Flyboy: To Humiliate Tyrants

"I'm speaking."

In a night of telling visuals and not much substance, the VP debate showcased the vast differences between Kamala Harris - a tough, black, articulate woman infinitely smarter than her opponent who even while being repeatedly talked over kept resolutely smiling so as not to appear scary ie like a tough, black etc - and Pence, the pasty, wooden, bloodshot  face of white male privilege, calmy dodging the rules to lie, bully, deflect and spout soggy talking points that bore no resemblance to harsh reality. Noted one nostalgic viewer, "This reminds me of normal debate frustration - when politicians don’t answer good questions and respond with canned mini-speeches. Simpler times." In contrast to Trump's manic attack style - which went so well he's still out there blustering, "I’m back because I am a perfect physical specimen and I’m extremely young" - Pence was quietly, haughtily disdainful, ignoring moderator Susan Page's repeated pleas for “Mr. Vice President" to STFU in his mission to defend an administration whose record is indefensible. To rebut the disasters of COVID, he absurdly trotted out 2009's swine flu as “what failure looks like in a pandemic.” He ignored the collapsing economy and ensuing suffering. And he once more blatantly lied - hilarious if it wasn't so enraging - about health care, claiming he and Trump "have a plan to improve health care and to protect preexisting conditions for all Americans” - a four-year-long fiction belied by their legal fight right now to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And he didn't even feel he had to smile while doing it. In response to that last, worst lie, Kamala Harris had one of the night's most powerful moments: She looked into the camera and declared, "They're coming for you."

During their other exchanges, she adroitly argued, cited facts and blasted the most outrageous lies - there's no systemic racism WTF?! Several times she pointedly, memorably halted Pence's interruptions with, "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking" - YES, said every woman in America. But having to walk the impossible tightrope faced by every competent female, she often used facial expressions - raised eyebrows, withering stares - to tell the aggrieved tale. Still, it wasn't enough. Fox viewers found her "abrasive" and "condescending," and a gonzo "pastor" on Laura Ingraham went one better by calling Harris "Hillary Clinton in blackface," eliciting a "wow" even from Ingraham. Then, of course, there was the fly. It landed on Pence's head and stayed there 2 or 3 minutes - undoubtedly, noted many observers, because flies are drawn to shit. Stephen King: "The fly knows." Pence, meanwhile, stolidly ignored it. The bizarre spectacle electrified Twitter: Over 100 Flygate and Mike Pence Fly-themed accounts sprang up - here, here, here - each bursting with memes, Lord of the Flies references, the spirit of RBG - "I sent the fly" - or citing medieval Arabic literature in which, when annoyed kings and caliphs asked wise men why God created the fly, they responded, "To humiliate tyrants." The Biden campaign jumped in, posting Joe-with-a-swatter photos, seeking $5 donations to "help this campaign fly," creating 15,000 "Truth Over Flies" fly swatters that already sold out. For David Frum, the fly-on-Pence's-head moment crystallized the horrors of this regime, from its core mission of "reassertion of dominance over the historically dominated" to its deadly refusal to acknowledge reality. Confronted with a fly - like a crime, a scandal, a pandemic - Pence did nothing. He's "the man who pretended not to notice." But in the words of Kamala in a fabulous remix, "You have a fly on your head. That is a fact."

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