When actor Andy Griffith passed away last week, President Obama gave a brief condolence statement (“A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps”), on which Weasel Zippers commented, “JERK: President Obama Remembers Andy Griffith.”
Was he talking about Obama or Griffith? Given that several rightbloggers were plainly miffed that their once beloved TV sheriff had been a supporter of Obamacare, it could have gone either way.
In addition to starring in the hit shows The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock and the great Elia Kazan movie A Face in the Crowd, Griffith had a history of supporting Democrats and Democratic causes, including the Obama campaign in 2008 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
This didn’t go down well with some of the brethren, for whom everything is politics all the time and a never-ending opportunity for hot outrage.
To be fair, some rightbloggers, such as The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein, were able to acknowledge Griffith’s politics and still note his passing in an appropriate way. (“I know he was a shill for the Affordable Care Act,” said Duane Lester of All-American Blogger, “but Andy Griffiths was more than one ad.”)
Their commenters were another story, as other blogwatchers discovered. Goldstein’s post drew responses like this: “May the government take every single penny he created. Also, a scumbag democrat dying is no reason to celebrate. Good riddance.” That cowboy was so mad he couldn’t insult properly!
We generally don’t fill our column with such stuff, mainly because it’s too easy — even more so in this instance, as nearly every conservative blog post on Griffith’s passing, even the gentler ones, drew cracks like that. Leave them to heaven, we say; we will concentrate on true Citizen Journalists who publish under their own names or ridiculous pseudonyms.
We seem to be seconded in this by Vicki McClure Davidson of Frugal Cafe, but for different reasons. When it was reported that commenters to the Fox Nation website cursed out Griffith for his Obamaism, Davidson replied that Fox Nation “didn’t write the nasty slams. Readers did (and as has happened before, liberals will fake out being conservatives and write vile crap in the readers’ comments sections, so no telling how many were actually from real conservatives).”
Whether or not these comments were part of some liberal plot to smear the good name of rightwing blog commenters, Davidson had a further complaint: Here she was making an effort to be nice about Griffith, despite “his shilling for Obama and ObamaCare,” but a bunch of liberals had been offensive right after the death of that other beloved American entertainer, Andrew Breitbart.
Anyway, here are some of the brethren’s testimonials:
“Remember Andy Griffith for His Good Acting, NOT His Role as ObamaCare Pimp,” eulogized Debbie Schlussel. “Andy Griffith’s small town ‘Aw Shucks’ American folksiness on-screen was never matched by small town American values off-screen. He was a liberal through and through… Now, he will never have to live under this catastrophically disastrous appraoch to healthcare he pimped on the rest of us…”
It’s a long rant, so you may prefer Instapundit Glenn Reynolds‘ shorter version: “ANDY GRIFFITH HAS DIED. I prefer to remember him as Sheriff Andy Taylor, rather than as a shill for ObamaCare.”
“I always kinda liked Andy Griffith until he started shilling for Obamacare in 2010,” said The Oracle at Guns and Religion. “He went from likeable to a stupid old feeb overnight. I will not miss him.”
“As I type this, a talk radio host known for being conservative is lauding the values of Griffith as a ‘real American,'” said Fr. Joe of Southern Fried Catholicism. “But he may not remember this advertisement where Griffith supported the less-than-conservative Obamacare bill.” Also: “He was married three times, divorced twice.”
“Obituaries for the late Andy Griffith generally glossed over his career finale as a pitchman for Obamacare,” said Mark Steyn at National Review. “But he was a canny choice to sell the unsellable, for is not ‘health’ ‘care’ ‘reform’ the communitarian virtues of beloved small-town Mayberry writ large?”
Steyn thought this was a bad thing: “The problem,” he explained, “is you can’t write Mayberry large. And, if you attempt it, it leads not to Mayberry but to [bankrupt] Stockton, Calif., and to a corrupt, dysfunctional swamp.” He has a point: Look at the interstate highway system — how much better things would be if America were instead criss-crossed only by dirt paths like the one Opie and Anthony walked to the fishin’ hole!
“ANDY GRIFFITH’S MISLEADING OBAMACARE COMMERCIALS COST YOU $3 MILLION,” memorialized Ben of Impeach Obama.
“Too bad Andy couldn’t have lived long enough to see his elderly relatives and friends denied medical care by a non-medical government employee telling their doctor which procedures are allowable and which procedures are not allowable under full-blown ObamaCare,” said Perry Peterson of Cave News. Well, he did regret Griffith’s passing, in a way.
Now, again in fairness, they weren’t all attacks on Griffith. At libertarian redoubt Hit & Run, for example, Nick Gillespie bade readers visit a 2009 story in which “Jesse Walker hipped Reason readers to a take on Sheriff Andy Taylor that figured the lawman as the exemplar of the night-watchman state.”
Walker’s item turns out to be mainly an ad for a lengthy disquisition by one Darrin Knode, which has subtitles like “Andy Griffith vs. Barney Fife – Market and Man vs. State,” and explained that Griffith’s show “gives a truly libertarian message of the merits of peace and reason as opposed to ignorance and violence.” Boy, if he only knew!
At Five Feet of Fury, Kathy Shaidle was enraged that Griffith’s 1957 film A Face in the Crowd had been “irresponsibly adopted by the left to bash their Political Pinata of the Moment (most recently, Glenn Beck),” and asked, “Andy Griffith made one timeless classic of a film, but will obits mention it?” as if the liberal media were trying to keep A Face in the Crowd a secret.
