Waterboard me if you’d like to, but it’s not gonna work. I simply cannot say that I have ever watched an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore. Critics and proponents alike seem to dismiss and defend the program as “train wreck television” but, to be completely honest, never in my life have I felt even the slightest bit compelled to go out of my way to observe a train wreck. Perhaps that explains my inattentiveness.
That being said, under no circumstances will I echo President Barack Obama in saying that I am unaware of who Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is. On two occasions in just the past week alone–during both the taping of ABC’s The View and during a speech given to the National Urban League–the president denied knowing who Snooki was despite delivering a great joke during the White House Correspondents Association Dinner in May about her, her Jersey Shore co-stars, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and the ten percent tax on tanning services hidden within the health care bill. I’m not saying that reluctance to admit knowledge of Jersey Shore is a deal-breaking failure for a president of the United States, I’m just saying that Obama only has one more chance to betray Snooki before the cock crows.
Frankly, I don’t care whether Barack Obama knows who Snooki is. (I don’t care whether Bill Clinton knows of her, either, but it would be endlessly entertaining to watch him waggle that stinky finger and hear him say “I don’t know who this ‘Snooki’ is” and then subsequently follow up that statement with “…but I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”) The point isn’t whether the average politico within the Beltway knows who she is — the point is that outside of the Washington, D.C. bubble, millions of people do know Snooki, and tens of millions more … wait for it … ARE Snooki.
And Snooki matters. Seriously.
A week ago, during the premiere of the new season of Jersey Shore, the perpetually orange, oompa-loompa-like girl from Marlboro, New York was shown applying a liberal amount of bronzer to her face and commenting that she no longer frequents tanning salons “because Obama put a ten percent tax on tanning.” (Try to ignore, if you will, her arrest the next day for drunk and disorderly conduct exhibited on the Seaside Heights, NJ boardwalk, though to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the drunk and disorderly crowd on the Seaside Heights boardwalk enough to get arrested is no small feat.)
Now, while Snooki did not bother to mention that the administration’s institution of the tax on tanning services is an overt breach of the president’s campaign promise to ensure that no one making less than $250,000 per year will see a tax increase, nor did she mention that the tariff likely violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment as it applies to one segment of the population but not another with the disparity based upon race (though she did note that John McCain is “pale” and “would probably want to be tan” while Obama “doesn’t have that problem, obviously”), her reasoning does not matter.
Snooki’s underlying reasons behind her inherent dislike of Barack Obama’s tanning policy would only be of any consequence to those who not only know of Snooki but respect her political acumen enough to follow her lead at the polls. Those people worry me. In reality, far more important is the mere fact that Snooki was aware of the tanning tax to begin with — not to mention the party responsible for it. That, my friends, appeals to the simple, aforementioned truth that, while there are millions who know of Snooki, millions more actually ARE Snooki whether they know it or not.
Everybody, see, has their buttons. While I would likely not recognize Nicole Polizzi if she passed me on the street–well, the staggering, the handcuffs and the not-so-faint odor of Jägermeister might tip me off–knowing via Wikipedia that she grew up the adopted daughter of ethnic parents in southeastern New York, in the remote chance she did vote in the last election I’d bet money that she probably did not pull the lever for John McCain and Sarah Palin. In other words, I’m guessing she ain’t a conservative. Fast-forward a little more than a year later, however, and the adverse impact that one little provision of a 2400-page bill had on her peculiar, booze-addled life was enough to likely make her think twice about the relationship between government and the people. Or, at least, significantly sour her on Barack Obama until he holds a beer summit at the White House in her honor.
There are millions and millions and millions of Snookis out there, throughout the United States of America. And while most probably have smaller hair or show a little less cleavage or generally avoid rather than aspire to anonymous sexual contact, the fact remains that most people have a preconceived notion when it comes to politics and inherently political issues. Maybe their parents voted a certain way. Maybe they live in a traditionally red or blue state. Whatever the reason, those preconceived notions can be knocked down quickly and comprehensively once the right button is pushed.
Some people, for example, might be closet entomologists and really like ants, and therefore are eternally grateful to the president for including, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $1.9 million dedicated to the California Academy of Sciences so the school could send researchers to east Africa and to islands in the Indian Ocean for the purpose of photographing and capturing what so many Americans try desperately to keep out of their cupboards.
Others might be small business owners, wondering where they might find the extra funds required to retrofit their offices or facility to accommodate the requirement within the health care bill that every such office provide separate, designated rooms for breastfeeding purposes regardless of the company’s gender make-up or any other extenuating circumstances.
And yet more may be like Snooki, dismayed that they can no longer strip down to their skivvies, don goofy goggles, and cram themselves into a tanning booth for seven minutes at a time without having to fork over more of their beer money to the federal government.
What Snooki teaches us is that, regardless of aptitude, propaganda stands little chance against definitive fact. That a little bit of verifiable information will go a long way. In other words, Thomas Jefferson was absolutely correct when he noted, in an 1820 letter, that “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.” Granted, it’s more than a little frightening to think of Snooki as a “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society,” but you get my point.
People are who they are, and believe what they believe. Snooki was going to detest those responsible for adding to her monthly tanning bill whomever they turned out to be. What Snooki needed, to connect the dots, was fact. And right now, according to Rasmussen, 59 percent of the people are in favor of repealing the health care bill, 68 percent support the construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, 67 percent feel that disclosure of secrets pertaining to the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan would hinder national security, and 59 percent believe that tax cuts in general help the economy. Almost three of every four Missouri voters just yesterday rejected the [patently unconstitutional] individual mandate incorporated within the health care bill. People are who they are, and they believe what they believe.
The American people are out there, and their buttons are waiting to be pushed. Snooki didn’t have to be convinced of the importance of tanning to her life, just like those 59 percent who believe that tax cuts help the economy likely are not in need of a lesson on the Laffer Curve. What Snooki herself and the rest of the Snookis out there need is someone who can press those buttons, who can not only connect the dots between the problem in question and the party responsible, but also someone who can offer and advocate–in plain terms rooted in common sense–a viable alternative to the course of action which has led our nation to the place it lies in now. That someone can be a person, or a party.
Fact is our friend. Truth is our currency. Spin and disinformation has unfortunately become a fixture in our nation’s political and media landscape. And yet, if fact and truth can break through the layers of Aqua Net, malted hops and bong resin and find their way to the forefront of the mind of Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, spin and disinformation will only go so far. In other words, Snooki matters — because if reality can get through to this reality star, then there is hope for the rest of America as well.