Great things have small beginnings. Where have I heard that before? A Rhode Island Politifact rating made a great big deal out of a small beginning today. They issued a rating so contrived they didn’t even put a short little explanation with their False meter rating and its little red light. And they rated a Politifact by omitting facts.
With its rating, Politifact RI sought to have the last word and pick winners and losers in a battle over a prominent-within-the-party Block supporter‘s casting of Fung supporters as Nazi’s. They even divorced the man who attacked Fung supporters as Nazis entirely from the Block campaign while it was clear his actions were aimed at the Fung Campaign. They did this even while it was clear the offender is in fact a working volunteer who has not only contributed to the campaign, but advanced it money for purchases on its behalf and then been reimbursed for it. Instead of acknowledging the offending poster was a Block Volunteer with some definite connection to the Block Campaign, they laid a smoke screen. With faux scientific method, RI Politifact tried to hermetically seal of the Block Campaign from an act that was just as small and petty and mean spirited as the Block Campaign’s January attempt to libel the Fung Campaign by publicizing through GoLocalProv an allegedly “racist tweet” by a young woman they called a “Fung Volunteer. “ And Block himself did need to be sealed off, after he injected his own Jewishness into the race.
Making the Fung complaint about the treatment of its campaign workers in an offensive post about Ken’s hitherto never discussed Jewishness was an insulting manipulation to all voters and a divisive inflammation of a kind we have long done well without. Oh yes. Now I remember, big thing, small beginnings, that’s Prometheus, the movie where they find the old decapitated alien head and they have to blow some kind of smoke on it and seal it off behind glass before the evil gets out of the reanimated head and contaminates everybody. Poetically sort of the same thing has today’s politifact rating.
Politifact turning the sorry offensive and obnoxious absurd act of a Block campaign volunteer, only mitigated by its laughable absurdity, into a false rating for the Fung Campaign was an amazingly sleight of hand in keeping with the my recent piece, “ The Satanic ratings.” RI Politifact, too often offers falsity via the device of “fact finding.” In this week’s manipulation, they converted a GOP town Committee acting chair (now resigned) a Block Contributor and a Block Volunteer, and Block Facebook vigilante into a mere “resident” of a town. His work on the campaign, reimbursement by the Block Campaign for materials, his specific attack on a Fung Campaign group, to Politifact it’s all happenstance.
It’s quite a trick. Politifact’s truth defying conclusion and deception is almost disguised in the narrative of a methodical inquest report. But like the gendarmes report in “the International,” the facts are written as they want. In this case you cannot trust RI Politifact’s phony investigation. The truth is to be found instead, in the drama itself. And this drama, was loaded with feeling, feelings that also had to be denied and mocked in order to discredit the Fung Campaign’s complaint against the Block Campaign on behalf of Fung Volunteers attacked as Nazi’s. Their Blue t-shirt’s with yellow lettering that say “girls Just Wanna Have Fung, were compared to Nazi brown shirts in swastikas. Yes, in the act of Block’s the facebook vigilante, and the Fung Girl’s reaction to it, there was lots of feeling. To understand it best, ignore Politifact and their faux inquest and ridiculous conclusions. Instead, you must go to the opera.
The grand opera that practically wrote itself while no one was looking, was a must see in a season full of hits; “Staties in the House!,” and “The Chowdah closet” to name two. Up to now, this season’s hits were set in Rhode Island’s Democratic party, but the Rhode Island Republican Party as always, supersizes passion and emotion. The recent RI Democratic Party productions starring former Representative David Caprio, Representative Peter Palumbo and a cameo by Block Campaign Communications director Helen Glover were smash hits and continue to hold audiences. Another drama, “Ohio!!!” a flash in the pan embellishing on the bruhahah over the Ohio diner ad setting for a moment in a Fung ad just seemed dated and trivial after news that 70% of all campaign spending falls outside little Rhode Island broke. Rhode Island talk radio was ripe for a new release. As always, the Rhode Island Republican party did more with less, with the Gubernatorial Primary contest between Cranston Mayor Allen Fung and Moderate party Founder and Activist Ken Block providing the setting and the two campaigns and talk radio, almost overnight producing, a grand opera “Il Pianto Giaco, “or, “The Crying Game.”
It opens with the death of an esteemed National GOP Committee woman and as a consequence a party position is vacant. Campaigning amongst three women ensues. The campaign rapidly gets’ a little chippy. The plot development allows for some fine singing from a number of women and we also see some great costuming in the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fung “ t-shirts sprinkled throughout and worn by a dazzling female cast. Naturally, the familiar 80’s pop song will be woven in of course throughout the show oft amusingly, by perhaps a single violin playing broadly, con rubato. The plot thickens as it is stated that one of the three women has only re-affiliated with the party on the very date of the incumbents passing. Of course, as is typical in politics if news is relevant, it is contested, it is provocative, and it may offer a bit of snarky mischief. The drama rises consequentially for all as one of the three women withdraws from the race and her husband resigns as a delegate to the state central committee.
