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Friday, December 9, 2016

The message of television as metaphor is not only that all the world is a stage, but that the stage is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

So I see candidate Donald Trump and former governor Sarah Palin are complaining about “political correctness,” the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. I too have always laughed at the follies of self-styled “radical” left-wing professors.

My all-time favorite was the time a UMass Amherst English professor commiserated that an “aristocratic Southerner” like me must find the campus’s multicultural environment challenging. I was maybe 28, an Irish guy from Elizabeth, New Jersey, a city that makes Amherst look like a country club Mitt Romney might join.

OK, so I did have a degree from the University of Virginia, and a cute Arkansas wife whom some of my colleagues patronized to her face. Extreme ethnic sensitivity and comical misjudgments — the Irish aren’t exactly rare in Massachusetts, and saying “y’all” hardly indicates KKK sympathies — were regular features of campus life. We plotted an early escape.

So when I tell my wife Diane that students at Columbia University have petitioned for “trigger” warnings on Ovid’s Metamorphoses because the god Jupiter — a sort of first-century Donald Trump — goes around disguised as a bull or a swan raping virgins, she laughs.

“They’re all Amherst now, aren’t they?” she says.

Needless to say, there’s also plenty of stupidity on the right. ESPN commentator Curt Schilling recently got suspended for a foolish tweet equating Muslims with Nazis. This aroused former governor Palin, who decried what she called a “JOURNALISTIC EMBARRASSMENT” and urged ESPN to get back to “our beloved sports.”

Which was exactly what the network was trying to do. Why Schilling, a terrific pitcher and a fine baseball analyst, chose to inject ISIS and the Third Reich into the Little League World Series, for heaven’s sake, remains unclear.

But let’s go to the numbers. Schilling’s ostensible point was that “only 7 percent of Germans were Nazis…while it’s said only 5 to 10 percent of Muslims are extremists.” Evidently he’s unaware that Adolf Hitler was elected, which makes the 7 percent figure awfully suspect. No doubt with the votes of a lot of people named Schilling. It’s a relatively common German name. Chances are that quite a few “Kurt Schillings” served in Hitler’s armies.

You see, if you start messing around with collective guilt and cheap historical analogies, there’s no telling where things might end up.

Even so, I hope ESPN brings the big dope back. They only pay him to be smart about baseball.

Sarah Palin also griped during her recent TV interview with candidate Trump that politically correct “lamestream” reporters keep asking him “gotcha” questions: “For instance, they [sic] asking what’s your favorite Bible verse, and I listened to that going, ‘What?’ Do they ask Hillary that? What does it have to do with running for the office of the presidency?” 

Well, maybe nothing. Except, of course, Trump was going around giving thumbs- up gestures and saying stuff like “the Bible, number one, right?” He really does appear to think the average GOP voter has a single-digit IQ.

But for the record, the late Tim Russert famously asked all the Democratic candidates to cite their favorite Bible verses during a nationally televised 2007 debate. Hillary said the Golden Rule, then-senator Obama cited the Sermon on the Mount. Nobody mentioned The Art of the Deal.

You definitely get the idea, though, that on the day the SS Trump sails into an iceberg, The Donald will be the first one in the lifeboats. Comforting the poor and afflicted doesn’t appear to be high on his to-do list. I mean, here’s a guy who made his fortune building casinos and luxury hotels where ordinary stiffs can gamble their money away, while guys like him party with hookers in the Penthouse Suite.

Only top hookers though; no slumming for Trump.

At least he resisted informing former Gov. Palin that she’s no longer a 10. He did say that to Austrian “supermodel” Heidi Klum recently, who mocked him with a T-shirt reading 9.9. I don’t know how she resisted challenging him to a bathing suit contest. A 69-year-old guy with a good tailor and a physique like a bowling pin definitely needs to keep his clothes on.

I’m sure “Silicon Barbie,” the lovely third Mrs. Trump, who’s taken her own clothing off for half the magazine photographers in New York, could tell you all about that. But she’s pretty much got a mute button.

Have I given offense? Oh, I do hope so.

My point’s quite simple: Trump’s whole New York loudmouth act, the presidential candidate as braggart professional wrestler, only lasts as long as everybody else acts, well, politically correct.

Change the rules, and there’s no telling what could happen.

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares “You’re fired!” at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015.  REUTERS/Dominick Reuter 

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