Tales of the Absurd in this Mad, Mad World

Sexual harrassment hysteria and mob justice: Garrison Keillor and Al Franken denied due process

Amid the current hysteria over allegations of sexual abuse of women by men, Garrison Keillor, the long-time host of Prairie Home Companion and until this week of The Writer’s Almanac, had the temerity to write the following in regard to allegations against Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota):

The greatest absurdity of our time is You Know Whom, which goes without saying but I will anyway. What his election showed is that a considerable number of people, in order to demonstrate their frustration with the world as it is, are willing to drive their car, with their children in the back seat, over a cliff, smash the radiator, bust an axle and walk away feeling good about themselves.

And then there is Sen. Al Franken. He did USO tours overseas when he was in the comedy biz. He did it from deep in his heart, out of patriotism, and the show he did was broad comedy of a sort that goes back to the Middle Ages. Shakespeare used those jokes now and then, and so did Bob Hope and Joey Heatherton when they entertained the troops. If you thought that Al stood outdoors at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and told stories about small-town life in the Midwest, you were wrong. On the flight home, in a spirit of low comedy, Al ogled Miss Tweeden and pretended to grab her and a picture was taken. Eleven years later, a talk show host in LA, she goes public, and there is talk of resignation. This is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding.

–Garrison Keillor (Op-ed) “Al Franken should resign? That’s absurd,” Washington Post, November 28, 2017.

Following this expression of his opinion, in an op-ed column, Minnesota Public Radio cut all ties with Keillor, and even blocked access to the archives of both Prairie Home Companion and The Writer’s Almanac. I, Absurdo, the author of this article, have been an avid listener to The Writer’s Almanac, which provided listeners with a five-minute dose of culture and a poem every morning, a rare event indeed in the vast cultural wasteland of American television and and radio. MPR’s statement sought to fudge the point that judgment was apparently passed before an impartial investigation into the allegations had been carried out.

The Washington Post, whose motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness”, entered into the darkest heart of darkness on November 30, when Fred Hiatt, the Editorial Page Editor, wrote that the Post had ended its Op-ed agreement with Keillor because,

Knowing he was under investigation for his workplace behavior, he should not have written a column on that subject; or, if he was going to write, he should have told his editors and readers that he was under investigation. Instead, he wrote a column defending Sen. Al Franken without any disclosure of his own situation.

In other words, Hiatt asserted that if you are an opinion writer for the Post, if you believe you are the subject of false allegations and want to write in the defense of someone else who you believe may be falsely accused, or simply comment on the absurdity of his or her situation, you are ethically prevented from doing so unless you broadcast to the world the details or a summary of the allegations you believe are false or taken out of context of which you are accused.

Hiatt says nothing about what may be his conflicts of interest, of whose intervention produced such swift and intemperate action on his part. Could someone from the Bezos family have intervened? What process led to Hiatt’s decision? Why did he have to act so swiftly, apparently without giving Keillor an opportunity to defend himself? Moreover, is the Washington Post really going to impose its new restriction of the freedom of speech of opinion writers on all of its writers? Who will act as the police?

Hiatt’s position is absurd, and the darkness at the Post will contribute to the death of democracy in the United States until his position is reversed, and light is thrown upon the entire process of decision which led to throttling such an eloquent cultural voice and critic of Donald Trump.

Now, the raging hysteria over sexual harrassment of women by men has engulfed Democratic senators who are calling upon Franken to resign. He may do so on Thursday, December 7.

Yet he should not, for he is uniquely situated to act to bring the current wave of hysteria to a halt. He has a unique opportunity to give a civics lesson to Democrats, Republicans, and the nation as a whole. To do so will require great courage, a new profile in courage, to stand against the winds of outrage that threaten to blow him down.

If we believe in due process, Franken should have the right to know the acts of which he is accused, and the identity of his accuser. He should have the right to confront his accuser, and to cross-examine his accuser in order to allow an impartial decision-maker to arrive at the truth.

Moreover, does any proposed punishment fit the offense, or crime if there was one? A fundamental tenet of our legal system is that no one shall be punished for actions that did not constitute a crime prior to their occurrence (nulla poena sine legge–”No penalty without a law”).