All of this is taking place against the backstory of the primary election contest. The primary contest ads another layer of conflict which will come to the fore as the opera unfolds. As Act I draws near to completion, the wonderful libretto fills the stage with the entire cast involved in the primary contest. The three women candidates are joined by a fourth women, an influential woman who makes the very most of a Fung Girl T-shirt and clearly has some influence. She is clearly a social influencer, an opinion shaper and “trophy supporter ”of Fung, illustrating the very concept Politifact RI turns a blind eye to. She is rumored to be the source of the information that caused one of the three women to drop out. She wears a “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fung “T-shirt. She threatens to steal every scene she is in.
The three women are involved in both conflicts and the libretto and their songs reveal that the fight has been long, the grievances with the other candidate’s campaign are strong, and conflicts with the Block Campaigns supporters in social media have been have built up over time and the audience can tell that something is bound to erupt. All that’s required is one act of outright attack, and of course, it will close out the first act
Suddenly we are in a home office where we meet Godon, a local party official, upset that one of the three woman hopefuls for the party post was “smeared” and that her husband resigned a party delegate’s right to vote in central committee matters in solidarity with his resigning woman.
In a dark baritone area reminiscent of Scarpia’s famous aria from Tosca, Godon lays out the backstory, a chronicle of events and a record of his building feelings of anger. His alliance with the Block Campaign, his frustration with the Fung campaign’s success within the party, his frustration that the Fung Campaign put out an ad that called Block supporters “Blockheads,” mailings that the Fung Campaign has sent to voters that portray Block as an opportunist who opposed the Republican party just four years earlier , really all the way to 2013, and voted for the opposite party’s candidate for President twice. Now, a Fung girl has frustrated a friend’s candidacy for a party post. This, for Godon is the last straw. He takes it very personally. His friends were personally upset. He lays out it all out and vows a revenge, but what?
The effect is momentarily a bit comic as he sits at a computer desk with a framed picture of he, several Block lawn signs and leaning up and a framed picture of Godon and Block on the wall. But the dark rich aria and baritone reminds us of the huge opera scale emotions at work. Feelings pour out of him as he blames not just the one Fung Girls for the offense. In anguish he blames them all. He curses the power of their “Girls Just Wanna have Fung” t-Shirts, the way they injected Fun(g) into supporting Fung, and seemed to solidify the party rank and file around their three term mayoral officeholder. In his passionate anger he vows revenge and as his great baritone penetrates us to the core, and we feel the raw emotion, his fit of rage, almost to the point of tears, and we watch as he constructs a meme juxtaposing a picture of the Fung Girls T-shirt with a picture of a Nazi Brown shirt and poses the question “What’s the difference? Trumpets blare. They symbolize the anger and the coming escalation of conflict. The curtain falls.
Act II opens with Patrick Sweeney, a young lawyer and Fung;s campaign manager getting a phone call. The women on the other end of the line are incensed, enraged, a little overwrought, perhaps even letting a little motivational or inspirational “choked up” or a little cry slip in. The audience is allowed to weigh the value of the tears for themselves. But they are certainly as upset as Godon, and they are determined to get some justice. They are campaign Fung Girl T-shirt wearers. They don’t like being called Nazis, and they feel they don’t deserve such treatment either. They don’t expect to form an Acting GOP Town Chair. And, this isn’t the first incident. Their complaints about Block’s supporters are several. The Block, and Fung Campaign and the back and forth is in its eighth month. Their arias are as appropriately and insistently shrill as Godon’s was darkly vengeful. Sweeney must act. Sweeny must act. Sweeney must act. “He must act He must act! He must act!
Sweeney acts. He fires off a press release demanding the Block campaign discharge Godon and return his contributions. This leads to a short outburst of song, “ Dan’s theme” from a radio talk show host in the Block camp, who while acknowledging the gross ridiculousness and offense in Godon’s Facebook post inexplicably thinks it is Sweeney who should resign. Dan’s theme is carried to varying degrees by to other radio personalities. Tara and Matt , and here is where our opera gets its title. In a surprise twist, the story is no longer Godon’s dark Nazi post, rather the story is mocking Sweeney’s press release. An effort is made to deflate Sweeney’s press release, and in effect at least, insulate the Block campaign. Block is , after all, one of their most frequent guests. Block actually accredited with a success as he “turns the story around” and back against the Fung team. They are “lecturing a Jew on the evils of the Nazi Holocaust” he proclaims!
Has he turned it around? Almost, but Godon has resigned his positions with the party, an admission of guilt, the fool! But they still are shaming not Godon, but the Fung Campaign instead for connecting Godon to Block. Sweeney calls in and he explains what happened. The women called, they were crying. “What?” C’mon, that has to be a lie. Sweeney’s voice didn’t waiver. He didn’t talk faster. There was no reason to doubt him, but Sweeney’s account must not be allowed to stand. If Sweeney’s account stands, then he was warranted in calling out Godon. His press release calling on the Block Campaign was responsive to a complaint. And the Complainers were very upset. If that were true than not only was Sweeney’s action arguably reasonable, but Block’s complete utter lack of empathy or concern for some Republican Women offended by Godon’s dark Nazi post was only marginally less offensive then has trying to make himself a victim of insensitivity toward “ a Jew.”
