“Irony,” says literary critic Harold Bloom, “demands a certain attention span, and the ability to sustain antithetical ideas, even when they collide with one another.”
An ironical stance acknowledges a certain absurdity and humor in life and politics, and is conducive to self-awareness. Irony is an antidote to ideology, leavening it with a dose of intellectual humility. It bursts pomposity. As such, it is a quality much-needed in government today.
Yet our political climate is conducive neither to sustained attention spans nor the consideration of antithetical ideas — let alone irony.
As the stakes and rancor of politics increase, the capacity for irony dissolves. As does a talent for self-awareness — even among members of a class which perceives itself as engaged, self-critical and enlightened: the media.
Case in point: The media coverage of the tiresome soap opera invented by the far-left, dark-money fringe group, The Checks and Balances Project.
Checks and Balances has spent months concocting increasingly fantastical conspiracy theories by connecting random dots and events. Their campaign of innuendo and insinuation, worthy of Joseph McCarthy, is payback for my criticism of TUSK’s hardball tactics in the 2014 election and my support of last year’s compromise forged by the Residential Utility Consumer Office and the rooftop solar industry — a compromise, ironically, which APS and Checks and Balances both opposed.
From the start, my stance on dark money has been clear: I would prefer it play no part in the election of commissioners. I am a regulator, not an elections officer, and my duties do not entail unearthing the source of the anonymous spending that engulfed the 2014 commission election, nor the “clean energy” dollars footing Checks and Balances’ romps in the mud.
The media care little about the dark money fueling Checks and Balances but are preoccupied with its fantasies. Would the media hang on every utterance of the John Birch Society? Doubtful. Yet every lapse into paranoia on the part of Checks and Balances — an equally wacky group — is treated by much of the media not as a cry for therapeutic intervention but as breaking news.
The irony is rich:The media is apoplectic about APS’s refusal to reveal its alleged role in funding dark money campaigns to influence the commission, even as a dark money organization — Checks and Balances — accuses commissioners of being in thrall to dark money and strives to influence the commission’s votes by trying to intimidate it.
Imagine a dark money-funded group financed by utilities, attempting to bully the commission into voting in a way that benefits its benefactors. Imagine that this group’s mission is to destroy commissioners’ reputations beyond repair and burden the commission with endless legal maneuverings. Moreover, its aim is to manufacture phony scandals to aid their preferred candidates for the commission, in 2016.
One can scarcely imagine the media outrage.Yet Checks and Balances, funded by “clean energy” interests, is doing precisely this.
How quickly I forget: Solar companies are not regulated by the Commission. Hence their behavior is beyond reproach and their contributions to affect commission races are never even potentially corrupting to candidates. Only utility contributions — dark or otherwise — are corrupting. Never mind that the commission’s decisions on net metering and a multitude of policies are portrayed as “do or die” by the rooftop solar industry.
The ironies – seemingly lost on the media – abound. Much of the media instructs us that dark money is dark by virtue of its anonymity. How commissioners may be corrupted by entities whose identities are a mystery is itself a mystery.
In this ironic moral universe, spending on behalf of commissioners’ campaigns by entities commissioners know are spending on their behalf, such as TUSK, is not corrupting.
For the record, while I did not text members of the Trilateral Commission, the Porcellian, or Skull and Bones, I did text Paul Walker, Bill Gates and a lawyer with a fake-sounding name: “Court Rich.” Draw your own conclusions as to the legitimacy of these numbers and names.
It has been said (ironically said, that is) that liberals love humanity but disdain individuals. Regarding the media, I say the opposite: I love many of its members — particularly Arizona Capitol Times reporters — but dislike the media. This, too, my friends, is a comment infused with irony.
In our politics and our media, may irony bloom. Our democracy will be healthier for it. And the happenings of the Arizona Corporation Commission will be less boring. But I’m being ironic.
-Bob Stump is a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission.