The “Anger in Politics” panel discussion at Eye Level Art Gallery on Spring Street Wednesday night was meant as a supplement to Fletcher Crossman’s chilling exhibit, “State of Shock.” Crossman is a Brit and the inspiration for “State of Shock” was his own shock at the rabid right wing talk radio and television he discovered in America. He was stunned at the angry tone of American politics, much of that anger ginned up by right wing radio and Fox News. His response was a stunning exhibit demonstrating the fictitious narrative of the day President Obama was assassinated by a right wing loony strung out on Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and the like. The narrative follows the suicide of Glenn Beck, the mutilation of Ann Coulter and there a grim image of a naked Limbaugh sitting on a pile of dead babies, with the caption “Rush Eats Dead Orphans.”
The panel discussion was not nearly as controversial as the art, perhaps because most of the participants knew each other on amiable terms. Besides yours truly, the panel included my City Paper colleague Jack Hunter; my boss at the College of Charleston, Communications Department Chair Brian McGee; local radio talker Richard Todd; Charleston Tea Party representative Mike Murphee; New York hip-hop artist Will Gray; and the man who inspired it all, Fletcher Crossman. Nationally recognized (though I did not recognize him), Washington, D.C.-based political strategist Ryan Prucker moderated the panel.
Questions came from the audience of about 30, and from Prucker. My most memorable impression of the evening was sitting in front of an enormous canvas of a fat and blotchy Glenn Beck hanging from a noose. Mike Murphee, a builder, complained about all the rules and regulations he had to live with in building houses. He thought it was unfair. McGee countered that politics means choice and people have indicated through elections that they want a certain level of health and safety and environmental protection. Elections have consequences. Richard Todd spoke the truth when he said, “Freedom is a messy thing. You see and hear things you don’t want to see and hear.”
The only real anger at the discussion came, not from a panel member, but from a member of the audience, who seemed to have a history with Todd. His tirade was rambling and disjunctive, but it seemed to be aimed at Republicans and powerful business interests. They are certainly a couple of my favorite targets, but I edit my words before I print. The angry guy in the audience should have done the same.
I came away from the experience the way I frequently come away from a party — thinking of all the witty and insightful things I wish I had said. Believe me, it would have been a much more exciting discussion if I had only had a second chance.