caught it anyway.

    I think.

    Or did you delete my comment just to keep yourself from looking more miserably non-Mensan?

  33. Frankly, at this point the less Mensan I look the happier I am.

    And no, that is not a fucking metaphor.

  34. Sorry to be late to the party (damn day job, they expect WORK?!?!)

    On the leadership topic, I had a boss (Navy Captain) tell me the story of the boobie bird as leader. Basically, the loudest, coarsest and meanest boobie bird is the leader.

    Of course, the entire species of boobie birds couldn't think their way out of a paper sack.

    Rush as Republican leader reminds me of the boobie birds.

  35. (Sigh) I don't chime in and you guys go all postal-medical on Eric. Jim, please do not use the syringe with the red and black stripes and the skull and cross bones. That's only for special occasions. Use the pink syringe with blue bunnies on it. Trust me. It works great in situations like this. Sort of like how one can enrage a dickhead that cuts you off, not by giving him the finger, but by later passing him, boxing him in behind a slow truck, and (as you pass him -- or her) smile and wave. It literally gives them apoplexy. The Husband, who tends to be a bit more violent than I am (what the heck is it with you Navy guys) does this all the time now and LOVES it.

  36. I should maybe rewatch 5th Element sometime soon.

    Only then will I remember enough to understand.

  37. No, Scott, don't do it! Scott! Don't! Oh, the humanity!

    ::dives through air in slow motion::



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