VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Beach-based opinion writer Brian Kirwin contributes to Bearing Drift and The Daily Press newspaper. He’s worked extensively as a political consultant. He often comments on public affairs matters through various forms of media. He works in public relations. He serves on the Beach’s Arts and Humanities Commission, too. And the man acts.
So he’s a sextuple threat — at least, he is if you only count things listed in the preceding sentences. There may be more, but that’s okay. As you will see, sometimes in America we make our own math.
By the way, Kirwin is a conservative. Who knows? Maybe that will come up.
Any more of an introduction to this Belligerent Q&A will only delay the pleasure.
Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.
I used to be that kid in the classroom who never got in trouble, but instigated everything. I’d talk to my ‘neighbor’ in class, then as soon as the teacher looked my way, I’d have this studious look on my face and another kid was talking back to me or laughing. Being that the teacher was usually a nun, the kid got his lights knocked out.
Today, I try my very best to be the same instigator I was when I was six. I’ll be on a conference call with several vaunted Republican leaders, and say the one thing that they usually don’t want to admit. I’ll meet with my Democrat friends, who invariably tell me how every time they say they know me, their friends get either sickened or angry.
I also do a fair amount of acting, and my agent usually books roles for me where I, with a fair amount of snark, tick off the whole audience. Life imitates art, ya know.
Q: You suggested that former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine run for the U.S. Senate on the slogan “A Do-nothing Governor for the Do-nothing Senate.” This recommendation seems insincere. Discuss.
Anytime I say something nice about a Democrat, it’s insincere. Democrats have ruined the country. They can’t have a decent talk radio show. Their newspapers are so ineffectual I think birds will start boycotting them soon, which could get messy. Democrats are the party of failure. They assume nothing good can happen in America unless dictated by government. Kaine failed at all his attempts to do stupid things as Governor, and the Senate has accomplished a big fat zero, so they do seem to have a lot in common. I do think the EPA may issue a mandate to Kaine to trim his eyebrows, though. The courts might just uphold that.
Q: Of the various kinds of opinion you write, I most enjoy the “round up” style “Kirwin’s Commentaries,” which give you a chance to riff on everything from the lack of conservative voices on public affairs programming (back when we had such things) to the flawed restaurant math of a half-pound containing 15 shrimp and a pound containing 25. Could you talk about that form and how it’s a different writing process that with longer opinion columns, if so?
Admit it – you love everything I write. It’s OK. My stuff is legendary and fun. Longer opinion columns are a like writing a symphony. You have to have several movements which build along the way to the finale. I write columns that way, usually in sections. Then tie some thematic threads through it and punch it up with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Commentaries are like writing a song. All I need is a catchy hook, like a healthy dose of sarcasm. I look at something – a story, an experience, another column – and zing. The commentaries are a collection of ironic zings – a hat tip to Andy Rooney, if you will.
Q: When you’ve had 15 shrimp, are you really sitting there going, “You know what would hit the spot — maybe, 15 more shrimp?” Wouldn’t 10 cover it?
I think it’s pretty ironic to have a large number of something called a ‘shrimp.’ Besides, I’m a Republican. A Democrat would sit there and decide what a ‘fair share’ of shrimp I should have. How dare I have 15 shrimp when they think 10 should be all I’d really need. There are some homeless people in Chicago who don’t have any shrimp at all, probably because that deep dish pizza is all the rage. Anyway, I don’t need Obama’s socialist dictates about how many shrimp I should eat, or anyone else’s for that matter. This is America. If I want to eat 100 shrimp and go to bed smelling like Old Bay, I dare someone to tell me I shouldn’t. They’d probably accuse me of clinging to my shrimp.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about the apparent deep political polarity in America? Are we turning into the last two sections of The Stand?
Figures you’d look to liberal Stephen King for political theory and analysis. I think there are much better Stephen King books to look to for politics. Like The Shining – The ‘Overlook’ Hotel as a metaphor for the federal government, whose boiler explodes because we hired an incompetent caretaker – Hi, Barack! Or Carrie – the liberal’s fantasy about what religious people are really like and that they’re one bad prom from taking out an entire town. The Stand is pretty much junk, although it’s somewhat amusing seeing liberal fantasies play out. Liberals like stories of massive self-imposed destruction. Like Obamacare.
