Political Satirist Speaks in Valley

Posted on September 06, 2002 | Type: In the News
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P.J. O' Rourke pokes fun at terrorists, U.S. government

Beef and sacred cows arrived equally skewered at the [Phoenix-based] Goldwater Institute's luncheon Thursday as political satirist P.J. O'Rourke flayed terrorists, pork barrel spending and the World War II generation.

The best-selling author's discussion at the Ritz-Carlton Phoenix launched the conservative think tank's speaker series. About 250 people attended the event.

"He's well-loved, even by people who don't love him," said Darcy Olsen, executive director of the Goldwater Institute.

O'Rourke's job of making fun of the government hasn't been as easy since Sept. 11.

"We can't make fun of our government in a time of national crisis," he said. We've got all these people overseas hating our government for us. We've outsourced. It's being done much more cheaply by lunatics in the caves of Tora Bora."

By now Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat have figured out America is not the scared country, O'Rourke said.

"America is the scary country. All these fundamentalists got dressed up in their holy war costumes and went trick or treating at the wrong house."

Among the journalist's targets:

  • The former vice president: "Did Al Gore grow that beard for awhile just in case the Taliban won?"
  • Economic regulation: "What I would suggest is military expropriation of any SUV not proven to have been off-road in the past six months."
  • The World War II generation: "One stock market crash-back when they didn't even have dot-coms-and it takes them a dozen years to go out and get a job," he said. "Then they wait around while Germany and Japan conquer half the world before it occurs to them to get involved in World War II. Then they get surprised by a million Red Chinese in Korea. Now where do you put a million red Chinese so they're going to be a surprise? Then they spend the 1950s watching Lawrence Welk and designing tail fins. They came up with the idea for Vietnam-thanks. And now they're the "Greatest' generation, unless you're standing behind them at the bank."

Pop culture and communication law expert Dennis Russell, who teaches at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism, said satire such as O'Rourke's is a sign of a healthy democracy.

"From my perspective of someone who's a scholar of pop culture, I would say that type of thing is healthy for a society, healthy for a culture to have people like himself who provide oppositional voices, even if they're one that I or others don't necessarily agree with."

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