December 1st, 2003

breaking bad

Get stuffed

Calpundit is a mildly lefty/liberal blog written by an inoffensive, perhaps slightly dull, Californian as far as I can make out. I don't read it regularly because it is mostly concerned with American politics. Like the Democrat nominations: good luck to the good guys and all that, but it's not really my sphere of interest.

I did take a look at calpundit a couple of days ago, however, and I was struck by this post. In it 'calpundit' bemoans a recent article in the Independent (a British newspaper, slightly less leftwing than the Guardian) about George Bush. Remember this is a guy who opposes Bush politically, but he thought that this British newspaper had gone too far.

The article poked fun at Bush. Specifically it showed a pic of Bush bringing a Thanksgiving turkey to the US troops in Iraq, under the headline 'The turkey has landed'. This is obviously a double-headed joke, both comparing the bathos of Bush's 'mission' with the moon landings (the eagle has landed), and implicitly calling Bush a turkey. This is pretty mild stuff by British standards, and at least for once he wasn't compared to a chimp.

I am amazed that this could be thought of as extreme or overly harsh. In trying to explain it to myself I considered the following explanations:

- 'turkey' is a much harsher or more childish insult in US idiom than in the UK. Does it mean something like 'poopy pants' or 'wanker'?

- calpundit is a bigger drip than I thought, and most Americans would laugh the joke off

- there is some kind of taboo in America about insulting politicians. This can't be true can it? I thought conservatives used to call Clinton 'slick Willy': that seems a bit more childish than 'turkey'

- Americans think it is wrong for British people to criticise their government. I sincerely fucking hope this is not the correct interpretation

What do you think? Are Americans really shocked that we think their president is a turkey?