Q: If it comes down to it, where should we head? Boulder, Colo., or Las Vegas? I mean, that Randall Flagg fellow is awfully charismatic.
You lefties fall for charisma too easily. Instead of being a follower, try being a leader for once. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is forging your own future than trying to find the right idiot to tell you what to do.
Q: You are a contributor to Bearing Drift, which recently announced its merger with Virginia Line Media. When I spoke with Jim Hoeft, he suggested some exciting possibilities for expansion and new ventures. What are some things you would like to see Bearing Drift do that it isn’t already doing? And when you guys inevitably do a sitcom, starring you of course, what’s the premise you’ll pitch?
There already are some good political sitcoms now that they stream the Democratic Virginia Senate online. I actually think sitcoms are pretty lackluster lately. It’s a half hour of dramatic standup. If we could do some throwback sitcoms that actually had some storytelling, in the tradition of All in the Family or Good Times, then we’d have something.
Actually, I think Bearing Drift needs a conservative version of Saturday Night Live. Skit comedy is the way to go. Maybe the liberals will pass the fairness doctrine and NBC would have to program us.
Q: Can I play the weird relative who drops in a lot but isn’t allowed to handle sharp things, use the stove, or control the TV remote?
I always pegged you as the guy who needed to include his middle name to make up for some deep-seeded insecurity. You can have the tv remote anyway, since all these networks are showing pretty useless stuff that don’t have much creativity anyway. I’ll pop in a DVD and watch you hopelessly try to change the channel for a few hours. Remember, relatives aren’t weird. Just in-laws.
Q: What do you think it says that we live in a country in which many people who have just eaten 15 shrimp can pretty much go ahead and eat 15 more shrimp? Or at least 10, depending upon the accuracy of the scales/mathematical acumen employed within a given shrimp-dispensing restaurant?
I fear for a world when the person calculating the bill can’t do simple math. I wish we lived in a country that didn’t bother to count your shrimp in the first place. We regulate way too much. We tell fishermen how much to catch. We tell Detroit what a car should weigh, and now we have cars that get totaled if you lean on them with the wrong kind of boots on. We tell toilet makers how much water a flush should be. We have so many regulations that it takes 18 years to build a four-mile road. One-hundred fifty years ago, it only took six years to build a nationwide railroad. Liberals hyper-regulate everything, and I’m pretty sick of it being so much of a pain in the neck to accomplish anything. My dream is to have a country that couldn’t care less how many shrimp I have.
Q: A concern I have from both my brief time as newspaper columnist and in reading some of the opinion voiced via local media is that compromise and the art of finding common ground do not seem to be valued. When you write for Bearing Drift or The Daily Press, do you feel you are preaching to the choir, meaning appealing primarily to conservatives, or do you hope to reach a wider range of people and influence them? Is that why you agreed to do The Daily Press gig?
Now that you mention it, your newspaper column career was pretty brief. I accepted The Daily Press gig because they asked. I love writing. I love entertaining. I couldn’t care less if I influence anyone, although if people are influenced by me, kudos to them. They’ve shown remarkable intellect. As far as preaching to the choir, every choir has its fair share of sinners. I’d write for The Washington Post if it meant I’d have legions of lefties ticked off at my spotlight on their silliness. If The Daily Press was really smart, they’d syndicate me. But some of their own scribes have dreams of being like me, so I doubt they’ll make the good business decision to do that and instead stay up late at night trying to be like me. And they’ll fail again.
Q: This past summer you criticized a fairly low-key editorial by The Virginian-Pilot noting the amount of energy consumed by the boxes people use to record television programs, even when said boxes are supposedly turned off. How do you get from that to “that’s the trouble with these liberal ninnies” and “I’m tired of these effete snobs telling free people what they should and shouldn’t do” and “I’m going to stick my carbon footprint up their tree-hugging butts”? It seems that you’re criticizing an editorial that ultimately suggests not regulation but moderation.