The Constitution provides for the election of a U.S. senator to a six-year term of office. It does not provide that he may be hounded from office by other senators caught up in a wave of hysteria without the benefit of a fair hearing and due process of law. Indeed, the Constitution confers the right on the citizens of Minnesota to elect their Senator, and no extra-constitutional procedure not based on due process should be allowed to replace their opinions expressed at the ballot box.

What should happen is that Franken should not resign because of the these unproven allegations. Rather, they should be investigated instead of being taken as true and at face value. Memories are colored by emotion and time. Both sides and the context in which alleged behavior took place should be taken into account. Serious consideration must be given to the nature of the alleged behavior, and if Franken is found to be responsible, with inadmissible intent, then he should definitely be held accountable. That can happen through an investigation and recommendation by the Senate Ethics Committee, or a special committee can be established for that purpose.

Franken should stand his ground pending an investigation in order to break the fury of the hysteria that is whipping through the country. Why the rush to judgment, if not to maintain the hysteria of the mob?

Why have the Democrats formed a circular firing squad over this issue?

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon will be laughing all the way to the polls. Trump brags of kissing women without their permission and grabbing their p____y, but suffers no consequences. Roy Moore is running neck and neck with the Democrat in the Senate race in Alabama, and may indeed win. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders fall by the wayside. No one asks who might be orchestrating the hysteria, which seems to weaken trust in the media while taking down leading critics of Trump. Could the Russians be whipping up emotions on the two sides? Who is orchestrating these campaigns? What role is social media playing?

The pay-off for Trump and Bannon is twofold. Not only do they see the media and the Democrats weakened, but by opposing the hysteria of the Democrats they play to their base in opposing what they characterize as extreme political correctness on the other side.

The arguments set forth above represent a simple call to reason. Men who are found, after a fair process of inquiry, to be guilty of alleged behavior which is illegal or offensive, should be held to account. But the “crimes” or offensive behavior they have committed must be articulated, and if they are punished the punishment should fit the crime or the offense.

That is, after all, why we have a legal system and norms requiring a fair process of inquiry, and judgment by an impartial decision-maker. This is simply due process and the rule of law. We would be fooling ourselves if we thought the legal system can be bypassed on this single issue, and could not be bypassed by Trump and his supporters on another.

See A Man for All Seasons (1966):

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
–Attributed to Sir Thomas Moore, in the film A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Let’s take time to sort all of this out. To do so, let us stop the mob at the jailhouse door, and avoid the excesses of mob justice such as those that were committed in the French Revolution, during the Red Scare in 1919-1920, by the Klu Klux Klan in the South, and during the McCarthy period in the early 1950’s.


ESPN announcer removed from UVA football game because of name

ESPN announcer removed from University of Virginia football game because of name

See Matthew Haagaug, “ESPN Pulls Announcer Robert Lee From Virginia Game Because of His Name,” New York Times, August 23, 2017.

ESPN has removed an announcer from its broadcast of the University of Virginia’s first football game next month because he has the same name as a Confederate general memorialized in statues that are being taken down across the country.

The network announced late Tuesday that the announcer, Robert Lee, a part-time employee who calls about a dozen college football and basketball games a year for ESPN, would no longer participate in the broadcast of the Sept. 2 game in Charlottesville, Va., which became the center of violent clashes this month during a white supremacist gathering.

White nationalists and neo-Nazis flooded into Charlottesville, marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches, to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of the Confederacy’s top general, Robert E. Lee.

After the violence in Charlottesville, which left one person dead, ESPN executives and Mr. Lee decided that for his safety it would be best to have him to work on a different game that Saturday, a network spokesman said.

Please note that the announcer’s name is Robert Lee, not “Robert E. Lee”.

In caving in to fears of violence generated by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, ESPN apparently did not consider the other alternatives of providing Robert Lee with adequate security, monitoring threats, if any, or the impact of their decision on extremists groups.

This seems like a win for the racist extremists, demonstrating the power they have in threatening violence, in this absurd world.


Russia sets up monitoring service to denounce “fake news”

The Absurd can occur anywhere, even in politics and foreign affairs. A striking example of the Absurd, of the kind that knocks you off your chair laughing, if not crying, has been provided recently by Russia, which has set up a website to denounce ” fake news” appearing in Western publications.

