12:01 p.m. August 13, 2012

A Koch And A Smile

It's been a few hours since I stormed out of the Georgetown AMC Loews cineplex. I went there to see "The Campaign", the new Zach Galifianakis "comedy" that just opened, and I lasted almost an hour in my seat before throwing my popcorn and bolting the theater.

"The Campaign" isn't the worst — as in terrifying scary shit-bad worst — film I've seen since moving back to the Free World a few years ago. That honor would have to go to "Sex and The City 2". I lasted about 40 minutes through that film, telling myself the whole time, "If Pat Tillman could face terrorists, you can face Sex and the City 2, Ames!" over and over. Until it finally dawned on me: "Pat Tillman had it easy compared to this! Kandahar is like Club Med compared to Sex and The City 2!" and I ran screaming.

"The Campaign" is a different kettle of fish puke. There's a weirdly unfunny flatness permeating the entire film: flat writing, flat jokes, flat directing, and above all, Zach Galifianakis' non-presence, a flatness so flat it's like convex comedy, flatter than anything Thomas Friedman dreamed up in his wildest flat earth dreams.

There is much to hate about Zach Galifianakis; one didn't need this film to confirm it. For the umpteenth fucking time: Zach Galifianakis is not funny. And if you think he is, you must stop thinking. You are wrong, and you're a menace to Western civilization.

It's one thing to hate a minor-league goatfucker like Zach Galifianakis. Much more serious is my relationship with the Koch Brothers, a relationship that got off to a very bad start on February 27, 2009, when Yasha Levine and I published a scoop for Playboy about the very first Tea Party protest that weekend, and the mysterious billionaire Koch brothers who financed those early small Tea Party rallies.

To us, that first little Tea Party protest looked obviously staged, the spitting image of the same sort of oligarch-funded political theater we'd report on in Russia, where they operate what they call a "virtual democracy." The Tea Party we reported on for Playboy was a kind of "virtual civil society protest," but the marketing world already had a word for it: AstroTurfing.

Seeing the Tea Party protests as oligarch theater was the easy part. What we didn't bargain for was how different the American ecosystem is from Russia's: Here, if your reporting causes some serious butt-hurt on powerful interests and they fight back with their PR machine, you can be sure that you will be abandoned by all your journalist "colleagues" and your liberal "comrades." One whiff of gunpowder, and those folks are like peasants melting into the countryside.

I won't bore you today with the details — there'll be plenty more opportunities, and I guarantee you you will grow tired of hearing me bitch about this — but the main takeaway for the purposes of this failing Campaign review is this: The Koch brothers fucked me. They stole the glory from our Tea Party-Koch scoop. In our sordid business, scoops like this only come around once every decade or two. All the riches, the fame, the expensive rehab treatments, the loveless trophy wife marriages, the lonely-at-the-top whingeing in my double-stretch Hummer with Jacuzzi — all of that stolen from me and Yasha by a two-headed jackal named Charles and David Koch.

And this brings me back to Zach Galifianakis and his crappy Campaign flick. Last week, Zach appeared out of nowhere, barged to the front of the Koch Critics line, stole the limelight, and all but declared that the epic battle over America's soul and future came down to the Koch Brothers versus Zach.

That could have been funny, but instead, Zach played his Hollywood liberal bona fides: See, Zach's uncle, Nick Galifianakis, was a Democratic Party Congressman out of North Carolina from 1966 to 1972. Zach also comes from North Carolina, and coincidentally, the film "The Campaign" is about a Senate election campaign between Zach, the not-funny Republican candidate backed by the "Motch" brothers (ie, the Koch brothers); and Will Ferrell, who almost salvages the film by hamming up his Democratic Senator scumbaggery as much as the flaccid script could allow.

So that's the background to Zach Galifianakis' big public spat last week: He wasn't being funny or frivolous, rather he was entering into the hallowed world of Hollywood Liberal Royalty by publicizing his family's Democratic Party roots. That made Zach more than just a Hollywood beard — it gave him liberal gravitas, putting him in a category with your Clooneys, your Garofalos.

Now that the world was listening, Zach had some fightin' words for the Koch brothers: "The Koch brothers," he declared, "are ... creepy."

Creepy? Jesus fucking christ, is that all you can come up with? "Creepy"??? The Kochs are the fucking Antichrist. "Creepy"- no! No no no no! Let's get one thing straight before this sticks: The Koch brothers are not "creepy." The Kochs feast on the souls of frightened babies. Calling them "creepy" verges on Holocaust-denialism. There are annoying Gen-X pus-bags who will think it's cute and earnest to label Pol Pot "douchey" or the human botfly larva "gay." But that doesn't mean we have to give in and accept it. Or him.

As expected, the Koch brothers loved it; the Koch Industries PR Death Star all but celebrated a gift from Galifianakis, which brought a canned "see, we can be hip and dish it right back" response, some reference to Zach's monkey in "The Hangover."

The point is that by reducing the vast nine-dimensional evil that is the Koch Brothers down to a Gen-X "creepy" Galifianakis managed to humanize Charles and David Koch, to the point where you might mistake the baby juice stains on their chins for little love nips, or maybe even hipster beards. In PR terms, that little spat made the Kochs seem less other-worldly, and more "down" with pop culture references from "The Hangover." Best of all, it's a comedy reference — and nothing deflates righteous indignation, or de-Nazifies a mega-Nazi, like a little tit-for-tat roasting with a funnyman.