The accelerated pace of the coverage is only syncopated by Sweeney’s calm contrapuntal theme and his report of the call he got complaining about Godon’s post. It’s magnificently symbolic how he breaks the talk show rhythm. Sweeney’s. But the talk show cover for Block really is a “coda with a curse.” The next host brings on Britt, Block’s campaign manager, and the two do a wonderful song and dance as Allen leads Britt through a rehabilitation of the Block campaign and its denial of Godon by casting Godon as having no association with the Block campaign. The moment of comedy is delightful and refreshing as Britt is practically obliged to admit that Godon is a volunteer with the campaign, puts up signs for the campaign, and of course, the audience knows Godon is a party official who has resigned, and is within the small local party anyway, a “trophy supporter” of Block in the primary, and so Allen’s insistence on a different set of facts and Britt’s squirming is positively hilarious.
Perhaps it is here that the Crying Game has completely won the audience over. The second act closes and people go to intermission laughing.
The Final Act
As third act opens, the Crying game is still on , We move quickly across hosts and shows and days and the entire time, the effort to discredit the crying , so as to discredit the Fung campaign and make sure the “ Turned it around” narrative sticks. The audiences knowledge of the truth and the continuation of the game creates a tension and pace that leads up to a climactic moment and a slightly off, not really happy ending.
As we approach the finale, the most reasonable of the three talk show hosts sits with the leader for the Fung Girls, and a little song ensues. There is a game about the song. It is not so much a search for truth as a search for an end. The Fung girls, the t-shirt wearers don’t like all the insinuation that they are crybabies. The leader of the Fung girls, isn’t going to have them mocked as all out there crying their eyes away when nothing of the kind has occurred. She assures the host she knew of nobody crying. And she doesn’t know who called.
The audience knows the women who called Sweeney are not being asked what happened and have not volunteered to come forward and be known as the “Crybabies.” But the talk show host wraps it up that “nobody is crying.” The spokeswoman for the Fung Girls assures her that is so. The audience knows the game goes on. But there is a thin hope the perhaps it has settled on ground where none lose face and feel their interests are protected. Of course Sweeney is still not quite vindicated. But there is a feeling that it is over. But the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.
Another shoe drops. In the greatly entertaining “ Turned it all around” with the musical hook being recognizable play on the familiar “ hokey pokey” , and the funny little dance’s incorporation into the choreography, the Block team is celebrating again and we learn from an ensemble of its campaign workers that the leading Newspaper Gives the Fung Campaign a ”false” politifact rating for saying Godon was with the Block Campaing. They laugh that the story that Godon is not a “ key” supporter even while connecting Godon to being reimbursed by the Block Campaign for $122 in materials for erecting signs on behalf of the Block Campaign, suggesting a bit more of a role than most volunteers. The Block campaign laughs as Politifact , reminiscent of a recent production, THE SATANIC RATINGS, has deceived again, by listing Godon in the article as merely a town resident, and totally omitting the “ he even resigned from his party position! Here again, a musical note of Fiddler on the Roof’s “Tradition” comically wraps around the celebratory singing of “Omission!” All the musical jokes and the mock polishing of Godon as a trophy supporter of Block in the primary battle are comic.
There’s really no happy ending to The Crying Game unless one can laugh that in politics, nobody will ever agree on what the truth is. Following “Turned it all around” The question is asked by Sweeney’s character in a rich aria and a libretto where he re-affirms his belief in his candidate, a three term Mayor who is never directly involved in the whole Opera at all. Sweeney accepts the blows that one must take in politics, and assure himself that whatever people say, at least some can see the truth, and to him, the only truth that matters is the qualifications of his candidate. He will fight on. It’s an uplifting moment after all the political games. It is a song of loyalty, of commitment to something real, of commitment to something more than recent, and of commitment to duty and sacrifice through thick and thin.
Finally, the great opera closes with the entire cast on stage, and the two camps arguing, in song, “There will be crying Tuesday night!” Each camp predicting their candidate will be triumphant and some in the other candidate’s camp will be crying.
Politics in Rhode Island is a wonderful Opera and of course there is always some crying in Opera. And so the small crying game effort to defuse a rolled up piece of 8 ½ by 11 in response to an obnoxious Nazi meme , and to distract from a flamethrower “lecturing a Jew” response, to sell it as “ turning it around on them” and a shockingly bad Politifact rating based on glaring omission and a conclusion notwithstanding the facts is transformed into a delightful entertainment that teaches a larger truth about Rhode Island politics. There’s a lot more at stake in politics than a baseball game. There is definitely some crying in politics. Bravo, Il Pianto Giaco.