The term “precocious pundit” is something of an oxymoron.
Not to disparage my chosen line of work, but it is no exaggeration to say that a four-year-old could do it, and probably do it better. His moral indignation would be richer, noisier and less complicated by experience. He would shout and pound his fist and still look somewhat cute while it happened. He would show up on early morning television and not look like a damp bathmat that had been trodden on.
Nuance travels badly on the airwaves. The less you know, the better you sound. The empty space inside your skull makes for a lovely echo chamber from which your righteous anger can more perfectly resound.
Marcel Proust said, “There are times when I think that the reading I have done in the past has no effect except to cloud my mind and make me indecisive.” That is why Proust was never on cable. Indecision, doubt, reading — professional hazards for the aspiring blowhard.
I only mention this because a 14-year-old conservative radio host named Caiden Cowger has been making headlines lately for a video tirade in which he accuses the president of encouraging kids to choose to be gay. Now people are threatening him, hacking his YouTube channel, and giving him added publicity — as though being 14 years old and a radio pundit were not punishment enough.
It is, of course, not novel for a 14-year-old boy to make disparaging remarks about homosexuals. That has long been an unhappy trademark of the 14-year-old boy.
But it’s the way he went about it — into a microphone, waving his arms just so, pausing and repeating and gesturing like someone thrice his age.
It’s a pitch-perfect impression, a catechism of cliche, complete with the pointing fingers. It’s a self-parody. (“We’ve got about 30, I’d say 30 teenagers in this county that I’m at [sic] that are homosexuals, and it is sickening. And you know what, I knew these kids. Some of them I was friends with. I knew these teenagers when they were in elementary school. I knew them when they were in the beginning of middle school. And you know what? They were not homosexuals.”) It’s not merely that our rhetoric has gotten so angry. It’s gotten uncomfortably standard. You don’t need to know what you’re saying to sound exactly like everyone else who says it. In fact it may be better if you don’t.
On his Web site he tackles the War on Religion: “Obama Attacks Christians and Catholics and forces them to be covered and to fund abortion, and birth control. (obamacare) This is coming against Freedom of Religion! OBAMA IS TRYING TO BE A DICTATOR AND TRYING TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY CAN AND CAN NOT DO! Religions Must Cover Birth Control & Abortion? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO OUR RIGHTS? THIS IS WRONG AND OBAMA IS BEING USED BY THE DEVIL!!!!”
What’s sad is if you didn’t know it was a 14-year-old boy, you wouldn’t think it was.
Variations of this sort of thing happen on both sides of the line. Those kids who invariably show up at Romney events and ask elaborate and difficult questions about global temperatures and start crying halfway through. The other kids who pelt Michele Bachmann with questions about her stance on gay marriage.
This is perhaps no crueler than most things you can do to your child in the public eye — take him tanning, force him to cheerlead, join you on Dance Moms or spell words six hours a day. Some people urge their children into baseball. Others encourage (or allow or demand or some combination of the three) them to become Conservative Radio Pundits.
I do not mean to pick on him. I hope I am making his life no worse by writing this. He looks so determined on his Web site, where he endorses OfficeMax (“All the office supplies you need located on one website!” — Caiden) and Carbonite (“I lost all of my computer files! Don’t make the mistake I did!” — Caiden) and denounces the president (“Obama has been starting campaigns supporting Homosexuality. He officially made the month of June ‘Gay Pride Month’ and now June is no longer one of my favorite months.”)
He’s putting himself out there. This firestorm in a teacup won’t hurt. And he has a future. He’s interviewed major candidates for office, like Herman Cain. He’s got a book. He spoke at a Lincoln Day dinner to what appears, from the pictures, to be an audience of up to three people and a ketchup bottle.
I just — in the course of the video where he mocks the President for saying “It Gets Better,” he references the fact that he recently saw Barbara Boxer say something he objected to on television. What a miserable existence, to spend your adolescence watching television waiting for Barbara Boxer to say something to which you will object.
The only excuse for it would be if you had to stop once you grew up.
That might work out well for everyone, come to think of it. It’s certainly no trade for adults.