Scott Johnson at Power Line went Shaidle one better. When, in the movie, “General Haynesworth advises [candidate] Fuller that he needs a slogan like ‘Time for a change,’ ‘The mess in Washington’ or ‘More bang for a buck,'” Johnson wrote, “Rhodes takes it from there. It’s a scene that proved to have an uncanny relevance to the 2008 campaign.”
In case you’re not sure what he means by this, Johnson added that when Griffith did his ads for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, “he was playing ‘Andy Griffith,’ but he was a figure who bore a passing resemblance to Lonesome Rhodes… the ads in essence put Lonesome Rhodes to work for a substantially higher authority… Obama brought us the cornpone television demagogy of Lonesome Rhodes yoked to the power of the executive branch of the United States government.” Son of a gun — Griffith really was Lonesome Roads! Which just makes his performance as kindly Sheriff Taylor all the more remarkable.
(In what may have been an inside joke, Johnson alluded in his post to Richard Schickel’s biography of Kazan, in which Kazan said of A Face in the Crowd, “It anticipates Reagan. And I can’t say anything better than that.”)
Eventually some of the brethren moved on from the man himself and talked about Mayberry — the idyllic small town Sheriff Andy served.
With some, though, their hearts didn’t seem to be in it. It wasn’t like a few months earlier, when a less politically controversial member of the show’s cast, George Lindsey, passed on. (“Character matters in the building of a culture,” lectured James Michael Pratt at RedState at that time. “Simple minded Goober and Gomer Pyle showered us with the quality of character; the ability to transform wisdom into meaningful action.” Shazam!)
Nonetheless some came through, and celebrated Mayberry for its special mix of characters — by which some of them meant, it was all white.
“If I make it to heaven,” said Jack Ryan at Occidental Dissent, “I hope that heaven is half as nice as the all White Southern world of Mayberry North Carolina.”
“It was the one show that reflected the reality of small-town America where few if any Blacks or ethnic minorities lived,” sighed his colleague Cooper Sterling; “one could roam freely without fear of assault, rape, robbery or homicidal gang violence…” Cooper was also pleased that “implicit White adjectives laced the Mainstream Media coverage of Andy Griffith’s passing. The Washington Post referred to his ‘homespun mix of humor and wisdom’ and how fans mourned ‘the loss of a simpler time’ (…when the NBA was half-white)…”
“It wasn’t a simpler time, it was a Whiter time,” elucidated Some Guy at Ex-Army in a post called “Sheriff Taylor — Aryan Archetype?” “It wasn’t about old-fashioned virtues, it was about White virtues. Barney Fyfe wasn’t comically incompetent because he was White, he was comically incompetent because, in a peaceful White society, he could be incompetent. He wouldn’t have been funny on Hill Street Blues or the Shield, he would’ve been tragic.” Actually, we think Barney Fife would have vastly improved both shows.
Others left race out of it, though not to great effect.
At Freedom Outpost, Tim Brown (“Christian and lover of liberty”) lamented that “The Days Of Andy Griffith Are Long Gone… I know that he was a liberal and that came out the most in his later years, but the show itself took us back to a time when there was real community and people looked out for one another and shared things, without being mandated by the government to do so.”
Later Brown explained himself: The citizens of Mayberry “had their own sins, but they did not put them out in public and declare that the public accept them. Now fast forward to today. The nuclear family is disintegrating before our very eyes and has been doing so for decades. Sadly it is just as bad in the Church as it is in the world. We now have in the public school system the idea that we should teach children about little Johnny’s two moms or two dads. The public school system has become the indoctrination system of the state. No longer is God allowed in it.” Not only that — Johnny’s two moms and/or dad are now on health insurance!
At the Daily Caller, Matt K. Lewis said, “I hope liberals don’t exploit the timing of his death” — how, one wonders? — and claimed, “I try not to let politics ruin entertainment. Even still — the top notch quality of the show aside — there is much for conservatives to like.” He then described an episode in which Opie learns that a hobo he befriended is nothing but a freeloader (“rather than work, the hobo runs off into the woods”) whom he was foolish to help. “It was just one of the many lessons Sheriff Taylor would teach us over the years,” reflected Lewis — one that would be repeated years later by John Stossel.
As longtime readers might expect, god-botherer Rod Dreher got in there, too, telling Brits in a BBC column that here in ObamaAmerica “we are instructed to spite Mayberry as a kind of ironic inoculation against the supposed unrealism of a traditional, square way of life.” Dreher, however, knew better, having recently returned to his little old hometown, where a drunk used to lock himself up in the local jail just like Otis used to on the show. Q.E.D.: “By deriding it as nothing more than an illusion, critics make the perfect enemy of the everyday goodness which we can and should work… we mock the Mayberry ideal, and yet wonder why contemporary life is so often harsh, noisy, lonely and disordered.” Because man lost touch with his roots, and now uncooperative urban drunks refuse to lock themselves up, that’s why!
But our favorite of all these deep-think pieces come from sources new to us, such as Michael Smith: “What I saw with the people of Mayberry was (with the exception of Otis…) a higher level of personal responsibility than I see when I look around at our culture today,” Smith wrote. “In some ways, we (and I know I’m painting with a very broad brush here) have become a nation of people who have abdicated some personal responsibility…”
Further down: “So, what do Andy Griffith and disability cases and personal responsibility have to do with financial planning and personal financial behaviors? EVERYTHING!!!” The post is from the Financial Finesse Blog, and Michael Smith, MBA, CFP, is clearly gunning for your business — as is Dan Kennedy at the GKIC Blog, who wrote in his own reminiscence, “Mayberry, the fictional town, represents what life used to be like in many ways. Just as I describe in my book, No B.S. Grassroots Marketing…”.
We’ll stay this for them: Unlike our other subjects, they seem to have some useful object in mind.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 8, 2012