An Open Letter to Greg Proops

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

Dear Greg:

I wasn’t going to do a tl;dr, but I thought of one. I offer it as a bone thrown by an incorrigibly garrulous writer to his reader.

Stop being Chris Matthews.

Perhaps that’s too short.

Let me try again.

If I wanted to be yelled at by MSNBC to believe stuff for which they feel no obligation to provide evidence (or provide the “national security” copout), then I could just watch that. I want your opinion, not Rachel Maddow’s[1] shallow press-release regurgitations.

The rest I will not (cannot) boil down to a few pithy sentences. I’ll leave the work of extracting the to-be-casually-dismissed sentences yourself. Or just click the little trash can before that annoyed feeling you already have grows into full-blown irritation.

This letter is intended as constructive criticism; I do not feel responsible should you be unable to interpret it as such. I spent a lot of time because I care. Long-time listener, first-time caller and so on and so forth.[2]

The Crux, long form

Your shows of late have not been very open to criticism or nuance. There is no room anymore in your world for grays, which is ironic since you used to plead so eloquently that we not see things in terms of black and white.

Every white man is the enemy, everyone who didn’t vote for Hillary is a traitor/misogynist. It’s offensive. And more, you’re starting to sound like the people you used to mock, just with a different agenda. You’ll note I didn’t say “exactly like” because you, of course, are still much funnier. But your stridency is strained and approaches demagoguery.

When you read criticism on air, you choose the worst of it in order to dismiss it out of hand. But you haven’t in any way sounded reflective or doubtful, which worries me. You sound like you know everything (viz. your show’s name). You straw-man anyone or anything that disagrees. You deify Barack and Hillary. Are you really like this now? Or are you trying to counterbalance the stridency/stupidity of “the other side” by not giving an inch?

Maybe it’s working for you, but you’re alienating those of us who do have doubts and neither have nor want that level of certitude. I don’t listen to Alex Jones and I don’t want to stop listening to you for the same reasons.

Examples and Supported Evidence

N.B.: The few examples below are pulled from your recent show “Stands”.

The CIA and FBI

By all means, hammer on Trump and his kleptocracy. But I cringe when you promulgate the “Russia-hacked-the-elections” meme without hesitation or any critical thought. You freely cite that 13 or 17 or whatever number of shadowy organizations, including the CIA, have said the Russians definitely did it, but you don’t question the source at all. Or poke fun at it, for God’s sakes!

Wouldn’t that be the opportunity to discuss the shenanigans of the CIA and tell everyone we should take what they say with a grain of salt?[3] I know that Obama made a “big move” recently, but you must remember Gulf of Tonkin, Saddam’s WMDs, Iran’s nuclear ambitions? Shouldn’t that give the smartest man in the world pause instead of plunging head-first into belief because this time Obama says it? Are you so ready to believe it because they’ve wrapped the renewed war on Russians in “election was robbed” gift paper?[4]

Or there’s the notion that the FBI tipped the election, without presenting any evidence. You’re a comedian, not a journalist, I get it. But you’ve blurred the line enough that it would be nice if you at least pretended to care about evidence before conviction. Was the effect even close to enough to have tipped the election? Is it even measurable?

We’re #1!

Now that Trump is President, you’ve regained respect for Obama without acknowledging anymore what he’s done. Maybe you don’t know what his actual record is, but I feel like you’re too well-read not to.

Your bit about Afghanistan, critiquing Obama’s citation of Reagan was good. But then you talk about “stopping communism” without questioning whether China is really communist anymore. Or what it even means to “stop communism” … when the philosophy of communism actually lines up with our espoused views more closely than the rapacious capitalism epitomized by Trump—or even Obama and Hillary.

For whatever reason, your show has become much more pro-American in the waning days of Obama’s administration. You mention that Obama launched a cyber attack on China and Russia without at all questioning America’s right to do so, especially with no evidence or trial or conviction or any form of due process. You jocularly mention an act of war without really even acknowledging it as such.

When I listen to the Smartest Man in the World, I hope for more than knee-jerk American jingoism.

Is Bernie Really his Bros?