Russia is probably the greatest propogator of ” fake news” in the world, constantly spewing forth its propaganda and disinformation (now know as ” fake news”) through the government’s many media outlets, such at RT Television, and Russian newspapers which with very ferw exceptions are firmly dedicated to spreading the government’s propaganda.

Russian ” fake news” played an important part in the Russian intervention in the U.S. elections on November 8, 2016, and has been widely used as part of Russia’s efforts at subversion of Western democracies in Europe, and elsewhere.

The cynicism is matched, perhaps, only by Russia’s periodic demands that the U.S. or other Western countries comply with international law, which is more than ludicrous following the Russian invasion and annexation of the Ukrain’s Crimea, and its invasion and on-going occupation of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the eastern Ukraine.

So to counter charges that it is disseminating “fake news”, Russia is now denouncing what it considers ” fake news” from the West, with a “fake news” stamp superimposed on screen shots of headlines and stories it doesn’t like. The Russians don’t even both to tell you why it is “fake news”, since that is hardly necessary at the level of mass propaganda at which they are working.


Joe Uchill, “Russia compiling list of ‘fake news’ by Western outlets,” The Hill, February 22, 2017 (01:21 PM EST).

Adam Robinson (BBC Monitoring), “Russia’s anti-fake news site mocked online,” BBC, February 23, 2017.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Examples of publications, retranslating false information about Russia,” Press service/Publications and Refutations/Refutations/, February, 2017.

Министерство иностранных дел Российской Федерации, “Примеры публикаций, тиражирующих недостоверную информацию о России,” Пресс-служба/Публикации и опровержения/Опровержения/, February 22 (?), 2017. [Original Russian website.]

If there were any doubt, we can all be reassured that we are now living in “The Theater of the Absurd”.

The Moderator of the Absurd

Police Reportedly Kill Man to Prevent His Suicide

“Our goal was to try to get in there and provide assistance to what we believed was a life-endangering situation,” Lopez said. “He was, from what we gathered, attempting suicide.”

San Jose police have apparently stopped a man from committing suicide by killing him.

The San Jose Mercury News reported as follows:

San Jose police shot and killed a 42-year-old man who police said was wielding a 10-inch knife in an apartment building in South San Jose on Sunday morning.

Police were responding to a 9:16 a.m. call from the man’s estranged wife, who reported that he had shot himself with a nail gun, said Sgt. Ronnie Lopez. After making numerous attempts for 30 to 45 minutes to talk to the man but getting no response at the door, officers forced their way into his apartment in the 5000 block of Wong Court.

They found the man holding a knife, with a nail gun nearby.

When asked whether the man was moving toward the officers and was a threat to their safety, Lopez described him as “armed and confrontational.” Three officers fired approximately six shots at the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Our goal was to try to get in there and provide assistance to what we believed was a life-endangering situation,” Lopez said. “He was, from what we gathered, attempting suicide.”

–Mike Swift and Sharon Noguchi, “San Jose police kill 42-year-old man wielding knife,” San Jose Mercury News, August 30, 2010 (print edition)

The victim’s estranged wife was not at the scene, and there was no allegation of domestic dispute or threat to her. Neighbors said the man was a butcher.

Whether the police were legally justified in putting six bullets into the potential suicide victim is under investigation. “We just have to meticulously go through this,” Lopez said.

–Contributed by Absurdo

e-mail: absurdo@absurdarama.com

A few words on the terms “a-rama” and “o-rama”

What is the meaning of the blog title ”ABSURDARAMA!”

Here is a little history.

Here are other examples of the use of the terms.


We are looking for contributions from readers of tales of the absurd in this mad, mad world. 

There is so much crazy stuff going on out there, reported or not reported, on television, radio, in newspapers, on news sites and elsewhere on the web.  We want to thow a spotlight on the best of the absurd, collect it, notice it, comment on it, and laugh.  Because if we don’t laugh at it we are going to have to cry.

So please contribute your stories about the wild and crazy things that governments, newscasters, and anyone else are saying, or doing. Something so absurd that it makes you laugh. Something that tickles your funny bone, something that will help others laugh even though they know it is so absurd that if they didn’t laugh they would have to cry.

Please come on in, to the Theater of the Absurd.  Entries are open.

The Moderator of the Absurd

e-mail: moderator@absurdarama.com