All The Pilot’s editorials are low-key, low-intellect and have low-readership. Criticizing them is like hunting in a private reserve. Easy! To your point, the first step to regulation is whining about moderation. First liberals tell you what they think you should do. Then when you don’t do it, they move to force you to do it anyway. Newspaper folk never criticize people who use tons of paper resulting in the loss of so many trees, do they? But they whine about electricity that powers their media competition. There are so many inconsistencies in the liberal’s management of everyone else’s lives that I think the clearest response is ‘mind your own freakin’ business.’ If I want to eat a cheeseburger while watching three TVs and surfing my laptop, go curl up in a corner with your tofu, bottled water and a book. I won’t bother you. Don’t bother me.
Q: In August you lauded the The Virginian-Pilot editorial page for being three “right three times in a row.” In retrospect, do you feel you should have put a little more backhand into that compliment?
Actually, I graded them on a curve. They were more ‘not wrong’ than they were ‘right,’ but it was so much better than their usual level of ‘so wrong that it’s silly to even address’ that I felt they needed some positive feedback. I am a uniter, ya know.
Q: A bit more seriously, could you talk a little about your day job and your passion for acting? People don’t usually just take up these activities/vocations or enter the political arena accidentally. There’s meaning to it for them. What is it you like about these forms of communication and self-expression? How do they inform your writing?
I love provoking emotional responses. Watch some old promos from Rowdy Roddy Piper and you’ll learn a great deal about me. I was a wrestling geek as a kid, and it amazed me to no end how a person could infuriate thousands of people so well that they’d buy tickets to see them get the tar beat out of them. Acting provides that in a big way, and so does political talk and writing. The real secret is not to act. Just be an amplified version of your reality. People who fake it won’t succeed. This is the real me at a high volume. That’s why it works.
Q: If Kaine continues to avoid your fine slogan, may I incorporate it into my “replacing U.S. Sen. Jim Webb” fan fiction? Still working out the plot, but it will be like a Gogol short story with anthropomorphic disembodied eyebrows battling a walking football metaphor. Working title — The Fourth & Long Follicle.
Just cite your source. But please publish it before my daughter has grandchildren.
Q: A number of interest groups have taken to asking candidates to sign pledges vowing that they will or won’t do this or that should they be elected to office. Is there any value to this? Though you are not running for anything, will you sign my pledge that affirms good government is a practice that is situational and may involve compromise?
Why don’t you say ‘all campaign promises are lies, and once I’m in office, I’ll do whatever the hell I want, and you’ll like it.’ Same thing as calling everything situational and compromising. Your way, we wouldn’t have any need for campaigns at all. Why bother if whatever they say is subject to change based on the situation? Your path would result in the downfall of the nation. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if politicians just told the truth and voters could actually believe them?
Q: How about the pledge to make the laws of math apply to shrimp per pound?
Just don’t tip idiots. Problem solved.
Q: We’ve covered so much ground here. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Just a few Piper quotes:
- ‘Don’t throw rocks at a guy whose got a machine gun.’
- ‘When you were young did your mommy and daddy place the swing too close to the wall?’
- ‘Just when they think they got all the answers, I change the questions.’
Playing us out is Rowdy Roddy Piper, in two parts.
First: A heart to heart with Andre the Giant:
And now, from John Carpenter’s awesome They Live, the greatest cinematic fight ever (with Keith David!). Was Ralph Waldo Emerson predicting this fight scene when he wrote “there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning” in 1841?
Also, most assuredly, this is not safe for work due to rough language and just a wee bit of pummeling:
Put ’em on!
What a charmer. If this guy’s speaking for the right, the left has few worries.
I removed a comment earlier today for a rules violation.
Please keep remarks civil. Personal attacks don’t do much. Criticize ideas? Yes. Style of writing or approach? Certainly. The individual? No. I work during the day. I don’t monitor comments from work. Please be respectful.
Why do these guys always feel they have to insult you before making a point? Is that suppose to be wit? Guess his mom didn’t give him enough lollipops as a kid. Good questions, but what an ego.