Or you absolutely crush Bernie Sanders but have you actually listened to him speak? Look up the video where Bernie talks to Killer Mike and tell me that he doesn’t sound more reasonable than you give him credit for.

Do you really believe that Bernie is just barely better than Trump? That kind of statement is so shockingly vacuous that the humor drops out—not least because your shrieking delivery makes it clear that it was not intended as a joke.

At best, it makes you sound uninformed and, at worst, unhinged. You’re talked about that finger-waving thing Bernie did to Hillary. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not going to look it up. But could Bernie’s attitude toward Hillary perhaps arise from his disdain for her corporatist platform? Or stem from his having served for 40 years while she served for 10?[5]

Of course you’re right when you argue that “we have to fight every case of misogyny, racism, etc. etc.” but I feel like you’re letting yourself be distracted by tempests in teacups. A lot of this kind of news is meant specifically to distract us.[6] I wish it didn’t distract you so much. So fight away, but maybe prioritize? Like maybe make sure you’re actually talking about fascism or Nazism before condemning even minor deviations from your worldview as such?

“From Hell’s heart I stab at thee” is a great quote, but perhaps reflect that you’re citing not Melville himself but rather his character Ahab, a madman whose rage at and hatred for his enemy became his only reason for being, to the exclusion of everything else and the diminution of himself.

What to Do?

I think you’re at your absolute best—and this is why I’ve been listening to the show for years, and have recommended it to others—when you’re very funny, witty, trenchant or “wide, but shallow”, as you yourself have put it. Or, when you’re insightful, but not funny. Both of those Gregs are interesting.

The Greg who browbeats anyone with a different opinion, is mostly wrong about his own and isn’t even funny about it, is not a good Greg. I think you used to be better than this. Maybe that’s me confabulating, but I remember thinking much more often when you deliberately mispronounced or misquoted facts that you were being quite clever…because you were otherwise so spot on. The balance has shifted now so that I spend far too much time wondering whether you meant to be wrong or are just mistaken.

I’m not going to say you’ve lost a listener because you haven’t. Nor do I want you to change if you really don’t want to. But I’ve found that when someone tells me something is wrong with what I’m doing that, in a moment of quiet reflection, I might find that they’re right. Then I start to change it and pretend it was my idea in the first place.

But please don’t think I’m expecting a come-to-Jesus moment from you, as at the end of an intervention. Instead, I hope that you take time to reflect, to wonder whether perhaps I might be a little bit right, and to decide whether who you are on your show right now is who you want to continue to be. I’ve waited several shows to see whether you’d move through the stages of grief at some point. But you seem to have settled in and exchanged a measure of your humor for anger. And I don’t feel it suits you, in the long run.

Signed,
A middle-aged, cisgen, white, heterosexual male.

P.S. There definitely is a Swiss accent, but it differs from North to South. But Swinglish has a clearly identifiable tone to it. You should totally do a show here to see for yourself.


[1] Just for example. Not because she’s a woman and can’t possibly know what she’s talking about. It’s that she’s been less and less credible over the years, utterly independent of her gender or sexual orientation. Plus, I’d already used Chris Matthews.
[2] I’ve quoted you in the past in Greg Proops on San Francisco, Extemporizing with Greg Proops as well as a review of Greg Proops: Live at Musso & Frank (which I bought).
[3] You do eventually get around to criticizing the CIA later in the show but just 15 minutes before you were citing them as an unimpeachable source so you’re a bit all-over-the-place. I know that your show is extemporaneous (although I’ve seen you use notes) but still, the juxtaposition of the two vastly divergent opinions of the CIA’s reliability is suspect. It seems it’s OK to cite the CIA when it’s convenient.
[4] When given the chance to provide evidence, the White House fails to make case that Russian hackers tampered with election by Dan Goodin (Ars Technica).
[5] At best: she spent the last two years of her second senate term campaigning for president, no? I mean, Bernie did the same thing, of course. They all do. Does anyone even notice when they go missing?
[6] Your primary news sources seem to be NYT, Slate et. al. which are well-known for avoiding any real meat.