So not only is the hippie gnome-goblin Zach Galifianakis convexly a-funny, he also fails in the simple art of political smearing. I mean, how hard is it? The Kochs feast on stem cell smoothies and use their blood for their enema cleansings. They founded libertarianism, a cult for Dwight Schrute waffendweebs deluded from stunted social lives into believing they have "some connection" with billionaire jackals like the Kochs. Everything they've puked on our culture — Reason magazine, Cato Institute, Tyler Cowen, Austrian Economics, Ron Paul, Glenn Greenwald, the Libertarian Party — the whole fucking Koch racket, has made this country dumber, meaner, and intolerably annoying.

And that brings me to the thesis of this non-review of a movie I walked out on: Zach Galifianakis is a right-wing mole whose duties include demoralizing the civilian population, sapping our will to live, and occasionally, providing major donors like the Koch brothers with a useful PR boost.

I'll go further: The entire Galifianakis clan is infected with a kind of recessive mole-gene. It's not just Zach. Look at what his uncle, Nick Galifianakis did for the Republican right-wing, and you'll see what I mean:

  • FACT: If you could name the single worst, most toxic, racist right-wing lughead of a Senator in the last quarter of the 20th Century, the obvious choice would be North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms.

  • FACT: North Carolina was a solid Democratic state with two solid Democrat Senators in 1972. Registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a three to one margin in 1972.

  • FACT: Rep. Nick Galifianakis, Zach's uncle, had served six years in the House before deciding to launch a primary challenge in 1972 against the longtime incumbent Democratic Senator, B. Everett Jordan.

  • FACT: Although Sen. Jordan was an old school "conservative" Southern Democrat, he was moving leftward. In 1970, Sen. Jordan shocked the conservative southern Democrat establishment by publicly opposing Nixon's wars. The senior North Carolina Democratic Senator Sam Ervin reportedly told Sen. Jordan, "Everett, have you lost your mind?" In fact, both Sen. Jordan and Zach's uncle Nick were close on issues — both opposed 'Nam, both opposed forced de-segregation through bussing — nevertheless, Zach's uncle had a more urban, liberal reputation that worked better in the primary, but disastrously in the general election.

  • FACT: You can see where this is going: Zach's uncle ran a vicious campaign against the feeble but popular old incumbent Democrat Sen. Jordan, knocked him out of the primary, then got his ass kicked by Republican Jesse Helms, giving the Republicans their first big inroads into North Carolina, and poisoning American politics for decades. In other words, Zach's Uncle Nick gave America Jesse Helms.

One more thing: There is a "creepy" element to this story, and I don't mean the way Zach makes you think about issuing an "Amber Alert" every time he appears on a screen.

About a week before the Democratic primary vote, on May 31, 1972, there was a creepy and never fully explained assassination attempt on Zach's uncle's opponent, Sen. Jordan. The Senator, who campaigned without security, arrived unannounced at a shopping mall in Raleigh, and was just greeting a group of women at the glass door entrance to the mall, when a 23-year-old African-American janitor named Harvey Glenn McLeod started firing from the parking lot about 20 feet away, using a .22 rifle he'd just bought a couple of hours earlier that day in nearby a sporting goods store.

In a two minute shooting spree, McLeod fired 14 bullets, killing four and wounding six, the final bullet self-inflicted into his head. Sen. Jordan escaped unharmed, but his press secretary was critically wounded.

So, here's the creepy:

Creepy #1: McLeod composed himself like an expert shooter. A witness told the UPI that "the sniper was 'real calm and took real good aim when he shot one fellow ... he was calm as anything I've ever seen."

Creepy #2: Without any evidence, the police immediately ruled out assassination as McLeod's purpose in the mass shooting — instead they said he must have fired at random. McLeod left behind no clues at all, and he was dead so he couldn't speak — and yet, the police ruled out assassination for the simple creepy reason that there was no way he could have known about Sen. Jordan's appearance at the mall, as it was a last-minute unannounced campaign visit suggested by an aide to The Senator. It had to be coincidence — unless the shooter worked with someone in Sen. Jordan's circle. From UPI: "Police Chief Robert E. Goodwin said that 'Senator Jordan's schedule was not announced. As far as we can tell, the man did not arrive when the senator did, and as far as we're concerned it was just a coincidence." Sen. Jordan told reporters, "'I just don't know' if McLeod was gunning for him. 'I have never thought that anybody would shoot me and I can't see why anybody would.'" The shooting took place exactly two weeks after another young assassin, Arthur Bremer, shot and critically wounded presidential candidate George Wallace while he was also campaigning at a shopping mall.

Creepy #3: After the shooting, Sen. Jordan was shaken up, and he traveled with heavy security in the last days before his losing primary, and spoke of gun control, not the most popular issue in North Carolina.

So the shooting had, if anything, a positive effect on Zach's uncle's primary challenge, and an even more positive effect in launching Sen. Jesse Helms' career.

Here's the real creepy: Late in the not-funny film "The Campaign," as election day approaches, Galifinakis' Republican character, acting on the advice of his Koch-funded campaign manager, takes a rifle to one of Will Ferrell's campaign stops, walks up to him, and shoots him in the leg — then walks away, and sees his poll numbers shoot up. It's one of those scenes where it's played so flat and straight by Galifianakis, that watching it, you think, "Oh, he's calm, one of those calm shooters who shoots without expression, then walks away. Creepy."

Shortly after that shooting gag, I left the theater.

RATING This movie gets 2.5 James Holmes Jokers. (Will Ferrell's fine performance shaved off 1.5 James Holmes Jokers.)