John, with all due respect (and I’m very serious about that), I think it’s only fair that the rules governing comments by readers should apply equally to comments made by participants in your columns.
In this particular column, the interviewee’s remarks were sprinkled with a liberal (oops, sorry) dose of precisely the sort of personal attacks against individuals (not ideas) that you consider violations. To wit (I’ve capitalized the personal attack/name-calling/insulting phrases for emphasis).:
* “I do think the EPA may issue a mandate to Kaine to TRIM HIS EYEBROWS”
* “You (“lefites”) would be surprised how much fun it is forging your own future than trying to find the right IDIOT to tell you what to do”
* “I always pegged you (Doucette) as THE GUY WHO NEEDED TO INCLUDE HIS MIDDLE NAME TO MAKE UP FOR SOME DEEP-SEEDED INSECURITY.”
*”Now that you mention it, YOUR (Doucette’s) NEWSPAPER COLUMN CAREER WAS PRETTY BRIEF.”
“That’s the trouble with these LIBERAL NINNIES.”
“I’m tired of these EFFETE SNOBS…”
“I’m going to stick my carbon footprint up THEIR TREE-HUGGING BUTTS.”
Finally, quoting his self-professed early influence and role-model, a professional wrestler: “WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG DID YOUR MOMMY AND DADDY PLACE THE SWING TOO CLOSE TO THE WALL?”
My point here is simply what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. This guy had his shot at many of us readers, including me (I’m definitely a leftie in his book), so we should certainly be permitted to have ours.
I don’t take issue with his jabs at me, in part, because (other than the why-my-name-is-hyphenated thing) it’s true and, presumably, meant in fun. Also, I think we all understand the premise of these Q&As, that it’s supposed to be silly, but if I ask a pointed question or two I certainly expect a pointed response. I’m fair game.
Some of the comments in the post I decided to remove were personal. It’s possible I’m wrong. If so, I own it. But the policy for comments is simple:
The decision was made with civility in mind. Commenters are certainly welcome to criticize what I write or what an interview covers/quotes as vigorously as possible. The thinking behind the comments policy is that we can discuss insults without resorting to them.
Fair enough. I read this again and see what you mean. Just banter. Maybe this guy does have something to say but I wouldn’t read one of his columns based on this interview. There is too much wasted air and insults in commentary these days, for me. Labeling people as socialists and liberals and commies,et cetera, doesn’t say much.
As the author of the deleted comment, let me say I’ve got absolutely no problem with the decision. It’s entirely fair, and is dictated in this blog’s “by-laws.”. Rarely, if ever, do I sling outright insults as I did in response to this particular individual. I typically react with more patience and, yes, civility. Not to make an excuse, but I felt that the table was set by the tone and content of this man’s statements (a perfect example of sinking to someone else’s level). I felt that someone who dishes it out in such a smug, snide, mean-spirited way, ought to be able to take in the same manner. Unlike “banter,” which I agree is fine, and which is based on a foundation of light-heartedness and good spirits (I banter with my best friends all the time, as do most of us), I would argue that there is no such foundation of compassion and connection in this man’s thoughts and words. From beginning to end, they are condescending, vicious, beyond arrogant, and completely dismissive of the possibility that there might be some substance to an opinion other than his — which pretty well sums up the Lee Atwater/Karl Rove school of “This is war/take no prisoners” political discourse that has swept through the ranks of the extreme right wing in our nation today. It’s this attitude, and people like the subject of this Q&A, that has virtually destroyed any semblance of cooperation, compromise, and creative growth in government (and even in society) today. That makes me very sad, very worried about the direction of our culture, and — yes — no longer patient with the vile histrionics of individuals like this man, who are simply tossing gasoline on the fire. My apologies for allowing my emotions to sweep me into playing the same game he does. Good call, John. And it won’t happen again.
I would say “this is war/take no prisoners” approach has swept through the extreme right wing, the right wing, the moderates, liberals and the extreme left wing. There is too much shouting. It is all a waste of space.
Well put, Hack-Man. I totally agree. And it’s a waste of much more than space.